The Interview USA
Mississippi State University
Vice President for Student Affairs

Regina Hyatt

As educators, the challenge of sparking and sustaining student interest in crucial topics is compounded by the diverse perspectives that students bring into the classroom. However, this diversity also presents a unique opportunity to enrich discussions, broaden understanding, and bridge divides. 

In today’s discussion, Regina Hyatt, Vice President for Student Affairs at Mississippi State University, sat down with Co-Host of The Interview Max Webber, to share her insights on topics including her career journey, strategies for creating a sense of belonging and inclusion, and the importance of an anti-hazing culture in cultivating a safe campus culture. 

Regina's Journey

Max: Let’s begin with a brief introduction to yourself and your institution…

I'm Regina Hyatt, and I serve as Vice President for Student Affairs at Mississippi State University. I have been working in student affairs as a profession my whole career, and this year will make 27 years doing this work. I know I look much younger than that! Mississippi State is a public university in the southeast United States. We have about 23,000 students and we are a land-grant university – that means that we were established to serve the people of our state. About 65 to 70% of our students come from the state of Mississippi, with others from all over the US and the world. We also participate in the SEC or the Southeastern Athletic Conference, so athletics plays an important role in our campus culture. Mississippi has about 3 million people, and it’s a largely rural state. Our campus is situated in a small town called Starkville, Mississippi, and it's a college town. 

Max: Why did you pursue a career in higher education – and Student Affairs more specifically? 

I didn’t go to college thinking that I would end up working in higher ed. I don't think most people do, because when you go to college, you don't really understand how higher education works. So when I arrived at college, I wanted to be a lawyer. My plan was to go to law school after I finished grad school; I wanted to help people create a more just world. But as an undergraduate student, I had a really great experience and I got deeply involved in student government – working in my residence hall. And so as I was getting to the end of my undergraduate career and needing to make some decisions, my Student Government  advisor suggested I think about making it a career. So I reflected on that and realized it was a better path for me. And so instead of going to law school, I went to graduate school to get a master's degree in college student personnel – since then, I haven't regretted it for a single day.

Max: Safety is a key concern for students. How are you addressing those concerns, especially when it comes to issues like hazing?

It’s a massively important aspect of both athletic life and student life more generally. Our campus has a large fraternity and sorority community, involving about 20% of students. Our stance is that hazing is not acceptable. Over the last 10 years, there has been a lot more emphasis on anti-hazing culture, and I think our students are very attuned to that. If they see something that could be akin to hazing, or they even hear that someone is going through that type of experience, they will call it out and report it. We have been very fortunate that we've not had really any major hazing incidents on our campus for the last several years, but it takes deliberate effort to talk about it. 

Max: Students are particularly difficult to reach at scale. How do you go about making sure all students stay engaged and aware?

It's definitely a challenge. You have to put it forward when you have a captive audience – such as when students are coming into the institution. There are some things that you can put on a learning management system, where the student has to watch a video or go through a module online. For example, all of our new members of fraternities and sororities are required to take a course, and as part of that class, you talk about hazing, you talk about alcohol abuse, you talk about consent and sexual violence. If students want to participate, then they need to talk about all of these really important topics. But you also need to keep reinforcing it because you can't just have this kind of one-and-done experience. A lot of times, it’s up to the students and the student leadership of those groups to continue to have workshops or discussions or even passive kinds of advertising and programming in their buildings. Essentially, we’re trying to provide the student leadership with resources so that they can keep the conversation going. When your peers are talking about these topics, it hits differently, and you’re more likely to get engaged.

Max: What’s the best approach for creating a sense of belonging for students of all backgrounds?

This has been something we have been working on a lot. Back in the spring of 2022, we did a couple of different kinds of surveys – a campus climate survey, and the Healthy Minds survey. We did those alongside our National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE), which found that about between 25 and 30% of our students were feeling a lack of sense of belonging. There were a bunch of factors behind that, so we pulled together a group to create an action plan to address it. We brought our students into the conversation through our Student Association and the presidents of our major student groups, and they came up with a campaign that we launched this past year called Find Your People, which has been really well-received.

Max: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received in your career?

Sometimes the path goes forward, and sometimes it goes sideways, and sometimes it goes backward. But remember – everyone moves along their path at their own pace. 

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Max Webber
Max works closely with people leaders and change-makers in our professional services markets. If you're looking to feature on The Interview, or simply want to learn more about GoodCourse, then get in touch at

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