Mississippians are known for reaching in their pockets and giving to charities. The Catalogue for Philanthropy has ranked the state No. 1 per capita in charitable financial giving. But what about those who give their time and talents as volunteers? At Mississippi State University, the act of volunteering is ingrained in almost everything we do, from providing food and health resources to those in need to helping relocate pets, building shelters and even supporting legislative efforts for more volunteer programs. The impact of student, faculty and staff volunteers, such as those featured here, is essential and of the utmost importance to the university, community, nation and the world.
Why do you volunteer your time to help others?
“My passion for serving people who face food insecurity comes from personal experience and that’s why I’ve found my work with the local Casserole Kitchen rewarding. When I was little, my family was food insecure because my country became independent from the Soviet Union and there were economic issues because our country was new and developing. It was really hard being a student and not having enough to eat. If no one volunteered and helped other people then society would not survive. We have to help each other and volunteering carries that message. People will thank you and you’ll feel satisfied.”
Yuliya Gluhova, Junior
Hometown: Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
What are you most passionate about as a volunteer?
“In my work with America’s Service Commissions, I help provide resources for other youth commissioners at the state level, and also participate in lobbying and speaking with our state’s representation in Washington D.C. to help get legislation passed that helps volunteer efforts. I’m most passionate about education, food and shelter disparities among African Americans in rural areas. Through service and volunteerism, we all have the ability to assist those who don’t have the boots to ‘pull themselves up by the bootstraps’ as the familiar phrase says. Maybe they just need help getting gently worn boots to get themselves on their way or give them a little push.”
Owen Brown, Senior
Major: Interdisciplinary Studies
Hometown: Jackson, Mississippi
Why did you choose service as a full-time career?
"Volunteering has always been a part of my value set and especially is now in my line of work at MSU. I try to help others see community engagement as more than just a one-time chance to volunteer. It's understanding who you are in those spaces when volunteering with folks who have different identities than you. In my personal time, I serve on a nonprofit organization board in the making called I Rise Wellness. It’s for people of color who are in different capacities of addressing their health whether that is financial, physical, mental or emotional wellness. We focus on serving marginalized people whose needs aren’t often met and lack the resources to do so."
Alexis Wallace, Assistant Director, Office of Student Leadership and Community Engagement
How do you inspire students with busy schedules to volunteer?
"A lot of times students can come to campus and that's really all they know—the campus. It's great that Mississippi State has taken a really significant leadership role and is pushing community engagement because personally, as an educator, I think that's very important. This year, I have anywhere from 30 to 40 students who go, as part of their lab work, to Habitat for Humanity and volunteer for at least one shift of 4 hours. So, if you think about 40 students working 4 hours each, that's a pretty substantial kind of contribution as far as volunteer hours go. We're trying to graduate well-rounded students throughout the university; it's a win-win for everybody."
Dr. John Linhoss, Assistant Professor Agricultural and Biological Engineering
How has volunteerism changed you?
“Through volunteerism, I’ve learned that I’m capable of a lot more than I thought. This semester, an organization that I’m a part of—Minorities in Health Professions—worked with the university’s Montgomery Leadership Program to host a symposium. We planned, organized and reached out to people all over the state who are interested in going into health care. We wanted them to know that they can do it, and we encouraged them to stay in the state of Mississippi. Most people have the time to volunteer on projects like this, they just have to decide what’s important to them, how they want to help and then just go for it.”
Sydnee Thomas, Senior
Major: Biological Sciences/Pre-Med
Hometown: Lakeland, Tennessee
How do you set an example in the classroom as a volunteer?
“I was looking for opportunities to help my students see the immediate societal impact that they could make as electrical engineers. They already learn a new skill of how to solder iron to take apart electronics and put them back together. So, we partnered with a colleague at Ohio State who had just starting piloting a toy adaptation program, and we began to collaborate to make toys to help students and children with disabilities. A lot of toys are not designed inclusively and some children aren’t able to use them as they were designed. I wanted to show my students how they can do something that really makes a difference. It really helps them see how their profession makes an impact.”
Dr. Mohammadi-Aragh, Assistant Director Electrical and Computer Engineering
What past experiences motivate you to serve?
“My grandmother in Yazoo City was Fannie Scott who had 12 children. In addition to the 12, she also raised several other community children. Her house was a safe haven. If you were hungry, you knew you could go to Fannie Scott’s. Since I’d grown up with my cousins, we decided to start a nonprofit called Fannie’s Nest, Inc. The goal is to mentor and provide opportunities that expose youth to things that they wouldn’t normally discover, helping them soar beyond mediocrity. Noticing many things about the state of education that just really bothered me, I decided that instead of complaining, I wanted to be the change.”
Dr. Pamela Scott-Bracey, Associate Professor Instructional Systems and Workforce Development
When did you first start volunteering? Why?
“My father really encouraged us to get involved at a young age. My entire life, I’ve always been very community oriented. The whole time I’ve been at MSU I’ve been volunteering. I’ve worked with the Extension Equine Assisted Therapy Center in West Point to help build an obstacle course and a therapeutic circuit for riding sessions for those with disabilities and veterans. Now, I’m working with the Homeward Bound program through the College of Veterinary Medicine. It finds homes in the northern U.S. for dogs from overcrowded shelters in the South. To me, it boils down to having a sense of responsibility toward those I care about and wanting to give back.”
Ian Evans, Graduate Student
Major: Veterinary Medicine
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee