JSU Political Science Department receives $30,000 grant to collaborate with University of Michigan

(JACKSON, Miss.) — Jackson State University’s Department of Political Science has received a Minority Serving Institutions Outreach and Collaboration Grant in the amount of $30,000. This grant further solidifies a partnership between JSU and the political science department at the University of Michigan (U of M). There were only four awards granted.

“We are absolutely delighted that our Department of Political Science at Jackson State University has secured a grant from the University of Michigan for the second straight year,” said Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun, interim chair of the Department of Political Science.

Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun

“Funds from the first year of our grant provided support for three of our political science students to participate in their summer research programs last year and for one of our faculty members to take part in an exciting summer research course,” she said.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, JSU and collaborators from the U of M received an initial $8,000 award to support the planning and implementation of some small-scale activities, explained Dr. Byron Orey, professor of political science.

Due to the progress and potential of those efforts, said Orey, the department received the larger grant to support larger-scale coopetition and implementation for an 18-month period.

The grant is described as a way to “build inter-institutional rapport, trust and collaboration between institutions; leverage the strengths and assets of each institution through resource sharing; and to foster mutually beneficial, bidirectional, and sustained relationships,” according to Dr. Robert Mickey, associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department of Political Science at U of M.

JSU’s program has garnered a reputation of creating a Ph.D. pipeline of students on the undergrad and master’s level and who are admitted to notable doctoral programs often through scholarships.

“JSU is a nationally recognized leader in encouraging its undergraduates to pursue doctoral study in political science. Indeed, the cohort of brilliant political scientists JSU has produced over the past decade is truly remarkable,” Mickey said.

“The University of Michigan is delighted to embark on this collaboration with Jackson State University. Our political science department is a leader in the field of the politics of race, and we are working hard to help further desegregate a discipline that has long shut out people of color,” he added.

As Soremekun mentioned, first-year funds helped Dr. Leniece Titani-Smith, a political science professor at JSU, attend a four-week intensive research course on machine learning at U of M earlier this year. She said, “This new grant will allow a deeper level of collaboration and resource sharing among our institutions.”

Aside from further cross-collaboration, the grant also includes plans for additional research, projects, and a three-way, jointly taught course on the politics of race, ethnicity and nationalism for undergraduates.

Orey said the recent partnership is a testament to the importance of building and maintaining professional relationships. Orey met Mickey in 2000 while on a visit home from teaching at the University of Nebraska. Mickey was in Mississippi conducting research for his Harvard dissertation.

Dr. Byron Orey

“We have remained friends and colleagues,” Orey shared. “In the past, he invited me to submit proposals for our students to present their research at the University of Michigan’s ‘Emerging Scholars’ program. As a result, one of our students, Princess Williams, was accepted into its Ph.D. program.

Orey says he considers it an honor for JSU’s political science department to be connected to U of M.

“Michigan is ranked as the fourth best Ph.D. program in the country. Rob has been very gracious with his time. He has literally skyped with our students while they sat on the floor of my home office and received intense feedback on their personal statements. All of the students that he has helped have been accepted into top graduate programs.”

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