OUR STAFF

 

Dr. Linda H. Southward

Director

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

linda.southward@ssrc.msstate.edu
(662) 325-0851

Linda H. Southward, Ph.D., ACSW, is Research Fellow & Research Professor at the Social Science Research Center of Mississippi State University. Having over 30 years of services to the state of Mississippi, Dr. Southward retired May, 2009. Since August 2009, Dr. Southward works on a part-time basis at the SSRC, where she continues to coordinate research projects, focusing primarily on children’s health and well-being. She continues to serves as director of Mississippi KIDS COUNT, funded in part, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

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Anne Buffington

Special Projects & Outreach

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

anne.buffington@ssrc.msstate.edu
(662) 325-1590

Anne Cherry Buffington has had a varied career in public service, education, and the communication fields. A graduate of Mississippi State University, Buffington served as Senator Thad Cochran's Education advisor for the Committee on Labor and Human Resources as well as Deputy Press Secretary to the Senator. During her tenure in Washington, Buffington developed education strategy and drafted related legislation, floor remarks, and policy statements of behalf of the Senator and served as his spokesperson to state and national news media.
Buffington has experience in the broadcasting arena as a radio news director at WOKK/WALT in Meridian, Mississippi and as a reporter and anchor for WTOK TV in Meridian. She has taught public speaking and public relations courses at Mississippi State University and created curriculum and taught a graduate course on Political Public Relations there.
From 2003 to 2008, Buffington served as a member of the Starkville School District's Board of Trustees and was elected President for two years. As President, Buffington directed the passage of a $26.5 million school bond issue, the largest in the history of the district. Additionally, Buffington served as the chief spokesperson for the board, guided strategic planning efforts for the district, wrote and revised school policy and oversaw an annual budget of $33 million.
Buffington serves as a motivational speaker. She was selected to speak at the state capitol on behalf of public school students for full funding of the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP) and has been a presenter at the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents annual conference. She has also conducted continuing education courses for the Mississippi School Boards Association (MSBA).
At the SSRC, Buffington has been a contributing editor for About Children: An Authoritative Resource on the State of Childhood Today. Currently, her work focuses on two projects: Mississippi KIDS COUNT and an evaluation of Project Fit America.

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Colleen McKee

Project Director

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

colleen.mckee@ssrc.msstate.edu
(662) 325-0470

Colleen McKee currently holds the position of Project Director in the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). In May 2009 she earned her Master's degree in Sociology from Mississippi State University. She also holds a certificate in Criminology from Mississippi State University. Ms. McKee's primary research interests center around improving the well-being of children. She also works in the areas of GIS mapping and statistical analysis. She is currently the P.I. on working on KIDS Count projects which include the annual Mississippi data book and the annual summit; The Kellogg Child Data Project as well as initiating proposals. Additionally, the sex-education survey conducted in 2011 was her first project as a Co-PI with Dr. Linda Southward. She worked as data editor II for the Book, entitled What if We Were Equal? (Mississippi Health Assessment in comparison to the United States). This project is conducted at the behest of the Mississippi Institute for the Improvement of Geographic Minority Health and will include a special emphasis on racial and/or ethnic disparities.
Most recently she has become a PI for a Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation project called Project Fit America Evaluation.  Project Fit America program has been implemented in numberous Mississippi schools in the effort to combat childhood obesity through education and physical activity using the Project Fit America curriculum and equipment.

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Ben Walker

Research Associate

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

ben.walker@ssrc.msstate.edu
 

Ben Walker is a Research Associate at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Mississippi State University (MSU). He holds a B.A. in Psychology from Southeastern Louisiana University and a M. S. in Experimental Psychology from MSU. His primary research interests involve evaluating child well-being and health policy in the state of Mississippi. He currently specializes in data management and statistical analysis on several projects including: The Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) assessment of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act of 2007, Kids Count, The Kellogg Data Project, and the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s Project Fit America Evaluation.

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Laure Bell

Research Associate

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

laure.bell@ssrc.msstate.edu
662-325-8079

Laure Bell serves as a Research Associate in the Family and Children Research Unit at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in Art from the University of West Georgia. Working on the Project Fit America Evaluation, funded through Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation, Ms Bell has participated in qualitative and quantitative data collection, entry, and organization as well as performing site visits to PFA Schools. She also assists on other FCRU projects as needed through activities such as submitting IRB project applications, report writing, coordinating project activities, and updating Constant Contact lists. In addition, she assists in maintaining the MS KIDS COUNT outreach through Twitter, Facebook, the KC website, and the bi-monthly newsletter.

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John McCown

Research Associate

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

john.mccown@ssrc.msstate.edu


John McCown serves as a Research Associate II at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). His research interests involve children’s health and wellness, urban sociology, criminology, technology and social interaction, human ecology, and statistics and data management. He is currently working on several projects including: the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Mississippi data project; a national survey on child care centers for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP); the Mississippi KIDS COUNT data center and annual Fact Book (sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation); and an evaluation for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi. Previous projects include: the Mississippi Division of Medicaid assessment of emergency room utilization; the Robert Wood Johnson (RWJ) assessment of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act of 2007; the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation’s Project Fit America Evaluation; the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation project; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation survey for race relations in Mississippi; the Center for Mississippi Health Policy survey on the Affordable Care Act in Mississippi; the Mississippi Association of Grantmakers (MAG) project on Mississippi based charity foundations; a juvenile crime study that was partnered with BOTEC Analysis in California; and a survey on school readiness of Mississippi kindergarten classrooms. Mr. McCown holds a B.A. in Sociology with certification in criminal justice and corrections (2007), and a M.S. in Sociology (2011), both from Mississippi State University. Before joining the SSRC in April of 2012, Mr. McCown served as Teaching Assistant in the Department of Sociology at MSU between 2009 and 2011 while completing his Master’s degree. His thesis explored the potential relationship between state economic development policies and child well-being. During his time in graduate school and at the SSRC, Mr. McCown has conducted extensive research, data management, statistical analyses, and contributed to several peer-reviewed journal articles. He has experience in contingency tables and odds ratio analysis which measures the association between an outcome and a particular variable of interest. This is a common method employed in medical and health-related sociology studies that focus on topics such as childhood obesity, sex education, and medical diagnoses.

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Ismail Yigit

Graduate Student

Family & Children Research Unit
Social Science Research Center
Mississippi State University

ismail.yigit@ssrc.msstate.edu


Ismail Yigit is a Sociology PhD student at Mississippi State University and works part-time on the Mississippi KIDS COUNT project. He is assisting with data research for the annual Mississippi KIDS COUNT Fact Book.

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SUCCESS STORY NOMINATION

Impressed with a program or project that directly improves the well-being of children and families in a Mississippi community? Request more information about the Mississippi KIDS COUNT Success Story nomination process.