Five women and a man stand in front of a blue backdrop.

Mississippi University for Women has always been an institution defined by “firsts.” And in June, it added a new first to its legacy of historic leadership by announcing its “Be the Light” campaign, the first significant major gifts effort in The W’s history.

In launching the historic campaign, the university seeks to build on and grow its loyal base of alumni and friends to position The W and its students for continued success in an ever-changing environment.

Through the campaign, the university seeks to raise $25 million for endowed scholarships; facilities, technologies and programs; endowments, including faculty endowments; and athletics.

“The W is proud of its reputation for academic excellence, its personalized learning environment, its diverse and welcoming campus climate and the leadership opportunities that prepare our students to be competitive in a 21st century economy,” said President Nora Miller.

“Throughout our history, we have adapted to the challenges of change, holding to our commitment that ‘we study by light to bless with light.’ This campaign will allow us to ‘bless by light’ the future generations our university serves.”

The campaign’s silent phase, during which a number of major donors are identified, launched in 2016, pausing briefly during a 2018 presidential transition. That $18 million successful effort has led to its current $25 million goal, to be raised over the next three years.

“What an exciting time as we launch this historic campaign,” said Dr. Jayne Perkins Brown, chair of the MUW Foundation Board of Directors. “The ‘Be the Light’ campaign gives us a clear path to define our university needs. This is key to our success in the campaign, as it allows us to best articulate how donors, whether individuals, corporate partners or foundations, can participate, make a true difference and help The W continue to grow and thrive beyond our goals.”

James Threadgill speaks at a lecturnJames Threadgill, a Foundation board member, chair of the Campaign Steering Committee and a Columbus native, said growing up in Columbus taught him what a tremendous asset The W is to the area.

“Several years ago, my father established the Leslie Farrell Threadgill Lecture Series to provide free events on campus to promote The W in the community. My mother and her two sisters were all W graduates. In fact, my mother received an honorary doctorate from The W. This university is important to Columbus and all of North Mississippi and West Alabama and deserves our support.”

Reflecting on the campaign’s silent phase, Perkins said, “The past months of development work have shown that despite the challenges of a worldwide pandemic, The W has a support base that understands the ongoing needs and goals for the success of our faculty, staff, and students. We continue to have a great story to tell.”

Founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in America, The W since 1982 has served both women and men. Among regional public universities, it has consistently placed in U.S News and World Report rankings as a “best” for overall quality and value, as well as received the magazine’s recognition as a best college for veterans, economic diversity and social mobility.

In addition, Washington Monthly magazine has recognized the university as a “Best Public Master’s University for 11 consecutive years and a “Best Bang for the Buck” university for seven consecutive years.

Among individual programs, The W’s online master of fine arts in creative writing was recognized in 2020 and 2021 as No. 1 in the nation by Intelligent’s Pick. Its online RN to BSN program in nursing has consistently been recognized as one of the best in the region and nation, in 2021 earning a No. 15 place nationally. Additionally, announced that our online public health degree is No. 2 nationally.

For Andrea Stevens, executive director of Development and Alumni, “Be the Light” is both professional and personal. “As a nontraditional student, I was very grateful for my scholarships so that I could pursue my dreams. Today, I see the impact private dollars have in the lives of our students who are pursuing their dreams. As an alumna of the university, I am privileged to serve in a capacity that will advance The W toward an even brighter future. This campaign is about more than simply raising money. It’s about changing lives.”

The “Be the Light” campaign aims to strengthen the connection between alumni and the university by increasing engagement in programs, events and volunteer opportunities. “Over the past few years, it has been inspiring to watch our generous alumni and friends investing their time, talents and resources in the future of our unique university,” Stevens said. “Their major gifts can be transformational and make a significant and lasting impact on The W.”

She concluded, “The university’s alumni family, as well as friends and corporate donors, are invited to become a part of this historic and exciting campaign and ‘Be the Light’ for The W and for the students we serve.”

To make a donation, please visit or reach the Foundation office at 662-329-7148 or 877-462-8439, ext. 7148.


In Focus: The W's Strategic Priorities

The University's Priorities:

Pillars of Purpose: Priorities 2021

In Fall 2021, a task force of 25 people from throughout the campus community revised the university's strategic plan, guiding The W for the next five years.

Priorities 2021

Academic Excellence:

A United Liberal Arts Voice

Academic Excellence

Advancement Excellence:

University Challenges Donors to 'Be The Light'

Advancement Excellence

Community Connections:

A Summer of Enrichment

Community Connections

Degree Completion:

Building a Bridge

Degree Completion

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion:

DEI Council Committed to Change

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Financial Sustainability:

Mise en Place

Financial Sustainability

The full plan can be found at