SSRC Building and greenery


The Social Science Research Center will hold its annual Open House on Wednesday, October 16th at 5:30 p.m. The event will take place in the Courtyard of the Mississippi Technology Center in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. The Open House will be highlighted by the introduction of the new SSRC Research Fellows.


The American Public Health Association has named Growth and Persistence of Place-based Mortality in the United States: The Rural Mortality Penalty one of its 2019 Papers of the Year. The paper is authored by Dr. Art Cosby, SSRC director; Dr. M. Maya McDoom-Echebiri, a former post-doctorate research fellow; Dr. Wesley James, a former post-doctorate research fellow; Hasna Khandekar, a former undergraduate research assistant; Willie Brown, a former research associate, and Dr. Heather Hanna, an assistant research professor.

Message Laboratory summer intern Aubrey Parrish presented her research at the summer MSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. Her project, “Effects of Body-Positive Marketing on Brand Success,” won second place in the Social Sciences Division.  Dr. Holli Seitz is her faculty mentor.

New Projects

Dr. Cindy Bethel, director of the Social, Therapeutic, and Robotic Systems (STaRS) Lab at the SSRC and Dr. Selma Sabanovic of Indiana University, Bloomington were awarded a second round of National Science Foundation (NSF) funding for CHS: Large: Collaborative Research: Participatory Design and Evaluation of Socially Assistive Robots for Use in Mental Health Services in Clinics and Patient Homes (IIS-1900883). The NSF, Information and Intelligent Systems (IIS), Cyber-Human Systems (CHS) core programs, $588,197 under the direction of Dr. Bethel (PI) for MSU in collaboration with Dr. Sabanovic, Co-PI and lead from Indiana University, Bloomington $634,509 for a total award amount of $1,231,706.

Dr. Robert McMillen will serve as Principal Investigator of the Mississippi State University site for the Richmond Center. He will devote his efforts to Richmond Center as co-investigator for the Richmond Center Administrative Core.

Dr. Holli Seitz, director of the Message Laboratory, and her collaborator Dr. Quisto Settle (Oklahoma State University) were awarded an Innovation in Teaching award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. This award will fund science communication research and the development of a science communication learning experience for undergraduate students.

Survey Lab

This month, the Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory completed a statewide survey of Mississippian’s attitudes and opinions toward issues affecting children, such as education and access to healthcare. This dual-frame (landline & cellphone), random-digit-dial, telephone-based survey included a representative sample of 400 adults residing in the state of Mississippi. This research was funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The primary investigator for this project is Ms. Laure Bell, project coordinator at the SSRC. The survey administration was overseen by Dr. John F. Edwards, MAFES Research Scientist and Associate Research Professor at the SSRC.


Dr. Ben Porter has joined the SSRC as an Assistant Research Professor. Porter completed his Ph.D. studying social psychology with a minor in data analysis at the University of Houston. His graduate work focused on positive psychology within romantic relationships and advanced statistical modeling, including multilevel structural equation models. Since 2013, he has been biostatistician with the Millennium Cohort Study, the largest prospective cohort study of military personnel collected to date. With this study, he has conducted work focused on Veterans’ health, the 1990-1991 Gulf War, psychometric measurement, and longitudinal trajectories of health. Since joining the SSRC, he has helped with analysis of ongoing grants examining responses to bullying among high school students.

Ms. Malavika Jinka has joined the SSRC as a Graduate Research Assistant to Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale and Dr. Mary Read-Wahidi. A native of India, Jinka is working with Drs. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi and the SSRC Gender Impacts Lab. She is contributing to the Gender Impacts Research (K. Ragsdale, PI; M. Read-Wahidi, Co-PI) funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab (P. Goldsmith, PI). She is contributing to Fish4Zambia (K. Ragsdale, US PI; Lauren Pincus, Host Country PI; M. Read-Wahidi, US Co-PI; P. Marinda, Host Country Co-PI; E. Torell, US Co-PI) funded by USAID through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish (M. Lawrence, PI). Jinka is contributing to the Focus4Teens: Year 4 Evaluation project funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through Teen Health Mississippi. She has an MA in Journalism and Mass Communication from Madurai University in India and more than a decade of work experience as an editor and writer with various international publishing houses. At Mississippi State University, Jinka is pursuing an MA in Applied Anthropology with the Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures. Her Master’s thesis is focused on the nexus between the Indian government’s goals of ‘development for conservation’ and the impact of those goals on people who have been internally displaced from a forest that the government has deemed a ‘wildlife reserve.’

Ms. Jacquelyn “Jackie” Agho has joined the SSRC as Project Manager of the Child Health and Development Project. Agho will be working on early childhood developmental health-related policy and has her Master of Public Health in Health Behavior from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, with a Bachelor of Science in Health Care Administration from Jackson State University. She is an accomplished public health professional with both nonprofit and State agency program administration, who is well-versed in policy analysis and public health concerns.


On Thursday, August 1st, Dr. Art Cosby, SSRC director; Dr. Robert McMillen, professor; Dr. Holli Seitz, director of The Message Laboratory, and Dr. Heather Hanna, assistant research professor hosted collaborators from the University of Mississippi Medical Center Cancer Center and Research Institute. The director, associate director, and associate director of research toured labs and discussed possible collaborations.

On Friday, August 9th, Dr. Art Cosby welcomed Dr. Terry Likes, the new head of the Department of Communication. Dr. Likes toured the center and learned about ongoing partnerships and research.

Publications & Reports

Becan, J. E., Fisher, J. H., Johnson, I. D., Bartkowski, J. P., Seaver, R., Gardner, S. K., Aarons, G. A., Renfro, T. L., Muiruri, R., Blackwell, L. F., Piper, K. N., Wiley, T. A. & Knight, D. K. (Forthcoming). Improving Substance Use Services for Juvenile Justice-Involved Youth: Complexity of Process Improvement Plans in a Large Scale Multi-Site Study. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research (APMH).

Gardner, S. K., Elkington, K. S., Knight, D. K., Huang, S., DiClemente, R. J., Spaulding, A. C., Oser, C. B., Robertson, A. A., & Baird-Thomas, C. (Forthcoming). Juvenile Justice Staff endorsement of HIV/STI Prevention, Testing, and Treatment Linkage. Health & Justice.

McMillen R, Klein JD, Wilson K, Winickoff JP, Tanski S. (2019). E-Cigarette Use and Future Cigarette Initiation Among Never Smokers and Relapse Among Former Smokers in the PATH Study. Public Health Reports.

Ragsdale, K., Marinda, P., Read-Wahidi, M.R., Pincus, L., & Torell, E. (2019, August 28). Fish4Zambia Trip Report: July 14-July 28. USAID, Feed the Future Fish Innovation Lab for Fish, Social Science Research Center, Mississippi State University. 22 pp.

Presentations, Panels & Conferences

Cossman, Ronald E. (2019, August). “Place Predicts Need: Predicting Unmet Healthcare Needs in Small Populations.” Presented at the Second Annual Delta Clinical and Translational Science Health Disparities Conference, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, MS. The conference was jointly sponsored by The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Tulane University, and The University of Tennessee Health Science Center.

McMillen R. The Mississippi Experience, 1998 to 2018. (2019). Poster at the 2019 National Conference on Tobacco OR Health, Minneapolis, MN

McMillen R (2019). Facts from the Field: Use of Tobacco and Vape Products Among College Students and Adults. University and College Tobacco-Free Campus Collaborative. Hosted by the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, August 20, 2019.

Valentine N, McClelland E, McMillen R. Changing Tobacco Trends in Mississippi. Poster at the 2019 National Conference on Tobacco OR Health, Minneapolis, MN.

Dr. John Green, professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology and director, Center for Population Studies and Society at the University of Mississippi; Dr. Heather Hanna, assistant research professor and research fellow, SSRC; and Dr. Steven Turner, professor and director, Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University presented a webinar, “The 2020 Census:  Why it Matters for YOUR Community and How You Can Help,” to Mississippi State University extension agents, faculty, and staff to better inform them about the Census, why it matters for us and our communities, and how they can educate people in their communities about the importance of participating in the 2020 Census.

On August 13, Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale and Dr. Mark Lawrence, who are members of the Management Entity of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Fish (M. Lawrence, PI), participated in an interview as part of the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program. The one-hour interview was conducted by Morgan Mercer, Team Lead of the AWE Gender Research Roundup Activity at ACDI/VOCA. The interview focused on how the Fish Innovation Lab considers and integrates gender into Lab research processes and management processes, as well as challenges, successes, and lessons learned in the process.

On August 23, Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale and Dr. Gina Rico Méndez, who contribute to the Gender Impacts Research (K. Ragsdale, PI; M. Read-Wahidi, Co-PI) of the Feed the Future Soybean Innovation Lab /SIL (P. Goldsmith, PI), participated in an interview as part of the Feed the Future Advancing Women’s Empowerment (AWE) Program. The one-hour interview was conducted by Anna Garloch of the AWE Gender Research Roundup Activity at ACDI/VOCA. The interview focused on how the Gender Impacts Research’s model for resourcing gender expertise, budgeting for gender analysis research, and finding from Wave II of the novel instrument developed by Drs. Ragsdale and Read-Wahidi – the Gender Responsive Agricultural Development Assessment for SIL Implementing Partners (GRADA-SIL II).

SSRC Chronicles: August 2019
Skip to content