2015 DAFVM Spotlight Employees

Cathy McMullen

Cathy McMullen
December 2015

Office Associate
MSU Extension Service
Benton County

Years in Position: 13
Years of Service to MSU: 13

As someone passionate about community service, working as an office associate in the MSU Extension Service office in Benton County couldn’t be a better fit for Cathy McMullen.

“I have the most wonderful job a person could want,” she said. “It suits my lifestyle. No two days are ever alike. We work with 4-H youth, and we help people -- whether it’s with their livestock, forestry land, farms or gardens.”

Cathy described her job as one of general office responsibilities, from answering the phone and greeting the public, to helping the agents with programs.

“I love the people I work with and the people I meet,” Cathy said.

Outside the office, Cathy stays busy working at community events and spending time with her family. She is married to Arnie, who has served as the sheriff of Benton County for almost 30 years.

“We share five children -- two daughters and three sons,” Cathy said. “We have 13 grandchildren -- 10 boys and three girls. There is never a dull or quiet moment when we get together during the holidays.”

Ashley Tucker Patterson

Ashley Tucker Patterson
December 2015

Business Manager I
MSU Extension Service
Central Research and Extension Center
Raymond, MS

Years in Position: 2 months
Years of Service to MSU: 1

Some things run in the family, and for Ashley Patterson, it’s a head for business.

Ashley recently changed jobs within the MSU Extension Service. After serving for a little more than a year as a Community Resource Development Agent in Lincoln County, she became a business manager for the Southwest Region.

Located in the Central Research and Extension Center in Raymond, Ashley manages the region’s budget, provides fiscal oversight for county budgets, coordinates human resource activities, and provides administrative support to Dr. Sherry Surrette, head of the Central R&E Center.

“I love working with staff in the southwest region and on campus,” Ashley said. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know and work with the people of Extension and MSU. I’m fortunate to be associated with such passionate, hard-working people.”

Ashley said her mother was a finance manager for most of her life, and her career choice may be genetic.

“Like my mom, I enjoy mathematics, problem solving and zero balances!” she said.

Ashley enjoys cooking, shopping, traveling and spending time with family friends, but she also likes to kick back and watch TV and movies, especially action, adventure, and comedy shows.

She is newly married to Ken Patterson.

Randy Phillips

Randy Phillips
November 2015

Heavy Equipment Operator
Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station
Delta Research & Extension Center
Stoneville, MS

Years in Position: 4
Years of Service to MSU: 4

Leland native Randy Phillips wanted a change from the boating and natural gas industries, and found it at the Delta Research and Extension Center in Stoneville.

As a heavy equipment operator, Randy performs a variety of tasks vital to the smooth operation of the research projects conducted at the station. Randy performs road maintenance and ensures that all culverts are in good working order. He repairs or replaces any that are damaged. He is also heavily involved in field operations during the planting and harvesting of a wide variety of crops. He helps install poly pipe for irrigation, and is involved in equipment maintenance at the shop.

Randy enjoys the range of tasks he gets to perform in his work.

“I like it all,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate that many of the more experienced employees have handed down a lot of information which I use on a daily basis.”

One of things Randy likes is doing a job correctly the first time.

“This work ethic takes a lot of self-discipline, but it helps me do a better job,” he explained.

Randy is a former Golden Gloves champion, and enjoys refereeing and judging boxing events. He also spends as much time as he can with his 12-year-old grandson, Bailey. They especially enjoy going fishing together.

Randy has been married to Sandra K. for 36 years and has two daughters, Nikki Carol and Beth Flynn.

Keith Whitehead

Keith Whitehead
November 2015

Extension Agent III
MSU Extension Service
Franklin County

Years in Position: 2
Years of Service to MSU: 2

When Keith Whitehead graduated from Mississippi State in 1982, he didn’t know he would end up having a second career at his alma mater.

Keith took a job with the Louisiana State University Ag Center and spent 30 years working at research stations.

“I was a research associate and got a master’s degree while I was working at LSU,” Keith said. “My first focus was row crops, and I managed operations on a station just south of campus for about 20 years. During that time, I also started working with pasture management.”

As Keith’s parents aged, he wanted to get closer to home, so he moved to a research station in Clinton, Louisiana, where he worked with aquatic weed control and pasture management.

But when the Extension agent position opened in Franklin County, where he grew up, Keith knew he had to apply.

Since he took the job as an Extension agent in agriculture and natural resources with 4-H responsibilities, he and the Franklin County team have started a 4-H Shooting Sports club, which is already up to 50 members. He said participation in livestock projects has also increased.

“I love this job,” he said. “I like going into the field and helping producers with problems. I love working with 4-H. Extension has always been a service organization, and I like helping people. I always have.”

Keith’s Franklin County roots contribute to his enthusiasm for his work.

“My grandfather had dairy and beef cattle here,” he said. “My great-grandfather never had a tractor -- he always had a mule -- and he grew cotton and sweet potatoes in addition to a large garden. My family was deeply embedded in agriculture as I was growing up.”

When he has time, Keith loves to hunt and fish. He and his wife Stacy have been married 17 years and have two daughters, Molly (14) and Katie (13).

Pam Awad

Pam Awad
October 2015

Family Nutrition Program Educator
MSU Extension Service
Webster County

Years in Position: 9
Years of Service to MSU: 9

Before a customer suggested that she apply for a job with the MSU Extension Service, Pam Awad didn’t know the organization existed.

Pam was working as the operations manager at Fred’s Pharmacy, and a job opened for an Extension nutrition educator. At first, she ignored the customer’s suggestion.

“But when she came back a second time to find out if I had applied for the job, I thought, ‘Maybe the good Lord wants me over there.’ So I applied and got the job,” Pam said.

For the past 9 years, Pam has provided nutrition programs for children in Head Start and elementary schools (K-3) in Webster and Choctaw counties. She also offers some adult nutrition education programs.

“The kids love our curriculum, ‘The Organ Wise Guys,’” Pam said. “I have dolls named Annie and Andy that open up and have the different body parts cutely named. We talk about where the different parts go, what they do and how we can keep them healthy.”

When she’s at the grocery store, Pam often sees her students and hears from their parents.

“Parents tell me they ask to have healthier things, like fresh fruits, and want to drink things besides Coke,” she said. “They’re asking parents to change their way of doing things, and that’s good.”

Pam is passionate about health and wants to help people understand the subject as much as she can.

“In my own life, I figured out that I was going to have to be responsible for deciding what we needed to do to have healthier lives,” she explained. “I became excited about helping others learn to take their own lives in hand.”

Pam loves to learn, crochet, knit, craft, paint, grow herbs and garden sustainably. She and her 15-year-old son, Ramadan, love animals; they have 17 outdoor cats. Pam loves all kinds of music and occupies her time spent waiting for Ramadan at various activities with reading and listening to music.

Daniel Fleming

Daniel Fleming
October 2015

Post-doctoral Research Associate
Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology
Starkville Campus

Years in position: 1.5 months
Years of service to MSU: 6

When Daniel Fleming began a job as a student worker for an entomology professor, he had no idea he would end up making a career out of insects.

“That job led to an opportunity to get a master’s degree in entomology, then I chose to get a doctorate because I believe I have something to offer,” Daniel explained. “I’m interested in teaching students, conducting research and helping farmers become better managers of their crops and the insect pests they deal with.”

Daniel works as a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Entomology, and Plant Pathology, where he assists with basic and applied research related to managing agricultural crop pests.

“For example, I am currently developing a protein marking method for thrips that will help us be able to better monitor and understand their movement in an agricultural landscape,” he said.

Daniel discovered his passion for teaching through Bugfest and the MSU Bug and Plant Camp, where he passes on his knowledge about entomology and agriculture to the next generation.

“Food is a big issue in the world, an issue that many of us take for granted, and I want to be able to do my part to ensure we have a stable and safe food supply,” he said.

Outside the office, Daniel enjoys hunting, fishing, tailgating, and collecting insects with his son Wyatt and daughter Tilly. He has been married to his wife Paige for 7 years.

Penny Parmer

Penny Parmer
September 2015

Office Associate
MSU Extension Service
Itawamba County

Years in Position: 10
Years of Service to MSU: 10

Penny Parmer didn’t let a disastrous beginning keep her from dedicating the past decade to the MSU Extension Service in Itawamba County.

As an office associate, Penny routinely works with clients in need of answers to their questions, but she is also responsible for keeping the office running smoothly.

Shortly after she began her job, the copier ran out of toner. While changing the cartridge, Penny accidentally spilled toner powder all over herself, the copier and the floor. She quickly grabbed the vacuum to clean up.

“I wasn’t aware the vacuum was missing a bag, and toner powder flew all over everything in the room, and the vacuum was ruined,” she recalled. “We’ve laughed several times over that! But Extension is one big family, so we just cleaned up the mess and kept on going.”

Penny enjoys the learning involved in working with clients.

“I love the knowledge I gain when I research answers to our clients’ questions,” she said.

When she’s not working, she loves reading, sewing, knitting, painting, cooking, and spending time with her pets.

“My husband, Tim, and I don’t have human kids, but we do have a lot of pets -- two cats, three dogs, one parakeet, and 21 chickens!” she said.

Leslie Reed

Leslie Reed
September 2015

ICU Supervisor, Clinical Science
MSU College of Veterinary Medicine
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 6
Years of Service to MSU: 9

When the most seriously ill dogs and cats arrive at the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Leslie Reed and her colleagues are ready to help them in the Intensive Care Unit.

As ICU supervisor, Leslie works with senior-level veterinary students and veterinary technology students and teaches them techniques and special things to look for when it comes to caring for these animals.

“I love working with and teaching the students,” Leslie said. “I love the fact that you never know what is going to come through the door at any moment. You have to be prepared for anything. But if I have to pick one favorite thing about my job, it would hands down be caring for these sick animals and knowing that I played a part in helping them recover and be comfortable while they were in the hospital.”

Critically ill patients often need extended care.

“These animals can spend days, weeks, even months with us during recovery, and seeing them go home to their family is great. It warms my heart and makes me remember why I joined this profession,” she said.

Leslie is an MSU graduate, but had planned a career in private practice.

“It wasn’t until I was doing my clinicals here at MSU-CVM that I fell in love with the Emergency and Critical Care aspect of veterinary medicine. I knew then that this was the place and position I wanted to stay in,” she said.

When she has free time, her favorite activity is spending as much time as possible with her children, Dixon (9) and Lily (6).

Jessica Fielder

Jessica Fielder
August 2015

Field Technical Assistant
Early Childhood Development
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 6 Months
Years of Service to MSU: 1

Improving the quality of care and education of young children every day is Jessica Fielder’s number-one priority.

Fielder is a field technical assistant and trainer for the Early Years Network in the Mississippi State University School of Human Sciences. She is responsible for teaching early-childhood education staff from child care centers how to use developmentally appropriate curricula and best teaching practices for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Fielder said she is passionate about quality education for young children, and her job allows her to network with individuals who share that same passion.

“The part of my job that I enjoy the most is participating in activities with other child care professionals when I host training workshops. Providing activities they can do in their own classrooms is very rewarding,” she said. “I enjoy knowing that I make the training workshops a valuable experience for them. I love waking up each day knowing that I get to go to work and have fun.”

One memory in particular stands out to Fielder when she thinks about these types of activities.

“I was teaching a workshop on music for infants and toddlers, and one of the training activities was to divide the child care professionals into groups and provide them with a children’s song,” she said. “They had to then take the children’s song and make it fit a certain musical genre. My favorite was when one group sang Humpty Dumpty as a blues song. I laughed for a long time about that one and had a great time.”

Fielder said working in early-childhood education comes naturally to her.

“I have always enjoyed working with young children through programs such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters through various community service projects while I was attending school at the University of Southern Mississippi,” she said. “Choosing my profession was less about how much money I would make in the long run and more about waking up every day knowing that I will enjoy going into work, which was the most important thing to me.”

Fielder enjoys photography, DIY home interior projects and making crafts in her spare time. She also enjoys spending time with her 6-month-old son, Jayce Christopher.

Courtney Pratt

Courtney Pratt
August 2015

Necropsy Technician
CVM Pathobiology/Population Medicine Department
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 1
Years of Service to MSU: 5

Social skills do not come easily to all people, but Courtney Pratt makes friends wherever he goes.

Pratt is a necropsy technician for the College of Veterinary Medicine Pathobiology/Population Medicine Department. He is responsible for assisting the veterinarians, providing them with tools, making sure supplies are stocked and helping CVM students when needed.

Pratt loves meeting new people on a regular basis.

“I am a very sociable person,” he said. “I enjoy talking to new people and making new friends. Interacting with students or professionals I have never met before and getting to know them is definitely my favorite part about my job.”

Pratt said he became interested in his profession because of his passion for learning.

“I enjoy learning about different kinds of diseases and the effects they can have on the body,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about health, and this is the perfect position to do that.”

Demonstrating a strong work ethic proved vital for Pratt in attaining his current position.

“The individuals I work for now saw how I worked at my previous position,” he said. “They believed I had a strong desire to succeed in any position that I was placed in. I was excited about the opportunity because I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could in whatever position I was placed in.”

Off the clock, Pratt enjoys working on cars and his personal fitness. He also likes spending time with his wife, Nikki, and his 4-year-old daughter, Skylar.

Amy Barefield

Amy Barefield
July 2015

Publications Specialist
Early Childhood Development
MSU Extension Service
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 1
Years of Service to MSU: 2

Amy Barefield’s love of writing led her to the position that she now holds at the Early Years Network, a program of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Barefield works to promote the Early Years Network and MSU by writing articles and press releases. She also creates forms and designs and updates trainings to provide quality professional development opportunities for the network’s employees and clients across the state.

Barefield said she enjoys coming to work because of her colleagues’ attitudes.

“The supportive people with whom I work are my favorite part of my job,” she said. “The camaraderie of the network makes this job worthwhile.”

Barefield enjoys interviewing individuals for her job and highlighting the successful child care providers.

Understanding early childhood development often is not thought of as a necessity for most people, a fact Barefield wishes were different.

“Our network is helping people to understand the importance of early childhood education,” she said. “We also stress the importance of promoting the education, licensure and training of early child care professionals. The professionals need to be trained correctly in order to teach the children correctly.”

For fun, Barefield enjoys reading and being a “softball mom.” She also enjoys spending time with her husband, Alan, an agricultural economics Extension professor, and her two children, Ally, 13, and Will, 15.

Brad Burgess

Brad Burgess
July 2015

Director
Research Support-Variety Testing
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 7
Years of Service to MSU: 15

Brad Burgess discovered what he wanted to do with his life when he began working at the R.R. Foil Plant Science Research Center as a Mississippi State University student.

Burgess is responsible for conducting official variety trials for the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station on row crops commonly grown in the state, including corn, soybeans, wheat, oats, peanuts and grain sorghum. Results of these annual tests are reported in MAFES publications. He is also responsible for producing and maintaining foundation seed stocks of rice and sweet sorghum.

Burgess said he loves traveling around the state representing MSU.

“I get to travel to all of the different MAFES experiment stations and the cooperators’ farms, which is where we conduct our yield trials,” he said. “It is interesting to see the different methods each farmer has adopted to achieve the best results in his or her particular area of the state.”

Burgess said he enjoys watching things grow and finds it especially rewarding when someone visits one of the variety trial locations and compliments the look of a plot. Burgess said he also feels a sense of satisfaction when farmers experience greater business success because of his team’s work.

“It is very rewarding to be able to provide farmers with information that is valuable to them,” he said. “The information MSU provides helps them make decisions on which varieties to plant on their farms to further improve their yields.”

In his free time, Burgess enjoys being outdoors, fishing, hunting and gardening. He also enjoys spending time with his wife, Coy Jean Burgess.

Angelia Barr

Angelia Barr
June 2015

Child Care Assistant
Child Development and
Family Studies Center
School of Human Sciences
Starkville campus

Years in Position: 2
Years of Service to MSU: 2

Seeing smiles on the faces of little children is what makes Angelia Barr excited to go to work every day.

Barr is a teacher’s assistant for two-year-old children at the Mississippi State University School of Human Sciences Child Development and Family Studies Center. She participates in a variety of activities and experiments with the children and loves interacting with them.

Barr said she cannot pick a specific favorite memory from her career because there is not just one.

“All of my memories on the job are my favorite,” she said. “Every day that I am here becomes a favorite memory for me.”

Barr became interested in her current profession because it brightens her day to see the excitement on a child’s face after they have learned something for the first time. She said she finds joy through working with children, even though it is not a simple task.

“Patience is required a majority of the time in this type of work environment,” she said. “It also requires a large amount of creativity in order to make sure that the day stays entertaining and educational.”

In her free time, Barr enjoys reading, doing craft projects and traveling. She also enjoys sketching, cooking, building and repairing objects, working on computers and spending time with her family. Barr has two children: Deandrea, a sophomore at MSU, and Ailani, a third-grader at Henderson Elementary School.

Reid Nevins

Reid Nevins
June 2015

County Coordinator
MSU Extension Service
Lowndes County

Years in Position: 3
Years of Service to MSU: 9

Reid Nevins loves to spend time outside, which makes his work as the county coordinator for the Mississippi State University Extension Service in Lowndes County a perfect fit.

“People don’t think of Extension agents this way, but truthfully, I help people with their problems all day long,” Nevins said. “People call us because something isn’t quite right, and it’s our job to help them figure out how to fix it.”

Nevins said he gets a lot of horticulture questions.

“I’ve also had a lot of calls about trees because of the bad winds we’ve had in the recent storms,” he said. “You name it, we get calls about it.”

His work as an Extension agent also takes him to local farms.

“I help with variety trials in corn, cotton and soybeans, and farmers really like to see these different varieties growing in their local area -- their own back yard, so to speak,” he said.

As the county coordinator, Nevins said he makes sure the office runs like it’s supposed to run.

“I have a good working relationship with our Board of Supervisors. I let them know what’s going on and what people in the county need. I want to keep everything going in a positive direction,” he said.

While Reid will soon celebrate a decade of work as an Extension agent, he said he never gets tired of helping people.

“I get to learn something new every day, because the questions that come in are problems and I don’t always know the answer,” he said. “My job allows me to dig deeper and talk to people who are more knowledgeable than I am. Then I know how to help the next person.”

Nevins loves to hunt and work on his farm, where he and his wife of 5 years, Kate, grow watermelons, sweet corn and pumpkins. Their son, Eli, recently turned 2.

Steve Jones

Steve Jones
May 2015

Electronics Laboratory Manager
Extension Center for Technology Outreach
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 15
Years of Service to MSU: 15

Steve Jones would have laughed at the idea of being an electronics laboratory manager 20 years ago.

But today, he provides supplies and computer support for 100 sites as the electronics laboratory manager for the Mississippi State University Extension Service. These sites include 82 county offices, four district offices, 14 Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Stations, the Lloyd-Ricks-Watson building on the MSU campus, and three academic departments.

Jones said that he had no idea when he went to talk to the Director of Vo-Tech to finish up his teaching degree that he would stumble onto an amazing opportunity.

“In 1988, I had no idea what a computer was. The director of vo-tech said that his brother-in-law at Computer Services was looking for someone who was good with electronics,” he said. “I happened to be in the right place at the right time. You never know where you are going to end up. Sometimes you just have to take a chance.”

Jones said his favorite part about his job is knowing he helped someone else.

“Knowing that I have done my job correctly and that I have helped someone out in the process is what it is all about for me,” he said. “When someone has zero backup on their computer and I am able to recover that information for them, that not only makes their day but it also makes mine.”

Patience is the key to this job for Jones.

“If you did not have patience before this job, you definitely will after. When I first began this job, things were a lot slower than they are now. I had to wait for a long time for the system to work correctly,” he said. “Also, I learn something new every day. Electronics are constantly changing now. I get to experience something different every day on the job.”

In his spare time, Jones enjoys fishing, volunteer firefighting and spending time with his family. He has a wife, Lisa, and two boys, Colby (18) and Riley (14).

Allen Shack

Allen Shack
May 2015

Research Associate III
CVM Basic Science Department
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 13
Years of Service to MSU: 13

Research Associate III becomes more than just a title for Allen Shack when all his hard work pays off with good, publishable results.

Shack’s duties are divided into four main areas for a lab in the CVM Basic Sciences department: lab maintenance, lab safety, lab work and management. In the lab maintenance area, Shack is responsible for managing online databases for inventory purchase request orders and data files; ordering equipment and consumables for the lab and other documents and technical service for equipment.

Shack is also responsible for proper adherence to all lab safety guidelines when individuals are in the lab, including maintenance of biohazard and hazardous waste disposal containers. Shack participates in various proteomics and genomics projects in the lab. He also provides instruction for using equipment, establishing proper operating rules and procedures, and assisting workers with fundamental laboratory practices, which all fall under his management responsibilities.

Shack said attending graduate school helped his career.

“I was a graduate school student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mississippi State University from 1999 to 2001,” he said. “I applied for the position of research associate at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. I was hired to my current position in March 2002. My lab experience from graduate school has really prepared me for this position.”

Shack said this job requires a lot of attention to detail, but the results make the process all worth it.

“To do my job, good hand-eye coordination is required. Also, good pipetting skills are necessary,” he said. “Patience and determination are good qualities to have as well.”

In his spare time, Shack enjoys collecting songs for his iTunes music library and playing computer games.

Isaac Pickett

Isaac Pickett
April 2015

Research Associate
E.G. (Gene) Morrison Brown Loam Branch Experiment Station
Raymond, MS

Years in Position: 1
Years of Service to MSU: 5

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and visitors to the E.G. (Gene) Morrison Brown Loam Branch Experiment Station can tell Isaac Pickett works hard to impress them.

Pickett is responsible for landscape maintenance at the station, which includes cutting grass, weeding and keeping fence lines clean. He is the property representative for the station, which requires him to keep inventory and fleet records. He also helps procure equipment and supplies. Collecting and recording data from various research projects are also among Pickett’s tasks.

Working outside on a daily basis and interacting with nature is Pickett’s favorite part of his job, and it influenced his choice of profession.

“I grew up on a small cattle farm where I learned everything I know from my father and uncles. Growing up in this environment made me realize how much work goes into agricultural practices,” he said. “As I got older, I wanted to learn how to make farming practices easier and more practical for small-time producers.”

Pickett experiences new things every day on the job, which makes it that much more enjoyable for him.

“One thing I wish people knew about my job is that working around Mother Nature is a challenge, but the challenge makes the outcome all the sweeter,” he said. “I don’t see what I do as a job, more of an adventure I get to experience every day.”

Pickett enjoys hunting, fishing, playing board games with friends on the weekend and reading in his spare time.

Amanda Smith

Amanda Smith
April 2015

Field Technical Assistant-Training
Early Years Network
Gulfport, MS

Years in Position: 3
Years of Service to MSU: 3

Child care providers can sometimes have a difficult time learning all the required tasks for their positions. Amanda Smith helps them along the way.

Smith provides staff development at the Early Years Network. She also provides one-on- one, in-classroom technical assistance to child care providers.

Smith said one of the favorite parts of her job is that she gets to meet new people on a regular basis.

“Building a network of people who are all interested in bettering the education of young children is another one of my favorite aspects of my job,” she said. “I enjoy the interactions and the relationships that I build with the providers. I see so many of the same providers at each workshop I teach, which helps to maintain a community network.”

Smith’s favorite memories on the job come from the reactions she gets from people that she previously taught.

“Recently, while visiting my cousin, I ran into one of the providers that I had in a training class a few months ago. We greeted one another, and she proceeded to tell everyone in the room that I had taught her in a class, and how much she enjoyed it,” she said. “She told me that I had done such a wonderful job of explaining the information, and she learned so much from me that day.”

Working for the Early Years Network gives Smith a chance to help others.

“I love my job. It can be stressful at times, like any job, but it’s also very rewarding,” she said. “I love knowing that I am helping early childhood teachers gain the tools they need to help foster a high-quality education setting for the children in their care.”

In her spare time, Smith enjoys gardening and reading. She has been married for 11 years.

For more information visit the Early Years Network website.

Susan Heath

Susan Heath
March 2015

Academic Affairs Manager
College of Veterinary Medicine
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 4
Years of Service to MSU: 17

The College of Veterinary Medicine can rely on Susan Heath to help students manage their affairs.

Heath builds schedules for veterinary students in Phase I and Phase II of the curriculum, and she helps students navigate the financial aid process. She aids faculty in the course and rotation evaluation process and is responsible for the Academic and Student Affairs budgets.

Heath became interested in her profession because it was different from anything she had done before.

“My degree is in accounting. I was in the MSU controller and treasurer’s office for more than 13 years in budget and payroll,” she said. “I left MSU for a while, and when I came back, this job was available. I was looking for something new and exciting. I got the best of both worlds. I still get to use my degree, but I also get to work with our veterinary students.”

Heath said she loves going to work every day.

“When I came back to work at MSU in March of 2008, I was looking for a change of pace. This job has been an answer to prayer for me,” she said. “My job can at times be stressful, but I love it.”

Students are a large part of Heath’s passion for her job.

“This year I get to watch the class of 2015 graduate. They started in June 2011, and this is the first class that I have had the privilege of working with them from beginning to end,” she said. “I am so excited for them, and for what God has in store for them. This is why I love what I do.”

Heath has two daughters, Courtney, 19, and Camryn, 12. Courtney is a sophomore at MSU studying elementary education, and Camryn is in the sixth grade at Starkville Academy. In her spare time, Heath enjoys reading, traveling and spending time with family and friends.

Chris McGinnis

Chris McGinnis
March 2015

Building Maintenance Tech II
FWRC – Forest Products
Starkville Campus

Years in Position: 4 Months
Years of Service to MSU: 4 Months

Chris McGinnis makes sure that the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts in the Forest and Wildlife Research Center is always well maintained.

McGinnis maintains the 10-acre complex that includes 18 buildings. He looks after the grounds and does whatever is necessary to keep the buildings in good repair. Scientists and professors use the complex to conduct research and teaching on the sustainability of wood.

McGinnis enjoys his job because he shows up to work expecting to be surprised at what his tasks are for the day.

“Every day is different than the one before,” he said. “Each day I am presented with a new and different challenge. It makes work exciting.”

McGinnis said the Department of Sustainable Bioproducts has a team atmosphere.

“I am currently the only one responsible for buildings and grounds maintenance,” he said. “However, I have the support from other staff members and the department head as needed.”

Before joining the Mississippi State University family, McGinnis worked closely with his own family. He was a general housing contractor for 16 years in a family-owned business.

“I became interested in my profession because of the atmosphere surrounding MSU,” he said. “I always wanted to be a part of the MSU family.”

In his spare time, McGinnis enjoys hunting, fishing and spending time with his family. He and his wife, Marcia, have a son, Austin, 20.

Vicki Adams-Gamble

Vicki Adams-Gamble
February 2015

Extension Associate I
MSU Extension Service
School of Human Sciences
Starkville campus

Years in Position: 4
Years of Service to MSU: 4

With more than 20 years of experience working in the early childhood field, Vicki Adams-Gamble has a lot of person expertise to share in her work as a field technical assistant for the MSU Extension Service.

Adams-Gamble works with The Early Years Network at their mid-Jackson location. She mentors and trains childcare providers and directors at childcare centers in Hinds and Rankin counties.

“I teach and demonstrate best practices, how to implement different lessons and how to add new materials to the classroom in a positive and educational way,” she said. “My favorite part of this job is seeing the faces of kids who welcome me once I’m there. They know I want to help them and expose them to different learning experiences.”

One of the benefits of her work is seeing a positive end result.

“Based on our work together, teachers become more active and engaged. They’re more willing to add new materials and try new teaching approaches. When the center’s number of quality rating stars go up, I know I’ve done a good job.”

Before working at MSU, Adams-Gamble worked as a teacher’s assistant in the Jackson Public School System for 7 years. Prior to that, she worked in a child care center. She completed her undergraduate degree at Jackson State University.

“You must have a love of kids to do what we’re doing,” she said.

The Real Mother Goose is her all-time favorite children’s book, but she is an avid reader who will read just about anything.

She loves sports and is a true Dallas Cowboys fan. Adams-Gamble has participated in kickball and softball leagues in Jackson, and she has a few 5K runs and one half-marathon under her belt.

Adams-Gamble has been married to her husband, Ali Gamble, for 12 years. She has one daughter, Ayanna (23) and one son, Braylon (13).

 

Randy Grayson

Randy Grayson
February 2015

Office Associate
MSU Extension Service
Jones County

Years in Position: 18 months
Years of Service to MSU: 18 months

After he retired from a career with AT&T, Randy Grayson wanted to stay busy. So he embarked on a new career with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Grayson is an office associate in the Jones County office.

“Every day is different,” Grayson said. Being an office associate consists of a large variety of basic to complex office support to the Extension agents.”

Grayson said a typical day consists of greeting and directing visitors as they come into the office, answering telephone calls, routing calls, taking messages, providing general information, sorting incoming and outgoing mail, and preparing photocopies, facsimiles, and excel spreadsheets. He also arranges meetings and conferences for the Extension agents.

“The part of the job I enjoy is helping clients who want to enroll their children in different 4-H programs, sending soil samples for testing, and doing research for clients who need advice on problems with their plants and gardens,” he said.

For Grayson, the client comes first.

“I like dealing with people and I like to satisfy our customers,” he said.

Grayson grew up in Bay Springs and attended MSU. He graduated in 1979 with a degree in business administration. He lived in Houston, Texas for 32 years and upon his retirement, moved back home to Mississippi.

Like many of the Extension clients he serves, he enjoys gardening and working in his yard. He also enjoys going to livestock shows to watch his nieces and nephews show their livestock. Grayson stays active playing tennis and bowling.

 

David Carter

Dr. David Carter
January 2015

Extension Agent III
County Coordinator
MSU Extension Service
Adams County

Years in Position: 8
Years of Service to MSU: 8

David Carter takes on a multitude of responsibilities in his position as Adams County Coordinator for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, and he does it all to keep others informed.

Carter’s position requires him to keep current with the issues facing his clients, from technology changes to agricultural diseases and pests to child care and health care.

Carter’s favorite part about his job is being able to work in Adams County.

“It offers a diversity of lifestyles, cultures and agricultural opportunities,” he said. “Every day I have the chance to do different things, meet new people and help impact people’s lives.”

Carter said he became interested in his profession through his love for 4-H.

“My 4-H leaders, Bobby Fletcher, Ray Core and Bobby King, impacted and influenced me as a child,” he said. “These men and the opportunities the Extension Service gave me made me look at it as a career opportunity long before ever stepping onto a college campus.”

Carter said one thing he would like people to know about his job is that it is always a learning curve.

“While most people think we are experts at everything, we really struggle sometimes to find answers,” he said. “We give advice and recommendations daily to loyal clients, but we are also learning ourselves, which makes us better able to serve in the future.”

Carter has been married to his wife, Paige Carlton Carter, for 10 years. They have an eight-year- old son, Coleman David, and a five-year-old daughter, Harper McKinney.

In his spare time, Carter enjoys coaching youth football and baseball, riding horseback, running a cattle operation with his children, spending time with his family and friends, leading the boys’ groups at First Baptist Church Natchez, and participating in community outreach programs.

Debra Kinser

Debra Kinser
January 2015

Sample Receiving Assistant
MS Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Lab
College of Veterinary Medicine
Rankin County

Years in Position: 12
Years of Service to MSU: 12

As the sample receiving assistant for the Mississippi Veterinary Research and Diagnostic Laboratory, Debra Kinser runs a courier route in the morning to pick up veterinary diagnostic samples from veterinary clinics in Rankin, Madison and Hinds counties. In the afternoons she enters results from equine infectious anemia tests into a computer database that is used by the state veterinarian to monitor this disease.

She also fills supply orders and delivers the evening mail to the post office. She sorts and prepares the invoices for mailing, and answers the switchboard when needed.

Debra enjoys her job because of the friendly, low-key environment surrounding it.

“My job is flexible and low pressure,” she said. “I have nice people to work with and a nice place to work. I enjoy being involved with agriculture.”

She became interested in her profession through her love for animals. She has a degree in Animal Science from MSU.

“When I was going through the animal science program up at State, one of my favorite courses was Diseases of Domestic Animals,” she said. “I used to work in a brucellosis testing lab and I enjoy working here where testing is done for various animal diseases. I like working with professionals in the veterinary industry.”

Debra enjoys race walking and is a member of the Mississippi Track Club. She is currently training to walk a marathon. She also enjoys horseback riding, watching MSU football, and watching “Farmweek” on PBS. She is an active member and elder in her church.