After raising millions for various foundations, Keith Gaskin is now the director of the MSMS Foundation, a non-profit corporation devoted to funding MSMS through private and public support. Earlier this August, the Board of Directors of the MSMS Foundation appointed Gaskin as the new Executive Director.
With experience in advancement at The University of Alabama, Mississippi State University and West Virginia University at Parkersburg, Gaskin has had a 25 year long career in fundraising for many organizations. Gaskin’s motivation for accepting the role of Executive Director stems from his belief MSMS is a unique learning environment supportive of STEM education.
“I am passionate about philanthropy and education,” Gaskin said. “I believe that MSMS is a shining star of this state and deserves private support from many sources in order to carry out the important mission of STEM education. The strong dedication of MSMS alumni to the school was a strong motivating factor as well.”
Worldwide, STEM-related jobs are increasingly sought after, pushing a greater need for learning in both math and science. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the U.S. ranks 38th in Math and 24th in science, showing a lack of attention nationwide for STEM funding. Considering past budget cuts to MSMS, Gaskin knows the importance of private funding supplementing a lack of public funding from institutions like the Mississippi Department of Education.
“Today, no public institution can rely solely on public funds. In other words, they are state located, not state supported,” Gaskin said. “Therefore, it is important to give individuals, corporations, and foundations the opportunity to invest in STEM education. The number one reason people give for saying they never gave to an organization is because no one asked them. My goal is to make sure they were asked to invest in STEM education in Mississippi.”
In terms of education, the state of Mississippi is at the bottom nationwide. However, Gaskin believes MSMS presents an opportunity to increase literacy for STEM learning and to promote more viable industry job options in Mississippi.
“Many believe that Mississippi can establish itself as a national leader in industrial and high-tech economic development. In order to do this, the need for STEM-specialized professions will increase which means the reach of MSMS needs to grow as well,” Gaskin said.
Striving for excellence in education is one of the main motivating factors Gaskin trusts can be used to solve today’s problems.
“I want to use my experience to help ensure the students of MSMS have all the resources they need to receive the best education possible.” Gaskin said. “Money should never be a limitation for young minds to learn. I believe we have solved world problems, discovered cures to diseases and invented machines that help us travel because of science, technology, engineering and math.”
Gaskin’s image of the MSMS Foundation’s goal for greater learning in Mississippi schools reaches outside of MSMS.
“I want the MSMS Foundation to become a leader among our fellow secondary STEM schools. I want to make sure we are the best stewards [possible] of the gifts that are given to improve the lives of our students,” Gaskin said.