2019 DAFVM Spotlight Employees

Kimberly Johnson

Kimberly Johnson
January 2019


Years in Position: 4
Years at MSU: 4

Attention to detail and a passion for learning new things have made pathohistology a perfect career for Kim Johnson.

Histotechnologists perform the numerous steps required to prepare tissue samples for examination and diagnosis by a pathologist.

Kim’s work is very technical and precise.

“A lot rides on what we do,” she explains. “In both human and animal medicine, everyone wants results as soon as possible, but most people don’t understand how much time it takes to prepare the tissue samples for reading.”

Before joining CVM, Kim worked at North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo.

“A lady I used to work for taught me everything I know about histology. She worked at NMMC in Tupelo for 40 years. She got me interested in it and then I fell in love with it. It’s never dull.”

Though Kim enjoyed her job at NMMC, she was intrigued by an MSU job posting. She started work in January 2015, not knowing her family would soon face a difficult trial.

“In February of that year my six-year-old grandson was having headaches and getting nauseated,” she remembers. “My son-in-law had taken him to get blood work and the doctor thought he was having migraines.”

After her grandson collapsed on the playground, Kim knew something was seriously wrong. A CT scan revealed a mass on his brain.

“I thought, ‘I’ve just started this job at MSU, what am I going to do?’ But the people here were incredibly supportive,” she says.

After an eight-hour surgery, 6 weeks of radiation and 8 months of chemotherapy, her grandson was cancer free, and has been for three years.

Kim has been married to Ricky Johnson for 22 years. Between them they have four children, Lee Ann Houpt, Brandon Sheffield, Brian Johnson, and Kevin Johnson; and four grandchildren, Brodey, Collins, Harley, and Chase. Kim loves animals, and has dogs, cats, and cows.

“I love being outside and enjoying family life,” she says. “You look at family differently when you’ve gone through something like this. My parents are still alive, 83 and 79, and I love spending time with them.”

Travis Childress

Travis Childress
January 2019

Operations Coordinator
Mississippi Horse Park

Years in Position: 3
Years at MSU: 3

Originally from Mason, Tennessee, Travis and his family moved to Starkville three years ago for him to assume the position of Facility Operations Coordinator at the Mississippi Horse Park.

Travis and his two technicians are responsible for maintaining the facility including equipment, grounds, barns, arenas and roads.

“The Horse Park is heavily used each year and had 145 days of activities in 2018,” Travis said. “My crew is responsible for the setup and breakdown of all of these events. I try to go above and beyond expectations to accommodate the needs of producers and attendees. I want everyone who walks through the gates to feel welcome.”

Travis enjoys getting to do something different every day and meeting new people along the way.

“I have a pretty laid back personality, and I thrive under the pressure of events,” he said.

Travis and his wife, Kim, have four children John, Kolton, Kaylee and Kinlee. In his spare time, you will find him at barrel races all over the country and spending time with his family.

Thomas Brewer

Thomas Brewer
February 2019

Extension Agent IV/
County Coordinator
MSU Extension
Jefferson Davis County

Years in position: 17
Years at MSU: 20

Each day is different for Extension Agent Thomas E. Brewer. He researches and delivers information that improves quality of life for clients in areas such as agriculture and livestock, 4-H youth development, and community development. He enjoys meeting new people and believes he helps clients understand vital information.

Behind the scenes, Thomas is responsible for directing the development of countywide educational programs that meet the needs of local people and complies with the mission of the MSU Extension Service. In addition to working hard as an Extension agent, he currently serves at the president of the Mississippi Association of County Agricultural Agents.

“I also love working with children,” Thomas said. “My favorite memory so far is when a 4-H’er asked about how he could get a job like mine. So, we sat down and talked about the things he would need to start working on from an educational standpoint.”

In 1998, Thomas chose this career because he knew it would allow him to serve people daily. Extension serves all 82 counties across Mississippi.

In that same year, Thomas graduated from Tuskegee University with a Bachelor of Science degree in extension and technical education. He earned a master of science at Mississippi State University in Agricultural and Informational Sciences in 2007.

“This career has surely provided me with the opportunity and aspiration to assist in developing and improving the economic, social and cultural well-being of all Mississippians,” Thomas said.

Thomas and his wife, Natasha, have two children and are all members of the New Galilee Missionary Baptist Church in Magee. In his spare time, he enjoys riding and training Tennessee walking horses.

Janie Taylor

Janie Taylor
February 2019

Administrative Assistant
Truck Crops Branch
Experiment Station

Years in Position: 24
Years at MSU: 30

Administrative Assistant Janie Taylor knows how to “do it all” after three decades of work at MSU. Her responsibilities at the Truck Crops Branch Experiment Station in Copiah County include monitoring and checking out credit card charges, handling new-hire paperwork, advising how to purchase necessary office supplies and even working on the copier.

“Routinely, I pay the bills, monitor purchasing, and reconcile account balances,” Janie said. “I enjoy working with the people in my office, whether that is assisting them with finding and purchasing supplies they need or helping them gather information they need for a project.”

Janie’s smile brightens her office, as she loves meeting new people and spending time with the friends she has found in her co-workers.

“One of my favorite things about working at my job are the many friends I have made over the years,” Janie said.

She said her job requires a lot of focus because the responsibilities of her position are so broad and vital to her office.

“I have discovered new strengths, developed them and built upon them,” Janie said. “I think it helps tremendously to have an attitude of service to others; it is rewarding to be able to be someone’s ‘right-hand-man’ in helping them accomplish a task.”

When she is not spending time with her family, Janie is very involved with her church and its music program as well as in numerous community music events. She also likes to relax by reading and going for walks outside with her husband.


Gregory BiggsChiquita Johnson
March 2019

Office Associate 
MSU Extension
Jefferson County

Years in position: 8
Years at MSU: 9

Each day is different for The Jefferson County office may have just two people staffing it, but office associate Chiquita Johnson can wear many hats.

“I do whatever it takes to fulfill our clients’ needs,” she said. “Over the years I’ve learned that my main role is to be a support system for the office, but I’ve also had to learn everyone else’s role.”

Chiquita works to get clients the resources they need, and if those resources aren’t available in Jefferson County, she finds out who offers those resources.

“I want our clients to get full service, whether it’s taking a soil sample or talking to a specialist,” she said.

Chiquita is a 4-H volunteer and an NRCS commissioner, and both of those organizations benefit from her dedication.

“My 4-H volunteering takes up more time than my job!” she said. “We do a lot of outreach with NRCS, we send clients to them and they send clients to us. We are a small town, so we don’t want to duplicate efforts.”

With her older two children grown and gone, Chiquita loves working with children.

“I want to provide opportunities that children in our region wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise, and I love mentoring children,” she said.

The day she got hired full time sticks out as her favorite memory working for Extension.

“I came as a call-in secretary and wasn’t expecting to be offered a permanent position,” she explained.

A close second for most memorable moment was when a client called about a buzzard with a broken wing in his backyard.

“Let’s call someone in wildlife,” she told him.

Chiquita said she loves the variety in her job.

“I love what Extension offers. It’s never boring. It’s always fun and you get to experience so much. I learn in every situation that we’re teaching or providing information. I have the opportunity to learn something new every day.”

When not working or volunteering, she enjoys reading and spending time with her three children and 3-year-old grandson.

“I find my peace when I’m dealing with the kids who are our future,” she said.



Jennifer Ashworth Jennifer Ashworth
March 2019

Clinical Admissions Assistant
Clinical Sciences Department 
College of Veterinary Medicine

Years in Position: 1.6
Years at MSU: 1.6

In her role in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, Jennifer Ashworth is the liaison between clients and doctors. She wants to make sure that the clients are well informed while they are waiting for their pets.

Many patients are referred to the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine by other veterinarians in private practices. Jennifer works to maintain a healthy relationship with referral veterinarians and the MSU Vet School.

 “I want to ensure our clients leave satisfied with our care and with the understanding that we can assist if they ever should need us again,” she said.

Jennifer enjoys learning new information about veterinary medicine every day. She finds joy in being able to help clients as much as possible. The more she knows about the subject, the more knowledge she has to help and calm an upset client. She always has to be ready to inform anyone about nearly anything they need to know. 
“It is not just about answering phones. There is never a dull moment, and I am always talking to others. It is also important to have a positive mindset and an ability to work effectively with a team,” she said.

She and her husband are parents to two young boys as well as caretakers of four animals. In the warmer seasons, they enjoy trips to the park and eating snow cones. Everyone in the family loves the outdoors. In her spare time, she makes jewelry and works with vinyl items.

 “My boys love to help me make their t-shirts. I love to live life to the fullest and try to each day,” Jennifer said.


Azaria Dandridge
Azaria Dandridge
April 2019

Child Care Assistant
College of Agriculture &
Life Sciences
MSU Child Development and
Family Studies Center

Years in position: 1
Years at MSU: 1

Azaria Dandridge plays an important role in children’s lives at the MSU Child Development and Family Studies Center on MSU’s Starkville campus.

She interacts with children, teaches developmentally challenging and interesting activities, observes, supervises, and helps children build their self-esteem.

“I love that when I walk in the front doors in the morning that I get to see people who are so caring and cheerful while they are here with the children,” she said. “My favorite part of my job is how I get to decorate the bulletin boards in whatever way I want; it is a great experience to watch the children get excited about what we have planned for them every day.”

Azaria said that each of the staff members must approach the day with a patient and understanding mindset.

Everyone Azaria works with always seems to have a smile on their face, she said. Along with being positive, a good work ethic goes a long way with her career.

One of the most important traits in her job is the ability to have appropriate communication skills, the ability to develop relationships, and to have a passion for teaching children.

“My main goal every day is to try to make a difference in each child’s life and help each of them reach their potential and to believe in themselves as they get older,” Azaria said.

Azaria is from Tupelo and is the oldest of three children. She graduated from Itawamba Community College in 2015 with an associate’s degree in child development. She graduated from MSU in May 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in human sciences with a concentration in child development. In her free time, she enjoys shopping and spending time with her family.

Jennifer Russell

Jennifer Russell
April 2019

Extension Agent IV
MSU Extension Service
Leflore County

Years in position: 18
Years at MSU: 22

As a family and consumer sciences agent, Jennifer Russell is an important member of the Extension office in Leflore County. Her primary role is to educate adults and young people on family and life skills. For example, she teaches basic sewing skills, financial literacy, nutrition, exercises, food safety, and cooking skills.

Jennifer’s end goal is to train others to continue to provide leadership to the Mississippi Homemakers Volunteers, Begin with Reading volunteers, and the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education program, or EFNEP.

EFNEP is a nutrition program that reaches out to limited-resource parents with ideas for preparing healthy meals.

“I chose this career because I was inspired by an EFNEP educator, Ms. Ellum, coming to my home when I was young,” she said. “Mrs. Ellum taught my mother how to use foods supplied by the Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, program.”

Jennifer has always loved to cook, and she was introduced to recipes and how to read them at an early age by Ms. Ellum.

“My favorite part of what I do is helping others reach their highest potential though education,” Jennifer said. “In my 22-plus years working for Extension, I have gained friends through my work. My Extension family has seen me through happy moments but even more so through times of trouble. It is the strength and love of this organization shown towards me and my family that makes what I do a joy.”

Jennifer said she does not think of her career as a job, but instead as mission work to make the world a better place for those who live in it. She does this by supplying them with necessary skills.

“This career has taught me to be versatile and have a friendly personality, have a love for what I do, and how to be a team player,” Jennifer said.

Gregory BiggsLanna Miller
May 2019

Student Services Coordinator
MSU College of
Forest Resources

Years in position: 6
Years at MSU: 24

Lanna Miller has been advising students for 24 years, having discovered her passion as a student.

During her junior year of college, she worked in the academic advising office for the MSU Athletic Department. She realized that working with students on a college campus was something she wanted to do as a career.

“I decided to complete a graduate program in counselor education, and I have been advising ever since,” Lanna said.

As the Student Services Coordinator in the MSU College of Forest Resources for the past 6 years, she coordinates academic advising for undergraduate students, academic sessions and registration during orientation, class scheduling with the registrar’s office, the college scholarship program, and activities of the college living and learning community.

“I love working directly with students and watching how each student progresses from our first contact until graduation,” Lanna said. “I always enjoy the CFR graduation reception each semester.”

Advising is more than approving a student’s class schedule each semester. Advising plays a role in promoting student success and retaining students. Advisors who are able to connect with students help those students become engaged and the students are then more likely to make good choices that move them toward graduation and careers or graduate school.

“You have to care about students, but you also have to care about the department, college and university which you are representing,” she explained. “Part of being a good advisor is making sure that university standards are upheld and applied consistently.

Lanna has two children. Maggie is a senior and will attend MSU in the fall. Whitten is in fourth grade and currently plays recreational baseball. Her family enjoys Mississippi State sports, especially tailgating for football games and grilling in the Left Field Lounge during baseball games.



Ola HawkinsOla Hawkins
May 2019

Nutrition Educator
MSU Extension Service
Leflore County

Years in position: 26
Years at MSU: 26

Even though she has a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice, Ola Hawkins found her place with the MSU Extension Service as a nutrition educator in Leflore County.

Ola has been working with children and adults, teaching them the importance of nutrition and physical activity for nearly 27 years. Specifically, she teaches a better way of living by eating healthy foods and engaging in regular physical activity.

“One of my favorite things about my job is going out and seeing a child or adult after the class and they remember me and remember what I taught them,” Ola said.

Her earliest and favorite memory on this job was the first time she worked with an adult group talking about the importance of nutrition and exercise.

“That experience made an impact on me because they were excited about the difference a few changes in eating habits and adding physical activity can make,” Ola said. “They were really pleased by the end of our lessons. It feels good to know that I can make a difference.”

One of the most important qualities to have in order to be successful in this career is having a deep passion for people and their wellbeing. Another vital trait is simply having a willingness to help and be available.

“I don’t feel like people actually know the importance of eating healthy and the benefits to be gained,” Ola said.

Ola works hard and enjoys her job. “I like knowing that I can help make a difference in the lives of others.” Ola said.

Ola’s son recently graduated from MSU, and her grandson plans on attending in the fall. In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, cake decorating and spending time with her family and friends.


Jenna Mosley
Jenna Mosley
June 2019

Office Associate
MSU Extension Service
Coastal Plain Branch
Experiment Station

Years in position: 8
Years at MSU: 13

Jenna Mosley handles a variety of tasks, such as payroll, leave, accounts payable, account reconciliation, and property control as her station’s office associate.

She sees her role at the Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station as helping colleagues perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. This allows the office to function smoothly and fulfill its purpose.

“My favorite aspect of my job is the flexibility and variety of tasks. I also love the small office environment and beautiful view from my window,” Jenna said.

After working at CPBES full-time for four years, she transferred to MSU-Meridian shortly after she got married. Fast forward another 4 years and she found herself transferring back to the experiment station in a part-time capacity.

“For several reasons, my position at CPBES had never been filled on a full-time basis,” she said. “As I returned to my old office, I returned to my handwriting and notes still scattered about the office. It was truly a sweet moment of walking back in time.”

Initially, Jenna did not go to college with this career in mind. However, she said that she has loved every minute of it, and it has allowed her to grow in many ways. She is particularly thankful for the friends she has made over the years.

Jenna advises that patience, organization, computer and communication skills, and the ability to think for oneself are great skills for anyone wanting to become an office associate.

“Every position plays a part, no matter its position on the organizational chart,” Jenna said.

She first began working at Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station as a student worker when she was 18 and newly enrolled at the local community college.

“This position allows me to spend more time with my three children and has absolutely been a God-send,” she said. “I’m so grateful to Mississippi State University and the opportunities it has afforded me as I continue to raise and homeschool my children.”

Jennifer Russell

Susan Worthey
June 2019

Research Associate III
Verona, MS

Years in position: 26
Years at MSU: 26

Susan Worthey has spent 26 years working at the North Mississippi Research and Extension Center with a focus on the horticulture unit.

In addition to her research work, she manages the Magnolia Botanical Garden. She is responsible for keeping up with the care of the garden and in charge of all the people who work there.

“We have ornamental gardening, rose gardening, vegetable garden, perennials, and so much more,” she said. “We want to teach people they can grow their own food in a variety of ways.”

Susan is passionate about sharing her love of gardening with others.

“One of my favorite aspects of the job is developing teaching material for the workshops and classes that I get to manage,” she said. “It is exciting to design and MSU has given us very teachable landscapes.”

Susan said their main message is to tell people, “yes, you can grow a good deal of food and plants in a small amount of space.”

Susan chose this career because of her love of gardening, plants, and people.

“People view gardening as hard, hot work. The enjoyment that you get and the benefits that you get are astronomical, and the rewards are fulfilling,” Susan said.

In her free time, Susan likes to garden at her own home. She also enjoys spending time cooking and shopping with her children and grandchildren.

Elvis Sykes
Elvis Sykes
July 2019

Agriculture Technician
Black Belt Branch Experiment Station

Years in position: 16
Years at MSU: 16

Elvis Sykes has worked for the Black Belt Branch Experiment Station near Brooksville for almost 17 years doing anything that is necessary to keeping up with the property.

“My favorite part of what I do is spraying,” Elvis said. “I like the chemistry that goes along with mixing. If you have a 6 acre plot, and I have to spray Roundup, that is a 400 gallon tank, so I mix up a quart per acre.”

He says that one of the most important traits about his job is paying attention to all the safety and health regulations, especially when handling hazardous chemicals.

“I like the research aspect of my job,” Elvis said. “It continues to advance, and I continue to learn.”

In his free time, Elvis spends most of his time at his church where he sings and plays guitar. He also enjoys spending time with his family, especially his grandchildren.


Redale Oswalt
Redale Oswalt
July 2019

Facility Operations Technician
MS Horse Park

Years in Position: 5
Years at MSU: 5

Redale Oswalt is from Eupora and has been a Facility Operations Technician at the Mississippi Horse Park for five years.

Redale and two others are responsible for maintaining the facility, including equipment, grounds, barns, arenas and roads.

“The Horse Park is heavily used each year and had 145 days of activities in 2018,” Redale said. “The crew I am a part of is responsible for the setup and breakdown of all of these events.”

One of Redale’s favorite parts about his job is getting to utilize his versatile skillset in keeping up the facility.

In his spare time, he enjoys hunting and fishing.

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