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franklin county times

MSU-Meridian works with community colleges

By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Jan. 13, 2003
Nick Nichols, dean of Mississippi State University-Meridian Campus, said he believes higher education tuition shouldn't be raised every year if the state wants an educated population.
Nichols met with The Meridian Star editorial board last week. He discussed higher education funding, his campus' relationship with Meridian Community College and other issues.
He said state budget cuts in education hit students at MSU-Meridian Campus harder because most students pay for their own schooling.
The Meridian Star: What's the relationship between MSU-Meridian Campus and Meridian Community College? It seems unusual that you actually get along.
Nick Nichols: For us, it is a natural relationship because we do not teach lower-level courses. So the community colleges in this area Meridian Community College and East Mississippi and Jones Junior College are feeders to us and without them we would not exist.
The Star: How many degree programs do you offer?
Nichols: In arts and sciences you can major in social work or psychology. And there's also (an) interdisciplinary studies program so those people who are not interested in social work or psychology can do an interdisciplinary degree.
In education you can major in elementary ed (and) secondary with emphasis in English and social studies. In the business college there are an array of courses including business administration, marketing, management and information systems.
The Star: Can students get these degrees with out leaving Meridian?
Nichols: Yes, they can do it without leaving Meridian. Those courses that are not offered on campus are delivered electronically, so they can do the major completely here.
The Star: How does MSU-Meridian duplicate the four-year experience?
Nichols: We're not doing that. We serve a different population of students. It seems to me that a residential campus experience is something that students would need to travel to Hattiesburg or Starkville to get.
Our campus is really for place-bound students that is students who, for whatever reason, cannot move themselves and live in one of those college communities for four years. That's the kind of student that we are trying to attract and serve.
We don't see ourselves as competing at all with Starkville for students. If students are able to go to Starkville, I'd say they should do that and have that experience. But for people who have families and jobs, and for whatever reason cannot move to a campus for a four-year experience, that's the kind of student we serve.
The Star: Do you offer mostly nighttime courses? Or do you schedule daytime courses, too?
Nichols: It is a mixture, but right now predominately night courses. And a lot of them are scheduled one night a week for three hours. So a student could come to campus on, say, Monday night, be in class for six hours and pick up two courses.
We do some traditional daytime classes, and that population of students seems to be increasing. So we are looking at that. And that is an area where, if we are going to grow enrollment, we have more capacity in the daytime. There really isn't a lot of room to add night courses.
The Star: With the opening of the performing arts center do you foresee more of a need for daytime classes that might attract a more traditional daytime student?
Nichols: It should because there will be some programs there that are fairly unique. The Riley Center should attract more daytime students.
The Star: Is there a theater program in Starkville?
Nichols: There is a small theater program in Starkville. I think one faculty member.
The Star: So any expansion in that program will be here in Meridian?
Nichols: I would think so. I certainly hope we will see that sort of thing. We have a consultant coming in later this month to talk about the facility and the curriculum.
The Star: Will that put you into competition with the other state universities with theater programs?
Nichols: I expect that ours will have a different kind of focus because of the facility. We are not intending to make that a traditional producing theater facility. In other words, there won't be shops to build sets and costumes in that facility. I suspect we will be doing more training of students for electronic performance, performing in front of the camera, that sort of thing. I think it will wind up being a different focus.
The Star: Are you talking about broadcast news and broadcast television?
Nichols: No, I don't think so.
The call nationally for theater programs is to become more oriented to the kind of media we have now. That would include broadcast performance for video, taped performances not necessarily news and not necessarily film the kind of things we are looking at 10 years from now.
There's a big difference between performing on stage in front of people and performing before a camera that is going to be downloaded onto a 19-inch desktop.
The Star: Are there models out there that you can look at as you develop the curriculum?
Nichols: I don't know of models on the theater side, but there may be some models on the television broadcasting side that we can look at. I've heard calls for that nationally on the theater side, but it is very hard for traditional theater programs to wrench themselves away. So in some ways we will be breaking some new ground.
The Star: Will MSU have to make any major changes to accommodate these new students and programs?
Nichols: Eventually we will have to talk about faculty to serve those programs. Right now we would handle those programs with faculty coming from Starkville or distance learning programs.

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