Dr. Cassandra Hawkins, Assistant Professor in the Rural Public Policy and Planning Graduate Program at Mississippi Valley State University, was nominated and selected to be a member of the 2019 – 2020 Class of Whisenton Public Scholars. The Whisenton Public Scholars Fellowship is a public scholars exchange in collaboration with Joffre T. Whisenton and Associates and the Kettering Foundation. Dr. Joffre T. Whisenton is a well-known higher education administrator, who has a legacy of leading and mentoring individuals around the word. Additionally, Dr. Whisenton paved the way for other African Americans, when he became the first African American to receive a PHD from the University of Alabama.
Started in 1998, the Whisenton Public Scholars Program involves faculty and administrators from schools with a mission to serve minority communities, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Whisenton Public Scholars fellowship trains individuals within the academy to engage with the public to promote and advance democratic values. Dr. Hawkins’ involvement as a Whisenton Public Scholar will occur over the next two years, and she will experiment with citizen-centered democracy to promote civic engagement within higher education, including naming and framing community issues, and working with the public to make choices in the context of teaching, research, and service. During the first year of the research exchange, Dr. Hawkins will participate in discussions surrounding democratic self-governance, as well as the role of higher education in democracy. From July 8-12, 2019, Dr. Hawkins attended the first of many research exchanges held at the Kettering Foundation, entitled the 2019 Deliberative Democracy Exchange as a Whisenton Public Scholar in Dayton, Ohio. The 2019 Deliberative Democracy Exchange brought together community leaders, scholars, journalists, civil society practitioners, and others from all over the world. At this year's event, participants were from a total of 40 countries. Dr. Hawkins was very excited to not only represent Mississippi Valley State University but the State of Mississippi. During this week, Dr. Hawkins worked with individuals to address a specific fundamental problem of democracy and listened to participants share the numerous challenges citizens face in their communities. During the different sessions and institutes, Dr. Hawkins explored deliberative practices as a tool to address societal issues and challenges. Her engagement with other participants helped her to start considering how implementing a deliberative forum could help her address issues in Mississippi, especially surrounding food systems and food insecurity. Dr. Hawkins is looking forward to how her participation as a Whisenton Public Scholar will transform her current work in rural public policy and how she engages with communities. She is excited about the fellowship and how she can incorporate deliberative practices in her classes and train students in the Rural Public Policy and Planning Graduate Program and her research interests.
Dr. Cassandra Hawkins is an Assistant Professor of Rural Public Policy and Planning in the Department of Social Sciences at Mississippi Valley State University. Her research interests include student pedagogy, American literature, agriculture policy, rural policy, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and food insecurity in Mississippi. Her dissertation, entitled “The Prevalence of Food Insecurity in Mississippi,” used secondary data from the Current Population Survey: Food Security Supplement over a ten-year period (2006-2016) to examine food insecurity in Mississippi. Her research interests include student pedagogy, American literature, agriculture policy, rural policy, socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, and food insecurity in Mississippi. Her research efforts regarding African American farmers’ participation in USDA programs won Best Overall Faculty/Staff Oral at the 4th Annual Centers for Research Excellence Symposium: Research Seminar Series – Alcorn State University. Dr. Hawkins is a member of the Golden Key Honour Society, Beta Kappa Chi National Scientific Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, and National Scholars Honor Society. Dr. Hawkins serves in numerous capacities, including serving on the Mississippi Food Policy Council Executive Board and as Chair-Elect 2018-2019 for the Rural Sociological Society Rural Poverty Research Interest Group.