Library Brown Bag Lecture to Examine Poetry of Sterling Plumpp

Corey Taylor speaks Friday as part of Black History Month

Corey Taylor

Corey Taylor

Corey Taylor, associate professor of English at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, will discuss “Blues, Bebop and Black History: Poetry and Prose of the Sterling Plumpp Collection” during a brown bag event Friday at the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library.

The free lecture is slated for noon in the Department of Archives and Special Collections’ Faulkner Room. Attendees are invited to bring and enjoy their lunch during the presentation.

A Clinton native, Plumpp is known as one of the country’s most distinguished blues-jazz poets.

Taylor spent a sabbatical at UM, where he worked with Plumpp’s papers in the archives. He plans to talk about that experience and the musical influences in Plumpp’s poetry.

The event also will provide an inside look into the university’s archival collection, said Jennifer Ford, head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections.

“It will give people the sense of the depth of research possibilities in Special Collections,” she said. “This lecture focuses on what you can learn about Plumpp and his work from our own collections at this university.”

The lecture is a part of the university’s Black History Month observance. Some items from the Sterling Plumpp Collection will be on display for the next few months on the second floor of the library.

For questions or assistance related to a disability, contact Jennifer Ford at or 662-915-7408

Nominate Somebody for Women’s Empowerment Awards

Honors to be given to faculty, staff and students who exhibit core values

The University of Mississippi departments of Student Housing and Intercollegiate Athletics, E.S.T.E.E.M., Sigma Gamma Rho and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement are calling for nominations for the Women’s Empowerment Awards.

Faculty, staff and students can submit nominations for the awards, which will be given to one student and one faculty or staff member who demonstrates each of the core values of the UM Division of Student Affairs. Those values are “Students First,” “Everyone Speaks,” “Embrace Differences” and “Lead with Learning.”

An overall award called the Women’s Empowerment Award will be given to the faculty, staff member or student who exhibits all the aforementioned core values. The Women’s Empowerment and Awards Reception is set for 6 p.m. March 1 in Fulton Chapel.

The deadline for nominations is Feb. 19, and they can be submitted here.

UM Oxford Campus Closed Friday, Jan. 22

Due to predicted winter storm, the Oxford campus will be closed on Friday (1/22). Follow for updates.

Due to the threat of winter weather as a result of the approaching storm and predictions of hazardous road conditions, the Oxford campus of the University of Mississippi will be closed on Friday (1/22/16).

The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Warning for many counties in the Mid-South, including Lafayette County and Oxford City. The warning goes into effect starting tonight (Thursday) at midnight and is in effect through Friday (1/22) at 9:00 p.m.

Current predictions indicate that the weather system will move through the Mid-South early Friday morning and into Friday. Predicted snow amounts for the area differ based on the county. Predictions can change. Please follow local weather for updates on weather predictions.

Please do not attempt to return to campus on Friday. If you are traveling back to Oxford after the storm leaves the area, please check travel and weather conditions along your route and in Oxford before you travel, and make plans accordingly (e.g., plan to arrive ahead of the weather system or after roads have been cleared). This winter storm will affect large portions of the region and nation, please plan accordingly.

Rebel Market will be open for food service 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.  and 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. Follow Ole Miss Dining website for updates or changes to locations and schedule.

The Crisis Action Team is in contact with local Emergency Management Administrators and the National Weather Service. They will continue to monitor the predictions. Any further change to the university’s schedule will be posted at Messages also will be sent using RebAlert, email, and Twitter (@RebAlert). Additionally, a message will be available at 915-1040.

DeSoto Campus: Closed Friday

Tupelo Campus: Closed Friday

Booneville Campus: Closed Friday

Grenada Campus: No change to the schedule at this time. Follow website for updates.

Vitter: UM, UMMC Collaboration Promotes Growth, Success

Dr. Jeffrey Vitter (left), the University of Mississippi's new chancellor, gets an explanation of how the trauma room at the pediatric ED operates from emergency medicine pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Dillard.

Jeffrey Vitter (left), the University of Mississippi’s new chancellor, gets an explanation of how the trauma room at the pediatric ED operates from emergency medicine pediatrician Dr. Benjamin Dillard.

When Jeffrey Vitter speaks of the University of Mississippi in Oxford, he speaks of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“The University of Mississippi is one university, and the two campuses are incredibly important components,” said Vitter, who on Jan. 1 begins work as UM’s chancellor. “We have the synergy and the opportunities to collaborate, grow and expand, and we have a real competitive advantage if we can improve how faculty at both campuses collaborate.”

Vitter on Thursday spent the day at UMMC, meeting with faculty and staff and visiting hospitals and research facilities. His tour led by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and School of Medicine dean, included the Guyton Research Center, the Conerly Critical Care Hospital, the Children’s Cancer Clinic, and the adult and pediatric Emergency Departments.

He got a bird’s-eye view of the expanse of the Medical Center at the helipad from which AirCare flies, and a visual update on construction of the new School of Medicine and the Translational Research Center.

“It was really an impressive display of how much this Medical Center means to the state of Mississippi,” said Vitter, who comes to UM after serving as provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas. “It really reinforced how important UMMC is to the state and nation.”

A computer scientist and New Orleans native, Vitter earned his undergraduate degree in math from the University of Notre Dame and his Ph.D. in computer science at Stanford. He also has an MBA from Duke.

Vitter, who hopes as chancellor to spend one day a week at UMMC, said during meetings with students on both campuses in October that his key areas of focus will be increasing academic excellence, building international ties, expanding research and fundraising, and improving diversity in faculty and staff.

During his tour of UMMC, Vitter visited Mississippi MED-COM and was briefed about the Medical Center’s critical role in statewide disaster response. MED-COM provides a single point of emergency and disaster contact statewide, explained Jonathan Wilson, UMMC’s chief administrative officer. “On our hand-held radios, we can talk (to emergency responders) from the Gulf Coast to Memphis,” Wilson said.

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf Coast unfolded in 2010, “we were the only common link between agencies,” said Donna Norris, MED-COM’s clinical director. “We were the hub that helped everyone link together.”

Dr. Renate Savich, professor of pediatrics and chief of the Division of Neonatology and Newborn Services, and Dr. Bolaji Famuyide, associate professor of pediatrics and neonatology and medical director of NICU and Nursery Services in the Division of Newborn Medicine, escorted Vitter through the 100-bed NICU, where he saw tiny babies receiving specialized care from nurses, physicians, residents and fellows.

“More space, and more modern space – that’s one of our most acute needs,” Woodward told Vitter.

“We have lots of caregivers here,” Savich said. “It’s a phenomenal mentality. We’re working hard.”

When Vitter stopped to chat with a half-dozen pediatric residents and fellows who were in a rounding group, he jokingly asked them what their favorite television medical show is. “Scrubs!” they answered, referring to the comedy that chronicled the lives of employees in a fictional teaching hospital.

The work of UMMC’s pediatric team, however, is serious, Savich said. “They’re talking about every patient. What’s the plan? What will we be doing for this patient over the next 24 hours?” she explained to Vitter. “It takes hours to round, because there are so many patients.”

“I was very impressed by the Children’s Hospital,” Vitter said following his campus tour. “I was extremely moved by the NICU, and the incredibly tiny infants brought up to be healthy individuals for a lifetime because of their care here.”

Just one example of collaboration between the two campuses, Vitter said, is “reporting data as a whole instead of for separate campuses. “Both campuses can do some much more if they can build on each other’s connections and strengths,” he said.

There’s a huge opportunity, Vitter said, to elevate the university nationally through building on the longstanding UM-UMMC relationship.

“The leadership team at UMMC is very strong,” he said. “I want to work to advance the university and help bring in the necessary resources, and to allow smooth operations with the state so we as a university can be as successful as possible.”

Chancellor Vitter’s Start Date and Transition Plan

Dr. Jeff Vitter officially assumes the role of Chancellor on Jan. 1, 2016.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter speaks to members of the media after being named the 17th Chancellor of the University of Mississippi in October. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter speaks to members of the media after being named the 17th Chancellor of the University of Mississippi in October. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi is pleased to welcome Dr. Jeffrey Vitter as Chancellor and Distinguished Professor of Computer and Information Science, effective January 1, 2016. Dr. Vitter and his wife, Sharon, thank the UM community for the warm welcome.

Dr. Morris Stocks and Dr. Noel Wilkin will continue to be engaged in the leadership of academic affairs at the request of Dr. Vitter and with appreciation for their service in interim leadership roles over the past year. Dr. Stocks will be appointed Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, effective January 1, 2016. Effective the same date, Dr. Wilkin will be appointed Senior Associate Provost.

Dr. Vitter also has established the Chancellor Transition Advisory Committee (CTAC) to ensure the smoothest possible transition of leadership. The CTAC comprises the Interview Search Advisory Committee and the UM Senior Leadership team and will be chaired by Dr. Alice Clark. Through subcommittees, CTAC will address key responsibilities related to the transition of leadership. The committee will be soliciting input on these topics from the UM community throughout the coming weeks. For more information see

UM Takes Down State Flag

University administrators heed campuswide call to remove banner

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Police Department officers lowered and furled the state flag in a Lyceum Circle ceremony as the campus opened Monday morning. The flag will be preserved in the University Archives along with resolutions from students, faculty and staff calling for its removal.

The university’s removal of the flag is the latest development in discussions within the state about whether to change the official state flag, which includes the Confederate battle flag in one corner.

Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks first joined other state and university leaders calling for a change in the state flag in a statement last June.

“The University of Mississippi community came to the realization years ago that the Confederate battle flag did not represent many of our core values, such as civility and respect for others,” Stocks said. “Since that time, we have become a stronger and better university. We join other leaders in our state who are calling for a change in the state flag.”

In recent weeks the focus of campus discussions has shifted from whether the state should change the flag to whether it should fly on campus. After news spread that the Associated Student Body Senate would take up a measure to endorse removing the flag, more than 200 people attended an Oct. 16 campus rally in support of the idea.

On Oct. 20, the student senate voted 33-15-1 to request that the university remove the flag, following three hours of respectful and impassioned debate. Within the next two days, the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Student Council and the Staff Council joined the student government in asking for the flag to come down.

Stocks lauded the way students, faculty and staff treated one another in the course of debating resolutions encouraging removal of the flag.

“Their respect for each other, despite genuine differences of opinion, was an inspiration to us all,” Stocks said.

Stocks noted that the decision to no longer fly the state flag was not an easy one, adding that the flag means different things to different people.

“As Mississippi’s flagship university, we have a deep love and respect for our state,” Morris said. “Because the flag remains Mississippi’s official banner, this was a hard decision. I understand the flag represents tradition and honor to some. But to others, the flag means that some members of the Ole Miss family are not welcomed or valued. That is why the university faculty, staff and leadership have united behind this student-led initiative.”

Stocks noted that other public universities and local governments have already taken this step, and he continues to encourage state leaders to create a new flag.

“Mississippi and its people are known far and wide for hospitality and a warm and welcoming culture. But our state flag does not communicate those values,” Stocks said. “Our state needs a flag that speaks to who we are. It should represent the wonderful attributes about our state that unite us, not those that still divide us.”

UM Croft Institute Awards Scholarships to 10 Exceptional Students

Incoming, returning students come with impressive pre-college pedigrees

2015 Croft Scholars include (front , from left): Zac Herring, Abby Bruce, Alexis Smith; (middle, from left): Marguerite Marquez, Caroline Bass, Jarvis Benson, (top, from left to): Jacob Gambrell, John Chappell and Wes Colbert. Not Pictured: Delaney Holton. (Courtesy photo by Joe Worthem Photography).

2015 Croft Scholars include (front , from left): Zac Herring, Abby Bruce, Alexis Smith; (middle, from left): Marguerite Marquez, Caroline Bass, Jarvis Benson, (top, from left to): Jacob Gambrell, John Chappell and Wes Colbert. Not Pictured: Delaney Holton. (Courtesy photo by Joe Worthem Photography).

OXFORD, Miss. – The Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi has awarded full scholarships to 10 exceptional students, eight of whom are members of its largest freshman class ever.

Freshman Croft Scholarship recipients include Caroline Bass of Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Jarvis Benson of Grenada; John Chappell of Albuquerque, New Mexico; Wes Colbert of Amory; Jacob Gambrell of Ringgold, Georgia; Zac Herring of Olive Branch; Delaney Holton of Plano, Texas; and Marguerite Marquez of Gulfport. All are also members of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

In addition, sophomores Abby Bruce of Saltillo received the Rose Bui Memorial Scholarship and Alexis Smith of Picayune is the Michael Aune Memorial Scholarship recipient. As part of the Bui scholarship, Bruce will receive $8,000 per year for three years. The Michael Aune Memorial Scholarship is awarded to a rising sophomore concentrating on Latin America.

Freshman Croft Scholarship recipients receive $8,000 per year for four years, a total of $32,000, which may be combined with other scholarship support. Between 15 and 20 applicants are interviewed annually by a five-member, Croft-affiliated panel. Interviewees are asked the same round of questions that range from current global political issues to students’ personal interest in the international studies major. Winners are chosen based upon their answers.

“This cohort is unique in a lot of ways, but the fact that we enrolled our largest Croft cohort to date, as well as increasing our average overall ACT to 30.845, was exciting,” said Will Schenck, Croft Institute associate director. “Previously, we have had 60 students, but now we have an incoming class of 71 total students, which is an increase of 18 percent. Also, 55 percent are in-state and 45 percent are from 16 different states.”

All the students selected were extremely involved in several different high school organizations.

Each one held at least one type of leadership role in some capacity – whether it was a sports team, an academic club or a school student council.

“After an intensive application and interview process, we selected an outstanding crop of students for 2015-16,” said Kees Gispen, executive director of Croft Institute. “Each student selected was heavily recruited by top-ranked academic institutions.”

Here’s a closer look at each of this year’s Croft scholars:

A graduate of Siegel High School, Bass was a class representative for the Student Council, a project leader for Key Club and a member of the Excalibur National Honor Society and Beta Club. She also led a nonprofit organization called Sustaining a Village Everyday.

“We raise money by hosting events in our area and use the money to do sustainability work in a village in Haiti called Boukeron,” Bass said. “We travel there each summer to communicate with the villagers and assess their needs.”

The main reason Bass, daughter of David and Michele Bass, wanted to be in Oxford is because of the Croft Institute.

“I have always been very interested in other cultures and international work,” she said. “The Croft Institute is an amazing program that I feel confident will allow me to achieve my goals and dreams in this field. The people of Ole Miss also worked with me to find scholarships that made coming here an easy choice.”

After graduation, Bass hopes to attend graduate school for social work or psychology. “I would love to use the knowledge I gain from the Croft Institute to move to another country and work with an organization that rescues and rehabilitates victims of sex trafficking,” Bass said.

A Grenada High School graduate, Benson was drum major of the marching band, dance captain and vocal captain of the show choir, senior class president, National Honor Society president, Spanish Club president, Anchor Club treasurer and debate team vice president. A National Merit Achievement finalist, he also participated in the Quiz-Bowl team, Mu Alpha Theta and GHS Wellness Council, was awarded the highest average in STEM and was selected Bandsman of the Year.

“I decided to attend Ole Miss ultimately because the Croft Institute seems to have a warm and inviting, yet challenging, spirit about it, and that is exactly what I was looking for in a college,” Benson said. “I chose the international studies major with a concentration on Latin American countries and the Spanish language because I wanted to learn more about the world around me.”

The son of Patrick and Regina Benson, he plans to attend graduate school and hopes to pursue a career in the Department of State as a foreign service officer.

A graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Bruce was a Hall of Fame member, a Spirit of MSMS award recipient and an emissary.

“After all my college searching, Ole Miss was the best fit,” said Bruce, an international studies and Spanish major who is minoring in business administration. “The Honors College was one of the best I encountered and the Croft Institute for International Studies tied together several of my interests.”

After graduation, Bruce, daughter of Mike and Faye Bruce, is considering earning an MBA.

“I am interested in the fair trade movement and would love to have a career regarding alternate, more transparent ways of conducting international business,” she said.

Finishing from Albuquerque Academy, Chappell was most involved in Model United Nations, speech and debate, and Model International Criminal Court. A National Merit Finalist and a track and field athlete, he was an AP Scholar with Distinction in world history, U.S. history, comparative government, microeconomics and macroeconomics.

Honors Chappell received include the John “Wolfie” Smeltzer Memorial Award from the University of New Mexico World Affairs Delegation, the high school’s history department Book Award, world languages Book Award and Nancy Lynne Parker Memorial Award.

“I am double majoring in Arabic and international studies,” said Chappell, who studied the language in high school and would like to reach native speaker proficiency. “After graduating, I intend to pursue a master’s degree. I am unsure as to what I would like to do for a career, but some areas of interest are foreign policy, intelligence, diplomacy and work for an intergovernmental organization or NGO.”

Chappell is the son of Cael and Mary Chappell.

Colbert, Amory High School valedictorian, served as the student body president and state president of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America. He was also involved in Amory Students for Change, the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society. The son of Kerry Colbert and Jim and Holly Reeves, he was a STAR student and a National Merit Finalist.

“My decision to attend Ole Miss was rooted primarily in scholarship opportunities and in the relationships I had with many members of the faculty,” he said. “I am double majoring in international studies and Spanish because of my love for Spanish and because of my attraction to politics.”

Upon graduation, Colbert plans to attend graduate school, either in the Northeast or at the University of Oxford in England, and later pursue a career in immigration law.

The Boyd-Buchanan School valedictorian, Gambrell played football and soccer and wrestled. An actor in four musicals, he also served as co-president of both the student body and student council and was charter president of the Junior Civitan Club. Gambrell held memberships in the National Honor Society and National Spanish Honor Society and earned class awards in AP Biology, current events and modern history, government, economics, AP statistics, honors pre-calculus and AP world history.

“I received the school Service Award, Ronald Reagan Citizenship award, the AP scholar with distinction and was voted Most Likely to Succeed,” he said. “My highest achievement was setting the school record for the physics class trebuchet competition at 127 yards.”

After being impressed by Croft and the Honors College, Gambrell, son of Tim Gambrell and Jim and Jennifer Owens, applied and made plans to visit in January.

“At my visit I fell in love with the campus,” Gambrell said. “It was definitely the most beautiful I had seen. And to seal the deal, the university gives great financial aid. I really felt like I was properly rewarded for all of my hard work in high school. Ole Miss is the place for me.”

Gambrell said his future plans are to work for the U.S. State Department and someday be an ambassador, but recently he’s had more of a desire to work for an NGO and help people around the world more personally and hands on.

“I want to go to grad school and get my master’s, and possibly even pursue a doctorate depending on my career aspirations at the time,” he said. “After I retire from international service, I wish to teach social studies and coach at a high school.”

A DeSoto Central High School graduate, Herring started a speech and debate club, was president of the Model United Nations Club and won either a speaking or writing award at every tournament he attended. He was the captain of the school’s News Channel 3 Knowledge Bowl team, which made it to the semifinal round – the farthest in school history – in the annual, televised tournament.

The son of Tom and Shannon Herring, he was also vice president of the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, played varsity football and soccer, and was selected for the all-county soccer team.

“My older sister, who was also a ‘Croftie,’ and several of my teachers were instrumental in my decision to attend the University of Mississippi,” Herring said. “Her experience is what first inspired in me a vision for the international studies program through Croft. It matched perfectly with my desire to study abroad and my interest in the German economy.”

Herring plans to graduate with degrees in German, international studies and economics. After graduation, he would like to work as a financial analyst in the United States or abroad.

Holton, a Plano West Senior High School graduate, was devoted to Key Club and the French National Honors Society. A National Merit Scholar, she received a scholarship through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth to study Korean in Seoul, South Korea, for six weeks.

“Ole Miss offers great programs in my chosen areas of study, Chinese and international studies,” Holton said. “I’m considering pursuing a career within the intelligence community, in organizations like the CIA or NSA. Such a job would allow direct application of the international relations topics I will be studying, as well as the opportunity to continue developing language skills.”

Holton is the daughter of Steven and Joyce Holton.

The valedictorian at Gulfport High School, Marquez received the Kiwanis District Foundation Scholarship, Gulfport Chamber of Commerce Whittemore Scholarship and Gulfport Rotary Club Scholarship, and won the Get to College Essay Scholarship Contest. A GHS Hall of Fame inductee, she held leadership positions in Mu Alpha Theta, Key Club, Student Council, Beta Club and the National Honor Society.

The daughter of Johnny and Margaret Marquez, she was selected Lindy Callahan Scholar Athlete, Ray Bishop Scholar Female of the Year, “Who’s Who” Most Likely to Succeed Female, Graduation Herald, Rotary Youth Leadership Award winner, Mississippi Girls’ State Representative, Common Core Top Student and Mississippi Eminent Scholar. She was also captain of the championship varsity soccer team and a varsity track and cross-country finalist.

“I think I knew Ole Miss was my school when I discovered the Croft Institute,” Marquez said. “Suddenly, the horizons broadened, and it was possible for me to get the best of both worlds throughout my college experience: Mississippi, and then the rest of the world.”

Marquez’s plans are to attend medical school and work in pediatrics. “Ideally, I would like to serve lower income areas; possibly somewhere that has the need for a French-speaking doctor,” she said.

A Picayune High School graduate, Smith just finished her first year at UM, where she was involved in International Justice Mission, Honors Senate and More Than a Meal. She received the Omicron Delta Kappa Freshman Leader Award and is a member of Lambda Sigma honor society.

“I decided to attend Ole Miss because, frankly, I love Mississippi,” said Smith, an international studies major with an emphasis in Latin America. “The Honors College and Croft Institute are both comparable to Ivy League and top-tier schools, and I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to be a member of the Ole Miss family.”

After graduation, the daughter of Tony and Angie Smith hopes to earn her doctorate in sociology.

“I’d either like to work in a nonprofit or to teach at a university while simultaneously conducting research,” she said.

For more information about the Croft Institute, visit

UM Graduates to Compete at SEC Symposium

Entrepreneurs hope to connect job-seekers with companies that fit their personalities

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn careers claiming first place at innovate Mississippi competition.

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn Careers claims first place at Innovate Mississippi competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two 2015 University of Mississippi graduates will introduce their business venture, a Web-based services that helps connect job-seekers with employers that match their personality profile, Sept. 20-22 at a pitch competition during this year’s SEC Symposium in Atlanta.

Jackson native Alex Ray, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Madison native Caleb Robinson, who earned his bachelor’s in computer science, will present their business plan for The entrepreneurs, both 22, will make their presentation before 14 judges, all alumni of SEC schools.

“Their idea is a cross between eHarmony and,” said Richard Gentry, assistant professor of management and director of the UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “There is a clear definition of a problem when hiring potential employees. Through research and management of this idea, it can help connect people with a style to an organization similar to their own personality.”

Ray began working on the idea last December after he grew frustrated in his own job search. He approached Robinson because of his background in computer science.

“When I started looking for a job, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find an exciting enough place to work,” Ray said. “I went to Caleb with the idea, and then in February we started researching traits that made people happy in their jobs.”

“Alex approached me at the entrance of the Turner Center talking about an exciting idea that he had,” Robinson said. “Usually I would be pretty cautious if someone approached me with a tech-based idea, but I know Alex is the kind of person to follow through on something that he starts, so I was really excited to start on it.”

Ray and Robinson spent countless hours researching factors that affect cultural fit between a prospective employee and employer, such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment and tenure. They also worked closely with a professor in organizational psychology to develop their algorithm.

“We have put in a lot of work over several iterations of the algorithm,” Robinson said. “I was familiar with algorithms before this venture because of my computer science background. The difference about this project was that the problem – matching people to jobs – is very broad compared to some of the problems that we might solve in class.”

The algorithm examines up to 60 factors to produce “Zyn” scores associated with levels of happiness at a job, Ray said. Zyn scores range from 1 to 100, with 100 being rated extremely happy.

So far, has amassed 150 corporate profiles to match with prospective users, with businesses such as Facebook, FNC Inc., Coca-Cola and C Spire.

Ray and Robinson started to introduce their idea last spring in competitions and to students at UM. In April, they entered the university’s Gillespie Business Plan and finished in the top three. Faculty members encouraged Ray to enter the business into the Rebel Venture Capital Fund, and he received $4,000 to help get the business running.

In a trial run, 100 Ole Miss students signed up for initial assessment and gave the site reviews, Ray said. In May, Ray and Robinson received a boost when placed first in the Innovate Mississippi New Venture Challenge.

“It’s been really exciting, and something that I’ve dreamt about since the creation of the idea,” Ray said. “At the beginning, I just focused on how I could use this to find a job. Once I talked to others and noticed this was a widespread problem, I realized that this could be a business.”

The summer got even hotter for Ray and Robinson. They did a major site redesign while getting prepared for their biggest competition, the SEC Symposium.

“To categorize, the SEC Symposium is like ‘Shark Tank’ without formal investments,” said Clay Dibrell, associate professor of management and executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “If you win the competition, you win a cash prize for your start-up.”

Dibrell and Gentry have worked with Ray and Robinson to help structure the business plan. Both faculty members agree that the site has many practical applications in the business world, and Ray and Robinson have been doing well with initial pitches to investors.

“It’s very rare to find people who are willing to invest in a company,” Dibrell said. “Pitching to other venture capitalists by taking meetings and making presentations are positive indicators of future success.”

“The site can make a big impact,” Gentry said. “It’s a huge problem that has not been well-solved. It could reduce selection costs significantly for big data businesses.”

Recently, Robinson encountered a student from Georgia Tech who was having difficulty finding a job. That instance just added more fuel to the Zyn Careers engine.

“(The student) said he only wanted to be accepted by a single company so he didn’t have to choose between companies because he had no idea where he would be happiest and didn’t want to make the wrong decision,” Robinson said. “He was extremely surprised when I told him that I had been working on that exact problem for the past several months.”

The SEC Symposium will pit Ray and Robinson against teams from other SEC schools. The competition promises to be their hardest yet, but it also could produce the biggest reward.

“I’m excited to see the ideas other groups will bring to the symposium,” Ray said. “But I believe Zyn Careers can make the world a happier place, so that motivates me to work harder and keep tweaking the website.”

Ole Miss, Oxford and Lafayette County Get Purple Heart Designations

L-O-U community first in state to earn this triple distinction

Michael Howland

Michael Howland, UM coordinator of veteran and military services addresses the crowd at the annual LOU 9/11 Day of Service.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi, city of Oxford and Lafayette County have been named a Purple Heart University, a Purple Heart City and a Purple Heart County for their efforts to create a welcoming environment for veterans and Purple Heart recipients.

The Purple Heart is a military decoration given only to those wounded or killed in combat while serving their country.

“I believe that veterans will recognize that Ole Miss has worked hard to improve its veteran and military support services, and is committed to helping student veterans achieve their academic goals,” said Michael Howland, UM coordinator of veteran and military services. “Our designation as a Purple Heart campus is recognition of this hard work and we’re very proud to receive it.”

“The special things that Ole Miss does specifically for veterans that attend the university are what qualify them to become a Purple Heart University,” said Ben Baker, commander of the Oxford Purple Heart Chapter.

The university’s Veteran and Military Services was created in April 2013 to provide comprehensive resources to veterans, active members of the military and their dependents and to assist them in becoming successful as UM students.

“For me, personally, on the impression on being named a Purple Heart University means we support, honor and welcome veterans to this great campus,” said Matt Hayes, senior military instructor for Army ROTC and a Purple Heart recipient. “When you have a campus that is supportive of your goals and ambitions, it really gives the veteran the inspiration and drive to succeed.”

Ole Miss is home to 205 registered veteran students, 250 ROTC cadets and more than 900 students using GI Bill benefits.

“This is evidence of a lot of hard work by many dedicated professionals over the last few years,” said Morris Stocks, acting UM chancellor. “We are very honored to be recognized, along with Oxford and Lafayette County, for service to our veterans, particularly those who have earned a Purple Heart.”

Upon learning of UM’s designation, Howland approached Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby and invited them to join the university by seeking designations as a Purple Heart City and Purple Heart Community.

“Having the city excited simply shows that support of veterans extends beyond the gates of Ole Miss to the greater LOU community,” Howland said. “Oxford and Lafayette County have a strong history of support and designation as a Purple Heart community simply confirms that goodwill.”

While UM is one of four SEC institutions to hold the Purple Heart University designation, it will be the first university in Mississippi to receive the designation in conjunction with the city and county in which it is located.

“Along with the university and Lafayette County, we are honored to have the designation as a Purple Heart City and take particular pride in saluting Purple Heart Veterans,” Patterson said.

Busby agreed, noting that, “it is an honor for Lafayette County to named a Purple Heart Community and to honor the men and women that served this country so diligently.”

Ole Miss, the city of Oxford and Lafayette County made a joint announcement of the designation during Friday’s LOU 9/11 Day of Service event and at Saturday’s football game against Fresno State.

To learn more about veteran and military services at Ole Miss, visit

7 Things You May Have Missed This Summer

Students enjoy the fall colors on campus between classes.

Students enjoy the fall colors on campus between classes.

Maybe you’ve heard by now that the University of Mississippi is the state’s flagship university. That status helps generate overwhelming support from alumni and friends, who gave a record $133 million this past fiscal year. Take it from Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks, these funds allow the university to strengthen its faculty, increase student scholarships, contribute to research and improve health care.

This summer, UM hosted 16 high school students from around the country to assist with research aiding in the prevention of concussions in athletes. This program is a partnership between Ole Miss athletics, the Department of Electrical Engineering and the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. Sensors worn by athletes are providing data to help coaches and trainers monitor the health and safety of their players. The Ole Miss football team is testing the technology in a pilot program this season.

Have you ever been concerned about an older relative who might be at risk for falling? Technology designed right here at UM by research scientist James Sabatier can be used to measure and score the movements of aging adults in order to assess them for possible treatment or intervention. The UM-patented sonar technology soon could help ease the minds of those who care for the elderly.

Even before this was announced, anyone on campus could’ve told you that our student affairs team rocks. They are genuine in their efforts and enthusiastic about their work. They have earned UM the honor of being named one of the Promising Places to Work in Student Affairs for their commitment to workplace diversity, equitable staffing practices and supportive work environments. UM is one of two SEC schools to be recognized, and the only school in Mississippi.

Leading the pack as one of Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces, UM and the RebelWell team are working diligently to promote a “culture of wellness” among our faculty and staff. Exercise opportunities, health screenings, general wellness education and nutrition services are all available to help create a healthy work-life balance for our employees. And you know what they say: Happy faculty and staff make for happy students.

Have we talked enough about what a great place UM is to work? Fortunately, we can let someone else do the talking for us. The Chronicle of Higher Education has once again named UM one of the “Great Colleges to Work For.” Based on a survey of our own employees, we were noted for our strengths in collaborative governance, employee confidence in the university’s senior leadership and supervisor/department chair relationship. UM has received the recognition seven years running.

Perhaps the biggest story of 2015 is UM’s nationwide search for a new chancellor. The UM Board Search Committee, appointed by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, hopes to have a preferred candidate by the end of the year. The committee, assisted by a UM Campus Search Advisory Board, met with the boards of the UM Foundation and Alumni Association and held listening sessions to hear firsthand what faculty, staff and students want in a new leader.