MSU, Appalachian Regional Commission, local partners kickoff virtual reality career and job training initiative

A group photo of MSU and ARC officers in the community
Officials from MSU and the Appalachian Regional Commission celebrated a kickoff event for a new initiative using virtual reality to enhance career exploration and job training. Pictured from left: MSU Associate Vice President for Corporate Engagement and Economic Development Jim Martin, Research and Curriculum Unit Director Betsey Smith, Associate Vice President for Research Administration Teresa Gammill, RCU Assistant Director for Business Operations Pam Stafford, ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Conelly Manchin, ARC Executive Director Brandon McBride, RCU Curriculum Manager Courtney McCubbins and RCU Senior Research Associate Denise Sibley. (submitted photo)

Contact: James Carskadon

STARKVILLE, Mississippi – Mississippi State University is launching an Appalachian Regional Commission-funded initiative to expand career discovery and training opportunities in five counties through the implementation of virtual reality.

MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit hosted a kickoff event this week with state and federal ARC representatives, as well as representatives from local community colleges, K-12 education, economic development agencies, state government and congressional staff. The meeting, held at East Mississippi Community College Community College, brought stakeholders together for a day of networking as several organizations began implementing comprehensive career exploration and skills training for middle and high school students in Clay, Kemper, Lowndes, Noxubee and Oktibbeha counties will begin .

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Earlier this year, MSU received $1.49 million for the project through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) initiative, which supports communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries . Additional support for the project is provided by EMCC and the Mississippi Department of Education.

RCU will work with an educational software company to develop virtual reality simulations that introduce students to numerous career paths, including mid-level jobs that don’t require a four-year degree. EMCC will host virtual reality labs at Communiversity and Scooba campus that can be used to enhance training for students and individuals in the workforce.

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“This ARC award will support our efforts to improve CTE infrastructure in our region through virtual reality,” said Betsey Smith, RCU Director and Principal Investigator. “Through this project, more than 10,000 youth and many others in the industry will receive VR staff training and career exploration. Career exploration programming is essential to put K-12 students on the path to well-paying jobs and considering a career decision. Incorporating VR into career exploration and training is an innovative approach that is safe, cost-effective, and offers better learning outcomes and shorter training times.”

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Smith thanked the many partners who made this project possible and will play key roles in its successful delivery, including EMCC, Noxubee, Lowndes, Columbus, Starkville, West Point and Kemper School Districts, Golden Triangle Planning and Development District, Golden Triangle Development LINK , FORGE, PACCAR and OCH Regional Medical Centers.

For more information about MSU’s Research and Curriculum Unit, visit

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