Shaping the Future of Data Science in Mississippi Creates an Innovative Higher Education Partnership

Written by Dr. Finée Ruffin, Chief Marketing Officer, Jones College

ELLISVILLE – The reality of a multi-year worldwide pandemic causes even the most robust businesses and industries to pause and consider the future of work. Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith, was no different. After facing numerous disruptions to business operations, he began to prepare his community college employees for the changing demands created by a new business environment.

At the same time, Dr. Mimmo Parisi, Senior Advisor for Data Science Development & Professor at Mississippi State University, was evaluating the greater need for a holistic digital transformation across the state of Mississippi. Dr. Parisi believes “that data is the center of our state, national, and world economics” and that “step one is establishing a baseline of data literacy across all levels of education and work.”

The advent of Big Data, simply defined as the exponential increase and availability of data in our world, demands members of the labor force possess literacy and competency in data science. Big data analytics helps organizations harness their data and use it to identify new opportunities and make reasonable decisions that create value for the institution.

Mississippi State University, Mississippi’s largest land grant institution, has made an educational investment in Mississippi’s digital literacy foundation by creating a twelve-hour Data Science Advanced Certification Program. This program was designed to catalyze digital transformation across the landscape of community college education in Mississippi. “Mississippi has one of the strongest community college systems in the nation, and the state will be uniquely positioned as a national leader in data science if this program is fully adopted across the entire Community College system,” shared Dr. David Shaw, Provost and Executive Vice President at Mississippi State University.

In pursuit of equipping Jones College students with data science literacy, Dr. Smith concluded that the college’s faculty must first be equipped with the expertise to integrate data science literacy concepts into their curriculum, regardless of school or department. Smith reasoned that an essential change in the mindset of the college’s employees and faculty would spread and instill the same mindset in graduates across campus.

The Data Science Advanced Certification Program was created as a partnership opportunity between Mississippi State University and the Mississippi Association of Community Colleges (MACC). By establishing a partnership with Mississippi’s community colleges, Mississippi communities can be assisted at the ground level, shared Dr. Parisi.

Mississippi State University, in conjunction with Jones College,  introduced its pilot course in the Spring of 2022. A combination of 16 Jones College faculty and staff enrolled in the Introduction to Data Science Literacy Instruction course. The course was designed to teach community college faculty and staff an introductory understanding of data science and how to use it in (1) curriculum writing and (2) college workforce development efforts.

If you would like more information on the Data Science Advanced Certification Program, please contact Dr. Mimmo Parisi at or Dr. Jesse Smith at

Jones College faculty and staff enrolled in the first Introduction to Data Science Literacy Instruction course are pictured left to right, in the back row, Dr. Jason Dedwylder, Clint McMullan, Ty Walters, Jason Cooley, Rod Tolbert, Jon Ryan Fennell and Greg Griffith. Pictured in the front row, left to right are Julie Atwood, Amanda McLeod, Dr. Bharath Kandula, Ashley Holifield, Kelly Robinson, Eric Shows and Jennifer Griffith.

 Jones College Crowns Natalee Ainsworth “Most Beautiful”

ELLISVILLE – Jones College sophomore, Natalee Ainsworth of Laurel was crowned “Most Beautiful 2022” at the annual Jones College Most Beautiful Pageant, held April 12, in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. JC’s “Most

Beautiful 2021,” Caidyn Crowder returned to bestow the crown upon this year’s winner. Ainsworth competed with 29 JC students vying for the title.

Earning the First Alternate honors was Summer Boyd of Laurel, with Keely Skellion of Ellisville receiving the Second Alternate title. Third Alternate went to Abney Pittman of Waynesboro and Fourth Alternate was Analee Dumas of Petal. Top Ten winners included Isabella Graham of Stringer, Karlee Green of Laurel, Mackenzie Goleman of Moselle, Madalyn Stringer of Laurel, Abigail Stauffer of Laurel, Ainsworth, Boyd, Skellion, Pittman and Dumas.

Other winners included Mary Kebodeaux of Richton who earned the title of “Miss Congeniality,” and Keely Skellion won the title of “Most Photogenic.” The audience chose Bralynn Newell of Newton to win the title of “Audience Choice.”

“I appreciate the JC ‘family’ for coming out to support their friends in the pageant, this year, which seemed more ‘normal’ since the pandemic kept a lot of people home last year,” said Journalism advisor, Kelly Atwood. “I’d also like to thank the Pageant Directors, Dr. Tessa Flowers and Bruce Smith because this event would be impossible without them. Also, I’d like to thank our emcee for the night, Renee Adcock, Jones OnStage for providing entertainment for the evening, Horticulture instructor Wendy Wilkerson and her students decorated the auditorium beautifully, and Patrick Trest provided technical support which helped make the night perfect. There were many more people behind the scenes who also played an important part in creating a beautiful event.”

The Most Beautiful Pageant is hosted by the Jones College Yearbook, The Lair.

Bralynn Newell Audience Choice
Mary Kebodeaux Miss Congeniality
Keely Skellion Most Photogenic

Jones College Sophomore Art Show on display

ELLISVILLE – Seven Jones College sophomore art students will be showing off their artwork in their final exhibition from April 11, through May 6, in the Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery on the Ellisville campus. The public is invited to a reception on April 19, at 1:30 p.m. for sophomores, Savannah Couch of Ellisville, Aryn Cox of Laurel, Alexis Ducksworth of Taylorsville, Carly McInnis of Mize, Rachel Reon of Ellisville, Ana Claire Walters of Laurel, and Quinton Chapman of Sandersville.

At Northeast Jones High School, Chapman said he focused on mainly one type of art. Jones helped him discover there’s more to art than he realized.

“Jones made me understand I could do a lot more in art than just one type of art,” said Quinton Chapman of Sandersville. “I discovered I really enjoy painting and drawing and not just the comic book or anime’ style of art.”

Jones College Art instructor, Melanie Eubanks said these art majors are required to take the Exhibition IV course. The goal is to give them practical experience in displaying their artwork, what to show along with learning the other facets of creating artwork.

“It is a great opportunity for students to showcase the work they’ve done here at Jones over the last two years. We prepare them in all aspects of art from learning technique and the technical aspects of creating art, to learning how to best display their artwork. They have done all the matting and hanging themselves,” said Eubanks.

The artwork on display includes drawing and designs, 3D designs, painting, and ceramics. For more information about the JC art show or to arrange a visit to the gallery call, 601-477-8401. The Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery is open Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m., and Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The gallery is closed during the holidays. If you want to know more about the Jones College Art Department, go to the JC Art Department’s Facebook page, and on Instagram @artatjonescollege.

 Jones College hosts “Most Beautiful” Beauty Pageant

Photo Cutline most beautiful top 6 small by Hunter Heath 2021: Jones College sophomore from Ellisville, Caidyn Crowder (center) was crowned Most Beautiful at the annual Most Beautiful Pageant, held April 20, 2021. Also pictured in the Top 6 are (pictured left to right) Keely Skellion of Ellisville, Rylee Brabham of Waynesboro, Most Beautiful-Caidyn Crowder of Ellisville, First alternate-Lydia Ruth Odom of Bay Springs, Second alternate-Brinley Bullock of Laurel and Third alternate-Karsyn Ulmer of Laurel.

ELLISVILLE- The annual Jones College Most Beautiful Pageant will be held Tuesday, April 12, at 7 p.m. in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. Thirty contestants are vying for several awards including the title of “Most Beautiful,” Top Ten, Top Five, Most Photogenic and the People’s Choice Award.

Admission is $5 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under, and free for Jones students with their student ID. The audience will have the opportunity to choose the “People’s Choice” award for a $1 “write-in” vote. Attendees will also see a performance by JonesOn Stage. For more information, contact the Office of Student Affairs at 601-477-4030.

Jones College & William Carey University partnership equals more options to earn degrees

ELLISVILLE – The recent partnership between Jones College and William Carey University equals more options for students to earn bachelor’s degrees than ever before, in a shorter amount of time and with less costs.

“Together, partnerships like this create more pathways to degrees for our students,” said Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith. “The end goal is to have more health care professionals in every community. There’s no better way to create more pathways than to use existing resources. We’re leveraging those resources to provide health care in every small town in Mississippi.”

The first of two Memorandum of Agreements (MOU) between Jones College and William Carey University will expand the growing options for nursing students to earn bachelor’s degrees while also earning their associate degree at the same time. The dual enroll nursing option includes William Carey University instructors teaching two bachelor of nursing courses on the Ellisville campus of Jones College, with students paying the Jones College tuition rate. Additionally, Jones students and faculty will have access to WCU advisors to ensure students are on the right career and degree path.

“This will take (nursing students at Jones College) towards their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree, otherwise known as the B.S. to B.S.N. degree. Jones students will get a head start in getting those degrees,” said William Carey University Associate Vice President of Health Programs and Dean of the College of Health Sciences, Dr. Janet Williams. We will also offer (dual enrollment) with our HAE (Health Administration and Education) program. All of this helps students get a head start in earning their degrees. We look for every advantage to help students do big things in the future.”

As nursing shortages reach critical stages in the state, providing more education pathways is part of the answer. Jones College has a similar partnership with the University of South Alabama’s nursing program. Providing more options with the addition of William Carey University’s nursing dual enrollment option can only help resolve the crisis.

“If you want to stop the nursing shortage you have to increase supply to stop demand,” said Williams. “Everything we can do to increase the supply, including the number of nursing faculty. If you increase the number of faculty, you can increase the number of nursing students.”

Williams added that as a state, nursing schools turn away almost as many qualified applicants as colleges can admit because they don’t have the faculty and resources to be able to handle the number of students interested in nursing. Assistant Dean of Health Sciences at Jones College, Teresa McDonald said she is excited about the possibilities with this partnership.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunities offered to our students on campus with this partnership. When Covid hit, it was like throwing gas on the fire as far as the nursing shortage. It caused tremendous complications,” said McDonald. “WCU’s new degree options are great for students because these graduate programs lead to improved salary and administration opportunities.”

Another caveat to the partnership agreement between the two institutions of higher learning is the expansion of pre-professional programs. Williams said WCU has been working on ways to create a 3+ 3 program by expanding Jones College’s pre-professional health programs which will put JC students on the path to grad school at WCU.

“We have several professional programs or doctorate degrees available at WCU in physical therapy, pharmacy, nursing, and health administration and education. When Jones students complete their two years in the pre-professional program, they will come to WCU for their third year, and they can apply to grad school. It won’t guarantee admission, but it guarantees an interview to go through this fast track. Earning a professional degree in six years versus eight years is a huge advantage for students,” said Williams.

WCU’s goal is to offer every community college in Mississippi fast-track opportunities into the health care related professional programs. Executive Vice President at William Carey University, Dr. Ben Burnett said the second MOU announced at Jones College gives Career and Technical Education (CTE) graduates more options. By accepting CTE credits, CTE graduates now have a pathway at WCU to quickly earn a B.A., B.S., and the newly created Bachelor of General Studies.

“WCU is providing two different pathways for the career tech grads who ordinarily think once they earn their CTE degree, they go right into the workforce. Now, there are a couple of degree options where they can continue their education, in any major and use CTE hours,” said Burnett. “Flexibility-that’s how higher education is changing, and Jones College is the first institution we’ve partnered with to offer these new opportunities.”

This is the first private university Jones College has partnered with that will now accept CTE credits toward earning bachelor’s degrees. All eight public universities currently have this articulation agreement with all 15 community colleges in Mississippi. Smith noted that Jones students who are enrolled in associate of applied science degree programs, like computer programming and electromechanical engineering technology are among the students who can take advantage of these new options and combine the A.A.S. degree credits to earn a bachelor’s degree at WCU in math or science for example.

Burnett isn’t shy about recruiting community college students, but he doesn’t want to “steal” students from Jones College. He shared that William Carey University heavily depends on this group of students.

“We don’t exist without community college transfer students. Forty percent of WCU students are community college transfers. We want to partner with you in any and in every way mutually beneficial to make Mississippi stronger. We know (Jones College) is doing that and WCU wants to partner with you,” said Burnett.  For more info contact Ashley Knight at,