UM Engineering School Raises Admission Standards

Move makes entrance more stringent, odds of student success higher

Enrollment in the UM School of Engineering has nearly tripled in recent years, even as the school has raised its admission standards to help ensure students are adequately prepared for the rigors of the curriculum. Photo by Kevin Bain-Ole Miss Communications

Enrollment in the UM School of Engineering has nearly tripled in recent years, even as the school has raised its admission standards to help ensure students are adequately prepared for the rigors of the curriculum. Photo by Kevin Bain-Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – To give its students better chances to graduate and launch successful careers, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering has raised admission standards for most of its degree programs.

To enroll in the Bachelor of Science programs in chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer and information science, electrical engineering, geological engineering, geology, and mechanical engineering, students must have a minimum ACT math subscore of 25 and high school core GPA of 3.0.

These standards are based on the level of preparedness students need for the first-year engineering curricula, Dean Alex Cheng said.

“As a professional school in the state’s flagship university, the School of Engineering’s mission is to give its graduates, through an interdisciplinary background, the abilities to adapt to the rapid changes in engineering,” Cheng said. “The school is committed to its mission of providing a liberal arts-enhanced professional education of the highest quality that broadens students’ experiences and future success.”

As the standards have gotten tougher, demand for the school’s program has soared, said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics.

“During my 12 years in the engineering dean’s office, I have witnessed undergraduate enrollment in this school go from 576 to 1,565, total annual graduates go from 78 to 221, admission standards go from none to 25 on the ACT math, and career fair participation go from fewer than 10 companies to more than 50 companies,” Kendricks said.

“I am totally confident that we’re on the right track for the next decade. The rising tide of engineering-interested high school students has allowed this program to set new high-water marks in terms of admission standards, academic expectations and graduate achievement.”

Since fall 2004, the average overall ACT score of the entering freshman class has increased from 23.9 to 27.3, and the GPA from 3.24 to 3.66.

For less-prepared students, a pathway to success is created in the General Engineering degree program. Students with a minimum ACT math subscore of 20 and high school core GPA of 2.8 can be admitted to the pre-engineering program in general engineering.

Preparatory math and first-year student experience courses are provided to assist students in meeting the prerequisites of the first-year curricula. Students get individual advice for a successful transfer into the engineering degree programs they choose, for an on-time completion or a minimum amount of extra time to degree.

The General Engineering degree is one of the school’s most innovative and versatile programs. Students in this program can pursue different emphases, such as pre-med, pre-law, business, education, manufacturing, public policy and military leadership.

“The five engineering degrees – chemical, civil, electrical, geological and mechanical – have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology since the 1950s,” Cheng said. “The computer and information science degree is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET.”

Many engineering students are enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, one of the nation’s top honors programs. Many students have opportunities to pursue undergraduate research, study abroad or to enroll in special programs, such as the Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

In collaboration with the School of Law, the engineering school also has a 3+3 accelerated engineering and law degree program. Most Ole Miss engineering students are engaged in service, including the highly successful Engineers Without Borders chapter that renders service in Africa.

The school’s broad-based education has produced well-rounded engineers, and many of them have become national leaders in the industry, government and higher education sectors. Graduates enter not only the professions of engineering and technology, but also the diverse fields of medicine, law, business and public service.

“I’m so very optimistic about the future of Ole Miss engineering,” Kendricks said. “I can hardly wait for Summer Orientation to welcome our incoming 2017 freshmen class.”

UM Physics Department Offers Hair-Raising Night of Science

'Spooky Physics Night' shows off scientific principles in educational, fun format

Fairy princess had a hair-raising experience at previous Spooky Physics Night. Photo by Nathan Latil maging Services, The University of Mississippi

A fairy princess has a hair-raising experience at a previous ‘Spooky Physics Night.’ Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Frights, food and fun are the order of the evening when the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy presents its annual “Spooky Physics Night” demonstrations from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday (Oct. 28) in Lewis Hall.

The program will include a stage show at 8 p.m. Hands-on activities for the public through the evening include freezing objects in liquid nitrogen (at minus 320 degrees), generating sound waves with Bunsen burners and tubes, and levitating magnets with superconductors. Other fun presentations include optical illusions with mirrors, hair-raising encounters with a Van de Graaff generator, a bed of nails and other contraptions.

Physics department personnel also will prepare ice cream with liquid nitrogen and award prizes for the most original, scariest and cutest costumes to kids 12 and under.

“We at the Department of Physics and Astronomy really look forward to this event,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and coordinator of the evening’s activities. “As in the past years, there will be shows and a lot of hands-on science demonstrations with a Halloween twist to experience weird physics phenomena, from electricity to heat and pressure to the ultra-cold.

“And to make the evening sweeter, guests will be able to taste our world-famous liquid nitrogen ice cream!”

Visitors can park across the street in the various lots around the Turner Center. For more information or for assistance related to a disability, call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 662-915-5325.

UM Physics Student Wins Prestigious Research Award

Wanwei Wu headed to FermiLab to further study particle physics

UM physics grad student Wanwei Wu conducting research in one of the departmental labs.(Submitted photo)

UM physics graduate student Wanwei Wu conducts research in one of the departmental labs. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – As scientists worldwide continue delving into the secrets of the universe, a University of Mississippi graduate student joins the ongoing exploration of particle physics, studying the most infinitesimally tiny pieces that comprise matter.

Wanwei Wu of China has been selected to receive a Universities Research Association Visiting Scholar Award of $25,920 for his proposal, “Beam Dynamics in the Muon g-2 Storage Ring.” The prestigious honor from the consortium that manages Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will fund 12 months of on-site research at the facility starting Nov. 1. This award is for the reimbursement of salary and university fringe benefits.

In the three years since the university joined URA, the research group led by Breese Quinn, associate professor of physics, has received two URA Visiting Scholar awards (postdoctoral researcher Jim Kraus also received the honor in 2013) and a FermiLab Intensity Frontier Fellowship (given to Quinn, also in 2013). Several other URA members have yet to receive an award.

“Wanwei’s proposal was selected in competition with postdocs and professors from the top universities in the nation,” Quinn said. “This record for Mississippi demonstrates that we are benefiting greatly from membership in URA, and the U.S. particle physics program is benefiting from the quality researchers that Mississippi is sending to work at FermiLab.”

Wu, who applied for the fall 2016 URA Visiting Scholars Program Award in August, said he was glad when he heard his proposal was approved at the end of September.

“I am glad that the URA offered me this award,” Wu said. “I will work hard and make sure the project completed on time.”

Wu’s work is based on the FermiLab Muon g-2 Experiment, which could produce important advances in particle research, Quinn said.

“We are measuring how much the muon precesses, or wobbles, when it moves in a magnetic field,” he said. “If we find that the amount of wobble is different than what we expect, it will be a discovery that there are definitely other particles in the universe that we have never seen before.

“Wanwei’s specific work is to produce an extremely high-quality and well-understood muon beam to measure.”

A graduate of Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Wu said his intrinsic love with physics leads him to keep studying and exploring the amazing secrets of nature. He came to Ole Miss because he said attending here is the best way for him to pursue such a goal.

“The courses on physics I took at UM are important and helpful to start my research,” Wu said. “The academic spirits I learned from professors at the department really encourage me and my research with belief.

“The theoretical training on particle physics I got from Dr. (Alakabha) Datta (associate professor of physics and astronomy) is extremely useful to understand the phenomena on experimental particle physics. I really appreciate all the professors, as well as graduate classmates, at the department for their help.”

Wu’s award attests to the strength of the department and the quality of its faculty, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“All three of our URA Awards demonstrate that the University of Mississippi is leading the way in finding answers to the most complex questions everyone has about the universe and its origins,” Bombelli said. “As our reputation for excellence grows, I feel confident the department’s faculty and students will continue to attract researchers who excel in their studies.”

By building some of the largest and most complex machines in the world, FermiLab scientists expand humankind’s understanding of matter, energy, space and time. The organization is at the forefront of research into neutrinos, ubiquitous but hard-to-catch particles that might point to a better understanding of the first moments after the Big Bang.

The proposed international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, to be based at FermiLab, will be the world’s largest experiment for neutrino science and proton decay studies.

FermiLab is also heavily involved in research at the Large Hadron Collider and serves as the U.S. headquarters for the CMS experiment there.

FermiLab scientists are at the cutting edge of research in dark matter and dark energy, which helped shape the universe and will continue to guide its evolution into the future. Fermilab is a base for exploration of the fundamental particles and forces that govern our world on the smallest scales.

For more information about the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit For more information about Fermilab, go to

UM Creative Writing Program Ranked Among Nation’s Top 10

Award-winning authors, talented students, unique opportunities key elements in latest recognition

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has just been ranked in the "Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers" by Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has been ranked among the 10 vest programs for aspiring writers by Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a decade ago, the University of Mississippi was ranked as one of five “Up-and-Coming” Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs by The Atlantic magazine.

Apparently, the program is reaching its full potential, with UM recently being named a “Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers” by

“I am extremely happy for our English department, MFA program and our current and former students,” said Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and MFA program director. “A lot of this foundation was laid well before I arrived here four years ago in Barry Hannah’s vision for the program, Beth Ann Fennelly’s dedication as our long-standing director and the full support of Ivo Kamps, our extremely supportive chair.”

At No. 6, the university is ahead of such prestigious rival institutions as the University of Virginia, Emory University, the University of Chicago and New York University. Ranked ahead of UM are Wesleyan University, the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University and the University of Iowa.

“Ole Miss boasts of notable alumni John Grisham and William Faulkner and tries to re-create the literary geniuses their programs housed in the past,” wrote author Isabella Senzamici. “The Creative Writing program admits only a small amount of students so each student receives optimal attention. Their student publication, The Yalobusha Review, an online journal that breaks the traditional norms of mainstream media, is considered one of the best student publications in the nation.”

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing Program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM students transform their passion for writing into a catalyst for social change, Senzamici wrote.

They teach community writing workshops, read at retirement homes and judge writing contests to help budding writers understand the value and impact of their words. Ole Miss equips students with the Oxford Conference for the Book, a program that puts writers and students in contact with an author they admire or helps market their writing collections.”

Kamps said he was excited to read the College Magazine piece because it confirms the upward trajectory of the university’s writing program.

“We have an extraordinary group of creative writers on the faculty, and our students know it,” he said. “Our entire faculty is dedicated to the success of the students. The recent addition of Kiese Laymon and Melissa Ginsburg only confirms that.”

While numbers and rankings aren’t everything, it does mean a lot for UM as a fairly young program, Hariell said.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as long-established programs is something we can hang our hat on,” he said. “Additionally, we can share this information with prospective students in hopes to continue improving our recruitment efforts.”

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

The latest news comes as verification that UM’s program is doing everything right, Fennelly said.

“For many years, we’ve believed that what has been happening in our classrooms, with our students, is very, very special,” said the award-winning poet, professor of English and Mississippi poet laureate. “But of course, it’s nice to have the confirmation! All I know is, our mojo is working. And this year, I’m happy knowing in his (Harriell’s) hands, our program will grow even stronger.”

Poets and fiction writing students in the MFA program were also ecstatic to learn about the ranking.

“I’m not at all surprised to find Mississippi ranked so highly, but I’m absolutely thrilled by it, mostly because it’s a recognition of how hard our faculty and staff work to make this an incredible place to be educated as a writer, and of all the remarkable and exciting work my colleagues are doing,” said Molly Brown, a third-year poet from Amherst, Virginia.

“From the moment I arrived in Oxford, this place, and these people, have been on my team in every conceivable way. My colleagues and my teachers have made me want to be better and do better work every day.”

Fellow student Matt Kessler agreed.

“I knew I would receive a great writing education, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d also learn about literature and about how to teach,” said Kessler, a third-year fiction writer from Chicago. “That’s what I’m excited about: the quality of the writing that my classmates and teachers have shared with me.”

Since the Ole Miss program was launched in 2000, it has stayed small and selective, attracted outstanding students, retained its exceptional faculty and been supported financially by generous benefactors such as John and Renee Grisham.

For several years, students in the program have garnered inclusion in “Best New American Voices,” an anthology of the best of fiction workshops across the country. Other student recognition includes the Association of Writing Programs Intro Award for Non-Fiction, the Iron Horse Discovery Award for Poetry, the Best American Poetry award and publication in a number of national magazines.

Locally, the MFA program was also awarded a Graduate Schools Diversity Award a couple of years ago.

For more information about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit

UM Engineering Senior Named Top 10 Army ROTC Cadet

Dustin Dykes follows award-winning path established 30 years ago by his father

UM Army ROTC senior Dustin Dykes (left) shares a moment with Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, Commander of the Army’s Cadet Command during the recent luncheon. (Submitted photo)

UM Army ROTC senior Dustin Dykes (left) shares a moment with Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, Commander of the Army’s Cadet Command during the recent luncheon. (Submitted photo)

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi engineering student is among the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Top 10 graduates for 2017.

Dustin Dykes, a senior mechanical engineering major from Madison, Alabama, placed No. 9 on the list, outranking more than 5,000 other military seniors nationwide. Criteria included academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities.

Dykes also has been awarded the Association of United States Army’s Army ROTC Cadet of the Year Award for 2016. He flew to Washington, D.C., recently to receive the $4,000 scholarship.

“I was overjoyed and very surprised upon learning I had been selected as the winner of the AUSA Army ROTC scholarship,” said Dykes, who after commissioning in May will begin active duty with the long-term goal of selection to the Army Aviation Corps. “I was surprised again a couple weeks later when I was informed I was among the top 10 cadets in the country.”

As Dykes called and texted his family to share the news, he was bombarded by congratulatory texts and social media posts from friends.

“It is a great feeling, having that kind of support from my family, church, ROTC and engineering friends,” he said.

It is an enormous honor for Ole Miss Army ROTC, which also had three other seniors in the top 10 percent of the graduating class, that U.S. Army Cadet Command recognized Dykes, said Lt. Col. Scott Walton, UM professor of military science and chair of Army ROTC.

“His outstanding performance in academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities has been noticed and has served as an example for other cadets to emulate,” Walton said. “It has been an honor to mentor Dustin these last four years, and he will have a profound impact on others as an Army officer on active duty.”

A four-year Army ROTC National Scholarship recipient, Dykes maintains a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and is ranked No. 1 both in his engineering class of 88 students and among the 22 senior Army ROTC cadets.

Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo

Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo

“Army ROTC is something I knew I wanted to do fairly early in my childhood,” Dykes said. “Growing up as the son of an Army officer who flew helicopters, I easily had a role model to look up to. The great thing was my parents never pressured me into ROTC, and it was a decision I was allowed to pursue on my own.

“ROTC has taught me leadership, time management, and has provided me with a sense of belonging the past three-and-a-half years.”

Dykes’ academic achievements include being a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies, and he made the Chancellor’s List all seven semesters he has attended UM.

“I actually started at Ole Miss majoring in forensic chemistry, but early in my freshman year, I had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t my true calling and I wasn’t enjoying my classes as much as I knew I could,” he said.

“The one class I was incredibly passionate about was calculus. Combining that passion for calculus with my interest in aviation, I soon switched my major to mechanical engineering. It was easily the most important and positive decision I made in college.”

Dykes is shining example of leadership, patriotism and scholarship, agreed faculty members and administrators in the School of Engineering.

“Dustin Dykes has always been a model student and a model student leader,” said Arunachalum “Raj” Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “It is not surprising to see him as a model cadet also. As a former U.S. Army scientist, I absolutely believe Dustin will continue to be a distinguished member of the military in a fabulous career.”

Coincidentally, Dykes is not the first person is his family to attend UM and be nationally recognized for exceptional leadership in ROTC. David Dykes, a 1986 chemical engineering graduate and Dustin’s father, won the 1986 Hughes Trophy Award as the top Army ROTC cadet in the nation.

“Pat, a 1983 UM alum with a B.S. in accounting, and I feel blessed and are both very proud of Dustin receiving this recognition,” said David Dykes, program manager within Army Operations and Modernization at Science Applications International Corp. in Huntsville, Alabama. “He has put forth a tremendous amount of mental and physical effort to get to this point.

“In addition to his academic accomplishments, over the last three years, he has also trained with the German Army, graduated from the U.S. Army’s Air Assault School as the honor graduate and interned with an aviation battalion in Korea.”

Dustin’s older sister, Danielle Dykes, earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry from UM in 2013. The younger Dykes admitted to being a bit nervous joining Army ROTC at Ole Miss.

“I knew how much I had to live up to given my father’s achievements when he was at Ole Miss, especially as he is the only Ole Miss ROTC alumni to have won the Hughes Trophy,” Dustin Dykes said. “As a freshman walking onto campus, I immediately set the bar high and set goals I knew would be difficult to achieve, but that I would hold myself to.”

During his undergraduate tenure, Dykes said he achieved many of his goals.

“To be able to extend my father’s legacy, as well as that of Army ROTC and the Ole Miss School of Engineering, is an amazing feeling,” he said. “More importantly, I have proven to myself what I am capable of and what I have to strive for the rest of my time at Ole Miss.”

The elder Dykes said he understands his son’s initial mixed feelings.

“Much of my decision to pursue engineering and ROTC was based on my desire to follow my father and mother into an engineering career, and my father into the military,” David Dykes said. “I felt that an engineering degree would best prepare me to serve my country in a technical field such as Army Aviation or the Corps of Engineers.”

For more about the UM School of Engineering, visit For more information on UM Army ROTC, visit

Population Studies Center Advances Understanding of Post-Recession Era

Researchers met recently to address demographic, socioeconomic issues facing rural America

John J. Green, CPS Director Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

John J. Green

OXFORD, Miss. – Recognizing that the seeds of many social ills were planted after the Great Recession, the Center for Population Studies at the University of Mississippi is collaborating with researchers across the country to share findings and examine courses of action.

A group of scholars associated with the Western Association of Agricultural Experiment Directors recently held its 2016 meeting in Mississippi, co-hosted and co-sponsored by the Center for Population Studies and the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology and McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

“The Center for Population Studies is somewhat unique among our peers across the country in focusing on connecting multimethod population studies with community development research, especially in relation to health and local food systems,” said John J. Green, UM professor of sociology and director of the center and the Society and Health minor program in the College of Liberal Arts.

“With ever-increasing access to data online, we are doing more and more work focused on helping organizations to access and utilize population data to inform their work. In addition to filling data requests, providing technical assistance and analysis, we also provide participatory workshops to assist people in accessing, interpreting and actually using data.”

As part of a multistate research project on “The Great Recession: Its Aftermath and Patterns of Rural and Small Town Demographic Change,” 16 scholars from Alabama, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., joined seven of their Mississippi colleagues to present research on demographic and socioeconomic issues of concern.

“We discussed strategies for better disseminating our work to the public and developed plans for the next five years of work together,” Green said. “There is attention being directed toward population health in Mississippi, nationally and globally.

“We are working through the center to help people understand the demographic basis for population health, including attention to population structures, characteristics and composition. In order to improve population health, we have to understand the population.”

Faculty, staff, and students from both the University of Mississippi and the University of Michigan take a break after conducting community interviews for Visions of Hope, Inc. in Biloxi.

Faculty, staff and students from both the University of Mississippi and University of Michigan take a break after conducting community interviews for Visions of Hope Inc. in Biloxi.

The Center for Population Studies is working with Volunteer Mississippi to conduct a series of workshops across north Mississippi to help nonprofit organizations use research to inform their strategic plans and grant proposals. In early November, the center will host the State Data Center of Mississippi’s Annual Affiliates Meeting in collaboration with Planning and Development Districts from around the state.

To better understand issues faced by rural community and health development professionals, the center’s staff also met with representatives from the Aaron E. Henry Community Health Center, Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi, Delta Directions Consortium, Delta State University Center for Community and Economic Development and DSU Delta Center for Culture and Learning, Green said.

“Building on meetings held in Hernando, an interactive panel session was held at the Coahoma County Higher Education Center in Clarksdale,” he said.

Sannie Snell, who runs the Right! from the Start maternal-child health program and is a longtime partner of the center, said that it was natural that the organization would gravitate toward the center.

“The center has been beneficial, because it takes our ideas and frames them for research and evaluation,” Snell said. “It provides us the expertise needed to develop evidence-based rural models of health care.

“Collaborating with the center also brings in really bright students, who have an interest in the work we’re doing.”

UM student Alex Fratesi and Right! from the Start Director Sannie Snell facilitate a "world cafe" discussion on factors associated with poor birth outcomes.

UM student Alex Fratesi and Right! from the Start Director Sannie Snell facilitate a ‘world cafe’ discussion on factors associated with poor birth outcomes.

The partnership creates a synergy between the university, students and the community that will affect how Right! from the Start does community-focused research in the future, she said.

“This synergistic relationship is not only beneficial for my organization, but also for building groups of future professionals, who understand the plight of our population from a community level and, hopefully, can create more patient-focused health care systems in the future,” Snell said.

Funded through a mixture of sources, including state-budgeted funds combined with external grants and contracts from agencies and foundations in Mississippi and nationally, the center has a long history.

Through its affiliation with the State Data Center Program in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau, the Center for Population Studies houses the State Data Center of Mississippi, represents Mississippi in the Federal-State Cooperative for Population Studies and works as liaison between diverse users of data and the Census Bureau.

Additionally, the center houses a program for community-based research through which it works with nonprofit organizations across the state to assist them with research design, data collection and analysis, especially for community development and health-related initiatives.

“This is our fifth and final year hosting the editorial office for the peer-reviewed journal Community Development,” Green said. “Published in association with the Community Development Society and Routledge, Taylor & Francis, this is an international publication focused on connecting research and practice.”

For more information about the organization, contact Green at

UM Alumni, Guests are Among Prominent Freedom Award Recipients

Former Gov. William Winter latest to join list of National Civil Rights Museum honorees

The Honorable Gov. William Winter will receive a 2016 Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis this month. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

The Honorable Gov. William Winter will receive a 2016 Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis this month. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

When former Gov. William F. Winter receives a National Civil Rights Museum’s 25th annual Freedom Award Oct. 20 in Memphis, no doubt University of Mississippi administrators, staff and faculty will take great pride in having the renowned former governor as both an alumnus and founder of the Institute for Racial Reconciliation here that bears his name.

Obviously, Winter is most deserving of the prestigious honor. Both in and out of office, the Grenada County native has accomplished a long list of achievements advancing education, civil rights and economic growth for the state of Mississippi and beyond. Of course, his UM education has contributed to his legendary career.

Yet a quick look at past years shows that Winter is not the first Freedom Award recipient to have connections to the university. At least six others have spoken or performed on campus.

For starters, fellow 2016 recipient Soledad O’Brien delivered the keynote address during UM’s 2014 Black History Month observances. The former CNN anchor’s lecture and presentation preceded the #BlackLivesMatter movement and helped advance conversations about race and race relations.

NBC News veteran Tom Brokaw received the Freedom Award in 2014. He has broadcast live from campus, delivered the 2016 commencement address and been a visiting lecturer in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams also delivered the commencement address from the Grove in 2014. The widow of slain activist Medgar Evers received her Freedom Award in 2009.

Known as “King of the Blues,” Mississippi-born guitarist and singer Riley “B.B.” King was given the Freedom Award in 2008. Before his death, King appeared in concert here several times and donated his record collection and memorabilia to the J.D. Williams Library’s Archives and Special Collections.

Legendary actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte is a 1999 recipient of the Freedom Award. Like O’Brien, he delivered the keynote address during Black History Month observances in 2015.

Lastly, author Elie Weisel, who won the Nobel Prize for his autobiography “Night,” was a Freedom Award recipient in 1995. The late author gave the keynote address during the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College‘s annual Fall Convocation in 2013.

Several other Freedom Award recipients have had significant connections to Mississippi history.

A 2014 honoree, Robert “Bob” Parris Moses is an educator and civil rights activist whose name is synonymous with the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. As a leader in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, Moses traveled to counties in Mississippi to educate and register voters, facing relentless violence and intimidation. By 1964, he had become co-director of the Council of Federated Organizations, an umbrella organization for the major civil rights groups working in Mississippi.

The Rev. Ed King, 2011 recipient, worked closely with Mississippi Movement leader Medgar Evers and was a key leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party with Fannie Lou Hamer.

A 2005 honoree, native Mississippian Oprah Winfrey has created an unparalleled connection with people around the world. As supervising producer and host of the top-rated “Oprah Winfrey Show,” she has entertained, enlightened and uplifted millions of viewers for more than two decades.

In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voters’ registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Forty years later, he received a Freedom Award in 2004.

The Freedom Award is an annual event for the National Civil Rights Museum. Presented each year in the fall, the Freedom Award honors individuals who have made significant contributions in civil rights and who have laid the foundation for present and future leaders in the battle for human rights. Since 1991, the Freedom Award has served as a symbol of the ongoing fight for human rights both in America and worldwide.

The event will be held at the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts and the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Sponsors of this year’s awards are the Ford Motor Co., The Hyde Family Foundation, FedEx Corp. and International Paper. The event will be hosted by Michael Eric Dyson, who delivered the keynote address during UM Black History Month observances in 2015.

Besides Winter and O’Brien, this year’s honorees include Benjamin Crump, a civil rights attorney who has represented the families of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice; Tawakkol Karman, a Yemini journalist and the second youngest person ever awarded the Nobel Peace Prize; Damon Jerome Keith, the longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court; and Brian Stevenson, a clinical professor at the New York University School of Law and an attorney who works for equality for the poor and minorities in the U.S. criminal justice system.

MFA English Program Bringing ‘The Conversation’ to Oxford

Regional literary festival tour features 17 poets, highlights the black experience in the South

WebOXFORD, Miss. – Continuing an ongoing dialogue about race, a regional literary festival featuring 17 up-and-coming African-American writers will visit the University of Mississippi and Oxford this month.

‘The Conversation,’ a tour of 17 authors and poets, kicks off Oct. 17 in Oxford. Local events include a 10 a.m. craft talk at the Oxford-University Depot and a 7 p.m. reading at Shelter on Van Buren. All events are free and open to the public.

The College of Liberal Arts and the Master of Fine Arts program in the Department of English are co-sponsors.

“‘The Conversation’ is a multimedia company which specializes in organizing readings, hosting workshops, craft talks and hosting a weeklong fellowship program in the American South,” said Aziza Barnes, an MFA student and co-organizer of the festival. Nabila Lovelace, a MFA candidate from the University of Alabama, is the other organizer.

“Our purpose is rooted in the bridging of conversations between interregional blackness and discussing what a black mecca can look like in the United States,” Barnes said.

Seventeen MFA in Creative Writing Fellows are participating in the Conversation Literary Tour. (Submitted photo)

Seventeen MFA in Creative Writing Fellows are participating in the Conversation Literary Tour. (Submitted photo)

The tour includes Jeremy Clark, Sean Mega DeVinges, Elizabeth Acevedo, José Olivarez, Hanif Willis Abdurraquib, Angel Nafis, Thiahera Nurse, Safia Elhillo, Desiree Bailey, Danez Smith, Joshua Bennett, Cortney Lamar Charleston, Nate Marshall, Paul Tran, Camonghne Felix, Jayson P. Smith and Jerriod Avant.

Additional tour stops are Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and New Orleans. Derrick Harriell, director of the MFA in English program; Kiese Laymon, UM professor of English and creative writing; and Caroline Randall Williams, a graduate of the Ole Miss MFA program, are scheduled to participate in the closing sessions.

“Our 17 fellows are truly remarkable,” Barnes said. “Often, Oxford has the pleasure of hosting one or two writers for a reading, but 17 writers in one room who have grown together for years; that’s something else entirely.”

Beyond the camaraderie of being in Oxford at the same time, the poets are a community who desire to come back and serve more communities in Mississippi.

‘Each fellow is supremely talented in their writing, their teaching, focus on craft and just being with people in a room,” Barnes said. “You don’t want to miss the opportunity to build with this group of artists. The overall vibe is one of a huge band. Meet the band.”

The meeting is a great opportunity for the university’s creative writing students and undergraduates to be exposed to a diverse group of wonderful writers, many of them from urban environments, said Ivo Kamps, UM chair and professor of English.

“These writers will bring with them a set of experiences, concerns and questions that should be of interest to students looking to engage with a broad spectrum of literary and cultural concerns,” Kamps said. “That this event is called ‘The Conversation’ underscores the importance of dialogue, and I assume that all who participate will benefit.”

For more information about “The Conversation,” visit

Charles Hussey Named Associate Dean for UM College of Liberal Arts

Respected professor of chemistry to lead research and graduate education

Charles L. (Chuck) Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry, is the new associate dean of graduate research in the College of Liberal Arts. Here he shares a moment with research associate Li-Hsien Chou.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Charles L. Hussey, the new associate dean of graduate research in the UM College of Liberal Arts, shares a moment with research associate Li-Hsien Chou. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Every time Charles “Chuck” L. Hussey thinks he’s achieved the last height in his storied career, the University of Mississippi professor takes another step up the ladder.

The multiple award-winning chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, who received the 2015 UM Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award, is the new associate dean for research and graduate education in the university’s College of Liberal Arts.

Hussey will assume his new duties sometime between Oct. 1 and Jan. 2, 2017.

“I am very excited about the chance to serve in this role and anxious to get started,” said Hussey, who also received both the Electrochemical Society’s Max Bredig Award in Molten Salt and Ionic Liquid Chemistry and the Southeastern Conference’s Faculty Achievement Award in the 2014-15 academic year.

“The appointment of Dean (Lee) Cohen gives us new direction, because he is very interested in improving research/scholarship and graduate education in the college. I want to be a part of helping him move the college forward in these areas.”

Cohen said Hussey brings much to the the position.

“I am delighted that Dr. Hussey has agreed to assume this very important new role in the College of Liberal Arts,” Cohen said. “I believe Chuck is ideal for this position given that he has significant administrative experience serving as the chairperson of a large and complicated department, has an exemplary research record, and he has a great deal of knowledge, involvement and success working with graduate students.”

Hussey said his short-term goals are to study the various departments and disciplines in the college to learn about the roadblocks they face when trying to engage in research, scholarship and graduate education, as well as the opportunities they have.

“Once I have a sense of the issues, then we will work together with departments to develop long-range strategies that make use of our available resources to attack these roadblocks,” he said. “I also see potential for the growth of new graduate programs in the college.”

Hussey’s new duties will end his longstanding tenure as chair of chemistry and biochemistry, a position he said he has thoroughly enjoyed. Still, he doesn’t plan to completely leave his discipline.

“As the associate dean for research and graduate education, I think it is imperative that I continue to pursue my own research as much as practicable,” Hussey said. “I find research to be engaging, relaxing and enjoyable. Besides, this is what we should be doing as faculty at an R-1 university.”

Hussey, who holds a doctorate in chemistry from Ole Miss, joined the faculty in 1978 after serving a four-year active duty term as a military scientist at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Frank J. Seiler Research Lab. For more than 35 years, he has researched the electrochemistry and transport properties of ionic liquids and molten salts, an outgrowth of the work he began at the Seiler Lab.

He has authored or co-authored more than 150 refereed journal articles, book chapters, patents and government technical reports. His work has been supported by the National Science Foundation, Air Force Office of Scientific Research, Alcoa, U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Defense.

He also served as the technical editor of the Journal of the Electrochemical Society, the world’s top electrochemistry journal, since 2000.

Deep-Sea Sedimentation Topic of October Science Cafe

Renowned marine scientist Arne R. Diercks is second lecturer for fall semester

Arne R. Diercks is assistant marine research professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Arne R. Diercks is assistant marine research professor at the University of Southern Mississippi.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The slow and steady sedimentation processes of the deep sea is the next topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s second meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Arne R. Diercks, assistant research professor in the School of Ocean Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi, will discuss “Perpetual Snow: Sedimentation in the Deep Sea.” Admission is free.

“Sedimentation in the deep ocean is a slow and steady supply of material to the deep sea via small particles,” Diercks said. “These individual particles are too small and light to overcome drag, currents and turbulence. However, once glued together by organic matrices into larger aggregates, these aggregates become a main source of energy, food and sediments in the deep sea and the seafloor.”

Diercks’ 30-minute presentation will include talk about how these aggregates, when illuminated by the lights of submersibles, take on the appearance of white spots in the darkness.

“They seemingly resemble slowly settling snowflakes,” he said. “Sedimentation rates in the deep ocean are small, ranging from a fraction to a few milliliters per year. Anthropogenic impacts can alter the sedimentation in even these remote areas.”

Spatial and temporal availability of the source material influences the distribution of these aggregates in the water column, affecting their size, densities and their residue times within the water column and their arrival at the ocean floor, he said. But even after arriving on the seafloor, their journey might not be over as turbulence can stir them back into the water as reshaped, broken up aggregates and particles.

Deep sea sedimentation often appears like snowflakes descending to the ocean floor. (Submitted photo)

Deep-sea sedimentation often appears like snowflakes descending to the ocean floor. Submitted photo

“For example, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico resulted in the anthropogenic oil marine aggregates being deposited as an unprecedented large amount of material on the seafloor,” Diercks said.

Diercks’ research is made possible by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to support the ECOGIC-2 research consortium.

UM administrators and professors said Diercks’ appearance should be most interesting.

“Dr. Diercks is one of the most prominent marine scientists in the U.S.,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “He has worked on marine snow aggregates specifically in the Gulf of Mexico, collecting size-specific settling speed and abundance data of aggregates using photographic techniques and sediment traps.

“His expertise in the mid-water sedimentation processes resulted in development of the first autonomous Neutrally Buoyant Sediment Trap system and then to his current work with AUVs.”

Diercks earned his doctorate in geological oceanography from USM, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Hamburg in Germany. His research areas of expertise include marine snow aggregates and autonomous underwater vehicles, geographic information science, marine geology and geophysics and physical oceanography.

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