McLean to Host Hope Credit Union Founder Bill Bynum

Public invited to Tuesday's free event

Bill Bynum

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will host Bill Bynum, CEO and founder of Hope Credit Union, Tuesday (Feb. 21) in the Robert C. Khayat Law Center auditorium as part of Black History Month observances.

The 5 p.m. event is free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session will follow Bynum’s address, which is titled “Poverty and Mobility in Mississippi.”

Bynum has dedicated his career to improving the lives of financially vulnerable populations by providing them with increased economic opportunities. With 14 locations in Mississippi, Hope Credit Union assists hundreds of thousands of Mississippians in building assets and improving their lives by providing access to high-quality financial products and services.

The McLean Institute shares Hope’s vision to provide people with the tools and resources to foster community development, with a specific focus on using education to fight poverty and further the engagement of the university with communities throughout the state.

The McLean Institute’s CEED Program, or Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, works to empower students and faculty to create community partners and engage purposefully in the economic advancement and development of these communities.

Vera Gardner, a CEED innovation scholar, spent last summer leading financial literacy workshops in Vardaman. With support from Catholic Charities and the Caterpillar Foundation, Gardner worked with Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute, to provide residents of Calhoun County useful tools and resources to improve their financial literacy.

“In my first year of involvement with McLean through the CEED program, I have already seen how student engagement can impact individuals within a community,” said Nikki Park, a CEED innovation scholar. “I saw how children attending Vera’s classes in Vardaman understood basic financial concepts that had been foreign to them at the beginning of the workshop.

“I have seen the excitement in young kids from our own Oxford and Lafayette County communities as they open their own bank accounts through McLean’s LOU Saves program, which combines asset building with financial education.”

By continuing to learn from leaders like Bynum, McLean Institute officials hope to create effective and sustainable programs that improve Mississippian’s quality of life.

The mission of the McLean Institute is to advance transformative service at the university and to fight poverty through education in Mississippi. The mission of Hope Credit Union is to strengthen communities, build assets and improve lives in economically distressed areas of the Mid-South by providing access to high quality financial products and related services.

Statement from Chancellor Vitter regarding misunderstandings related to sanctuary campus

“There have recently been misunderstandings arising from a draft student resolution and online petition calling for the University of Mississippi to become a sanctuary campus. To be clear, the university does not have the power or ability to create a ‘sanctuary’ that would be exempt from any federal or state laws. As I stated on Nov. 29, the University of Mississippi will continue to uphold all federal and state laws, as well as policies and procedures established by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. As a public institution of higher education, we will always focus upon education and the success of our students.”

North Mississippi VISTA Project Seeks Recruits

Sixth year of community-building program begins in January 2017

nmvp-logo-copyOXFORD, Miss. – The North Mississippi Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, Project is recruiting members interested in helping community organizations that combat poverty across the region for the coming year, its sixth year of operation.

The VISTA Project, which is overseen by the University of Mississippi’s  McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, sponsors 15 community-based organizations and has funding for up to 25 full-year VISTA members to serve throughout north Mississippi and the Delta. 

The McLean Institute is a natural home for the North Mississippi VISTA Project, which previously was administered by the university’s College of Liberal Arts, said Albert Nylander, a professor of sociology and McLean Institute director.

“The McLean Institute’s mission of advancing transformative service and fighting poverty through education in Mississippi is bold,” Nylander said. “This initiative will continue establishing and fostering beneficial partnerships and programs that advance education in underserved communities across the state.”

Prospective applicants must be motivated, reliable team players who are 18 years or older and have earned at least a high school diploma or GED. Interested individuals can visit http://vista.olemiss.edu/ for application instructions. The deadline for applications is Dec. 12.

North Mississippi VISTA Ellen Olack (left) helps with Food Day activities at the Ole Miss Student Union. Submitted photo

North Mississippi VISTA Ellen Olack (left) helps with Food Day activities at the Ole Miss Student Union. Submitted photo

“The work of our VISTA members has been exemplary,” said Stephen Monroe, UM assistant dean of liberal arts and founder of the North Mississippi VISTA Project. “Across Mississippi, VISTAs have strengthened vital nonprofits and schools; they have written and received dozens of grants; they have organized national days of service; they have increased our flagship university’s capacity to connect meaningfully to neighboring communities.

“All of this work has shared the singular purpose of fighting poverty through education. We are proud of our previous VISTAs and excited about the future.”

VISTA members commit to one year of service within community-based organizations. VISTAs work to manage and recruit volunteers, create opportunities for low-income youth, build social entrepreneurship, write grants and increase access to higher education.

“Service has long been a part of my life,” VISTA leader Sara Baker said. “The opportunity to serve as a VISTA has allowed me to develop the skills to ensure that our campus and community partners create sustainable systems to further their missions to alleviate poverty.”

The NMVP serves several organizations based on the Ole Miss campus or in Oxford, including Good Food for Oxford Schools, the Horizons summer program, the Lafayette County Literacy Council and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Positions outside Lafayette County are available at Crenshaw Elementary School in Crenshaw, North Panola High School in Sardis and Youth Opportunities Unlimited in Marks.

In the next year and beyond, the NMVP will continue to develop host sites around north Mississippi, cultivating projects and placing VISTAs with community partners that fight poverty through education. In the 2016-17 program year, the VISTA project will bring more than $650,000 to the region.

North Mississippi VISTAs Liam Clements and Chelsea Herbert (right) work the United Way booth in the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

North Mississippi VISTAs Liam Clements and Chelsea Herbert (right) work the United Way booth in the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

Examples of VISTA projects include the creation of College Corps, programmatic and fundraising collaborations for LOU Excel By 5 and many other nonprofits in the community, the Traveling Trunks program at the UM Museum, and a mobile farmers market that offered fresh, local produce to residents of low-income housing developments.

Most VISTAs have been recent graduates of UM programs, such as the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Sylvia Stewart, who graduated from UM in 2014 and served as a VISTA with the United Way before becoming a North Mississippi VISTA leader, is studying poverty alleviation at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

“For me, the most fulfilling aspect of serving with the North Mississippi VISTA Project was being part of the movement to make Mississippi a better place,” Stewart said. “I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside the intelligent, caring and passionate people involved in the struggle to alleviate poverty in our community.

“The friendships and professional relationships I formed will forever impact my life. I found my calling working with VISTA, but I also gained the skills to make my professional aspirations a reality.”

Many other VISTAs have followed a similar path, going on to graduate programs at Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University, Stanford University and the University of Georgia.

“Community partnerships inspire the work of the McLean Institute,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. “We are thrilled to support VISTA members as they build capacity among our campus and community partners to impact quality of life in Mississippi.”

The association with the McLean Institute will help sustain and expand the VISTA Project, Nylander said.

“The goals and mission of NMVP and the McLean Institute align perfectly, and we look forward to NMVP’s future growth and continued success,” he said.

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact VISTA leaders Sara Baker and Shannon Curtis at VISTA@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2397.

Provost Stocks Announces Return to Full-time Faculty Status in the Patterson School of Accountancy

Chancellor names Wilkin as interim provost and will appoint committee to conduct national search

Morris Stocks. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Morris H. Stocks announces he will return to faculty of the Patterson School of Accountancy. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. — The University of Mississippi announced today that its provost and executive vice chancellor, Morris H. Stocks, will return to the faculty of the Patterson School of Accountancy after serving in high-level administrative roles for over 14 years. For the past nine years as provost, interim chancellor and executive vice chancellor, Stocks has provided vision and leadership related to many academic honors and advancements at the university. His move to the faculty takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

“I consider it a high privilege and a great honor to have served the University of Mississippi as provost for the last nine years,” Stocks said. “The university has changed tremendously during that time and is poised for new academic directions and challenges. I am confident about the future of the university and look forward to joining my colleagues in the Patterson School of Accountancy as a faculty member.”

“Dr. Stocks has served the University of Mississippi exceptionally well for almost a quarter of a century, and in the last nine years he has played a pivotal role in our dramatic gains in important metrics such as enrollment and retention rate,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “I am personally grateful to Morris for his friendship, guidance and institutional knowledge during my transition to Ole Miss. I believe that we are all ultimately remembered for what we leave behind. Morris’ administrative legacy is substantial, and the fruits of his work will be visible across our campus and state for years to come.”

Noel Wilkin, currently senior associate provost, will serve as interim provost and executive vice chancellor pending a national search for a permanent replacement.

“I am very grateful to Dr. Stocks for his leadership and for serving as both a mentor and friend to me over these past years,” Wilkin said. “It is my goal to continue the commitment to excellence and access that he started as we build on this solid foundation of accomplishment. I am happy to know that he will stay in the Ole Miss family as a professor.”

Under Stocks’ leadership as the university’s chief academic officer, overall student enrollment has grown by over 40 percent and minority student enrollment has grown by over 60 percent. Student success measures have also improved with freshman retention and six-year graduation rates each increasing by roughly 7 percent.

As Stocks noted, “I am thankful that the university has maintained its commitment to access and excellence, and that we have measurable outcomes that demonstrate our commitment.”

In addition to his many accomplishments as a higher education administrator, Stocks is — first and foremost — a highly talented teacher, having won the coveted Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award in 1998 as a member of the faculty of the Patterson School of Accountancy.

“While we respect and reluctantly accept Dr. Stocks’ decision to leave his administrative role, we are thrilled that he will reassume a faculty position and continue to influence the lives of our students,” Vitter said.

Before assuming the provost responsibilities, Stocks served the university as senior vice chancellor for planning and operations and as dean of the Patterson School of Accountancy. Under his leadership as dean, the Patterson School was ranked for the first time in its history as one of the top 25 accounting programs in the country, a status it has retained ever since. Before his service as dean, Stocks was associate provost for three years, with responsibilities for the academic budget and undergraduate curriculum.

Stocks’ accomplishments include a number of actions to advance diversity and inclusion on the UM campus.

“Dr. Stocks has long been a strong and consistent force in the development and implementation of measures such as the UM Creed and the 2014 action plan for diversity,” said Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “Morris is a trusted friend and seasoned administrator who realizes the importance of diversity in the pursuit of academic excellence, and I have leaned heavily upon his wisdom during my tenure here. His legacy of service forms a strong base for our continued focus on these important areas.”

A highly respected and beloved member of the UM faculty since 1991, Stocks’ colleagues note his change of roles with mixed feelings.

“I understand Dr. Stocks’ decision to return to the faculty after many years of hard work on the tough academic issues and challenges that face a university,” said Sue Keiser, chief of staff to the chancellor, “and I will miss our daily interactions — both as colleagues and as friends — which were always marked by kindness and warmth.”

Stocks received his undergraduate degree in accounting from Trevecca Nazarene University, his master’s degree from Middle Tennessee State University and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina. He is a certified public accountant in the state of Mississippi. He and his wife, Cindy, have four adult children.

Wilkin received both his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy and his Ph.D. degree at the University of Maryland and joined the UM pharmacy faculty in 1996. He has received a number of academic honors and was recognized as teacher of the year three times by the UM School of Pharmacy. Wilkin currently serves as senior associate provost, professor of pharmacy and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Jeffrey Vitter Inaugurated as UM Chancellor

Leader unveils several initiatives to move university 'from great to greater'

Jeffrey Vitter was officially named 17th Chancellor of the University of Mississippi during his Investiture ceremony Thursday, Nov. 10. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Jeffrey Vitter was officially named 17th chancellor of the University of Mississippi during his investiture ceremony Thursday (Nov. 10). Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi community celebrated a momentous occasion in the university’s life Thursday (Nov. 10) afternoon with the investiture of its 17th chancellor, Jeffrey S. Vitter.

In his inaugural address, Vitter called on the Ole Miss family to imagine what the future could look like if the full power of higher education was used to help people lift themselves above their circumstances and disadvantages.

He went on to recognize and praise the legacy of excellence that has grown at the university over recent decades through the efforts of visionary administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, government leaders and friends who have invested their time, talents and resources.

“We are standing atop a peak in our history, and, from where we now stand, we can see higher peaks,” Vitter said. “In becoming what we are, we have created greater capacity for what we can be.”

The new chancellor declared that the university must continue to seek greatness and announced that he will call on the UM community to develop ideas for high-impact multidisciplinary research initiatives called Flagship Constellations.

These clusters of faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners will tackle compelling challenges that require multidisciplinary collaborations. The Flagship Constellations will include joint degree programs across disciplines and campuses, engage in strategic growth of graduate programs, and develop key partnerships revolving around innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Just imagine what we can do if we identify universitywide priorities where we can be international leaders in addressing the important challenges in our state and world,” Vitter said. “Imagine what we can do if we take our collective strengths, leverage them, exploit multidisciplinary synergies and in the process come up with imaginative solutions to these grand challenges.

“No one discipline has all the answers, and only collaboration and deep insights from multiple points of view will discover solutions. Intersecting our disciplines will take many forms.

“As an example, imagine what we can do when we build upon the momentum from our recent CEO Technology Summit to establish an interdisciplinary program in data science and big data, which will inform and support discovery and decision making across the spectrum from health and medicine to science and engineering to the arts, humanities and social sciences.”

This is not the first time Vitter has encouraged input and collaboration from the Ole Miss community. In January, he conducted the Flagship Forum, a 100-day listening and learning tour from which emerged four themes for the university to create a roadmap into the future: academic excellence, athletics excellence, building healthy, vibrant communities and being key enablers of people, places and resources.

He also held a town hall meeting in August based on these four themes that resulted in more than 550 ideas for opportunities at the university.

Vitter also announced plans Thursday to develop a cultural gateway to the UM campus east of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The goal is to bring together arts and cultural programs and create space for performance, experiential learning and enrichment opportunities.

He also plans to increase the university’s endowment from the existing $600 million to $1 billion. Those plans include an athletics endowment initiative, an endowment specifically to support the development, retention and engagement of talented staff, and growth of faculty excellence by creating new endowed professorships around the Flagship Constellations.

About 1,200 state officials, guests and members of the university community gathered for the ceremony at the Ford Center. Glenn Boyce, Mississippi commissioner of higher education, administered the oath of office.

“Dr. Vitter, I charge you to preside with fairness, humility and strength, striving always for excellence, knowledge and truth,” Boyce said. “I charge you to maintain and celebrate a climate that encourages the search for truth, a passion for justice and an expansion of the limits of knowledge. I charge you to serve the university with good stewardship, to protect and defend the university and to build the university to heights never before seen.”

In response to Boyce’s charge, Vitter responded in a uniquely Ole Miss fashion with the opening lines of the Hotty Toddy cheer: “Hell yeah, damn right.”

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker highlighted previous accomplishments and welcomed Vitter to Ole Miss.

“Ole Miss continues to grow and prosper, producing leaders that have helped shape it into the world-class university it is today,” Cochran said. “I look forward to working with Chancellor Vitter to build on these successes. I look forward to seeing Ole Miss prosper and grow under his leadership.”

Wicker noted the historic nature of opportunities ahead.

“Chancellor Vitter has an impressive record upon which to build,” Wicker said. “His job is straightforward. Keep this historic university a place where Faulkner and Welty and Willie Morris can coexist with cutting-edge technology.

“Know this, Dr. Vitter: hundreds of thousands of alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are counting on you and wishing you the best.”

Vitter said he was drawn to Ole Miss because of its rich tradition of academic excellence, strong sense of community and recognized history as an economic driver and thought leader.

He closed his address with a challenge to the university community.

“The next chapter in the life of this magnificent university sits squarely in all of our hands, waiting to be written – and read by future generations,” Vitter said. “All of us will ultimately be defined by what we leave behind.

“It is our destiny as a flagship university to desire more, to give more, to be more and to leave more behind. It is our calling to transform lives, communities and the world.”

For the full text, visit http://inauguration.olemiss.edu/.

UM Chancellor’s Investiture Hails Transformative Power of Higher Ed

Inauguration for Jeffrey S. Vitter set for 3 p.m. Nov. 10 at Ford Center

Commencement 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Commencement 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jeffrey S. Vitter will be inaugurated as the 17th chancellor of the University of Mississippi on Nov. 10 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The investiture ceremony, scheduled for 3 p.m., is the centerpiece of a monthslong celebration focused on the inauguration’s theme – selected by Vitter and reflecting an area of deep commitment – “The Power of Higher Education to Transform Lives, Communities and World.”

The investiture of a university chancellor formally installs the institution’s highest-ranking officer, confers upon him the ceremonial accoutrements of office, and gives the larger academic and civic communities an opportunity to convene and celebrate their shared values.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to officially follow in the footsteps of the superlative leaders who have served the University of Mississippi as chancellor,” Vitter said. “I have accepted the leadership role of this great flagship university with an urgent sense of purpose that we have a unique responsibility to transform and elevate our citizens through the opportunities offered through higher education. Nothing is more important to the future success and vitality of society.”

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named Vitter chancellor on Oct. 29, 2015. The former University of Kansas provost, executive vice chancellor and Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor took office on Jan. 1, 2016.

While serving as provost, Vitter initiated a campuswide strategic plan to transform KU into a top-tier research university. He also oversaw the creation of the first universitywide KU Core curriculum, expansion of the schools of Engineering, Business and Pharmacy, and the growth of multidisciplinary research, funding and entrepreneurship.

Vitter brings that same progress-minded leadership of advancing excellence in learning, discovery and engagement to take the university from great to greater.

Although steeped in tradition, investiture is a time to reflect on UM’s many successes, and an opportunity for the new chancellor to share his goals for the future of the university, said Morris Stocks, provost and executive vice chancellor, as well as chair of the Inaugural Steering Committee.

“The ceremony officially installs Dr. Vitter as our chancellor, and gives him a platform from which to discuss themes that are so important to the entire university community,” Stocks said. “It also marks the start of an exciting new era in the history of the University of Mississippi, an era that will build on the accomplishments of those who came before us and touch the lives of countless people who will come after us.”

In addition to Vitter’s keynote address about the strengths of the university and his vision for the future, the ceremony is slated to include presentations by Brice Noonan, chair of the Faculty Senate; Hal Moore, president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association, Gazel Giles, president of the Staff Council; Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine; and Austin Powell, president of the Associated Student Body.

In celebration of the inauguration, the university is hosting a number of campus events that can be found at http://inauguration.olemiss.edu/. Two such events include the UM Innovation and Entrepreneurship Panel, which was conducted Friday at Holman Auditorium, and the International Reception on Tuesday (Nov. 1) at the Inn at Ole Miss.

The university is encouraging participants posting about inauguration events on social media to use #PowerofHigherEd in recognition of the theme.

A native of New Orleans, Vitter graduated in mathematics with highest honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1977 and earned his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford University in 1980. He also holds an MBA from Duke University.

To allow students, faculty and staff to watch the inaugural ceremony, the university has canceled all classes scheduled between 2:15 and 5 p.m. Nov. 10.

Following the inauguration ceremony, the university community is invited to join Vitter in the Grove for a reception and an opportunity to interact with the new leader from 4:30 to 6 p.m.

Those not able to attend the ceremony can watch it from their home or office because it will be streamed live starting at 3 p.m. To view the ceremony, visit http://www.youtube.com/olemiss.

Sue Keiser Named UM Chief of Staff

Longtime staff member represents chancellor's office on campus and beyond

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Jeff Vitter has announced that Sue Keiser, special assistant to the chancellor, is his new chief of staff.

“I am very pleased that Sue has agreed to assume the role of chief of staff,” Vitter said. “For almost 20 years now, she has been a cornerstone for our university and brings tremendous experience, knowledge and dedication to the position.

“Sue is one of our most respected and well-known ambassadors. She is absolutely the best representative Ole Miss could have, and I rely on Sue on a daily basis.”

Keiser has been with the university since early 1998, serving primarily as assistant to four chancellors. However, her connection to Ole Miss goes back much further. She came to UM from Greenville as a nontraditional student in the late 1970s, when she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

“To be asked to serve as chief of staff to the chancellor for the University of Mississippi – an institution that opened the doors to a completely new world of knowledge and opportunity that changed the direction of my life and my children’s lives more than 35 years ago – is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me,” Keiser said.

“I am honored that Chancellor Vitter has entrusted me with this responsibility, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to change and transform lives through education in the future.”

Her duties include responding to a variety of questions and concerns from IHL board members, alumni, students and other members of the university community. She acts as a liaison between the office of the chancellor and vice chancellors and various departments and constituents on the Oxford campus.

Keiser also oversees the chancellor’s office and its staff, and serves as a chancellor’s office representative on many university committees.

She was honored with the Staff Council’s Outstanding Staff Member-Overall award in 2006.

She is married to Edmund Keiser, professor emeritus and chair emeritus of the university’s Department of Biology. She has four children, Mark, Skip, Julie and Jen, and six grandchildren.

Ross Bjork Named UM Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics

Ole Miss also announces athletics director's contract extended through 2020

Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork has been named vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi.

In announcing that Bjork had been given the new vice chancellor title, university officials also noted that an agreement was reached this summer to extend the athletics director’s contract to June 30, 2020.

UM’s request to give Bjork the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics was approved Thursday by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions for Higher Learning.

The new title, as well as the extension of Bjork’s contract to reach the four-year maximum allowed by the state, reflects the university’s appreciation and support of the athletics director’s exemplary work since coming to Ole Miss, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“Athletics serves an important role at our university as our ‘front porch’ – capturing the hearts and minds of people and bringing them to campus so that they can experience the full richness of our great university,” Vitter said. “Athletics has played a big role in elevating the Ole Miss brand to its strongest point in school history.

“The success of our athletics program is unprecedented and is directly attributable to Ross’ leadership. Naming him as the vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics will continue that momentum. I expect under Ross’ leadership that athletics will continue to be an integral part of our growth and increased visibility.”

Ole Miss is the fifth school in the SEC to give its athletics director the vice chancellor designation, which more accurately reflects the all-encompassing role of the position.

“The idea is that this puts the AD at the table with the provost and other academic leaders on campus on a regular basis,” said Ron Rychlak, UM professor of law and faculty athletics representative. “That facilitates communication between athletics and academics, which is good for all parts of the university.”

Bjork has led Ole Miss athletics programs to unprecedented success since his arrival in 2012. Under his guidance, support has increased with record private donations and record attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball. The athletics budget has increased from $57 million upon his arrival to $105.5 million for the 2016-17 season.

“My family and I are very grateful for the support and confidence shown by Dr. Vitter and the entire university community with a renewed long-term commitment to continue leading Ole Miss athletics,” Bjork said. “Holding the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics is not only symbolic of the department’s core values, but also solidifies our role in the university’s overall mission of educating the next generation of America’s leaders.

“I am a big believer in being fully integrated with the university and will continue forward with a great sense of responsibility.”

As a result, Stephen Ponder, the senior executive associate athletics director for external relations, will be promoted to the title of deputy athletics director.

“Stephen has shown great leadership in so many areas since his arrival four years ago,” Bjork said. “His energy level and ‘can do’ attitude have allowed us to grow our entire athletics program physically, financially, competitively and emotionally.

“This promotion to deputy athletics director is well-deserved and fitting for Stephen as my right-hand person. I am grateful for Stephen’s leadership and blessed to work with the best coaches and athletics staff in the country.”

Bjork’s direction of the Forward Together campaign has garnered more than $170 million in donations, resulting in the construction of The Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium expansion and the renovations of the Gillom Center, Track and Field complex and the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have witnessed immediate success in competition under Bjork’s leadership. The Rebel football team appeared in post-season bowl games for the last four consecutive years, reaching the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season for the first time in 46 years. Ole Miss soccer reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in program history.

In 2014, the Ole Miss baseball team competed in the College World Series in Omaha for the first time in 42 years, and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the SEC Tournament Championship in 2013. Ole Miss softball reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

Men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf and track and field have also reached post-season play, with pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claiming back-to-back NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014 and a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Track and field athlete Raven Saunders brought an NCAA Championship to Ole Miss for shot put.

But Bjork’s commitment to success reaches well beyond the field of competition. His strong emphasis on academics has led student-athletes to a record average GPA of 3.0, and the graduation success rate has increased from 72 percent to 81 percent.

His active involvement in other university programs, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, led to his recognition by the NCAA as a Champion of Diversity in 2015. He and former UM Chancellor Dan Jones were the first individuals highlighted with this designation for their work to support the interests of ethnic minorities and underrepresented populations.

Bjork encourages community involvement among student-athletes as well. Under his leadership, athletics programs and their members have participated in more than 50 service projects. Additionally, he’s traveled the country over the last five years, speaking to more than 19,000 Ole Miss alumni and fans on the Rebel Road Trip.

“We are extremely proud of what our team has accomplished over the past four-and-a-half years, and I truly believe the best is yet to come for the entire university and our athletics program,” Bjork said. “We are Ole Miss!”

Former Governor’s Honorarium Sparks Crowdfunding Campaign

Donations will be matched to reach $20,000 goal to support UM Winter Institute

Will WinterPhoto by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

William Winter

OXFORD, Miss. – In connection with the annual Freedom Award ceremonies, the University of Mississippi is launching #WinterLegacy, a $20,000 crowdfunding campaign to cement the legacy of former Gov. William F. Winter through the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

Winter will receive the prestigious Freedom Award on Thursday (Oct. 20) from the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

The former governor’s plans to dedicate the $10,000 honorarium accompanying his award to the university’s Winter Institute launched the idea for a crowdfunding campaign to build on his lifelong legacy of giving to his home state. Thanks to his generosity, every dollar contributed to #WinterLegacy, up to $10,000, generates an additional $1 to pay tribute to a true Mississippi icon.

“William Winter is a Mississippi treasure,” said Jesse L. White Jr., a 1966 Ole Miss graduate and adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina, who ran Gov. Winter’s successful gubernatorial bid in 1979.

“He’s been a mentor to me and to countless others, showing us the true meaning of service through his selfless leadership.”

This is the 25th year of the Freedom Award, and Winter is in select company. Joining him as this year’s honorees are WNBA champion and activist Swin Cash; civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump; Yemeni human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Tawakkol Karman; Damon Jerome Keith, longest serving judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court; journalist Soledad O’Brien; and Bryan Stevenson, attorney and social justice activist.

Past recipients include Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Marian Wright Edelman, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Bob Moses, Jackie Robinson and the Dalai Lama.

Sustaining Winter’s legacy of service to Mississippi, the Winter Institute works in communities and classrooms to end discrimination based on difference. Using four programmatic pillars – youth engagement, community building, academic service and advocacy – the institute’s staff works with students, citizens and communities to help Mississippi become a welcoming place for all.

Four longtime supporters and friends of the Winter Institute are helping spread awareness of #WinterLegacy. Besides White Jr., they are Rose Jackson Flenorl, a FedEx global corporate citizenship manager; Sanford Johnson, co-founder and deputy director of advocacy at Mississippi First; and Winter’s daughter, Eleanor Winter, senior vice president of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association.

For more information or to donate to #WinterLegacy, go to https://ignite.olemiss.edu/project/2952.

New York Times Columnist to Deliver Honors College Keynote

Popular journalist-opinion writer David Brooks to reflect on presidential campaigns

New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks at UM Thursday for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation. (Submitted photo)

New York Times columnist David Brooks speaks at UM Thursday for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation. (Submitted photo)

OXFORD, Miss. – David Brooks, acclaimed author and New York Times columnist, is the keynote speaker Thursday (Oct. 20) evening for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s Fall Convocation at the University of Mississippi.

The public program begins at 7 p.m. in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s annual assembly is among the signature investiture events for the university’s 17th chancellor, Jeffery S. Vitter.

“It is truly an honor for the university to host David Brooks as the keynote speaker at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation,” said Vitter, who will introduce Brooks. “It is an exciting time in the life of our university, especially with the 20th anniversary of SMBHC coming up in the spring.

“The opportunity for our students to hear from a well-known and critically-acclaimed commentator and author like David Brooks is illustrative of the transformative power of higher education.”

Brooks’ comments promise to be intriguing and insightful, especially at this pivotal point in U.S. history, said Douglass Sullivan-González, Honors College dean.

“Mr. Brooks is a gifted columnist, frequent commentator on ‘PBS Newshour’ and he will reflect on the coming presidential election and its impact on American politics,” Sullivan- González said. “With the third debate concluded Wednesday evening, Mr. Brooks will provide us his insights on the tectonic shifts in U.S. politics and the possible directions and repercussions on a Clinton or Trump presidency.”

An American political and cultural commentator, Brooks has worked as a reporter and later op-ed editor for The Wall Street Journal, as a senior editor at The Weekly Standard from its inception, as a contributing editor at both Newsweek and The Atlantic Monthly.

He is the author of several books, including “Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There” (Simon & Schuster, 2000), “On Paradise Drive: How We Live Now (And Always Have) in the Future Tense” (Simon & Schuster, 2004), “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement” (Random House 2011) and “The Road to Character” (Random House, 2015).

Born in Toronto, Brooks spent his early years in the middle-income Stuyvesant Town housing development in lower Manhattan. His family moved to the Philadelphia, and he graduated from Radnor High School. He earned a degree in history from the University of Chicago and later was awarded honorary degrees from Williams College, New York University, Brandeis University and Occidental College.

Upon graduation, Brooks became a police reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago, a wire service owned jointly by the Chicago Tribune and Chicago Sun Times. He applied and was accepted as an intern on William F. Buckley’s National Review. After his internship, Brooks spent some time at the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University and then landed a job writing movie reviews for the Washington Times.

Brooks was hired by the Wall Street Journal, where he worked first as an editor of the book review section. The WSJ posted him as an op-ed columnist to Brussels, whence he covered Russia (making numerous trips to Moscow), the Middle East, South Africa and European affairs.

On his return, Brooks joined the Weekly Standard and edited an anthology, “Backward and Upward: The New Conservative Writing” (Vintage Books, 1996).

The New York Times’ editorial page editor, Gail Collins, recruited Brooks as a replacement for outgoing columnist William Safire, and he joined the staff in September 2003.

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/.