UM Communications Specialist Leads Oxford’s First COGIC Church

More than 30 years in the making, New Freedom began as a campus ministry

UM graduates Edwin and Fannie Smith now pastor the New Freedom Church of God in Christ in Oxford.

UM graduates Edwin and Fannie Smith pastor the New Freedom Church of God in Christ in Oxford.

As a young journalism student transferring to the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1977, I dreamed of one day being a professional writer and a full-time minister of the gospel. Almost 40 years later, I’ve been blessed to achieve my dream.

As a professional writer, I am a UM communications specialist. While I enjoy my “day job” and it pays the bills, serving as founder and pastor of New Freedom Church of God in Christ is my true calling and passion.

Our congregation celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday (March 15) by officially dedicating the building we purchased two years ago in the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. While other ministers have led similar, but defunct, COGIC assemblies in Lafayette County, New Freedom is the denomination’s first to be established here and recognized at the state level. In that sense, my wife, Fannie, the other charter members and I are making history.

The church was officially launched as New Freedom Family Ministries in March 2005. We co-occupied a storefront at 809 College Hill Road. Our growing congregation remained there until purchasing its present location at 206 Highway 30 East in December 2012.

“My husband and I are just so thankful that the Lord has blessed us to endure and make it to this point,” Fannie Smith said. “Truly, it has taken several years of time, prayer, finances, patience and hard work in bringing this vision to reality.”

As I think about it, starting churches is somewhat a Smith family tradition. My paternal grandparents, the late Eddie Lee and Lucy Sales Smith, began the first Church of God in Christ in Holly Springs more than 80 years ago. That building was a dance hall that they transformed into a sanctuary. Christ Temple (formerly Willow Springs) COGIC is their legacy. So am I.

I also had two uncles on my father’s side of the family who started successful churches in Memphis. My wife was a founding member of the Pilgrim Rest COGIC in Oakland.

Even before we started New Freedom, Fannie and I led the University of Mississippi COGIC Fellowship from 1984 to 1994. Again, it was the denomination’s first campus ministry in the Oxford area. I also briefly pastored Kelly Chapel COGIC in Robinsonville in 1994 before accepting a faculty position at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

When we returned to Mississippi in April 2002, it was expressly for the purpose of starting a church. All we had to work with was our vision, our willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others and our faith.

Many told us we were out of our minds. At that time, neither of us had jobs. We lived between our mothers’ family homes in Oakland and Holly Springs. It took awhile before I was rehired as a writer in UM Communications and she became a teacher in the Holly Springs Primary School. After at least one failed attempt, we decided to delay our own vision and just continue to attend and work within the church in Holly Springs.

Still, we firmly believed that at some point, we would resume and complete our God-given assignment: to successfully establish a COGIC church in Oxford. We placed an ad in the Oxford Eagle, rented a meeting room at the Days Inn once a week for three months and began having services there.

Ten years later, here we are. None of this has come easy. We’ve experienced both support and opposition. Members have come and gone. Financially, we have had both famines and feasts. Each of us has had health issues. But without doubt, I can say that if we had it to do all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing.

Our services at New Freedom include prayer and Bible band at 7 p.m. Wednesdays, Sunday school at 9:30 a.m. and morning worship at 11. Everyone is welcome to attend any and all services. For more information about the ministry, call 662-380-5019, email us at or visit our Facebook page.

At some point, I’m planning to retire from my day job at Ole Miss. Farther down the road, I’ll also probably hand off New Freedom to someone younger and better prepared to lead the congregation to its next level. But I’ll never stop serving the Lord. And I’ll always be thankful He chose my wife and me to help establish this work in Oxford.

Climbing Mountains in the Sky

Talented scholar Charlie King remembered with engineering scholarship

Charlie King

Charlie King

By the time he was 2, Charlie King had already started filling his pockets with rocks. At 25, he was honing his skills as a scholar in geological engineering and geophysics and filling his life with people, travel, music, the outdoors and the environment he loved.

The University of Mississippi graduate student lost his life after a climbing accident on Mexico’s Mount Orizaba in early 2014, but his life and spirit will continue to be interwoven with others through the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment. Created by his parents, Kerry and Terry King of Dillon, Colo., the scholarship will assist graduate or undergraduate students in geology and geological engineering.

“Charlie led a life that deserved to be remembered, and his love for Ole Miss and the School of Engineering inspired us to choose a scholarship,” Kerry King said. “Charlie had plans to work in the field for several years and then pursue a doctorate. We believe he would eventually have become a college professor.”

Adnan Aydin, professor of geology and geological engineering, was King’s undergraduate and graduate adviser, giving him “the privilege of knowing this extraordinary young person.”

“Charlie was a brilliant independent thinker, ready to embark on a great academic journey and to leave his lasting mark on the world,” Aydin said. “He was the most decent person, a perfect student, a dear friend and a young colleague.

“Charlie was fully aware of his capacity for a substantial contribution, and for him, that contribution had to be something that made a real and significant difference. He had the pure and selfless views of an ideal youth on all facets of academia and society at large. He was a compassionate and unifying person.”

The Kings, their son Matthew King and many other family members are Ole Miss alumni and appreciate the continuing support they are receiving from the UM School of Engineering since Charlie King’s death. The Oxford natives are quick to acknowledge the engineering program’s impact on his life.

“Charlie knew from a very early age what he wanted to do and never wavered,” Kerry King said. “He loved that program and it matured Charlie. He was like one of those rough rocks he collected all his life. The School of Engineering faculty helped smooth his edges, helping him to become a complete person.”

Robert Holt, a UM professor of geology and geological engineering, and his wife, Shari, became close to King.

“I chose Charlie as my teaching assistant because during his senior year he earned As in both of my courses,” Holt said. “He assisted me for several years in my course on geological subsurface site characterization. Charlie was excellent; he was so good at anticipating what we needed to prepare. He could have gone to graduate school anywhere. He had great scientific intuition and wrote very well, which set him apart. We lost one of our shining stars.”

Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering, said the department “greatly misses” the talented student who was plugged into the academic and the social life of the Ole Miss community.

“The scholarship established by his parents has been a wonderful way to keep him in our minds and not let the business of life dull our memories,” Davidson said. “We especially appreciate their wisdom in adding flow-through funds as the endowment is growing that enabled us to offer scholarships the same year the fund was established. By doing so, students who knew Charlie personally benefited from the scholarship in his memory.

“Two graduate students have been beneficiaries, Austin Patton and Zhen Guo. The scholarship for Austin was timely, because he had just months earlier lost everything he owned in an apartment fire. The Charlie King scholarship helped get him back on his feet much faster than would have been possible otherwise.

“Zhen was especially moved by the award and struggled with accepting a financial benefit from the loss of his friend. On learning of his concern, Charlie’s parents reminded Zhen of Charlie’s giving nature and assured him that it was a special privilege to be able to know that the scholarship was going to someone who knew and loved Charlie.”

Patton, an inaugural recipient and now a project engineer for an environmental remediation construction company in Houston, Texas, had every class with King from Geology 101 through graduate school, and their friendship developed over a shared enjoyment of adventure and the outdoors. Patton also benefited from King’s positive attitude and humor, saying, “Charlie was one in a million. … If you were having a bad day, he would most definitely find a way to cheer you up.

“Charlie seemed to excel in all his geology and engineering classes. It came to him naturally and was something he just ‘got.’ This was probably because he enjoyed it so much.”

Patton shared memories of an upper-level geological engineering course that he passed because of the time his friend dedicated weekly to teaching him the material.

“Charlie accomplished so much and influenced so many lives in the short time that God gave him on this earth,” he said. “Though quite a hackneyed expression, I truly believe that if the world was filled with more people like Charlie King, it would surely be a more enjoyable place. Charlie left this earth doing what he loved most. I will never forget his bright, jubilant demeanor as long as I live. A piece of Charlie will always be with his closest friends and his family members on any adventure we may seek. And rest assured we will all meet again soon, but as for now, Charlie is thoroughly enjoying himself climbing mountains in the sky.”

The reason so many fellow Ole Miss students, faculty members and others felt such fondness for Charlie King can be glimpsed through descriptions of his personality, hobbies and passions. He was an environmentalist, mountain climber, skier, cyclist, paddle boarder and musician who had goals of traveling the world. He brought back rocks from every place he visited, and his parents keep those rocks scattered throughout their home where they can be seen.

“Charlie was happy all his life,” Terry King said. “He went out of his way to help others and was very generous with his time. Not only did he enjoy tutoring other students, but he also enjoyed cooking Chinese and Indian dishes for them. Charlie was obviously serious about his academic studies, but he likewise appreciated the light moments of life.”

One such moment was recalled by Holt, who said Charlie had a “playful spirit with a rebellious streak.”

“I remember one field trip to Tishomingo State Park, we had about 100 freshmen on the trip,” the professor said. “We always take as many graduate students and faculty as we can to help corral this group. We were about to hike up along the highway on the Natchez Trace, so I used my very serious, drill sergeant tone and told the students how to conduct themselves, especially to stay off the road.

“A couple minutes later I look up and there’s this student, jumping on and off the road, over and over again. I’m ready to go yell at this disobedient freshman, and I get closer and realize it’s Charlie, just having some fun at my expense. He was always a rebel at heart.”

That humor was also countered with love and respect for others, his dad said. “Charlie was one of those rare human beings who never said an unkind word to anyone.”

King had been affectionately called “Charlie Bear” all his life, and his parents now give rocks with a Charlie Bear inscription to family and friends, particularly when they are traveling. The rocks have been placed on mountain peaks and many other places, and on the first anniversary of Charlie King’s death, a climber placed a memorial marker on Mount Orizaba.

Friends and family also joined to contribute to the scholarship fund.

“There was a great outpouring of support for the scholarship,” Terry King said. “We’re so happy the endowment continues to grow and serve as a tribute to our son. There are many students who find they are literally broke after earning college degrees, and we want this fund to help.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting online at; or contacting Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering, at 662-915-7601 or

Ryan Upshaw Named Outstanding Staff Member by BSU

Assistant dean has long association with university

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

When Ryan Upshaw helped plan the University of Mississippi’s annual Black History Month observances, he had no idea that he would be honored during the activities.

The School of Engineering’s assistant dean for student services is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award, presented by the Black Student Union.

“My reaction was pure shock, especially since a student I recruited was the one who presented the award,” Upshaw said. “This is the first award like this I have received as a professional. It means a great deal that the students involved in the BSU would choose to honor me in this way. There are so many faculty and staff members on our campus who could have been selected.”

As a student affairs professional, Upshaw said his goal is to help students have the best experience possible. Over the past eight years, he has worked to actively recruit, retain and graduate students as well as encourage them to be active alumni.

“I push students to perform well academically, but also to find their passions outside the classroom via campus or community involvement,” he said. “I also want to provide them with a sounding board when they are experiencing challenges.”

A UM alumnus, the Moss Point native earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in higher education. He hopes to pursue the new Doctor of Education in higher education soon.

“I chose to attend the university after visiting through an event called Scholars Day, hosted by the Office of Admissions, and being fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Luckyday Foundation,” Upshaw said. “I am thankful to have had mentors like Dr. Thomas Wallace, Mrs. Valeria Ross and Dr. Donald Cole who continue to inspire me as higher education professionals.”

Cole, assistant provost and special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, spoke highly of Upshaw.

“When the university recruited Ryan as a student here a number of years ago, I knew that it was a milestone event,” Cole said. “Ryan’s real impact on the university came when he decided to remain for employment with us. At UM, Ryan not only found an institution from which he could obtain a quality education and meaningful employment, he found a home.”

Before working with the School of Engineering, Upshaw worked for five years in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where he coordinated recruitment efforts and the admissions process.

Briana O’Neil, president of the UM Black Student Union, has known Upshaw for almost five years. During this period, he has been her mentor and friend.

“He is a big reason that I chose to come to Ole Miss and he has been supportive ever since,” O’Neil said. “You can always tell that he cares about the students at Ole Miss and wants to see them succeed. He is friendly and welcoming, but also gives solid advice.”

Upshaw has always been willing to give students his time, said Benjamin Lapane, president of the UM Engineering Student Body. “I think that is one of the most admirable characteristics a student adviser can have,” he said.

“I really enjoy being involved in both the university and Oxford communities,” said Upshaw, a lifetime member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “At the university, I serve as adviser to a number of organizations, including the Engineering Student Body, Omicron Delta Kappa senior honor society, Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society and the RebelTHON board of directors.

He also serves on the university’s scholarship committee, housing appeals committee and judicial council. Outside the university, Upshaw has been on the board of directors for the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County since 2009 and serves as chair of its Community Investment Committee. On the Leadership Lafayette program’s steering committee since 2010, he is also on the National Advisory Council for Omicron Delta Kappa society and the Region III Advisory Board for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. He is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Upshaw enjoys supporting Ole Miss athletics by attending sporting events whenever possible.

Pharmacy Administration Student Wins ‘Three Minute Thesis’ Challenge

Sujith Ramachandran takes 'Peoples' Choice' award during annual conference in New Orleans

UM pharmacy administration student Sujith Ramachandran (second from left) was one of the winners at the competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools held in New Orleans. He’s congratulated by  Donna West, Christy Wyandt and John Kiss.

UM pharmacy administration student Sujith Ramachandran (second from left) was one of the winners at the competition at the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools held in New Orleans. He’s congratulated by Donna West, Christy Wyandt and John Kiss.

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi student’s “Three Minute Thesis” was the audience favorite at the recent Conference of Southern Graduate Schools annual meeting.

Sujith Ramachandran, a pharmacy administration student from India, won the “Peoples’ Choice” award during the competition in New Orleans. Audience members, rather than judges, selected his “Honey, We Drugged the Kids!” as the best and most interesting presentation.

“It was an amazing feeling to be standing up there with the best students from across the South,” Ramachandran said of his honor, which included a $250 cash prize. “I also feel like it was a very good conclusion to my thesis project. My department helped me put all of it together, from the project to the final presentation, and Dean Kiss helped me take it to the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools. So it was a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”

Ramachandran’s entry was based on his master’s thesis project, titled “Determining physician and patient characteristics that predict the use of atypical antipsychotics in children with mental health disorders.”

“It is an attempt to understand physician decision-making in the area of pediatric mental health,” he said. “My thesis is basically an insight into what causes physicians to prescribe new-generation antipsychotics (such as Abilify or Seroquel) to children under the age of 18.”

Twenty-six students from major universities throughout the South competed in the 3MT finals. Each has won his or her university’s title. Ramachandran qualified for the contest by winning the UM competition in November.

UM administrators congratulated Ramachandran on winning the honor.

“The competition was very intense in that the best students from other 26 major schools, such as the University of Virginia, Auburn University and the University of Kentucky, were represented,” said John Kiss, dean of the UM Graduate School. “Sujith’s win also is a testament to the interesting and vibrant graduate programs we are building at our university.”

Provost Morris Stocks said Ramachandran’s honor adds to UM’s reputation for academic rigor.

“Any recognition of UM research, particularly from fellow scientists, speaks to the high caliber of our students and our formidable faculty,” Stocks said. “Mr. Ramachandran’s achievement at the CSGS annual meeting is another bragging point for our already renowned standing as Mississippi’s flagship university.”

Ramachandran, who completed his master’s degree last year, is a doctoral candidate and is working on his dissertation.

“I hope to finish my Ph.D. within the next year or two,” Ramachandran said. “I plan to join the pharmaceutical industry after my graduation, but my long-term goal is to work in the health policy arena to help fix the problems with health care cost and quality.”

The Three Minute Thesis competition celebrates the exciting research conducted by doctoral students. Developed by the University of Queensland, the exercise cultivates students’ academic, presentation and research communication skills. The competition supports their capacity to effectively explain their research in three minutes, in a language appropriate to a nonspecialist audience.

“Our 3MT program has done a great job of highlighting our graduate level studies as well as promoted interdisciplinary research,” Kiss said.

For more information on the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools, go to For more information on the 3MT competition, see

Jim Newman is Soaring High

Civil engineering alumnus once worked for NASA, became distinguished professor at MSU

Jim Newman

Jim Newman

One of Mississippi State University’s most distinguished engineering faculty members happens to be an alumnus of the University of Mississippi.

Jim Newman received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Ole Miss in 1964. Since then, he’s evolved into one of the world’s leading fracture mechanics experts. Newman spent 37 years at NASA-Langley before coming to MSU in 2001.

“The education that I received at Ole Miss was the foundation for my future studies at Virginia Tech and my research work at the NASA Langley Research Center,” Newman said. “A job at NASA was a dream come true.”

Newman has received a legion of awards for his substantial contributions to fatigue and fracture mechanics, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the NASA Superstars in Aeronautics Award. He is a William Giles Professor at MSU (the highest honor a faculty member there can achieve) and he was the first recipient of the Richard Johnson Chair in Aerospace Engineering.

“At NASA and MSU, I have continued my research in the area of fatigue and fracture mechanics for aerospace materials and structures,” Newman said. “Since arriving at MSU, Dr. Steve Daniewicz, Dr. Judy Schneider and I have built a world-class fatigue and fracture laboratory, with the support of MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering and the Office of Research and Economic Development.​”

Undoubtedly, Newman has earned the respect of his colleagues.

“Jim is an outstanding faculty member,” said Jason Keith, interim dean of MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering. “We are proud to have him in our college.”

“Jim is still very loyal to Ole Miss,” said Thomas E. Lacy Jr., professor and interim head of MSU’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. “When you meet Jim, I think you’ll find him to be a very genuine, kind, modest and down-to-earth person. That makes us feel especially lucky.”

A native of Memphis, Newman decided to attend UM because a cousin, Peggy Newman, and her husband, David Orr, attended Ole Miss a few years before him.

“I remember listening to the radio when Eagle Day was the Ole Miss quarterback,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, I was an Ole Miss football fan.”

One of Newman’s favorite engineering professors was C.C. Feng, who taught mechanics classes.

“I still have the notes that I took in his class and the homework assignments in my office at MSU,” Newman said. “I enjoyed his classes because he was tough and made us work a lot of homework. I believe in homework. That is the only way a student will ever learn the subject.”

Newman considers his selection as one of three engineers from Langley to be named Superstars in Modern Aeronautics (along with three engineers from several other NASA research centers) to be his greatest career achievement.

“I was placed on the same poster with Dr. Richard Whitcomb (Langley Research Center), the real superstar in aeronautics,” he said. “Dr. Whitcomb’s achievements were many times more significant than all of the others on the poster.”

Newman was married to Frances Mehan Newman, who passed away in January 2014. They had four sons.

“My mother, my sons and my grandkids are the greatest joy in my life,” Newman said. “My dad was my inspiration to become an engineer, but he passed away in January 1980. Ironically, after World War II, he was a ‘crack’ inspector for an airline in Memphis. And his son would become a world expert on ‘crack’ mechanics (the field of fracture mechanics).”

ESB President Reflects on Banner Year

Ben Lapane led student body to new heights

Ben Lapane

Ben Lapane

After Benjamin Lapane discussed the role of the Engineering Student Body president with members of the dean’s office staff, he felt compelled to run for the position. He won that election last spring and quickly began seeking ways to improve the School of Engineering for current and future students.

“One of my major goals while serving as ESB president was to improve career services for engineering students,” said Lapane, a senior mechanical engineering major from Mobile, Alabama. “We worked with our adviser to deliver survey results to the dean of engineering which focused on student feedback about career services. I was very pleased to hear that the dean’s office is in the early stages of planning to hire a staff member dedicated to career development.”

Although his major goal was realized, Lapane said that the position was not without its challenges.

“My major challenges were taking time to relax, balancing a major leadership role with classwork and preparing for life after graduation,” Lapane said. “Nevertheless, I highly recommend future students seek leadership positions with the ESB. This can be one of the most fun and rewarding experiences within the School of Engineering.”

Lapane thanked members of the dean’s office staff and School of Engineering faculty for their support during his tenure as president. He acknowledged Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services and ESB adviser, for his dedication and time working with the Leadership Council; Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics, for her support as his academic adviser; and Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering, for her inspiration with his academic efforts.

“The people here are what make the University of Mississippi one of the best institutions in the country,” Lapane said. “It has been wonderful to serve with the ESB Leadership Council who have been some of the most dedicated student leaders I’ve ever worked with.”

Besides his role as ESB president, Lapane is a former javelin thrower on the Rebels track and field team. He served as president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and was recognized with Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities honors.

Lapane has accepted a job offer with Dow Chemical Co. and will move to Houston, Texas, with his wife and fellow engineering senior, Mary Louise Lapane, to start his career.

“Ben has been an outstanding and enthusiastic leader for the ESB this year,” Upshaw said. “He has really elevated the organization and set a high bar for future ESB leaders. I have truly enjoyed working with him and serving as the ESB adviser.”

As the student governing organization for the school, the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council represents all disciplines. ESB provides student services and coordinates social and professional development events throughout the year. These include the School of Engineering Tailgate, National Engineering Week activities, Freshmen Convocation and the Engineering Formal. The group is also responsible for seeking feedback from engineering students and facilitating discussions with the administrators or faculty members.

Migraines’ Causes, Treatments Topic for Science Cafe

UM psychologist to share research on neurological illness at March 24 event

Cover art for Dr. Todd Smitherman's 'Advances in Psychotheraphy,' textbook.

Cover art for Todd Smitherman’s ‘Advances in Psychotheraphy’ textbook

OXFORD, Miss. – The causes and treatments for migraine headaches is the next topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. March 24 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Todd Smitherman, UM associate professor of psychology, will discuss “Migraine: Knowns and Unknowns.” Admission is free.

“Migraine is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent attacks of severe head pain accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound,” Smitherman said. “This talk will review recent scientific progress in migraine across these and other areas, differentiating between what is well-established from empirical research – the ‘knowns’ – and what remains to be understood – the ‘unknowns.'”

Smitherman’s 30-minute presentation is geared toward everyone, including both people who suffer from migraines and those who don’t.

“Data from the World Health Organization indicate that migraine is the third most common medical condition and eighth leading cause of disability on the planet,” he said. “Despite its high prevalence and impact, migraine remains underdiagnosed and inadequately treated, though recent scientific advances offer new hope for combatting this chronic condition.”

In the last two decades, substantial progress has been made in understanding migraine pathophysiology, headache triggers and the role of common co-occurring conditions, as well as in establishing effective treatments.

Smitherman earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from Auburn University and his bachelor’s degree from Samford University. His research areas include migraine and psychiatric comorbidity, behavioral interventions for headache, health psychology/behavioral medicine, and anxiety and depression in pain patients.

At UM, he teaches undergraduate courses in General Psychology, Learning, Abnormal Psychology and Health Psychology. His graduate classes include Seminar: Assessment and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders, Clinical Practicum and Issues and Ethics in Human Research and Professional Psychology.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-5311.

UM Employees, Let Your Voices Be Heard

Annual survey affects Chronicles' 'Great Colleges to Work For' selection

Take the Great Colleges to Work For Survey on Monday, March 16.

Take the Great Colleges to Work For Survey on Monday, March 16.

For six years running, the Chronicle of Higher Education has recognized the University of Mississippi as one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For.” Our selection has been based on a number of criteria, including positive feedback from a cross section of campus employees.

On March 16, an invitation will be distributed via email to a random sample of the university’s full-time faculty, administrators, exempt and nonexempt staff to participate in an online survey. Should you receive this invitation, please take time to respond and submit your completed form by the deadline.

“You will be representing not only yourself, but all your colleagues,” said Jessica Hughes, UM human resources generalist. “The results of the survey will be factored into the overall scoring process that will ultimately determine the institutions recognized by the Chronicle of Higher Education. After the Chronicle publishes the findings in July, we will receive a report that summarizes responses to the survey questions.”

This is a confidential survey that measures the strength of certain organizational competencies and relationships that most directly affect the university’s culture. So, whether they resemble a frog’s cranky croaking or a rooster’s proud crowing, employees must make their voices heard if the quality of their work conditions is to be recognized, maintained or improved.

“Your participation and honest feedback are critical to the assessment process,” Hughes said. “To ensure the confidentiality of your responses, your survey will be processed by ModernThink LLC, a research and consulting firm focusing on workplace excellence. Our institution will not be given any information that would enable us to trace survey data back to any one individual.”

Everyone’s participation is encouraged.

“A high response rate helps ensure accurate results and demonstrates the commitment of our workforce,” Hughes said.

For more information, contact Hughes at or visit

UM to Host Regional Civil Engineering Conference

Three-day event expected to bring 300 participants from four states

UM civil engineering students design and build steel bridges in competition.

UM civil engineering students design and build steel bridges in competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers is hosting the national organization’s Deep South Conference this month.

An estimated 300 participants from 13 schools in Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana and Arkansas are expected during the March 19-21 event. Areas of competition include concrete bowling, steel bridge design and construction, concrete canoe races, surveying, a mystery event and a technical paper. With the exceptions of the concrete canoe contest and surveying at Sardis Lake, all activities are set for the Oxford Conference Center.

“These events are designed to test participants’ engineering skills and teamwork ability,” said Grace Rushing of Oxford, chapter vice president and one of the conference coordinators.

During the concrete canoe competition, students must design, build and race a canoe made of concrete. The vessel must be durable and able to float after purposely being submerged in water. It also has to be light enough that it can be rowed easily and strong enough to hold four people.

“The overall winner of the event will go on to participate in the ASCE National Concrete Canoe Competition with the best schools from across the nation,” Rushing said.

For the steel bridge competition, students must design a bridge that spans approximately 20 feet, can be quickly constructed and can withstand a maximum load of 2,400 pounds without failing. The team that wins locally will also be invited to the ASCE/AISC National Student Steel Bridge Competition.

For Thursday’s concrete bowling contest, students must design a bowling ball out of concrete that can be used to bowl three frames without breaking. Saturday afternoon’s technical paper competition will involve students presenting papers they have written on the topic “Should the engineer of record be held responsible for injury or death to builders or bystanders that occurs during the construction of his/her design.”

“For the mystery event, teams will be given the rules and materials needed to complete the task when they arrive on Thursday,” Rushing said. “They then have until Saturday to prepare for the contest, which will test their ingenuity and engineering abilities.

“The conference is a lot of fun, and everyone is very competitive. The designs are always creative and it’s amazing to see what participants build.”

For more information, email or call 662-915-7191.

Spring Break with a Purpose

Ole Miss Outdoors canoe trip on Mississippi River offers travel and service opportunities

Ole Miss Outdoors Spring Break Canoeing Service Trip scheduled for March 7-13.

Ole Miss Outdoors Spring Break Canoeing Service Trip scheduled for March 7-13.

University of Mississippi students who are looking for something more during spring break than beaches, booze and bodies need search no further.

Join Ole Miss Outdoors for a trip down the mightiest river in America and at the same time, give back.

“We’re paddling and preserving the mighty and muddy Mississippi River,” said Shannon Richardson, assistant director of the UM Department of Recreation. “The canoe trip begins Friday (March 6) and ends Sunday (March 15). The cost ranges from $460 to $480.”

The deadline to register is 6 p.m. Wednesday (March 4). To sign up, visit the Turner Center, Room 110, call 662-915-6735 or email