Meridian psychology student receives MSU Spirit of State Award

Contact:  Lisa SollieMSU Vice President of Student Affairs Regina Hyatt, left, and MSU President Mark E. Keenum congratulate Spirit of State Award winner Alana Knowles of Decatur, a senior at MSU-Meridian. (Photo by Beth Wynn)

MERIDIAN, Miss.—A senior psychology major from Decatur who attends Mississippi State’s Meridian Campus is among 17 students receiving the university’s Spirit of State Award.

Alana Knowles is being honored with MSU’s premier student recognition for exceptional personal contributions to campus life.

MSU President Mark E. Keenum congratulated and thanked this year’s Spirit of State Award winners for their passion and commitment to serve and make a positive difference in the lives of others.

“I greatly appreciate your contributions to this university, this community and to our state. The wonderful education you’ve received and the values that you have learned at Mississippi State—hard work, integrity and respect for others—will help you for the rest of your life,” Keenum said.

For 14 years, the annual Spirit of State Awards program, organized by the university’s Division of Student Affairs, formally honors those who have made a positive impact on peers and the broader campus community through organizational involvement, service to the institution and personal actions promoting school spirit and tradition.
Those selected have been nominated either by faculty and staff members or fellow students. A minimum 2.25 grade point average and good academic and disciplinary standing within the university are among the eligibility criteria.

Knowles was nominated by Kristi Dearing, coordinator of academic advising and transfer partnerships at MSU-Meridian.

“Alana has been indispensable to the staff of the G.V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery Advising and Career Services Center as a student worker the past two years,” Dearing said. “We could always depend on her to greet students courteously, as well as professionally.”

Knowles is a member of the Maroon Elite, a student ambassador organization for the Meridian Campus and has served as the group’s coordinator this year.

“As coordinator, Alana is in charge of recruiting volunteers for events like the Governor’s Job Fair, among others, but she is also more than willing to volunteer as well. Most recently, she went to Poplar Springs Elementary Career Fair along with one of our academic advisers and spoke with third- through fifth-grade students about going to college,” Dearing said.

For Knowles, getting familiar with campus and connecting with other students and faculty have helped her understand what it means to be a part of the Bulldog family.

Knowles explained that school spirit was not something she experienced as a home-schooled student throughout most of elementary and high school, making her especially appreciative of collegiate pride now.

“I am proud to be a part of Mississippi State, and the environment at the Meridian Campus is a big reason why. The faculty and staff are so considerate of their students, and they really want to see us do our best work and succeed,” she added.

Knowles also wants to help others and is particularly passionate about helping people return to school and finish their degree.

“One of my most rewarding experiences at MSU-Meridian has been getting my fiancé to enroll here,” she said. “I also convinced a good friend of mine who had been out of school for a year to apply, and she will graduate with a degree in criminology this December. I’m also working on a few others I know who just need someone to encourage and help them follow their dreams.”

An MSU-Meridian Riley Scholar, Knowles has been named Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the Division of Arts and Sciences and will receive the Dennis J. Mitchell Undergraduate Excellence Award at MSU-Meridian’s 2019 spring commencement May 2.

“Alana truly exemplifies the Spirit of State daily,” Dearing said. “Whether it is helping fellow students, encouraging others to finish their degree or her involvement in the Psychology Club on campus, she’s willing and eager to make a difference.”

To learn more MSU-Meridian, visit

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at


← Back