UM Campus Recreation to Host Third Annual Color My College 5-K

Event benefits Special Olympics Mississippi

The UM Department of Campus Recreation will host the Color My College 5-K run, featuring a run and a UV glow paint party, April 1. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Department of Campus Recreation will host the Color My College 5-K run April 1 as part of a full day of activities.

This year, the event runs day to night with the color run starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by the first-ever UV glow paint party after dark, said Amanda Alpert, assistant director of intramural sports and sport clubs for the Department of Campus Recreation. 

“Each year, we try to add something new to attract new participants,” Alpert said. “We are excited to see how this new addition will enhance our event and hope everyone is as excited as we are.”

Color My College asks the Department of Campus Recreation each year to choose a nonprofit organization for the race to benefit.

“We have a very close partnership with Special Olympics,” Alpert said. “These partnerships not only provide opportunities for Special Olympic athletes, but also (for) Ole Miss students, so that is why we chose them.”

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and share those experiences with others around them.

Participants can sponsor a Special Olympic athlete this year for $20 and those funds go directly to Special Olympics.

The activities begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Grove with contests, giveaways and a Zumba pump-up exercise led by Elise Jones, a senior marketing major.

“Zumba is one of my passions, and I couldn’t be happier to lead the warmup,” Jones said. “I love seeing everyone’s smiling face before the run.”

All participants are required to register. The fee is $34.99 for individuals and $31.99 apiece for a team of four. Ole Miss students, with a valid student ID, can register for $29.99 or $26.99 each in a team of 4 through March 31.

Onsite registration will be $50 for every participant. For those interested in registering for just the paint party, registration is $15 through March 31 and $20 onsite.

“I love the color run because I love to run and it really brings the Oxford community together,” Jones said. “I would tell people unsure about signing up that they would miss out on a good time and an easy, fun way to be active.”

For more information, visit the Color My College website for the Ole Miss race. 

RebelWell Fitness Classes Continue to Grow, Get UM Moving

Sessions help participants improve health, develop relationships across campus

Deetra Wiley participates in one of RebelWell’s kettlebell classes at the University of Mississippi.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Deetra Wiley never thought of herself as someone who exercises until she discovered a RebelWell kettlebell and total body resistance workout class. 

The University of Mississippi applications analyst and business communication specialist figured she’d try the kettlebell class offered by RebelWell as part of its “New Year New You” program. Wiley swung the cannonball-like object with a handle, which is branded as a modern piece of fitness equipment, and also did squats, lunges and used ropes hanging from the ceiling until she was sore. 

“After my first kettlebell-TRX class, I was extremely sore the next few days, but I knew I had to keep going and stay motivated,” Wiley said. “Within the first week, I could see some toning. My body feels great. I have even more energy, and I sleep better through the night.”

In the kettlebell-TRX class, participants are encouraged to get in groups of four or five and move through various exercise stations using the kettlebell or other techniques. Wiley said this reminds her of the importance of teamwork.

“I love being part of a team to accomplish tasks, goals and, in this case, exercise,” she said. 

The winners of this year’s “New Year New You” challenge are Pam Barefield, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs, and John Berns, assistant professor of management. Both were successful in attending the workouts, weighing in and losing the most weight, percentagewise, over the six-week challenge.

RebelWell sponsors several faculty, staff and student fitness classes to give everyone a chance to work out with peers, led by a certified instructor. The classes are $30 per semester for those without a Turner Center membership and free to members.

The slate includes Zumba and Groovin’ and Movin’, cycling, yoga, aqua aerobics and TRX, which is a body-weight suspension training exercise, and a Kettlebell and TRX fusion class.

The programs started with only four classes a year ago, said Andy Karch, a certified instructor and coordinator of fitness for the Department of Campus Recreation. The number has grown to nine offerings.

This spring, 86 faculty and staff members are signed up, 56 of whom aren’t Turner Center members and otherwise wouldn’t have be able to benefit from training there. 

Each class has about 20 participants. Their enthusiasm is inspiring, Karch said. 

“The group’s consistency, energy and excitement towards the classes is incredible to see,” Karch said. “These classes are highly sought-after by our students due to the commitment, energy and just plain fun that the faculty and staff bring to them.”

The instructors and participants should be commended for helping the classes grow, said Andrea M. Jekabsons, associate director of human resources who works with RebelWell.

The University of Mississippi’s RebelWell program offers kettlebell, Zumba, cardio and many other fitness classes for faculty, staff and students. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“The challenge, ‘New Year, New You!’ really seemed to resonate with our employees, and they continue to be committed to making the classes,” Jekabsons said. “It is rewarding to see how far we have come from no faculty and staff classes, to two held in the Thad Cochran Research Center’s atrium, to a comprehensive schedule of nine options a week at the Turner Center.”

JoAnne Costa, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for finance and administration, has been participating in a variety of classes this semester but finds strength training the most beneficial. 

“Walking or other cardio activities are easy enough to do on my own, but strength training is not,” Costa said. “While I am not looking to bulk up, I understand the importance of maintaining muscle mass, and the guidance provided in these classes have been very helpful toward this goal.”

Costa has attended some of the “Sunrise Strengthening and Training” sessions with Ben Fleming, assistant coordinator of strength and conditioning in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Olympic sports area. All the campus fitness instructors have helped her tremendously, Costa said. 

“Each class offers a unique physical challenge and the instructors are great at adapting the exercises to accommodate different fitness levels,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of student instructors, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them and hearing about their classes and activities.”

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and professional development coordinator for the Intensive English Program, first enrolled in the fitness classes in spring 2016. She began with Zumba and yoga and is taking the TRX and kettlebell class and an occasional cardio session. They help her “let loose” and decompress during the day, she said.

Sapp is grateful to the university for supporting the programs, and also thankful for the efforts of the Turner Center staff. 

“These classes are lifesavers,” Sapp said. “I also wanted to keep my exercise routine and to strengthen my body and spirit. I’ve seen a difference in my physical and mental health.”

Wiley said the classes offer opportunities to meet employees from across campus that she may only speak with over the phone. Putting faces with names and building friendships by persevering through tough workouts is fun, she said. 

“The best self-motivation for me was to keep smiling through the hardest activities,” Wiley said. “The participants are awesome and their endurance motivated me as well.”

The biggest obstacle to staying committed is forcing herself to get out of the office and go. Once she enters the gym, she gets excited. 

“It’s so easy to get engrossed in work and tell yourself that you can do it another day,” Wiley said. “However, there have been times when I would push myself to go, even though I’d get there later. The way I see it, some exercise is better than none!”

Pulitzer Winner Jon Meacham to Give UM Commencement Address

Presidential historian to address graduates May 13 in the Grove

Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham will give the University of Mississippi’s 2017 Commencement address May 13 in the Grove. Photos courtesy Royce Carlton.

OXFORD, Miss. – Pulitzer Prize-winning author, presidential historian and one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals Jon Meacham will deliver the University of Mississippi’s 164th Commencement address May 13 in the Grove. 

Meacham, a former editor of Newsweek and a contributor to Time and The New York Times Book Review, speaks to graduates and their families at 9 a.m.

Also a regular guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” he is respected for his great depth of knowledge on current affairs, politics and religion. He possesses a rich understanding of the way issues impact American lives and also why each event’s historical context is important. 

Having Meacham on campus for such an important event in the lives of students and their families is a “tremendous honor” for the university, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. 

“It is an amazing opportunity for our graduating students to hear from a person of his caliber – a highly accomplished, prize-winning author and renowned presidential historian,” Vitter said. “Mr. Meacham joins a long list of distinguished Commencement speakers who have graced our flagship university with their insight and knowledge over the years. We look forward to welcoming him to Ole Miss and Oxford.”

A native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, Meacham earned an English literature degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa honor society. He serves as a distinguished visiting history professor at his alma mater and also a visiting distinguished professor at Vanderbilt University.

He has written multiple New York Times bestsellers and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for “American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House” (Random House, 2008). His most recent presidential biography, “Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush” (Random House, 2015), debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list. 

Meacham has also written other national bestsellers on Thomas Jefferson, the relationship between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and on the Founding Fathers and the role of their relationships with God during the creation of the nation. He is working on a biography of James and Dolly Madison. 

“The Long View” column in The New York Times Book Review, which “looks back at books that speak to our current historical moment” and being a contributing editor at Time keep Meacham busy these days. He also was Newsweek’s managing editor from 1998 to 2006 and editor from 2006 to 2010. He is “one of the most influential editors in the news magazine business,” according to The New York Times. 

He appeared on Ken Burns’ documentary series “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” and Fox News Channel aired an hourlong special on Meacham’s “Destiny and Power” in 2015. He has appeared on various other current affairs TV programs and news shows. 

The World Economic Forum named Meacham a “Global Leader for Tomorrow,” and he is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a fellow of the Society of American Historians and chair of the National Advisory Board of the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University. 

Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost and executive vice chancellor, said he looks forward to hearing the respected author and historian speak. 

“Commencement is a significant event for our students that commemorates their accomplishments and the development that they have experienced while at our institution,” Wilkin said. “I am pleased that Jon Meacham will be with us to celebrate this occasion and share his perspectives and insights on this significant day.”

Annual Awards Program Honors UM Faculty and Students

HEADWAE recognizes academic achievement, contributions to higher learning

Austin Powell, UM Associated Student Body president, and John Czarnetzky, Ole Miss professor of law, were among those honored at the 30th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day- Working for Academic Excellence program in Jackson. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students and faculty were among the honorees at the 30th annual Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence, or HEADWAE, awards program Feb. 21 in Jackson.

Austin Powell, a senior from Corinth majoring in public policy leadership and philosophy, and Ben Carroll, a member of the UM School of Medicine class of 2017, were the university’s student honorees. John Czarnetzky, professor of law, and Dr. David Norris, associate professor of family medicine at the UM Medical Center, were the faculty representatives on the awards program.

“I am surprised and honored,” said Powell, the Associated Student Body president. “I think receiving this honor is a testament for everyone who has believed and supported me because I could not have done any of this by myself.”

Carroll, also a 2016 Gold Humanism Honor Society inductee from Jackson, said it is a great honor to be recognized for his commitment not only to the content of his own education, but also to the future of all students at the UM Medical Center.

“I was excited to meet with students and faculty from around Mississippi who share a similar passion for helping our state’s higher learning communities reach for greater and greater heights,” Carroll said.

Czarnetzky is a four-time professor of the year honoree and the 2016 recipient of the Elsie Hood Award, which is the highest award received for teaching at the university.

“To be invited to participate with similar awardees from higher education institutions throughout Mississippi is an honor and great privilege,” Czarnetzky said.

Norris, a Gold Key Honor Society member, said it is gratifying to have his efforts rewarded.

“For me, this award is a double honor because it comes from my fellow faculty and the administration, and it is always a pleasure to have your peers notice your hard work,” he said.

HEADWAE was established by legislative resolution to honor students and faculty from the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning who have made outstanding contributions in promoting academic excellence.

The UM and UMMC honorees were among 62 others from Mississippi’s 34 public and private universities and colleges.

The winners were welcomed by Gov. Phil Bryant at the state Capitol and given a tour of the historic building. They also attended an awards luncheon where Rod Paige, interim president of Jackson State University, gave a keynote address.

‘Just Mercy’ Selected for UM’s 2017 Common Reading Experience

Author Bryan Stevenson to speak at university's Fall Convocation in August

OXFORD, Miss. – Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” will be the focus of campuswide discussion throughout 2017 after being selected for the University of Mississippi’s Common Reading Experience.

Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned and others. The book tells his story about the redemptive power of mercy and serves as Stevenson’s call to fix the justice system. He has agreed to be the keynote speaker Aug. 22 at the university’s Fall Convocation.

The Common Reading Experience began with the 2011-12 school year and continues in 2017-18 with the selection of “Just Mercy.” All incoming freshmen and transfer students will get copies of the book with instructions to read it before the fall semester begins.

Instructors from the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, First-year Experience, Department of Nursing and others then utilize the text in their classes. Faculty and staff are also encouraged to read it in an effort to enrich the sense of community here. The program aspires for an enriched sense of academic community through a communal reading of the text.

This past fall, faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni and residents of the greater Oxford community, were invited to nominate a suggested title. Each committee member read each book on the short list.

“Just Mercy” was recommended in January to the UM Common Read Experience committee, which is chaired by Bob Cummings, director of the university’s Center for Writing and Rhetoric. The Common Reading Experience committee made the final recommendation to the provost.

The 2016 Common Reading Experience selection was “Ten Little Indians,” written by Sherman Alexie. Previous selections were “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot (2011), “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by UM professor Tom Franklin (2012), “The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education” by Craig Mullaney (2013), “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan (2014) and “The Education of a Lifetime” (2015), a memoir by UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat.

The committee made an excellent choice with “Just Mercy,” which was the committee’s overwhelming favorite, said Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African-American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee.

“I think students will enjoy the structure of the book,” Johnson said. “On the one hand, it’s the true story of a lawyer who advocates passionately for at-risk clients. But the author intersperses his narratives with explanations of how the criminal justice system as a whole is criminally unjust.”

Students will be drawn in by the narratives Stevenson weaves, but they’ll also “stay for the big picture,” Johnson said.

“In the process they’ll learn a lot about how an institution that represents fairness places some Americans at great risk of harm,” he said. “I think they’ll also be inspired to advocate for justice in their own lives.”

A 1985 graduate of Harvard, Stevenson has a master’s in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government and a J.D. from the School of Law. He joined the faculty at New York University School of Law in 1998, according to NYU’s website.

A New York Times bestseller, “Just Mercy” won the 2015 Carnegie Medal for Best Non-Fiction, the Dayton Literary Peace Prize and the NAACP Image Award for Best Non-Fiction. In 2014, it was named by Time magazine as one of the Top 10 Nonfiction Books and by Esquire magazine as one of the Five Most Important Books.

In the book, students will encounter stories of those who have been jailed, as well as the lawyers, judges, detectives and correctional officers who have shaped their fates, said Savannah Kelly, assistant professor, research and instruction librarian and a member of the Common Reading Experience committee.

“It is my hope that students will read Stevenson’s text with an open mind and a willingness to reconsider the prevalence of mass incarceration in the United States, and the assumptions we make as a society concerning the nature of justice, equality and fairness within our criminal justice system,” Kelly said.


Nominations for Sullivan Award for Community Service Due Feb. 24

Annual honors recognize students, alumni and local residents

OXFORD, Miss. – The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi is seeking nominations for The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

The award recognizes those who exhibit “nobility of character, exemplified by selfless service to others and the community.” UM will accept nominations through Feb. 24 for one student, either undergraduate or graduate; one alumnus; and one member of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community.

To nominate someone, visit the McLean Institute’s website. Recipients will be announced at 3 p.m. April 5 in the ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award nominations are due Feb. 24. Recipients of the community service award, which is given to one student, one alumnus and one member of the community, will be announced April 5. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Recognizing service is crucial to the mission of the McLean Institute, which supports transformation through service, said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director.

“This is UM’s fourth annual celebration of service recognition, and we’re proud to honor wonderful individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make lives better for others,” Nylander said. “The Sullivan Award is an opportunity to honor a student, an alumnus and community member who have made our community a better place because of their humble service.”

Last year, UM senior Ann-Marie Herod and alumna Barbara Wortham were honored.

Herod was double-majoring in broadcast journalism and African-American studies, served with the McLean Institute’s Horizons program, College Corps, Ole Miss Ambassadors and the Black Student Union, in addition to years of volunteer work.

Wortham is coordinator for the Adult Basic Literary Education program for the Lafayette County Literacy Council and a tutor and instructor who has helped more than 400 people get their GED, among other accomplishments. 

Like honorees in years past, ideal candidates are selfless and committed to improving life for others, said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. 

“The Sullivan Award honors individuals who place serve above self,” Martin said. “Sullivan Award recipients have distinguished themselves by embodying the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion.”

The honor was established in 1890 to recognize those who emphasize service to others before oneself, while also having integrity and being honest, moral, ethical, responsible, determined, courageous and compassionate. Those who do not actively seek recognition are prime candidates.

The award has been given for 130 years and is awarded at 72 colleges and universities across the South, said Steve McDavid, president of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. 

“The Sullivan Award is the highest nonacademic honor at most schools where it is given,” McDavid said. “The award recognizes and honors those that humbly serve others in their day-to-day life.”

LeBron James Family Foundation Seeks Student Success Solutions at UM

Researcher recently spent time on campus to learn about Ole Miss programs

Paul Herold meets with a student panel in the Lyceum on a recent visit he made on behalf of the LeBron James Family Foundation. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – There probably isn’t much more LeBron James can learn about basketball, but the sports megastar’s nonprofit foundation is looking for lessons from the University of Mississippi about ways to help students excel in college. 

The LeBron James Family Foundation has established the “I PROMISE Institute” as a resource for its future students on the University of Akron campus. James, who attended Akron public schools and is passionate about education, implemented his “Wheels for Education” and “Akron I PROMISE Network” initiatives to work with kids there who are least likely to earn a high school diploma, much less attend college, to help them do both.

James, through a partnership between his foundation and the university, has guaranteed four-year, full-ride scholarships for all its eligible students. 

The original class of I Promise students is about to enter high school, and in four years will be college students, many of them the first in their families to do so. The I PROMISE Institute at Akron will be dedicated to researching best practices, implementing academic interventions and providing around-the-clock support for Akron college students. 

“When we first started this program, I wanted my kids to graduate from high school,” James said. “But the more we grow as a foundation, the more we find can be done to give our kids the best chance to be successful.

“We don’t just want our kids to get to college; we want them to graduate from college. And we want to make sure we are doing everything we can to help them do that.”

Paul Herold, who recently retired from the University of Akron, is doing research on behalf of the foundation at universities to learn about ways to maximize the I Promise program’s impact. Herold recently visited Ole Miss to learn more about the student success programs in place.

After a day-and-a-half of meeting with students, faculty and administrators, he was impressed with the university’s programs as well as its students.

“They’re lucky to go to school here,” Herold said. “This university has its act together and is very student-centered. The student affairs structure is exceptional, as is the way everyone across campus buys into it. 

“Any university in the country would be pleased to serve students as well as Ole Miss does.”

There is a close Ole Miss connection to the I Promise Network. Herold and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs and a University of Akron graduate, are on the I Promise Institute Bureau, a governing board of higher education professionals.

“It is a true honor that the LeBron James Family Foundation identified our campus as having aspirational practices with respect to access and student support,” Hephner LaBanc said. “I am proud of the work of our campus community and thrilled to be a part of telling our stories so other students can benefit from similar programs.”

LJFF’s Wheels for Education and Akron I PROMISE Network programs were created to help raise graduation rates in Akron public schools over the long term.

“LeBron’s focus is on increasing graduation rates among the kids who are least likely to graduate,” Herold said. “His program reaches out to Akron kids who are like him, facing serious challenges as they try to complete their education.” 

With the addition of the I PROMISE Institute, that commitment continues through college graduation rates for LJFF’s inner-city students at Akron.

The I PROMISE Institute will be a home base for all future high school Akron I PROMISE Network students, acclimating them to life on a college campus while offering programming for students, parents and their families about navigating the college experience. The creation of the I PROMISE Institute is funded in part by Sprite, which James has worked with since 2003.

The process of formulating the I PROMISE Institute is urgent now, as students will be enrolled in college in just a few short years, said Michele Campbell, the foundation’s executive director. 

“For many of our kids, they are the first in their families to attend college, so we want to create a familiar, encouraging environment on campus where they feel safe and supported,” Campbell said. “We believe we have the academics and the experts in place to ensure the I PROMISE Institute will be a valuable and impactful resource for our students.”

Herold met with a group of Ole Miss students in the Lyceum. They discussed experiences on campus with several programs, some of which could shape programs I Promise creates over the next few years.

Ieshia Mosley, a junior accounting major from Horn Lake, pointed to her experience with UM’s Students First, which is for first-generation students. The organization helps students create friendships, improve interpersonal skills, hone study habits and learn other keys to a successful college experience.

She said the community atmosphere within the group, as well as her mentor there, helped her succeed.

“Because I was the first person in my family to go to college, I wasn’t able to go to my family with some of the questions that I had,” Mosley said. “But in the organization, I was able to relate to other students who were going through things similar to what I was going through. I was able to get a mentor to go to when I didn’t understand something. I still have those relationships.”

Rashad Newsom, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Senatobia, was involved with Students First. He was also involved in the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent when he was in high school, and after coming to Ole Miss, he became a MOST mentor to a high school student.

Newsom also was in the university’s Foundations for Academic Success Track program, which helps first-year students transition from high school to college. He later became a FASTrack mentor.

He credits his involvement in many student organizations with helping him make the grade, but also with helping him handle the pressures of being a college student.

“Different organizations have kept me both humble and well-grounded while I’ve been here,” Newsom said.

Tickets Available for Jan. 28 TED Talk at UM

Second set of lectures features diverse collection of 'ideas worth spreading'

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is gearing up to host its second-ever TEDxUniversityofMississippi, an event that features brief lectures from Ole Miss alumni, faculty members and others to showcase “ideas worth spreading.”

The event is slated for 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Audience members will be engaged by a diverse group of speakers and onstage acts will entertain between talks, making for a lively afternoon, organizers said. The talks will be recorded and later posted on the TEDxUM Youtube channel. Tickets are $30 each and can be purchased online or in person at the UM Box Office. 

Each of the talks are inspirational in their own way and “help us envision what could be and what we are capable of,” said Georgia Norfleet, a senior marketing major from Chicago who is helping organize the event.

“Each of our speakers are bringing so much of themselves to their talks and making connections that our audience won’t expect,” Norfleet said. “It’s so important to seek out understandings outside of our own, and this event will give the UM community the chance to do just that.”

The event uses the TED Talks conference format, which brings together lecturers and other participants in a globally popular set of conferences run by the Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” At the university’s first TEDxUM in 2015, the crowd size was limited, but organizers were allowed to host a much larger event this year under the rules set by the Sapling Foundation. 

The event will allow students to discover “beyond the classrooms” and uncover growing communities and cultures that exist around the state and all over the world, said Shikha Shrestha, a sophomore integrated marketing communication major from Madison who is among the organizers.

“The diversity of our lineup is so interesting to me because we have speakers from our very own UM professors to Ole Miss alumni, each coming in with a different, unique perspectives and discussions but also interconnected in a way that will give the UM community a platform to start a conversation on these ideas worth spreading,” Shrestha said. 

Matthew R. Wilson, who spoke at UM’s first ever TEDx, will emcee this year’s event. The speakers for Jan. 28 include: 

  • Josh Mabus, a UM alumnus from Tupelo, who will discuss the difference between failing and quitting and how the difference affects how we judge ourselves. 
  • Patrick Woodyard, a UM alumnus and co-founder of the shoe and accessory company Nisolo, will discuss how consumers can get business to adopt measures consistent with their own values. 
  • Dr. Joe Campbell, a UM alumnus and Hattiesburg-based anesthesiologist, will discuss innovative techniques to reduce suicide ideation. 
  • Shannon Cohn, an Oxford-based filmmaker, will discuss endometriosis, a rarely discussed disease that affects millions of women. 
  • Sue Grayzel, UM professor of history, will discuss how the government convinces us to “Keep Calm and Carry On,” in effect becoming extra eyes and ears for the state. 
  • Anne Quinney, UM professor of modern languages, will discuss publisher- and editor-induced censorship that has changed the meaning of many of our favorite pieces of literature. 
  • Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy, will discuss the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and how scientific discoveries are truly a team effort. 
  • Rory Ledbetter, UM associate professor of theatre arts, will discuss our inner monologue and how we can control our breathing to actually create better conversations and relationships.

 For more information, visit the TEDxUniversityofMississippi website

Dyer Promoted to UM Associate Dean of Liberal Arts

Former modern languages chair joined faculty in 1988

Donald L. Dyer is the new associate dean for faculty and academic affairs for the College of Liberal Arts. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Donald L. Dyer, longtime University of Mississippi professor and chair of modern languages, has been promoted to associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts

Dyer, who began teaching at UM in 1988, assumed his new role at the beginning of the spring semester. He has been a professor of Russian and linguistics, as well as honors classes, while leading the Department of Modern Languages. He has a bachelor’s degree in Russian from the University of North Carolina, as well as master’s and doctoral degrees in Slavic languages from the University of Chicago. 

He plans to continue teaching Honors 101 and 102 and an occasional linguistics course in his new position. 

“After 12 wonderful years as chair of the Department of Modern Languages, I look forward to working with colleagues in the office of the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and to being part of its continued success,” Dyer said. “I am particularly excited about developing strengthened relationships with the department chairs and faculty in the college and helping them confront the challenges they face.”

His research interests include Slavic and Balkan linguistics, Bulgarian and the Romanian of Moldova, as well as languages in contact. He has written or edited nine books and more than 25 journal articles on these topics. Dyer is editor of the journal Balkanistica and co-editor of Romance Monographs.

He serves as co-director of the university’s Chinese Language Flagship Program. He is also a member of the UM Strategic Planning Council and active with University of Mississippi chapters of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi. He is also vice president of the Bulgarian Studies Association.

Dyer has been the recipient of a number of awards for teaching, research and service during his time at UM. In 1992, he was awarded the Liberal Arts Outstanding Professor of the Year, and in 2004, he received the Mississippi Humanities Council Humanities Teacher of the Year.

He received the Nolan B. Shepard International Service Award in 2011 and in 2014 was recognized with the Mississippi Foreign Language Association Award of Distinction. In 2014, Dyer was recognized as the 17th Kenneth E. Naylor Memorial Lecturer in South Slavic Linguistics and in 2015 was given the title of Friend of CARTA Award by the Central American Russian Teachers Association.

The College of Liberal Arts is fortunate to add Dyer to its leadership team because of his great experience and professional success, said Lee Cohen, the college’s dean. 

“Dr. Dyer brings a great deal of administrative experience with him to this position,” Cohen said. “Most importantly, he has been a successful chair for modern languages for over a decade and knows very well the demands being placed on our departments.

“The Department of Modern Languages flourished under his leadership, and I hope he can help us to enable all our departments to flourish moving forward.”

UM Professor Hopes to Shed Light on Voter Wait Times

Election Day study introduces students to data collection and analysis

Julie Wronski

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi political science professor and her students are collaborating with researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dartmouth University and 25 other universities to study wait times at polling places in the 2016 presidential election. 

Julie Wronski, an assistant professor of political science, had the help of 40 students from her Political Science 251 class to collect data on how long people spent at the polls. The hundreds of pages of information students collected from Lafayette, Yalobusha and Desoto counties will be paired with data collected in urban and rural areas across the country. 

Researchers want to better document the variability of voter wait times across the country and understand the factors that lead to long lines.

“If we do find that there are certain precincts or certain regions where there are consistently longer times to vote, we can identify these areas and the factors that could lead to longer wait times,” Wronski said. “These issues can be ways of disenfranchising voters and making them more apathetic to the process. The fewer barriers to vote, the better.” 

The UM team was the only one from Mississippi to participate. Data was collected in New York, Boston and other urban areas, as well as rural areas across the country. 

The study offered a chance for students to see firsthand how states and localities conduct elections, Wronski said. The work also helped them better understand how data is collected, as well as its importance. 

UM students went to polling places to sample how long voters waiting in line to check in and the amount of time voters take to cast their votes, among other information.

Mississippi law required the team to remain outside the polling places and to not interact with voters. The students respected those rules, but were still able to gather the information they needed. 

“The poll workers and election officials were very welcoming to us as nonpartisan observers in a very contentious election,” Wronski said. “Just being able to see anything was great.” 

The work resulted in a thick stack of records that will be compiled along with information collected by other participating universities. The findings will be analyzed along with demographic information about each precinct. 

“It’s going to be matched with precinct-level data on income, race and education level, and then also matched to the precinct-level voter file to see the percentage of Republican or Democratic voting,” Wronski said. “So, we can make those empirical connections on where the longer lines were. Were they in the more Republican-leaning or Democrat-leaning, or more urban or rural, areas?” 

The national team of political researchers will write up their findings for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The information may be ready by the summer of 2017.

The team also plans to use the data to educate the general public and nonprofit groups who are passionate about voting issues on the causes, costs and remedies for long lines at polls. 

The class, which is an introduction to empirical analysis, is a perfect venue for giving students a chance to participate in the process of inquiry, said John Bruce, UM professor and chair of political science. The work brings the ideas discussed in class into a more concrete focus and gives students an “extraordinary experience,” he said. 

“The collaborative study that Dr. Wronski is working on cuts to the very heart of our democracy,” Bruce said. “Voting has to be a reasonable exercise, and all voters should expect similar experiences when they vote. … Gathering this type of data is a way to begin to understand how well our citizens are able to engage in democracy.” 

Haley Simmons, a political science doctoral student from Starkville, helped with the data collection project on Election Day. As a graduate assistant for Wronski, he was responsible for logistics of the research, while Wronski managed student involvement and coordinated with lead researchers from other institutions. 

Simmons said he hopes the students involved in the project will eventually conduct their own research using the skills they learned. 

“Introducing students to research practices and showing them that research can be fun as well as academically rewarding was the highlight of my involvement with this project,” Simmons said. “Skills we learn in graduate school classrooms are often abstract, and this opportunity allowed me to apply abstract skills to real-world research.”