Pens in hand, Choctaw Chief Phillip Martin and USM President Dr. Shelby Thames agreed to try to get more Choctaw students to attend the university.
During a ceremony on the campus in Hatiesburg, the two leaders
put their stamps of approval on a plan that would encourage Choctaw students to enroll there.
Thames said the details of the agreement have not been worked out, but the school wants to be of service to the tribe any way it can.
Choctaw students don't need scholarships. The tribe has a plan that pays for any member to go to the school of their choice for free. But Martin called Southern Mississippi a "high quality" university, and getting students educated close to home will help the tribe in the long run.
There are currently 17 Choctaw students enrolled at USM, and at least one of those hopes this agreement will increase their numbers.
At the end of the ceremony, the two men exchanged gifts. Thames gave Martin a hand painted golden eagle portrait. Martin gave Thames a hand-woven Choctaw basket.
Thames said the school and the tribe will work quickly to come up with details of the plan, and he hopes soon that the school will begin in earnest recruiting Choctaw to the university.
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