Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter Speaker for UM Fall Convocation

New, transfer students to be presented commemorative coin in Tuesday welcome ceremony

UM Chancellor Preferred Candidate Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter speaks during the first morning listening session. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Chancellor Jeff Vitter is set to deliver the keynote address for the university’s annual Fall Convocation. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jeffrey S. Vitter, the University of Mississippi’s 17th chancellor, will deliver the keynote address to the institution’s first-year and transfer students Tuesday (Aug. 23) during the annual Fall Convocation.

The event begins at 7 p.m. in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Incoming freshmen and transfer students receive a free, limited edition commemorative coin as part of the program.

Others on the program with Vitter include Morris Stocks, provost and executive vice chancellor; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; Melinda Sutton, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students; and Austin Powell, Associated Student Body president.

“It is an honor to speak at freshman convocation,” Vitter said. “I’m especially excited to have an opportunity to engage with the Class of 2020 during my first fall at Ole Miss and to challenge them to examine and commit to the principles of our Creed.

“Higher education has great power to transform lives, and by engaging with one another with civility and respect, we open our minds to new perspectives and possibilities.”

Stocks encouraged students to come be inspired by Vitter.

“Among the many fine chancellors this university has had, Jeffrey Vitter is on his way to becoming one of the absolute best,” Stocks said. “Those who hear him share his reflections during the Fall Convocation are sure to leave challenged and inspired.”

The coin distribution has become a much-anticipated part of the ceremony, Hephner LaBanc said.

“I have the privilege of presenting these coins each year, and it is one of the highlights of the year for me,” she said. “The coins signify the importance of their transition into the UM community, but is a physical reminder of their responsibility to work, every day, toward graduation day.”

Students also received a copy of Sherman Alexie’s best-selling collection, “Ten Little Indians” (Grove Press, 2004), which was selected earlier this year as the 2016 Common Reading Experience. They were instructed to read the volume before the start of classes.

“‘Ten Little Indians’ is a collection of poignant and emotionally meaningful stories of Native Americans at cultural and personal crossroads,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience Committee. “The book was selected for a number of reasons, including the belief that students would enjoy the variety of this collection of very readable short stories. The story themes vary but speak to both universal experiences as well as those that are specific to the Native American condition.”

For more information on Fall Convocation and other campus events, visit

Two UM Colleagues United by Kidney Transplant

Decades-long friendship yields lifesaving surgery, lifelong connection

Kidney transplant recipient Charlotte Pegues (right) gets a warm embrace from her living donor and friend Leslie Banahan. (Photo by Robert Jordan, UM Imaging Services)

Kidney transplant recipient Charlotte Pegues (right) gets a warm embrace from her living donor and friend Leslie Banahan. (Photo by Robert Jordan, UM Imaging Services)

OXFORD, Miss. – A crisis situation often reveals who one’s true friends are. University of Mississippi colleagues Charlotte Pegues and Leslie Banahan discovered the depths of their friendship recently when a health crisis for the former brought the latter to her rescue.

Three years ago, Pegues’ kidneys began to fail, eventually placing her in dire need of a transplant. Soon after hearing the news, Banahan volunteered to donate one of her own kidneys. Physicians determined the two were a match and the successful operation was performed June 9 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“I feel like Leslie is my sister,” said Pegues, assistant provost for academic affairs and registrar. “I want to repay her in some way, but she said this was a gift. It’s a God thing!”

Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, said she is grateful and honored that she was able to be there for her friend.

“I wouldn’t have done this for just anyone, but Charlotte is an amazing woman, someone I wanted to help so she could live a full, long, happy life with her husband, family and friends,” Banahan said. “We have a special connection now – sisters, really – as we have shared this journey together.”

Because becoming a living organ donor is a life-changing decision, Banahan said it was not a choice that she made quickly or without a great deal of research, prayer and consideration.

“Ultimately, my faith in God and my love for Charlotte led me to be a living organ donor,” she said.

When Pegues was referred to UMMC’s transplant team by her nephrologist in Oxford, she told them that she had a potential live donor, said Dr. James Wynn, professor of transplant surgery who performed Pegues’ kidney transplant.

“That’s the best transplant circumstances – when you can have a living donor,” Wynn said. UMMC’s procedure is to give the person in need of a transplant information to pass on to the potential donor. That person contacts UMMC to say they’d like to donate a kidney.

That’s what Banahan did. “We found that she was compatible with (Pegues) and also medically suitable,” Wynn said. “It’s great when that happens.”

Registered nurse Jessica Johnston served as Banahan’s living donor transplant coordinator. She arranged Banahan’s own surgery and pre-operative care, and made sure that she fully understood the risks – and that she could change her mind at any time.

“She was very intent on helping her friend,” Johnston said. “It’s a very selfless act to give up a kidney. There are risks to the donor, so these are pretty special people who volunteer to do this.

“It seems like a very short process, but it’s very intensive and very thorough,” Johnston said of the weeks leading up to the transplant.

The day of surgery, Banahan’s kidney was removed by Dr. Mark Earl, associate professor of transplant surgery. It was carried one operating room over, where Pegues was prepped for her own surgery. Within about an hour, Banahan’s kidney was transplanted into Pegues, Earl said.

The entire process took about three hours, Wynn said.

Part of registered nurse Mollie King’s job is to give post-surgery transplant patients emotional support and to answer their questions at any time. Pegues “always talks to me about Leslie,” King said.

“She’s nicknamed her kidney as Carlie – a combination of Charlotte and Leslie. We joke about how Carlie is doing. She’s grateful, very knowledgeable and she wants to know everything about all aspects of her care. She’s had her ups and downs, but she looks good and she feels good.

“Her transplant is working excellently. Carlie’s working well.”

Charlotte Pegues (center) talks with registered nurse Mollie King and surgeon Dr. James Wynn during a post-op exam at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where Pegues received a successful kidney transplant in June. Photo by Marc Rolph/UMMC Public Affairs

Charlotte Pegues (center) talks with registered nurse Mollie King and surgeon Dr. James Wynn during a post-op exam at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where Pegues received a successful kidney transplant in June. Photo by Marc Rolph/UMMC Public Affairs

Pegues’ nephrologist encouraged her to pursue being placed on the transplant waiting lists in December 2013. She told Banahan and her other friends at that time. She was listed at three centers since 2014, and began peritoneal dialysis treatments at home in January 2016.

“The treatment lasted for eight hours each night, and that doesn’t include time spent connecting and disconnecting to the machine,” Pegues said. “What a relief that those days are behind me!”

“Leslie is a confidant and I trust her,” Pegues said. “She is a very caring and generous person. She continually looks for ways to help people and improve upon what’s already being done.”

“Charlotte never, never complains about being sick or feeling bad, so it was a surprise when she told me that she was going to need a kidney transplant,” Banahan said.

Banahan said that she prayed that her friend would get a kidney and be healthy once again. But the kidney never came, Pegues’ kidneys failed and she had to go on dialysis.

“That’s when I first thought about the possibility of giving her a kidney,” Banahan said. “I spoke to a couple physicians and had several conversations with the living organ donor coordinator at UMMC.

“I decided not to tell Charlotte I was trying to be her donor until I had passed the first couple of medical tests. When those tests yielded encouraging results, I told her that I wanted to give her a kidney.”

Pegues was still amazed when Banahan offered the organ donation.

“I felt so grateful that she offered to give me such a generous gift,” Pegues said. “When she told me she had started the process of being tested, I was overjoyed. Even before it was determined that she was a match, I was so touched that she considered doing such a thing for me.”

The matching process took some time because of the extensive testing involved. After it was determined the two were compatible, they set a surgery date that worked with their schedules.

“My husband and family were thrilled, to say the least,” Pegues said. “My husband said that I really have a true friend.”

Before becoming a living organ donor, Banahan conferred with her family.

“I discussed the idea with my two adult children,” she said. “They were both so encouraging and supportive of my decision.”

Since the procedure, Pegues has been continuing her recovery at home.

“As one would expect, I experienced pain in the days immediately following the surgery,” she said. “I rested a lot because there was not much else I could do. Simple tasks wore me out, but I feel stronger each day.”

Banahan said her first couple of weeks after the surgery were challenging.

“There was quite a bit of pain,” she said. “Then, for me, it was a matter of regaining strength and stamina. At eight weeks after surgery, I feel good and am working full time.”

The two agreed that they received excellent care at UMMC and have learned several things through this process.

“First, there is a state law which grants up to six weeks of leave to an organ donor so that the individual does not have to use personal or medical leave,” Pegues said. “Second, there is a tax credit of up to $10,000 available to donors for expenses they incurred such as travel and hotel accommodations. Third and finally, all medical expenses (testing, hospital services) are charged to the recipient.”

“There has been no financial cost to me at all throughout this entire process,” Banahan said. “I hope our story encourages others to consider being a living organ donor.”

Live donors aren’t uncommon nationally, but it can be difficult to find good candidates in the Deep South.

“Part of our challenge is that we serve a predominantly African-American population, and diabetes and high blood pressure are very common,” Wynn said. “Even when we have family members or friends willing to donate, they frequently have medical reasons for not being able to donate.”

The main consideration, Wynn said, is that the donor and recipient must have compatible blood types.

Banahan and other live donors are advised on the front end of the risks of surgery. Both donors and recipients go through an evaluation process at UMMC to ensure that the donation is being made freely and without coercion, and that donors are doing it for the right reasons, King said.

“Facing a major operation is a worrisome thing, and a lot of our focus is to allay the fears” of both donors and recipients, Wynn said. “Because of the precautions we take, it’s the safest operation we do. There’s risk, but compared to any other major operation, it’s extremely safe.

“The more important question is, what’s the lifelong risk to the donor of having only one kidney? We know the risk is not zero, but it’s extremely small. We are careful to make sure we identify the potential donors who have problems that can put them at risk for kidney failure.”

While Pegues and Banahan made a model donation team, at least 700 people are on UMMC’s waiting list for a kidney transplant, Wynn said.

“We did 77 kidney transplants in the first six months of this year,” he said. “That shows there’s a large gap between the number waiting, and the number of donations available. Donation is a great thing.”

UMMC is making strides in growing its live organ donor program.

“It’s a beautiful gift to give upon your death, but we want to make more people aware that there’s the option of live donation,” Johnston said.

Pegues and Banahan have “such a beautiful friendship,” Johnston said. “When you are a living donor, that’s a gift that keeps on giving. Leslie will give this gift to Charlotte every day.”

Fatefully, it was a work crisis that initially brought the two Ole Miss employees together in the mid-1990s.

“Leslie was working in international programs and I was working in admissions,” Pegues said. “We were assigned to work on a very sensitive student issue.”

“The assignment required us to spend quite a bit of time together, and I was quickly impressed with Charlotte’s intelligence, professional knowledge and skills, and her no-nonsense approach to our work,” Banahan said. “We were a good team, and I knew she was someone I could trust and count on to make good decisions.”

Resolving the matter at hand, the two continued working together on various projects and committees. Both eventually served as assistant vice chancellors for student affairs, positions that afforded them the opportunity to work together on a daily basis. What began as a professional relationship developed into a strong friendship.

“Leslie is always kind and professional,” Pegues said. “Having both held positions of assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, we worked closely together for several years. We spent a lot of time working on very serious matters. From what I recall, I think we agreed on most things.”

Pegues is “a person of strong faith and personal values” who possesses a great sense of humor, Banahan said.

“I think we both are fairly optimistic people, and we both chose careers in higher education,” she said. “I’m sure we have disagreed occasionally, but I honestly can’t remember a specific disagreement. While our life stories are very different, we just connected and supported one another.”

UM Professors Earn Tenure and Promotions

Four academic departments, Croft Institute and Sarah Isom Center are under new leadership

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Four faculty members within the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi have been promoted to administrative positions, and more than 50 faculty members across campus have been granted tenure or rank promotions.

Also, Gregg Roman has been hired as chair and professor of biology, and Rebekah Smith has been hired as chair of the Department of Psychology.

Luca Bombelli, associate professor of physics and astronomy, has been named chair of the department, and Michael Barnett, associate professor of lighting design, is the new chair of the Department of Theatre Arts. Oliver Dinius, associate professor of history, is the new executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies, and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies is under the direction of Jaime Harker, professor of English. All appointments became official this summer.

“I am pleased to announce the outstanding faculty that will assume these very important administrative roles within the College of Liberal Arts,” Dean Lee Cohen said. “I am confident that each of these units will flourish under their new leadership and I am excited to begin working with them.

“I would also like to thank those individuals who these individuals are following – all of whom served their respective units with exceptional leadership and resourcefulness.”

Though new to the university, Roman comes with both short- and long-term goals for the Department of Biology, which includes growing its faculty and increasing the number of high-impact research projects in diverse areas of the life sciences.

“Our team will accomplish this goal through a multipronged approach that includes improving our ability to conduct state-of-the-art research with new shared-use instrumentation facilities Roman,” said. “We are increasing our efforts at recruiting and retaining academically excellent, driven and curious graduate students. We will also increase the level of discourse with discipline specific journal club courses, a bolstered research seminar series and a departmental retreat.

These increases in research communication will help generate more innovation and provide both incentives and tools for even higher levels of multidisciplinary research, he said.

“By encouraging our faculty to work together in these tasks, we will elevate our research and develop national and international recognition for the areas of strength present in the biology department,” he said.

A member of the Department of Physics and Astronomy faculty since 1996, Bombelli said he is fortunate to have stepped into the position at a time when the department has seen an increase in the number of regular, tenure-track faculty members.

“This has strengthened our already very active and prominent research groups, and put us in a position to attract even higher levels of funding,” he said. “We are a relatively small, friendly department, in which faculty carry out very exciting research, and we plan to use this to raise the quality and diversity of our applicant pool, in both our undergraduate and graduate programs.”

In terms of course offerings, the recent increase in faculty size has been offset by the number of sections needed to teach to serve a much larger overall student population.

“So my goal is to increase the size of the faculty further, to reach a level at which we can teach a really attractive variety of courses,” Bombelli said. “In the short term, this will require the development of a clear vision and expansion plan.”

Before coming to Ole Miss, Smith was professor and chair of psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“My goals are to provide leadership for growth in the department within the environment of UM as a leading research university by supporting faculty and students and through creative problem solving,” she said. “I am fortunate to have a strong positive foundation to build on, thanks to the work of Dr. Michael Allen, who served as department chair for 14 years and who continues to provide invaluable advice during the transition in leadership.”

Barnett joined the faculty in August 2007 and has served as assistant professor of lighting design, assistant chair of theatre arts, vice-chair of the Faculty Senate and chair of the Faculty Senate for the last four years.

“The department will work to ensure that our students have the resources to create wonderful pieces of theater, film and dance,” Barnett said. “They will learn about the artistry, professionalism and critical thinking necessary to generate substantive pieces of work and discover the ways in which they can make a positive difference in our community through the representation of our regional, national and global stories.”

Through collaboration with the other fine arts departments, the Department of Theatre Arts will serve as a cultural corridor through which the community is able to connect with the university, he added.

Dinius, who has been a UM faculty member since 2004, said his first and foremost goal is to make sure that the international studies major remains a program that stands for academic excellence as the number of students continues to grow.

“The Croft Institute now accepts 50 percent more students than it did in 2010, but its faculty has not grown, which means that we have to use our resources very wisely to give students the true ‘Croft’ experience and inspire them to perform at the highest level,” Dinius said.

“Over the next few years, I would like to reshape the curriculum in the international studies major to be more global in outlook, building on our strength in the study of four particular regions – East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East – and finding ways to think beyond those regions.”

Another priority of Dinius’ would be to place even greater emphasis on undergraduate research, a skillset that has proven to lead to exciting careers for alumni, often in areas of the private sector that one might not immediately associate with research.

“In terms of Croft’s contribution to the university at large, I want to see us even more engaged in the internationalization of our campus,” he said. “This would include expanding the number of international events working with other units on campus, such as the Honors College, the Department of Modern Languages and the Office of Global Engagement, among others.

“Greater internationalization of campus benefits our majors, the student body at large and the Oxford community.”

Harker joined the faculty in 2003 and has been an assistant professor and associate professor of English. She was director of undergraduate studies in English, the department’s assistant chair and interim director of the Isom Center in 2014-2015.

“Our short-term goals include increasing the availability of courses in gender studies to serve the student body, creating partnerships with groups on campus and in the community regarding gender and sexual studies, and building financial support for programming and education,” she said. “We will build on partnerships with the Oxford Film Festival, the Powerhouse, the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement, and many others within and outside of the university.”

Harker said her long-term goals are to extend the reach of the center’s educational programs through podcasts, social media and online programming, move to more accessible and visible space in Lamar Hall, and build a stronger endowment to support its educational mission.

Other faculty members earning tenure and/or rank promotions are:

  • Kim Griffin Adcock was promoted to professor of pharmacy practice and is director of faculty and academic affairs in the Department of Pharmacy Practice
  • Abbas Ali was promoted to principal scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research
  • Alan Louis Arrivee was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of theatre arts
  • Robert William Barnard was promoted to professor of philosophy
  • Edmond Boudreaux was granted tenure
  • Cecilia Botero was granted tenure
  • Qingying Bu was promoted to professor of mathematics
  • Joe Turner Cantu was promoted to professor of theatre arts
  • Tucker Carrington was promoted to associate professor of law and is director of the Innocence Project
  • Amber Jean Carpenter-McCullough was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of curriculum and instruction
  • Virginia Rougon Chavis was promoted to professor of art and is chair of art and art history
  • Allen Stanley Clark was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of modern languages
  • Svjetlana Curcic was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of special education
  • Charles Clay Dibrell was promoted to professor of management and is William W. Gresham Jr Entrepreneurial Lecturer
  • Victoria Lynn Dickinson was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of accountancy
  • Conor M. Dowling was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of political science
  • Micah Paul Everett was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of music
  • Joshua First was promoted to Croft associate professor of history and international studies
  • Laurie Warrington Fleming was promoted to clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice
  • Jennifer W. Ford was promoted to professor and is head of Archives and Special Collections at the J.D. Williams Library
  • Karen Forgette was promoted to lecturer in the Center for Writing and Rhetoric
  • Richard John Gentry was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of management
  • Kristy L. Gilliland was promoted to professor of law and is director of the Law Library
  • Bradley T. Goodwiller was promoted to research and development engineer II at the National Center for Physical Acoustics
  • Joan Hall was promoted to senior lecturer in English
  • Ralph Hugh Hamilton was promoted to instructional associate professor of management
  • John David Heffington was promoted to senior research and development engineer at the National Center for Physical Acoustics
  • John A. Holleman was promoted to clinical associate professor of higher education
  • Kate Hooper was promoted to lecturer in the Center for Writing and Rhetoric
  • Guy Krueger was promoted to lecturer in the Center for Writing and Rhetoric
  • Cecille Alista Labuda was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of physics and astronomy
  • Christopher J. Leary was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of biology
  • Theresa Hilary Levitt was promoted to professor of history
  • Soumyajit Majumdar was promoted to professor of pharmaceutics and research professor in RIPS and is associate dean for research and graduate programs and associate director of the PII Center for Pharmaceutical Technology
  • Charles D. Mitchell was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of journalism and new media and is assistant dean
  • Sathyanarayana Narasimh Murthy was promoted to professor of pharmaceutics and research professor in RIPS
  • Ahmed Mohamed Galal Osman was promoted to senior scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research
  • James J. Pitcock was promoted to clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice
  • Charles K. Ross was promoted to professor of history and is director of African-American studies
  • Stefan E. Schulenberg was promoted to professor of psychology
  • Carrie Smith was promoted to instructional associate professor in psychology
  • Rebekah Smith was granted tenure
  • Daniel Stout was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of British literature
  • Natascha Techen was promoted to senior scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research
  • Anne S. Twitty was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of history
  • Randy Mack Wadkins was promoted to professor of chemistry and biochemistry
  • Yanhong Wang was promoted to principal scientist at the National Center for Natural Products Research
  • Ivonne Whitehead was promoted to senior lecturer in modern languages
  • Kathleen Wickham was promoted to professor of journalism
  • Louis George Zachos was granted tenure and promoted to associate professor of geology and geological engineering
  • Yaoxin Zhang was promoted to senior research scientist at the National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering

Exercise May Help Diabetics Protect Their Eyesight

UM professor Paul Loprinzi's study yields insights for at-risk patients

Paul Loprinzi

Paul Loprinzi

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor’s research has determined that regular exercise may help prevent diabetics from losing their vision.

Paul Loprinzi, assistant professor of health, exercise and recreation management, evaluated the association between sedentary behavior and diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that causes damage to blood vessels in the retina and leads to vision loss.

The study looked at 282 American adults with diabetes. The patients averaged 62 years of age, and nearly one-third (29 percent) had mild or more severe diabetic retinopathy.

Using an accelerometer device to measure activity, the study found that participants were physically inactive an average of 8.7 hours of the time they were awake each day.

“For each 60-minute daily increase in physical inactivity, the risk for mild or more severe diabetic retinopathy rose by 16 percent,” Loprinzi said. “I believe the link between a sedentary lifestyle and retinopathy may be due to unfavorable levels of cardiovascular disease risk factors, which in turn may increase the risk of diabetic retinopathy.”

Engaging in daily structured exercise, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes at a time, as well as lifestyle-based activity – an example would be minimizing prolonged sedentary behavior by standing up and walking for a few minutes every hour – may have important implications for health.

“Future prospective experimental studies are needed to confirm our findings to see if, indeed, sedentary behavior is causally related to an increased risk of diabetic retinopathy,” Loprinzi said.

The study was published Aug. 4 in the journal JAMA Opthamlmology.

One eye expert wasn’t surprised by the findings, but agreed that more research is needed.

“Further studies are needed to determine the extent lifestyle plays a role in the development of diabetic eye disease,” said Mark Fromer, an ophthalmologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

To view the Loprinzi’s article, “Association of accelerometer-assessed sedentary behavior with diabetic retinopathy in the United States,” visit

UM Graphic Arts Students Snag Big Internships

Heidi Bain at Walt Disney World, Will Halcomb at Cartoon Network's Adult Swim

Heidi Bain

Heidi Bain

OXFORD, Miss. – When Heidi Bain and Will Halcomb return to the University of Mississippi, the senior graphic art students will be able to compare notes from their respective internships at two of the biggest companies in the entertainment industry.

Through early next year, Bain will be employed as a graphic design intern with Disney Cast Activities Recognition and Experience in Orlando, Florida. Halcomb is at work at Adult Swim at the Cartoon Network in Atlanta until the end of August.

Both are scheduled to receive their bachelor’s degrees from the UM Department of Art and Art History in December and May 2017, respectively.

“Heidi is a talented graphic designer, and I’m not surprised that she was offered the Disney internship, as her work is colorful and somewhat magical in its design,” said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair and professor of art and art history.

“The job Will was selected for at Adult Swim seems a perfect fit. His artwork is mix of wacky, lovable, retro and forward-thinking. He’s a rare gem and I think he’s definitely working on finding his niche.”

An Orlando native, Bain grew up going to Disney World and the beach. She decided to attend UM because it was completely different than any college she’d looked at in her hometown.

“I fell in love with everything about Oxford: the gorgeous campus, the small-town Southern charm and the friendliest people I have ever met,” Bain said. “I realized Ole Miss was the perfect environment for me to grow creatively at a university that is much more of a family than it is an institution.”

Heidi Bain with Mickey Mouse and two of her cowokers in the office.

Heidi Bain with Mickey Mouse and two of her cowokers in the office.

Bain applied for about 10 different internships before she found the Disney opening on the company’s Professional Interns website. She applied online, submitted her portfolio for review, and did phone and Skype interviews before she landed the position.

“I have already used many things I learned in my core art classes, such as knowledge on color theory, typography and elements of 2-D design,” Bain said. “The knowledge I gained from my BFA in graphic design at Ole Miss has been very beneficial with how to professionally respond to clients and explain the reasoning behind why some designs work best, and why and some don’t communicate ideas effectively.”

Will Halcomb

Will Halcomb

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Halcomb came to UM because it was the right distance from home and a “new enough” place where he wouldn’t know too many people. He also got his internship by applying online and reaching out to a cousin who had worked for a related company over a decade ago.

“I help out with all the graphic design needs for as well as for the Adult Swim app and various other digital media outlets employed by Adult Swim,” he said. “A memorable moment would be when they made me wear a helmet with a camera on it and stream my day live on the homepage while also selling T-shirts with my face on them.”

The interns’ respective supervisors said they were very impressed with each student’s skills and professionalism.

“Will’s offbeat design style and great attitude make him an amazing asset,” said Peter Karpick, creative director at Adult Swim. “He has a great work ethic, has been super-easy to work with, takes direction well and always delivers really solid work. I have no doubt he will be successful in the future.”

“Heidi has been a valuable asset to both our team and to the clients she supports,” said Andrew Hendricks, graphic designer with Walt Disney Creative Learning Services. “From day one, her knowledge of working in the parks and her passion for graphic design allows her to solve problems in a way that still upholds the Disney brand, maintains the magic and integrity that we all cherish.”

Both Bain and Halcomb said they are anticipating exciting careers following graduation. She is hoping to find a full-time job in the area of graphic design within some department of the Walt Disney Co.

“My internship lasts from June 12th to January 7th, although there is a possibility to apply for an extension,” Bain said.

Halcomb said that his UM educational experiences have given him plenty of perspective with different media to try different approaches when he sits down in front of a computer.

“My plans after graduation are to enter the wonderful world of commercial design and start working hard for the money,” he said.

For more information about the UM Department of Art and Art History, visit

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.

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

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 Sauls 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 Sauls (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.”