OCEAN SPRINGS -- Mississippi State University President Mark Keenum's primary goal on Monday was to make sure the three dozen Ocean Springs High School students he talked to would continue their education.
And if that education continued at Mississippi State -- that would be just fine with him.
Keenum spent Monday morning on the Coast, first accepting a $150,000 check along with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College from Chevron for a new joint engineering program between the two schools.
Then he headed to a visit with a group of juniors and seniors.
Keenum traced the evolution of technology from the first computer to dial-up internet to smart phones.
And then he issued a challenge to students. The technology available by the time they are done with college might be something they haven't imagined yet, he said, but so could the world's challenges.
"This is your time, your world that you're about to inherit," he said. "So, young Greyhounds, how are you going to prepare yourselves for this world?"
With the possibility of reaching a population of 10 billion by 2060, Keenum wanted the students to consider, "How do we feed 3 billion more people when we can't feed everyone now? How do we provide clean water, housing, education to another 3 billion people?"
How students prepare to do that is a big decision, Keenum told the group.
Ocean Springs High School is relatively successful at getting students to college. It has an International Baccalaureate program and this year boasts three National Merit Semifinalists.
But almost half of Jackson County residents have had no college education and only about one-third have achieved at least an associate's degree.
So Keenum made his pitch for Mississippi State. He talked about the research dollars flowing in and the undergraduate research program that will allow students to get involved right away. He told the students about the honors college and threw in mentions of a debate team and a SCUBA team.
And he talked about the campus, how the big university, with about 21,000 students, had the feeling of a small school.
That part especially interested Haley Baker, who planned to study environmental engineering.
Baker had worn a Mississippi State sweatshirt on Monday -- a coincidence, she said -- and Mississippi State, along with Duke University, were the colleges he had narrowed her search to.
"I believe the community is important to the educational experience," the high school junior said.