UM Student Selected for National Committee to Prevent Sexual Violence

Elizabeth Romary is among 28 chosen for It's On Us Student Advisory Committee

Elizabeth Romary

Elizabeth Romary

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi student has been selected to serve with a national organization that works to prevent campus sexual violence.

Elizabeth Romary, of Greenville, North Carolina, is among 28 students chosen for the It’s On Us Student Advisory Committee. Launched by the White House, the program is a grassroots, student-led approach to combatting sexual violence. Romary will help organize students to encourage bystander intervention and support survivors.

“The Student Advisory Committee will work to build student leaders on campuses across the country,” said Romary, a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish. “I am in the Southern region, which includes Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.

“We will be reaching out to campus leaders at schools in those states to organize events, collaborations with other campuses and to provide help with starting student organizations on those campuses.”

A member of both the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Romary is a founding member of Rebels Against Sexual Assault and was the group’s president for fall 2015. She is expected to represent Ole Miss well, said Lindsey Bartlett-Mosvick, project coordinator in the UM Counseling Center and RASA adviser.

“Elizabeth dedicates her time to eradicating sexual violence on our campus as one of our first peer educators and our first president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault,” she said. “I know she will inspire more students across the country to become active bystanders, to prevent sexual violence and to create a supportive environment for survivors of sexual violence.”

Already, Romary has shown exceptional leadership ability, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The University of Mississippi does not tolerate sexual violence,” Hephner LaBanc said. “And with Elizabeth Romary’s assistance, staff and students have more effectively collaborated to provide programs and services to educate all members of our campus community about responsible conduct, the meaning of consent, how to report incidents of sexual misconduct and how to hold individuals accountable for their behavior.”

Romary passed along her duties as RASA president while studying abroad during the spring semester.

“My responsibilities were communicating with other student organizations, helping to organize our peer education trainings and running our meetings,” Romary said. “I chose to become involved because I was surprised that a student organization combating the issue of sexual assault on campus didn’t already exist.

“This issue is extremely important to me and I wanted to be able to create a community for survivors, bystanders and other individuals who care about this issue. We also wanted to find a way to make known the resources on campus available to students.”

Nationally, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college. It’s On Us is a campaign to change the culture around sexual assault.

The organization’s framing principles are increasing bystander intervention, defining consent and creating an environment to support survivors. This campaign focuses on educating, engaging and empowering students and communities to be part of the solution to end sexual assault.

Engineering Administrators Visit Bay Area Alumni

Time in Silicon Valley yields connections, information

Right to Left: Dr. Vish, Skip Saul, Dean Cheng, and Monsters, at

UM engineering Dean Alex Cheng (left), alumnus Skip Saul and professor Ramanarayanan Vishanathan visit

Many talented University of Mississippi engineering graduates work in high-tech fields, including a number in the Silicon Valley area. Recently, leaders of the School of Engineering visited these alumni to bring them news from campus and to make mutually beneficial connections.

Dean Alex Cheng and Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, accompanied Kevin Gardner, the school’s development officer, to San Francisco, Mountain View and San Jose. The trio’s mission was to create networking opportunities not only between the school and the alumni, but also among the alumni themselves.

“We seek to explore recruitment, intern, co-op and career opportunities for our students and assistance to academic programs,” Cheng said.

With a few hundred engineering alumni scattered among the millions of people in Bay area, getting together was a challenge. Former Water Valley residents Greer Person and David Aune, who each attended Ole Miss at different times, moved through a number of places and finally met in San Francisco a few decades later. They fondly chatted about mutual hometown acquaintances.

“We held an after-work networking reception and a lunch, respectively in San Francisco and San Jose and Santa Clara,” Viswanathan said. “Alumni from most of our disciplines were represented – chemical, civil, computer and information science, electrical and mechanical engineering.”

Topics of discussion included present technology, Ole Miss engineers reconnecting, favorite professors, lab tales and longing for their next trip back to the beloved Circle. The dean also reported on the progress of the school, the promotion of a unique blend of engineering taught in a liberal arts setting, the increase in enrollment, improvement of student quality, and development of the new biomedical engineering program.

The engineering alumni also showed the group around town. Skip Saul (BS in Computer and Information Science 90 and MS 93) hosted them at Greer Person (BS in Electrical Engineering 84) took them to XILINX. Orevaoghene Addoh (BS in Electrical Engineering 11 and MS in Computer and Information Science 14) led a tour of Intel while Will Vaughan (BS 01 and MS 04 in Computer and Information Science) hosted them at LinkedIn.

Seeing demonstrations of the futuristic self-driving Google cars and a six-armed robot surgeon, the engineering leadership team was impressed by the folks at Silicon Valley, the nation’s prime location for high-tech development.

“It was a terrific experience where the engineering leadership could only merely scratch the surface in just two-and-one-half days, yet the information gathered by strengthening our relationships in the area of the latest science advances were immeasurable,” Cheng said. “We continue to look for opportunities to have our faculty and staff meet with our alumni and prospective students and this venue will be duplicated again.”

Any alumni who would like to help host School  Engineering leaders in their town for an alumni gathering are invited to  contact Alex Cheng at or 662-915-7407, or Kevin Gardner at or 662-915-7601.

Engineering Students Welcome New, Future Students

Colton Singleton and Rodrick 'Leo' Rogers served as orientation leaders for incoming freshmen

Colton Singleton

While many University of Mississippi engineering students headed home for the summer to take on jobs or traveled for vacation, Colton Singleton and Rodrick “Leo” Rogers remained in Oxford to support programs led by the Office of Admissions and the Office of Outreach and Continuing Programs.

Both Singleton and Rogers hold leadership roles within programs that help incoming UM freshmen as well as students still in high school. These roles also help them develop as student leaders and gain skills that will help them in their careers.

During the 2015 fall semester, Singleton learned of the opportunity to apply to be an orientation leader. Orientation leaders are students who lead small groups of freshmen during their summer orientation sessions, guiding families around campus, answering myriad questions about campus services and opportunities as well as provide assistance in other areas to make orientation a welcoming experience for new students and their parents.

Students who serve as orientation leaders also have a chance to represent the university at the Southern Regional Orientation Workshop.

A sophomore electrical engineering major from Erin, Tennessee, Singleton decided to apply for this role as a result of his own experience during orientation.

“Coming from a small town and being nervous about coming to Ole Miss, I had doubts about orientation,” he said. “My orientation leader quickly took me under her wing and made me feel at home during my orientation session. I soon fell in love with Ole Miss and everything it has to offer.”

To prepare for the role, Singleton reflected on his high school leadership experiences. However, he was unsure if he would be selected to work with the orientation staff.

“When I began applying, I did not feel that I fit the energetic orientation leader mold,” Singleton said. “I’m very introverted and didn’t know what to expect from the process.”

Singleton is thankful that the orientation staff seeks diversity in the leaders that can benefit the team and can represent the university in the most positive way. Singleton was the only engineering major selected to serve as an orientation leader.

His favorite thing about serving as an orientation leader was meeting all the new incoming students and making connections with them. It helped him realize that Ole Miss welcomes students from across the country and across the world.

Singleton enjoyed the learning experience and hopes to take what he has learned into future positions. His work with the Office of Admissions, however, did not end when orientation finished. In July, he served as a group leader for the APEX Leadership Summit for high school seniors, also sponsored by the Office of Admissions.

Rogers, also an electrical engineering major, serves as a counselor for the Summer Academy program hosted by the Office of Outreach. The academy gives students entering the eighth, ninth or 10th grades a taste of college life through a two-week residential academic program.

Summer Academy offers two sessions with different courses offered each session. Students can earn a one-half Carnegie unit that may be counted by their high school toward graduation.

An Oxford native, Rogers learned of the position through a family connection and through having served as a mentor for Summer Academy last summer.

Students who serve in these roles receive training from the Office of Outreach in a variety of areas, such as working with minors on a college campus. As a counselor, Rogers is responsible for the well-being of the student participants. He lives in a residence hall with the students in Summer Academy and leads them around campus to places such as the Rebel Market for meals and to other campus facilities for meetings and activities.

The goal is to give the students an early look into college life while ensuring they have a good experience on campus.

“My favorite thing about serving as a counselor is when the students come to sit with us at meals, because it helps us know that the students are having a good time,” he said. “We get to know the students personally even though they are only on campus for a limited amount of time. I was able to encourage one of our students to consider majoring in engineering in college.”

Because these students are at a formative age, Rogers hopes they will learn how to get along with others despite their differences. He also hopes that the students gain new perspectives about being on a college campus and what opportunities are available to them after graduation.

Some of the program’s participants are already looking at their college options, Rogers said, and he enjoys being able to answer questions from a university student perspective.

Besides his work with Summer Academy, Rogers is working on research with Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering. He is also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Both Singleton and Rogers encourage more engineers to consider applying for positions like theirs in the future as they feel that it is important for engineering students to be well-represented in campus life.


Ryan Holmes Heads Dungan Engineering in Brookhaven

CE alumnus oversees projects, scheduling, business development and client management

Ryan Holmes

Ryan Holmes

As a child, Ryan Holmes decided early on that he would become a dentist But, the University of Mississippi graduate’s choice changed during a summer internship for Dungan Engineering.

“I realized that I wanted to follow in my father’s steps and become a civil engineer,” said the Columbia native. “It was very hard work, but I grew a deep appreciation for all aspects of the engineering field.”

Driven by his dreams, Holmes landed a job as a branch manager of Dungan’s Brookhaven office in 2007. Several promotions later, he is a principal engineer and vice president for the firm.

“We moved to Brookhaven without an office, staff or clients,” Holmes said. “Today, our office has grown significantly into one of the largest firms in southwest Mississippi. I currently oversee all phases of projects, scheduling, business development and client management.”

Jeff Dungan, the firm’s co-founder and principal engineer, said he knew right away that Holmes had great potential and leadership ability.

“Ryan puts his heart and soul into any engineering project that he undertakes,” Dungan said. “He has done an incredible job of cementing our firm’s presence in Brookhaven through his character, work ethic and dedication to improving the conditions within his community.”

Holmes’ family was not Ole Miss-friendly, but young love and generous financial aid packages soon convinced him that Rebel country was the place for him.

“As I began dating my wife (the former Whitney Wallace of Columbia), she and her parents introduced me to Ole Miss,” he said. “We visited the campus and attended sporting events. The dean of students at Pearl River Community College encouraged me to follow my dreams and helped open doors for many scholarship opportunities at Ole Miss. Soon, I grew to love Ole Miss and everything it stands for.”

Holmes said he found the smaller classroom sizes within the engineering school allowed him to develop closer relationships with professors.

“As my adviser, Dr. Alexander Cheng (formerly chair and professor of civil engineering, now School of Engineering dean) was always available to discuss any issues that I had and gave me great advice to achieve my goals,” Holmes said. “I enjoyed Dr. Ahmed Al-Ostaz (Brevard Family chair and professor of civil engineering) and his Structural Analysis class the most. As the ASCE faculty sponsor, he aggressively pushed our chapter and expected exceptional results.”

Holmes said he also enjoyed the senior design class taught my Chris Mullen, professor of civil engineering.

“The class entailed designing a project that utilized the skills we had learned from all of our classes,” he said. “Dr. Mullen made it challenging, yet fun at the same time.”

As a student, Holmes was involved with student affairs and organizations within the School of Engineering. He received both the Outstanding Senior Award and the Student Service Award for Civil Engineering before graduating in 2004.

“Our professors emphasized leadership and provided many classes to build these skills,” he said. “This also gave me the leadership skills needed to become the engineer I wanted to be. As a result, I later passed the professional engineering exam and am now very involved with many organizations improving the community in which we live.”

Among his many projects with Dungan over the years, Holmes said his most rewarding is his most recent: the design and development of a state-of-the-art sports complex in Brookhaven.

“After many years of discussing the idea, our firm was finally given the opportunity to work with local officials to develop this facility,” Holmes said. “We had one year in which to design and build the sports complex. There were several hurdles to overcome with permits, local politics and dealing with drought during construction, followed by above-average rainfall.”

Stull, Holmes and his team completed the project on time and within budget.

“On opening day, I felt a sense of pride as I saw smiles beaming from both children and parents,” he said. “The children in our community were given a complex they so deserved, and I was blessed to have been a part of it.”

Holmes’ brother-in-law, Brooks Wallace, is also a principal engineer and vice president of Dungan. Founder and CEO of DebrisTech (a rising firm in the debris removal and management industry), Wallace manages the Picayune office and often works with Holmes on projects for both firms.

“Ryan and I have both taken the same career path with Dungan,” Wallace said. “As one of my partners, I know that he is always willing to take on any task that may be needed to help DebrisTech be successful. Often, this includes making last-minute changes of plans to hop on a plane in order to make a meeting, deliver a proposal or spending a week or more in a disaster area, looking for ways to help communities recover.”

Holmes said his long-term goals include building more partnerships and volunteering more in his community.

“Networking is the critical path to career growth,” he said. “The more relationships formed, the more opportunities. I want to communicate more effectively and develop long-time relationships with my clients.”

Holmes said he lives by the “work hard, play hard” philosophy.

“I take work very seriously,” Holmes said. “I feel like my clients deserve the best experience and the best engineering available, no matter the size of the project.”

Holmes and his wife are the parents of two children, Collin and Carley, and have a baby due Dec. 31. His parents, Bennie and Linda Holmes, still reside in Columbia. A sister, Carmen Holmes Duncan, rounds out the family tree. He and his family enjoy being outdoors and traveling.

A proud Ole Miss alumnus, Holmes joined the Woods Order soon after graduation.

“Contributing to the university that gave me so much just felt natural,” Holmes said. “I received large scholarships and I wanted to make sure other students have the same opportunity I did.”

Brenda Prager Practices What She Teaches

New assistant professor of chemical engineering excels, inspires others to do so

Brenda Prager

Brenda Prager

Brenda Prager is many things, but an underachiever is not among them.

A three-time honors graduate of the University of Melbourne in Australia, she previously held positions as a research scientist at Kodak Australia, a research fellow at the Australian Pulp and Paper Industry and in the chemical engineering department of Monash University. Prager also was a senior process development engineer at Universal Biosensors and a secondary school teacher in Australia’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Last fall, the assistant professor of chemical engineering joined the faculty of the University of Mississippi, where she has continued to build upon her solid record of teaching, research and service.

“We are very glad she decided to come to Ole Miss from the ‘land Down Under,'” said John O’Haver, UM chair and professor of chemical engineering. “She is a great team player, actively developing collaborations both within and outside the department. Her work on paper coatings brings a new industrially-focused research area to the department.”

Prager’s experience, commitment to the classroom, effective pedagogy and understanding of educational research all enhance her performance in the classroom, O’Haver said. “Her research on differentiated instruction could revolutionize first-year courses in engineering, helping to significantly improve retention of students to STEM.”

When Prager first taught a subject in the master’s program in pulp and paper engineering at Monash, she was mindful that she didn’t actually “know” how to teach and didn’t understand how students learned.

Therefore, in due time, Prager left engineering to work on a master’s in teaching, while at the same time spending five years with the Victorian Education Department in Australia as a secondary school teacher specializing in chemistry, physics and mathematics for grades 7-12. This experience was invaluable in learning and honing her teaching skills.

“When I felt ready to return to academia, I wanted the chance to experience life in another country, gaining an appreciation of how other cultures conduct their research and teaching,” Prager said. “I have been to the USA several times and therefore set about looking for a position over here.

“I looked only in the Southern states due to the climate, and saw the job opening at Ole Miss. The requirements seemed to match my skills, and I was impressed by Ole Miss as a university, so therefore accepted the position willingly.”

Prager has taught “Separation Processes” and “Chemical Process Principles I.” This fall, she will be teaching the freshman “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” class.

Her research interests mainly involve surface and interfacial characterizations of pigmented coatings on porous substrates, and modifications of surfaces using supercritical techniques.

“As a research fellow at Monash, I investigated rates of coating consolidation onto paper substrates when coated at high speed,” she said. “I identified the first and second critical concentrations during consolidation, found to be far more rapid under realistic conditions than had previously been thought.”

Members of Prager’s coating team also identified ultrasonic vibrational frequencies that were a function of the coating roll covering and not of high speeds. The detection of these frequencies coincided with the onset of common defects observed in surface coating, such as misting and spitting.

“I am presently building up my research group again here at Ole Miss,” Prager said. “My small team is comprised of two graduate students and two undergraduate students. We are investigating a variety of novel coatings onto paper substrates, with the view to developing innovative packaging for food-related goods.”

One project is continuing Prager’s earlier work with supercritical impregnation of AKD, as well as other environmentally friendly hydrophobic agents, to create a superhydrophobic surface onto paper. The team is also investigating solubility properties of these agents in supercritical carbon dioxide with the help of Wei-Yin Chen, a UM professor of chemical engineering.

“Another project is aimed at developing thermally resistant coatings using nanoparticles and other unique materials introduced into the coating,” she said. “A third project has investigated superhydrophobicity by allowing silane monomers to polymerize in-situ on the paper substrate, and has monitored the rate of hydrophobic development.”

She is developing grant proposals for future projects, including the development of an antimicrobial coating using nanoparticles, and investigating the fate of nanoparticle migration from sources such as novel packaging, either into the environment or alternatively into food.

“Not a lot is known about the safety aspects of nanoparticles if released to the environment,” Prager said. “So investigating the mechanisms of nanoparticle migration will assist in better understanding what processes are taking place.”

Prager said that her most exciting research achievement was gaining her first patent while working at Kodak Australia.

“It is very meaningful to me because it incorporated a number of ‘firsts’: my first patent, my first engineering job after graduating with my Ph.D., and my first team where I was highly influential in the direction of the research to be undertaken,” she said.

Her short-term goals include continuing to grow into her job, building her research team, understanding the day-to-day operation of the department, maintaining her annual teaching/research/ service targets to stay on track for tenure and creating outreach opportunities for girls in engineering by visiting local schools and spending time with future cohorts.

Prager’s long-term goals are to build up her scientific research and publish results, to expand collaborations with other Ole Miss faculty and beyond, and to submit successful grants to fund continued research efforts.

“Ultimately, I plan to develop innovative coatings for food packaging and develop strong collaborations with paperboard industries to progress this work through to full production,” she said. “As for teaching, I want to implement differentiation techniques into my classes as well as assist other faculty in implementing these techniques into theirs and to continue to refine and learn new teaching methods for the betterment of my students.”

With regards to service, Prager wants to establish ongoing outreach to attract high school students into STEM careers at the university and to become involved with freshmen education more generally.

Prager’s husband, Michael, has fully supported her in this major move and career progression. A retired director of nursing from a large hospital and a clinical nurse specialist, he has participated in extensive voluntary work both in England and Australia.

He also was a justice of the peace and bail justice in Australia and a magistrate in England. He has had experience running large community-based organizations as chairman.

Prager’s leisure activities include playing the piano, photography and travel.

“I am on the roster for the 9 a.m. service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church,” she said. “I enjoy playing classical music – especially Mozart and Handel – as well as blues and ragtime music.”

Prager and her husband also enjoy traveling the state to see and photograph various sights. “Our next trip planned is to see part of Natchez Trace from Tupelo to Nashville,” she said.

Prager said that she is confident that, with lots of hard work and persistence, she will eventually achieve all the goals she has set for herself at UM.

“I think it is important to seek out tenured faculty and other staff who are willing to act as a mentor and help me navigate through all the intricacies of being an academic,” she said. “I am fortunate to have found some wonderful people who are supporting me in this process.”

Together, We Stood

UM administrators, faculty, staff and students showed unity, respect for diversity at campus gathering

UM community members joined hands in moment of prayer and reflection during the ceremony. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM community members join hands in moment of prayer and reflection during the ceremony. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

I’ve never been in the military or law enforcement, so I can’t say that I fully understand the strong bonds that I’m told exist among these public servants. Some say it’s the daily camaraderie that knits these men and women together. Others credit the presence of danger in crisis that forges these attachments. Which, of any of these, is responsible, I don’t know.

What I do know and can say for certain is that this past Thursday (July 21), I did see, hear and feel the strength in numbers as several University of Mississippi administrators, faculty, staff and students joined together to show unity and encourage respect for diversity in humanity.

The meeting, the first of several such planned, was led by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. In the early evening hours, dozens of people gathered quietly inside the Paris-Yates Chapel. As the sun slowly began to set, these individuals sat together as one.

Vitter opened the solemn ceremony with reflections upon the epidemic rash of violence both in major cities around the nation and in terrorist attacks across the globe. He recognized the inherit conflict between African-American/Latino populations and law enforcement officials who have sworn to protect them.

“It has been an extremely difficult month in the U.S. as we have witnessed the loss of lives in Orlando, my home state of Louisiana, Minnesota and Texas,” Vitter said. “We also join the world community in mourning recent deaths in France and Turkey. We all hurt, we all mourn with those directly affected and we all worry every day about the safety of our own families, our communities, our nation and the world.”

While the evening’s focus was on reflecting and healing, Vitter issued a call for community conversations that move forward positive and permanent change.

“We must stand together, work together to find lasting solutions to the challenges that we face together,” he said.

Following the chancellor’s remarks, UM Staff Council President Sovent Taylor introduced representatives from the campus community. And although each individual represented differing ethnicities, cultures, languages, religions, creeds and philosophies, they stood as one while all present acknowledged our common ground as the tenets of the UM Creed were read.

The UM Gospel Choir rendered a beautiful a cappella rendition of “Get On Board,” a melodic call to temporarily set aside our differences in the interests of the common good. Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, gave brief remarks in which he echoed Vitter’s call for the UM community to begin and maintain ongoing civil dialogue about the matters at hand.

“I may not have the answers,” Cole said. “You may not have all the answers. But together, we can and we will find the answers that we need.”

A solemn moment of silence preceded the tolling of chapel bells. As the chimes rang 16 times, we stood together, hand-in-hand, and collectively mourned with and comforted one another as we remembered the lives of the many victims killed in a wave of intense violence that appears to be sweeping across the nation.

Ethel Young-Scurlock, senior fellow at the Luckyday Residential College, offered the closing prayer before inviting members of the interfaith community to remain for a brief period of prayer and reflection. Smiles and warm embraces were exchanged as individuals both came into and departed from the building.

Throughout the evening’s activities, I felt awe as the combined members of the UM community “fleshed out” the words of our Creed. It was a beautiful sight to behold as compassionate and civil discourse unfolded, overshadowing obvious tensions and fears.

Recently, the UM Sensitivity and Respect Committee and university leadership issued a statement. Within this document appeared the following words:

“As an academic institution, we realize that education will serve as a key component to prevent future occurrences of such acts as well as serve as a healing mechanism for our community. We ask all members of our campus to join in applying the most effective tool of the educator – civil dialogue – in addressing the issues leading up to these disturbing events and processing our emotions and reactions to these tragedies.

However, civil dialogue will mean nothing if it does not lead to change for the better, and it will be our students who will be at the forefront of that change.

As Vitter stated in a recent post, ‘We are all bound together by the human need to be known, understood, and valued. At the University of Mississippi, we embody these mutual commitments to one another in the UM Creed, a part of which states our belief in fairness and civility and in the respect for the dignity of each person. I urge all members of the UM family to embody these beliefs as we reach out to one another in the coming days.'”

Thursday was a good start. I join many others who sincerely hope that similar discussions leading to solutions and healing occur at future gatherings.

Together, we stood. Together, we will continue to stand. Together, we are the University of Mississippi.

CSI Summer Camp Gives Students Experiences in Crime Scene Science

Weeklong UM event offered participants faux evidence and mock case

High school students conducted mock crime lab analysis during the second annual CSI Summer Camp held at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

High school students conducted mock crime lab analysis during the second annual CSI Summer Camp held at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A dead body, blood spatter, guns, bullets and DNA samples – all fake – offered gifted middle and high school students opportunities to test their forensic skills recently at the University of Mississippi.

Thirty-eight seventh- through 12th-graders visited Ole Miss as part of a weeklong camp on forensic science. Sponsored by the American Academy of Forensic Science, and the UM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Division of Outreach, the event drew students from Mississippi, Alabama, California, Illinois, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Ohio and Tennessee.

Led by UM forensic chemistry program director Murrell Godfrey and his students, the group spent Monday honing detective skills while examining the “evidence” throughout select classrooms and labs in Coulter Hall.

“The CSI Camp gives hands-on experiences to students who love puzzles, science and watching forensic science television shows,” Godfrey said. “During the week, students learned the importance of the correct chain of custody procedures when handling evidence that they collect at the crime scene. Students must analyze the evidence using presumptive and confirmatory tests.”

Graduate student Caroline Spencer of Decatur, Alabama, assisted with instruction. Kelly Nolan, another graduate student from Oxford, coordinated housing and meals through the Division of Outreach. Undergraduate students Zachara Catchings of Jackson and Ebone McCowan of Acworth, Georgia, served as camp counselors.

Participants observed as Godfrey and others demonstrated the proper procedures for analysis of the staged evidence recovered from the mock crime scene.

Some of the hands-on activities include DNA, fingerprint, gunshot residue, bullet and drug analyses using the same high-tech analytical and physical techniques used in crime laboratories. Todd Davis from the Drug Enforcement Agency and Captain Elijah Wilson of the Holly Springs Police Department presented talks on problems with controlling drugs and crime scene investigations, respectively.

A mock trial in the School of Law‘s moot court room on the last day of the camp tests the students’ knowledge on the various topics and labs.

“The students must serve as expert witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, suspect and so forth,” Godfrey said. “The expert witnesses must defend their analysis of the different pieces of evidence found at the crime scene. A jury will then render a final decision in the case.”

Divided into smaller groups, the students rotated daily between labs in the Thad Cochran Research Center and stations for DNA collection, presumptive tests, ballistics and gunshot residue, fingerprints, and analytical chemistry and forensics. At each specific station, students analyzed their samples and collected data.

A tour of campus and the UM medicinal plant gardens was scheduled on Wednesday by Don Stanford, assistant director of UM’s Research Institute of  Pharmaceutical Sciences.

This forensics summer camp was the second held at the university.

“Our first CSI Camp was held last summer, and we had 30 campers representing 15 states,” Godfrey said. “Our goal is always to encourage these gifted young minds to become STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors once they enter college.”

Several students said they’ve learned a great deal through their experience.

“I really like looking at the crime scene, collecting evidence and figuring out how the crime happened,” said Kira Brown, a rising ninth-grader from Falkville, Alabama.

Seventh-grader Kailynn Aragon agreed.

“It was remarkable,” said Aragon, from Albuquerque, New Mexico. “The camp helped me learn everything about CSI and the importance of taking good notes.”

“It’s definitely more than using goggles and gloves,” said another eighth-grade student. “I learned that while shows like ‘CSI’ show only one barrier around a crime scene, there are actually two barriers. I also discovered it actually takes much longer to process evidence and solve a case in real life than it does on television.”

By allowing the students to visit the department and experiment with the equipment, UM faculty said they hope to pique their interests in forensic chemistry and possibly recruit them one day to the university.

For more information about the forensic chemistry program within the UM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit

UM, Local Communities Responding to Tragedies with Unity Gathering

Thursday ceremony to include speakers, tolling of chapel bells, music and prayers

Join members of the LOU community in a Program for Reflection and Unity on Thursday, July 21 at 6 p.m.

Join members of the L-O-U community in a program for reflection and unity at 6 p.m. Thursday (July 21).

OXFORD, Miss. – Responding to recent shootings around the nation, as well as global violence, the University of Mississippi and Oxford-Lafayette County communities will join together Thursday (July 21) for a time of reflection and unity.

The gathering is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. in Paris-Yates Chapel. During the brief service, the chapel bells will toll in remembrance of those killed in these violent attacks.

Paris-Yates Chapel will remain open for 30 minutes after the program for reflection, meditation and prayer.

Chancellor Jeff Vitter will provide opening remarks and acknowledge participants from the L-O-U communities.

Following introductions by Sovent Taylor, assistant director of UM’s Health Professions Advising Office, faculty, staff and students from several groups will read sections of the UM Creed. Music will be rendered by the UM Gospel Choir before the ceremony ends.

Ethel Young Scurlock, associate professor of African-American studies and senior fellow at the Luckyday Residential College, will lead prayer in the chapel.

Donald Cole, special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, will make closing remarks.

“I’m going to feel so much better after this gathering,” Cole said. “I don’t have a solution and you may not have a solution. Nor does any single individual. But collectively, we do and that’s why everyone is needed in this venture and others like it.”

UM Graduate Admitted to Oxford University

Ahmed Seif launches crowdfunding campaign for expenses

Ahmed Seif will be leaving Ole Miss to study at Oxford University this fall.

Ahmed Seif will be leaving Ole Miss to study at Oxford University this fall.

OXFORD, Miss. – After three years at the University of Mississippi, Ahmed Seif was ecstatic to learn this summer that he has been accepted into two medieval studies programs at Oxford University in England.

“I am thrilled, as well as grateful, to the University of Mississippi for my journey into making a change,” said Seif, an Egyptian who earned his Master of Arts in English in May. “This journey started here in August of 2013 at Bondurant W112, the classroom where I took my very first graduate seminar in medieval literature.”

Depending on his choice, Seif will be enrolled in either Christ Church College through the English faculty or Oriel College through the history faculty. During the one-year program, Seif’s research would be interdisciplinary, examining the connection between medieval literature and medieval diplomacy. Laura Ashe, associate professor and tutorial fellow in medieval English at Worcester College, would be his mentor.

“I will also investigate medieval roots of diplomatic conflict, peace negotiation and intercultural encounters between the East and the West,” he said. “Despite my research being medieval, it is relevant to the current state of affairs. Explaining how this is so in detail would take pages, but, in a nutshell, my research will trace the international crisis back to its medieval roots.”

While dual admission is an extraordinary opportunity, studying at Oxford University has a high price tag attached to it. Unfortunately, Seif’s supply doesn’t quite meet the demand.

“The total amount is £33,129 ($42,737), consisting of £20,488 ($26,428) (university and college fees) and £12,641 ($16,306) (rent and living expenses),” Seif said. “The university requires that I show proof of financial support before they can register me for classes. If I don’t show Oxford University proof of financial support by the end of July, the offer will lapse.”

Oxford University does not accept requests for deferral on grounds of financial circumstances. Therefore, Seif has started a crowdfunding campaign,, with the hope that he can raise the sum of money estimated (as well as required) by Oxford University to cover his tuition and living costs.

“I believe it will achieve its target when the word gets out to many more people than I can reach by myself via social media,” Seif said. “Oxford University notified me of my acceptance after many scholarships had already closed. Although one Egyptian scholarship was still open, my application was turned down, as they tend to fund more students in business studies and the sciences than in liberal arts fields.”

Despite Seif’s best attempts, he is ineligible for loans here because he is neither a citizen nor a resident of the United States.

“I also applied for an Egyptian loan on the security of my mother’s job,” he said. “My mother is a social worker. Due to her small salary, and also due to the exchange rate, the loan she can take would make for an insignificant amount of money when expressed in sterling.”

A UM faculty member said because Seif is a foreign student of severely limited financial means, he needs more help — and is most deserving of it.

“Ahmed has already shown himself to be a promising young scholar, and working with the English faculty at Christ Church will further deepen his knowledge and develop his skills,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “I expect that studying at Oxford University will serve as a springboard for Ahmed to become the scholar and professor of medieval literature he hopes to be.”

Seif came to the U.S. as a Fulbright scholar. His goal is to return to the U.S. and pursue a Ph.D. in medieval literature.

“I want to teach medieval literature at the college level as well as be a scholar of medieval manuscript,” Seif said. “I want to use my Western education, together with my Eastern, Egyptian background, towards becoming someone akin to an academic ambassador, one who can help bridge the divide between East and West.”

Well-versed in both English and Arabic, Seif said he wants to reach out to students, scholars and readers on both sides of that cultural divide.

“I would like to be the secular scholar who translates a fraught history of conflict and collaboration into a story of mutualism and vision for a better future,” he said. “I deeply believe in my academic vision and have full confidence in my ability to succeed in what I aim to do.”

For more information, contact Seif at

To make a donation to Seif’s campaign, visit



UM Restaurants Going Green

Rebel Market, Catering first in state to achieve GRA certification; Lenoir Dining also in process

UM students sample menu in the Rebel Market restaurant on campus.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

UM students sample the offerings in the Rebel Market restaurant on campus.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A restaurant and a catering service at the University of Mississippi are the only Certified Green restaurants in the state of Mississippi.

Catering at UM and Rebel Market, both managed by Aramark, began the process last March and achieved Level 1 Certification from the Green Restaurant Association in mid-June.

“It has been a pleasure working together to help the University of Mississippi to this point,” said Kim Stama, GRA restaurant sustainability consultant. “Rebel Market completed 42 steps and 119.5 GreenPoints. Catering at the University of Mississippi completed 28 steps and 81.61 GreenPoints.”

An Aramark official described the criteria for certification.

“The Green Restaurant Association measures levels in environmental categories such as disposables, energy conservation, furnishing and building design, food and menu items, chemicals and pollution, waste and water conservation,” said Valerie Schultz, residential food service director for Aramark.

“The in-depth process consisted of communication with Ole Miss Dining vendors and an examination of menu options. Additionally, GRA conducted a comprehensive walkthrough of the building to determine water flow, automatic lighting and various types of light bulbs in use, energy efficiencies of all equipment, proximity to various modes of transportation and reusable takeout options.

“The biggest change will be the increase of vegetarian and vegan options on the menus at the Rebel Market,” Schultz said. “The facilities will also undergo annual inspections to renew GRA certification and conduct education training to its staff.

“We will continue to research and implement various changes to move to a 2 Star Certified Green Restaurant,” she said. “Additionally, we will move toward reducing our chemical footprint by implementing eco-friendly cleaning products. Our goal is to bring awareness of our sustainability efforts to our customers and the Oxford-University community.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s Lenoir Dining restaurant has received funding from the UM Green Fund to help it also gain GRA certification.

The project, which is a collaboration between the department, the Green Fund, Facilities Management and the Office of Sustainability, involves the installation of new toilets, light fixtures, fans and other items that are energy efficient and aid in water conservation. Water conservation, composting and recycling also will be implemented at the facility.

“We have Dr. James Taylor, associate professor in NHM, to thank for this achievement,” said David Holben, chair and professor of nutrition and hospitality management. “He helped with the process of getting this funding from the Green Fund.”

Lenoir Dining is a nonprofit, educational operation and offers UM students hands-on experiences in all facets of restaurant operations. Students rotate to various positions within the operation such as server, cook and manager. The restaurant is open in fall, spring and summer sessions, offering weekly dining options and using diverse, international recipes.

The UM Green Fund provides funding for the implementation of sustainable projects, programs and policies on the UM campus. Past projects include the installation of hydration stations and the establishment of the UM composting program. Any UM student, or faculty or staff member can propose a project.

“After the Green Fund Committee votes to fund a project, Office of Sustainability staff act as liaisons to facilitate the implementation of this project, so we are excited to be involved throughout the process,” said Lindsey Abernathy, project manager in the Office of Sustainability and chair of the UM Green Fund Committee.

As part of the certification-seeking process, the Office of Sustainability is also expanding its composting program to include Lenoir Dining.

“This will help reduce Lenoir Dining’s landfill waste and will provide yet another educational opportunity to the students who are collecting the compostable materials in the kitchen,” Abernathy said. “Many nutrition and hospitality management students work in Lenoir Dining as part of their required course work. Being trained in a facility that is conscious of sustainable practices and why they are important will produce graduates who can take this knowledge and firsthand experience to their new workplaces and implement it there.”