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Mississippi Valley State University [Itta Bena] (1950- )


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Mississippi Valley State University (MVSU) is a public institution located in Itta Bena, Mississippi.  MVSU is the nation’s youngest historically black public university.  In 1946 the Mississippi legislature passed an act authorizing the establishment of a new institution to be named Mississippi Vocational College.  The purpose of the school was to educate teachers for rural and elementary schools and to provide vocational training.  

Ground was broken for the new school in February of 1950, and the first classes were held that summer when 250 teachers came to campus to attend in-service classes.  The first academic year began in the fall of 1950 with 14 students and seven faculty members.  That year the college offered bachelor’s of science degrees in 14 areas and provided extension services.  In 1964 the college was authorized to offer liberal arts, education, and science degrees, and changed its name to Mississippi Valley State College.  Mississippi governor William Waller signed a bill granting university status to the school in 1974.  At that time the institution became known as Mississippi Valley State University.  MVSU offered its first master’s degrees two years later.

Today, MVSU consists of four colleges, and there are 14 undergraduate degree-granting departments.  The university grants graduate degrees in five areas:  Teaching, criminal justice, elementary education, environmental health, and special education.  Mississippi Valley State University has a student body that numbers approximately 3,100, and a recent university president’s report announces an initiative to increase the student population to around 4,000 in the near future.  

Approximately 95% of MVSU students are black, and the ratio of women to men on campus is about 2:1.  There is on-campus housing for about 1,800 students, in five male-only, and four female-only residence halls.  Students attend classes on a semester system, and there are 121 full time faculty members.  The university is noted for offering Mississippi’s first nationally accredited art and environmental health programs.  MVSU is home to an Air Force ROTC detachment, and has a nationally renowned marching band which has performed at U.S. presidential inaugurations, the Rose Bowl, and the Indianapolis 500.  Two of MVSU’s most famous graduates are former NFL players Deacon Jones of the Los Angeles (California) Rams and Jerry Rice of the San Francisco 49ers.

Addie Louise Joyce Butler, The Distinctive Black College: Talladega, Tuskegee and Morehouse  (Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1977); Toni Hodge-Wright, The Handbook of Historically Black Colleges and Universities  (Seattle: Jireh and Associates, 1992);  Mississippi Valley State University Webpage,


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