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Melinda Gann Is At It Again: 2023 Faculty of the Year Award Recipient Earns 2024 Carol C. West Honor

Melinda Gann, professor of mathematics, said she is honored to be recognized by her peers as an advocate of MC's faculty.
Melinda Gann, professor of mathematics, said she is honored to be recognized by her peers as an advocate of MC's faculty.

One of Mississippi College’s most respected professors has been acknowledged as one of the Christian University’s most dedicated faculty champions.

Melinda Gann, the popular mathematics professor who was recognized as the Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award recipient during MC’s Central Ceremony last year, received the 2024 Carol West Faculty Advocate Award at the 2024 graduation celebration May 3.

The dual honors represent two of the highest achievements an MC faculty member can obtain.

“I’m very honored,” said Gann, who has served on the MC Faculty Senate many times since its initial formation as the Faculty Council. “This is an award that other faculty give to somebody who they feel listens to their concerns, notices what their needs are, and present those needs in appropriate ways and appropriate places.

“I’m honored that they see me as somebody who does that.”

As a faculty-selected award, the Carol C. West honor stands in contrast to the Distinguished Faculty of the Year Award, which is a student- and university-based honor, Gann said.

“In selecting me for this award, hopefully my peers saw me as somebody who promotes excellence in the classroom, performs exceptionally well on committees, and participates enthusiastically in research and other academic endeavors.”

Daniel White, assistant professor in the Department of English and Philosophy, said he can think of no one more deserving of the honor than Gann.

“Some faculty see advocacy as loyalty, backing what is best for the faculty subset of the MC Family above all others. Melinda sees the full community. She sees MC’s students and staff and alumni, and she advocates for the best interest of the whole. This is what true faculty advocacy looks like, and Melinda embodies it. Her dedication to making MC better for all of us is why she deserves the award, but I’m also grateful to see her recognized because of how she’s earned this recognition.

“Whether in front of students, on the Senate floor, or meeting with anyone across MC, if you mention Melinda’s name, you’ll see smiles. Her colleagues and students love her, and she’s earned this response from the MC Family because of how she carries herself: passionate, energetic, and kind. Melinda has consistently shown us all what it means to serve something bigger than ourselves.”

During the last two years, she has been appointed by MC President Blake Thompson and MC Provost and Executive Vice President Michael Highfield to serve as co-chair of two important committees – the Core Revision Working Group and the Honor Code Task Force. As their names suggest, the former is responsible for revising the University’s core curriculum, while the latter is charged with creating and developing its honor code.

Gann said she takes seriously any issue that Mississippi College faculty perceive as important.

“Both of those (chair positions) involve leading several faculty as a team,” said Gann, who obtained her Master’s Degree at MC and progressed from instructor to tenured professor in the Department of Mathematics. “Neither is something that should be done to students and faculty - they both must be done with students and faculty. It’s important to listen and see others as part of your team – to be more of a ‘we’ leader.”

In other words, the kind of leader that Carol C. West was. Gann knew the late MC Law professor and expert in domestic relations, women’s issues, and crime who was a distinguished faculty member on MC’s downtown Jackson campus and a beloved part of the MC Family.

“Carol West was what I think of as a champion,” Gann said. “She was very fair, but could be ferocious in her defense of things that she believed to be right. She was not hesitant to speak the truth, even if it was a hard truth, but she was kind. Watching her champion things she thought to be fair, just, right, and Christ-like was a good lesson for me – that right is better than popular.

“Carol West is somebody that you would recognize as a ‘we’ leader – one of us who values what we do, champions what we do, and advocates for the faculty.”

Gann earned her B.S. in mathematics education at Mississippi State University and taught high school math before following her husband, Don Gann, to Mississippi College, where he was serving as director of the Baptist Student Union. She obtained her Ph.D. in science (mathematics) education from the University of Southern Mississippi.

At various times, Gann served as interim chair of the department and chair of the Academic Honor Board. She authored the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation Secondary Mathematics Education initial report and response report, and the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education Specialty Professional Association secondary mathematics report.

A member of the NCATE Committee, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Committee, and the Quality Enhancement Plan Committee, she has served as a mathematics consultant for the Mississippi Department of Education. Gann has been a keynote speaker at numerous statewide mathematics conferences and is an active member of several professional associations, including the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, the Mississippi Council of Teachers of Mathematics, and the Mississippi Collegiate Mathematics Association – for whom she has twice served as president and vice-president.

Mississippi College’s appreciation of Gann isn’t limited to her fellow faculty members – MC students dedicated the 2015 Tribesman Yearbook in her honor and made her the first recipient of the Outstanding Faculty Award selected by the Student Government Association.

Gann said it has been an honor, privilege, and one of the joys of her life to spend the majority of her vocation at Mississippi College. Nevertheless, she was surprised to learn she had been nominated for the Carol C. West Faculty Advocate Award.

“When I think of all the wonderful people who have won it in the past, it’s very humbling,” she said.

What sets MC faculty apart from dedicated professionals at other schools, Gann said, is their genuine concern for the University.

“Faculty at most schools enjoy academia,” she said. “But most of the MC faculty that I know really do see teaching as a calling. It’s more of a vocation than a career. It’s not simply about money or prestige – it’s literally about making the world a better place. That’s our gift back to Jesus.

“It’s a purpose-driven vocation for a much higher purpose than the education of students. Our faculty spend way more time creating quality classes, offering one-on-one consultations for students, and pouring all of themselves into what they do on a daily basis. It sounds trite, but we really are a family.”