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Debbie Norris: A Woman with Many Titles

debbienorris James Osborne- News Editor When Debbie Norris was about to graduate from Mississippi College in 1979, one of her favorite business professors asked her the normal question, “What do you want to do after you graduate?” Norris replied, “I really think I’d like to come back and teach here.” She loved the business classes and thoroughly enjoyed her time as an MC student. She was also impressed with the care and attention of the faculty. Her teacher called her years later to tell her she was retiring and her position would soon be open at MC. Norris had just received her master’s degree from MS State and she took the teaching position in the school of business in 1984 at age 26 with the understanding that she would still have to pursue her doctorate, which she did. Norris has worked at MC ever since and is proud of the institution she works for. Today, Norris still teaches Business Communications both on campus and online, but also holds many other titles and is on several committees. She is the vice president for planning and assessment and the graduate dean, the title nine director for the school, and the SACS liaison where she works with regional accreditors to make sure that MC meets all guidelines set before it. She is the chair of the Graduate Council, Marketing Committee, Title IX Grievance Committee, Sexual Assault Awareness Committee, and the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Norris is also a member of the Academic Council, Teacher Education Professional Advisory Committee, Dean’s Council, President’s Council, Enrollment Appeals Committee, Admissions Committee, and the Assessment Committee. Norris has much to keep her busy and said, “You don’t want to sit still on 11 different committees.” Norris said that what keeps her the busiest at MC is strategic planning. “Each unit has their own goals that they set,” she said. “If they aren’t achieving those goals then they plan changes so that it does work.” Norris’ favorite work though, is teaching. “As a teacher you are forced to learn and know the new things that your students need to know and some things that you as a teacher should already know.” She said it is a good way for her to stay connected to what is going on in her field. “Every day is different, and every student is different,” said Norris. “I enjoy seeing a student who really wants to accomplish something. Not all students want that, but many students really care about what they are learning, and I enjoy seeing that happen.” “Dr. Norris is one of the best professors I have had,” said Daniel Lang. “She not only taught the material in Business Communications well, but she prepared me for real life situations, such as interviews and how to construct a proper resume.” Jessa MacCallum, a senior business finance major, said of the Business Communications class, “It was probably the most practical class I took in the business school.” MacCallum said that she was able to use the resume and cover letter she produced in Business Communications to apply for her first job. “We also learned to write thank you notes after interviews,” said MacCallum, “and just all the practicals that you usually aren’t taught.” “When you show your students the long term benefits of something, then they become motivated on their own,” said Norris. “It’s not necessarily about a grade, it is about thinking what will I be able to do ultimately after taking this class?” Norris also said that she believes positive reinforcement works better than negative reinforcement in the classroom. “I also think it is important to know the students, know their names, and know if they are coming and participating in class,” said Norris. She said that she is not okay with many absences or with students not participating. “Life is really not like that. No matter how good you are, if you don’t show up and participate, no one will know how good you are.” Another strategy she uses to motivate her students is that she brings an alumni in the class who has taken Business Communications before, so that they can tell the group how the class helped them out. Norris loves to travel and has checked off all of the major locations on her bucket list. She said she loves seeing things in person that many people only get to see or read about in books or on TV. She has traveled much of Europe including Sweden, the U.K., Ireland, Paris, Normandy, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and Cypress. She has also travelled to Mexico, Brazil, and Australia. London is her favorite city, which holds her favorite church (besides the one she attends here in Mississippi), All Souls church. Norris has also frequently gone on the MC spring break trip with students. She also loves golf and many of her vacations involve golf. In fact, Norris has been an avid golfer for 28 years. She and her husband Brian regularly play in tournaments and they live at a golf course. Her favorite all-time golfer is Payne Stewart, and her favorite current golfer is Bubba Watson. “It is a very social game,” said Norris, “more so than something like tennis.” Norris said that business and golf go hand-in-hand because business deals are often made on the golf course, especially with women. She recently spoke to MC’s Women of Business about the subject of business women and golf. Norris said that she has always loved business and it has come easy for her. “Whatever comes easy for you, that is probably your gift,” she said. She also believes that every single person should have at least a basic understanding of investing. Her advice to students who are about to graduate and seek a job or start a career is this: “Choose a place where you believe in the mission statement.” She reminds students that work is much more than just how much someone gets paid. “Always seek to make yourself more valuable to your employer,” said Norris. “Choosing the place you work is important. I’m proud of where I work.”

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