What Does it Mean? By Rob Pearigen

Seven years ago, when I became president at Millsaps College, I heard from individuals around the state about the importance of the College. Respected leaders such as William Winter, Robert Khayat, and Howard McMillan shared their opinions that Millsaps matters not only to Jackson, but to Mississippi and beyond.

With these thoughts in mind, Millsaps unveiled a strategic plan in 2012 entitled “Across the Street and Around the Globe: Partnerships and Influence at Millsaps College.” The plan called upon Millsaps faculty, staff, students, and alumni to influence positive change beyond our campus and across our city, state, and nation.

Five years into this plan, we are making great headway. If you visit the Millsaps campus today, you’ll see work underway on a $13.5 million renovation to the iconic Christian Center, transforming it into a space for our humanities programs as well as a new chapel space that will allow students of all faiths to connect their intellectual, spiritual, and moral commitments. You will also see work beginning on a new Visual Arts Center that will provide studio and gallery space for art and art history. Along with the newly renovated James Observatory, these buildings not only enhance the west side of campus but beckon our community, including children in Midtown, into meaningful experiences in a collegiate setting.

If you talk with our students today, they’ll tell you about internships in business, education, science, and politics through our new Institute for Civic and Professional Engagement, which also organizes public dialogue on important issues of the day. You’ll learn about new programs designed to enhance global and domestic perspectives on a campus that currently hosts students from twenty-nine countries and twenty-six states. And, students will probably boast of the fact that in the past two years, Millsaps has a Rhodes Scholar, a Truman Scholar, a Goldwater Scholar, two Fulbright Scholars, and an inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame.

If you wonder about our influence beyond campus, I would note that Millsaps is one of ten colleges in the nation selected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities as a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation Campus Center (along with Brown, Duke, and Rutgers, among others). Our recent selection as the academic home for the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty, previously based at Washington & Lee University, serves as further evidence of our engagement in important issues before us as a state and a nation.

All of this good work is happening against a broader canvas of order and disorder across the country and, in particular, on college campuses. At Millsaps, we’ve continued to focus on the value of dialogue about how we can all live into our highest principles as a college community, as called for in our mission statement in which we dedicate ourselves to “academic excellence, open inquiry and free expression, the exploration of faith to inform vocation, and the innovative shaping of the social, economic, and cultural progress of our region.”

To sum it up, Millsaps is a place of significant engagement. One doesn’t come here simply to watch and learn passively; this is a campus where students, faculty, and staff are all actively engaged in learning by doing work that builds and strengthens opportunities for partnerships and influence. It’s a place where members of the community attend public lectures, enroll in adult enrichment courses, send their children to sports camps, and most importantly, send us high school students who are prepared to change the world for the better.

Millsaps matters; I invite you to come and experience why.