Recently in Mississippi State Category

Dateline: Mississippi State University, 10 December 2010.

I was honored to have been asked to be the guest speaker at the 10 December 2010 Joint Army-Air Force Commissioning ceremony at Mississippi State. There were four cadets commissioned as 2nd Lieutenants in the US Air Force and one commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the US Army. It was a pleasure to have been asked to speak and a joy to share some of the lessons I have learned with these new lieutenants who are beginning their careers.

After the ceremony I received some very nice complements on the talk and I was appreciative of them. I told several that what I told these new airmen and soldier were what I wished someone had told me when I was an Ensign. The text of my remarks is below.

Greg Mortenson Lecture

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Sara and I attended an excellent lecture tonight by Greg Mortenson of Three Cups of Tea fame. We arrived at the Humphrey Coliseum shortly after 1800 for a 1900 lecture. Following the requisite introductions, the lecture began around 1910.

I had seen Mortenson video when he gave a talk at the Naval War College. I really enjoyed that lecture but he was even better in person. He seemed to really enjoy being here and we certainly enjoyed having him here. He mentioned that in a early meeting with some of our students, he asked how many had been involved with community service. Typically he said he gets about 60% to 80% response but at Mississippi State he got 100%. Similarly, later he asked how many students had spent 10 hours or more talking to their elders about historical events (depression, World War II, etc.). Again, we had about 20% greater response than others.

Mortenson said he did want to come back and visit some of the public schools and nursing homes. I know he would get a wonderful reception.

Following the lecture we waited in line with some friends for the book signing. I got both my hard back Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time signed and by hardback copy of Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan signed. Of course I have both as Kindle editions and I have bought and given away probably 10 to 15 copies of the paperback Three Cups of Tea. We had a short conversation while he was signing and I found him to be very pleasant.

His Central Asia Institute has been added to my list of charitable organizations. As I get older I find I prefer more and more to donate money to my church and to some specific organizations rather than run them through clearinghouses such as United Way. This way I can get money directly to the places that need it without the overhead charge of these clearinghouses. Call me cantankerous.


After winning the ChallengeX completion a couple of years ago, the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University entered the EcoCAR challenge last year. The second year of the competition has just completed and Mississippi State won. But rather than saying MSU won, you really need to look at the numbers to see by how much they won. The point spread between first and second places is 153 point; the spread between second and third is 71; and between third and fourth is 59.

Listed below, in ascending order, are the universities and their total point scores. The maximum possible total points were 1000.

Michigan Technological University 97.58
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 161.31
Missouri Science & Technology 175.74
Texas Tech 198.59
Georgia Tech 212.69
West Virginia University 230.85
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 251.65
University of Wisconsin-Madison 253.79
University of Waterloo 291.42
North Carolina State University 448.75
University of Ontario Institute of Technology 471.48
The Ohio State University 527.41
University of Victoria 564.8
Pennsylvania State University 620.22
Virginia Tech 691.35
Mississippi State University 844.04

Some of the other awards won by MSU were:

* Best acceleration
* Best autocross
* Best fuel consumption
* Best tailpipe emissions
* Best well-to-wheels greenhouse gas
* Best well-to-wheels petroleum energy use
* Best Mechanical Systems Presentation
* Best Controls Presentation
* Best Vehicle Design Review Presentation
* Best outreach
> Best media relations program
> Best education program
> Best creative promotion of EcoCAR
> Best website

Congratulations EcoCAR Team!

Diplomas and Dropouts

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I'm not sure how I missed this but it showed in a Google Alert recently and I found it interesting. The American Enterprise Institute published a report last June on dropout rates from colleges. The blog post said they wished 4 year graduation rates had been used rather than 6 years rates but, six rates are the norm.

Six year graduation rates are indeed the norm for several reasons. First, the university is not a Wal-Mart where you buy products and then check out. You take courses, have experiences, and get an education. And I do mean education, not training. Getting an education takes time depending on the student, how easily they learn, how hard they work, and to a degree, how long it takes them to decide on a specific major. Second, college is not always inexpensive. Many students will have to take time off to work, either full-time or part-time, and that will add to their graduation time. Others will participate in study abroad programs which are outstanding but may not provide the usual course load. Some students will also participate in internships which may or may not earn credit towards a degree. Third, students are, in some senses, adults and have adult problems. Sometimes these take a while to work through. For these and other reasons, six year graduation rates are used. As long as all schools are being compared by the same standard then the length of time should not be a problem

Mississippi State University is listed with a 58% graduation rate which compares to a state average of 46.1%. The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss as they like to call themselves) clocks in at 53% and the University of Southern Mississippi comes in at 48%. Given that all three of these schools are not able to be very selective; these rates do not really surprise me. To a certain extent they have to take a large portion of students who rank low on national tests, have either low high school GPAs or come from subpar schools with inflated GPAs. We know many of them are not going to be successful but they are given a chance to prove themselves.

Before you assume that the better schools are tougher and have the higher dropout rates, think again. It appears that the tougher schools have higher graduation rates. Harvard comes in at 97%, MIT at 93%, Stanford at 95%. Yale is at 96% and Princeton is at 95%. You might also note that these schools are also some of the most expensive in the nation. It really is no surprise that by only accepting the very best and brightest, as Harvard, MIT, and the like are able to do, that they will have high graduation rates.

Unfortunately, this report only included university level data and not college level data. I would be very interested to see how we stack up among engineering schools. I do know that the Bagley College is working on improving its retention rate but the graduation rate of those who enter our college and graduate from college is higher than the university average. They do not necessarily graduate in engineering but they do graduate from college. I should also point out that the Bagley College has higher admissions guidelines than the rest of the university so we are in fact more selective.

One conclusion which can be gleaned from the report is that an education at a state institution is a good deal. For those students who are capable of academic work, a state university offers a quality education at an affordable rate.

Silver Spring, MD

I attended the Education Opportunities for Veterans with Disabilities Workshop today at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh. We had some really good discussions about what can be done, what needs to be done, and how far we need to go to get it done.

We were given a tour of the rehabilitation wing of the hospital where they work with amputees. I was impressed with the level of care our veterans are receiving, the technology that is being used in both rehab and prosthetics, and especially in the care and concern given by the staff. Many steps have been taken to reduce the administrative burden on the warriors. I must admit that I was glad to be there as a visitor rather than as a patient though!

I have heard of late that some people are not referring to disabled or handicapped people as disabled but rather as differently-abled. While some it might sound as too much political correctness, I assure you, the people I met in the hospital and on the panel, do not consider themselves disabled. They have real injuries including traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and even some amputations, but they all seemed to have a can-do attitude. Without a doubt, they have some hurdles to overcome but these people can do it. That is what I love about military people--the difficult will be done today, the impossible will be done by tomorrow.

It was also heartening to see technology being used to positively impact someone's life in a very direct way. The computer simulation systems to help amputees learn to walk and balance to the technology to help them drive a car to the simulation system that allows them to fire weapons and regain their confidence is what engineering is all about.

Now, an early flight in the morning to get back home.

Aviation History

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I attended a meeting today of a group from the local heritage museum interested in organizing an event that will commemorate the role played by Starkville and Mississippi State in aviation. It may not seem likely but there is a rich aviation history in the area ranging from the training of pilots for World War II to world-class research conducted at the university. This event will trace this history and also, I hope, point to the future and work going on now.

In conjunction with this we will also honor our World War II veterans as we celebrate the anniversary of the end of that war--a war in which aviation played a key role.

Lorenz on Leadership

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General Stephen R. Lorenz, USAF was on the campus of Mississippi State University and gave one of the best lectures on ledership I have ver seen. The talk was directed towards the ROTC (Army and Air Force) cadets but he had nuggets for eveyone.

He gave his ten tenets f leadership which are:

1. Learn the art of balancing shortfalls. There is never enough money, time, or manpower.
2. Those who do their
3. The toughest word in the English language to say is..."Yes"
4. Don't lose your temper...unless you plan to.
5. Work on your boss's boss's problem...and you won't have any problems.
6. Self-confidence and motivation 95% of any great endeavor.
7. Study the profession and read--especially biographies.
8. Life is a marathon, not a 50-yard dash.
9. Being in our profession [the military] is all about service to others.
10. You never know you're going to make a difference.

General Lorenz also said that good grades will get you better opportunities but the fact that you do not have great grades will not necessarily keep you from achieving great things. He used self-deprecatng humor to drive his point home in saying the he made the top 75% of his class at the USAF Academy...possible.

I started to think about it and I came to the conclusion that the best leaders I have worked with were not always the top academicaly. They were surely intelligent, competent, and capable, but not always the straight-A students. In fact, the straight-A students have tened to be farly poor leaders.

I have to admit I truly loved his repeated appeals to students to read. Read anything but especially biographies.

Overal a great lecture. I hope we can get him back and have him talk to a larger audience.

I attended the installation banquet of the latest six students inducted into the Bagley College of Engineering Student Hall of Fame. All six of these students are truly exceptional students. They have good grades, have been active in the college, and have served others. The nuce hing about this award is that it recognizes studens for what they have contributed to the college. One of the things we look for in our selection process is whether the service was done to enhance their resuem or the college and university.

The sad part of the process is that there were some very good students who are deserving of recognition but were not inducted simply becaause we limit the numbers to six each year.

Croom Resigns

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CBS reported a little while ago that Sylvester Croom has resigned as head coach. I am saddened by the news for several reasons. First, Croom has done a lot for the Mississippi State football team. Let's not forget that just a few short years ago the team was undisciplined and we were just as likely to read about players in the police blotter as we were in the sports section. Second, Croom brought some enthusiasm to the team, enthusiasm that was sorely needed. Third, Croom was a man of honor and integrity, something that is getting more and more difficult to find in athletics.

Obviously there were problems with the team. I do believe that some changes were needed on the staff, and yes, as head coach Croom was ultimately responsible for making those changes. But he didn't. By no means am I a coaching expert, but it seems to me that when a team is in trouble the first thing that happens is that coordinators and assistant coaches are replaced one year. If things improve the next year then all is well; if not, then the head coach resigns or is fired. It seems to me that Croom did not get the first year.

So, if Croom did not get the first year was that because he was not given the opportunity to make changes in the staff or was he given the opportunity to make changes and resigned instead. I can see either one being the case.

I was disappointed with CBS in their reporting because they spoke only about Croom's race, something he did not discuss. In fact this s the guy that said Maroon is the only color that matters". The bigger issue is who is really behind this change.

Breakfast of Champions

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It always does my soul good to see good students with their interested and engaged parents, and college students who are interested in giving back some of what they have been given. I had that opportunity today.

Our annual Breakfast of Champions was this morning and we had people invited from the entire southeastern region. Most everyone was within driving range although some of them did have to get up early to make it. We gave them all breakfast and had a program consisting of some words of welcome and then two stellar students who discussed why they chose to attend the Bagley College and what they have done while being here. The keynote speaker was Dr. Kirk Schulz, VP for Research and Economic Development at MSU. As a former faculty member, department head, dean, and now vice president, he had the experience to relate to the students on many levels. He even has a son looking at colleges now. He nailed the talk and gave them exactly what I was hoping for. It is a shame that he is not the new president for he certainly has the vision and experience.

The other part was watching our current students give up their Saturday and come out to help us. They interacted with our guests and were on panels for discussion. They are the ones who sold the college today and it really makes me happy to see a group of students give back to an organization and take the time to make a difference in someone else’s life. I have no doubt that because of those students today, we will have new students in the fall who will make a difference in the world.

I capped the afternoon off with a drive to New Orleans for my last drill with my current unit. I assume command of a unit in Houston on 01 December.

Just watched the Bulldogs get killed by Alabama. I agree with the commentators, we have a world-class defense— at least we did until they all got banged up by being on the field so long—and if we only had an offense to go along with it things would be great. Well, as we have all grown so fond of saying, “wait until next year!”

Third Place in Chili Cookoff

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I won third place in the Mississippi State Scabbard and Blade Honor Society Chili Cookoff today. I made the chili last night and let it cook all night. The judging was today at 1100 in front of Middleton Hall. I was not expecting to win, this was my first entry, so I am very happy. Even better, one of the members of my Day One Action Team from last year won first place!

I had to joke that those running this copetition had to be future contracting officers. They require you to buy the ingedients to make the chili, that you pay a $10 entr fee, and then they sell the chili for $1.00 per bowl. Only a contracting office couldwork such a deal. Of course I was only joking. The proceeds went to support the Sacbbard and Blade Society and the Intrepid Fallen Heros fund--two very worthy causes.


USAF Band and Singing Sergeants

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The United States Air Force Band, joined by The Singing Sergeants presented a wonderful concert on the campus of Mississippi State. Much of the music presented was what you would expect from a military band, good marches and service songs, all performed to perfection. This band added some other excellent music including a Concerto for Trumpet that was outstanding—and I say that having played the trombone in high school.

What I really found interesting was the Singing Sergeants and the Journey through Oz they performed. Dressed in costume, they performed an arrangement of music based on the three renditions of the L. Frank Baum’s book which include The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz, and Wicked. All-in-all it was a great concert.

Tonight a group from the college drove over to Birmingham to have a dinner with some teachers from area schools. We had a good meal, met some nice people, and shared some information with them about our college. Our hope is that these teachers and administrators will in turn share their knowledge with their students. We’ve done these in the past and had some others planned for the future. Right now we are waiting to see how the economy is going to do before we plan too much.

Presidential Search

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IHL has elected to not reopen the search for president. It’s a mistake, in my opinion, for several reasons. First the board does not seem to realize that perception is reality and the perception/reality is that anyone selected from this pool is the second choice. There is also rumor that one of the preferred candidates had associates bring forth the charges against Watson resulting in magnoliagate so he will be doubly-troubled. Third, and I think most important, the board’s own consultant said at the beginning of the process that the pool of candidates would be limited by having the interim in the mix. Well, he is not in the mix now so I suspect a much different pool of candidates would result.

What really troubles me is the reports that the previous presidential search had a pool of candidates of 100 but this one has a pool of 13.

What a man! I attended the Colin Powell talk tonight and was more than impressed. I read his autobiography many years ago and was impressed then but seeing him in person was even more impressive. He is clearly a very intelligent person and has a keen sense of humor. His talk was informative and entertaining.

We had some students present who embarrassed me, and their fellow students. Some kid (yes, kid) showed up on the floor wearing a “colorful” t-shirt and black and white checked shorts. Most everyone else was wearing business dress. Perhaps he thought he was cool, but I, and even the students sitting near me, thought he was ridiculous and an embarrassment to the university. Some students even called that he be taken off the floor.

Questions were submitted to General Powell and read by students who apparently had some role in deciding which questions to ask. One question dealt with how you could work with someone and work on topics you disagreed with. The implication was that General Powell continued to work on the Iraq war even though he disagreed with President Bush. The General set the student straight and noted that the question assumed he and the president disagreed. He clearly stated that he did not. He was in agreement with going to war but differed in how things were handled after the fall of Baghdad. Another question was so boggled and senseless I can’t even remember what it was. I only remember that the General did a great job in handling it with dignity. I was impressed with the answers given but disappointed in the questions asked.

His talk covered his time in the military, his time as SecState, retirement, and his outlook on life--he looks ahead, not to the rear.

General Powell is definitely a speaker to hear given a chance.

ASEE Conference

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Arrived in Pittsburgh, PA for the ASEE 2008 Annual Conference and Exposition. Not a bad trip, flights were on time and lay-over in Atlanta was minimal. I’m looking forward to the conference.

Day One Leadership

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We had the final Day One Leadership Program luncheon for the Action Team Leaders. We all got certificates, an umbrella, door prizes, and an item from the grocery store picked by our teams to describe us. I got a bottle of V8 Splash because I “add a splash to the traditional”. It was a fun event but I’m sad it is the end of Day One for year.

One of my team members won the Day One Leadership Idol award from the pod and it was presented to her at the Air Force ROTC Dining In last week. She could not stay for the presentation following their presentation but it all worked out well.

I had a great team and I look forward to doing it again next year.

Secured Pillows and Clocks

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Last week it was reported that some 20 University of Mississippi football players stole pillows and clock radios from several hotels the team stayed prior to football games. Earlier this week UM announced that the 20 players would play in Friday’s Egg Bowl. I think if the roles had been reversed, Sylvester Croom, the Mississippi State coach would have suspended the players and not let them play in the game, regardless of the impact it might have had on the outcome of the game.

The Holiday Inn Express in Starkville has taken advantage of the situation and announced that their pillows and clock radios are secure. It was not announced whether the UM football would be staying in the hotel.


Army ROTC Contracting Ceremony

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I was invited to attend the Army ROTC Bulldog Battalion Contracting Ceremony today and I went as Commander Green to help demonstrate to these newest of cadets that the military is truly joint today. I was impressive to see 34 young college students stand up and take the oath of office. Some were new to the military, others are serving in a National Guard unit already, all were impressive with their character and their willingness to stand up and take the oath.

They Army ROTC Cadre also took the time to recognize their current students who completes schools over the summer. At a time when most college students went to the beach these went schools such as Airborne, Air Assault, Leadership Training Course, and the Leadership Develop Accession Program.


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Today was moving day for students coming to Mississippi State. I signed up to help the students move into their rooms and worked as part of the Day One Leadership program. We helped students, some of them our Day One students, move into Cresswell Hall. It was hot, and it was a lot of work, but it was also fun.

The students and the parents were appreciative of the help. I enjoyed seeing the excitement on the students' faces and I only hope it will last through the semester. It was also interesting to see the difference between the guys and girls rooms. While there were some exceptions on both sides, the girls were really into making their rooms look nice while the guys just wanted to get everything in.

I must admit I had forgotten how much "stuff" girls have though. I suspect much of it will be taken home over the next few weeks as they realize how little space there is in their rooms and how they really do not need everything they had at home.

Next year, we have to schedule this for a day with reasonable temperatures!


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I made a quick trip down south to present a paper at the Mississippi and Louisiana Political Science Associations annual meeting. My paper was entitled “Military and Humanitarian Assistance Organizations: Is there Common Ground?” It was an enjoyable trip, even if it was a bit rushed. I had some work to do Friday morning so I left just in time to make it to my panel and then I had to leave afterwards. I would have liked to have stayed for some of the other papers.

I did get to stop in a visit my grandmother and have dinner with my parents on the way home though. Made for a long day but worth the effort.


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There are some advantages to working for a university. They pay may no be all that great but the time off a Christmas is certainly nice. Today was the last day to work this year. The university closed at 1700 and all thermostats are being set to 40 degrees. That means I have some incentive to not go in and work at the office. I usually do go in for a little here and there but if it turns cold, count me out. I’ll go in and water some plants and I have surely forgotten something I’ll need and will have to go back for that. Otherwise I plan to work on studying for comps, getting some projects done, and resting a little.

What’s even nicer is that the students have been gone for a few days; many people have taken leave, so the amount of incoming work has slowed greatly. I was able to use the time to get caught up on a few things and give a little thought to what I want to get done next year.


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Discover:MSU was held Saturday and I thought was a pretty good event. The crowd seemed a little smaller to me which I think is supported by the game attendance of 39,000. It is always some work for the departments to make this happen, and engineering certainly puts a lot in the event, but I think it is worth the effort.


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Today General Robert H. "Doc" Foglesong was inaugurated as the 18th president of Mississippi State University. I was tapped a few days ago to head up ushers for the event and was pleased with the response I got from the faculty I contacted.

The inauguration was also one of the best I've seen. This was dignified and the focus remained on the University. Several dignitaries, including Mississippi's governor, Haley Barbour, and Lt. Governor, Amy Tuck were present and gave some remarks. Bob Wolverton, President of the Faculty Senate also gave a very nice talk. The inauguration was fairly short but did not seem to sacrifice anything in the process.

The reception that followed was equally nice. It was not nearly as formal and drawn as the previous administration's event--this one seemed to hit the mark spot on. The newly inaugurated President also performed a few songs at the reception with his band Bark.

We had a very successful visit with teachers in the Mobile, Alabama area tonight. We invited some teachers, counselors, and administrators to a nice dinner at the Bienville Club and gave them some information on the Bagley College of Engineering and Mississippi State University. We were fortunate to have General Foglesong, MSU's President, go down with us. He made some remarks to the group and then I followed with a presentation on the college.

Our goal is to make sure teachers are aware of all that we have to offer in the Bagley College so that they can better help their students. Prospective engineering students can be influenced somewhat by colleges, but the people that have the most influence over them are the high school teachers they respect. So, while we do work with the students in other ways, tonight was an opportunity to influence the influencers.

The flight back was particularly interesting. General Foglesong shared his thoughts on several events and filled us in on his trip to Russia for the POW/MIA Commission he chairs. The conversation was very informative and fun. I am very happy to have a president who takes a sincere interest in our students and how to get them here. President Portera was always interested in students, and worked well with us when he was president. General Foglesong is picking up on that tradition again.

Dateline: Home Study

My wife just got back from running a few errands and had a 30 minute wait in line at a gas station. Compared to what is happening in other places perhaps that is not that long of a wait. Compared to the people on the Coast who can't even get gas, or don't have cars to put it in, it is nothing. But the question I have is, why are we playing a football game, encouraging people to come to town in their SUVs, when there obviously is not enough gas for the residents? Where is the University leadership and why could they not call off the game?

As Gregg Ellis said in his article yesterday, there are reasons to have the game but there seem to be many more reasons to not have the game. I think this is yet another decision that will come back to bite some people.


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Dateline: Home Study

Katrina has come and gone, leaving death and destruction in her path. We suffered relatively little here. We lost electricity for a little over two days—nothing compared to how long it will be out in the southern parts of the state. Katrina certainly made us all aware of the power of Mother Nature and the relative powerlessness of man, especially man without electricity.

Without electrons I had no computer and pretty much everything I need is on the computer. I’ll move more of it on to my laptop but what I really need are removable hard drives. We use them in the military when working on the “high side” so that they can be locked up in the safe, but wouldn’t it be nice to have them at home for emergencies? In the event of an evacuation you could simply pull the hard drive and take it with you. Would that not be better than trying to pull paper files with insurance information?

It was also hot, especially at night. There have been editorials written about how we used to survive in the olden days without air conditioning. Yep, we sure did. I was a teenager before I lived in a house with air conditioning…in the southeastern United States! But you know, we always had a fan or two. At least at night, when the wind died down outside, we could have breeze blowing through the house. And those days were before the energy crisis of the 1970’s after which houses were super-insulated and sealed. In other words, in the olden days, houses were designed to function without air conditioning, today they are not. I wish the editorialists could remember that.

The other thing we are learning is that there are disasters and there are DISASTERS. Most of what we deal with throughout the year are isolated incidents such as a tornado. The damage is localized and relatively few people are affected. We can then send in huge assets to a small area and really work the problem. September 11, as tragic as it was, fell into this category. The Pentagon in DC and World Trade Center in New York were local sites. Panic spread and cities were affected but even then it was still localized and the infrastructure, for the most part, was functioning. Katrina is just the opposite—A large area was affected, infrastructure was not just damaged but is missing, and we can send in huge resources but they are spread over a large area. It will take a while to recover.

I also learned how stupid some people can be. Yes, stupid. True, some of the people in Katrina’s path couldn’t evacuate but many could. You can see them every night on the news now, especially in New Orleans, screaming for the government to bail them out of the mess they got themselves into. Yes, there are arguments that they didn’t have cars. Well look past the people and tell me what you see underwater. I see lots of cars and SUV’s. No, some people were stupid enough to ride it out and now they are paying the price. Unfortunately it cost some of them their lives. And it is not like this was unheard of. When you mention Camille in this state people immediately think of the 1969 hurricane, not some girl they met last week.

The people of New Orleans are an embarrassment to the entire South. It irritates me to see their complaints. Most of them should have left and then those who couldn’t have left would have been able to be rescued. Those who are suffering now are suffering, to a great extent, because of those who could have left but didn’t. Yes, they should feel guilty.

We are also getting a good sight of the lack of leadership in the city of New Orleans and the state of Louisiana. Mayor Ray Nagin (D) had no plan for his city. Today he escorted visitors to the front of the line to get a bus out of town…in front of those who have been waiting for days. I’m sure he will not be re-elected. Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) had no plan for her state. Amidst the screams of where is the federal government I must ask, where is the state and local government and where is there request for help. No one expects the mayor, the governor, or even the entire state to handle this alone but why were they not doing more? Why did they not ask for help? This is a republic where we value the rights of individual states. I think we generally oppose have the federal government step in until they are asked. Bottom line, more could have been done and it could have been done sooner, but the problem is not at the federal level.

I have also been embarrassed by the people of my state and my town. We now have a gas shortage because of complete idiots ran to the gas pumps in fear of a shortage and filled up their SUVs and 55 gallon drums with gas. There is not and never was a shortage but there is now because of outright stupid people making a mess of things because they are not capable of engaging their brains! There really are some outright stupid people wandering around. The rumors I heard about refineries shutting down were downright silly and I’m sad that more people did not see them for what they were—rumors.

A similar thing happened following 11 September. Fortunately I was in Norfolk (with reasonable people) while an idiotic elected official in our area actually told people to go get gas because it was going to run out. Now how could he have said that? Idiocy!

Tomorrow we play our first football game of the season. I’ll probably not be there because I think it is ridiculous that we are even playing. This state is asking for federal aid but we are not going to let it interfere with football! A few days ago the prospect that hotels would be turning out those who sought shelter from the hurricane to make room for fans coming in for the game. Some actually contacting those with reservations and they all said “cancel my reservation”. So there are some good, reasonable people out there.

Of course last night on the news the university “leadership” was trying to work out something and doing a little hand wringing. They asked fans to consider canceling their reservations. Hmmm. All it would have taken from the “leadership” was a declaration that the game was postponed, and that problem would have gone away.

Strong leaders are hard find. It takes strength to make decisions quickly and to make the tough calls. Being a leader is more than being boss, and is more than surrounding yourself in the trappings of leadership. While I’m disappointed with “leaders” at many levels, Haley Barbour (R) is coming through as a champ. I think he showing the nation what a leader is, just a Rudy Giuliani (R) did on September 11. Is it just me or is they a definite (D) and (R) thing going on here? Effective leaders, (R); ineffective leaders (D).

Another sign of good leadership is the ability to stay calm under stress. Anyone who watched the news can attest to the fact the Ray Nagin (D) and the NOPD Chief have been anything but calm. They must settle down, lower the tones of their voices, and instill confidence in the citizens of their city. Their current actions are leading to more problems. Fortunately communications within the city are limited so most within the city are not able to hear their ranting.

And a final lesson is that communications must be improved, especially in times of disaster or problems. Four County EPA was unwilling to even give estimates of when power would be restored. They said they had learned that estimates were always wrong and they wouldn’t make them. Well, two words of advice. First, find out how to make better estimates so that they are not always wrong. Second, your customers would like to have estimates so they could plan. Will be a few hours in which case we will wait it out or will it be days/weeks in which we may wish to go spend some time with friends and family? I really don’t think that is asking too much. When I talked to people who can not even give me an estimate my immediate assumption is that they do not have a plan.

One of the most frequently heard comments from the people in New Orleans is “tell us what to do”. They need information and no one is able to give them any. Why, because they do not have a plan. That is a sad state of affairs and, in my opinion, indicates what a true lack of leadership they have. With the military stepping in now, there will be a plan and things will get must better, much faster.

I’ve exercised with the military, government, and civilian organizations in the past. Things are going to get better because those exercises showed me that the military and FEMA are the best organized institutions I’ve ever seen. Lt. Gen. Russel Honore is on the scene now and is obviously taking charge.


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Dateline: Home Study

I went to the commissioning ceremony for Army and Air Force ROTC cadets today. It was good to see some friends who have detached and moved away as well as see some new friedns who have just arrived.

The best part of the day was to see the nervous yet excited cadets taking their oaths of office and the smiling parents/grandparents/spouses and firneds with them. Seeing this bunch brings home to the point there is an awfully lot that is right about today's college graduates.


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Dateline: Home Study

I spent some time today working out a budget for a new center dealing with engineering and public policy issues. Quite an experience. We have some really good plans if we can only get the money to put them in action.

I also spent a little time thinking about an Op-Ed I've been asked to write. I have some ideas and they are coming together so maybe I can sit down and write some over the weekend.

Today I received an invitation to a change of command ceremony of a friend and truly regret that I'll be out of the country and not able to attend. That really bites big time becasue is one CoC I would really like to go to. The is a former RESCEN CO of mine who I spent a lot of time with on drill weekends. They have a roast planned for him and I know that will be a lot of fun.

An Interesting Week

Last week was a very interesting week all things considered. I met with some students, we had Engineer's Week (a week early), and we had some consultants come from elsewhere to review our Honors Program. We ended with a very nice dinner Friday night with the folks from Honors and had a very good time. They seemed to think our Honors program was doing some very good things but they also had some suggestions for improvement. Of course improvement means money and money requires someone willing to give it. They claimed the University Administration is behind this program and that some funding may result. I hope so.

Unfortunately right now we are in the mode of wanting to be the biggest University in the state rather than focusing on being the best. What bothers me is the underlying premise that we can not be both. When I think of some of the best universities around I do not think of any that are having trouble recruiting students--most are turning students away. Why can we not be that way? Well, the truth is we can. But we have to be careful. If we go for the short-term gains of more students, for assess in classes, without considering the quality, then focusing on quality later will be damn near impossible. I have this feeling that we are suffering from the lack of a grand vision of what we can be.

I also lost a Sailor this week. One of my Seamen was found dead outside her of house. I understand the investigation is still on-going (but I live so far away it is hard to keep up) but foul-play is not suspected at this time. It is terrible to lose anyone you know but it is particulalrly hard to lose someone in your unit. My Chiefs and I had worked with the Sailor and had great hopes for what she could accomplish. She left behind her children which is perhaps the saddest part. Growing up in this world is tough enough but to do it without a mother is, I'm afraid, asking too much.

Mid-Term exams start next week and I really need to be working on one right now. Guess I better go and get on it.

Leadership and the New Year

The new year begins and I go back to work on Monday (actually that is later today). The two weeks off for Christmas Holidays has been good but it always seems too short. I enter the vacation with a long list of things to do and exit it with a longer list of things to to do. I had planned to write and read and did not do nearly enough of either. I did however rest a little.

We now officially have a new Dean. He started before the holidays unofficially which gave everyone a chance to get their bearings before taking leave. There are many challenges ahead for us and now that this uncertainity has been settled, we can move forward. We were fortunate to have two outstanding interim deans but there is only so much anyone can do when they are given charge for an indefinite amount of time. The decision process took far too long butthat seems commmon in higher education. Change comes at glacial speeds.

One of the new tasks I have been asked to look into is how to best develop leadership skills of our students. I have had some valuable thinking time about that over the holidays and will try to get some ideas on paper this week. Higher education is certainly in need of leadership and I can thik no place better to begin that with our own students.

This afternoon I had even more time to think as I went in to the office. Actually I went on campus when things were quiet to get pictures of "flat Joshua" at campus landmarks for my nephwe but ended up in the office. I noticed that once again the floors were dirty and we have substandard custodial services. I decided that the only way the floors would get clean, to my satisfaction, wouldbe to do them myself. So, I puled out the vacuum cleaner and went to town.

I've met with the person who runs custodial services several times but I always get the same excuses; the budgets have been cut, they are understaffed, there are too many buildings, etc. While the excuses are true, they should not be excuses. Everyone has suffered budget cuts but we are educating more, not fewer, students. Our alumni were able to donate millions of dollars for the renovation of our building but the University can not keep it clean.

One thing I have learned over the years is that money is not always the motivator it is made out to be. Sure, there is a certain level you have to pay so people can survive, and you have to somewhat match the going rate in the market, but beyond that, money does very little to improve productivity. I've seen many people get raises and their productivity remained the same or even declined. What people value is being valued; they want to be a part of the team; they want to feel important. And that, my friends, takes leadership--leadership we seemingly lack in certain places.

Custodians are often underappreciated. They typically work at night or behind the scenes and do not receive much notice. The few exceptions I run across were while at USSOUTHCOM when they were always noticed. As they entered the doors it was announced that an uncleared person was in the room. Folders were closed, computer screens were locked down, desk drawers were closed, and some conversations were halted abruptly. We said hello as the custodian was escorted through the room to empty the trash and then left. Once the "Area Secure" announcement was made, we got back to work.

Our custodians no longer have ownership of a building anymore and I think it shows in the work. Years back a building "belonged" to a custodian and they took pride in their work. If something was wrong you knew was at fault. Now, there is too much room to spread the blame or credit and I think some pride of ownership has been lost.

Now that pride comes from the top. You have to have good people working for you but then the pride and sense of belonging to a team comes from the top. I have that feeling, why was I out vacuuming floors on a Sunday afternoon? And I'm not the only one either. In our office we all take pride in what we do and how our spaces look. It drives people in other departments on campus crazy sometimes byt we are very visible and people do form impressions of you based on appearances. If they see dirty, cluttered offices, their opinions are that we are dirty disorganized people and they question our ability to educate their children or meet their needs. It is really elementary but that seems to be missed by so many on campus these days. Our visitors don't care about budget cuts or staff shortages; they care about appearances.

One day, when I'm king, there will be some changes made. Leaders will be developed and those who lead best will be promoted and given even greater responsibility. The end result will be a more effective, efficient organization focused on meeting the needs of our external customers rather than worrying about budget cuts and staff shortages which, by the way, have been the norm for the 20 something years I've been involved in higher education. I doubt it will change anytime soon.

But no, for the bigger problem. How to make our students into leaders for tomorrow so we can break the leadership problem our country faces in many areas? Ideas? Email me.

MSU 38, Florida 31

What a game! I went to the game today fully expecting a loss--a significant loss. The Bulldogs have been trying but I just didn't think they were up for the job. Then we scored first. I was happy and commented that Florida may well win but at least we scored, and scored first. Then we went into the half with the lead and I knew Florida was going to get some serious butt chewing from their coach and I fully expected a brand new Florida for the second half. It never happened.

Somewhere in the third quarter I commented to my wife that I thought we just might win this game. She didn't believe me and, had others been there that I usually talk to, they wouldn't have believed me either. Well it was close, there were times I thought I saw overtime in the future, but we pulled it off. And what a sweet win it was. Croom deserved a major win and the team was playing the best I've seen in over a year. They wanted to win and it showed.

Why? Why were the Bulldogs able to pull this one off? I think part of it that Croom is finally starting to sink into the team. He keeps talking attitude and discipline and it seems like it is sinking in to the player’s heads. If you believe you can win you may not win, but if don't believe you can win then you certainly won't. Croom seems to be getting through.

The other reason was that the officials were not as bad as in the past. Now I know it is not proper to criticize, for some reason that is taboo, but when they are bad they are bad. The last game we played against the University of Alabama Birmingham, they were awful. Today they missed some calls but they were much fairer. While there is truth in the statement that officials do not win or lose games, there is also truth that they have an impact. In past games, some bone-headed calls have broken the MSU momentum and definitely affected the outcome of the game. Today that didn't happen. The calls that were made needed to be made and they did result in a little loss of momentum but the team got it back. If the officials are not seeing things no one else can see, and when they are not blatantly biased, then the Bulldogs have a shot.

I hate the crowd was not larger. The students seemed to come out sometime during the first half and I think there were some nearby tailgaters who came in once we scored. I’ve been a Bulldog fan long enough to know that you never know. We have been an excellent team in the past and lost to absolute nobodies. We’ve been pretty bad in the past and we’ve beaten some really good teams. You just never know. That is why all bets are always off for the Egg Bowl; you never know what will happen when Mississippi State plays the University of Mississippi. Of course I will not see that game in person having sworn off ever attending an athletic event on the University of Mississippi campus after encountering some of the rudest, drunkest, most obnoxious fans of life a few years ago. And that was when they won!

Now, just a few more games to go before the end of the season is upon us. And of course the NCAA sanctions that are due soon.

Hunter Henry Recognizes Students

Tonight was the dinner recognizing the Hunter Henry Scholars at Mississippi State. The vast majority of the students are engineering majors and all of the students are outstanding. It was nice to visit with the students outside of the academic setting for a while. Seeing other University people was also nice. We have all become so busy lately that we do not get to talk as much as we used to.

Hunter Henry always makes the night fun and memorable. He introduces the students and generally gives them a little static in some way or another. For the new students it may be a little unsettling but the old timers enjoy it. Hunter takes an interest in these students and they certainly enjoy having him as a friend.

The students also recognized Bob Taylor tonight for his years of service to the College. They gave him a digital camera that is better than mine which means I've got to upgrade now! Hunter is a gadget junkie just like me so he always has the latest stuff. Bob got a Nikon Coolpix 8700 while mine is only a 5700.

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