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Jones appointed director of MSU Child Development and Family Studies Center

Contact person: Meg Henderson

Samantha Jones (Photo by Grace Cockrell)

STARKVILLE, Mississippi—After 12 years working at the Mississippi State Center for Child Development and Family Studies—first as an intern, then a teacher, and most recently as a manager—Samantha Jones now runs the program which provides hands-on learning for college students considering working with young children and families.

Jones, known to children and parents at the center as “Miss Sam,” holds two MSU degrees in human development and family science, including a 2014 master’s degree in science. She succeeds Melissa Tenhet, who led the center for eight years until his resignation at the end of 2021.

“We are very happy to have Sam as our director. I have known her as a teacher and manager, and she will provide excellent leadership in her new role,” said Michael Newman, professor and director of the School of humanities from MSU’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

Jones said she cares for the more than 200 infants, toddlers and preschoolers enrolled at the center as if they were her own and looks forward to leading the CDFSC. She also volunteers in the community, leading fundraising and scholarship programs for local students and organizing educational conferences locally and throughout the state.

“It’s not something I ever imagined possible, but I’m grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “I want others to see the benefits of a positive attitude and giving your best, even in entry-level jobs or internships.”

CDFSC opened in 1972 as a preschool and lab for humanities majors. In 1985, infant and toddler classrooms were added, and construction of the current facility was completed in 1997, with an addition in 2019. The center certified by the National Association for the Education of Young Children offers an experience-based, age-appropriate curriculum. NAEYC’s rigorous accreditation, held by fewer than 10 schools in the state, is the gold standard for early childhood education, and Jones has participated in two rounds of the five-year accreditation process as a teacher and administrator. .

“From the beginning, the main objective of the school was to provide a place where students could gain experience by working under the supervision of qualified instructors. We provide great service for the campus, but we are first and foremost a learning lab,” said Newman, who also took lab classes at the center as a doctoral student.

MSU student interns assist teachers and teacher’s assistants when needed and remain in a classroom during the semester, allowing students and children a more personalized learning experience.

“It’s a great hands-on experience for students to figure out if they want to work with children and what age they prefer. It’s also rewarding to watch them work through the process, and the kids enjoy it too,” Jones said.

For more information about MSU’s Center for Child Development and Family Studies, visit

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