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SELENA SWARTZFAGER — James Wilcox is a rising star indeed

Selena Swartzfager

Selena Swartzfager

If you don’t know James Wilcox, you are missing out.  I have had the pleasure of working with him for the past four years as he is the director of the Southern Entrepreneurship Program offered by the University of Southern Mississippi Center for Economics and Entrepreneurship Education (check it out at www.thesep.org).  The teachers he works with love him!  Level-headed, soft-spoken, and smart beyond his years, he receives outstanding evaluations every time he leads a workshop for the Mississippi Council on Economic Education.  The Center at USM is one of six affiliated with MCEE for the purpose of providing economic, personal finance and entrepreneurship professional development to Mississippi K-12 teachers.

James is one of very few people I know that can teach economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship to elementary, middle and high school teachers. If you look at the number of teachers he has provided professional development for over the years it would be in the hundreds.  And since each teacher trained reaches an average of 100 students annually, he has affected the financial readiness skills of tens of thousands Mississippi students.  Teachers cannot teach what they don’t know so James is working to make sure they know financial readiness skills (economics, financial literacy and entrepreneurship).  As a result of these achievements and his passion for economics education, James was recently awarded the Rising Star Award by the National Association of Economic Educators.  I can tell you, the competition was stiff.  He beat out other nominees for this award from around the nation.  The ceremony held in Dallas, was like the Oscars for economic educators.    The Rising Star Award is to recognize an individual who has been a member of the economic education network for seven years or less. The purpose of the award is to identify someone who has “hit the ground running” and made extraordinary contributions to economic education programs or services early in his or her career in economic education. The Rising Star Award encourages, recognizes, and acclaims one who has met the challenges of providing economic education service early on and who demonstrates the dedication and potential to be a strong leader in the future.

Every day that James goes to work, it is with the mission to increase economic and entrepreneurship literacy in Mississippi.  Of course these are my words and not his, but his commitment is evident to anyone that spends time with him.  I am especially proud of him when I see the growth that has occurred over the past year with the SEP program.  Three symposiums entitled “I Am My Own Boss” are being offered this spring to sell-out crowds of Mississippi middle and high school students.  At these events they will prepare for the capstone event offered annually, which is a statewide business plan competition for student owned and operated businesses.  Entrepreneurship is for the young, too!

I would be remiss if I did not offer my kudos to Dean Faye Gilbert at the University of Southern Mississippi College of Business for her support of the SEP and Center for Economic and Entrepreneurship Education at USM.  In a time where many institutions of higher education measure success primarily by student credit hours, she has had the vision to see the value of this Center to Mississippi teachers and students.  To Dean Gilbert and James Wilcox I say “congratulations and SMTTT!”

» Selena Swartzfager is president of the Mississippi Council for Economic Education. She can be reached at swartsc@millsaps.edu.

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