Going to Mississippi on an accreditation site visit team did not seem like a boondoggle. I am not sure what I expected. When I taught in Grand Rapids, Michigan (1973) a student commented that in Mississippi the world was separated into black and white, whereas in Grand Rapids it was Polish, Dutch, and so on. On the campus of Mississippi State (MSU) blacks and whites make up 95% of the student body, but the word "separated" does not seem to apply.
We were visiting a MPPA (Master in Policy and Public Administration) program, We spoke with students in a graduate class; at least 25% of the students were African American males. I wish I had taken a picture - a very diverse group and no apparent knot of students that had arranged themselves by race or age. (To glimpse what I think of as the "new Mississippi" you can view photos of some of the program's students.) We asked the students "Why a public administration degree?" After so many years of working in the shadow of law schools and MBA programs it was refreshing to hear students being excited about their public administration degree and looking forward to a public career. I was struck by a young man who said that Mississippi is a very poor state and he wanted to give back to the state.
The MPPA program has an affiliation with the Stennis Institute of Government, named after the late Senator John Stennis. The Institute is house in a renovated railroad station. The photo below is of the Director's Office. The "Wiseman Wins" announces his son's election as mayor of Starkville, the location of Mississippi State. The recently elected mayor was a MSU political science graduate; he went on to get his MPA from a neighboring NC institution.
My hypothesis is that children of public administration faculty rarely their parent's career path. Our sons have shown no interest in following in either of our footsteps. The differences in our careers seemed to be summed up on this t-shirt. I will send the picture to Colin who is nearing the end of a doctorate in optics. BTW - the wearer was a mathematics professor at MSU.