Former Essence Magazine Editor to Discuss Visionary Leadership at UM

Susan L. Taylor set for keynote of Women's History Month in Fulton Chapel

Susan L. Taylor, former editor of Essence magazine and founder-CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, will speak March 7 in Fulton Chapel. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Susan L. Taylor, former editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, is set to deliver the keynote address for Women’s History Month at the University of Mississippi.

The UM Women’s Empowerment Awards and Reception begins at 6 p.m. March 7 in Fulton Chapel. Taylor plans to discuss “Bold, Visionary Leadership: From the Inside Out.” Seating is free, but tickets must be obtained from the Ole Miss Box Office in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“Susan L. Taylor is both inspirational and engaging,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Her work with Essence magazine has surely left a lasting legacy for generations to come. Anyone who attends this event will not be disappointed.”

Besides Taylor’s address, several women will be honored for their contributions to campus.

“Through the presentation of the Women’s Inspirational Award, Breakout Award and Phenomenal Woman Award, we will recognize the contributions of women faculty, staff and students who are blazing trails on our own campus,” Mead said.

Taylor’s appearance is co-sponsored by the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement; the Educated, Successful, Talented, Evolving, Empowered and Motivated, or ESTEEM; program; University Lecture Series; departments of Student Housing and Intercollegiate Athletics; Panhellenic Council; National Pan-Hellenic Council; Meek School of Journalism and New Media; Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies; and Career Center.

After 27 years as chief editor of Essence, Taylor left publishing to help build an organization that is devoted to breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty among African-Americans. The National CARES Mentoring Movement, which Taylor founded and serves as CEO, is a community transformation crusade dedicated to “changing the predictable futures defined for our young who are struggling along the margins and living with the indignity of poverty,” she said.

At Essence, Taylor also authored the magazine’s most popular column, “In the Spirit,” the first in a mainstream U.S. magazine to champion spiritual growth as a pathway to total well-being and a meaningful life. Under her guidance, the publication’s readership soared to 8 million in the U.S., the Caribbean, Canada, United Kingdom and English-speaking African nations.

The Essence brand expanded into book publishing, broadcasting, eyewear, hosiery and its own fashion catalogue. Taylor also was instrumental in launching of the Essence Music Festival and its famous empowerment seminars.

Founded by Taylor in 2005 as Essence CARES, the National CARES Mentoring Movement is a national mentor-recruitment organization. In 58 U.S. cities, local CARES affiliates recruit, train and deploy caring adults to schools and a wide variety of youth-serving organizations that are desperate for black volunteers to serve as mentors, tutors, reading buddies and role models.

Taylor is the editor of eight books and author of four more: “In the Spirit,” “Lessons in Living,” “Conformation: the Spiritual Wisdom That Shaped Our Lives” and “All About Love.” She is the first and only African-American woman to be recognized by the Magazine Publishers of America with the Henry Johnson Fisher Award, the industry’s highest honor, and the first African-American woman to be inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors Hall of Fame.

Her other honors include the NAACP President’s Award.

For more information or for assistance related to a disability, contact the Center for Inclusion & Cross Cultural Engagement at 662-915-1689 or

Mary Donnelly Haskell, Daughter to Perform at ‘hUManities affair’

Second annual fundraiser set for March 5 at Lyric Theater

Mary Donnelly Haskell (left) and daughter Mary Lane Haskell are coming to the Lyric March 5 in a benefit concert for the UM Department of Music. (Submitted photo)

OXFORD, Miss. – Mother and daughter singer-actresses Mary Donnelly Haskell and Mary Lane Haskell are the featured performers Sunday (March 5) for a University of Mississippi Department of Music fundraiser.

The department’s second annual “hUManities affair” is set for 4:30 p.m. at the Lyric. Tickets are $50 for singles and $75 for couples. All proceeds benefit innovative and educational programs produced by the Living Music Resource.

“This is the first time for LMR to showcase Mary Donnelly and Mary Lane in concert, my first time to perform with them and our first event at the Lyric,” said Nancy Maria Balach, professor of music and event coordinator. “The repertoire includes American standards (popular and jazz songs from the early 20th century).

“The evening will also include Guy Hovis, whom many will remember from ‘The Lawrence Welk Show.'”

For tickets, visit

To date, LMR has brought Grammy Award-winning composers, Broadway performers and Metropolitan Opera artists to Oxford. The Haskells also were featured on an LMR LIVE live-stream interview series Tuesday (Feb. 28) at The Powerhouse.

They are set to lead a “Between the Bar Lines” master class at noon Wednesday (March 1) in the music department’s Choir Room.

“Although I’ve sung in Oxford many times, I’ve never had the opportunity to do a whole concert of songs from the Great American Songbook, or as most people refer to as ‘standards,'” Mary Donnelly Haskell said. “I grew up listening to the music of Rosemary Clooney, Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra, so this is a chance to sing many of my favorite songs.”

Nancy Maria Balach Schuesslin, UM professor of music, will also perform at Sunday’s event at the Lyric. (Submitted photo)

The mother and daughter have performed together in Oxford before, including the successful production of “Hello, Dolly!” and “Sounds of Stage & Screen” concert, both held at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Still, Sunday’s benefit will be a unique experience for them both.

“Mary Lane and I have chosen songs for the concert that will definitely have this audience humming along,” she said. “We have songs by Gershwin, Cole Porter, Duke Ellington and many more. The hardest thing was narrowing the list down, since we love them all!”

As an UM undergraduate, Mary Donnelly Haskell often performed with the Mississippians Jazz Ensemble.

“It is extra-special that The Mississippians will again collaborate with her on this concert,” Balach said.

Originally from Beaumont, Texas, Mary Donnelly Haskell was crowned Miss Mississippi in 1977 and graduated with distinction from UM in 1981. She has starred in episodes of “Touched By An Angel,” “Seventh Heaven,” “Sisters,” “Diagnosis Murder,” “Days Of Our Lives” and more than 20 movies for television, including two of the Hallmark Channel’s highest-rated Christmas movies: “Once Upon A Christmas” and “Twice Upon A Christmas.”

An accomplished singer, she has performed at venues including the Kennedy Center and the White House. and with the Prague Symphony Orchestra. She is also a popular recording artist, having released four children’s CDs, an adult contemporary album and a collection of sacred hymns and praise songs.

Mary Lane Haskell has performed at Carnegie Hall with Michael Feinstein and Elaine Stritch, serves on the Great American Songbook board and appears regularly on TV series and movies. Most recently, she was featured on NBC as Miss Moody in the Dolly Parton movie “Christmas of Many Colors.”

For more information about the UM Department of Music, go to

Dallas Baker Lands a Top Post at Neel-Schaffer

Mechanical engineering alumnus is new director of environmental services

UM Mechanical Engineering alum Dallas Baker is now the Director of Environmental Quality for Neel-Schaffer Inc. in Jackson. (Submitted photo)

Dallas Baker (BSME 93, MS 97) has retired from a longtime job, but he isn’t finishing working yet.

After serving nearly 24 years with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality in a variety of roles, the mechanical engineering alumnus has joined Neel-Schaffer Inc. of Jackson as the firm’s director of environmental services.

“I lead a team of engineers, geologists and technicians in assessing properties and facilities owned by clients who seek help in complying with environmental regulations, then provide engineering solutions to meet their business goals,” Baker said. “The diversity of the work and its people is what makes this firm strong and what attracted me to remain in Mississippi as a practicing engineer.”

Baker plans to enhance the capabilities of Neel-Schaffer’s environmental services to enable the firm to better serve a wider variety of industrial clients across the region.

“We are excited about Dallas Baker joining our firm to lead our environmental services,” said Keith O’Keefe, PE, senior vice president for Neel-Schaffer’s central Mississippi operations. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in environmental engineering to our firm that will shape our growth in that discipline. Dallas is widely respected across the environmental landscape, and we look forward to having his vision and leadership.”

A registered professional engineer in the state of Mississippi, Baker most recently served MDEQ as air director and chief of its Air Division. There he was responsible for maintaining National Ambient Air Quality Standards and policies affecting statewide programs that control air pollution. In previous roles, he managed air and water permit projects for several industrial facilities in the energy, chemical, manufacturing and wood products sectors.

“In addition to establishing the fundamentals of mechanical engineering, my Ole Miss degree exposed me to leadership, business, liberal arts and other disciplines that gave me the confidence to seek organizational management roles,” he said. “It has led me to be a more versatile leader in the workplace and in professional associations, and influence operations that affect environmental engineering practices well beyond what I had expected.”

A native of Oxford, Baker attended the university because his father, John Baker, was a professor of medicinal chemistry in the School of Pharmacy, who encouraged him to attend and major in professional studies of some sort.

“Mechanical engineering was the best fit, and I knew then a degree from Ole Miss would open doors that build a rewarding career,” Baker said.

As an undergraduate, Baker said he was privileged to study under many great professors. His favorite was Karl Brenkert, a former dean of the School of Engineering and professor of mechanical engineering.

“He spent significant time encouraging us to use an engineering degree to benefit society, as well as to uphold the highest ethical and professional standards,” Baker said. “He encouraged us to seek the Fundamentals of Engineering exam, which led me to be a licensed professional engineer. Dr. Brenkert made a lasting impression on me and hundreds of students.”

Baker serves as secretary of the Ole Miss School of Engineering Advisory Board and president of the Mississippi Energy Coordinators Association. He was recently elected by his peers as international president of the Air & Waste Management Association, an organization of environmental professionals with over 100 chapters located in 65 countries.

“In my role as president, I lead its board of directors and (uphold) its stated mission and core purpose through strategic planning, sound financial management and exercising leadership principles I’ve acquired throughout my career, going back to my days at the university.”

Baker said the position was particularly gratifying because he was able to be an ambassador from the state of Mississippi and its flagship university to cities across America and countries such as Canada and China.

He is board certified by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientists, and is a certified public manager.

Besides his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and master’s degree in environmental engineering from Ole Miss, Baker also earned an MBA from Mississippi College.

He and his wife, Marla, are the parents of two teenagers: Paris, 15, and William, 13. One of the family’s favorite annual trips is its vacation in Fort Myers, Florida, in the week between Christmas and returning to school after the New Year.

“We avoid winter where we can, even the Mississippi variety,” Baker said.

Baker’s father; mother, Shelly Baker; and sister Diane (BA 93), live in Austin, Texas.

“It’s a privilege to give back to a university that has meant so much to me and my family,” Baker said. “We bleed red and blue!”



Three Engineering Students Receive Outstanding Senior Leadership Awards

Adam Schildhammer, Dustin Dykes and Holly Pitts represent School of Engineering's best

Three students have been chosen as Outstanding Seniors in the UM School of Engineering. They are Adam Schildhammer (left), Dustin Dykes and Holly Pitts. (Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw)

Three University of Mississippi seniors have been named recipients of the 2016-17 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award in the School of Engineering.

Chosen are Dustin Dykes of Madison, Alabama; Holly Pitts of Indianola; and Adam Schildhammer of Alpharetta, Georgia. Each recipient was selected through a competitive nomination process in his or her respective department. Nominations are based on the students’ records of academic achievement, leadership, professional development and community service. The students also delivered a presentation to the selection committee about their undergraduate experiences while pursuing their engineering degrees.

“Adam, Holly, Dustin and the additional nominees represent some of the best and brightest students that Ole Miss Engineering has to offer,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “We are always excited to celebrate this tradition of recognizing outstanding students pursuing degrees within the School of Engineering.”

A civil engineering and general studies major (minors in studio art, mathematics and business), Pitts has maintained a 3.99 GPA as a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Named to Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges, she serves as vice president of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council, the Institute of Transportation Engineers and Engineers Without Borders. Pitts also serves as president of Chi Epsilon civil engineering society and has been selected to Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa leadership society and Tau Beta Pi engineering society.

She received the Outstanding Junior Award from the Department of Civil Engineering as well as the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award from Order of Omega Greek honor society. She served as an intern with the Mississippi Grammy Museum and the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center. Pitts is involved with the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, serving as a Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Scholar. She has volunteered with RebelTHON and the Green Grove Initiative.

In addition to the leadership award, she was named the university’s representative to the Mississippi Engineering Society’s Outstanding Senior award program in Jackson. There she was also the recipient of a Mississippi Engineering Society scholarship. After graduation, Pitts plans to earn a master’s degree in business administration and a master’s in fine arts to combine her interests in engineering, business and art. She hopes to become an engineer for a custom fabrication and engineering company.

Dykes, a mechanical engineering major, has maintained a 4.0 GPA and is a recipient of the university’s Distinguished Senior Scholarship. He serves as president of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and has served as secretary-treasurer of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council as well as vice president of the Baptist Student Union. He has been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi. He was also named to Who’s Who.

An active member of the Ole Miss Army ROTC, Dykes has served as battalion commander. In 2016, he was ranked as the No. 9 cadet in the nation and received the 2016 Association of the United States Army scholarship for top cadet in the nation. Dykes also received the National Defense Transportation Award in 2016 as well as the Society of American Military Engineers scholarship in 2014 and 2015.

He has volunteered with the Oxford-Lafayette Humane Society and participated in the Oxford First Baptist Church choir.

After graduating summa cum laude, Dykes plans to be commissioned as a second lieutenant. He also hopes to attend graduate school to study aerospace engineering and serve as a U.S. Army test pilot.

A geological engineering major, Schildhammer was named the Outstanding Freshman in Geological Engineering in 2013. Since then, he has been named to the Chancellor’s and Dean’s honor rolls and has been inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Order of Omega honor societies. Schildhammer serves as a teaching assistant for engineering geology, sedimentology and stratigraphy, and physical geology under professors Zhen Guo and Brian Platt. He has also participated in field camps in New Mexico and Oklahoma.

He has served as scholarship chairman for his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, where he implemented a plan to increase his chapter’s GPA and received the Outstanding Scholar Award. He also assisted with the planning of the fraternity’s annual philanthropy, which raises funds for Batson Children’s Hospital. Additionally, Schildhammer has served as a team manager and practice player for the Ole Miss women’s basketball team.

He has plans to attend graduate school in petroleum or geological engineering.


Chemical Engineering Alumnus Establishes Endowed Scholarship

Gift helps support chemical engineering students from counties surrounding Greenville

Chemical engineering alumnus Ike Brodofsky (right) and his wife, Amanda Trabue, have created an endowed scholarship in the UM School of Engineering. (Submitted photo)

When it comes to generosity toward the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, Ike Brodofsky (BSChE 03) and his wife, Amanda Trabue, are shining examples.

The couple recently established the Ike Brodofsky and Amanda Trabue Engineering Scholarship Endowment for chemical engineering students from Washington, Humphries, Sunflower, Leflore, Bolivar, Sharkey or Issaquena counties. The duo set up a scholarship, matched by Bridgestone, paid over five years until 2021.

Giving to higher education comes naturally for the pair. Both from large families, they know that paying for college expenses can be tough. Brodofsky came to the university largely because of the financial package UM offered him.

“I had always wanted to give back in some way to Ole Miss, but I never seemed to get over the hump to actually do anything,” Brodofsky said. “Having (my wife) guide me really helped, and in the end I realized that it was all in my head, and that I wish I had given back much earlier. We wanted to help those students realize their dream of a college degree.”

Trabue echoed her husband’s sentiment.

“I had already established a scholarship at my alma mater,” said the Glasgow, Kentucky, native who graduated with a B.A. in marketing in 2002 and an MBA in 2004 from Western Kentucky University. “I encouraged Ike that it was time to start one at his alma mater as well.”

A native of Greenville, Brodofsky said he instinctively knew he belonged at UM. His father and sister are also alumni, so it was a pretty easy decision for him to make.

“I loved the student-to-faculty ratio at Ole Miss, so I knew all of my professors quite well,” he said. “It was a well-rounded group, from Dr. (Randell) Price and his quirkiness to Dr. (Peter) Sukanek and his toughness to Dr. (Clint) Williford taking us on coffee breaks to wake up for his early morning reactions course to Dr. (John) O’Haver’s friendly conversations.”

Brodofsky remembers one of his favorite courses was Thermodynamics.

“It teaches you to see everything as simple algebra and builds problem-solving skills,” he said. “To this day, I use that philosophy in my career and try to tackle all problems by breaking it down into simple equations.”

A second course that truly challenged Brodofsky was Chemical Process Principles.

“It’s a decision course in that it forces you to quickly realize if you want to pursue this career,” he said. “It was not easy and not my favorite, but the challenge presented makes you quickly realize that even if you aren’t the brightest in the class that you can do this if you follow the teaching and seek help from the readily available faculty.”

Brodofsky is a senior process engineer for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. Trabue is an associate dean for development and alumni relations at Vanderbilt University. The couple lives in Nashville.

“I am involved with developing rubber formulas for tires of all sizes from tiny car tires to massive mining tires and scaling up those formulas to production volumes,” Brodofsky said. “There is also a great deal of troubleshooting for day-to-day issues that arise in a manufacturing setting.”

Brodofsky said his Ole Miss engineering education has proven invaluable to him on the job.

“You must be able to quickly handle these problems and find the optimal solution without sacrificing safety, quality or production,” he said. “My education gave me a lot of confidence to tackle these problems. Chemical engineering builds a strong base in being able to define a problem. If you can define it, then you can solve it.”

Brodofsky and Trabue both travel frequently for work, so one of their hobbies is taking weekend getaways with their travel points to relax. They also enjoy trying new restaurants and activities and being tourists in their own city with the many events and activities Nashville has to offer.

“We have season football tickets to both our schools, so we are on the go nonstop during the football season traveling between Oxford and Bowling Green to watch the Rebels and the Hilltoppers,” he said.

“What a great example of the legacy our professors help to foster with our students,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the engineering school. “Ike and Amanda creatively combined their gratitude for home by paying tribute to the chemical engineering department and counties surrounding Greenville in the Mississippi Delta, thereby creating an engineering endowment scholarship. We are grateful for their sacrifice and passionate desire to help move Ole Miss from great to greater.”

With this gift, the School of Engineering Scholarship Committee will be able to select a deserving student who has demonstrated an exceptional academic record and remained in a major track in engineering at the university.

Dean Alex Cheng said the donation has already proven very beneficial to the program.

It was during an engineering tailgating that I was introduced to Amanda and Ike,” Cheng said. “We chatted, and I was surprised by such passion and goodwill coming from a relatively young couple.


‘Leadership and Professionalism’ Course Enhances Students’ Career Skills

Fall offering features guest speakers, out-of-classroom activities

Students in Senior Leadership Class always enjoy a variety of activities, including trips away from campus. (Submitted photo)

Companies often use a transcript as validation of “aptitude” but then use an interview to evaluate “attitude.” How does an engineering school teach attitude to the millennial generation? Students born between the early ’80s and 2000 may have very different views on cultural identity, politics, workplace expectations and technology. For the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, the attitude advantage continues to be delivered through the ENGR 400 “Leadership and Professionalism” course.

Forty-five students come to class each Friday in the fall, anxious to hear words of wisdom from a variety of guest speakers. Every semester offers a different lineup of speakers, panel discussions, events and activities.

“The class this year has been very enriching,” said David Phelts, a senior geological engineering major from Atlanta, Georgia. “Being able to listen and learn from many successful alumni and leaders in the community is something I would never have been able to get from a textbook. I’m confident I will be able to apply the valuable lessons learned from great guest speakers we’ve had this fall as I make my transition to the professional world.”

From military leadership philosophy to corporate engineering, entrepreneurial startups and success stories to U.S. congressional leadership, municipal leadership, international humanitarian leadership, from young alumni to seasoned professionals, and everything in between, students gain a new attitude about leadership and professionalism through this course. Co-taught by Dean Alex Cheng and Assistant Dean Marni Kendricks, students are challenged to define their professional goals and leadership aspirations by the end of the semester.

Reading John Maxwell’s “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader,” students have the opportunity to assess these qualities in their lives and improve themselves. Networking with the Engineering Advisory Board, participating in the Fall Career Fair and a team-building afternoon at the Rebel Challenge Course, attending business etiquette luncheons, giving 60-second impromptu elevator pitches, and practicing mock interviews and business correspondence are all part of their professional development, one of the major goals of the course.

Technical skills, soft skills and leadership skills are distinct terms used in the workplace. It is assumed that all engineers have the first skill set accomplished by the time they graduate.

“Having the benefit of an engineering school in the middle of a liberal arts university where social life is such a significant part of the campus, we believe soft skills naturally develop to some extent,” Kendricks said. “Leadership skills can always be enhanced, but for 21- to 22-year-olds, hearing heart-to-heart words of wisdom and encouragement on a weekly basis from a wide variety of leaders is like signing up for a class but receiving a bar of 24 carat gold … far better than just an A.”

If interested in speaking to this class, please contact Marni Kendricks,

UM School of Engineering Teams with Tech Firms for STEM Initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit

For more about GroupNotions and Group HI, go to and

UM Chemistry Department Achieves National Recognition for Diversity

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

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has attracted several top female honors students to the program through its biochemistry emphasis. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communication

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has produced several African-American doctoral graduates in recent years, including (front row, from left) Shana Stoddard, Kari Copeland, Jeffrey Veal and Margo Montgomery. Also shown (back row, from left) are professors Greg Tschumper, Walter Cleland, Steven Davis and Maurice Eftink. Submitted photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UM Helps Students Prepare for Careers in Sports Administration

New degree program includes business and communication training for majors

The new UM bachelor’s degree in sports and recreation administration will provide opportunities for student-athletes who want to make their craft their career. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Professional athletes may be the ones most often recognized in the media, but the owners and managers are just as vital to their longevity in the sports world. A new degree program at the University of Mississippi is helping students prepare for careers in sports administration.

The university’s Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management launched its new Bachelor of Arts in Sport and Recreation Administration in fall 2016. Two new faculty members were hired to teach, research and lead development of the program.

“Our overarching goal was to provide a service-based sport and recreation education to increase the marketability of students after matriculation as young professionals as well as prepare them for graduate education,” said Kim Beason, professor of park and recreation management who coordinates the new program. “The new B.A. in Sport and Recreation Administration finally cleared the IHL last summer and we began accepting majors this past August.”

Some 70 students are already in the SRA program, with about 15 first-year students in the sports emphasis. Four sports-related courses were added to the curriculum to support the emphasis: “The Business of Sports,” “Marketing and Communication in Sport and Recreation,” “Sports Economics and Finance” and “Legal Aspects of Sport and Recreation.”

UM students in the sports emphasis are singing the program’s praises.

“The sports emphasis corresponds directly to what I hope to do with my career,” said Sydney Malone, a senior from Tuscumbia, Alabama. “I want to work on the business side of the sports industry, particularly Major League Baseball, so taking these specific classes benefits me the most.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work for the MLB, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned about the new program!”

As the program and faculty grow, administrators plan to work toward accreditation by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation. Officials expect to see the undergraduate program grow to house at least 200 students, plus master’s and doctoral degrees in sport and recreation administration.

“Our goal is for our students to have a 100 percent placement rate in the field and enough students and faculty to support forming a sport and recreation department,” Beason said.

All students must complete a capstone 400-hour internship within a sports, recreation, tourism or related organization/agency, plus earn a minor in an approved field, such as business or journalism. By completion of the program, students will have a core education that will prepare them to sit for the Certified Park and Recreation Professional certification test during their last semester.

“”Whether they wish to work for a sport franchise, sport tourism authority, community recreation agency or college recreation department, their Ole Miss education will prepare their entry into leadership, direct service and/or front-line supervisory positions,” Beason said.

Velmer Burton, dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences, said the move is sure to benefit both the school and the university.

“This new program’s development is the result of several years of planning by our faculty in sports and recreation and working with the School of Business to create a high-quality curriculum for our students,” Burton said. “In addition to courses in sport and recreation, our students will benefit from a strong foundation of business courses.

“As a member of the SEC, along with the University of Mississippi’s rich tradition in athletics, offering this new program both meets the needs of our students, faculty and friends of the university and just makes good sense.”

Officials in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics agreed.

“The new sports and recreation management degree is of great interest to not only student-athletes but to the entire student body,” said Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director. “We see this program as a tremendous opportunity for student-athletes who want to make their craft their career.

“And it is something that many prospective student-athletes are interested in when ultimately choosing their school. This program is a tremendous asset to the university.”

Bryanna Castro, a senior recreation administration major from Orange County, California, agreed.

“Having the sport emphasis is beneficial to me because of the name itself,” said Castro, who plays second base for the Ole Miss Rebels softball team. “I also want to be a college softball coach when I finish college.”

The dedicated faculty members are the most important part of the program, Malone said.

“They are all extremely personable and genuinely want us each to succeed,” she said. “(Assistant professor) Nick Watanabe has even helped connect me with professionals already working in the sports industry, as well as landing me an internship with the Cape Cod Baseball League in baseball operations this summer. The program definitely wouldn’t be the same without our current professors.”

The Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management has offered a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation degree since 1973, which focuses on a service-based education preparing students for a variety of positions in the sports, parks, recreation, leisure and tourism fields.

After years of program development and support from the School of Applied Sciences plus the schools of Business Administration, Law and Journalism, the department added a sports emphasis to the undergraduate recreation administration program in 2016. The M.S. in Sport and Recreation should be available by 2018, followed within five years by a doctorate in the field.

For more information about the Department of Health Exercise, Recreation and Sports Management, visit

UM Professor Receives Prestigious Whiting Fellowship

Jodi Skipper was among eight given the award for public engagement

Jodi Skipper, associate professor of anthropology and Southern studies, is among eight 2017 Whiting Foundation fellows. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Fresh off winning this year’s Mississippi Humanities Council’s Scholar Award, University of Mississippi professor Jodi Skipper has received another accolade, this one a national honor.

Skipper, assistant professor of anthropology and Southern studies, has been awarded a prestigious Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship from the Whiting Foundation, a Brooklyn, New York-based organization that has a long history of support for the humanities and literature.

“I was ecstatic, and grateful for this opportunity,” Skipper said. “I will use this fellowship period to organize and facilitate a series of workshops entitled ‘Beyond the Big House: Interpreting Slavery in Local Communities.’

“These workshops seek to connect a growing population of communities in Mississippi interested in addressing slavery through historic sites.”

Skipper was selected for the award in recognition of her involvement with the Behind the Big House program, a slave dwelling interpretation program started by Jenifer Eggleston and Chelius Carter in Holly Springs.

“I have been privileged enough to help with their project, which interprets the lives of enslaved persons through the homes in which they once lived,” she said.

Behind the Big House, one of the few historic site tours developed with the explicit goal of interpreting the experiences of enslaved people, will serve as a model for Skipper’s project. She said her broader goal is to expand the Behind the Big House model from Holly Springs to other parts of the state.

“The program model has successfully spread to the state of Arkansas,” Skipper said. “My community partners in north Mississippi and I are optimistic about its potential to take root in other communities around this state.”

The Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship, in its second year, is designed to celebrate and support faculty who embrace public engagement as part of the scholarly vocation. Seven others were selected for this year’s cohort.

Each fellow receives a semester of leave to pursue a public-facing project, as well as a $10,000 stipend toward project costs.

“The foundation believes that those who devote their professional lives to the study and teaching of the humanities are in a unique position to contribute to public understanding,” said Daniel Reid, the foundation’s executive director. “This fellowship aims to identify professors with a demonstrated commitment to using their scholarly expertise to reach wider audiences and fund ambitious projects designed to have direct and significant impact on a specific public outside the academy.”

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

UM administrators congratulated Skipper upon her honor.

“The fact that Dr. Skipper was selected as a Whiting Public Engagement Fellowship signals the national impact of her scholarship and public engagement,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair and associate professor of sociology and anthropology. “I am thrilled that she is being honored as a ‘public-facing’ scholar.

“The generous support she has received from the Whiting fellowship will allow her to further enhance the Behind the Big House program, bringing it to other parts of the state and beyond.”

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

“Scholarship that engages the public frequently takes different skills than the scholarship a lot of us do, and it often takes a lot of time,” Ownby said. “The Behind of the Big House project has done a great deal to teach about the history of slavery in Mississippi, and I’m delighted this fellowship will allow Jodi Skipper the freedom to develop new parts of that project.”

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

She was honored Feb. 10 in Jackson with the Mississippi Humanities Council’s Scholar Award for her work.

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

The Whiting Foundation was created by Flora Ettlinger Whiting, a New York investor, collector and philanthropist with a lifelong commitment to culture. She was a founding member of the Friends of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the board of the noted magazine company Crowell-Collier, which published authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Martha Gellhorn, H.L. Mencken and Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

To contribute a gift of support, contact Nikki Neely, director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, at or 662-915-6678, or give online at

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