By: LA Warren
Supporters who gathered inside the Jackson State University Downtown Campus during a showcase of excellence Wednesday now fully understand why one JSU administrator describes the facility as a “great jewel” and “shining star.”
The event was hosted by JSU’s Title III-funded Institute of Government, which is located inside the downtown facility at 101 Capitol Street. Mayors, city officials, legislators, JSU administrators, faculty, staff, students, and business and community supporters attended.
The 11,340-square foot building is home to other departments and programs and trains employees of government agencies in specific subject areas. The facility also helps governmental agencies assess data on issues pertaining to infrastructure, education, housing and employment through census training, polling and other research.
For example, the Mississippi Urban Research Center (MURC) inside the building recently completed a meeting with city officials and others on reducing the jail population of the mentally ill.
Making his first visit to the site, new JSU President William B. Bynum Jr. expressed excitement about future opportu
nities to work with the City of Jackson and legislators.
“We want to make sure that Jackson State University is, indeed, a premier partner and that we’re creating a win-win situation between this university, the city and state,” he said.
“We are downtown for a particular purpose and that is to make sure our services are available to folks who find this location most convenient.”
Bynum said students would continue to be a huge beneficiary of the facility. He said while he can’t promise everything “I can promise you one thing. As long as I’m president of this great institution we’re going to treat students the way they deserve to be treated” – with uncompromising respect.
Equally impressed with the Capitol Street campus, JSU interim provost Dr. Ivory Nelson commended the urban HBCU for living up to its mission of teaching, researching and public service. He described the downtown location as a jewel and shining star.
Ivory advised, “When someone asks you about Jackson State University, just tell them it’s the best; it’s here, and it makes a difference. It’s an integral part of this community, and it produces productive people.”
Furthermore, Ivory said, “In the next 50 years, our children and grandchildren will say Jackson State has been here a long time and … it’s still interacting with the community.”
Dr. Sam Mozee, associate director of MURC, said it’s important to showcase the people, programs, partnerships and projects inside the building because the ultimate goal is to help organizations in their daily work.
He said cutting-edge research is being conducted there to address many issues that impact the area.
Beyond tackling social, political and urban problems, Mozee said the downtown campus displays artwork, too.
“We’ve found out that (art and music) can be major economic drivers in this community.” As a result, MURC has a contractual agreement with the Jackson Medical Mall to do research on the cultural asset of the arts, and a gallery is located inside the (Capitol Street) building. “It’s been estimated that arts contributed over $31 million (to the economy) in the Jackson area alone,” Mozee said.
Aside from an art gallery, the building houses a lot more:
- Department of Alumni and Constituency Relations
- Department of Annual Giving (fundraising from alumni, faculty, staff, students and supporters of JSU)
- College of Public Service (empowering people to change the face of a city through public service via the Department of Public Policy and Administration and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning)
- Mississippi Urban Research Center (providing census training and helping the state confront systemic problems)
- Institute of Government (a Title III-funded program that provides leadership, polling, consulting and training to urban regions and public service organizations)
About 10 years ago, state Rep. Percy W. Watson of Hattiesburg was pivotal in helping to incorporate the 101 Capitol Street building through a tedious $250 million bond package that ultimately led to its acquisition. The Downtown Campus lobby is named in his honor.
Watson said the building is a prime piece of real estate because it’s located close to the center of legislative power in Jackson and in Hinds County in Mississippi.
And, after more than three decades of public service, Watson said he’s still delighted to serve in the legislature “to enhance the lives of the citizens in the state of Mississippi.”
Another personal enrichment opportunity for participants and enrollees inside the downtown campus involves oral presentation.
The facility has a Toastmaster’s organization designed to improve leadership and communication skills. It teaches individuals how to improve their oratorical skills by being cognizant of fillers such as “ahs,” “umms” and “uhs.”
Ultimately, participants become better equipped at speaking on their feet. This is especially important for those studying to become public servants. Being adequately prepared to communicate is vital in classrooms for students and in boardrooms for leaders. Lives can be positively impacted when people model good behavior so others can emulate words and actions.
As one presenter said near the end of the campus forum, “If you want to be remembered in life, teach somebody what you know.”