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Delta Center welcomes new director

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

During the celebration of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area designation, Dr. Rolando Herts (far right), director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning, is welcomed by (l to r) Dr. Luther Brown, former director; Lee Aylward, DCCL program associate for education and community outreach; and Heather Miller, DCCL program associate for projects. Photo by Roy Meeks.

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University is pleased to announce the arrival of its new director, Dr. Rolando Herts. Herts officially began serving in his new role Aug. 18 after the retirement of Dr. Luther Brown, who established the Delta Center in the year 2000.

“I am excited about working with colleagues at Delta State and partners throughout the Mississippi Delta region,” said Herts. “The Delta Center will be managing the implementation of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, as well as overseeing the International Delta Blues Project. These and other exciting initiatives and programs will utilize the region’s rich cultural heritage as a tool for promoting education, tourism, community engagement and economic development.”

Brown said he looks forward to seeing Herts take on the leading role.

“The Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area is benefiting the entire Mississippi Delta. It has a strong management plan, and Rolando Herts will lead the effort to turn the plan into reality,” said Brown.

Herts has years of experience working in and conducting research on the Delta region. After completing undergraduate and graduate programs at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the University of Chicago, he returned to the Delta to teach second grade in Indianola with Teach For America. He also directed TRIO Student Support Services at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

While at Pine Bluff, he exposed students to educational cultural heritage and civil rights attractions in Memphis, Atlanta, Birmingham and in Arkansas communities. He earned a doctorate in planning and public policy from Rutgers University, where he examined the MDNHA as a case study of university-community tourism engagement.

“I spent formative years in Eudora, Arkansas, and graduated from Little Rock Central High School, a National Historic Site of the National Park Service — where nine black students led school integration efforts in 1957,” said Herts. “Growing up, all around me were reminders of the importance of cultural heritage, education and community.

“Attending Morehouse reinforced this with educational, social justice and heritage leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays and Dr. Wendell Whalum as exemplars. While working on my doctorate at Rutgers, I met Dr. Luther Brown through Ron Nurnberg, executive director of Teach For America Mississippi Delta. Dr. Brown has been an excellent mentor who has worked tirelessly to preserve and promote cultural heritage in and for the Delta region. I am humbled by this opportunity to help carry on this important legacy.”

Given its management role with the MDNHA and the International Delta Blues Project, the Delta Center will be expanding its capacity to serve as a regional connector and resource for understanding and celebrating the Mississippi Delta’s cultural heritage. Through funding from the Hearin Foundation, the center will soon be hiring a director of blues studies. Undergraduate internship and graduate assistantship positions also will be created, providing Delta State students with experience that will prepare them to engage with the Delta’s emerging cultural economy.

“The Delta region was fortunate to have a visionary like Dr. Luther Brown come into the Delta and open all our eyes to our rich heritage,” said Lee Aylward, DCCl program associate for education and community outreach. “With the arrival of Dr. Herts, the Delta Center will be spreading its wings, not only building on this legacy, but also expanding programming and engagement throughout the Delta.

“As a native of the Delta, Dr. Herts brings to the table an understanding and desire to help promote the region and its importance to the world. With the new program in blues studies coming to the Delta Center, and the approval of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area’s management plan, these are exciting times at the Delta Center. Dr. Herts’ education, background and energy make him the ideal person to lead us to the next level.”

To learn more about the The Delta Center for Culture and Learning, visithttp://deltacenterforcultureandlearning.com/. More information on the International Delta Blues Project is available at http://www.deltastate.edu/president/international-blues-conference/.

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Herts to lead Delta Center

Dr. Rolando Herts will begin his duties as the new director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning on August 18.

Dr. Rolando Herts will begin his duties as the new director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning on August 18.

After a national search, Delta State University’s Delta Center for Culture and Learning has found a replacement for retiring director Dr. Luther Brown.

Dr. Rolando Herts, who conducted his dissertation research at Rutgers University in New Jersey, will follow Brown, who served at Delta State for 14 years. Herts will begin his duties August 18.

“It is a tremendous honor to be selected by Delta State University and community leaders from throughout the Mississippi Delta region to direct the Delta Center for Culture and Learning,” said Herts. “The Mississippi Delta is where I began my teaching career, and it’s also where I spent formative years of my youth witnessing how education, community prosperity and pride of place are intertwined.”

Herts’s research has focused on roles of universities with tourism planning and development as an emergent form of community engagement and place making.

Originally from Little Rock and Eudora, Ark., Herts has years of experience working in the Delta region. After completing undergraduate and graduate programs at Morehouse College and the University of Chicago, he returned to the area to teach second grade in Indianola with Teach For America.

Soon after, he assumed directorship of TRIO Student Support Services at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

“For over two decades, I have been a student, administrator and faculty member in geographically diverse university settings in both urban and rural communities, including Atlanta, Chicago, Newark and the Mississippi Delta region,” said Herts.

The Delta Center also serves as the management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, an area acknowledged by Congress in March 2009.

“During a conversation with Dr. Brown, I learned about the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area,” said Herts. “I have been following its development ever since and have met with several other stakeholders about the MDNHA over the years — including Kappi Allen, Webster Franklin, Frank Howell, Ann Shackelford and Shirley Waring.”

Recognizing that the Delta is a unique landscape with a distinct culture that is unusually rich in heritage stories, efforts began in 2003 to organize partners to promote National Heritage Area designation.

Delta State Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Charles McAdams, said he’s thrilled to have Herts as the new DCCL leader.

“I am very excited to have Dr. Rolando Herts join us as the director of the Delta Center for Culture and Learning,” said McAdams. “Dr. Herts has an impressive academic record, significant experience in university/community partnerships and a love of the Delta.

“His dissertation work explored the relationship between public universities and local tourism planning and development. These are the exact issues we are working on now at Delta State, Cleveland and Bolivar County.”

The search committee, comprised of representatives from Delta State and the MDNHA board, believe Herts has the enthusiasm, personality and vision to build on the success of the Delta Center.

Learn more about the center’s rich history at http://www.blueshighway.org. Visithttp://www.msdeltaheritage.com to read about the MDNHA.

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