Dr. Linda H. Southward : Director

Dr. Linda H. Southward


A long-time visionary for children’s issues in Mississippi, Linda H. Southward, Ph.D., retired in July 2019 after 30 years at Mississippi State University to pursue new horizons through the Children’s Foundation of Mississippi. Previously, Linda served as an Associate Director of the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) at Mississippi State University, where she also held the role of Research Fellow and Research Professor. While at the SSRC, she founded and coordinated the Family & Children Research Unit. Among her many research projects, Linda’s most recent work at the SSRC included serving as Director of Mississippi KIDS COUNT, funded in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Co-PI on the “Mississippi Data Project” funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and in concert with leadership at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s (UMMC) Department of Pediatrics, Linda was a PI on the Health Resource Services Administration (HRSA) funded Child Health and Development Project, Mississippi Thrive. Prior to her work at MSU, Linda worked in public health and directed a center for children with development delays in Northeast Mississippi.


Ben Walker : Project Manager

Ben Walker

Project Manager 

Ben Walker is a Project Manager 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.

Read Ben's full bio.

Laure Bell : Project Coordinator

Laure Bell

Project Coordinator 

Laure Bell is a project coordinator for several FCRU projects. She contributes to grant submissions, project designs, writing, editing, compiling project reports and conducting qualitative research. She also manages the social media, websites and communications for several projects. Laure has been employed at SSRC since 2012 and has experience working on a range of research projects. Laure holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English from the University of West Georgia. For MS KIDS COUNT she maintains the website and communication outreach through Twitter, Facebook, and e-newsletter.

Read Laure's full bio.

John McCown : Research Associate

John McCown

Research Associate 

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.

Read John's full bio.

Ismail Yigit : Graduate Student

Ismail Yigit

Graduate Student 

Ismail Yigit is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Social Science Research Center and a Ph.D. Candidate in the Sociology Department of Mississippi State University. His responsibilities in the Kids Count project include management of online data center, organizing, and publishing a yearly data book. He is also working on Partnership for Healthy Mississippi (PHM) project that evaluates PHM’s school health council technical assistant program by analyzing data as a part of health council technical assistance work in Mississippi.

Read Ismail's full bio.

Callie Poole : Research Associate

Callie Poole

Research Associate 

Callie Poole serves as a Research Associate at the Social Science Research Center (SSRC). At the SSRC, she works for the Family and Children Research Unit, serving on the Parent Health Literacy Committee of the Child Health and Development Project: Mississippi Thrive! In addition, Callie works on the evaluation team for the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, which provides technical assistance to schools around the state in implementing effective and sustainable school wellness councils as part of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act of 2007, and she is a part of the Mississippi KIDS COUNT research team.

Read Callie's full bio.