Register for our 40th Anniversary Celebration + Small Town Summit

The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a Small Town Summit on October 7, 2019, in Starkville, Mississippi.

The CSTC, which was founded at Mississippi State University in 1979 as the Center for Small Town Research and Design, will highlight projects from the past four decades through panel discussions, keynote addresses, and an exhibition.

The Small Town Summit is open to community leaders, architects, planners, and others interested in learning more about community design.

Although this is a FREE event, we require registration to help us better plan for the event and reception to follow.

Register and reserve your spot now.


Giles Hall

12:30pm- 1:00pm     Registration
1:00pm – 4:45pm     Seminar with multiple speakers
4:45pm – 5:00pm     Raffle for FREE design services
5:00pm – 7:30pm     Exhibit opening and Reception

If you have any questions, please contact us at:

CSTC seeking applications for 2019/2020 Fellowship position

STARKVILLE, Miss.— The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) is now accepting applications for the 2019/2020 Fellowship position. This is a one year, paid position.

The CSTC Fellowship is open to early career architects or recent architecture graduates. The fellow will gain exposure to public interest design while working on a variety of design, planning, community engagement and research projects over the course of the year.  The fellow will also be able to earn credits toward licensure.

Interested candidates should send a resume, letter of interest, and digital portfolio to no later than June 15, 2019.

The Carl Small Town Center, a community design center at the Mississippi State University School of Architecture, engages communities to provide meaningful design solutions for small towns.

CSTC to celebrate 40 years!

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The Carl Small Town Center (CSTC) will celebrate its 40th anniversary with a Small Town Summit on October 7, 2019 in Starkville, Mississippi.

The CSTC, which was founded at Mississippi State University in 1979 as the Center for Small Town Research and Design, will highlight projects from the past four decades through panel discussions, keynote addresses, and an exhibition.

The Small Town Summit will be open to community leaders, architects, planners, and others interested in learning more about community design. More details will follow, but for now, please save the date of October 7, 2019.

As part of the celebration, the Small Town Center is asking current and former clients, employees, collaborators, and students to share their CSTC story. Did you work on a successful CSTC project? Did you play a role in the early days of the Center? Were you a student worker for the CSTC?

Please share your story by sending an email to CSTC director Leah Kemp at

Kemp and Gregory to speak at APA’s National Planning Conference

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The CSTC’s Leah Kemp and Thomas Gregory have been invited to speak at the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in San Francisco this April. Their presentation, “Cultural Planning in the Mississippi Delta,” will highlight the CSTC’s “Marking the Mule” project in Marks, Mississippi.

The Marking the Mule project consisted of a 12-month integrated planning process that engaged local Marks residents, along with historians, architects, planners, and state tourism and historic preservation officials to create a vision for a cultural trail and interpretive center focused on the events surrounding the Mule Train.

The planning process included historical research and documentation, community engagement and participation, a multi-day design charrette, design development and community feedback, and execution of a welcome sign and plans for an interpretive center and cultural trail.

The Marking the Mule project was selected for the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association’s 2017 Public Outreach Award. The project also received an AIA Design Award from the Mississippi Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Gregory attends APA Policy and Advocacy Conference

WASHINGTON, D.C.— As part of his responsibilities as president-elect of the Mississippi Chapter of the American Planning Association, Carl Small Town Center community planner Thomas Gregory recently attended the American Planning Association’s Policy and Advocacy Conference in our nation’s capital.

Professional planners from around the country attended the annual event, which provides participants with an in-depth look at the latest federal and local policy issues and demonstrates how these issues can influence and impact planning decisions within local communities.

A strong focus of this year’s conference was on the country’s housing crisis and the role of planning in addressing the crisis. Additional topics included autonomous vehicles, inclusive growth, community fiscal health, federal resiliency, and hazard planning policies.

Highlights from this year’s conference program included the Daniel Burnham Forum on Big Ideas, sessions on APA’s Planning Home initiative, the announcement of APA’s 2018 Great Places in America, and Planners’ Day on Capitol Hill, in which planners meet with their Congressional representatives.

While in Washington, D.C., Gregory met with staff members from the offices of Senator Roger Wicker, Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Congressman Gregg Harper to discuss APA’s policy agenda and to advocate for Mississippi planning initiatives.

Kemp addresses NSPARC Data Summit

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Carl Small Town Center director Leah Kemp was among the state, education, and industry leaders who examined the many uses of data to create “smart cities” during the third annual Data Summit, hosted by Mississippi State’s National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC).

Sessions at the two-day summit explored how data science can lead to new innovations and processes within the “smart city” concept across various industries, including agriculture, communication and media, education, energy, infrastructure, city planning, government, health, transportation and logistics, public safety, security and data governance.

Kemp and other design and planning experts on the Smart City Planning panel discussed how towns and cities around the world are moving toward a “smart city” framework. Kemp shared how the Carl Small Town Center successfully incorporated data analysis into their planning model for the Center’s Ripley Master Plan project.

“Working with NSPARC, the Carl Small Town Center was able to use economic development data to support our recommendations for the Ripley community,” Kemp said. “Being able to demonstrate how our project recommendations will create jobs and boost the local economy is critical to receiving buy-in from the communities in which we work.”

Mimmo Parisi, a professor of sociology, founded NSPARC 10 years ago and has overseen its growth. Earlier this year, NSPARC opened a data center in the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park. The new center contains 3,300 square feet of state-of-the-art technology that can process and store more than 400 terabytes of data, allowing NSPARC to further its mission of using data science to drive human progress.

During his keynote speech, Parisi discussed the ways cities will use data to improve public life, something Mississippi has become well versed in. He said data has to be structured and used in a way that makes it practical for it to provide value.

“Data has to be big, smart and fast, otherwise it won’t have the same value,” Parisi said.

James Carskadon contributed to this article.

CSTC a key partner in AIM for CHANGE project

By Allison Matthews

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Mississippi State is launching a comprehensive initiative to help Mississippians battle obesity with a $5.5 million grant awarded to MSU Extension by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

David Buys, state health specialist and assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, said obesity and associated diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are enduring problems in the state, but a new program called “AIM for CHANGE” will help Mississippians fight the problem.

Buys is the principal investigator for the five-year grant that will provide nearly $1.1 million annually over the grant period to fund AIM for CHANGE. The title is short for “Advancing, Inspiring, Motivating for Community Health Through Extension.”

MSU Extension will work extensively with the Mississippi Public Health Institute and University of Mississippi Medical Center.

A dozen of the state’s 82 counties have adult obesity rates higher than 40 percent. Buys said these high rates must be curbed to prevent increasing chronic disease rates, health care costs and premature deaths.

“AIM for CHANGE should reduce health disparities by increasing access to healthier foods and access to safe and accessible places for physical activity for all people in the target communities,” Buys said. “We will move beyond education to include approaches that change the policies, systems and environments so that sustainable changes can have a positive effect for the entire population.”

The AIM for CHANGE initiative goals include reducing obesity rates through a comprehensive approach that not only addresses issues within food systems, such as access to healthy foods, but also takes environmental and policy-level approaches to help communities address issues such as outdoor recreation, community walkability and educational programming.

The grant will engage multi-sector efforts and partnerships at the state and local levels to look at obesity through the lens of various disciplines. The core team includes experts across policy, systems, environment and individual levels with specialties in local government, food systems, landscape architecture/built environment, kinesiology/physical activity and nutrition.

A dietitian and kinesiologist will support individual nutrition and physical activity changes. A landscape architect will support county and community environmental improvements. A food systems specialist and a government and policy specialist will support county and community systems and policies. Expertise comes from MSU’s departments of Agricultural Economics, Kinesiology, Landscape Architecture and the MSU Extension Center for Government and Community Development.

The program will promote improved access to healthier foods and address public transit, and walkability to schools, worksites, parks and recreation centers through implementing master plans and land use intervention.

MSU Vice President for Research and Economic Development David Shaw said the program is among the first of its kind in that it takes a coalition-led approach to identifying needs of communities and brings expertise from various disciplines to implement solutions.

“We were able to leverage many partnerships and build on a track record of collaboration,” Shaw said. “We anticipate that this will lead to strong and enduring partnerships that will prove beneficial to our state beyond the time frame of this grant.”

Phase One will target Holmes, Humphreys, Issaquena and Sharkey counties, where UMMC already has a physical presence and is providing those areas with clinical health care services.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to assist local communities to implement policies and practices that will significantly reduce the prevalence of obesity and, ultimately, chronic diseases such as hypertension and diabetes,” said Dr. Josh Mann, project lead for UMMC and professor and chair of the Department of Preventative Medicine. “We also anticipate that this effort will lead to additional future opportunities for prevention and population health experts at UMMC and MSU to work together in tackling high-priority health challenges faced by our state.”

Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research, said, “Obesity is one of the most challenging conditions that impacts the health of Mississippians today. UMMC has an obligation from both the clinical and academic perspectives to address such serious health care issues facing our population. This type of federal grant funding in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control will provide needed resources for us to fulfill this obligation.”

Other key partners include the Mississippi State Department of Health; MSU’s Carl Small Town Center and College of Education; Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce; and Alcorn State University. The evaluation will be led by MSU’s Social Science Research Center.

After the program’s first year, the grant will include additional counties – targeting those with the highest obesity rates – as it continues to support Phase One coalitions. Coalitions will ensure a high degree of local involvement and empower local residents to develop healthier cultures while addressing both community and individual-level factors.

The coalitions will be developed by Mississippi Public Health Institute and will represent multiple demographic backgrounds and health statuses. Coalitions will work to avoid duplication of efforts with existing projects through frequent communication with their network of partners. They also may apply for mini grants to help address community needs. As coalitions identify preferred approaches to address factors that contribute to high rates of obesity in their communities, AIM for CHANGE leaders will provide support and technical assistance to implement solutions.

Educational programs will be delivered to community groups, schools and civic and faith-based organizations by Extension agents to increase awareness among community members about nutrition and physical activity as a means to reducing obesity.

Buys added, “It’s not often that you get this kind of partnership across so many sectors, and we’re fortunate to be in a position to coordinate this comprehensive effort.”

Kemp to serve on AIA Mississippi board

JACKSON, Miss.—Carl Small Town Center director Leah Kemp was among eleven individuals elected to serve on the board of directors for the Mississippi chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The membership organization, based in Jackson, advocates for the value of architecture and gives architects the resources they need to do their best work.

As a director for AIA Mississippi, Kemp will work with the executive director to oversee the direction of the organization. Other officers and directors elected for the 2019 term include:

  • Brian Cabunac – President
  • Shannon Gathings – Past President
  • Craig Bjorgum – President Elect
  • Jeff Seabold – Sectretary/Treasurer
  • Sally Zahner – Director
  • Jason Agostinelli – Director
  • Michael Rose – Director
  • Girault Jones, Sr. – Director Emeritus
  • Golie Ebrahimian – Associate Director

Leah Kemp selected for 2018 LEAP program at MSU

By Allison Matthews

Leah Kemp
Leah Kemp

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Carl Small Town Center director Leah Kemp is one of seventeen Mississippi State staff members selected to participate in the university’s 2018 Leadership Excellence for Accomplished Professionals (LEAP) program.

LEAP’s goals include the advancement of knowledge and enhancement of leadership skills, along with direct practical work applications for selected employees.

During the intensive four-month program, members meet with campus and community leaders from various areas to explore and more effectively develop their administrative proficiencies. Conflict resolution and decision making, managing change, effective team building, and employee performance management are among session topics.

“We’ve seen the benefits of the LEAP program through the outstanding work that continues to be done by the program’s participants. We are excited to see how this year’s candidates accept the challenge of reaching their next level of leadership and moving MSU forward,” said Darrell Easley, learning and development manager for MSU’s human resources management department.

For additional information about LEAP, contact Easley at or 662-325-2203.

Carl Small Town Center to write Starkville design guidelines

By Alex Holloway

The Commercial Dispatch

STARKVILLE, Miss.—The city of Starkville and the Carl Small Town Center are partnering to craft a set of guidelines to help preserve the character of the city’s downtown.

Community Development Department Director Buddy Sanders said the process for the guidelines started about two-and-a-half years ago.

“The historic preservation commission became concerned about possible redevelopments in the downtown area and the effect that a renovation may have on a downtown building losing the character of that historic property,” Sanders said.

Commissioners reached out to then-Greater Starkville Development CEO Jennifer Gregory, who suggested creating a set of guidelines to offer for businesses looking to move into or renovate a building downtown.

The city applied for a Certified Local Government grant through the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. In June, the city received the grant, which will offer $6,500 in reimbursement for the $13,000 contract with the Carl Small Town Center, which aldermen approved at the most recent regular board meeting. The city is paying $3,250 of the contract’s cost, and the remaining $3,250 is covered through in-kind volunteer services from the center.

Leah Kemp, director of the Carl Small Town Center, said the template is going to focus on exterior characteristics of the buildings.

“We look at the height of the buildings, the character and the materiality,” she said. “We look at how they were made. The goal is to provide options so future development can not necessarily return things to the way they were, but make decisions in keeping with the character and scale of what is already there.

“Sometimes in other cities, you can see bad examples of what not to do,” she added. “We are going to provide in our standards examples of what to do and what not to do.”

Sanders said the guidelines will focus wholly on the outside of buildings.

“A bright, canary yellow paint is not going to work on a 1910 building,” he said.

Work has to be completed on the design guidelines by mid-September, and Sanders said he expects it to be finished before then, with the center already “moving quickly” on the work.

He said the document will be strictly suggestive, rather than codified in an ordinance. Still, he said the center will likely present the document to the board of aldermen when it’s completed.

“We were very open with the Carl Small Town Center that we wanted the document to be a template for other Mississippi cities,” Sanders said.

Kemp said the work Starkville is doing could set a positive model for other communities.

“The more progressive communities around the state are the ones who understand the value of preserving their identities,” she said. “Starkville is poised to grow a whole lot more, and the local board and mayor understand that and want to make sure they’re growing in a positive way.

“I think Starkville has been charged with setting a sense of design excellence,” she later added. “This template will help set that standard of excellence so Starkville can be looked at as a place that sets a good example for other communities.”

Note: This article originally appeared in the Commercial Dispatch on August 1, 2018.