Thursday, November 12, 2009


Our state has a very unique treasure, the first public women's college to be established in the United States of America. It is my alma mater, the place I go "home" to every spring, Mississippi University for Women. Over thirty years ago, it began to admit male students but continued to play a very special role in educating women and shaping them to become confident leaders. Study after study have showed the positive aspects that can be gained from an education at a one-gender school. For me, I learned that it was not just okay to be smart, but something to be valued. I found my voice as I gained confidence in speaking up in class and interacting with my professors in an intelligent way. When I attended graduate school a few years later at an institute that was majority male, I was often the only female who would ask questions or debate issues with the instructors. I credit my wonderful, small, mostly-female college experience for that.

Over and over again MUW has been ranked among top colleges in the nation and region for academic excellence. It's truly an ivy-league experience on a public college budget. There are no hundred-plus classes that meet in cavernous auditoriums. In fact, the overwhelming majority of classes are small enough that professors can easily know all their students by name.

It's traditions are unique among all the other universities with a rich campus life that isn't focused on male athletics, as almost all others four year colleges are, but on activities such as the annual SongFest, class rivalries, and philanthropy projects and on organizations such as the student government, the two-year and four-year social clubs, and academic honoraries.

Because of the small size of the student population, a few thousand, and the strong emphasis on living on campus and being actively involved, the college often feels more like a large extended family than just some place to take classes. As a girl in a family with only one brother, I found my sisters at The W, as it is affectionately called.

MUW produces graduates who move forward from that secure, nurturing foundation to become leaders and innovators in nursing, politics, business, the arts, journalism, education, and almost all other areas of the work force as well as in the home and community.

Sadly, because of it's small size and relative proximity to Mississippi State University, over the last few decades some have sought to do away with The W. They look at the money issue only and see it as an easy way to cut the state's budget. They usually either want to shut it down completely or merge the Columbus-based university with Mississippi State which is located 25 minutes away in Starkville. But to do so, though it might save the state money, would lose a resource too costly to define in financial terms.

Not every student wants to go to a mega-school. Not every student can or wants to study in an environment where the professors never know your name until you reach upper-level courses. Not every Mississippi student wants to go to a college where, to be honest, football is the king...not academics and campus leadership. And not every Mississippi student out there can afford to attend a prestigious, private college but they can afford to attend Mississippi University for Women where they will receive an academic and student-life experience that compares right up there with top performing, private institutes of higher learning.

So please, Governor Barbour and others involved, look beyond the dollar signs. Embrace the unique academic treasure we have here in Mississippi in the form of The W and let's get behind promoting her as the treasure she is, not just to our students, but to the nation and the world.
It has been reported on the news that Governor Barbour will soon recommend that MUW be merged with MSU. Would you please call Governor Barbour at 1-877-405-0733 or 601-359-3150 and let him know that you are opposed to this plan? Thank you so much.

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