By: Claire Winesett
As Charles Menifield reminisces on his time at Mississippi State University, he consistently remembers and recognizes the influence that the faculty and staff at MSU had on his educational career. Now, as a professor himself, Menifield emphasizes the large impact MSU still has on his life.
“Mississippi State is a family and the relationships you build there will follow you throughout your career,” Menifield believes.
Menifield left MSU with two degrees before going off to pursue his Ph.D. He graduated with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in political science in 1990 and received a Master of Public Policy and Administration in1992 from MSU, and in 1996 he graduated with his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he now teaches as a professor in the Truman School of Public Affairs and serves as the Associate Dean for Academic Programs.
Menifield explains how the Department of Political Science and Public Administration at MSU really prepared him to succeed in his career. “The political science department promoted a family atmosphere, and the motto was, ‘we are all family and we want all of our family to succeed.’ Every faculty and staff member went above and beyond to make sure we succeeded.”
Of the many faculty and staff members that helped him succeed, Menifield acknowledged Dr. Steve Shaffer, Dr. Ed Clynch, Dr. Mfanya Tryman, and Dr. William “Bill” Giles as specific faculty members that gave him confidence and support to reach his goals.
“All of the professors continued to provide hands on support as I transitioned from undergraduate to graduate school,” said Menifield.
His greatest success was being awarded the V.O. Key Award with one of these most influential faculty members. In 2006, Menifield and Steve Shaffer received this award for their book Politics in the New South.
Before his teaching career at the University of Missouri, Menifield taught at the University of Memphis for nine years. He has also served as a visiting scholar in the Congressional Budget Office in Washington, D.C., as well at teaching at Murray State University and at his alma mater, MSU.
Menifield looks back on his college experience at MSU as a great success and one greatly impacted by the people he was surrounded by during that time.
“My experience at MSU was awesome! When I was in high school I wanted to go somewhere different than where my classmates were all going. I had a great time and was well supported by the faculty and staff. They provided an excellent academic foundation, which allowed me to achieve my Ph.D., and I cannot be more thankful for that,” said Menifield.
His greatest mentor was Dr. Diane Wall, his undergraduate advisor. He said that she helped ease his difficult transition between high school and college. “Diane Wall instilled the confidence I needed to adjust. The first semester was tough, but because of her I prevailed. I really thought about giving up and joining the military after that first semester, but she offered support and guidance on how to approach the second semester and it was much better. It was hard work along the way,” said Menifield.
He continued to share about how she not only gave him the confidence to persevere through a hard transition period, but how she has greatly influenced his current career.
“She took the time and saw the potential in me, and basically was my ‘mom away from home.’ She was passionate and very personable and had an open door policy. I have used the same tactics as a professor. She has shaped who I am. I came back to her retirement party and had the opportunity to tell everyone the impact she made on my life and gave her full credit for shaping the person I am today,” said Menifield.
While the faculty and staff of MSU left a lasting impression on Menifield, one of his favorite memories from his time at MSU is something that happened at the very beginning of his college career in 1986.
“In orientation, Laschelle Jones was my orientation leader. They placed us in small groups and said whoever said the maroon/white cheer the loudest would receive a little silver bulldog. They ended up giving everyone a bulldog and I still have it 30 years later,” said Menifield.
As for MSU traditions, of which there are many, Menifield says that the iconic cowbell is his favorite. “My whole family has their own cowbell, and we did use them when MSU came to Missouri last year. It is what makes the college unique and we proudly ring them here!”
Menifield encourages current and future students to “be open to new ideas, cultures and give everyone the benefit of the doubt.” He adds, “Be accepting of other cultures, and listen to them without judgment and prejudice. Just because someone does something different than you doesn’t mean it is wrong.”
He also encourages students to never give up. “Things may not start off the way you planned, but those bumps in the road shape you into the person you are today and can help someone else in the future.” Menifield recently accepted a position at Rutgers University as Dean of the School of Public Affairs and Administration.
Dr. Menifield wife, Angela Renee Hooper also graduated from MSU with a degree in business, and his niece Dalphanie Tucker is currently a student. Menifield enjoys hunting, fishing and restoring old cars. He has an automobile shop in Memphis called Timeless Automotives, where they restore classic cars as well as work on late model vehicles.
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