PHOTO GALLERY: Jonestown Youth Visit Campus

Innovative new program combines learning, service and empowerment

Starting from the left (with the tall guy) and going right, the names are Ben May, Ben Branson, Joe Bell, Chris Sahlen, Lisa Giles, Cierra Ray, Jeffery Peavy, Will Bedwell and Alex Ridgeway (kneeling in front)

Starting from the left, are Ben May, Ben Branson, Joe Bell, Chris Sahlen, Lisa Giles, Cierra Ray, Jeffery Peavy, Will Bedwell and Alex Ridgeway (kneeling)

Students from Jonestown, Miss., visited campus in June to learn about educational opportunities available after high school. The campus visit is part of a program coordinated by the McLean Institute to build awareness and resources in the Delta town, which has experienced tough economic challenges.Throughout the spring semester, members of the Institute’s Student Engagement Fellows program worked with organizations to coordinate activities in Jonestown including a Black History Month event in February, a map mural painting project in March and a project to construct a greenhouse in April.

Ole Miss Greek Community Working to Prevent Excessive Drinking

Campus team uses online videos to engage and inform students

OXFORD, Miss. – The Greek community at the University of Mississippi is using an alternative approach to help reduce and prevent issues caused by excessive drinking.

The Ole Miss Interfraternity Council has teamed with University Communications and the Office of Health Promotion to assist in promoting a responsible drinking campaign. IFC members worked closely with a team of university videographers to develop a video, titled “Skip the Risk,” that could be easily shared amongst a young, tech-savvy target audience.

“The opportunity for IFC to partner with Health Promotions and University Communications in producing an educational video for the ‘Skip the Risk’ campaign was a great way to engage students in dialogue and reflection on decision making and the use of alcohol,” said Jenell Bukky Lanski, UM coordinator of fraternity and sorority life.

While the use of video to drive social awareness campaigns isn’t new, a recent report from the Boston University School of Public Health cites social media as a way to create more effective, cost efficient messaging to target students and even change behaviors.

“Short video is proving to be one of the best ways to reach our target audience,” said Win Graham, a producer-director in University Communications. “Over the past year, we’ve found that shocking and funny videos garner more views and shares than other styles with which we’ve experimented.”

The “Skip the Risk” video campaign began in spring 2014 with the launch of five 15-second videos published on the university’s official Instagram account, @OleMiss. A second round of longer videos was completed and released during the fall 2014 semester. To date, the campaign is estimated to have reached more than 100,000 via social media.

In fact, a video that features Ole Miss IFC members was easily the best received of the campaign. In the first two weeks after its release, the video “Bad Decisions” received more than 27,000 views and continues to be one of the most viewed and most engaged videos on the university’s Facebook page. To watch the video, visit

“We never guessed it would garner as many views as is and are excited to continue this partnership and collaboration moving forward,” said Erin Cromeans, UM assistant director for health promotion.

The campaign has garnered top public relations and communications awards for its strategic approach. The Public Relations Association of Mississippi presented University Communications with a Prism Award for the campaign in April. More videos are planned for fall 2015.

UM Senior Goes Over the Edge of Beau Rivage

Gulfport native Alex Garner raised more than $1,000 for Habitat for Humanity fundraiser


Alex Garner rappels down the side of the Beau Rivage.

University of Mississippi senior Alex Garner, a 22-year-old nutrition and dietetics major from Gulfport, recently got to rappel down the side of the Beau Rivage as part of her work with Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Volunteers got an opportunity to rappel off the side of the iconic hotel and casino if they raised at least $1,000 for Habitat for Humanity and met certain qualifications. Garner was among the lucky 70 volunteers who got to rappel off the side of the Beau Rivage, thanks to her experience and certification in ropes courses.

“I’m from Gulfport and have been to the Beau Rivage over a hundred times,” Garner said. “This opportunity was exciting because I got to experience a whole new perspective of the hotel, beach and surrounding area.”

Participants had to meet certain criteria in order to do the stunt: must have previous experience with rope safety systems, course facilitation, rock climbing instruction, high-angle rescue and industrial rope access.

Garner, along with the other ropes volunteers, helped raise more than $100,000 for Habitat for Humanity of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She was excited and humbled to be able to partake in this event and cause.

“I go to rappel off the side of the Beau while helping out a really awesome charity in Habitat for Humanity,” Garner said. “This was such a great experience, and I was so glad I was able to attend.”

Over the Edge, which sponsored this event and other similar stunts, is a special events organization that specializes in rappelling exercises. Founded in 2003, the company has helped thousands of participants take a once-in-a-lifetime plunge over the edge for some great causes and charities.


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.