Thomas Easterling Named As Director For Academic Affairs At MSMS

By Caleb Youngblood, Public Relations Coordinator

June 4, 2024

The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is pleased to announce Dr. Thomas Easterling as the new Director for Academic Affairs. Dr. Easterling has been a member of the faculty since 2004.

“Teaching here for the last 20 years has been immensely rewarding, both professionally and personally,” Easterling said.

Easterling began teaching in Mississippi as a graduate instructor at the University of Mississippi in 1992. He moved to instruct English at the Mississippi University for Women from 1999-2004 and has since taught English, Film and Drama at MSMS from 2004-2024.

While in Oxford, Easterling earned distinction as a teacher and researcher. He worked at The Oxford American Magazine, where he edited manuscripts from a variety of authors, including Zora Neale Hurston, William Faulkner, Willie Morrie, Brad Watson, John T. Edge and a host of others. His publication credits focus on Southern literature and culture, and, more recently, MSMS.

Easterling additionally created the “Real Mississippi” podcast in 2020 with his students. The podcast allows students to research significant people from their hometowns and discuss their effect on the town, whether positive or negative. The project gives them a chance to share their voices with listeners from around the world and has garnered attention from various news outlets. MSMS student Georgianna McKenny (c/o 2024) was awarded the grand prize in the 2023 National Public Radio (NPR) Student Podcast Challenge. The annual challenge is open to students around the country and received over 3,300 entries, from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In addition to McKenny’s success, MSMS has had two finalists and four honorable mention winners since its students began participating in the Student Podcast Challenge in 2021.

“My experience teaching during the pandemic brought me to this conclusion,” Easterling said. “More than ever before, students need to understand that their voices matter, that the research they do has real-world implications and that classroom experiences should strengthen their sense of community. It shows [students] that people will listen to their well-spoken truths and encourages them to see that as a crucial step in making Mississippi a better place.”

Easterling resides in Tibbee, Mississippi with his wife, 16th District Circuit Court Judge Michelle Easterling, sons Grayson and Jack and a menagerie of animals.

“I grew up in Alexandria, Louisiana,” said Easterling. “I moved to Mississippi in 1992, when I enrolled as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi. I’ve spent more of my life as a Mississippian than as a Louisianian. I am so happy to have ended up here.”

The MSMS Director for Academic Affairs oversees the day-to-day academic activities and works with other staff to ensure the success of the school’s living-learning environment. Dr. Easterling is a graduate of one of MSMS sister schools, the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts, which has enabled him to see the school from a broader perspective.

“As Commander Desmond Walker put it during his commencement address, MSMS is a social, personal, professional and leadership development incubator,’” Easterling said. “I look forward to helping students and staff tap into as many intellectual, cultural, and leadership opportunities as possible. If they’re prepared to move Mississippi forward, they can become leaders anywhere in the world.”

The “Real Mississippi” podcast can be found on Spotify. To listen to McKenny’s award-winning podcast, please search How the Jackson Water Crisis Affects Education.