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Gov. Bryant announces Mississippi Social Business Challenge; Jackson State to participate along with other state universities

Students from Mississippi public universities will have the opportunity to develop business plans to tackle some of Mississippi’s most pressing problems and help reach the goals established by Blueprint Mississippi.

The Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge was announced by Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Blake A. Wilson and Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank M. Bounds at a press conference held on Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2014, in Jackson.

“Mississippi’s universities are hotbeds of innovation, and this exercise underscores the valuable contributions these institutions make to the entire state,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and I know they are up to the task of developing creative ways to address any challenge that is put before them. I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.”

The Challenge invites teams of students to put their heads together and come up with a creative solution to address one of Mississippi’s most pressing problems. Open to any public university student, the challenge requires students to work in teams of six with at least one faculty adviser.

Mary White, who chairs the Department of Entrepreneurship at Jackson State University, said the competition would be a great exercise for students to focus on solutions.

“This is a great way to engage students to get them to think about investing in their community,” said White, who also serves as JSU’s interim vice president for institutional advancement. “Looking at Blueprint’s goals, I expect a robust competition on our campus that will showcase our student intellectual capital and give us a glimpse into our future.”

In 2012, Blueprint Mississippi, an independent cooperative of organizations and leaders, conducted an objective review of Mississippi’s economic opportunities and recommended actions for putting Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity.

The organization then identified  nine goals to enable a more prosperous and resilient Mississippi. The students are asked to focus their efforts in support of one of the goals, which include:

  1.  Increase the Educational Achievement of Mississippians
  2. Cultivate a More Robust Workforce in Mississippi}
  3. Strengthen and Expand Mississippi’s Economy
  4. Promote Health Care as an Economic Driver
  5. Support Mississippi’s Creative Economy
  6. Continually Develop the Infrastructure for a Competitive Economy
  7. Increase Availability of Financial Capital
  8. Cultivate Diversity, Community Cooperation and Racial Reconciliation
  9. Improve Communication and Coordination Among Public, Private and Non-profit Leaders

“By tapping into the brainpower of Mississippi’s best and brightest at our public universities across the state, we are hyper-launching the success of Blueprint Mississippi,” said Blake A. Wilson, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council.  “By harnessing these resources and focusing them on accomplishing work that supports the nine major goals of Blueprint, we are helping put Mississippi in the place of greatest opportunity.”

The goals of the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge are to encourage students to develop ideas for solving Mississippi’s most pressing problems, while learning important lessons about planning, teamwork and presenting ideas.

“Mississippi Public Universities are solving Mississippi’s most pressing problems and advancing the state together, but there is much work to be done,” said Dr. Hank M. Bounds, Commissioner of Higher Education. “We know that our students possess the creativity and ingenuity necessary to find unique solutions to these problems. The Blueprint Challenge gives them the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and have an important voice in moving Mississippi toward reaching the Blueprint goals.”

Teams will compete first in an on-campus challenge held in the fall. Each team will develop a business plan, outline their concept in a tabletop display and present their ideas to the judges in a brief oral presentation that may include a video.

Each team will have at least six members, who may be either undergraduate or graduate students or a blend of both, along with a faculty advisor. The teams may also enlist the assistance of professionals or alumni that have expertise in the topic the team plans to address or in building a business plan.

“The Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge offers an exciting opportunity for our students to not only compete, but also to learn in a unique, experientially rich environment,” said Dr. Scott Tollison, Dean of the College of Business and Professional Studies, Mississippi University for Women. “The competition encourages the leaders of Mississippi’s tomorrow to craft innovative solutions to problems faced by the state today.”

“Our students have the ability to be thought leaders in the use of creative and innovative processes that address real-world problems, and I am confident that their involvement in this initiative will produce valuable results that help improve the quality of life for all Mississippians,” said Dr. Dr. Rodney D. Bennett, President, The University of Southern Mississippi.

The winning teams from each of the on-campus Challenges will advance to a state competition, which will be held on March 12, 2015 in Jackson in conjunction with Universities Day at the Capitol. The table displays will be available for viewing in the Rotunda of the State Capitol from 8:00 a.m. until 12:00 noon. Five business leaders will serve as the judges for the event.