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Brigham spreads 'good news' about The W

 

Garthia Elena Burnett

 

Mississippi University for Women has more than an interim president in Allegra Brigham -- it has an avid cheerleader. And Brigham is looking to recruit the entire community to "tell the story of MUW" and help it thrive during the most massive budget cuts in the history of higher learning in Mississippi. 

 

Brigham, who took the reins at MUW 60 days ago, asked for three things from Kiwanis Club members meeting at the Columbus Country Club on Wednesday: Tell potential students to consider the university; support the college financially; and say positive things about The W. 

 

Comparing MUW to an orchestra tuning up as it prepares for a performance, Brigham said, "We have an orchestra full of lots of gifted stakeholders. ... But we''re not playing in harmony today." 

 

Many community members pass the 118-acre campus by without driving onto its grounds, which features 23 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, she noted. 

 

Brigham touted the school''s nursing and education programs as among the best in the Southeast and noted its low teacher-student ratio -- one instructor for every 14 students -- and state-of-the art recreation complex, offering facts community members can use to spread good news about MUW. The university also is working to unify its two alumni groups -- the MUW Alumni Association, the school''s official affiliated alumni organization, and Mississippi''s First Alumnae Association, the alumni organization disaffiliated from The W in 2007. 

 

MUW''s enrollment is at 2,592 students, she said, an enrollment increase of 4.7 percent from last year, marking the first time the school has had an enrollment of more than 2,500 in a decade. The school''s average ACT score also is up, at 22, higher than it has been in a decade. 

 

But all news is not good news at the 126-year-old institution. Like the seven other four-year public universities in the state, The W is facing a 25-percent cut to its state funding approaching fiscal year 2012. 

 

"This is a devastating blow to a small campus," Brigham said. "It has been very tough for Mississippi University for Women to live with the budget cuts." 

 

The college has a budget of about $31 million and employs about 300 people directly, she noted. In the fiscal year 2004 -- the most recent economic impact report released by the school -- MUW reported $16.75 million in salaries and wages, generating about 752 jobs and $26.3 million in total labor income. More than $1.6 million in revenue associated with wages and salaries went into the state''s general fund. Expenditures for students -- about $38.5 million annually -- generate about 636 jobs, $8.37 million in labor income, $138,780 in local sales tax and $850,883 in general-fund revenue. 

 

Ralph Carter, president of the Columbus Kiwanis Club, was "encouraged" by Brigham''s report. 

 

"I believe that she is providing great insight into running the college like a business, especially in these hard economic times," he said. "I''m happy to hear the great accomplishments of MUW and can see several of those occur. My wife is a W alum, and we continue to support the W in many different ways." 

 

Parker Executive Search, a firm based in Atlanta, was hired by the College Board to search for the next MUW president. Brigham, an MUW alumna, retired as CEO of 4-County Electric Power Association to take the interim position. She has moved to the president''s home on campus and is prepared to stay as long as needed.

 

 

 

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