Department of Food Science,
Nutrition and Health Promotion
MSU Starkville campus
Years in Position: 7
Years at MSU: 27
Donna Bland is not averse to change, which is good, because her title has changed four times during her MSU career, and the department’s name has changed three times, even though she’s worked in the same place for 27 years.
As an administrative assistant in the MSU Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, Donna loves that no two work days are ever alike.
“My responsibilities vary from day-to-day sometimes moment-to-moment,” she explains. “I do a little bit of everything from working with and supporting the department head and faculty to assisting staff and helping students. I perform a wide variety of clerical duties, such as acting as a department liaison, greeting and directing visitors, answering phones, arranging meetings, scheduling rooms and interviews, processing and tracking official visitor agreements (OVA), submission of annual CRIS reports, handling the master class schedule every semester, and completion of graduate student defense paperwork to name a few. I’m the leave manager and the key manager for this department. I also handle work requests with Facilities Management and help desk tickets with ITS. I work closely with other front office personnel in the day-to-day operations of the department, and I share signature authority for the department head whenever he is away from the office.”
Donna stays so busy one colleague dubbed her the department’s “COO,” or chief operating officer.
“He even surprised me with a plaque naming me such for ‘doing more work than anyone else and putting up with more than anyone else,’” she said. “He thinks it bothers me but I consider it a compliment and know he is simply acknowledging my dedication to the department, the division, and the university.”
Donna planned for this career from the time she was in high school. She graduated with a regular high school diploma and a business diploma. When she decided to return to school, she had the background required but not the computer skills. She graduated from East Mississippi Community College in May 1990 with an associate’s degree, and started working at MSU the next month.
When she’s not working, Donna enjoys reading, watching TV, attending church services at Starkville Church of Christ, watching the Diamond Dawgs, and spending time with friends and family. She and her late husband, Darrell, were blessed with three children (Michael, Joy, and Richard) and two grandchildren (Brandon and Daylin).
MSU Extension Service
Years in Position: 22
Years at MSU: 22
Loretta Derett-Smith taught herself shorthand from an encyclopedia when she was in the seventh grade in Madison, Illinois, and she has never veered from her career plan.
For 22 years, she has served MSU Extension Service clients in Tippah County as an office associate. While she manages all of the usual office duties, such as managing schedules, writing letters, scheduling meetings, setting up for programs, planning, budgeting and helping with all of the local specialty groups including 4-H, the Forestry Association, the Cattlemen’s Association, and Master Gardeners, she knows her role requires much more.
“I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a secretary,” she explains. “Not only did I need to write fast, I needed to listen. I loved to write and I loved to help others and to solve problems. As an office associate, this is what you do all day. You listen and get the job done in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
Her earliest experiences taught her a lot.
“That first year as a secretary in a county with a fair involving premiums to be paid -- I cried for a solid month,” she remembers. “It took me a month to clear out my books and get all of the premiums paid. The next year was a different story. I improve every year.”
Helping with Extension programs and the Tippah County Fair are her favorite work-related responsibilities, and her helpfulness has resulted in long-standing friendships.
“One day we had a client come in right at closing because his daughter needed a photo for a passport,” she says. “He lived across the street and would come by the office, but he never had much to say to me. I told him I was happy to help, and after that day we became the best of friends.”
Loretta’s passion for helping others extends to her free time. She has volunteered on the board of the local Good Samaritan Center and helps with local food drives. She has also joined the newly formed Mississippi Mat Project making mats for the homeless out of recycled grocery bags.
Her job as 4-H Mom, Band Mom, PTO President Mom and Ripley High School Ambassador Mom ended when her daughter, Asia, graduated from high school, but her truck tag still reads ASIAMOM. Asia recently graduated from the University of Mississippi with a degree in biology. Loretta is a serious fan of the Dallas Cowboys and former MSU quarterback Dak Prescott.
At each annual DAFVM Summer Celebration, the Staff Spotlight recipients from the previous year will be acknowledged. The DAFVM website will have an archive of all winners listed by month/date.
An employee cannot be chosen more than once during a two (2) year period.