I graduated from Mississippi State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, and then followed with a Master of Science diploma in Sociology from the same institution. I wrote my thesis on the conflict surrounding the siting of a hazardous waste facility in a rural Mississippi community. During undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked as a research assistant at the Social Science Research Center.
Wanting to further my education, I went to The University of Missouri-Columbia and completed a Ph.D. in Rural Sociology. I focused my dissertation research on evaluating the social movement for grassroots economic development led by community-based cooperative organizations. This involved mixed-methods research and partnerships with nonprofit organizations operating at local, state, national, and international levels.
I joined the faculty in the Division of Social Sciences at Delta State University in 2002, beginning with an appointment as Assistant Professor of Sociology and Community Development. That fall, I founded the Institute for Community-Based Research, a collaborative network of faculty, students and nonprofit organizations. In January 2003 I started my work as Graduate Coordinator for the M.S. in Community Development program. I was awarded tenure and promotion to the rank of Associate Professor in 2008. While at Delta State University I also served as Interim Chair of the Division of Social Sciences, Acting Chair of History, and Director of the Center for Community and Economic Development. Serving an 18-county region, the latter organization provided technical assistance, research, and capacity building services. The Center administered a broad portfolio of externally funded grants and contracts.
Moving to Oxford, I began my position as Director of the Center for Population Studies at The University of Mississippi (UM) in July 2011. The Center seeks to educate, conduct research, and engage in public outreach concerning population issues. Additionally, I serve as Professor of Sociology, Director of the Minor in Society and Health, and Affiliated Faculty with the School of Law.
I am actively involved in scholarly organizations, as illustrated through my formal leadership roles in the Community Development Society, Southern Rural Sociological Association, Rural Sociological Society, Alabama-Mississippi Sociological Association, and Delta Directions Consortium. I was awarded the Delta State University Foundation Prizes for Excellence in Service and for Excellence in Research, the Rural Sociological Society’s Award for Excellence in Extension and Public Outreach, and the Community Development Society’s Ted K. Bradshaw Outstanding Research Award. In 2018 I received the Research, Scholarship, and Creative Achievement Award from the UM College of Liberal Arts. Furthermore, I served two terms as Editor-in-Chief of Community Development and I now serve as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Rural Social Sciences.