UM Winter Institute Has Key Role in National Day of Racial Healing

Initiative of W.K. Kellogg Foundation includes more than 130 organizations across the country

OXFORD, Miss. – The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation at the University of Mississippi is collaborating with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and more than 130 organizations for a National Day of Racial Healing on Tuesday (Jan. 17).

The observance is an effort to heal wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias and build an equitable and just society where all children can thrive.

“We have to be truthful when looking at ourselves as individuals and as a nation,” said Portia Espy, the Winter Institute’s director of community building. “Although we’ve made positive strides in the area of race relations, there is still a deep divide in this country, one that if we’re not careful will become even deeper; undoing the good work that has been done.

“We each have to take responsibility in playing our individual and collective parts in bridging the divide and bringing us together as one. The National Day of Racial Healing is intended to call attention to this need and to kick off an ongoing effort to bring the healing that many in our nation are calling for.” 

In the next few weeks, the Kellogg Foundation and its Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation colla­borating organizations will carry out a variety of events to mark the first-ever National Day of Racial Healing. The TRHT community, corporate and nonprofit partners represent a collective network of nearly 300 million Americans.

Winter Institute namesake, former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter, serves as the TRHT enterprise’s honorary co-chair, along with former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. 

One of the Winter Institute’s most powerful tools is the Welcome Table and its story circles, which build trust and understanding among participants. The institute has developed a toolkit that individuals can use to lead story circle sessions in their communities as part of National Day of Racial Healing events. The toolkit can be accessed at

Communities are encouraged to share their TRHT efforts, on Jan. 17 and afterward, by posting photos and statements on social media using the hashtag #mississippihealing.

“Communities, organizations and individuals are being asked to acknowledge that there are still deep racial divisions in America that must be overcome,” said Gail Christopher, senior adviser and vice president for TRHT at the Kellogg Foundation. “We have to come together to heal and commit to truth telling, engaging representatives from all racial, ethnic, religious and identity groups in genuine efforts to increase understandi­ng, communication, caring and respect for one another.”

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have equal opportunities to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life.

Based in Battle Creek, Michigan, the foundation works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans.

For more information about the Winter Institute’s National Day of Healing, email Portia Espy at

Statement from Chancellor Vitter regarding ASB’s resolution on sanctuary campus

“I am aware of the resolution drafted by a few Associated Student Body Senators and some student organization presidents calling for the university to become a sanctuary for undocumented members of our community.  Leaders from our Associated Student Body have informed us that the resolution has been pulled from tonight’s agenda and will not be discussed.

“As chancellor, my responsibility is to administer and operate the university within applicable Federal and state laws, as well as the policies and procedures established by the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

“I do believe it is an important part of the educational process ­­— and central to our UM Creed — for students to discuss the difficult issues of our day, and it is equally important that all voices be a part of that healthy debate.  I can assure you that we will also continue to uphold our legal responsibilities and our university policies.”

Saudi Arabian Student Organization Hosts National Festival

Attendees enjoy an evening of Saudi culture and tradition

The Saudi Arabian Student Organization at Ole Miss hosts the Saudi National and Cultural Festival at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The Saudi Arabian Student Organization at Ole Miss hosted the Saudi National and Cultural Festival at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts was filled with the sounds, sights and aromas of the Middle East recently as the University of Mississippi’s Saudi Arabian Student Organization hosted a cultural exhibit featuring traditional Saudi dance, cuisine and culture.

“The purpose of our event was to represent our cultural theme through a documentary film, Saudi traditional dance, a Saudi heritage exhibit and cultural fair with complimentary Arabic coffee and food to share with the UM community,” said Bjad Almutairy, the festival’s executive director and SASO president.

The documentary was an original film created by Almutairy and Abdullah Alotaibi, the group’s director of social and cultural affairs. In another video directed by Ammar Nahari and edited by Mohammed Al-Harthy, American students at Ole Miss shared perspectives about Saudi Arabia.

For the event, the committee members wore traditional Saudi attire. The exhibit also featured special decor and an Arabic reception that represented the nation’s culture. The group also conducted activities such as learning to write your name in Arabic and a henna tattoo station.

SASO teamed with the Ole Miss Department of Theatre Arts to present a play called “Saudi Student Journey to The U.S.” This original production written by Almutairy, Alotaibi, Nahari and Mohamed Suaib and directed by Austyn Davis and Riette De Jager.

The play took a humorous approach to focus on the experiences of Saudi and other international students, facing the challenges of language barriers and cultural differences.

Guests for the evening include Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon; Brandi LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; UPD Police Chief Tim Potts; and Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs

“Sharon and I had a wonderful time at the Saudi National Festival,” Vitter said. “We truly treasure that we can have these amazing international experiences from our Oxford campus. It is an important part of university life to offer global opportunities and a rich multicultural climate for our students, faculty, and staff.”

The festival provided an entertaining glimpse into the culture of another country, LaBanc said.

“We tasted wonderful food and drink and learned about all aspects of the Saudi culture,” she said. “I am very appreciative of the efforts of SASO to bring their culture and country to our campus – there is so much fun in exploring and celebrating cultural difference.”

The event also helped advance the university’s goal of providing students with an international perspective, Cole said.

“These events are so valuable to our institution because we realize that not every one of our students will go abroad and programs such as this can help give our students a more global perspective that they would otherwise not receive,” Cole said. “It was impossible to attend this event and not learn.”

UM Kappa Alpha Chapter Assists in Hurricane Matthew Relief Effort

Greek organization conducts backpack and school supply drive for North Carolina schools

UM Kappa Alpha member and senior John Grantham delivers school supplies collected by the chapter to Tara Bullard, principal at West Lumberton Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.

UM Kappa Alpha member and senior John Grantham delivers school supplies collected by the chapter to Tara Bullard, principal at West Lumberton Elementary School in Lumberton, North Carolina.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Alpha Upsilon chapter of Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Mississippi recently helped Hurricane Matthew victims in Lumberton, North Carolina, by collecting and donating 288 backpacks filled with various school supplies to schools in the area.

The effort was spearheaded by John Grantham, a Lumberton native, Ole Miss senior and KA member

Grantham realized the severity of the devastation that had struck his hometown and felt compelled to assist the hurting community. He sought help from his fraternity brothers, and their efforts provided school supplies for every student at West Lumberton Elementary School.

“Being able to make such a positive impact on so many kids’ lives in such a terrible disaster in Lumberton, North Carolina, all the way from Oxford, Mississippi, speaks volumes of the character of guys we have here at KA,” Grantham said. “None of this would have been possible without the overwhelming amount of help and support I received from my fraternity brothers in organizing this backpack drive”

Thanks to a generous donation from Kirk Auto Brothers in Greenwood and the KA Philanthropy Fund, the chapter raised enough money overnight to purchase the 288 backpacks.

Once the backpacks were shipped to Oxford, the chapter started a Tilt campaign, and members shared it on social media. They raised more than $1,400 in a week.

West Lumberton Elementary School was hit hardest by the hurricane, which hit the East Coast on Oct. 8-9, and became the fraternity’s primary focus, Grantham said. However, the chapter was able to distribute more than 100 backpacks to other schools in Lumberton.

Grantham delivered the backpacks on Oct. 28, which was the Friday before school resumed the following Monday.

“Thank you to all your fraternity brothers that helped put these backpacks together,” said Tara Bullard, principal of West Lumberton Elementary School. “It is a blessing that we’re able to receive them today with school starting back on Monday.

“It means a lot to me, our school and the Lumberton community that you all helped contribute all the way from Mississippi.”

The tally of the damages left behind by Hurricane Matthew is ongoing. North Carolina officials say that more than 100,000 structures worth at least $1.5 billion were affected by the storm.

“It’s refreshing to see so many guys who are so eager to assist in circumstances like this,” said Saxon Nelson, KA chapter president. “Places and disasters can seem so far away and unrelated to Oxford, but when a brother is affected, it strikes a chord.”

Statement Regarding Swastikas Found in Elevator

Reports of images of swastikas found in a Residential College South elevator have been made to the University of Mississippi Department of Student Housing, the University of Mississippi announced in a statement released Friday (Nov. 11). Following a review of surveillance footage, a student has been referred to the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct.

“We’re aware of this incident and we’re allocating every resource available within our department to address this situation,” said Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and director of student housing. “Our top priority is the safety of our residents and maintaining an inclusive, healthy community conducive to the learning experience.”

As a community committed to our UM Creed and the success of our students and staff, we do not condone acts of bias and intolerance. This racist, anti-semitic symbol has no place at UM.

As Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter noted in his statement to the campus community earlier this week, “The safety of our students, faculty, staff, and visitors is our top priority. We will not tolerate violent or threatening behavior.”

We encourage all residents to report incidents to the proper authorities. Any time a community member is fearful or needs immediate support, contact the University Police Department at 662-915-7234. To report a bias incident, which includes conduct, speech or expressions that are threatening, harassing, intimidating, discriminatory, or hostile and are motivated by a person’s identity or group affiliation, please complete a Bias Incident Report Form. 

UM Administrator Honored for Advising Excellence

Kyle Ellis among five recipients of national award

Kyle Ellis was one in five recipients chosen from the nation for the 2016 Outstanding Advising Administrator Award. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Kyle Ellis is among five recipients nationally for the 2016 Outstanding Advising Administrator Award. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Kyle Ellis, director of Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a 2016 Outstanding Advising Administrator Award.

NACADA, the National Academic Advising Association, which has more than 10,000 members, presented Ellis the award at its annual conference earlier this month.

Ellis was among five advising administrators chosen from around the nation. Recipients are chosen based on skills and qualifications they have demonstrated during their time as advising administrators.

Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, described the impact Ellis’ work has on the university.

“Dr. Ellis is determinedly committed to retaining students at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “As a result, he is diligently focused on making sure every student being advised is getting the best possible guidance and support.”

Ellis joined the Ole Miss staff in 2004 as an academic adviser. He continued his education at UM, earning his doctorate in higher education in 2011. In recent years, he has been involved with several higher education associations including the board of directors for NACADA, the Consortium for Student Retention and Data Exchange, and the National Association of Student Personnel Administrations.

“This award validates that our work at the University of Mississippi does not go unnoticed,” Ellis said. “Advisers have tremendous potential to impact student success, satisfaction and persistence. I am grateful to work with such outstanding advisers within the Center for Student Success and all across campus.”

“His leadership has been a major factor in our university’s ability to increase retention rates over the past few years,” Hephner LaBanc said.

Women of Color Health Expo Set for Friday in the Grove

Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement seeks to educate Oxford community

woc1OXFORD, Miss. – Educating women about health issues and promoting healthier lifestyles are the focus of a Women of Color Health Expo, set for Friday (Oct. 21) in the Grove at the University of Mississippi.

The event, set for 4-7 p.m., is free and open to all. It will include a “kid zone” with inflatables, activities and treats so that parents can enjoy the expo.

The featured experts are Nancy Hooks, a certified nurse practitioner and owner of Hooks Diabetes & Medicine Clinic in Tupelo, and Mariana Jurss, a registered dietician with RebelWell.

“(I will be) using my heart and hands to heal in health care,” Hooks said.

The racial health disparities for women of color often are linked to access, affordability and not taking preventative measures.

“Our goal is to provide education on certain diseases that are prominent for women of color, such as diabetes, breast cancer and obesity,” said Alexandria White, assistant director for the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, which is sponsoring the event.

“We also want to provide nutritional information to aid in healthier lifestyles. We plan to demonstrate healthy and holistic physical activities such as yoga and Zumba to attendees.”

This event was made possible by a grant the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement received from the Highlander Research and Education Center.

The Highlander Center, in New Market, Tennessee, was founded in 1932. It serves as an adult education center for community workers involved in social and economic justice movements. Its goal was and is to provide education and support to poor and working people fighting economic injustice, poverty, prejudice and environmental destruction.

Several area businesses also have donated items for prize giveaways during the expo, White said.

Campus Event to Help Community Prepare for Disaster

Students urged to check out first-ever UM ReadyCampus on Wednesday

Mississippi's tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

Mississippi’s tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

OXFORD, Miss. – As November approaches, the beginning of another tornado season threatens the South. On Wednesday (Oct. 19), an interactive campus disaster preparedness event will help University of Mississippi students and employees prepare for the worst.

ReadyCampus, a Federal Emergency Management Agencysponsored event, is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Ole Miss Student Union plaza. The event is designed to educate students, faculty and staff through interactive and informational booths as well as a disaster response vehicle.

“This is a campuswide preparedness event, and ReadyCampus is a keystone program for FEMA,” said Barbra Russo, the university’s emergency management coordinator. “They are excited we are hosting it for the first time at Ole Miss.”

Booth sponsors include the American Red Cross, National Weather Service Memphis, Oxford Police Department, Oxford Emergency Management, University of Mississippi Medical Center Emergency Management, Mississippi Department of Homeland Security, and the UM Emergency Management Services and Clinical-Disaster Research Center.

Stefan E. Schulenberg, UM professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center, conducted the most recent disaster preparedness survey this past spring.

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“It is through this kind of preparation that we can help people and communities to be empowered when adversity occurs on a large scale,” Schulenberg said. “We know from the data we’ve collected that many students at UM are not prepared for the wide range of disasters that may occur.”

Unknown to many UM students, Oxford is near the New Madrid earthquake fault. To promote earthquake awareness, the Great American ShakeOut Drill will occur the following day (Oct. 20) at 10:20 a.m.

The drill, occurring at universities, businesses and schools across the nation that day, will prepare students how to protect themselves and others, survive and recover rapidly.

“We are hoping to change the awareness by educating, motivating, and inspiring our students, as well as our faculty and staff,” Schulenberg said. “Disaster preparedness is something that we can do together as a means of building a stronger, more resilient community.”

For more information follow #ReadyRebs on social media or visit

Students Gain Valuable Experience During Summer in Bolivia

Croft Institute, sociology and anthropology faculty start field school as study abroad opportunity

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between the University of Mississippi and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between UM and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

OXFORD, Miss. – Eight University of Mississippi students immersed themselves in the culture and history of Bolivia this summer as they explored ethnography, the study of the customs of people groups and cultures, and social scientific methods, all against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

Victoria Burrow, a junior from Pascagoula; Allie Gersdorf, a senior from Grossenaspe, Germany; Andrew Hayes, a senior from Saltillo; Caroline Malatesta, of Lyon, who graduated in August; Sarah Meeks, a junior from Madison; Thomas Moorman, a senior from Madison; Lizzy Pitts, a senior from Indianola;  and Alexis Smith, a junior from Picayune, spent four weeks in the South American nation.

Their time there included intensive hands-on training in the social scientific and ethnographic fields under the supervision of Kate M. Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies, and Miguel Centellas, Croft instructional assistant professor of sociology.

“Bolivia is a fascinating place, very dynamic and diverse, so there are plenty of opportunities for a range of interests,” Kate Centellas said. “We also strongly value service learning and international experience, and we were particularly happy that a partner NGO, Fundación Suyana, took us to visit some of the families in the rural Altiplano that had benefited from their health promotion projects.

“This visit was powerful for our students and made the importance of social science research real for them in terms of how it can be applied to impact peoples’ lives for the better.”

The Bolivia Field School allows students to travel to La Paz, conduct individual research and study the politics, history and culture of the Andes through active and experimental learning.

The UM students used the Bolivia culture as a case study. Specifically, they studied the impact and implications Spanish colonization had on the culture and languages of South America.

The experience was particularly fulfilling for Pitts, who is majoring in Spanish and liberal studies with minors in society and population health, biology, and chemistry. Because Pitts is from the “flatlands of the Mississippi Delta,” she always found mountains appealing, and that is what initially drew her to the Bolivia program, she said.

The campus culture at Ole Miss prepared her well for studying abroad, Pitts said.

“It taught me to love strangers more than I thought was possible; to embrace others for who they are despite our differences in political views, race, gender identification, sexual orientation or religion,” she said. “It taught me how to find joy in the difficult times when we blew big football games; it taught me to listen when others are speaking; it taught me to deal with adversity and move forward confidently.

“All of my experiences helped prepare me because Ole Miss prepares you for life outside of school and our quaint bubble of Oxford.”

Kate and Miguel Centellas founded the Bolivia Field School, which they co-run, in 2010. The school is in partnership with UM and the Universidad Católica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz, where Miguel Centellas serves as the co-director of the joint program.

“The field school in La Paz, Bolivia, is an excellent study abroad opportunity for students who wish to gain hands-on research training in a range of social scientific research methods,” said Kirsten Dellinger, UM chair and professor of sociology and anthropology. “This program reflects our dedication to in-depth methodological training, engaged learning and global citizenship.”

The program’s goal is to provide students with firsthand experiences with archives, nongovernmental organizations and research institutions while developing a research project, Kate Centellas said.

The work “is a shining example of the role faculty should be playing in university efforts to internationalize our curriculum,” Dellinger said.

The Croft Institute for International Studies, where both professors work, is a rigorous undergraduate program geared for students majoring in international studies and who are interested in developing an understanding extending beyond the borders of the United States.

Students choose a foreign language to specialize in, then a corresponding region and finally a focus, such as economics, politics or culture. Students in Croft are required to study abroad in their country of study for a semester.

Both Kate and Miguel Centellas are working to return to Bolivia in summer 2017 and include new opportunities for students, such as working in a rural health clinic.

Any undergraduates interested in the Bolivia Field School should contact Kate or Miguel Centellas at or Information can also be found at the Study Abroard office in Martindale Hall.

Nominations Sought for 2017 Common Reading Experience

Community invited to suggest books for next year's freshman class

2016 Orientation leaders pass out copies of this year’s Common Reading Experience selection, ‘Ten Little Indians.' Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

2016 Orientation leaders pass out copies of this year’s Common Reading Experience selection, ‘Ten Little Indians.’ Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Read any good books lately that you think others would enjoy? If so, now is the time to share your recommendations, as nominations are being accepted for the 2017 Common Reading Experience at the University of Mississippi.

Faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni and anyone in the greater Oxford community, are invited to take part in the selection process by nominating a suggested title.

This will be the seventh year for the project, which provides all incoming freshmen and transfer students with the selected book, with the requirement that it be read before the fall semester begins. The text is then used during classes across the curriculum for discussion, enriching a sense of community among classmates.

The larger university family, including faculty and staff, are also encouraged to read the book.

“There are a thousand ways for students to learn, from downloads to blogs,” said Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African-American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee.

“But books will always be the cornerstone of their college experience. And by assembling a diverse group of interested parties from across the campus, we’re guaranteed to select a memorable book with broad appeal.”

The selection committee meets weekly from mid-October through January to discuss all suggestions and finalize a recommendation. Nominations can be made via the online form at until Nov. 11.

Variety is important, so recommendations from diverse people are encouraged. A few key qualities of desirable books are that they are less than 400 pages, available in paperback, written by a living author, published within the last five years and accessible to both students and community readers.

The 2016 Common Reading Experience selection is “Ten Little Indians,” written by Sherman Alexie. Previous selections include “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.

“Reading and the exchange of ideas are at the heart of learning, especially in higher education,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and committee co-chair. “The Common Reading Experience provides opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage in discussions about one book and one author.

“The experience strengthens the overall academic atmosphere of the university, connects students to peers and instructors, and provides a variety of programs and events that are linked to the selected book. It’s one of many efforts to enrich new students’ first year at the University of Mississippi.”