Student and Alumni Spotlights

Project guided by PhD alumnus Rolando Herts receives National Park Service Centennial Award

The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University and the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area recently received 2016 National Park Service Centennial Awards for creating the Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership. Rolando Herts, Ph.D. Planning and Public Policy ’11, serves as director of the Delta Center and as executive director of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area, a regional cultural tourism development partnership with the National Park Service.

The Delta Jewels Oral History Partnership is a cultural heritage interpretation project that engaged over 1,000 Mississippi Delta residents, visitors, and supporters in honoring the lives of African American church mothers from the Mississippi Delta featured in Alysia Burton Steele’s Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmother’s Wisdom.

Dr. Herts became interested in the project in September 2014, soon after becoming director of The Delta Center when Dr. Briavel Holcomb, his dissertation adviser at the Bloustein School, referred him to an article in The New York Times about University of Mississippi journalism professor and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alysia Burton Steele’s book, Delta Jewels: In Search of My Grandmothers Wisdom. Dr. Holcomb was impressed to learn that Delta Jewels was a book-in-progress about African American women who, as reported in the Times, were “lifelong residents of the Delta” that “had lived through segregation and struggle and liberation.” Based on her knowledge of The Delta Center and its role as management entity for the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (hereafter referred to as MDNHA), Dr. Holcomb encouraged Dr. Herts to connect with Mrs. Steele.

Read more about the project in the press release issued by Delta State University.

To download the Delta Jewel Oral History Partnership 2015-2016 report, visit The Delta Center’s publications webpage at To view the MDNHA promo video, visit the MDNHA website at