November 2022 Chronicles

Published by Emile Creel on

New Projects

Dr. Connie Baird-Thomas will serve as PI of the “Vroom Expansion” project. This will continue Statewide Vroom and Mind in the Making Coordinator Heather Martin’s work to expand Vroom statewide, with the focus on embedding the programs within existing community or organizational structures. The expansion will build upon previously established partnerships with community based organizations and state agencies to equip families, teachers, and healthcare providers with ways to support early brain development.

Dr. Sheena Gardner will serve as the external evaluator for the Rankin County Youth Court for the family court and juvenile court divisions. Her responsibilities include the monitoring and analyzing of 1) program-related data such as drug screenings, time spent away from children, participants who complete treatment, graduation statistics, ect. and 2) GPRA- related data. She will be responsible for compiling the semi-annual and annual report as required by the funder.

Dr. Holli Seitz, director of the Message Laboratory, is the PI for a new planning grant from the Extension Foundation titled “Building Vaccine Confidence and Increasing Adult Immunizations in Mississippi.”

Awards & Recognition

Mackenzie Paul, an undergraduate research assistant with Dr. Megan Stubbs-Richardson, was awarded the APA Division 36: Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality Student Research Award.  

In October, Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale was invited to become a member of the American Society for Nutrition (ASN). Founded in 1928, ASN is a leading international organization for professional researchers and practitioners in the field of nutrition.

In the News

Heather Martin was interviewed for The Children’s Foundation of Mississippi’s Chat about Children series. Watch Heather’s discussion about Vroom and science-based, brain-building tips for parents and care givers. Online at

Project Updates
As part of the Fish Innovation Lab activities, Dr. Gina Rico Mendez, along with Dr. Stephen Reichley (Fish Innovation Lab Deputy Director) and Ms. Shauncey Hill (Fish Innovation Lab Program/Finance Manager) traveled to Nigeria to participate in the “Workshop on Nigerian Aquaculture: Status, Prospects, And Future Growth 2022”. The Workshop was organized by the Fish Innovation Lab and the WorldFish, and held at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in Ibadan, Nigeria between October 31 and November 2, 2022.

SSRC Visitors

During the week of November 14-18, MSU hosted Mr. Abiola Adeyemi, USDA-FAS Global Progams Team Leader. The visit was coordinated by Dr. Gina Rico Mendez from the SSRC, who has previously collaborated with Mr. Adeyemi in the USDA-FAS funded project “Research and Learning from the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Programs in Africa”. Mr Adeyemi’s visit afforded MSU’s leadership, faculty and staff, the opportunity to showcase the dynamic research activity that takes place at MSU. MSU units participating in the visit included the SSRC, International Institute, DAFVM, and the office of the Provost and Executive Vice President.

Lab Activities
Heather Hanna, Callie Poole, and Bradley Long of the SSRC Systems Change Lab partnered with the Mississippi Department of Human Services, the Children’s Foundation, and the College of Education and Human Sciences at the University of Southern Mississippi to submit the Preschool Development Grant Birth-5 to the Administration of Children and Families’ Office of Child Care on behalf of the state of Mississippi. Learn more about the Systems Change Lab at

Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory

On behalf of Mississippi First in Jackson MS, the Survey Research Laboratory is soliciting participation in a web-based survey from public-school teachers throughout the state of Mississippi. This survey is a follow-up measure of a prior survey administered in 2021. The purpose of this survey is to gain a better understanding of how to retain experienced public-school teachers and recruit new teachers to the profession. Results from this survey will help drive policy recommendations for combating Mississippi’s critical teacher shortage.

Personnel News

Deja Howard, an undergraduate student in MSU’s Department of Psychology, has joined Drs. Kathleen Ragsdale and Mary Read-Wahidi as an SSRC undergraduate research assistant. A native of Pass Christian, MS, she assists Drs. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi on the USAID-funded Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish project and the USAID-funded Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab project. Currently, Howard is assisting with the launch of the Gender Responsive Aquaculture/Fisheries Development Assessment‒Fish Innovation Lab (GRADA-FIL Wave II).

Robert Kolbila MA, who is mentored by Drs. Kathleen Ragsdale and Mary Read-Wahidi, passed his qualifying exams in November and has become a PhD candidate in MSU’s Department of Sociology. Kolbila’s dissertation will focus on gender, socio-economic, and health outcomes among smallscale men and women farmers in rural Ghana, and Drs. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi will serve on his dissertation committee.

Heather Martin was voted the Mississippi Early Childhood Association’s Northeast Member at Large for the 2023 – 2025 term.

In November, Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale joined The Nutrition Society. Founded in 1941 and based in Cambridge, United Kingdom. The Nutrition Society is one of the largest learned societies for nutrition in the world, and is dedicated to the study of nutrition and its application to the human and animal health.

Presentations & Conference Participation

Hanna, H., Long, B., Poole, C., Tyrone, R. (2022, November 19).
Better together: How a low-resourced, high-need state is strengthening and sustaining its early childhood education workforce through collaborations between research institutions and state agencies. National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Conference, Washington, DC.

Martin, H. (2022, November) Driving Social Emotional Learning Home with Vroom and Mind in the Making. Presented to the Early Learning Collaborative of Starkville School District at Sudduth Elementary School.

Ragsdale, K., Read-Wahidi, M., Mudege, N., Marinda, P., & Kolbila, R. (2022). FishFirst! Zambia: Research on Individual- and Household-Level Food Insecurity among Vulnerable Communities at Lake Kariba. Oral Presentation. 150th American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 9, 2022.

Ragsdale, K., Iannotti, L. (Organizers, Chairs). Role of Fish and Other Aquatic Animal-Source Food in Enhancing Nutrition and Food Security among Vulnerable Populations in sub-Saharan Africa: Evidence from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and Zambia. Panel Session. 150th American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, November 9, 2022.

Seitz, H. H., Downey, L., & Byrd, S. (2022, November 17-20). Evaluation of a social marketing campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity among individuals eligible for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits [Oral presentation]. National Communication Association 108th Annual Convention, New Orleans, LA, United States.

Seitz, H. H., Dulaney, S., Okafor, M., Downey, L., & Buys, D. (2022, November 6-9). Rural perspectives on federal COVID-19 vaccine messages: Recommendations for practice [Oral presentation]. American Public Health Association Annual Meeting & Expo, Boston, MA, United States.

Stubbs-Richardson, M. (November 10, 2022). Bullying and Its Impact on Children & Youth: How Those in Pediatric Care can Help. Center for the Advancement of Youth (CAY) ECHO.

Publications & Reports

Ragsdale, K., & Read-Wahidi, M.R. (2022, September 12). Gender Impacts Lab Toolkit: Your Comprehensive Guide to Conducting Focus Groups in Village Settings for Gender Responsive Agricultural Development [Online Certification Course]. USAID, Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish, Gender Impacts Lab, Social Science Research Center, Mississippi State University. (