UM Receives $575,000 Grant to Maintain VISTA Project

College of Liberal Arts given federal funding for fifth consecutive year

Susan Nicholas (left), North MS VISTA Project assistant director at UM, welcomes new volunteers Allen and Susan Spore.

Susan Nicholas (left), North Mississippi VISTA Project assistant director at UM, welcomes new volunteers Allen and Susan Spore.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts  is leading the fight against poverty through education, thanks in part to a federally-funded volunteer program.

The North Mississippi Volunteers in Service to America project entered its fifth year of funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Directed by Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the college, VISTA brings more than $575,000 annually into the region.

“In the last four years, VISTA has partnered with university departments, local nonprofits and schools in rural areas to build and strengthen programs that fight poverty through education,” Monroe said. “Our VISTAs serve with passion and energy. They are selfless people who work behind the scenes to improve lives in Mississippi.”

Examples of VISTA projects include a back-to-school fair in Tupelo that benefited thousands of low-income students, a community mentoring program to help children in the DeSoto County Youth Court system, tutoring and fundraising collaborations between UM’s LuckyDay Academic Success Program and Crenshaw Elementary School in Panola County, and the Horizons Summer Learning Program on the Ole Miss campus.

Most VISTAs have been recent graduates from UM programs, such as the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Doug Odom, a 2013 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in classics and English, spent last year building academic support programs for low-income college students and raising funds and recruiting volunteers for youth programs. He is attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University this fall.

“The most fulfilling aspect of the VISTA project, at least in my eyes, is the fact that it’s so focused on education,” said the Jackson native, who launched an after-school and summer program in Abbeville during his time as a VISTA. “I had the chance to help coordinate educational programs for elementary students in impoverished areas, as well as programs for first-generation college students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The students may have differed in age, but the underlying focus of all of the programs was the same: improving education in my home state.”

Many other VISTAs have followed a similar path, going into graduate programs at New York University, the University of Georgia, Harvard University and Stanford University.

“VISTA service benefits include a living allowance and education award,” said Susan Nicholas, assistant director of the program. “I believe the greatest benefit is the professional experience volunteers receive while honing their skills in program development, fundraising and engaging in diverse communities. All these are important to future employers and graduate school admissions committees.”

Although most VISTAs come from the university, others such as Susan and Allen Spore of Oakland, California, are recruited from out-of-state. The retired couple will be stationed at different schools in north Panola County.

“We had been researching for full-time volunteer programs, including the Peace Corps and VISTA, and were interested in working with youth and in public schools,” Susan Spore said. “We did extensive research on the Internet and felt the University of Mississippi had the best all-around VISTA support and had projects that were in line with our interests.”

The couple’s son, a Jackson attorney, encouraged them to consider Mississippi. After visiting Oxford, the Spores decided that it would be a great place to live during their assignment.

“My short-term goal is to start a literacy reading program for the lower grades at Crenshaw Elementary,” Susan Spore said. “A long-term goal is to develop and train volunteers to expand the program and ensure sustainability and investigate the feasibility of writing programs.”

Her husband shared similar objectives.

“My short-term plan is to assess the needs for college/career awareness programs, determine potential resources and partners, and recommend possible programs for the North Panola High School,” Allen Spore said. “My first long-term goal is to develop and implement college/career awareness programs, including recruiting volunteers to staff the programs and ensure sustainability. Secondly, I want to develop a fine art photography program for North Panola High/ Junior High and to recruit volunteers to implement and sustain the program.”

Monroe said he is grateful to CNCS for the work made possible by its grant.

“We’re inspired everyday by our VISTAs,” he said. “They are people of action who are strengthening our state.”

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact Susan Nicholas at or 662-915-1905.

Janai Walton Impresses as Intern at Semmes Murphey

UM senior gained practical experience while gaining a passion for health care

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Janai Walton speaking with Ole Miss Alum and CEO, John Lewis.

OXFORD, Miss. – Everybody is familiar with the satisfaction of a job well done. But for many college students, that doesn’t necessarily translate to having high spirits about their prospective careers. Luckily for Janai Walton, her internship this summer provided both the satisfaction of good work and a career path she can be passionate about.

Walton, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Mississippi, interned for the Semmes Murphey Foundation, which specializes in technology and procedures pertaining to neurological and spinal disorders.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field,” said Walton, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee. “At first, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but a family member exposed me to pharmacy, which is now what I want to do.”

A family friend had notified Walton that the foundation would be offering internships for the first time this summer. She was chosen among a dozen summer interns to receive college credit while also gaining valuable experience in the medical field.

“It was a real good experience for me. This basically solidified this as my chosen profession,” Walton said. “Everything was straightforward and hands-on. I never got out of my comfort zone and everyone there made me feel very comfortable.”

Most of Walton’s work revolved around creating spreadsheets for various medications as well as shadowing the doctors and nurses. Surgical procedures are not for the faint of heart, but Walton was calm and collective throughout the summer.

“I was able to look in on surgeries and get real practical experience,” she said. “The opportunity to witness the whole surgical procedure was the biggest takeaway. For us even to be in the room, the patients had to sign off and OK it. It was definitely what I expected. It was crazy.”

Walton already knew that she wanted to a career in the medical field, but still would urge other students to take advantage of internship opportunities while still in school.

“Everyone should take the experience because areas can be so broad,” she said. “You never know until you are put in that situation.”

After such an eventful summer with her internship, Walton said she cannot wait to finish up her remaining courses and be able to apply what she learned.

“I really think this experience will give me more passion in my studies,” she said. “The journey in my studies has been hectic, but now I know it was all for a purpose. I know that journey was worth it.”

Following dreams and being satisfied with the outcomes are becoming less and less likely in this technological business climate, but not for Walton. Her dreams are on the cusp of coinciding with the ultimate satisfaction of finding the career she has wanted all along.

Third Annual Racial Reconciliation Week Set for Sept. 7-12 at UM

Events include 'Lunch and Learn' with Ross Bjork and Derrick Evans, Will Campbell Plaza dedication

William Winter Institute

William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Athletics and the university’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation are sponsoring a slate of activities for the third annual Racial Reconciliation Week, which runs Tuesday through Saturday (Sept. 7-12).

Entering its third year, Racial Reconciliation Week is dedicated to promoting racial equality and encouraging dialogue throughout campus and the Oxford-Lafayette County community. The observance is critical to helping the university meet its core mission goals, Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks said.

“The University of Mississippi is committed to promoting diversity and creating an inclusive community on the Ole Miss campus,” Stocks said. “It is our hope that this partnership between the William Winter Institute and Ole Miss athletics will shine a spotlight on diversity issues and bring our community together to fight for racial equality and help end discrimination.”

Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork and outgoing Chancellor Dan Jones were recently recognized as the first recipients of the NCAA’s Champions of Diversity and Inclusion award for their efforts in spearheading Racial Reconciliation Week. The award recognizes the work of those in athletics to create opportunities for people in underrepresented populations to advance into senior leadership positions, demonstrate longevity or consistency in their support, or initiate or coordinate cultural change in an athletics department or at an NCAA member school in matters related to college sports.

“Athletics is proud to partner with the William Winter Institute and host Racial Reconciliation Week as a testament that we should strive to create as much harmony in the world as we possibly can,” Bjork said. “In the spirit of Gov. Winter, we must continue the fight against injustices that we see around the world and utilizing the platform of athletics, we can showcase that there is still work to be done, but we are moving in the right direction each and every day.”

Highlights from the week’s programing include a “Lunch and Learn” session with Bjork, who will discuss the background of Racial Reconciliation Week, the athletics department’s relationship with the William Winter Institute and recognition of diversity efforts by the NCAA. A screening of the documentary “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle of Turkey Creek,” and a “Lunch and Learn” with producer Derrick Evans also is planned.

Additionally, a panel will examine diversity in athletics, and the Winter Institute will dedicate Will Campbell Plaza. The observance will conclude Saturday (Sept. 12) with in-game recognition of Racial Reconciliation Week at the Ole Miss vs. Fresno State football game, where the Nathaniel Northington Groundbreaker in Athletics Award will be presented.

“It is our daily mission to provide leadership, serve others and embrace all members of society, regardless of their background or differences,” Bjork said. “As the flagship university of the state of Mississippi, we are humbled we can give back in a meaningful way.”

Racial Reconciliation week will kick off in earnest Tuesday, following the Labor Day holiday. Tuesday’s events feature the “Lunch and Learn” with Bjork from noon to 1 p.m. at the Grill at 1810. The day’s activities conclude with the showing of “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle of Turkey Creek” at 7 p.m. at Luckyday Residential College. The movie documents the painful, but inspiring, journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moved home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors were bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his neighbors stood up to powerful corporate interests and politicians, and faced Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.

On Wednesday, producer Evans will conduct a “Lunch and Learn: from noon to 1 p.m. in Bryant Hall.

At 7 p.m., a panel examines diversity in athletics in Overby Auditorium. The panel will feature several former Ole Miss student-athletes and Nathaniel Northington, the first African-American football player in the SEC. Northington broke the color barrier by becoming the first African-American to play any SEC sport when the University of Kentucky played Ole Miss in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1967. The author of “Still Running,” Northington received the inaugural Groundbreaker in Athletics award in 2013.

“I am thrilled about the 2015 Racial Reconciliation Week events,” said Jennifer Saxon, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development. “We have expanded our on-campus partnerships to include student housing, fraternity and sorority life, and the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. We have worked with our campus partners to provide educational opportunities, for not only our students, but also faculty, staff and our stakeholders. We are proud of the work that has been done thus far and believe that the programs will be positive, not only for the University of Mississippi, but (for) the Oxford and Lafayette communities.”

Friday’s activities feature the dedication of the Will Campbell Plaza outside Paris-Yates Chapel. The week’s events conclude Saturday with the Ole Miss vs. Fresno State football game at 2:30 p.m., featuring in-game recognition of Racial Reconciliation Week.

In addition to the dedication of the Will Campbell Plaza, the William Winter Institute will present two awards during the week: the Florence Mars and Betty Pearson Commitment to the Movement award and the James Meredith Youth Activism Award.

Al Butler, a Washington, D.C., native who died in February 2012 at age 82, was a U.S. Marshal during the 1950s and ’60s. He served at the university during and after the riots surrounding the enrollment of James Meredith in 1962 and helped protect the four young girls who, in 1960, integrated two of New Orleans’ public schools. Butler will be awarded the Florence Mars and Betty Pearson Commitment to the Movement award, while Robert Wilson Jr., a senior at Greenwood High School, will receive the James Meredith Youth Activism award.

In 2013, Wilson attended the Winter Institute’s Summer Youth Institute, where youths develop a project based on needs in their home communities. While at the institute, Wilson conceived Youth for Change, which promotes positive change by educating Greenwood’s youth about things they don’t encounter in class, such as anti-bullying, civil rights history and sex education.

“Gov. Winter loves to recognize those who help the cause of civil rights, young and old,” said Susan M. Glisson, Winter Institute executive director, referring to the former Mississippi governor, who turned 92 in February. “We’re humbled to honor what Al Butler did in the past, and what Robert Wilson is doing now for the future of Mississippi. And how lucky are we to do so with Ross Bjork and the Ole Miss athletic department during Racial Reconciliation Week”

The Winter Institute works in communities and classrooms in Mississippi and beyond to support a movement of racial equity and wholeness as a pathway to ending and transcending all discrimination based on differences.

The week’s full schedule includes:

Tuesday (Sept. 8)

– “Lunch and Learn” featuring Athletics Director Ross Bjork, noon at the Grill at 1810

– Screening of “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle of Turkey Creek,” 7 p.m. at the Luckyday Residential College

Wednesday (Sept. 9)

– “Lunch and Learn” featuring producer Derrick Evans, noon at Bryant Hall

Thursday (Sept. 10)

– Panel on Diversity in Athletics, 7 p.m. in Overby Auditorium

Friday (Sept. 11)

– Will Campbell Plaza Dedication, 2 p.m. on the plaza outside Paris-Yates Chapel

Saturday (Sept. 12)

– Ole Miss vs. Fresno State football game, 2:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium

A Decade Later, Katrina Evokes Strong Memories

UM recalls deadly storm, the response and lessons learned

A team from Ole Miss helps clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport. Photo by Robert Jordan

A team from Ole Miss helps clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport. Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss – On Aug. 29, 2005, Mississippi was changed forever as Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in United States history, ravaged the Gulf Coast, killing hundreds of people in the state and displacing thousands.

When the storm passed through, recovery efforts began immediately. Emergency agencies and personnel partnered with research institutions to get many forms of aid to the damaged area as soon as possible. The University of Mississippi, far enough north of the storm’s landfall to avoid significant damage, was able to respond in a variety of ways, as students collected and sent relief supplies to shattered communities and faculty members and students helped counsel evacuees and provide vital information to rescuers.

Almost immediately after the storm passed through the state, a team from the UM School of Engineering headed south to help in preparing maps and images for emergency response personnel and decision makers using Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. Gregory Easson, director of the UM Geoinformatics Center and professor of geology and geological engineering, took several graduate students and their equipment to Jackson to help develop a variety of maps needed by personnel in the emergency response center and in the field.

“There were a lot of people who just wanted to help,” Easson said.

Just two days following the storm, Easson and five graduate students, along with other university partners and government agencies, were set up at an emergency operations center in Jackson to make maps of everything from locations of food and ice distribution sites to cell tower coverage.

Another important service provided by the GIS support volunteers was geocoding addresses of Mississippians in need of medical help or evacuation. These maps were critical because most landmarks and street signs were destroyed in the storm, making it difficult for rescue workers to find people who needed help. Whenever the National Guard received a call with an address, the GIS team converted that address to geographic coordinates that could be used to find the person in need.

Other maps showing damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were used by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for personnel briefings, and maps created to illustrate the progress in restoring electrical power provided a good indicator of the recovery progress. The maps were distributed via the media, used in press briefings and by decision makers at MEMA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The students were getting to use what they learned in their coursework in a vital, real-life situation,” Easson said. “It was an incredibly gratifying experience to see the amount of people that stepped up to help any way they could.”

Due to the mass outage of electricity and cell towers, many Gulf Coast-area students attending Ole Miss were unable to contact family members, said Sparky Reardon, who was the university’s dean of students at the time.

“After the storm, a father from San Antonio called me because he couldn’t get in touch with his daughter,” Reardon said. “She had a Coast telephone number and since the towers were out, nothing would go through. Someone suggested to try texting her. Shortly after that, she found a landline and called us in tears, excited that we were able to put her through to her father. That was great to be able to help with.”

The Office of the Dean of Students offered practical advice for students traveling to help their parents in the damaged area, including road damage information, and helped coordinate with instructors about class absences, Reardon said.

“The amount of issues we were dealing with was incredible,” he said.

He took the efforts a step further that October, leading a team of students to the Gulf Coast to assemble furniture for a Long Beach public school so that classes could resume.

Student groups organized collection drives on campus that netted two truckloads of bottled water, canned food and paper goods that were sent to agencies coordinating relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

The university also established a fund for Ole Miss students displaced by the storm. Alumni, students, football fans and other donors contributed more than $250,000 to the fund, which provided direct financial assistance to more than 400 students affected by the hurricane.

On Oct. 1, 2005, the university also hosted a star-studded telethon to raise money for Gulf Coast recovery efforts. “Mississippi Rising,” a three-hour program broadcast live on MSNBC from Tad Smith Coliseum, was organized by Ole Miss alumnus and former Hollywood agent Sam Haskell. The event, which featured more than three dozen celebrities, raised more than $15 million for the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.

Stefan Schulenberg, a UM associate professor of psychology, and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have conducted research on the long-term psychological impact of the storm, in one study examining the relationship between self-efficacy and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Schulenberg was also involved in the mental health response to Katrina. Following the storm, evacuees began to head north, many coming to Oxford, where an American Red Cross Resource Center was established at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center. Evacuees were provided with a variety of aid, including food, water and mental health assistance.

While the primary focus was on helping survivors of the storm, these efforts also gave UM graduate students a way to train in clinical disaster psychology in a real-life, critical scenario.

These research and service experiences laid the groundwork for Schulenberg and his team to study the psychological impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill among Gulf Coast communities. Both Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill were integral to the development of the university’s Clinical-Disaster Research Center in 2012. Schulenberg serves as director of the center, which is dedicated to research, training and service work in the area of disaster mental health.

“Through the center, we hope to train our graduate students in clinical psychology how best to assist mental health efforts during a time of disaster,” Schulenberg said. “Disaster preparedness, mitigation and response should be key focal areas for the state of Mississippi in preparation for the next disaster.”

UM Arabic Student Awarded Prestigious Boren Scholarship

Corey Fuller will spend the fall 2015 semester in Jordan studying the language

Corey Fuller

Corey Fuller

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi student majoring in Arabic is the recipient of a prestigious Boren Scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

Corey Fuller, a senior from Pinson, Alabama, will study the language in Jordan this fall. Fuller, whose award covers up to $10,000 per semester, plans on using the funds to cover all the costs of studying abroad that his ROTC scholarship does not cover.

“I am truly thankful for all the people who have helped me through this process and to the Boren Scholarship people for allowing me to broaden my Arabic language skills and greatly enhance my readiness for service in the U.S. military,” said Fuller, who has a minor in military science. “By receiving this award, I will be able to focus more on my studies rather than how I will be able to pay for the language immersion program. This scholarship truly relieves the financial burden I would have incurred if I had not received it.”

Fuller is the 17th UM student since 2000 to earn a Boren Scholarship to advance his or her language skills while studying abroad. This is the first Boren award to UM for Arabic study.

While attending UM, Fuller also received a Project Global scholarship, was inducted into the Phi Kappa Phi honors society and presented other various awards.

“The Boren Scholarship to me is a culmination of all these awards because I believe it is my past experiences that made me competitive for the scholarship,” Fuller said. “All my scholarships and awards I have received in academia have either been from the university or Army ROTC. I am glad to see that I can compete in a broader pool of applicants comparative to what I am accustomed to.”

Following his post-graduation commission as a second lieutenant in the U. S. Army, Fuller is anticipating active duty wherever it may take him. The Boren Scholarship allows him to enhance his readiness by sharpening his Arabic language skills and his knowledge of other cultures.

“We do not know when, where or how the next war will be fought,” Fuller said. “It is my job to be the most prepared I can be because I owe it to the American people and the soldiers I will lead to be the most competent leader. In order to accomplish that, I must be culturally competent and able to effectively communicate, partner, influence and operate in complex joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environments.”

UM officials said Fuller’s award is definitely deserved.

“Determination is Corey Fuller’s greatest asset,” said Allen Clark, assistant professor of modern languages and Fuller’s Arabic instructor for the past three years. “Corey’s determination sees him through those muddy times and keeps him soaring, and pushes him to attempt difficult challenges, such as learning Arabic, a language he is certain to master.

“The Boren Scholarship brings with it great prestige, not only to Corey, but to our program, college and university as well. Needless to say, I am proud to have grown to know him as a person, as well as a young scholar and leader. “

Debra Young, associate dean of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said Fuller is “a terrific match for a terrific opportunity.”

“Corey showed up at my office with a plan for where to study, what to study and why to study it, and how it all fit into his future plans and commitment,” said Young, former director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement housed in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. “Winning a Boren takes enthusiasm and ambition, but it also takes a lot of hard work and self-assessment. Corey was aces in all areas.”

Any scholarship that provides money for students to study abroad is advantageous for the Department of Modern Languages, said Tim Dolan, director of the national scholarship advisement office. “By allowing Fuller to study the language in the cultural, political and social context in which it is used, it also allows him to experience different styles of education and take in a new culture.

“There are also opportunities to make lifelong friends and foster personal development. Such experiences can make students attractive graduate school candidates or help with the future job hunt.”

Boren Scholarships, an initiative of the National Security Education Program, provide unique funding opportunities for American undergraduate students to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to U.S. interests, and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. Recipients represent a vital pool of motivated individuals who wish to work in the federal national security arena. In exchange for funding, they commit to working in the federal government for at least one year after graduation.

Alumnus Douglas Odom Using Talents at AmeriCorps VISTA

His goals revolve around helping improve education, life in Mississippi

Douglas Odom

Douglas Odom on the Inca Trail in Peru.

OXFORD, Miss. – Students are encouraged to engage in community service as part of the learning experience at the University of Mississippi. Douglas Odom, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and classics in 2013, took those lessons and made them a core part of his life.

During his time as a student, Odom served the university and community in many ways. He was a part of the Columns Society and UM Judicial Council, and he worked as an Ole Miss Ambassador, orientation leader and committee member for the Big Event in 2012 and 2013.

After graduation, Odom decided to take a little time off to travel with his father. They spent 15 months of adventuring in the Western Hemisphere: dog sledding in Canada, hiking the Inca Trail in Peru, zip lining in Costa Rica, scuba diving in the Atlantic, Pacific, Caribbean and Cenotes Caverns of Mexico and visiting nearly half the Major League Baseball stadiums across the nation.

His love of the university and the state of Mississippi drew him back to Oxford in fall 2014. Since then, Odom has been serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the North Mississippi VISTA Project. He worked alongside Stephen Monroe in the College of Liberal Arts with programs such as FASTrack and College Corps. Other partners are nonprofits, including More Than a Meal, the Boys and Girls Club and some schools, including Della Davidson Elementary and Bramlett Elementary.

“Doug has successfully developed programs for college students, organized field trips for high school students and strengthened summer learning and after school programs for elementary students,” said Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “Doug cares about education. He is a fabulous colleague with a bright future.”

Odom has also been working closely with Janice Carr, a university employee and Abbeville resident, and her project at the Gordon Community and Cultural Center. She and other board members at the center launched a seven-week summer enrichment for 40 elementary students in the county this summer. Odom worked with local businesses and organizations to provide food, school supplies and other general funding to help make the summer enrichment program a success.

Odom is the 12th member of his family to graduate from UM, following his father, mother, three aunts, three cousins, two brothers and a sister-in-law.

Next year, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration from the Peabody College of Education and Human Development at Vanderbilt University. Based on advice he received from mentors at Ole Miss, Odom thinks he has a good idea of what he wants to do moving forward.

“I want to venture out and learn everything I can from other universities, but the ultimate goal is to bring what I learn back to Ole Miss,” Odom said. “So many of our native Mississippi children grow up here and then, first chance they get, they leave. We need more Mississippians to stick around, or at least to come back after leaving.

“That was always my mentality. I knew I wanted to give back to the state that has been so good to me as I’ve grown up. I may be leaving again in a few months to pursue higher education, but my plan will always be to come home.”

New Book Chronicles Ole Miss Band History, Funds Scholarships

“The Pride of the South: 1928-2014″ is written by Bill DeJournett.

‘The Pride of the South: 1928-2014′ is written by Bill DeJournett.

As they have for nearly 90 years, members of the University of Mississippi marching band, “The Pride of the South,” are set to begin practice this weekend (Aug. 15) to prepare for a fall season of football games, pep rallies and tailgate celebrations in the Grove.

The band has helped set the atmosphere at countless Ole Miss events over the years, and fans can learn about the group’s storied history in a new book that will help ensure the band’s future.

Complete with photographs and memories of all 11 of the band’s directors over the years, “The Pride of the South: 1928-2014″ is written by Bill DeJournett, the university’s associate director of bands.

DeJournett began working on the coffee table book almost four years ago. It includes interviews with all the living directors and many others who have been associated with the band throughout the years.

The cost of the book is $19.99 and is available for purchase here.

All proceeds beyond printing costs will go toward the “Friends of Note” Scholarship Endowment Fund, which provides general band scholarships. The fund allows the department to recruit and retain outstanding band members.

Fisher-Wirth Chosen as Fellow of Black Earth Institute

Ann Fisher-Wirth. Photo credit: Ivo Kamps.

Ann Fisher-Wirth. Photo credit: Ivo Kamps.

OXFORD, Miss. – Ann Fisher-Wirth, professor of English and director of the environmental studies program at the University of Mississippi, has been chosen as a fellow of the Black Earth Institute, a think tank of artists and scholars devoted to serving environmental and social causes with their art.

“I am very pleased to be chosen as a fellow for the Black Earth Institute,” Fisher-Wirth said. “It is a big honor and a wonderful validation of my work as a poet and environmental activist. It reflects on the support I have been given at the University of Mississippi, both as a member of the English department and as director of the minor in environmental studies.”

Fisher-Wirth was among seven, chosen from nearly 100 applicants, selected for the fellowship.

“Ann Fisher-Wirth has a reputation for being a strong environmentalist both in her professional and personal life,” said Ivo Kamps, chair of the UM Department of English. “Her commitment to leaving our planet a place our children and grandchildren can hope to enjoy is evident in her poetry and her teaching.”

Many of the courses within the English department that focus on literature and the environment are available to students because of Fisher-Wirth, he said.

“As director of the environmental studies minor, she continues to bring in many speakers and organizes events that expose our students to one of the most pressing issues of our time,” Kamps said. “Her selection as a fellow of the Black Earth Institute is a recognition of the important work she has done, is doing and will do in the future.”

Fellows are chosen every three years. Fisher-Wirth’s fellowship is a three-year term from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2018. The aim of the fellowship is to collaborate with other fellows and promote awareness of the Black Earth Institute’s mission.

Each year, the selected fellows gather in Black Earth, Wisconsin, with founder Michael McDermott and several former fellows and scholars to discuss social justice and environmental topics and share their individual experiences. Fellows also take turns editing special issues of the institute’s online journal, About Place.

Stamps Scholar Recognized by Autism Science Foundation

Dylan Ritter completes second summer conducting brain development research at Texas A&M

Scoot Dindot,left and Dylan Ritter, right.

Scoot Dindot,left and Dylan Ritter in Dindot’s lab.

OXFORD, Miss. – Dylan Ritter, a junior majoring in biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been recognized by the Autism Science Foundation as one of the top five undergraduates in the nation working on groundbreaking projects in the field of autism.

Ritter, a Stamps Scholar and member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is spending two months at Texas A&M University this summer working on an independent project to study brain development in mice with chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome, a type of autism commonly known as Dup15q. It’s a condition that hits close to home for Ritter.

When Ritter was just 4, his youngest brother, Travis, was diagnosed with Dup15q. While Ritter had an interest in learning more about the condition, he never really considered the possibility of pursuing autism research. Coming to Ole Miss with his eyes set on medical school, Ritter read an article on research being done to analyze Dup15q syndrome in mice being conducted by Scott Dindot at Texas A&M.

Inspired by what he read, Ritter contacted Dindot and was offered a summer job in Dindot’s lab after his freshman year. After working with Dindot, Ritter consulted with his UM mentors, Nathan Hammer, UM associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, who gave him the assistance and encouragement needed to change his major.

“Dr. Hammer has helped me figure out where I wanted to go, leading me towards the biochemical track of the chemistry degree and offering any help I needed,” Ritter said. “DSG helped me become interested in UM since my first visit on campus and has helped me explore the world outside Ole Miss by encouraging me to pursue opportunities I might usually be hesitant to.”

“Dylan Ritter breaks the mold,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “An incredible problem has gripped his soul and he is pouring his life into its solution. Dylan demonstrates how we should live as citizen scholars in our world today.”

Ritter completes his summer at Texas A&M as one of the top undergraduate researchers in his field. The prestigious honor from the Autism Science Foundation is accompanied by a grant to help fund his research. He received grants from the Honors College to fund his first trip and said they played an important role in his return this summer.

A native of New Jersey, Ritter plans to take a break to go home and visit with friends and family before returning to UM in a few weeks for his junior year.

Scholarship Donation to Assist Study Abroad Students

Gift honors UM alumnus and provides help for Mississippi students to learn through travel

Morgan Martin, right, and his father, Benjamin Martin.

Morgan Martin, right, and his father, Benjamin Martin.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students wanting to study abroad in Germany have a new opportunity to obtain financial assistance. Each year, a qualifying student can receive just over $1,000 to assist in the cost of the program.

Morgan Martin, of Alexandria, Virginia, has provided a donation to the university in honor of his father, Dr. Benjamin Franklin Martin III, for use as a study abroad scholarship. Morgan said he wanted to give back to the university that meant so much to his father.

“I wanted to honor my father’s memory by setting something up where he could have a lasting impact on other peoples’ lives,” Morgan said. “I hope this will provide an opportunity for people from Mississippi to venture out and explore the rest of the world while attending the university that meant so much to him.”

The Dr. Benjamin Franklin Martin III Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment will become available during the German Intensive Summer Program of 2016. Full-time undergraduate and graduate students with a major or minor in German are eligible, with first priority going to Mississippi residents.

“The Intensive Summer Program offers German majors and minors the unique opportunity to become more confident and capable speakers of German through immersion in the vibrant, metropolitan setting of Berlin,” said Dylan Goldblatt, instructor of German. “Morgan’s generous financial support of study abroad to Germany helps us grow and enhance the Berlin program and ensures that the Department of Modern Languages can train many more promising scholars in the years to come.”

During his time at Ole Miss, Benjamin Martin was involved with the German program as a student and grading assistant. It was his belief that learning a second language was the first step to a greater appreciation of the world around him. He also believed that traveling the world was an important and integral part of learning.

Benjamin Martin received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1960 from UM, where he was a member of Sigma Chi fraternity. He earned his M.D. at the UM Medical Center in Jackson and performed his specialty training in pathology at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences Center in Memphis.

Until his retirement in 2001, he was founder and managing partner of Columbus Pathology Laboratories in Columbus, where he had practiced medicine for more than 30 years. He retired to his hometown of Holly Springs to be closer to family and Ole Miss. He was an avid reader, world traveler and collector of art, notably of Mississippi artists and photographers.

To contribute to the Dr. Benjamin Franklin Martin III Memorial Study Abroad Scholarship Endowment, contact Angela Barlow Brown, UM director of development for special projects, at 662-915-3181 or