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Alumni Spotlight

2024

Valencia Payne ’08

Hometown: Greenville, MS

Current Occupation: Health Informaticist | United States Department of Defense

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
1. In 2023, Speaker at Mississippi Nursing Association Conference (Sigma Theta Tau Delta State University Pi Xi Chapter),
2. In 2022, Creator/Owner of https://www.rn3d.store/
3. Inventor of DiaGen-NanoBot (Type II Diabetes Cure). Author of GI for Nursing Students, Fluid and Electrolytes for Nursing Students, Dimensional Analysis for Nursing Students, Respiratory and Fractures for Nursing Students, and Diabetes for Nursing Students. I am also an Apple and Google App Developer (rn4students App).

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education?
By earning my BSN RN Degree, this degree equipped me with the skills, knowledge, and experience needed to make a significant impact in the field of nursing and technology (Health Informatics). Delta State University’s reputable nursing program provided an enriching and supportive environment for me to excel and thrive.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University.
While attending Delta State University School of Nursing, my best overall memory was a sense of community and comradery with my nursing instructors and classmates and that I still have the support of the Delta State nursing community to this day.

John Polles ’05

Hometown: Flowood, MS

Current Occupation: Owner, Agent | Polles Properties LLC

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Starting a Real Estate company with my wife Amanda Polles. This year we celebrated 10 years since Polles Properties opened.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education?
I came to Delta State University to play baseball for one of the top programs in the country. I also loved the one on one students have with faculty and staff.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University.
Probably one of the greatest memories was when we won the National Championship in 2004. We are coming up on 20 years since we did it, but there are so many wonderful memories at Delta State. I was all in from the very beginning. I loved the campus life, long practices with my teammates, friends and the community of Cleveland. By the time I graduated, I felt like a local from the area.

2023

Elizabeth Lishman ’05, ’11

Hometown: Ft Myers, Florida. I grew up a military kid, so we moved about every two years. When my Dad retired we move to Belzoni, MS close to my mom’s family.

Current Occupation: Nurse Practitioner | Advanced Wound Care

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I have two! When I was a graphic designer, working for Coopwood Communications, I had the honor of designing the menu for Ground Zero. That year I won several ADDY awards for the menu.

In my nursing career, I won the Mississippi Nightingale award for best inpatient nurse in 2017. It was truly an amazing honor.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Honestly, it’s because DSU was where my friends were going. I’m glad my friends have GREAT taste!

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. So many! I loved Delta State so much, I went twice. I made many lifelong friends and met my husband. My time at Delta State molded the rest of my life, which I will be forever grateful.

Kelly Smith ’00

Hometown: Grenada, MS

Current Occupation: Internal Auditor | Texas Commission on Environmental Quality

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment would be my current role at TCEQ. I was recently promoted as the sole Auditor to plan and execute audit projects for a $1.4 billion grant program.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Honestly, given that both my parents attended and met at Delta State it was the obvious choice.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. It is hard to choose just one memory, but I would say that a lasting memory would be meeting my Freshman roommate Shalonda (Hunt) Bryant. We’ve been friends for so long that we call each other family. That’s how it is to be a part of Delta State. I had an opportunity to experience a family like campus, meeting so many different people that have helped shaped who I’ve become.

Spring Heflin Nunnelee ’89

Hometown: Merigold, MS

Current Occupation: Mission Coordinator

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I have two. My 10 years of Chamber of Commerce leadership taught me how to plan events and connect people which prepared me for the past 20 years or ministry. I get to see people connect with church and community and grow in their faith.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I grew up at DSU as a faculty kid. It was home and even when I talked about going somewhere else, my Dad, David Heflin knew it was where I would learn and thrive! DSU was the Best decision ever!

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. There are lots of them! Top Three! I loved the professors in the Marketing Dept and how much I enjoyed their teaching and the classes. I loved sorority bid day and being so happy to be a Phi Mu while my sister, Amber became a Kappa Delta. I also loved going off the high diving board in a kayak and all the adventures of camping trips with my Dad, David Heflin.

Zach Pinkerton ’16

Hometown: Cleveland, MS

Current Occupation: Assistant Vice President | Planters Bank & Trust Company

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I have had the privilege of meeting customers who have had a life long dream of starting or owning their own business. Being able to help that person fulfill their lifelong dream and seeing them succeed at it is one of the best feelings in the world.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State because it was home. My father worked their and I spent many a day on the campus throughout my life so there was a familiarity that helped get used to college life. A smaller University has perks that you don’t notice until you are enrolled there. Getting to know professors in a smaller setting helped me tremendously – especially in Broom Hall where I spent most of my time. Also, Delta State has some of the best athletics in Division II that are a blast to watch. And lastly, Delta State has a beautiful campus that just makes you feel good walking through it.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory from DSU is meeting, dating, and being engaged to my wife Calli while we were both in school. Without Delta State, we wouldn’t be together and have our son (Will) and soon-to-be daughter (Harper Lane). This bond will forever make our family a DSU family.

Kelvin Davis ’07, ’09, ’20

Hometown: Cleveland, MS

Current Occupation: University Comptroller | Delta State University

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment to date is being able to return home and serve my alma mater in the capacities for which I have and continue to serve.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State because it is mother’s alma mater and I wanted to follow in her footsteps.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory of Delta State is the times I spent with my friends and fraternity brothers while an undergrad.

Jeff Arnold ’92

Hometown: Drew, MS

Current Occupation: Interior Designer, Clothing Store Owner

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I’ve been so fortunate, over the years, that every design job is different, and with that it brings different challenges and accomplishments. A few years ago I had the opportunity to work as production designer/ art director for several feature films and regional/national commercials. Knowing that body of work will be around forever is quite rewarding.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I grew up with Delta State basically in my back yard….there was never a doubt in my mind of where I was going to attend college.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. So many memories flood my mind, but I would have to say my best memories of Renaissance and Renaissance family I will cherish for a lifetime.

Joni Battistelli Tyler 

Hometown: Cleveland, MS

Current Occupation: Diet Coach | Jackson Healthcare for Women

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I have served as a diet coach for 40 years. It is very rewarding to help people change their lives by losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I knew DSU had the best professors and mentors in education.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory is being a member of the Tri Delta Sorority. I gained leadership skills and made lasting friendships. I have been a proud supporter of St.Jude Hospital, Tri Delta’s philanthropy. We have raised 93 million dollars for St. Jude.

Michael Bellipanni ’01 

Hometown: Belzoni, MS

Current Occupation: Director of Marketing & Business Development

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? The most rewarding accomplishment has been my involvement in Mississippi’s electric cooperatives closing the digital divide in our great state. From helping in the creation and passage of legislation that allowed co-ops into the business, to assisting in the formation of a subsidiary, to actually bringing the service to market feels really good. It’s knowing that we are doing something that will have a generational impact on the counties that we serve that makes it all worthwhile.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? My parents met at Delta State, so there was always a partiality. I remember going to sporting events on campus as a kid and attending Coach Rives’s summer basketball. My parents would bring us along to KA and Tri Delta alumni events. It was very much a familial feeling around everything at Delta State.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. Of the ones I can share, probably my fondest memory was my freshman year orientation session. It was my first real college experience, and I couldn’t believe how many new people I was meeting — and they were people from all over the country! That experience made the world a whole lot smaller to this kid from a small Delta Town.

2022

Wendolyn Stevens ’13, ’14

Hometown: Clarksdale, MS

Current Occupation: Director of Youth Initiatives | The Lighthouse Black Girl Projects

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment is seeing the college students I work with graduate and accomplish their goals. Their success brings me a sense of accomplishment knowing that the things that I have shared with them through teaching, mentoring, etc. come to fruition.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State because it was close to home but felt far enough. Delta State has a very unique type of culture and once you are tapped into it, it is hard to separate from it.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. The best memory I had at Delta State was when I graduated from undergrad in 2013. At the time, we graduated in the coliseum. At the end of commencement, all of the faculty members lined up and allowed us to “walk through” them to enter into the world as college graduates. It was a sense of accomplishment, pride, and comfort knowing that I got the best education that I could have received and they trusted what they instilled in us to go into the world and do good work.

Alexis Harry ’02

Hometown: Picayune, MS

Current Occupation: Senior Director of Education | Firia Labs

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I started my educational career with NASA in Huntsville, AL. After teaching Biology and Science in the public school sector, working with NASA, and education in the corporate world; I am now the Sr Director of Education at Firia Labs.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State University to become a teacher.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. I met the person who would later become my wife 23 years ago. Plus working with Dr. Riding in the research lab when we discovered a fossilized diatom from the the Mississippi River, and published for our findings.

Waunita Roberts Jones ’12, ’13

Hometown: Lexington, MS

Current Occupation: Director of Human Resources | Mississippi Delta Community College

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment is in August 2021, I became the Director of Human Resources (dream job) at Mississippi Delta Community College.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State University because of the small, intimate class environment and because it is a very family-oriented environment. I also liked that it wasn’t too far from my parents’ home.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. The best memory from Delta State is when I had the opportunity to study Business Abroad in Europe in 2010. It was an excellent experience for me while attending Delta State University. I met some great people whom I still communicate with presently.

Scott Alexander ’01

Hometown: Blacksburg, Virginia

Current Occupation: Pilot | JetBlue Airways

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? Becoming the Captain of an A-321 Aircraft for JetBlue Airways, with 200 passengers aboard trusting me to get them to their destination safely.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? When I toured Delta State, I had the opportunity to speak with students who all seemed to be genuinely content with their education. Many of these students already had jobs lined up with promising careers ahead.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory by far is meeting my wife who was also a student. She became my biggest supporter who believed in me each step of the way. We are still together after 22 years, with two children, Jenna 13 and Andrew 11.

Shelby Swafford ’19

Hometown: Cleveland, MS

Current Occupation: Emergency Room Nurse | Bolivar Medical Center

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Delta State has been a part of my life since I was a little girl. It is the Alma Mater of both of my parents, who met while there. Having a top tier Nursing program was an added bonus!

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. All of my best memories can be attributed to my time spent in the Kappa Delta sorority! Through the Greek system, I gained life long friends and priceless memories. If given the chance, Go Greek!!

Dex Hopkins ’11

Hometown: Richland, MS

Current Occupation: Strength and Conditioning Coach

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Rich tradition of athletic achievement and the community Cleveland and DSU offered. I loved not feeling like just another student wandering campus or sitting in class. The relationships and experiences there will stick with me for a lifetime.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory from DSU was definitely beating Shephard at home in the semi finals in 2010, in the rain to punch our ticket to the National championship.

Libbi Logan ’99

Hometown: Lexington, MS

Current Occupation: Real Estate Broker/Co-Owner of Partnership Properties

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? A lot of Realtors measure their success by having a sale of “x” value or exceeding “x” million in lifetime sales, but the repeat business of my loyal clients is how I measure my success.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I decided to attend DSU after attending basketball camp at DSU in 7th grade. Back then, I had dreams of playing for Lloyd Clark one day. I don’t think I really ever considered anywhere else after that. Fast forward to 1996, I decided to apply for early admission after my junior year in high school, and I knew school had to be my priority. Delta State offered me great scholarships. It also didn’t hurt that my boyfriend (now husband) was at DSU when I had to make my final decision.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. Wow, that is a hard one! You know, we found a home here in Cleveland. So much so that our family has passed on some job opportunities in order to stay here, to build my business, to raise our family, and to make this community a better place. So I guess my favorite memory was when Roane carried me across the threshold of our first home here – the married housing apartment at Hill apartments.

Cliff Porter ’81

Hometown: Gautier, MS

Current Occupation: Harbor Master | Jackson County Port Authority

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? Working in the marine industry my goal was to secure a Captain license with the marine company I worked for. So, after many hours/days/months training on several boats and attending a maritime academy, I received a Merchant Mariner Credential Of Towing Vessels Upon Near Coastal Waters and Western Rivers with an Unlimited Radar Observer License. Soon after I applied for an opening in the main office for traffic manager which had a prerequisite to have a four year college degree. I got the job and before I retired in 2015 I rose through the ranks to General Manager. Now I am enjoying may second career as the Harbor Master for the Jackson County Port Authority which also had a prerequisite for a four year degree. Thank you DSU for my education!!!

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I received a football scholarship to come to DSU. It was known in the day that DSU’s athletics and education was one of the best in the state.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memories are of making lifetime friendships with the guys I was on the football field with day in and day out.

2021

Tais S. Cotta ’16

Hometown: Belo Horizonte/ MG, Brazil

Current Occupation: International Player Support Specialist | Orlando, FL

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment is being able to work with great colleagues in one of the best teams in the NWSL, which is one of the best leagues in the World. Also having the opportunity to support some of the best players in the world!

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State University for the opportunity of being part of the DSU Women’s Soccer team and also for the opportunity to study and get a dual degree overseas.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. All the great times with the DSU Women’s soccer team! So many memories from trips, games, trainings, etc!


Howard Brown, Jr. ’96

Hometown: Greenwood, MS

Current Occupation: Deputy Executive Director

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment is progressing from an intern to Deputy Executive Director, the second highest position within the organization, during my 25.5 tenure with the Legislative Budget Office. I was granted this opportunity as a Delta State University student in the accounting department, and I am grateful that it has led to a fulfilling career in state government. During my tenure, I have played an integral role in building a strong cultural family-like bond within our team at the Legislative Budget Office.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose to go to Delta State University because my girlfriend had chosen to go to the school. Twenty five years later, we are happily married with three children. As a bonus, the campus appealed to me because of the small class sizes, diverse student body, and close proximity to my hometown of Greenwood.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. During my freshman year, the Delta State Lady Statesmen won the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Tournament in 1992. That championship team was very special, and I remember attending the games with my friends enjoying every moment of that experience. My fondest memories were experienced with my friends through attending the basketball games, late night study sessions, video game tournaments, card tournaments, and playing intramural basketball on a team affectionately known as “Juice”. I loved my time at Delta State and developed many lifetime memories and friendships.


Melissa Love ’04

Hometown: Madison, MS

Current Occupation: Workforce Development Coordinator

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? About 6 years ago, my sister and I founded and ran a graphic design and marketing consulting business. We had a great time together, we were self sufficient, and created some groovy, productive visual art for some amazing clients. However, we both decided the business side was NOT our cup of tea- but we DID IT! HA! It was a great experience and I learned a lot. And yet, I have had so many great experiences (along with some bad…).

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I was a transfer student from Holmes Community College. My Holmes mentors, Jay Cheatham and Bill Watkins, III, (also DSU alumni) told me how great the art department was. I received the art department scholarship to Delta State, It was a no-brainer. My dad’s girlfriend had also told me for YEARS how awesome Delta State was!

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. Too many to mention!!!
-Intramural volley ball, softball, and bowling
-watching football, baseball, etc, and student activities (Springfest bands on the quad!)
-spending many nights in the art department working on projects, alongside my classmates and friends
-painting wooden blocks outside, on a cloudy day, under Sammy Britt
-all my AMAZING classes with Ron Koehler, Pat Brown, and Bill Lester, and more.


Andrew Yee ’99, ’00

Hometown: Greenwood, MS

Current Occupation: Certified Financial Planner, CFP®️

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I believe my greatest professional accomplishment is helping a client have a worry free retirement. This client was very skeptical of being able to retire with a comfortable lifestyle and was very skeptical of the stock market. He did not know how investments worked or if he would run out of money in retirement. To his credit even with all the skepticism, he took advantage of his company’s retirement plan and accumulated a nice sum by the time he retired. When the time came to move the funds to his IRA, he was still very skeptical and worried. After spending many hours educating him on how the financial markets worked and how certain investments perform in different market cycles, he began to get more comfortable. I have to say it was probably three years after working together that he finally was at peace with his retirement. He had taken monthly withdrawals from his account for three years and his account was worth more now than when he started. He was so shocked and amazed. He did not think that was possible. The joy and relief on his face was worth the difficult conversations. We have now worked together for nine years and his account is still worth more than when he started. He is always so grateful and thankful that I was there when he did not know he needed me. To me this accomplishment is worth more than any plaque or exotic trip that many in the industry yearn for.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? The biggest reason I chose DSU was the size of the campus and student body. I did not want to go to a large university to further my education much to the disappoint of family members. I knew the classes would not have hundreds of other students in them and the learning experience would be more personal.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. This is a tough question to answer. If I had to choose, it would be the people I met from the faculty, personnel, and students. I met many lifelong friends at DSU.

Susan Chow ’79

Hometown: Cleveland, MS

Current Occupation: Former Laboratory Manager at Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare in Memphis, TN. Retired Procurement Coordinator at DSU.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I will be forever grateful to Methodist LeBonheur Healthcare – they gave me the opportunity to learn and train with some of the best medical professionals. Later, I was humbled to be asked for my professional opinions and advice from those in the corporate and medical communities. I had come full circle when I, in turn, was able to teach and mentor others.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I was born and raised in Cleveland and had always planned to attend DSU. I loved the campus and what the university had to offer.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. Dr. Jesse White was my advisor who taught and encouraged students to set goals toward a path to success. He came across as gentle and calm, but he was heard and garnered respect from all.
Also, I never thought that after 30 years, I would return to DSU and work on a grant with a professor, Dr. John Tiftickjian, whose demeanor was very similar to Dr. White’s, and to work within the same science labs in which I had classes in the ’70’s.

Heather Robinson ’01

Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA

Current Occupation: Owner at Heidi’s located in downtown Cleveland.

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I am very proud to have been serving Cleveland and the surrounding area since 2007. Our embroidery and screen printing services have enabled us to give back to the community in so many ways. I most proud of the good we can do while perpetuating the growth and prosperity of Cleveland and Delta State University.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Actually, Delta State chose me! I was fortunate to have been recruited to come to Delta State on an athletic scholarship.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. Oh there are so many good memories! College is like everything else in life; you get out of it what you put into it! My favorite memories were made with my Phi Mu sisters and other greek friends, intramurals and the National Championship cheer team. All memories that can never be replaced.

Billy Cobb, III ’21

Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

Current Occupation: Youth Football Coordinator and Community Relations Assistant

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My Greatest Professional Accomplishment would have to be my ability to affect change in so many peoples lives as I come into contact with them through my position. This position allows me the opportunity to reach deep into the community and on a daily basis put smiles on peoples face as we continue to promote The Jacksonville Jaguars Organization.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I chose Delta State because it chose me. Delta State gave me the opportunity for a fresh start and the chance to be apart of a new FAMILY. Coming to DSU was one of the best decisions I have made. I have met lifelong friends, gained new family, made many new memories and became apart of an organization bigger than myself(Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.).

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My best memory from Delta State would have to be the Unity Walk. The thought I put into creating the Unity Walk and seeing it come to fruition brought a smile to my face. The Unity Walk was about bringing people from different ethnicities and backgrounds together for a common cause. It became a big turnout and gave a whole new meaning to #DSUFAMILY. 

Respect the Statemen, Fear the OKRA !!

Rebekah Arant ’09, ’14

Hometown: Madison, MS

Current Occupation: Stay at home mom; former Assistant Director of DSU Admissions

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment, as Assistant Director of Admissions, was working with the admissions team to bring over 1300 people to Delta State’s campus for a Spotlight Day. We had students from all over the state of Mississippi.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Honestly, I followed my then fiancé now husband to Delta State. I quickly fell in love with the campus and the people. I became part of the DSU family and when given the opportunity to transfer, I could not think of anywhere else I’d want to be.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. My favorites memories as a student were working with the other education majors to complete the many assignments and projects we had. There were many hours spent writing and preparing lesson plans, but you always felt like you were part of a team.

Dr. Ronald Chance

John F. Fletcher

Danielle Morgan ’01

Hometown: Yazoo City, MS

Current Occupation: Executive Director of Mississippi Tourism Association

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? I’m very proud of my work as tourism director of Greenwood. We were able to increase tourism revenue by 24 percent in five years. I am also very proud of my work in recruiting ABC’s Women of the Movement multimillion-dollar television series to film in Greenwood and other areas of the Delta. As well as being an important story, this project generated a lot of revenue for our community at a time where it was desperately needed due to the effects of the pandemic.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I had planned to attend a larger university and I visited Delta State and it just felt like it was where I belonged. I also received an art scholarship through “Portfolio Day” held by the DSU art department, which helped solidify my decision. I am so grateful that I chose Delta State. I got a wonderful education and met some of the best people with whom I still have relationships with over twenty years later.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. It is hard to pick one memory, but one of my best memories is having the opportunity to study abroad in Florence, Italy, through the art department. It was such an incredible learning experience that I may not have had otherwise.

2020

Dr. Tara Dunn-Ross ’10

Hometown: Picayune, MS

Current Occupation: District Dean of Student Services | Northwest Community College | Senatobia, MS

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? My greatest professional accomplishment is co-writing and administering Project Gateway, a grant sponsored by the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi that helped women facing financial hardships complete their degree and move on to their desired careers. Project Gateway helped women pay for tuition, books, licensure exams, and even gas cards for students completing their degree at Northwest. Knowing that I was instrumental in creating a better future for women and their families in Mississippi made me both proud and fulfilled. Project Gateway was the perfect blend of my profession and passion; it reminded me that I was aligned with my purpose.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I felt connected to the college from the first day I visited the campus. On my first tour I met Ms. Betsy Elliott who connected me with an upperclassman who looked liked me, was ambitious like me, and was from South Mississippi like me. That connection was important to me, because it showed me that the college saw me as a person, and not just a recruit.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. I think my best memory was Homecoming 2009. I was president of the NPHC at the time, and my mentor and NPHC advisor, Deandre House had accepted a new position at another college. In years past, I saw the work it took to plan a successful step show, and during the interim time of appointing a new advisor, I planned the majority of the step show with my mentor’s guidance. The planning and the weekend could have gone wrong at several times, but everything worked out with ease. That year I stepped in my first step show, and was crowned queen. Homecoming 2009 was by far my best memory at Delta State.


George Miller ’00

Hometown: Clarksdale, MS

Current Occupation: Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Southern College of Optometry | Memphis, TN

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? The three years (2014-2016) I spent working as Vice President for Development at Operation Smile was extremely rewarding for me. Op Smile is a global health organization providing cleft lip and palate surgeries in over 80 countries. It’s an amazing organization. I had the good fortune of working with some incredible people and grew both professionally and personally during that time. My youngest son, Preston, was born in 2010 with a cleft lip and palate. So, I understood the importance of the surgeries and the impact we were having on thousands of children each and every year.

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? Betsy Elliott was Director of Recruitment at DSU back when I was deciding where to attend college. She was an incredible asset for DSU. Betsy visited Lee Academy for a college night fair and encouraged many of us to take a campus tour. For me, spending a day on the campus helped to solidify my decision. I was drawn to DSU because of the size of the campus and the genuine friendliness I felt from faculty, staff, and students. 24 years later, I’d make the same decision again.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. The 2000 football team’s run to a national championship was special. Being a student during that time and watching so many of my friends accomplish that goal was awesome. My fondest memories were experienced with my Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity brothers. There are way too many of those to select just one. I loved my 4 years at Delta State and the lifetime of memories and friendships that developed during my time in Cleveland.


Mandy Gardner ’99

Hometown: Eudora, Arkansas

Current Occupation: Realtor | Jackson, MS

What is your greatest professional accomplishment?
Being named “TOP 40 UNDER 40,” by Mississippi Business Journal and “30 UNDER 30 in the Nation,” by REALTOR Magazine

Why did you choose Delta State University to further your education? I wanted to be close to home and because I graduated from a small high school, the size was appealing to me.

Share your best memory from your time at Delta State University. The friends and friendships I made while at Delta State are a big part of my great memories from Delta State. They are still a large part of my life today and many have supported me often through out my Real Estate career.


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