MSU SSRC recognizes 10 new Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program graduates

Contact: James Carskadon 

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Ten educators and administrators representing institutions across the state are the newest Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program Fellows.Dr. Melissa Windham, assistant clinical professor (counseling)

One of only 10 such programs in the U.S., MEPFP is hosted through Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center. The program is an initiative of the national Institute for Educational Leadership. SSRC Director Devon Brenner and Project Manager Amanda Tullos serve as the program coordinators.

The program brings together P-12 and higher education leaders, practitioners and advocates for a professional development program focusing on working together to advance equitable policies for Mississippi students. Over the course of nine months, fellows learn about specific policy issues, policymaking and implementation processes. They also study the intersections of local, state and national policies, as well as how effective leaders function in the policy environment.

For the 2022-2023 program year, MEPFP focused on rural education, including the role of rural schools in communities and the workforce, the unique needs and concerns of rural schools in policy and practice, and the importance of working together to advance education outcomes for rural students in Mississippi.

This year’s graduates include (by institution or office):

—Forest Municipal School District: Timothy Scott, principal

—Central Mississippi Planning and Development District: Geanell Adams, workforce coordinator

—Mississippi Department of Education: Debra Burson, state director for educator preparation

Mississippi State University-Meridian: Melissa Windham, assistant clinical professor

—Mississippi State University: William Reid Graves, project coordinator at the Research and Curriculum Unit

—Pearl River County School District: Austin Alexander, principal of Pearl River Central Middle School

—University of Mississippi: Ty McNamee, assistant professor of higher education;  Olivia Melvin, project coordinator for the Center for Research Evaluation; Jillian Morrison, Delta Fellow; and Jennifer Sanford, program manager and instructor.

The also traveled to Washington, D.C., in March to discuss educational policies with Mississippi’s congressional delegation. Specifically, the fellows met with Rep. Michael Guest's office staff and received a private tour of the Capitol from Rep. Mike Ezell’s staff.

The graduates said the program has benefitted their understanding of the policy forces shaping education at all levels.

“MEPFP allowed me to learn deeply about the political and educational systems within the state and my local community,” said McNamee. “As someone new to Mississippi, participating in this program offered insight into how I can navigate these systems as a researcher and advocate to shape real education policy change.”

For more information on the Mississippi Education Policy Fellowship Program, visit or contact Amanda Tullos at

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