Annual Egg Bowl Run Set for Nov. 23

ROTC cadets will carry game ball from Oxford to Starkville

UM ROTC cadets on the first leg of the inaugural Egg Bowl Run.

UM ROTC cadets on the first leg of the inaugural Egg Bowl Run.

OXFORD, Miss. – For the third time, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University will join forces for a common cause before the state’s biggest rivalry with the 2015 Egg Bowl Run, coming up Nov. 23.

Three years ago, Master Sgt. Matt Hayes, senior military instructor for Ole Miss Army ROTC, wanted to create a way to bring the community together during the month of Veterans Day.

“It’s a way for us to recognize our future leaders and celebrate the camaraderie of serving together,” Hayes said. “Participating in the run each year shows discipline, sacrifice and courage while the cadets are learning and building friendships.”

Last year, the ROTC expanded the Egg Bowl Run to include a fundraiser for the ROTC activities fund, which allows the program to host events and ceremonies for cadets as well as offer scholarships. More than $5,000 was raised in 2014 through the Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding platform.

Senior battalion commander Michael Resha of Birmingham, Alabama, has participated in the run all three years.

“It’s a great way to continue the rivalry between Ole Miss and Mississippi State,” Resha said. “It’s a great way for the cadets to bond and feel that we’re actively making a difference in this program.”

Senior cadet Cody Becker of Madison also has participated in the run for three years and is a recipient of an ROTC scholarship, so he said he recognizes the importance of keeping a fund to offer opportunities to others, as well as the importance of bonding with other cadets.

“It’s definitely an incentive to work harder every day,” he said. “This run gives us a chance to work with Mississippi State cadets in a way that we haven’t in the past. The Egg Bowl rivalry is such a big deal that we thought we should join our programs together. We’re rivals now, but when we graduate, we’ll be brothers in arms, so we’re creating a bond that’s good for the U.S. Army and for America.”

The runners will begin their journey from the south end zone entrance of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and be escorted down University Avenue to Highway 7 for the 50-mile leg to the halfway point in Calhoun City, where they hand off the game ball to MSU cadets.

“This is an opportunity for our cadets to give back to the community and to show solidarity with Mississippi State,” said Lt. Col. Scott Walton, UM professor of military science.

Community participation in greeting the runners has grown tremendously, he said.

“Cheering them on during the run gives them a sense that they’re a part of the team,” he said. “It’s great because we’re isolated from the community most of the time.”

The runners will leave campus at 5 a.m. Nov. 23. Community members are encouraged to cheer on the cadets along the way until they reach their destination in Calhoun City by midday.

General Relativity Centennial Topic for Next Science Cafe

UM physicist Katherine Dooley presents history of Einstein and his famous theory at Nov. 17 session

Katherine Dooley

Katherine Dooley

OXFORD, Miss. – The centennial of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s fourth meeting of the Oxford Science Café is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 17) at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 N. Lamar Blvd. Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy, will discuss “Curved Space-Time: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of General Relativity.” Admission is free.

“November 1915 was a revolutionary month in the history of science,” Dooley said. “Einstein published a series of four papers, week upon week, culminating with his presentation of the field equations of general relativity.”

Dooley’s 45-minute presentation will include discussions of how Einstein’s theory has survived tests of its validity.

“He told us that what we thought we knew about gravity from our everyday experience is not the whole story,” she said. “Gravity is the result of massive objects warping space and time. After 100 years, his theory has survived a series of continuous tests of its validity.”

In cosmology, the quality of scientists’ observations of very distant regions of the universe has improved dramatically in recent years.

“I will tell some of the early story of Einstein’s rise to becoming a pop star and show examples of some of the bizarre consequences of his theory,” Dooley said.

Dooley earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a doctorate from the University of Florida. Before joining the UM faculty, she was a postdoctoral researcher at the California Institute of Technology and Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, also known as the Albert Einstein Institute, in Hannover, Germany.

Awards Dooley has received include the 2010 Tom Scott Award for distinction in research at Florida and a Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory student fellowship from Cal Tech. Having worked directly with both the original and Advanced LIGO projects, Dooley spent four years at the LIGO Livingston site, first installing new hardware to upgrade the initial LIGO detectors and then commissioning the interferometer. She also holds membership in the American Physical Society.

Dooley’s research interest is experimental gravitational-wave physics.

Predicted by Einstein in his general theory of relativity, gravitational waves are extremely small ripples in space-time created by the movements of massive objects such as colliding black holes or exploding stars. A network of gravitational-wave detectors is being built around the world to make the first direct detection of gravitational waves, a momentous event thatastrophysicists predict will occur within the next few years.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-5311.

Ole Miss Theatre Stages ‘Hair’ This Weekend

Popular, but controversial musical 'fun and accessible'

HAIR_11x17OXFORD, Miss. – The Age of Aquarius arrives at the University of Mississippi this weekend with the dawning of Ole Miss Theatre’s production of “Hair.”

The Vietnam-era musical classic, subtitled “The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical,” will be performed Friday through Sunday (Nov. 13-15) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The popular and critically acclaimed musical features several popular songs, including “Let the Sunshine In,” “Aquarius” and “Good Morning Starshine.”

Tickets are $12.50 for adults, $9 for Ole Miss students and $8 for senior citizens. For ticket information, contact the UM Box Office at 662-915-7411 or visit

Theatergoers should know that “Hair,” which was controversial when it was first staged in in New York in the 1960s, contains adult content and is for mature audiences only.

While the musical still retains its edge nearly half a century after it was first performed, it also promises to be an enjoyable night for the audience, said Rachel Staton, a musical theater major and an actor in the production.

“The show deals with a lot of controversial topics,” Staton said. “We talk about sex, race, drug and alcohol abuse, anti-government, anti-religion and a barrage of other topics that can be a lot to handle, but I think ‘Hair’ presents these topics in such a fun and accessible way that it’s hard to not enjoy yourself.

“I understand that we are in a region and on a campus that can be resistant to art that deals with subject matters like this, but that’s what the show was intended to do. Also, with the variety of characters, it’s hard to not relate to someone on stage.”

The play touches on topics that made headlines in the 1960s and continue to be in the news today, such as the civil rights movement and “women gaining access to birth control, so they could have sex like men could,” said Jennifer Mizenko, a UM professor of theatre arts and choreographer for “Hair.”

The production takes place Friday through Sunday (Nov. 13-15) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

This production of ‘Hair’ is described as fast-moving, which makes it that much more demanding for the cast, which includes, from left, Max Mattox, Riley McManus and Katie Gonzalez. The musical takes place Friday through Sunday (Nov. 13-15) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications.

“We’re not editing any of the subject matter, any of the relationships – anything,” Mizenko said. “I see this as a period piece. This is real and this is what happened. The men who wrote (‘Hair’), this was their world. They wrote a musical about what was happening to them, so this was not a made-up situation.

“On top of all this frivolity, experimentation and hyper-awareness, there is a deeper message of why war? Why is war the answer? Is there another way? So the message is ‘open your heart.'”

In terms of the choreography, Mizenko said she and director Rhona Justice-Malloy wanted it to “look daring with an essence of floating and that these people are taking risks.”

“Hair” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Kicking off 2016 is the third production of the season, “Anton in Show Business,” set for Feb. 17-28. This madcap comedy follows three actresses across the footlights, down the rabbit hole and into a strangely familiar Wonderland that looks a lot like American theater. In the tradition of great backstage comedies, this show conveys the joys, pains and absurdities of putting on a play at the turn of the century.

The final production of the season is Shakespeare’s most popular comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The production, slated for April 15-24, will coincide with the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death and Shakespeare’s first folio coming to the university.

In addition, Ole Miss Theatre is continuing its Patron Appreciation Night, which will be the first Friday of each production. Only patrons, season ticket holders and Friends of Ole Miss Theatre will be able to purchase tickets for these performances providing the perfect environment for those who enjoy the magic of the theater.

UM Junior Receives Prestigious Study Abroad Scholarship

Biloxi native is living and studying in Berlin this academic year

Savannah Coleman

Savannah Coleman

OXFORD, Miss. – Savannah Coleman, a junior at the University of Mississippi, has been given the opportunity of a lifetime this academic year to study abroad in Germany on a scholarship funded by the German Academic Exchange Service.

The Biloxi native is majoring in international studies with a concentration in Europe at UM. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies, she is also studying German, global business and economics.

“I have always been interested in learning about different cultures and the world around me,” said Coleman, who is living and studying in Berlin for two semesters. “International studies and studying abroad just seemed totally natural for me.”

The German Academic Exchange Service – Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst in German, known as DAAD – is a German government-funded program that not only offers scholarships to those wanting to study in Germany, but also to German students wanting to study outside in other countries. The scholarship provides a monthly stipend of 650 euros for 10 months, a funded pre-semester language program, additional funds to defray travel and research expenses, and health insurance.

“I have to say that living in a city like Berlin has exceeded my wildest expectations,” Coleman said. “I have never in my life fallen so completely in love with a city. I feel like I have found a place where I could belong and create a life. There is something for everyone here.”

Each year, about 500 to 600 Ole Miss students study abroad. Many other students believe that studying abroad is out of reach, but the UM Study Abroad Office helps guide students through their journey. The office’s staff helps students plan their programs without getting behind on classes. Financial aid and scholarships apply to study abroad programs, and additional scholarships are available.

Many classes are taught in English, so students without a foreign language background can study all over the world. Studying abroad also looks great on resumes, and international internship opportunities are available in the fall and spring semesters and summer.

Studying abroad offers several benefits, said Blair McElroy, director of the Study Abroad Office.

“Students step out of their comfort zones and experience a new way of life and a new culture,” she said. “But in addition to learning about a new culture, students also learn so much about themselves, including increased tolerance, independence and empathy. They also gain lifelong friends and experiences that stay with them forever and mold their future academic, professional and personal goals.”

Coleman encourages fellow students to take advantage of the opportunities.

“I understand that it can be scary and a bit nerve-wracking, but it is the most incredible adventure you can embark on,” Coleman said. “I feel like study abroad opens doors and opportunities that one could never dream of while back home.”

Anyone interested in studying abroad can visit the Study Abroad Office’s website at For information on applying for the DAAD scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year, visit

Alumnus Lands Role in New Series ‘Quantico’

Tate Ellington paid his dues in theater and small film roles before getting his break on ABC drama

Tate Ellington

Tate Ellington

The new ABC drama series “Quantico” has garnered a lot of buzz this year as one of the fall’s most promising new TV shows.

And one of the stars is an Ole Miss graduate.

In “Quantico,” a group of young recruits arrive for training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. UM alumnus Tate Ellington plays the character of Simon Asher.

The Madison native began acting his junior year of high school, which led him to choose Ole Miss because of the university’s theatre arts department. Ellington said his on-stage work as an undergraduate student gave him great experience for his future career.

“He was one of the most talented young men I’ve ever worked with,” said Rene Pulliam, interim chair and associate professor of theatre arts. “He had a knack for improv and comedy, but was also a great dramatic actor. He took everything he did very seriously and he just came alive on stage.”

But his road to success hasn’t always been easy. Ellington graduated from Ole Miss in 2001 and began his professional career by working in sketch comedy in Columbus, Ohio, for a year. After that, he thought he’d try his luck in New York City.

When he arrived, he discovered that a large group of former Ole Miss theatre students were there as well, which offered a support system.

“There was always a good core group of Ole Miss alums in New York all the time,” he said. “Ole Miss grads take care of each other, and I’m still friends with most of those people today.”

For eight years while in New York, Ellington spent his time auditioning for everything that he could. He worked in several shows off-off-Broadway and in films including “The Elephant King,” which was released at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2006.

In 2008, he began guest starring in several television shows as well as landing commercial roles.

Ellington said his career started looking up around that time, and in 2009 he was cast in the Broadway play “The Philanthropist” with Matthew Broderick.

“That was amazing,” Ellington said. “That was one of the best times I’ve ever had in my life.”

More doors started to open after his appearance in the 2010 film “Remember Me” alongside Robert Pattinson.

Last year, Ellington read for the pilot of “Quantico” in Los Angeles. After a prescreen, the producers asked him to come back. The following day, he was told that he had been cast as the role of FBI recruit Simon Asher.

“I screamed my head off,” he said. “I went home and told my wife, and we were both near tears.”

Ellington’s father, James Ellington, said his son is a hard worker who always wanted to achieve the goal of becoming a professional actor.

“We’ve supported him in everything he’s done and we’re really proud of him,” he said. “He’s been working for this since he left Ole Miss. This is a great thing for him.”

Ellington’s character, Simon Asher, claims to be a gay Jewish accountant from Brooklyn.

“It’s a lot of fun to play. I love the character, especially as more and more is revealed in each episode,” he said. “I love that right now, Simon is still a mystery and he’s not always telling the truth.”

Out of the group of FBI recruits in the show, one of them could be masterminding an attack, but no one knows who the bad guy is just yet.

“As the show jumps back and forth in time, you get to play two different characters,” he said. “Getting those variations as an actor is great.”

The show has been picked up for a full 22-episode season, so the audience will get to see more of how these characters unfold.

“It’s nice to have validation on what you’re working on. It’s been so nice to have fans already and they really seem to love the show.”

Ellington’s permanent home is in Los Angeles, but he’s living in Montreal during filming for the show.

“I definitely wouldn’t be here without the theatre department at Ole Miss,” he said. “I had an amazing time there, being on stage and getting experience. I got a great education there and I loved every minute of it. I definitely attribute a lot of my success to that foundation.”

UM Hispanic Heritage Series Concludes

Series of lectures and films offers insights into diverse Hispanic American societies

The Hispanic Heritage Series begins Thursday, Sept. 17, with events continuing through Nov. 12.

The Hispanic Heritage Series  continues through Nov. 12.

OXFORD, Miss. – In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the University of Mississippi Department of Modern Languages has been hosting its first Hispanic Heritage Series of lectures and films. The series concluded Thursday (Nov. 12) with a lecture by Greg Love at 6 p.m. in the Turner Center, Room 205.

The lecture, “Radical political movements and victims,” was followed by the movie “Operation E.” The lecture and the movie were free. The movie, which contains English subtitles, has earned critical acclaim at several film festivals.

“In the next 12 to 18 months, we might see the end to one of the longest civil wars in modern history,” Love said. “Preliminary peace agreements aim to resolve Colombia’s more than 40-year-long conflict between the government, Marxist rebels and paramilitary fighters. The fighting has cost the lives of over 230,000 people and displaces more than 5 million. This conflict, funded in part by the drug trade and U.S. military assistance, has shaped the politics, economics and lives of nearly all Colombians.”

Organizers Diane Marting, Irene Kaufmann and Karma Sanchez, all faculty members in the department, launched this series of lectures and films to provide insights into the diverse Hispanic American societies in the local community as well as abroad. The series has explored contemporary issues such as religion, gender and immigration.

“We want to facilitate enriched understanding of our global community,” said Sanchez, an instructor of Spanish.

This event begins with a reception at 5:30 p.m. preceding the lecture and the screening. Campus parking is free to guests after 6 p.m.

The series has featured lectures, delivered by UM professors, that reflected upon history and current events in the Hispanic world. The lectures have been followed by contemporary films from Spanish-speaking countries, and end with question-and-answer sessions.

“We’ve been really lucky to have speakers available about so many different areas of Latin America – and the films,” said Marting, associate professor of Spanish. “Even more, we are so gratified by the overwhelmingly positive response to these lectures and films that we hope to repeat the series next year.”

The lecture series is supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities through the Mississippi Humanities Council. The Spanish Film Club series is made possible by Pragda, SPAIN Arts and Culture and the Secretary of State for the Culture of Spain. The reception is made possible by the UM College of Liberal Arts.

Click here for a complete list of events, or contact Marting at for more information.

Lecture to Focus on Fossils of New Human Ancestors

Community invited to hear about much-publicized discovery

Zach Throckmorton analyzing fossils at Rising Star Workshop. Throckmorton will speak Wed. about his work analyzing Homo naledi fossils.

Zach Throckmorton analyzes fossils at Rising Star Workshop. Throckmorton will speak Wednesday at UM about his work analyzing Homo naledi fossils.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will host two guest speakers involved in the analysis of fossils of a human ancestor, Homo naledi, with a public lecture at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 11) in Farley Hall, Room 202.

The event is free and open to the public.

Speakers Juliet Brophy, assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University, and Zach Throckmorton, assistant professor of anatomy at Lincoln Memorial University’s DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee, had a unique opportunity to be a part of a momentous paleoanthropological discovery.

In the 20th century, South Africa was dubbed “The Cradle of Humankind” due to its frequency of fossil and excavation finds, and the country continued to live up to that name with a discovery in March 2014. In the depths of Rising Star Cave, paleoanthropologists found the preserved bones of a human ancestor in what appeared to be a reserved burial chamber. The fossils were analyzed by a select group of 30 advanced graduate students aor newly appointed Ph.D. recipients who responded to a Facebook post, which is how Brophy and Throckmorton became involved.

“After the fossils were excavated, Lee Berger, head of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of Witwatersrand and project director for Rising Star, put out a call for early-career scientists ‘to study and describe recently discovered fossil early hominin material,'” Brophy said. “The scientists had to have data and skill sets applicable to the study of early hominins. From the applications, he hand-picked 30 early-career scientists from around the world to look at the fossils, and luckily I was picked as one of the 30.”

“I became involved by replying to a Facebook post looking for early scientists to help describe and analyze the Rising Star fossil material,” Throckmorton said. “I fit that description and applied because the workshop was an opportunity to have first access to hominin fossils.”

With the help of sponsorships from the UM Lecture Series, the Sally McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the UM Anthropological Society, Carolyn Freiwald, UM assistant professor of anthropology, invited Brophy and Throckmorton to come to UM to tell their incredible stories.

A mounted photo of the Homo naledi's hand from the Rising Star Cave in South Africa.

A mounted photo of the Homo naledi’s hand from the Rising Star Cave in South Africa.

“Three researchers from my alma mater (University of Wisconsin at Madison) were involved in the research, so I thought we had a great opportunity to hear firsthand about a new human ancestor,” Freiwald said. “The find is creating quite a stir, from the speed of the research, which took just two years from discovery to publication, to the age of the team members, many of whom were early-career scientists, to the startling idea that pre-humans may have buried their dead far earlier than we thought.”

Freiwald said Brophy and Throckmorton will also speak to undergraduate and graduate classes that day, where students can pose questions to scientists in the anthropological field of study.

“I think these lectures will be a great opportunity for students,” Freiwald said. “They will be able to ask questions firsthand of paeloanthropologists, which may help guide students to interesting careers, and it will allow people to see how we actually study human history and evolution.”

Brophy and Throckmorton said they are elated at the chance to discuss the subject matter and speak with students who are in the same position they were in not that long ago.

“My hope is to share the excitement of these new fossils with UM students,” Brophy said. “A find like this is unprecedented in paleoanthropology. I look forward to giving a firsthand account of what the fossils look like, of the unique approach the analyses took and of the significance of the finds.

“By co-lecturing with Zach, we could both speak about our areas of analysis. He specializes in the foot and I specialize in teeth, so a co-lecture would nicely cover the cranial and postcranial material.”

The lecture is an amazing opportunity, Throckmorton said.

“Sometimes college classes seem a bit abstract or irrelevant, but you never know what you might learn in a class and what they might prepare you for,” he said. “If you work hard and take advantage of the opportunity that is going to college, you’ll be prepared to do something truly special if the chance arises.”

With help from the Center for Manufacturing Excellence department, Freiwald said they will also have 3D replicas of the fossils at the lectures for audience members to visualize.

While the lecture that evening is open to the public, it is somewhat limited in capacity. Still, Freiwald urges all who are able to attend. Freiwald wants Brophy and Throckmorton to engage and experience Oxford’s culture and people.

“The public talk is at 7 p.m., and then we’re having a reception afterward on the Square, so we will have plenty of opportunities to speak with Juliet or Zach,” Freiwald said. “For those who don’t usually follow fossils, human evolution or anthropology, this will be a great way to see how interesting it all is and why The New York Times, BBC, NPR and National Geographic all made such a stir about this discovery.”

For more information, contact Carolyn Freiwald at

Sarah Liljegren Honored with NSF Career Award

Associate professor of biology is sixth faculty member to receive the prestigious funding

Sarah Liljegren

Sarah Liljegren

OXFORD, Miss. – For the second time this year, a University of Mississippi professor has received a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation.

Sarah Liljegren, associate professor of biology; is the sixth CAREER award recipient at UM in the last eight years. Jared Delcamp, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, received the same award in June. This is the first time two UM faculty members have been selected in the same calendar year.

The award provides $606,079 over a five-year period for Liljegren’s project, titled “Roles of Organ Boundaries in Arabidopsis Abscission.”

“My lab is investigating the design of molecular circuits that allow plants to release their organs – e.g. leaves, flowers, fruit and seeds – at specific points in their life cycle,” she said. “We would like to know which genes determine where separation zones are found in plants and which genes direct the development of the specialized cells within these zones.”

Using the flowers from a small mustard plant, Arabidopsis thaliana, as a model, Liljegren and her team are studying mutants that disrupt the abscission, or separation, process. In this way, they can identify which design elements are essential.

Liljegren’s award will also support training in genetics at UM in several ways.

“I will be collaborating with other biology faculty to develop new laboratory modules for our genetics course and will also begin teaching an interactive version of genetics for students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” she said.

“The outreach activities supported by this grant revolve around recruiting and training the next generation of scientists. My lab will have the opportunity to offer summer research internships for undergraduates and several yearlong research internships for recent biology graduates who are interested in graduate work in STEM fields.”

Liljegren’s Ole Miss colleagues are excited about her achievement.

“With federal research funding at the lowest level most of us have ever experienced, this grant represents a remarkable feather in Dr. Liljegren’s hat,” said Paul Lago, chair and professor of biology. “I believe she will continue to have a significant impact in the department and on biology students at the university for many years to come.”

John Z. Kiss, dean of UM Graduate School and also a respected professor of biology, agreed.

“This award places Dr. Liljegren among the top young scientists in the United States,” Kiss said. “She is clearly a leader in the field of plant biology, and I am very proud to have her as a colleague.”

Liljegren said she is appreciative of the research support NSF has provided throughout her career.

“This is my third NSF grant as a principal investigator, but this award is especially meaningful,” she said. “The five-year time period of the grant is simply unheard of for scientists in my field. It allows me to pursue a new research direction I’ve always wanted to explore.”

The timing of the award could not be better, she added.

“My lab has recently made some cool discoveries about some of the elusive interactions that regulate abscission zone formation in Arabidopsis flowers,” Liljegren said. “This grant will allow us to build on and publish these discoveries.”

The NSF CAREER program started in 1996. Recent UM recipients are Tamar Goulet, associate professor of biology, in 2008; Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in 2010; Emanuele Berti, associate professor of physics and astronomy, in 2011; and Amala Dass, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, in 2013.

Liljegren, Delcamp, Hammer and Dass all have had previous funding under Mississippi’s NSF EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Track-1 Grant. The CAREER awards attest to the effectiveness of that grant in helping to develop research competiveness within the state.

“CAREER awards are unique among single-investigator NSF awards in that they integrate research and education in a very substantial way,” said Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “They go beyond funding a specific project. They are investments in the successful careers of the nation’s most outstanding faculty members in science and engineering.”

These awards are external validation of the growing research excellence of the science departments within the College of Liberal Arts, said Lee Cohen, UM liberal arts dean.

“These awards also exemplify the kind of success that can be achieved via mentoring,” Cohen said. “UM’s previous NSF Award winners helped mentor the new awardees in the development of their winning proposals.”

Liljegren earned her doctorate at the University of California at San Diego and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington. She was a postdoctoral fellow at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and UCSD. She has contributed to 20 peer-reviewed journal articles and received 10 U.S. patents.

Courses she teaches at UM include Genetics, Human Genetics, Cell and Molecular Biology and Plant Cell and Developmental Biology.

Liljegren’s funding is provided through NSF award No. 1453733, which began in September and runs through August 2020.

Goals of the NSF CAREER program include providing stable support for five years to allow the career development of outstanding new teacher-scholars in the context of the mission of their organization and building a foundation for a lifetime of integrated contributions to research and education. Success rates vary across NSF divisions/directorates and competition years, but in biology are generally between 10 percent and 15 percent. The mathematics and physical sciences funding rates are around 20 percent.

For more information about the UM Department of Biology, visit or call 662-915-7203.

Learning Lessons from Haley Barbour’s Career

Initiative launched to honor former governor through UM political science department

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, second from right, receives the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Mississippi Department of Political Science. Congratulating him are, from left, Lanny Griffith, chair of the Ole Miss Political Science Alumni Advisory Board; Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and John Bruce, chair of the political science department. An initiative to fund a chair in Barbour’s name in the department is underway, with the study’s focus on the American political system. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, second from right, receives the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Mississippi Department of Political Science. Congratulating him are, from left, Lanny Griffith, chair of the Ole Miss Political Science Alumni Advisory Board; Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and John Bruce, chair of the political science department. An initiative to fund a chair in Barbour’s name in the department is underway, with the study’s focus on the American political system. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – An initiative is underway to honor two-term Mississippi governor and national political leader Haley Barbour at the University of Mississippi, with a goal of attracting $1.5 million for a faculty chair in the Department of Political Science.

Initial gifts, already totaling more than $300,000, are an indication of the interest in building a study reflecting on Barbour’s role in shaping American politics over 50 years.

“Gov. Barbour has enjoyed a long and distinguished career and obviously has many more contributions to make” said John Bruce, UM chair of political science. “From his start working in the 1968 presidential election up through his two terms as governor of Mississippi, Gov. Barbour has been an example of what people can do in the political arena. His jobs have ranged from explicitly political to apolitical, and from appointed to elected.

“There is much in his career that we can point to when talking with students about ways to be engaged. Whether a student leans to the left or leans to the right, there are lessons to be learned by considering the arc of Gov. Barbour’s career.”

Plans call for the holder of the Barbour faculty position to study political institutions and processes that characterized Barbour’s far-reaching career. Among the leader’s achievements are building a state party organization during an historic shift in party allegiances, working in four successful presidential campaigns, serving as the political director in the Reagan White House, chairing the Republican National Committee during an epic off-year election, leading Mississippi as governor during Hurricane Katrina and building a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C.

The named faculty position would allow the department to recruit a preeminent scholar with expertise in American politics, offering enhanced opportunities for students to learn about the development of our nation’s politics from a gifted teacher and researcher, said Lanny Griffith, CEO of the BGR Group in Washington, D.C., and chair of the Ole Miss Political Science Alumni Advisory Board.

“This time in American politics looks remarkably dysfunctional, reflecting the importance of pursuing this work,” Griffith said. “We want this study to look at our political system not from partisanship but from scholarship, identifying what factors or dynamics will shape our political system going forward.

“The University of Mississippi is the perfect place for this study, considering the array of Mississippians who have played pivotal roles on the national stage.”

Bruce echoed that sentiment by pointing to the leadership roles of Barbour.

“His work in the White House, the governor’s office, the national party – these are all areas where political science has a great deal to say,” he said. “Gov. Barbour’s work has increased the visibility of our state, and his work after Hurricane Katrina brought substantial help to those in need. The Governor Haley Barbour Chair for the Study of American Politics will be a lasting legacy to an impressive body of work by one of our own native sons.”

Griffith added that building the Barbour Chair would impact young people’s lives. “I would hope that this study would help Ole Miss students understand the opportunities we have to be involved – the critical need to be involved – and help chart the course of our nation.”

Top Republican and Democratic political leaders participated in the launch of this significant campaign on the Oxford campus, including U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker and Texas Gov. Ricky Perry. Chairing the event were Austin Barbour and Paul Hurst of Jackson and Wilson Golden of Gainesville, Georgia, while Griffith is spearheading the overall fundraising for the chair.

While visiting campus for the reception in his honor, Barbour said he was “flattered and honored” to consider the prospects of a faculty chair bearing his name.

“It is special that the University of Mississippi has decided to establish this position, which will have more of a focus on politics and elections and less on government, as well as give attention to the development of a two-party political system,” he said. “I think most college students – whether they grow up in Mississippi or not – don’t realize the long history and importance of Mississippi’s elected officials in American politics. From L.Q.C. Lamar, who negotiated the end of Reconstruction, to an impressive array of leaders through history and to the present, Mississippians have been incredibly influential across the nation.

“We’ve had many Mississippians in politics who mattered, and not just in the state. And look at the development of the two-party political system in our state. Its development in the last 50 years has been rather remarkable. The first time I ever saw a political poll in Mississippi was in 1968, when only 6 percent of Mississippians identified themselves as Republican. You had to be an optimist to be a Republican in 1968.”

The fundraising campaign is nearing its first goal: building an endowment of $400,000 to fund initial work. Annual income from the permanent endowment will cover salary, research expenses and student learning opportunities.

The long-term goal is to attract funds to increase this endowment to the chair level at $1.5 million, when it will become known formally as the Governor Haley Barbour Chair for the Study of American Politics.

Ultimately, the endowed chair will attract a prominent scholar in the study of American politics, as the university remains focused on building faculty support as its student enrollment continues to soar. With the largest enrollment in the state, UM needs to add 215 new faculty members over the next three years.

Endowed faculty chairs honor the person for whom the position is named, ensure that young people are taught by gifted professors and strengthen the academic reputation of the university, from which Barbour himself earned a juris doctor degree in 1974.

To make a gift online, visit Gifts can also be made by mailing checks payable to the University of Mississippi Foundation – with the fund’s name noted in the check’s memo line – to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For questions and information on supporting the campaign, contact John Bruce at 662-915-7401 or; or Lanny Griffith at

LaTanya Dixon Hears Call to Serve Community

Doctoral student works to help students succeed in STEM fields

 LaTanya Dixon

LaTanya Dixon

OXFORD, Miss. – LaTanya Dixon came to the University of Mississippi in 2001 to study pre-medicine, but her service as a tutor and mentor at the Boys and Girls Club made her reconsider her career goals.

When Dixon was an undergraduate, a friend introduced her to AmeriCorps, an organization that places college volunteers in nonprofits and schools across the community. On top of her studies, she spent 20 hours a week working with the youth at the Boys and Girls Club and also volunteering with Leap Frog, an after-school tutoring and mentoring program.

She learned the importance of early reading success and of supporting junior high and high school students on their academic journey.

“A small seed was planted in my heart: academic and social support for students must begin before college,” Dixon said. “I tucked that new truth and passion away in my heart assuming I would do something to help once I retired from a career in medicine or science.”

But by the end of Dixon’s senior year at UM, she changed her focus from medicine to higher education with plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry.

While teaching a freshman chemistry laboratory course as a graduate student at Jackson State University, Dixon recognized the need to improve recruitment and retention of minority students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

She remembered far too many peers, including herself, falling behind in their undergraduate studies in STEM fields. She watched as many minority students changed their majors or did not use their degrees after graduation.

“I was puzzled as to how most of those ambitious and accomplished students were not succeeding or remaining in STEM,” Dixon said. Therefore, I stopped at the master’s level in chemistry, and I tried to approach the issue from a different angle.”

She headed to the classroom to teach science at the high school level and worked with local nonprofits in education for almost six years before deciding to pursue her Ph.D. In 2012, Dixon returned to UM, not to study chemistry, but to obtain her doctorate in K-12 educational leadership with a cognate in higher education.

Dixon is continuing her dedication to making a difference in students’ lives while working toward her doctorate. She serves as an academic mentor for the UM Foundations for Academic Success program, known as FASTrack, a program that assists students with the transition to college and offers support throughout their freshman year.

She also coordinates UM College Corps, an AmeriCorps service program, the same organization she volunteered with when she first came to Ole Miss.

“LaTanya Dixon is a dedicated educator who cares about her students and her community,” said Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of liberal arts. “She and her colleagues have shaped FASTrack and the College Corps into exemplary programs that are improving UM and our state. The University of Mississippi is a great place to work because of colleagues like LaTanya Dixon.”

Dixon’s commitment to students does not end at the university. As a board member for United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County, she remains committed to early childhood reading success and helped launch LOU Reads, a communitywide coalition that works to ensure all children are reading proficiently by the time they enter fourth grade.

Dixon is the kind of volunteer that every nonprofit dreams of finding, said Alice Ricks, United Way executive director.

“She is committed, passionate, smart and – perhaps more important than anything else – an exceptional team player,” Ricks said. “Now, in addition to her very busy ‘day job,’ her doctoral studies and her many other responsibilities, LaTanya serves on United Way’s board as our secretary while continuing to play a key role with LOU Reads. She is a true asset to our organization and our community.”