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Jay Moon, James Vaughan, and Chancellor Dan Jones

In commemoration of its 60th anniversary, the Mississippi Manufacturers Association (MMA) has contributed $60,000 to build a scholarship endowment at the University of Mississippi, assisting students enrolled in UM’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence (CME) – the only program of its kind in the nation.

The new 47,000-square-foot CME was created by the university and the State of Mississippi, in association with the  construction of the Toyota Motor Corp. plant in Blue Springs, Miss, and offers cross-disciplinary academic programs for undergraduates who learn to be effective accountants, business managers, and engineers in the manufacturing industry. CME brings together the schools of Accountancy, Business Administration, and Engineering to provide students with skills needed to be effective managers and engineers in the manufacturing industry.

“When businesses around the globe – such as Toyota, Nissan and a variety of others – look to locate somewhere in the United States, the workforce quality is the number one resource they examine,” said Jay C. Moon, president and chief executive president of MMA.

“The CME is a very valuable marketing tool the Mississippi Manufacturers Association, Mississippi Development Authority and local development officials will use. We will be able to talk about the quality of this program and the preparation students receive. That will resonate with the manufacturers looking to locate here and those planning to expand. Mississippi will have a significant advantage over other states, particularly in the southeastern region where we most often compete,” Moon said.

The CME Advisory Board includes executives from Toyota’s plant in Blue Springs, Miss., and other manufacturing companies and industry experts to ensure a close tie to the industry. Manufacturing-related research support will be an important component of the program as well as industrial extension services to provide training to the state’s manufacturing community. The CME features a 12,000-square-foot “factory floor,” with three manufacturing lines and assembly and final finishing areas.

The MMA Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide two academic scholarships to students with declared degrees in areas of study within the CME. In addition, recipients will be full-time Ole Miss students who are Mississippi residents and classified with at least a 3.0 grade-point average. The MMA endowed scholarship funds at three other Mississippi universities.

“MMA believes in supporting the next generation of leaders,” Moon said. “We anticipate the scholarships will provide an incentive for young people to pursue the education and training required to take advantage of the opportunities available in advanced manufacturing.”

James Vaughan, the CME director and Barnard Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering, said the MMA scholarships will be attractive to students considering the program, which has already enrolled 58 students in its second full year of operations. These majors will participate in related internships and/or co-op work-study programs with Mississippi manufacturers.

“Students and their parents are very interested not only in the quality of education but also in the cost of education. Being able to offer these scholarships is extremely important to the growth of this program and to the progress of our area, and we are deeply grateful to the Mississippi Manufacturers Association for these scholarships. In addition, we appreciate the MMA’s involvement to help assure the success of the CME, which is projected to have a major impact on the state and region, as the nation begins to recover economically,” Vaughan said. 

Mississippi ranks eighth in the nation in manufacturing employment at 9.7 percent compared to the U.S. percentage of 7.1 percent. In Mississippi, manufacturing employs approximately 133,000 people and helps to add another 191,000 jobs in our local communities. Manufacturing compensation is 30 percent higher than the state average compensation for the rest of the workforce.

“Mississippi has historically maintained a vibrant and diversified manufacturing presence in our state,” Moon said. “Advanced manufacturing remains strong, and for the past several years, we have welcomed numerous manufacturers that are providing high-skill, high-paying jobs for our people. We are becoming known for our business-friendly environment and our skilled workforce.”

For 60 years, the MMA has represented the interests of Mississippi’s manufacturers at both the state and national levels. As the voice of industry, MMA represents more than 2,100 members in the Mississippi Legislature and U.S. Congress. In addition, MMA promotes a strong manufacturing environment within Mississippi and is a central source of information and assistance in industrial management.

Those interested in making a gift to the Mississippi Manufacturers Association Endowed Scholarship Fund at Ole Miss may call the University of Mississippi Foundation at 800-340-9542 or visit using the “special instructions” area to designate the contribution. To learn more about MMA and manufacturing in the state, visit


Online gifts for the 2024 calendar year should be made no later than noon on December 31, 2024.  Checks by mail will need to be postmarked by December 31 to be counted in the 2024 calendar year.