University research center celebrates 50 years serving public education

For immediate release: September 1, 2015

Contact: Anne Hierholzer

#RCUturns50STARKVILLE, Miss.--The Research and Curriculum Unit (RCU), located at Mississippi State University (MSU), is celebrating its 50th anniversary. With a focus on preparing all students to graduate ready for college, career, and life, the RCU has a proud history of collaborative work with school districts and education stakeholders across the state. Since its earliest days, the RCU has focused on career and technical education (CTE), which trains students at both the secondary and postsecondary level for careers in high-demand industries.

The RCU traces its history back to 1963 and the passage of the Vocational Education Act of 1963, which many regard as the act that reawakened vocational education (now called CTE) across the United States and placed an emphasis on learning that leads to employability. The RCU (then called the Research Coordinating Unit for Vocational-Technical Education) was officially founded in 1965, with a focus on CTE in Mississippi. In 1968, after talking with education stakeholders across the state, the RCU embarked on writing new curricula for use in Mississippi’s CTE programs.

During the following decades, the RCU concentrated on addressing the theory-practice gap in CTE by working to link research results with curriculum development. During this time, the RCU also developed customized training programs for emerging areas of industry and implemented a training program for new CTE teachers, who often lack a traditional teaching background.

In 2001, through a grant from the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), the RCU assessment team was established to oversee statewide assessments for secondary and postsecondary CTE students. Since that time, this team has been responsible for developing, administering, and reporting all secondary and postsecondary CTE assessments statewide.

“The Mississippi Department of Education strongly values our longstanding partnership with the RCU, and we congratulate them on their 50 years of service to our state,” said Mike Mulvihill, Director of Career and Technical Education at the MDE. “We look forward to continuing our work with them to bring innovation and rigor to our state CTE programs.”

Since its founding, the RCU has collaborated with the MDE and other state agencies and regional organizations on a number of programs and initiatives over the years, and in 2013, the RCU broadened its partnership with the MDE to encompass training, evaluation, and research across a variety of public education initiatives. While the RCU maintains its core focus on CTE curriculum, assessment, and professional development, it has expanded to include work in areas such as innovative school models, statewide educator-evaluation models, and performance-based compensation.

“Since our founding in 1965, the RCU has come a long way,” said Dr. Julie Jordan, Director of the RCU. “Our work to expand and improve CTE education in Mississippi is ongoing, and we continue to collaborate with educators and leaders across the state to bring innovation to public education. I am proud of all we have accomplished, and we continue our mission to ensure that every Mississippi student graduates ready for college, career, and life.”

A research center housed under MSU’s Office of Research and Economic Development since 1999, the RCU contributes to the land-grant mission of MSU through its work to improve the lives of Mississippians through research, innovation, and capacity-building, in the field of public education.

“The RCU has an established track record of working with educators to improve public education in Mississippi,” said Dr. David Shaw, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at MSU. “They are to be commended for their decades of service to the students of Mississippi, and I look forward to their many accomplishments in the years to come.”

For more information on the RCU and its work on public education issues in Mississippi, visit