UM School of Engineering Teams with Tech Firms for STEM Initiative

New E2I programs aim to attract underserved youth and educators to university

Civil engineering professor and CAIT Director Waheed Uddin (center) is the UM point of contact for a developing partnership between the School of Engineering and GroupNotions LLC.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and two technology companies are working together to create a program aimed at attracting more underrepresented youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

The engineering school, in partnership with GroupNotions LLC and Group HI LLC, is launching Engineering and Innovation Initiative, or E2I, programs to increase the number of underrepresented students interested in pursuing STEM careers, ultimately increasing workforce diversity.

E2I programs will include meeting and working with faculty, alumni and industry leaders to provide opportunities for 10th-grade students and high school teachers to gain insights into the type of science, engineering, technology and manufacturing jobs and skill sets that will be in demand in coming years.

Initially, the programs will include students and educators in Mississippi, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

“We are very excited to work with GroupNotions and Group HI,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM School of Engineering. “Collaborating with these advanced technology companies to provide a new approach for students and educators is a potential game changer for our school and will enable us to learn how to inspire future generations best.”

Based in Honolulu, GroupNotions teams with distinguished institutions and large corporations to develop and position advanced security and surveillance nanotechnologies. An Anchorage, Alaska-based firm, Group HI designs and shapes advanced nanotechnology solutions for the military, transportation and critical infrastructure industries.

An E2I advisory board, composed of government, institution, industry and community leaders, is being formed to address operational and financial support for the program. Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Technology, will represent Ole Miss on the board.

Representatives from both firms said they are excited about collaborating with the university.

“This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with a major global institution that shares our vision of increasing workforce diversity in advanced technologies,” said Dan Akiu, managing partner for GroupNotions and executive director and a member of the E2I Core Team.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit

For more about GroupNotions and Group HI, go to and

UM Chemistry Department Achieves National Recognition for Diversity

Stanley C. Israel Regional Award recognizes engagement of minorities and women in the field

The Department’s new Biochemistry emphasis in their American Chemical Society (ACS) certified BS degree has attracted many top female honors students to pursue careers in chemistry. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mixing people, like chemicals, can yield either victorious or violent results. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi has done so successfully and recently was nationally recognized for its achievements.

The American Chemical Society presented the department with its Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the Southeastern Region. The department received a plaque and $1,000 to continue its efforts.

“We are honored that the department’s long-term and continued commitment to increasing diversity in a central STEM discipline has been recognized with this significant award,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The nomination package submitted by the UM local section of ACS included a number of accolades, which were the direct result of the department’s longstanding efforts to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities in chemistry. Of particular note was the hiring of Davita Watkins, the department’s first African-American woman as an assistant professor, in 2014.

Three recent African-American graduates, Margo Montgomery-Richardson, Kari Copeland and Shana Stoddard, were hired as assistant professors at Alcorn State University, Allen University and Rhodes College, respectively.

Also, a former summer program participant, Sharifa T. Love-Rutledge, who at the time was a Tougaloo College undergraduate, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to earn a chemistry degree at the University of Alabama.

Overall, five African-Americans and one Hispanic, three of whom are women, earned their chemistry doctorates from the Ole Miss chemistry department over a one-year period in 2012-13.

Other notable achievements include a graduate population that has maintained a 30 percent to 50 percent female and a 10 percent to 15 percent minority rate over the past five years and an undergraduate forensic chemistry program where 76 percent of the majors are women.

UM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry African-American Ph.D. graduates 2012-2013 (front row, from left) Shana Stoddard, Kari Copeland, Jeffrey Veal, and Margo Montgomery. Not shown: Garry Brown. Also shown (back row, from left) are Professors Greg Tschumper, Walter Cleland, Steven Davis and Maurice Eftink. (Submitted photo)

“The department has vigorously adopted a number of new strategies to recruit underrepresented students into the chemistry program,” said Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“There is a new awards celebration, which, in 2015 alone, recognized 32 female undergraduate chemistry students. The department has implemented a ‘welcome to school’ picnic for undergraduate chemistry students, which also has increased the number of women and minority chemistry majors.”

Further, the department recently modified its ACS-accredited Bachelor of Science in Chemistry program to have an optional biochemistry emphasis to attract pre-med students, which resulted in women becoming nearly half those majors.

Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, commended the department for its efforts and subsequent recognition.

“Congratulations to the department for receiving this honor,” Caldwell said. “Your efforts will contribute greatly to the university’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and equity.”

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has more than 500 undergraduate chemistry majors and nearly 50 graduate students. It offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The UM local section of the ACS in north Mississippi encompasses 21 counties. The chapter’s goals focus on meaningful social and professional relationships between chemistry-related professionals including high school and college students, teachers at all levels of the chemical sciences and professional chemists.

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit

Physicists to Gather for International Workshop at UM

Scientists from around the globe coming to Feb. 27-March 2 event on gravitational research

Luca Bombelli (left) and Marco Cavaglia are members of the Ole Miss Gravitational, Astrophysical and Theoretical Physics Group. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of esteemed scientists from around the globe are headed to the University of Mississippi for a four-day workshop on the latest in gravitational-wave astronomy, hosted by the UM Gravitation, Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The “Strong Gravity and Binary Dynamics with Gravitational Wave Observations” workshop convenes Feb. 27 to March 2 in the Yerby Conference Center. The event is supported in part by Emanuele Berti’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award and by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange Action network, funded by the European Union’s FP7 program.

“This network supports exchanges of gravity researchers among the participating nodes,” said Berti, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “In addition to Ole Miss, there are five nodes in Europe, one in in Japan and one in Canada. A dozen researchers will visit campus for a month before and after the workshop.”

About 50 scientists representing some 30 research agencies and institutions of higher learning are scheduled to attend. Researchers will discuss several topics in the newborn field of gravitational-wave astronomy, including the astrophysics of compact binary populations, spin measurements in compact binaries, strong-field tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and how to look for hints of new gravitational physics beyond Einstein’s theory.

U.S. registrants include researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, NASA, Montana State University, and the universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas at Dallas, among others.

International affiliates include Instituto Superior Técnico-Lisbon and University of Aveiro in Portugal; Sapienza University of Rome; Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris; the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham in England; Nagoya University in Japan; and Amsterdam University in the Netherlands.

Emanuele Berti is coordinating the international Strong Gravity Workshop at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Berti is well-known for his theoretical work in gravitational physics. He was invited to write a “Viewpoint” piece that accompanied the paper announcing the discovery of gravitational waves in the journal Physical Review Letters. Other scientists often visit the university to collaborate with him.

“Mauricio Richartz, a professor in Brazil, won a Fulbright fellowship to visit my group for four months in 2017,” Berti said. “Caio Macedo, a postdoc in Brazil, won an American Physical Society Travel Award to work with me this spring.”

Ole Miss physicists were part of the research collaboration that first detected gravitational waves in 2015. Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy, serves as assistant spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and was founding chair of its Education and Public Outreach and Diversity Committees.

The department’s standing in research circles is reflected in U.S. News’ 2017 listing of Best Global Universities, where the university is ranked No. 11 globally for overall international collaborations in physics. Also, the department’s faculty rank No. 6 in the world in terms of producing work that is cited by others in their research publications.

“Our department’s worldwide reputation and competitiveness has been increasing in recent years because of the quality of our research and our strong ties to global collaborations, and we have been able to attract high-quality faculty and graduate students with international backgrounds,” said Luca Bombelli, chair and associate professor of physics and astronomy.

These achievements continue to benefit the department as it branches out into new areas, says Josh Gladden, who joined the faculty in 2005 and is the university’s interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“When you raise the bar like that in a department, the standard becomes nationally and internationally recognized work, and that breeds more nationally and internationally recognized work,” said Gladden, also an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “If that’s what you’re around – your colleagues are publishing papers and getting invited to present at conferences around the world and being recognized for their contributions to their fields – then that’s the bar you’re going to try to jump over. It really elevates the work that everybody does.”

For more about the workshop, visit For more about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to

Chemistry of Milk Topic of UM Science Cafe for February

Chemistry professor and student team up for second presentation of spring semester

Chemistry professor Susan Pedigo will discuss the chemistry of milk and dairy products for this month’s Science Cafe. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The chemistry of dairy products is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 21 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Susan Pedigo, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, along with Lemuel Tsang, a senior biochemistry major from D’Iberville, will discuss “The Chemistry of Milk.” Admission is free.

“Through the millennia, human cultures have exploited one biomolecule or another to create a wide range of foods from milk,” Pedigo said. “We will cover a diverse range of topics, including the incredible origin of milk, butter and its close cousin, margarine, and the art of cheese-making.”

Pedigo and Tsang’s 30-minute presentation will tour the chemistry of the proteins, lipids and carbohydrates in milk. They were motivated to discuss this topic to encourage recognition of the beauty and complexity in the ordinary.

“We tend to take milk for granted, but there are a surprising number and a diverse range of edible products made from milk,” she said. “Since it can support the growth and maturation of a new mammalian creature, it has water and all the required nutrients for life: proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.”

Pedigo said that food is really an interest for her.

“Why is some cheese stringy and other cheese crumbly?” she said. “We have been discussing the chemistry of food since Lemuel took biochemistry last year.”

The presentation should be captivating for all, said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy and organizer of the Science Cafe series.

“Dr. Pedigo shares knowledge in a fascinating and yet understandable manner,” Cavaglia said. “Her discussion on milk and its by-products should be most enlightening.”

Pedigo earned her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Colorado, a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota and her doctorate in biochemistry from the University of Iowa. Before coming to Ole Miss, she was a postdoctoral scientist at Vanderbilt University

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

Eunique Jones Gibson Challenges UM, Community to Activism

'Because of Them, We Can' founder delivered Black History Month keynote Monday night

Eunique Jones Gibson delivers the UM Black History Month keynote address at Fulton Chapel. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Flowing with candor, charisma and in a conversational style, Eunique Jones Gibson urged listeners Monday night (Feb. 13) at University of Mississippi to become social activists who improve living conditions for present and future generations.

Delivering the keynote address for the university’s Black History Month observances, the creator of the “Because of Them, We Can” campaign addressed more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in Fulton Chapel. The audience listened attentively as Jones Gibson shared her experiences and issued a call for change.

“Our mission is to help our children reimagine their possibilities,” she said. “We need you to help us. There is so much work to be done. Now is the time to get involved because life is short and none of us knows how many years we have left.”

During her presentation, which included videos and a question-and-answer session, Jones Gibson outlined three things necessary for individuals to engage in finding and fulfilling their purpose and passion in life.

“First, get to know you,” she said. “Learn your history because that’s how you build your foundation and your confidence.”

“Second, decide what works for you. There’s no cookie-cutter way to be involved because real activism doesn’t come in a box.”

“Third, know that it’s bigger than you,” Jones Gibson said. “Because it’s for those who are coming after us, what we do matters more than our comfort and complacency.”

To drive the last point home, the speaker shared that she had surgery last weekend but didn’t cancel her scheduled UM appearance.

“Being here is more important than my pain,” she said. “It’s bigger than me.”

In 2013, Jones Gibson launched the “Because of Them, We Can” campaign during Black History Month with a mission to empower the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors through individual pursuit of greatness.

The campaign went viral and is considered to be one of the most prolific and virally successful Black History campaigns of all time.

“I didn’t envision this becoming what it is when I started it,” Jones Gibson said. “I was simply striving to combat the negative and false narratives of black people to which my children and their peers are being exposed. As it grew, I realized I had an opportunity to create weapons of mass empowerment.”

“Because of Them, We Can” now encompasses a website, social media outlets and videos. A coffee table book, posters, T-shirts and sports jackets are available for purchase online. The campaign also has featured billboards and bus shelter advertisements in major cities.

A team travels to elementary schools to speak to students and leave behind copies of the book for them to keep.

Jones Gibson and her assistants donated 40 copies of the book, three of which were given away to audience members, for her visit to Oxford. The remainder will be delivered to the Boys and Girls Club of Oxford, the Oxford-Lafayette County Public Library and elementary school libraries in the area.

“It’s time to be determined and intentional … especially now,” she said. “By being resilient, we can change the values of our children. The more excited people become about their futures, the more real change can be accomplished in our communities.”

Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, said she hopes that all members of the university community will respond to Jones Gibson’s appeal.

“As our university strives to be a leader in racial reconciliation and inclusivity, this year’s keynote address is a continuation of our educational efforts,” Mead said. “Having engaged with Mrs. Jones Gibson and learned more about the founding, as well as the guiding principles, of ‘Because of Them, We Can,’ we should be even more determined to fulfill our mission.”

Ole Miss students and others in attendance said they were moved by Jones Gibson’s words.

“I’m definitely more motivated to continue to work,” said Joshua Bell, a master’s student in higher education from Miami. “Her take on ‘failing fast’ is a perspective that I never considered before as a pathway to success. Though the work is never over, I’m encouraged to keep going forward.”

“She reminds me of a stick of dynamite,” said Baba Wovoka Subkwe of Oxford, founder of the Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School and Culture Center in Etta. “Organization and unity is key.

“I’m definitely inspired to continue teaching everything we know to the people of the community in which I live.”

Jones Gibson said she hopes that the UM community will never tire of talking about its 1962 integration by James Meredith.

“Every black person in this room is a miracle,” she said. “Just your going to college makes you a trailblazer and an example for those looking to you. Because of those who came before us, we can. Because of us, those who come after us can also.”

For a full list of sponsors and Black History Month calendar of events, visit


University, ERDC Officials Discuss Partnership Opportunities

UM aims to increase collaborations with agency on several research projects

UM Vice Chancellor for Research Josh Gladden (far right) chats with (from left) ERDC Deputy Director David Pittman, NCPA Director Craig Hickey and ERDC Director James Holland during a visit Feb. 9 to the National Center for Physical Acoustics. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Several University of Mississippi administrators met with two top representatives from the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center who visited campus Thursday (Feb. 9) to discuss strengthening mutually beneficial collaborations.

ERDC Director Jeff Holland and Deputy Director David Pittman visited Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter; Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering; and Craig Hickey, interim director of the National Center for Physical Acoustics, to talk about funding opportunities and strategies. The ERDC officials also met with William Nicholas, director of the Hub at Insight Park; and Ryan Miller, associate director of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with the University of Mississippi for many years,” Holland said. “While it’s important that researchers at both ERDC and the university collaborate with each other, it’s also important that senior administrators at both places do the same. I believe we absolutely accomplished that objective today.”

Both Cheng and Hickey touted the value of the visit.

“In terms of engineering research, EDRC is one of the strongest assets in the state of Mississippi,” Cheng said. “The School of Engineering looks forward to educating students for high-tech careers who, hopefully, will seek and find employment at ERDC, thereby boosting the state’s economic growth.”

“As primarily a research organization on campus, NCPA and ERDC have multiple common research areas of interests,” Hickey said. “I can foresee scientists at both facilities continuing to communicate and increasing collaboration.”

Before Thursday’s meetings, UM and ERDC officials conducted visits, tours and calls at both sites. They agreed that the resilience of earthen dams and levees is a topic with mutual interest and capabilities that meets a national need.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) enjoys conversations with (from left) ERDC Director James Holland and Deputy Director David Pittman during a visit to the Lyceum. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“Over the past several years, UM and ERDC have put more energy into exploring collaborations, and we are excited about new opportunities that are emerging,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

Last fall, the university signed an Educational Partnership Agreement and joined the ERDC Graduate Institute. The move allows both Ole Miss and ERDC to host coursework, pursue internships and engage in other activities.

The university and ERDC have shared interest and expertise in infrasound and earthen dam and levee monitoring and assessment, Gladden said.

“There are immediate opportunities in these fields for us to pursue together,” he said. “Other areas of potential collaboration are acoustic monitoring techniques for fish ecology, sediment transport, blast- resistant materials and general disaster resilience. As our relationship strengthens, it is likely this list will expand.

“Dr. Holland and I are on the same page about the need to foster higher-tech businesses in the state. They have looked at the business ecosystems around other large government research facilities which have vibrant small high-tech startups as potential models for ERDC and Vicksburg.”

Pittman and Miller said the agency’s partnership with the university will result in continued successful outcomes.

“We’ve had a wonderful association with the University of Mississippi for many decades,” Pittman said. “With new leaders coming into place, we look forward to our relationship becoming even stronger.”

“Having Drs. Holland and Pittman on campus was a great honor and a testament to the relationship we have with them and want to continue developing,” Miller said. “They had a great tour of the CME and discussed how manufacturing education here might play into research that ERDC is doing.”

UM is included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. The group, which includes Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins, represents 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education in the U.S.

UM Museum Receives Funding for Exhibits of Holly Springs Artists

Lester 'Ruff' Fant and wife contributed $25,000 for 2017 event

These paintings by Kate Freeman Clark will be featured during the Holly Springs Artists Exhibition at University Museum in 2017. Photos courtesy of

This painting by Kate Freeman Clark is among those to be featured during the Holly Springs Artists Exhibition at University Museum in 2017. Photo courtesy of

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum has received a welcome donation to fund 2017 exhibitions of works by artists from the Holly Springs area.

Lester “Ruff” Fant III and his wife, Susan, of Washington, D.C., have given $25,000 to support the museum’s Holly Springs Artists 2017 Exhibition Fund. The purpose of the fund is to display works by the late Kate Freeman Clark and contemporary artist Randy Hayes.

“The Kate Freeman Clark exhibition greatly expands upon a precursor show we exhibited in late 2015 through early 2016,” said Robert Saarnio, UM Museum director. “A significant component of its timing is the concurrent publication this spring by the University Press of Mississippi of the first biography of the artist by author Carolyn J. Brown.”

The Fants’ gift, along with numerous other supporters’ contributions combined, will fund and support all common aspects of museum exhibitions, including packing, transport of the works to the museum, marketing and public relations, including print collateral. Guest curatorial fees, an opening reception and other hospitality, guest lectures and expenses for a Holly Springs Day are also covered.

The museum donation is the latest of such generosity the Fants have shown the university. A major donor, Fant established the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence and the Hubert McAlexander Chair in English.

He said he hopes patrons will visit the small museums and artists’ studios in Holly Springs and other towns near the university to appreciate the artistic context of Ole Miss.

“We made this gift in support of the museum’s outreach to surrounding communities to broaden its audience and to introduce artists outside of the normal repertory of a university museum,” said Fant, an attorney and the founder/chairman of TowPath Partners, a specialty finance company that invests in mature renewable energy projects.

“We believe that museum visitors who experience the exhibit of artists from Holly Springs will enjoy the art, but will also develop an appreciation of the artistic tradition of the area surrounding the university.”

Saarnio concurred with Fant.

These paintings by Kate Freeman Clark will be featured during the Holly Springs Artists Exhibition at University Museum in 2017. Photos courtesy of

This painting by Kate Freeman Clark is among those to be featured during the Holly Springs Artists Exhibition at University Museum in 2017. Photo courtesy of

“Mississippians in large numbers have forgotten, or may never have known, the story of one of the state’s great historic artists,” Saarnio said, referring to Clark. “The constraints and challenges she surmounted in establishing a distinguished body of work occurred in an era when female fine artists were anything but the norm.”

A Holly Springs native, Clark took art classes in Memphis, and in 1894 enrolled at the Art Students League in New York under painter and well-known teacher William Merritt Chase. One of Chase’s most successful students, Clark gave up her painting career after experiencing immense sadness from the loss of her teacher, her beloved grandmother and mother in quick sequence.

After Clark’s death, her neighbors were surprised to learn of her gift of paintings for the enjoyment of the people of Holly Springs. A few friends remembered that she had studied art in the Northeast years earlier, but few realized how accomplished an artist she had become.

An internationally acclaimed painter-photographer, Hayes grew up near Clinton. His family later moved to Tupelo, where he finished high school. After attending Rhodes College, Hayes earned a bachelor’s degree in sculpture from the Memphis College of Art.

He then became a VISTA Volunteer in Seattle, where he maintains a home and studio. Hayes also has a home in Holly Springs.

For more about Clark and Hayes, visit and, respectively. To support the University Museum, contact Angela Brown 662-915-3181.

University Museum, at Fifth Street and University Avenue, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. For more information, call 662-915-7073 or visit

UM Invites Community to Help Reach Pack-a-Thon Milestone

Goal is to provide 180,000 meals to hit 1 million mark in seven-year campaign

UM students lead area residents in packing meals for the annual Feed the Hunger program. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Seven years ago, University of Mississippi student Mary Katherine Perry Phillips helped launch a campus Feed the Hunger campaign to provide thousands of meals for impoverished children in Kenya, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Jamaica and rural Kentucky. Beginning with her sisters in Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, the effort quickly gathered campuswide and then Lafayette County and Oxford community support.

Each year since, hundreds of people from the L-O-U community and beyond have come together to pack food. And if all goes as planned, next weekend’s seventh Feed the Hunger Pack-a-Thon could see the original goal realized.

Feed the Hunger packing sessions will be held at Oxford Intermediate School gym on Martin Luther King Drive from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 17) and 9 to 11 a.m., noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Feb.18). Money for the event is raised through donations from campus organizations, local businesses and churches.

“Our goal this year is to pack 180,000 meals to reach the goal of 1 million meals packed in seven years,” said Emily Barnhouse of Dallas, a sophomore business marketing major and chairperson for the event. “To accomplish this, we must raise $50,400.

“While the bulk of these funds come from Ole Miss sororities and fraternities, we also rely heavily on the Oxford and Lafayette County community to help us reach our packing goals. More than 800 people participate in the event each year.”

Two hungry children show their appreciation to UM student Alex Rinna during a Feed the Hunger meal distribution in Africa. Submitted photo

UM was the first university in the nation to partner with the nonprofit organization in conducting pack-a-thon events. At least six other universities have since launched Feed-the-Hunger programs.

A Mississippi State University student who participated in an Ole Miss pack-a-thon four years ago shared her experience with students on the Starkville campus. MSU is conducting its first pack-a-thon this weekend.

“Over the years, it has been an honor to have the University of Mississippi partner with us to feed hungry children around the world,” said Melinda Staples, project manager at the organization’s headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. “We hope that this relationship continues to grow, impacting thousands of lives everywhere.”

Students who participate in the pack-a-thon often travel to other countries to make deliveries. Over the 2016 Christmas break, seven UM students and two relatives traveled with Staples to Haiti to distribute meals that were packed at various pack-a-thons nationwide.

Cayla Hari, last year’s Pack-a-Thon chairperson, was among those who made the trip. She described what she witnessed while visiting Haitian schools, orphanages and remote villages.

“Being able to make a difference beside those who are in your community is so rewarding,” said Harli, a junior psychology and Spanish major from Southaven. “The need in Haiti is so great. One day, we witnessed school kids literally filling their pockets and backpacks with extra food in order to take it home to their starving families. It was heartbreaking.”

Staples said she understands how deeply being involved with actual deliveries affects students.

“Actually seeing these malnourished children helps university students to briefly step out of their world and connects them to something great,” Staples said. “Most times, the meal delivered is the only one these children may eat the whole day. Sometimes, it’s the only one they have for an entire week.”

Barnhouse also ask participants to bring donations for the local program, Love Packs. Love Packs provides meals for Lafayette County school students who may not have meals over the weekend. Items being collected include Beenie Weenies, pop-top soup or ravioli, apple sauce or granola bars.

“We’re showing the local community how passionate we are about this and how needy these children really are,” she said. “These people really need us. That’s the message we want to get across.”

Kimberly Phillips, academic counselor in the UM School of Business Administration and adviser for Feed-the-Hunger, said she is hopeful that this year’s event is successful.

“Our pack-a-thons have become a training ground,” Phillips said. “We want to keep on setting an example of altruism for others who come, participate and then launch their own pack-a-thon events.”

Mary Katherine Phillips, who has participated in every UM pack-a-thon from its inception, said she definitely plans to participate again next weekend.

“It’s amazing,” Beck said. “I’m so proud of how committed everyone has been to this.”

To learn more about Feed the Hunger, go to To view a YouTube video from the 2012 Ole Miss Pack-a-Thon, visit

UM Professor to Receive Mississippi Humanities Council Honor

Jodi Skipper to be given Humanities Scholar Award Feb. 10 in Jackson

Jodi Skipper

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi anthropology and Southern studies professor is among five people being honored this month by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Jodi Skipper will receive the Humanities Scholar Award on Feb. 10 during the council’s 2017 Public Humanities Awards program in Jackson. The agency recognizes outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities.

“I was first surprised, and then pleased, by the news,” said Skipper, an assistant professor. “The MHC Humanities Scholar Award uniquely recognizes my work with local communities.

“As academicians, our value is largely associated with research and teaching, with community engagement and service often undervalued. The MHC recognizes the significance of public humanities work to academic scholarship.”

A public anthropologist who thinks through how to represent difficult pasts in the present, Skipper specifically addresses the underrepresentation of enslaved communities at historic sites in the South. Her research prioritizes collaboration with communities seeking to address these issues at local levels.

“I was selected to receive this award in recognition of my involvement with the ‘Behind the Big House’ program, a slave dwelling interpretation program started by Jenifer Eggleston and Chelius Carter in Holly Springs,” she said. “I have been privileged enough to help with their project, which interprets the lives of enslaved persons through the homes in which they once lived.”

The program is the only one in the country established with that specific purpose.

“My future goal is to help develop this program as a model for other sites in the state and beyond,” Skipper said.

UM administrators congratulated Skipper on her honor.

UM anthropology and Southern studies professor Jodi Skipper (center) works with the ‘Behind the Big House’ program in Holly Springs. Submitted photo

“Jodi Skipper is a multitalented scholar who brings the skills of an archaeologist, ethnographer and public historian to her work,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair and associate professor of sociology and anthropology. “Her focus on developing programming and research projects that keep community members’ interests ‘front and center’ represents the kind of rigorous publicly engaged scholarship our department is eager to support.

“She is a leader in this field and we are thrilled that the MHC has recognized her with this prestigious award.”

Ted Ownby, director of UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture and professor of history, concurred with Dellinger.

“She designed a Southern studies class about the politics of cultural tourism in the South, and students in that class both read theoretical and descriptive work about tourism and its meanings, and then they go out and talk to people involved in thinking about history and how to present it to the public,” Ownby said. “It’s that kind of innovation that helped earn her the humanities award, and I’m very excited for her.”

Skipper joined the UM faculty in 2011. Besides teaching introductory courses in anthropology and Southern studies, she also leads courses on historical archaeology, African diaspora studies, Southern heritage and tourism.

A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Skipper earned her bachelor’s degree in history from Grambling State University, a master’s in anthropology from Florida State University and a doctorate in anthropology from the University of Texas. Before coming to UM, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of South Carolina Institute for Southern Studies.

Other MHC honorees and their awards are Peggy Prenshaw of Jackson, the Cora Norman Award; Richard Grant of Jackson, Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award; Museum of the Mississippi Delta in Greenwood, Humanities Partner Award; and David Morgan of Bay St. Louis, Humanities Educator Award.

Twenty-nine recipients of the 2016 Humanities Teacher Awards, including UM modern languages professor John Gutierrez, also will be honored at the event. A ceremony and reception begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Tickets for the MHC Public Humanities Awards ceremony are $50 each and may be purchased by sending a check to the Mississippi Humanities Council, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Room 317, Jackson, MS 39211, or online at

For more information about the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology, visit For more about the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, go to

Giant Traveling Map of Europe Coming to Mississippi Schools

Geographic Alliance at UM sponsoring National Geographic tour

Middle school students spend some time interacting with the National Geographic Giant Map of Europe. The map is touring selected cities across Mississippi. Photo courtesy of Mississippi Geographical Association

OXFORD, Miss. – Students in 10 cities around the state soon will be able to explore a giant map of Europe, thanks to the Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi.

The statewide tour, which stretches from Long Beach to Oxford, began Jan. 23 and ends Feb. 24. Measuring 26-by-26-feet, the National Geographic Traveling Map of Europe enables viewers to interact with the world’s second-smallest continent while learning about its rich history and diverse geography.

“The giant traveling map tour is one of our signature programs,” said Carley Lovorn, the alliance’s assistant director. “It’s a fun way to get students, teachers and the public excited about the world around them.”

The vibrant vinyl map will guide students through lessons and fun activities related to Europe’s climate, natural resources, famous landmarks, demographics and more. Activities include a geography-themed version of “Simon Says,” “The Landmark Carousel” and “The Grid Game.”

“The floor maps are an innovative teaching tool to help students learn the content at a deeper level,” Lovorn said. “Physically interacting with the map gives them a unique learning experience that will keep them engaged.”

The map started its tour of Mississippi Jan. 23-25 at Harper McCaughan Elementary School in Long Beach. Other host sites and dates are: Pass Road Elementary in Gulfport, Jan. 26-27; Longleaf Elementary in Hattiesburg, Feb. 1-2; the University of Southern Mississippi, Feb. 3; Cleveland School District, Feb. 8-9; Mississippi Museum of Natural Science in Jackson, Feb. 10-11 and 17-18; Starkville/Oktibbeha Consolidated Schools/Mississippi State University, Feb. 13-16; Isable Elementary in Jackson, Feb. 20-22; and Oxford Elementary School, Feb. 23-24.

National Geographic’s Giant Traveling Maps program was introduced in 2006 with a map of Africa. It has grown to include maps of North America, Asia, South America, Europe and the Pacific Ocean.

“The map of Europe is an important and exciting addition to our ever-expanding roster of giant traveling maps,” said Dan Beaupre, vice president of National Geographic’s Education and Children’s Media group. “We believe this giant map will be an effective tool in enlivening the study of Europe’s geography and history for both students and teachers.”

A member of the nationwide network of state alliances supported by the National Geographic Society, the MGA works to strengthen geographic literacy in the state of Mississippi. The alliance uses workshops, online resources and other programs to help educators prepare students to embrace a diverse world, succeed in the global economy and steward the planet’s resources.

In the 2016-17 academic year, hundreds of thousands of students will interact with these maps. Besides school venues, the maps appear at museums, festivals, fairs and corporate and educational conferences.

The maps reinforce National Geographic’s commitment to increasing geography education through teacher professional development, K-12 curriculum, live events and academic competitions such as the National Geographic Bee.

For more information about the Mississippi Geographical Alliance, visit or contact Lovorn at or at 662-915-3776. To learn more about the Giant Traveling Maps project, visit