May 2022 Chronicles

Published by Emile Creel on


Dr. Devon Brenner named SSRC Director 

A long-serving Mississippi State faculty member and administrator is now the director of the university’s Social Science Research Center.

Devon Brenner, assistant vice president for outreach and initiatives in the MSU Office of Research and Economic Development, has been named SSRC director. She has led the research center on an interim basis since last year. 
Read more about Brenner at
New Projects

Dr. Devon Brenner serves as grant principal investigator for “Investigating STEM Teacher Preparation and Rural Teacher Persistence and Retention.” Mississippi State University is leading a nationwide project with the goal of better preparing educators for teaching in rural settings with $2.4 million in support from the National Science Foundation. The project brings together 14 universities to address workforce challenges in school settings, particularly for STEM teachers in rural areas. The project examines how educator preparation programs impact future STEM teachers’ intentions to teach in rural schools, as well as their retention rates at rural schools once they are in the workforce. Read more at

Dr. Heather Hanna will lead the “Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS)” project. It will work closely with national technical assistance to assemble a Mississippi steering committee to review best practices and make recommendations for a Mississippi child care QRIS System. Funding for the project is provided by the Community Foundation for Mississippi.

Bradley Long will serve as the principal investigator of the “AP STEM Summer Camp 2022” project. This project will bring approximately 200 students from rural schools and low-income backgrounds to Mississippi State University’s campus for 2 weeks in June. These sessions will prepare students for AP classes to be taken in the fall in STEM backgrounds, such as Physics, Computer Science, and Biology. The Global Teaching Project is sponsoring this project.

The Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory

The Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) is collecting data for the U.S. Centers of Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factors Surveillance System (BRFSS). BRFSS is the nation’s premier system of health-related survey data from U.S. residents regarding health risk behaviors, chronic health conditions, and use of preventative services. On behalf of the Mississippi Department of Health, the SRL has completed approximately 1,000 BRFSS telephone-based interviews since the start of the year.
Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program

Dr. Blythe McCanceChuck Dawkins, and Billy Brister attended the Sobriety Trained Officers Representing Mississippi (STORM) conference in Biloxi May3-5.  They also attended the Justice Court Clerks conference in Meridian May 19th.


Sarah-Ashlyn Barber has joined the Message Laboratory to work with Dr. Holli Seitz on a summer research project through the Veterinary Medical Research Scholars program. Sarah-Ashlyn is a second-year veterinary student at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Her research interests include communication within the veterinary field. Originally from Pearl River, Louisiana, Sarah-Ashlyn obtained her Associate of Arts from Pearl River Community College before studying Animal and Dairy Science and obtaining a Companion Animal Management certificate from Mississippi State University. She hopes to carry her love of communication into the veterinary field as a potential clinical instructor or politician later in her career.

Sarah Rendon is a new undergraduate research assistant in the Message Laboratory working with Dr. Holli Seitz. Sarah is a senior majoring in Communication with a concentration in Communication Studies and is involved in New Maroon Camp, Music Maker Productions, ACCESS, and the Student Association. Sarah has a passion for service and hopes to go to graduate school and pursue a Master’s in Public Health to help reduce health inequities and create a brighter future for all by changing the way we view wellness. She is particularly interested in mental health and health policy.
Presentations & Conference Participation

Faculty and students from Mississippi State University were invited to the USDA headquarters in Washington D.C. to present the final results of the project “Research and Learning from the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Programs in Africa”. This presentation was led by Dr. Gina Rico Mendez (project PI; pictured left), from the SSRC; Dr. Will Davis (Project Co-PI), from the Dpt. of Agricultural Economics; and Dr. Terezie Tolar-Peterson (Project co-PI), from the Dpt. of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion. Other MSU participants in this meeting include Dr. Devon Brenner, SSRC Director; Ms. Sierra Nelson, and Mr. Robert Kolbila, Ph.D. students in Sociology; Ms. Barbara Okai and Mr. Mphatso Chinsinga, students of the MS program in Agricultural Economics. This interdisciplinary effort led by MSU addressed research gaps around the implementation of the McGovern-Dole school meals program in three key areas: partnerships, procurement, and nutritional composition of school meals and impact on educational outcomes. The project received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) – Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) in collaboration with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Dr. Daniel Petrolia (Dpt. of Agricultural Economics), and Dr. Sheena Gardner (SSRC) are also Co-Pis of this project.
Publications & Reports

Freeman, C., Burch, R., Strawderman, L., Black, C., Saucier, D., Rickert, J., Wilson, J., Seitz, H., & Stull, J. (2022). Do they really work? Quantifying fabric mask effectiveness to improve public health messaging. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19.

Methvin, J., Gardner, A. J., Pylate, L. B. P., Hunt, B., Seitz, H. H., & Hyatt, R. Y. (2022). Making COVID-19-related decisions: A qualitative study of university students. Journal of Public Health in the Deep South, 3, 62-73.