IOM: Thank You for Making This Day Possible

In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, UM Physical Plant employee Paul Goolsby helps set up chairs for graduation ceremonies that will be held in The Grove this Saturday, May 12.  Photo by UM Photographer Kevin Bain

In this photo taken on Wednesday, May 9, 2012, UM Physical Plant employee Paul Goolsby helps set up chairs for graduation ceremonies that will be held in The Grove this Saturday, May 9. Photo by UM Photographer Kevin Bain

Before the final days before Commencement tick away, I want to take a moment to thank all our staff and faculty members who are working diligently to ensure that everything goes perfectly. For our graduates and their families, Saturday will be the most important day of the year, a day filled with pride and celebration, marking the culmination of years of study, hard work and careful preparation.

I know that many of you are working long hours and volunteering to help with chores beyond the usual scope of your jobs, and I am grateful for your efforts. Your talent and dedication make a real difference, and even small acts of service can be critical to making this a truly special time for our students and guests.

Looking ahead, I hope you’ll take time in the coming weeks to relax and recharge. Enjoy the activities of Staff Appreciation Week. Spend time with family. Maybe take a vacation or simply enjoy a favorite activity. But most of all, be safe and come back ready for bigger and better things as the university prepares for the fall.


Dan Jones

Spring Concert to Feature Iron and Wine, Love and Theft, Thomas Rhett

Free show set for 4 p.m. Sunday in the Grove

Love and Theft

Love and Theft

OXFORD, Miss. – The Student Activities Association and the Ole Miss Student Union will welcome Thomas Rhett, along with solo act Iron and Wine and the duo Love and Theft, to the Grove on Sunday (April 26) for an afternoon of country music.

The 4 p.m. concert, which is free and open to the public, will wrap up Oxford’s Double Decker Festival weekend and follow the Ole Miss baseball game against the University of Alabama.

“The goal of the SAA spring concert is to host a fun and exciting event on campus,” said Nathan Darce, coordinator of student activities. “SAA has a long history of hosting many well-known musical acts on campus. Students should use this concert as an opportunity to support musical acts that come to campus. It is a great opportunity to spend time with the extended University of Mississippi and Oxford communities.”

All the performers have been recognized at the Country Music Awards.

Thomas Rhett

Thomas Rhett

Headliner Thomas Rhett, son of country star Rhett Atkins, began playing drums as a child and by junior high school was part of a punk rock band called the High Heeled Flip Flops. He began playing at fraternity parties while a student at David Lipscomb University, but it wasn’t until he played a one-time gig with his dad that he attracted industry attention, as a songwriter.

After Jason Aldean recorded Rhett’s “I Ain’t Ready to Quit,” Rhett landed a deal with Big Machine Record Group and cut his debut album, “It Goes Like This,” which includes the chart singles “Get Me Some of That,” “Beer with Jesus,” “Would Ya,” “Something to Do with My Hands” and the title track. His next single, “Crash and Burn,” is set to be released Monday (April 27).

Sam Beam, better known as Iron and Wine, is no stranger to Oxford, having performed here several times, including the 2012 Double Decker Arts Festival. He recently released “Archive Series Volume One,” a compilation of unreleased tunes recorded over several years. His five studio albums include “The Creek Drank the Cradle” (2002), “Our Endless Numbered Days” (2004), and “The Shepherd’s Dog (2007), all on the Sub Pop label.

Iron and Wine

Iron and Wine

The acclaimed duo Love and Theft includes Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, both of whom sing lead vocals and play guitar. They have established themselves as one of country’s hottest young acts with such memorable hits as the No. 1 country smash “Angel Eyes” and the Top 10 hit “Runaway.” They were nominated for Vocal Duo of The Year for the third consecutive year at the 2014 CMA awards, and last month, they released their boundary-pushing new album, “Whiskey on My Breath.”

Spaces in the Grove are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, call 662-915-1044 or email

UM Journalism Students Sweep Public Relations Competition

Faculty member, graduates and university's professional staff also honored

Public relations students in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media won every one of the awards presented in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition at the PRAM state conference April 10.  Award winners pictured here, standing, from left to right, are Cody Fullinwider, an integrated marketing communications major from Denver, Colorado; Courtney Richards, a journalism major from Austin, Texas; Nancy Hogan, a journalism major from Atlanta, Georgia; Alex Kohl, an IMC major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Bridge Leigh, an IMC major from Hernando; Mara Joffe, a journalism graduate from Biloxi; Robin Street, lecturer in journalism who taught the students and also won a professional award; Lauren Raphael, an IMC major from Madison; and Clancy Smith, a journalism major from Saltillo.  Kneeling: Lindsay Langston, a journalism major from Dallas, Texas; Lauren Walker, an IMC major from Madison; Sydney Hembree, a double major in journalism and marketing and corporate relations from Kennesaw, Georgia; and MarKeicha Dickens, a journalism major from Olive Branch. Not pictured: Journalism graduate Melody Skinner of San Diego, California; and Mary Frances Tanner, an English major with a journalism minor from Mobile, Alabama. Photo credit: Stan O’Dell

UM public relations students who won awards in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition include (standing, from left) Cody Fullinwider, Courtney Richards, Nancy Hogan, Alex Kohl, Bridge Leigh, Mara Joffe, Robin Street, UM lecturer in journalism, Lauren Raphael and Clancy Smith. Kneeling (from left) are Lindsay Langston, Lauren Walker, Sydney Hembree and MarKeicha Dickens. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – Public relations students in the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media won every award presented in the recent Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition, including the prestigious Student Best in Show honor.

In addition, in the professional competition, faculty member Robin Street won the top award in her category, and Meek School graduates working in University Communications brought home four awards. All awards were presented during the PRAM state conference April 9-10 in Tupelo.

“We set two records in this competition,” said Street, a lecturer in journalism and public relations. “First, our students were the only university students in the state to be honored. Second, the sheer number of awards we won surpassed all previous years. That is a real tribute to the preparation they received from all the faculty members at the Meek School.”

Journalism student Clancy Smith of Saltillo won both Student Best in Show and the top award in her category, called a Prism.

“Winning the Prism awards more than reassured me that my classes and projects have helped me develop the skills I will need for a career in public relations,” Smith said. “I am so grateful for the instruction I’ve received from all the Meek School faculty members.”

The students, all seniors except for two recent graduates, entered public relations campaigns they created as a final project in the advanced public relations class taught by Street. Each campaign required multimedia journalism skills including writing news articles, creating photos and video, and developing online and social media.

Five other students won Prisms in their categories: Nancy Hogan, a journalism major from Atlanta; MarKeicha Dickens, a journalism major from Olive Branch; Mara Joffe, a journalism graduate from Biloxi; Lauren Raphael, an integrated marketing communications major from Madison; and Lindsay Langston, a journalism major from Dallas.

Pictured at the PRAM Prism awards banquet are Oxford/Ole Miss chapter members, all University of Mississippi employees: (from left) Danny Blanton, director of public relations; Ryan Whittington, assistant director of public relations for social media strategy; Will Hamilton, public relations assistant; Erin Parsons Garret, communications specialist, UM School of Pharmacy; and Robin Street, lecturer in journalism and public relations.  Whittington, Hamilton and Street all won awards in the competition.

Pictured at the PRAM Prism awards banquet are Oxford/Ole Miss chapter members, all UM employees (from left) Danny Blanton, Ryan Whittington, Will Hamilton, Erin Parsons Garret and Robin Street.

A step below the Prism is the Excellence Award, followed by the Merit Award. The seven students winning Excellence Awards included Alex Kohl, an IMC major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Cody Fullinwider, an IMC major from Denver; and Melody Skipper, a marketing and corporate relations graduate living in San Diego.

Also winning Excellence were Sydney Hembree, a double major in journalism and marketing and corporate relations from Kennesaw, Georgia; Mary Frances Tanner, an English major with a journalism minor from Mobile, Alabama; Bridge Leigh, an IMC major from Hernando; and Lauren Walker, an IMC major from Madison. Journalism major Courtney Richards of Austin, Texas, won a Merit Award.

In the professional categories, University Communications staff members won five awards.

A Prism award went to Ryan Whittington, assistant director of public relations for social media strategy, and producer/director Win Graham. An Excellence Award went to PR assistant Will Hamilton and communications specialist Dennis Irwin. Merit awards went to communication specialists Michael Newsom and Edwin Smith. Whittington, Newsom and Smith are all Meek School graduates.

“Our staff is a talented and hard-working team that always strives for excellence,” said Danny Blanton, UM director of public relations. “I’m very proud of the work they do and how it helps the university achieve its mission goals. These awards say a lot about the quality of the materials this group produces.”

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit or email

UM Extends Contract for Athletics Director

Deal will keep Ross Bjork at Ole Miss through 2019

2013 Signing Day Dinner.  Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

2013 Signing Day Dinner. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Athletics Director Ross Bjork have agreed in principle to a contract extension that will keep him at Ole Miss through 2019 at a base salary of $650,000 with $100,000 in academic and on-the-field performance incentives.

This extension, announced Friday by Chancellor Dan Jones, adds a year to Bjork’s contract, reaching the four-year maximum allowed by the state of Mississippi.

“I’m pleased to have a renewed commitment to Ole Miss from Ross,” Jones said. “All of us are grateful for his remarkable leadership, not only in athletics but far beyond.”

Since his arrival at UM in 2012, Bjork has provided outstanding leadership to Ole Miss athletics programs. Under his direction, Ole Miss has reached new heights in athletics support, with record private donations, an increase in athletics budget to $92 million for the 2015-16 season and record-breaking attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball.

“When I was hired in 2012, Sonya and I quickly realized what the Ole Miss family already knew: Ole Miss and Oxford make up a very special place, the perfect blend of academics, social life and athletics,” Bjork said. “Furthermore, we have been deeply moved by all of the support we have received from the Ole Miss family over the past three years and feel like we’ve been embraced with open arms every step of the way. Sonya and I are extremely humbled by the university’s confidence in athletics leadership by awarding a new contract and we look forward to hitting our stride as an athletics program.

“I am eternally grateful to Chancellor Dan Jones for not only bringing us to Ole Miss, but more importantly, his transformational leadership and unwavering support of athletics. Personally, Sonya and I will miss Dan and Lydia’s presence on campus, and we will always value their friendship. While a transition in leadership creates some uncertainty, there is no doubt the best days are yet to come for Mississippi’s flagship university. Together, we have a bright future as we continue to build on the success in academics, athletics and fundraising.”

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have experienced immediate success in competition under Bjork’s direction. For three consecutive years, the Rebel football team has made a post-season bowl appearance, the Ole Miss baseball team made its first appearance in 42 years at the College World Series in Omaha last season and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the 2013 SEC Tournament Championship and has earned two NCAA Tournament appearances. Other teams to reach post-season play include soccer, men’s and women’s tennis, track and field, and women’s golf. Ole Miss pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claimed back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2013 and 2014.

In the past 12 months, UM was the only Division I university to place a team in the College World Series, a New Year’s Six bowl game and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.

However, Bjork’s leadership reaches far beyond the playing field. He has placed a strong emphasis on academics, and the university’s student-athletes have responded, reaching a record average GPA of 2.96 in the fall of 2014. Moving forward, Bjork’s goal is to have student-athletes average a 3.0 GPA.

He also has been actively involved in other university activities, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; the Big Event, the university’s largest community service project; and RebelWell, a campaign to promote health and wellness among the Ole Miss community.

Bjork also has led efforts to expand and renovate athletics facilities with the Forward Together campaign. Construction of the new 9,500-seat Pavilion at Ole Miss is expected to be completed for SEC basketball play next season. The athletics department plans to break ground late this year on an expansion of the north end zone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, adding 3,500 seats to stadium capacity. Other projects led by Bjork include renovation of the Gillom Sports Center, FedEx Academic Support Center and Starnes Athletic Training Center, and the restoration of the Ole Miss Track & Field Complex.

“Everyone in the Ole Miss family will continue to be asked to do their part as we take the next step towards graduating all of our student-athletes and competing for and winning championships,” Bjork said. “The journey continues. We are Ole Miss.”

Bjork and football Coach Hugh Freeze will embark on the BancorpSouth Rebel Road Trip beginning April 19 in Houston, Texas. The five-state, 13-city tour will allow fans to hear what’s new and exciting in Ole Miss athletics and have an opportunity for photos and autographs. Men’s basketball Coach Andy Kennedy and women’s basketball Coach Matt Insell will join them at select stops.

For a full schedule and tickets, visit

WTVA: Former UM Artist-in-Residence Passes Away

HICKORY, NC (WTVA) — Actor and founding member of the Mississippi Film Commission James Best has died.

The actor, remembered by many as Roscoe P. Coltraine in the Dukes of Hazzard, died Monday night after a brief illness.

Click here to read the full story from WTVA.

A Letter from Chancellor Dan Jones

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Dear Ole Miss Family,

Several days ago I wrote to you about the decision by the IHL Board not to renew my contract to serve as Chancellor. Last week, Dr. Jim Borsig, Commissioner-elect for the Board, approached me with a “compromise offer.” The Board was willing to extend my contract for 21 months if I committed to retire in June of 2017. My performance or effectiveness up to that date would have no impact on whether I could continue to serve as Chancellor after June of 2017.

Over the last several days, Commissioner Borsig and I have continued conversations, and this week we traveled to meet individually with a number of Board members. In doing so, I hoped to determine if Board members would consider an extension that would allow me to serve as Chancellor without the outcome of my leadership predetermined. From these meetings it has become clear that the Board is not willing to do so.

I feel strongly, as do most of my advisors, that serving two years as a lame duck would make it difficult to recruit and retain key leaders and continue our momentum in private giving. More importantly, it is clear from the Board’s position that the Board would not support my leadership during any extension. For the University to thrive and succeed, the University needs a leader who has the support of its governing board, which I clearly do not enjoy. For these reasons, it is in the University’s best interest for me not to accept the Board’s offer.

I cannot sufficiently express the gratitude Lydia and I feel for the amazing outpouring of support for us personally and for our beloved University. We will leave our position in September with a deep love for this place and, most especially, the people of the Ole Miss family. Let me encourage all of you to follow closely the search process for the next Chancellor. The IHL Board will make a better decision knowing that you are engaged and that they are accountable to all constituents of the Ole Miss family.

Let me also encourage us all to follow our creed and treat Board members with civility and respect. I encourage any communication to the IHL Board members to be in that spirit. During the last few days, Commissioner Borsig has dealt with me in a candid and transparent fashion. Please remember that he was thrown into the middle of a difficult situation and was not involved in any of the decisions about my future.

My decision not to accept the Board’s offer may disappoint some of you. Please know the decision is made in the best interest of Ole Miss and out of love and respect for her. Lydia and I look forward to our last few months of service to the University and opportunities to visit with you.


Dan Jones,


UM Launches Partnership with African Universities

Ole Miss in Africa initiative includes education, research and exchange collaborations

University of Mississippi students enjoy a meal at a restaurant in Addis Ababa while hearing from AAU President, Dr. Admasu Tsegaye, about cultural relationships between various dances and Ethiopian cuisine.

University of Mississippi students enjoy a meal at a restaurant in Addis Ababa while hearing from AAU President, Dr. Admasu Tsegaye, about cultural relationships between various dances and Ethiopian cuisine.

OXFORD, Miss. – Long known as a mysterious continent seen only in movies or on the evening news, Africa is opening up for University of Mississippi students to study, experience and learn firsthand about international issues.

The UM Office of Global Engagement has launched a major international initiative to develop and establish a significant footprint in sub-Saharan Africa for the university. The new initiative, known as Ole Miss in Africa, has already produced functional partnerships with reputable universities in the eastern, western and southern regions of Africa.

The Ole Miss in Africa initiative will contribute significantly to the university’s strategic objective of “bringing the world to Mississippi and taking Mississippi to the world,” Provost Morris Stocks said.

“We are committed to broadening the university’s reach around the world,” Stocks said. “This will provide many more opportunities for our students to get real-world experience beyond the classroom and also allow our students and faculty to apply their knowledge to help solve global problems that affect us all.”

The initial African institutional partners include Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia; the University of Benin and Federal University of Technology-Minna, both in Nigeria; the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso; and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.

Each of these institutions is partnering with UM for student and faculty exchange activities, research partnerships and educational collaborations. These collaborations include training students and faculty from these institutions at UM, and study abroad opportunities for Ole Miss students.

“In our present globalized world, the University of Mississippi takes the education of our students as global citizens very seriously. Therefore, the development of a strong presence in Africa will not only enhance the global reach of the University of Mississippi, but also contribute significantly to our ongoing comprehensive campus internationalization efforts” said Nosa O. Egiebor, UM’s senior international officer and executive director of global engagement.

The African initiative is being developed on the platform provided by a new United States Agency for International Development grant under the African-U.S. Higher Education Partnership Program. It is managed by the American Council on Education through the Office of Higher Education for Development in Washington, D.C.

Egiebor is the project director for the grant at UM.

The university has similar initiatives planned in Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Australasia.

UM Chancellor Dan Jones Returns to Campus

It’s so good to be back.  And just in time for Spring at Ole Miss.  Lydia and I look forward to daffodils, cherry blossoms, azaleas, and all the other Spring colors that represent renewal and hope after a long winter.  We have experienced a long winter with several months of chemotherapy.  But we are so thankful to be back in Oxford, in recovery phase, and with the hope and promise of a new Spring.

Thank you to the Ole Miss Family for your support and encouragement during this time.  We extend our deep gratitude to every person at our wonderful Medical Center for compassionate care over the last few months.  Special thanks to my friend, Dr. Stephanie Elkins for her leadership of the treatment team and for her patience in dealing with her physician patient with too many questions.  And I offer special thanks to Provost Morris Stocks and other university leaders for standing in for me while I was not able to fulfill all my responsibilities.

I’m particularly happy to be back for important Spring academic celebrations, especially commencement.  We anticipate another record year for University of Mississippi graduates who will move on to employment or graduate or professional school to make our state, nation, and world a better place.

It’s good to be back.


Ole Miss Pep Band More Than Stands in for Kentucky’s Band

Pride of the South Supports Fellow Band Members in Unique Show of Support

Photo by Nathan Latil

Photo by Nathan Latil

OXFORD, Miss. – It was a long but rewarding day for the Ole Miss pep band who performed both for their own school, as well as stepped in as a replacement to act as Kentuckys band, which was unable to make the trip to Little Rock for the Southeastern Conference Womens Basketball Tournament due to inclement weather.

“It is the Ole Miss Band’s mission to help and bring positive recognition to band students everywhere, no matter their school affiliation,” said Kyle Hickey, a graduate assistant for the Pride of the South. “We were proud to step in for our friends in the Kentucky band and support Big Blue Nation as a whole.”

“Anytime they can perform,” Hickey said, “it’s fun for them, and given the unique opportunity, they couldn’t pass on it.” They waved white and blue pom-poms, started cheers and chants, and played Kentuckys postgame fight song.

“The people at Ole Miss were good enough to participate,” Kentucky head womens basketball coach Matthew Mitchell said. “We were very, very grateful and appreciative. Those young folks in the band showed up with a lot of enthusiasm for our team. That’s really, really admirable and commendable.”

The outpouring of support from Big Blue Nation has continued in the hours that have followed the Ole Miss pep bands show of sportsmanship.

“The response we have received from Kentucky fans, alumni, and administration has been overwhelming,” Hickey said. “Not only were the fans supportive and teaching us Wildcat cheers throughout the game, but the team was immensely appreciative as well by coming and greeting us before and after the game.

“Coach Mitchell and athletic director Barnhart both came by and thanked each band member personally for their willingness to serve and support their team. The thanks we received from everyone involved made the whole experience worth it.”

The Ole Miss pep band has been featured in stories from both The Clarion-Ledger and The Lexington Herald-Leader, and the story quickly spread through social media, even while they remained stuck in Little Rock before arriving back in Oxford late Friday afternoon.

“It’s neat for our students who are involved to get that kind of reward for not doing much other than playing the music they play all the time,” said Randy Dale, assistant director of bands at The University of Mississippi. “I hope that the attention says a lot about the character of our leadership and our students.”

Fantasia Performance Postponed

Concert to be rescheduled at a later date

Fantasia ford center ole miss university of mississippi the color purple grammy award r&b pop black alumni reunion american idol ticket box office

Fantasia performance to be rescheduled due to icy road conditions.

OXFORD, Miss. – Due to the severity of the road conditions and in the interest of the safety of all those traveling, tonight’s FANTASiA concert sponsored by the University of Mississippi Black Alumni Association at the Gertrude C. Ford Center has been postponed.

A new date for the concert will be scheduled as soon as possible. Tickets to the tonight’s postponed performance will be honored at the rescheduled event or can be refunded through the UM Box Office at 662-915-7411.