April Science Cafe Focuses on State’s Energy Production

MMRI director speaks on fracking April 22 at Lusa Pastry Café

April Science Cafe

April Science Cafe

OXFORD, Miss. – Energy production in Mississippi is the focus for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s fourth and final meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. April 22 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. in Oxford. Greg Easson, director of Mississippi Mineral Resources Institute at UM, will discuss “Energy Production in Mississippi through Hydraulic Fracturing.” Admission is free.

“Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, is the process of enhancing the characteristics of an oil and/or gas well to increase production,” Easson said. “While hydraulic fracturing is not a new process, advances in technology have made it possible to drill horizontal wells through previously unproductive geologic units and fracture the rock to economically produce the energy resources.”

Easson’s 45-minute presentation will include a discussion of drilling and hydraulic fracturing history, environmental issues associated with the processes, water use issues and a discussion of activities in southwest Mississippi. The talk will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

Easson earned his Ph.D. and master’s degrees from the University of Missouri at Rolla and bachelor’s degree from Southwest Missouri State University. Before assuming his present position in 2010, he was chair and professor of geology and geological engineering at UM. Easson has also worked for the U.S. Geological Survey and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

His research interests are in the various aspects of Gulf Coast geology, remote sensing and geographic information system development.

For more information about Oxford Science Café programs, go to http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/oxfordsciencecafe. For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/physics_and_astronomy/ or call 662-915-5311.

Dissertation Wins Mississippi Historical Society Prize

Wendy D. Smith received $500 and biennial honor for her study of women's union attempt in Tupelo

The Mississippi Historical Society announced the winner of the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography March 6-8 at its annual meeting in Jackson. Pictured are Smith (left) and Elizabeth Ann Payne, board member and University of Mississippi history professor

The Mississippi Historical Society announced the winner of the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography March 6-8 at its annual meeting in Jackson. Pictured are Smith (left) and Elizabeth Ann Payne, board member and University of Mississippi history professor

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi doctoral program graduate has won a prestigious honor from the Mississippi Historical Society.

Wendy D. Smith, of Pontotoc, received the 2014 Franklin L. Riley Prize for her dissertation “‘Perfect Harmony’: the Myth of Tupelo’s Industrial Tranquility, 1937-1941,” which she completed for her doctorate in history in 2012. The prize, which carries a $500 cash award, was announced March 8 in Jackson during the society’s annual meeting.

“I am surprised and grateful to win this award,” Smith said. “I share this honor with (UM history professor) Dr. (Elizabeth) Payne, who both told me initially about the strike and served as my dissertation director thereafter.”

Smith’s dissertation focused on the 1937 cotton mill strike and an unsuccessful attempt by local women in the garment district to form a labor union.

“Before this, nothing had ever been written on this event,” Smith said. “Most people still don’t even know it ever happened.”

The Riley Prize memorializes Franklin L. Riley, a UM history professor who was instrumental in establishing the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. The prize is awarded biennially as merited for a doctoral dissertation on a topic in Mississippi history or biography completed within the previous two years.

The Mississippi Historical Society, founded in 1858, encourages outstanding work in interpreting, teaching and preserving Mississippi history. It provides annual grants to support programs of the Junior Historical Society and publishes books, maps and other materials aimed at educating the general public.

Membership is open to anyone; benefits include the quarterly Journal of Mississippi History, the monthly Mississippi History Newsletter and discounts at the Mississippi History Store.

For information on becoming a member, call 601-576-6849 or go to the MHS website, http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/admin/mhistsoc.html.

Award-winning Writer, Environmentalist to Present Earth Day Lecture

Rob Nixon to discuss 'slow violence' and its long-term impact on the earth and human beings

Rob Nixon

Rob Nixon

OXFORD, Miss. – Rob Nixon, the Rachel Carson and Elizabeth Ritzmann Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, will discuss the slow, yet violent, impact created by events ranging from toxic drift to climate change for the University of Mississippi’s Earth Day keynote lecture.

The lecture, which is part of the university’s 2014 Green Week celebration, is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday (April 22) in the Overby Auditorium. It is free and open to the public.

Ann Fisher-Wirth, UM professor of English, heard Nixon speak last year and knew he was a good fit for Earth Day events.

“I heard Professor Nixon speak at last year’s conference for the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, a 1000-member organization with nine international affiliates,” Fisher-Wirth said. “His talk was so brilliant and far-reaching that I knew I would like to bring him to the University of Mississippi for our Earth Day Speaker’s Series.

“I hope that attendees will learn about the persistence of what he calls ‘slow violence,’ environmental violence that is inflicted on both the earth and human beings constantly, but that, since it is not sudden and catastrophic, is all too easy to ignore.”

Nixon asserts that because the destruction from these events is delayed destruction, it is typically not viewed as violence at all. Focusing on environmental activists from the global South, Nixon plans to link the emergencies of the long-term to creative efforts to infuse such emergencies with urgency.

“I hope that attendees will be inspired to further research, create awareness and take action,” Fisher-Wirth added.

Nixon is the author of four books, most recently “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor” (Harvard University Press 2011), which has been awarded an American Book Award and three other prizes. He is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and his writing has also appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, London Review of Books, Times Literary Supplement, Village Voice and The Guardian.

He has been a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a MacArthur Foundation Peace and Security Award.

The lecture is sponsored by UM environmental studies minor, the College of Liberal Arts, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, the Southern Documentary Project at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, and the English and history departments.

Nixon is the third annual Earth Day speaker. Sandra Steingraber, an environmental toxicologist, delivered the inaugural lecture, which featured the work and legacy of Rachel Carson, and addressed issues concerning fracking. Last year, Janisse Ray, environmental activist and poet, gave a talk about seed preservation, sustainability and biodiversity in agriculture.

Living Blues Magazine’s ’44-Year Oral History Project’

Magazine owned by UM's Center for the Study of Southern Culture has been chronicling the experiences of blues musicians since 1970

From its humble beginnings in the basement of a Chicago home in 1970, Living Blues magazine has become the preeminent publication for the blues. For 44 years, Living Blues has told the story of the African-American Blues experience. The magazine is printed bimonthly and has a circulation of about 20,000 and a fan base that stretches over 100 countries.

Living Blues struggled in Chicago before being purchased by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in 1983 and has been published out of the university ever since. As Mississippi is the birthplace of the blues, it made perfect sense to relocate to the state.

“Living Blues is basically a 44-year ongoing oral history project,” Brett Bonner, editor of the magazine, said.  “We let the blues artists speak about their experience.”

A sociologist by trade, Bonner sees the magazine as a cultural document focusing on the African American experience within the larger narrative of American history.

“That’s another thing that feels important about Living Blues is that we’re documenting something that, in a lot of cases, is overlooked and not documented in other places,” Bonner said. “The history of the blues is part of the history of the African-American experience in America.”

Living Blues is known for its long feature stories full of exposition from the subject about their lives and careers. In 44 years, the magazine has conducted over 2,000 interviews with blues men and women all over the country. Many of the stories these artists have told date back to the early 1900s.

When asked why preserving the blues was important, Bonner points out that the music “speaks to truths. The lyrics of the songs are about real life.” And now is the time to preserve these stories as more great blues musicians men die every year. Bonner sees the magazine as a labor of love, not just on his part, but also on the part of those who contribute to each issue.

Living Blues received a historical marker on the Mississippi Blues Trail from the state of Mississippi in 2009. It is located outside of Barnard Observatory. They were also honored as a past recipient of the Blues Foundation’s prestigious “Keeping the Blues Alive” award.

For more information on Living Blues visit their website at www.livingblues.com.


Consciousness Conference Bringing ‘World-Class’ Experts to Campus

Philosophers and cognitive scientists to discuss human and animal consciousness April 27-30 in free events

conciousnessOXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi hosts the “Conscious Thought and Thought About Consciousness” conference April 27-30, bringing “world-class” philosophers and cognitive scientists to campus.

The event is scheduled for the E.F. Yerby Conference Center, and all events are free and open to the public.

Leaders in several fields, including philosophy and neuroscience, will converge on campus to promote cutting-edge work in hopes of creating better understanding of human and animal consciousness, its relation to the brain and how humans think about sentient beings, among other topics, said Donovan Wishon, UM assistant professor of philosophy.

“What’s particularly remarkable about this event is that it will bring together scholars with vastly different views about consciousness, thought and the methods we should use to come to grips with the mind, its workings and its relation to physical reality,” Wishon said. “What’s more, the conference is intended to educate the students and the general public about how philosophy, and the humanities in general, can work side-by-side with the sciences to answer fundamental questions about who we are and what our place is in the world.”

The event is sponsored by the UM departments of philosophy and religion, and psychology, and the university’s College of Liberal Arts, the Office of the Provost, University Lecture Series and Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. It’s also co-sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council, the Mississippi Philosophical Association and the Mississippi State University Department of Philosophy and Religion.

For more information, click this link to a website devoted to the event. For assistance related to a disability issue, contact the UM Department of Philosophy and Religion at 662-915-7020.

UM Hosts Annual Green Week Celebration April 22-25

Author Rob Nixon to deliver Earth Day keynote lecture

UM Green Week

UM Green Week features an eco-fashion show and gala.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s sixth annual Green Week celebration kicks off on Earth Day (April 22) with the goal of opening a campuswide dialogue about sustainability.

Rob Nixon, author of “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor” (Harvard University Press, 2011), will deliver the Earth Day keynote lecture at 7 p.m. that day at the Overby Center. His session focuses on complex global issues related to sustainability, including “slow violence,” the slowly unfolding environmental effects that are often underpublicized or unnoticed.

“As we educate and support the development of the next generation for responsible citizenship, we consider these global issues to be of critical importance to their preparation,” said Anne McCauley, assistant director of the UM Office of Sustainability. “Changing behaviors and habits are important, but equally important is understanding the larger context behind why we advocate for these changes. We hope Green Week brings to light both actions for individual responsibility as well as awareness of social, environmental and economic challenges that need to be addressed.

The week’s events include Business in the Green, during which representatives from International Paper, Project Green Fork and Toyota will share sustainable strategies and operational practices in the workplace. The event is set for 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Oxford Conference Center.

Other events include the annual eco-fashion show and gala, which features outfits made from uncommon materials, and the annual Green Week Sustainability Fair. The fair will feature plastic bag knitting, an on-campus farmers market and displays from several university groups.

An Arbor Day tree planting and celebration in the Grove conclude the week’s activities on Friday.

“It is a week where we, as a community, can build our environmental conscience and strengthen our commitment to lowering our global impact,” said Kendall McDonald, a junior public policy major from Bay St. Louis who serves as the Office of Sustainability’s Green Week intern. “Green Week also plays an invaluable educational role by engaging those who have not previously been exposed to environmental issues.”

All events are free and open to the public. Green Week events are sponsored by the UM Office of Sustainability, Environmental Studies Minor, Students for a Green Campus, Landscape Services, the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, Jim Keras Subaru, the College of Liberal ArtsSouthern Documentary ProjectCroft Institute for International StudiesSally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, the UM departments of English and history, and the city of Oxford.

2014 Green Week Schedule of Events

Tuesday, April 22

Business in the Green – 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Oxford Conference Center

Earth Day keynote address – 7 p.m., Overby Center, speaker, Rob Nixon, “Slow Violence, Environmental Activism and the Arts”

Wednesday, April 23

Green Week Sustainability Fair – 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Student Union Plaza

Udall Scholarship Workshop – 4 p.m., Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Room 311

Eco Fashion Show and Gala – 7 p.m., Bryant Hall

Friday, April 23

Arbor Day Tree Planting and Celebration – 11:30 a.m., Grove

For more information, contact Ann McCauley at green@olemiss.edu.

UM Professor Wins Poetry Award

Derrick Harriell wins the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

OXFORD, Miss. – Derrick Harriell, a University of Mississippi assistant professor of English and African-American studies, has the won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award for his new collection of poems, “Ropes.”

Founded in 1978, MIAL aims to recognize the elite in fiction, nonfiction, visual art, musical composition, photography and poetry. The award is coveted and highly competitive.

“Receiving the news that my collection of poems ‘Ropes’ won the MIAL Award was gratifying in so many ways,” Harriell said. “I’m happy contributing to the high standard set by our English department and MFA program. Having only been in Oxford for a year-and-a-half, I’m pleased to be embraced both personally and professionally.”

In 2010, Harriell composed his first collection of poems, “Cotton.” For the follow-up, “Ropes,” he focused on the lives of black boxers in America.

Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee. He has a Ph.D. in English from University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and a M.F.A in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He has worked as an assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and The Cream City Review and has taught countless writing workshops for students of all ages. He is a two-time Pushcart Nominee and his work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies.

The award reflects well on the university, said Ivo Kamps, professor and chair of the UM Department of English.

“This is quite an honor for Derrick, for the department and the university,” Kamps said. “(Harriell) is relatively new to the university and the state of Mississippi, but he is already making a significant impact on our literary culture and our students. We are pleased and fortunate to have him on our faculty.”

Civil War Research Lecture

Civil War Historian to Deliver Burnham Lecture

OXFORD, Miss. – Carol Reardon, military historian of the Civil War, will discuss providing for the families of Gettysburg’s fallen soldiers April 17 at the University of Mississippi.

Reardon’s presentation, at 6 p.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium, is free and open to the public. Named the 2014 Burnham Lecturer in Civil War History, Reardon plans to examine “Sorrow and Survival: Providing for the Families of Gettysburg’s Soldier Dead.”

John Neff, director of the UM Center for Civil War Research, praised Reardon as one of the foremost authorities on the military history of the Civil War.

“Reardon is an engaging and dynamic speaker,” Neff said. “She has a genuine passion for understanding the military history of the Civil War through its multi-faceted human dimensions.  She is a real treasure and we are very fortunate to have her on campus.”

Reardon is the George Winfree Professor of American History at Pennsylvania State University. She is a military historian of the Civil War who incorporates political and social history into her research of military doctrine and training. She has published a number of works on Civil War military history, including the award winning “Pickett’s Charge in History and Memory.” She is working on a military history of the Civil War’s Eastern Theater, which will be published in the University of North Carolina Press’ upcoming Littlefield Series.

Each April, the Center for Civil War Research invites a distinguished historian to the university to deliver a lecture on the Civil War era. Van Robinson Burnham, a Mississippi native and UM alumnus whose lifelong love of history and archaeology prompted his generous support for the center, made this lecture series possible.




UM Professor Publishes Book on African Drum and Dance Ensembles

George Dor hopes to educate western audiences about West African music and dance traditions

dr dor relaseOXFORD, Miss. – With the first-ever published ethnographic study of West African drumming and dance in North American universities, George Worlasi Kwasi Dor offers readers a glimpse of one of Africa’s most compelling art forms while modeling true intercultural communication.

Characterized by vibrant rhythms, expressive movement and meaningful storytelling, West African dance drumming has developed through the years into an important campus subculture at universities where this music genre has been embraced.

Dor, an associate professor of music at the University of Mississippi, explores the history, differences and impact of performance courses on African ethnic dance drumming across the U.S. and Canada in “West African Drumming and Dance in North American Universities: An Ethnomusicological Perspective” (University Press of Mississippi, 2014). Through a faculty research fellowship, Dor was able to travel to several schools to study some of the most renowned West African dance-and-drum ensembles, including those at UCLA, University of California at Berkeley, Wesleyan University, Pittsburgh, Tufts and the University of Toronto.

His book also covers the creation of UM’s own African Drum and Dance Ensemble, known as OMADDE, and the key players who helped Dor’s planted seed come into fruition.

In 2003, after the university acquired several carved Ghanaian drums, Dor founded the first African dance ensemble in Mississippi. Through his direction, the OMADDE is able to bring Dor’s interest of African music study and message of love to Oxford.

“In our own way, we are advocates,” Dor said. “We are preaching the message of love, of diversity and multiculturalism on campus.”

The OMADDE concerts have provided engaging experiences with African culture to Ole Miss and the surrounding area for years, said Robert Riggs, UM chair and professor of music.

“Dor was ideally qualified to write this book, because he could draw both on his own practical experience as well as on his background as a widely published scholar of African music,” Riggs said. “I anticipate that his book will be received as a major contribution to a field that is of increasing importance on American campuses.”

Dor, who is originally from Ghana, emphasizes the dance traditions of his homeland in his teaching.

“Africa is so vast,” Dor said. “People tend to view Africa in a monolithic manner, whereas a single African nation-state has several ethnic groups. I come from Ghana, where the major traditions are Akan, Ewe, Ga.”

One of the songs that OMADDE has performed, called “Let’s Move on to Our Destination,” has a subtle, yet poignant message in its lyrics:

 “We’ve come so far, but because of human nature, we will make mistakes. But we will correct ourselves with and in love. Let us zoom ahead because we are pretty close to the destination.”

African Music and Dance is offered in the music department as a credit-earning course. And throughout the years, many students from different backgrounds and countries have participated in the ensemble, as well as faculty and others in the Oxford community.

“George and other ethnomusicology scholars like him have taken this genre of music and ‘transcontinentalized’ it for our western appreciation and enjoyment,” said Donald Cole, assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “George’s text serves as part of a diversity manuscript that he directs us through at the University of Mississippi. He brings this text alive in concerts held on campus. There, the theory meets the practice and one enjoys a total appreciation of West African drumming and dance.”

Dor hopes that the book not only serves as a model where African drum and dance ensembles can learn from one another, but as a tool to create awareness and garner greater support.

“There is a tendency here to emphasize only western music and traditions,” Dor noted. “African drumming and dance has been going on for over 50 years in the U.S. and Canada, but I am the first to write about this genre.

“I’m dreaming of a time where we will all see the importance of this. The ensemble is proof that diversity can be performed, as may be evident in the composition of the ensemble, participation of the audience dancing on stage or the message of songs.”

UM Students Chosen to Perform with the Best in the Business

Dance and theatre students get opportunity to collaborate with David Dorfman Dance Company

David Dorfman spends time with UM students at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts earlier this semester.

David Dorfman spends time with UM students at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts earlier this semester.

OXFORD, Miss. – A group of 11 University of Mississippi students is set to perform an original 15-minute dance piece as part of David Dorfman Dance Company’s show “Prophets of Funk” at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts.

The collaboration is part of Ford Center’s programs in conjunction with the South’s Arts’ Dance Touring Initiative. The show is at 7 p.m. April 9. Tickets are $33 each and are available by calling the UM Box Office at 662-915-7411 or online. Special pricing is available for UM faculty, staff, students and retirees. Proper ID is required, and the number of discounted tickets is limited.

In January, dancers from David Dorfman Dance spent three days with Ole Miss dance and theatre students. Jennifer Mizenko, UM professor of theatre arts, says she is grateful to Norm Easterbrook, Ford Center director, for writing the grant that allowed this project to happen. The chance to construct choreography that will be incorporated into a professional performance is a first for the students and for Mizenko.

“What is unique about this opportunity is that the work is actually an extension of a piece the David Dorfman Company will be performing, and we will be performing with this professional company at the Ford Center,” Mizenko said. “It is always exciting to have a guest artist come in and set a work on the students, and we are excited for be a part of the whole production process, from rehearsal, to tech to performance in early April.”

The David Dorfman Dance Company was founded in 1985 and has performed in North and South America, Great Britain and Europe, while being based in New York. David Dorfman and the company’s dancers and collaborators have been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts, three New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships, an American Choreographer’s Award, the first Paul Taylor Fellowship from The Yard, and eight New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Awards.

“Prophets of Funk” has been performed 34 times in 24 venues, including The Joyce Theatre in New York, the Lincoln Center Out of Doors festival and a six-night sold-out run at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Beckett, Mass.

The students are excited by the opportunity to collaborate with a professional dance troupe, said David McKell, a freshman from Starkville who is part of the UM dance company.

“I feel that it is a wonderful opportunity not only to further our skills as dancers, but also to meet some wonderful people who are in the business,” McKell said. “It has been a wonderful learning opportunity. Everybody we met has been very willing to give advice and tell stories, which creates a wonderful atmosphere.”