Native American Artifacts on Display at UM

Exhibits at Barnard Observatory, J.D. Williams Library include pottery, tools and decorative items


Maureen Meyers, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, documents the Native American artifacts as they are installed in display cases. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology will have many Native American artifacts from its archaeology collection on display in Barnard Observatory until mid-August. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, documents the Native American artifacts as they are installed in display cases. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Artifacts dating back to the 1400s offer a glimpse into the life of Native Americans in Mississippi through multiple exhibits over the next month at the University of Mississippi.

Barnard Observatory is housing an exhibit of “The Davies Collection: Mississippian Iconographic Vessels,” which features 15 ceramic vessels recovered from the Walls site in northwest Mississippi by physician Julius Davies in the early 20th century.

The items are part of the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Davies Collection, which includes about 270 items. The full university collection contains about 1,300 boxes of artifacts.

“These Davies vessels are unique because of their iconography, which show religious symbols of Native Americans who lived during the Mississippian period in the Southeastern United States,” said Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology.

Visitors can see these items in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays in Barnard Observatory until mid-August.

Many items in the collection have been used for continuing research of Native American culture in the Southeast.

“These artifacts are in need of a proper curation facility, so we can use them to their fullest extent and share with researchers across North America their research potential,” she said.

Meyers also added original drawings and photos of these artifacts taken by Calvin Brown, an amateur archaeologist and professor and chair of the UM Department of Modern Languages in the 1920s, to the exhibit.

Additionally, similar items are on display in the J.D. Williams Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections this summer and fall in conjunction with the university’s Common Reading Experience. Native American author Sherman Alexie wrote this year’s featured book, “Ten Little Indians.”

The exhibit, which is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through the fall semester, displays artifacts that offer a sneak peek into the breadth Native American ethnographic collection. It includes Alaskan Inuit objects such as a scrimshaw, harpoon hooks and wooden sun visors, a Southwestern Zuni pot, baskets from Northern California Indians, beaded work, moccasins and blankets made by Lakota Sioux and Cherokee in Oklahoma, and items from the Southeast, such as ceramic pots from the Walls site, stone tools and toli sticks used in games of stickball.

Meyers said all these items likely date to the 1920s, when they were procured.

“These items have the potential to contribute greatly to educating the public about Native Americans in our state,” Meyers said. “We hope these two exhibits give the UM community a sense of what rich resources we have.”

Interdisciplinary Employee Writing Groups to Begin This Fall

The University of Mississippi will sponsor employee writing groups beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year to increase collaboration between representatives of different departments and disciplines on professional writing projects.

The Faculty Writing Groups, which are open to both UM faculty and staff members, will work together on projects ranging from grant applications to getting scholarly texts published. Interdisciplinary groups of three or four people will meet at regular intervals during the fall and spring semesters.

Alice Johnston Myatt, assistant chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, is heading up the creation of the collaborative groups.

“Interdisciplinary faculty writing groups offer more than just a space and time for faculty to write in a structured way,” Myatt said. “They also are places where group members can take time to reflect on their learning and development within a peer-based framework of cooperation and collaboration.”

Research shows that faculty are more productive in their research and writing when they write daily, keep track of time spent writing and hold themselves accountable to others, said Myatt, who is also an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric. Faculty Writing Groups, which meet twice monthly on days the group selects, will help faculty writers and scholars put this into practice, she said. 

The groups are a collaborative effort led by the Department of Writing and Rhetoric; Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning; and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

To join a Faculty Writing Group, contact Myatt at

Oxford Blues Fest Set for July 15 and 16

Headline acts to play in Grove

The Oxford Blues Festival is set for July 15 and 16 at the University of Mississippi and Shelter on Van Buren.

The Oxford Blues Festival is set for July 15 and 16 at the University of Mississippi and Shelter on Van Buren.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mosley and Johnson Band, Leo “Bud” Welch and Tullie Brae will headline the seventh annual Oxford Blues Festival July 15 and 16 at the University of Mississippi and Shelter on Van Buren.

The festival’s mission is to preserve, protect and promote blues music and culture, and the event includes education, community events and workshops throughout the year. It culminates with the outdoor music festival, which organizers say unites “our diverse citizenry in a celebration of American blues-based music.”

The theme of the festival is “Just a Reason to Celebrate.”

If we can bring our community together for a positive weekend in our wonderful town, while celebrating our blues musical heritage, enjoying tasty food and having fun, why not?” festival co-organizer Joyce Byrd said. 

Darryl Parker, co-organizer, notes Oxford doesn’t have a blues tradition as rich as the Mississippi Delta or Holly Springs, but it’s a great place that deserves an outdoor music festival in addition to the annual Double Decker Arts Festival, which happens each spring.

“Who can’t be happy in the Grove under those 150-year-old trees?” Parker said.

In addition to the headlining acts, the festival also includes Kern Pratt & the Accused, Denise Owen, the Blues Doctors, Jontavious Willis, Mississippi Traveling Stars, the Doc Prana Trio and the Zediker Brothers.

Adam Gussow, UM associate professor of English and Southern studies, plays in the two-man band the Blues Doctors with Alan Gross, UM professor of psychology and director of clinical training. Gussow said the two are looking forward to taking the stage.

“We’re a two-man band with a seriously big sound, and we can’t wait to do our thing on the Grove stage as part of the Oxford Blues Festival,” Gussow said. “Oxford is lucky to have a guy as passionate and knowledgeable as Darryl bringing a wide range of local and regional blues sounds to our town every summer. We’re delighted to be a part of it.”

General admission tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate. VIP tickets are $75. Tickets are available for sale now and can be purchased online on the festival website. Ole Miss undergraduates get in free on Saturday only with their student ID. Admission is also free for teens and children ages 18 and under. Glass is not allowed inside the venue, but there is no fee for bringing coolers to the event. Food vendors will be on-site.

Here’s the full lineup of events:

Friday, July 15

A double-decker shuttle bus will run for Friday’s events, which will leave from the parking lot on North Lamar Avenue across from the Graduate Oxford hotel, and also from in front of City Hall.

The shuttle will take festival goers to campus for a tour of UM’s extensive Blues Archive at the J.D. Williams Library. Greg Johnson, blues curator and associate professor, will discuss the blues and show artifacts related to the music. That event takes place 3-4 p.m. and is free to the public.

The shuttle will then leave from campus to drop festival goers back off at the Square or take them to Mama Jo’s restaurant on North Lamar Avenue for a buffet dinner at which Johnson will discuss the food of the blues from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. The all-you-can-eat buffet with drinks and desserts is $19.99.

From Mama Jo’s, the shuttle will travel to the first musical performance of the festival, Kern Pratt & the Accused, featuring Denise Owen, at the Shelter on Van Buren at 6 p.m.

Saturday, July 16

A blues panel discussion with Leo “Bud” Welch, Tullie Brae and Jontavious Willis will take place from noon until 1 p.m. at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. This event, hosted by Duwayne Moore, a UM history Ph.D. candidate, is free and open to the public.

Music begins in the Grove at 1:30 p.m. with the Zediker Brothers, followed by the Mississippi Traveling Stars at 2:30 p.m. Jontavious Willis takes the stage at 3:30 p.m., followed by Doc Prana at 4:30 p.m. The Blues Doctors start at 5:30 p.m.

The headlining acts begin at 6:30 p.m. when Leo “Bud” Welch takes the stage. Tullie Brae follows him at 7:30 p.m., and the Mosley and Johnson Band closes the festival with a set that begins at 8:45 p.m.

For more information, visit the festival website at

UM Art Historian’s Research Probes Viking Art, Culture

Nancy Wicker conducting summer studies, taking sabbatical to write book

Nancy Wicker working with the polyvinyl siloxane (PVS) to make impressions from broken portions of bracteates.

Nancy Wicker works with polyvinyl siloxane to make impressions from broken portions of bracteates.

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor’s interest in Nordic art and culture is providing opportunities for her to conduct extended research at state, national and international levels.

Nancy L. Wicker is involved in three interrelated projects, all dealing with Viking and pre-Viking art and material culture of Scandinavia. During the 2016-17 academic year, the professor of art history will be on sabbatical to write a book about the people in Viking art. She will be in residence at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

“I will examine the patrons and clients who sponsored the art, the artists and artisans who made the works, the men and women who used and viewed the objects, and also the humans or deities who were the subjects depicted in this art,” Wicker said. “I am among 37 fellows named from 449 applications submitted to the National Humanities Center this year.”

Wicker is also involved in an international collaborative project to create a free digital portal that will provide integrated access to collections of northern European art and artifacts of the early medieval period (4th-12th centuries), which includes the Viking Age.

“I and the co-directors of the project have been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Office of Digital Humanities Level II Start-Up Grant of $75,000 from Aug. 1, 2016 through Jan. 31, 2018 to build a pilot search engine for Project Andvari: A Portal to the Visual World of Early Medieval Northern Europe,” she said.

“Our initial pilot project will aggregate data from the British Museum (in London) and the Portable Antiquities Scheme (in the United Kingdom) from Kringla, a web and mobile application of the Swedish Open Cultural Heritage of the Swedish National Heritage Board and Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.”

The grant, listed under the University of Virginia, is among 18 grants made from 248 applications for the Level I and Level II awards in 2016.

Wicker also is examining how pre-Viking jewelry broke.

Dr. Nancy Wicker working with the polyvinyl siloxane (PVS) to make impressions from broken portions of bracteates.

Wicker hopes to determine how the bracteates were broken by analyzing the fractures in the metal.

“In particular, I look at damaged gold pendants to try to determine which ones show breakage due to metal fatigue and which ones are the result of violence such as tearing the pendant from the wearer’s neck,” she said. “This is an important question in the examination of Viking and pre-Viking material culture because much of the art that is discovered consists of metal that was damaged and is discovered through avocational metal detecting.”

In addition, Wicker is examining broader concerns that include distinguishing objects that are deposited in graves as mementos and signs of status, those objects that are buried in the ground for safekeeping and those that were intended as offerings.

“To examine damaged metal objects, in May and June this summer I made impressions of torn surfaces of gold jewelry in the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, Sweden, using polyvinyl siloxane, the blue and pink material that dentists use to make impressions of teeth,” Wicker said.

“This is part of a larger project with the University of Mississippi Medical Center to analyze fatigue fractures of dental materials. Although many dental implants are now made of ceramic (porcelain) materials, gold is still used in some dental work because it is ‘mouth-friendly’ (meaning malleable but strong enough for a biting surface and nearly corrosion-free).”

Wicker’s research on pre-Viking gold – as a prelude to her sabbatical book-writing project – is being funded by a Senior Summer Research Scholar Grant from the UM College of Liberal Arts with the polyvinyl siloxane, or PVS, material provided by the Medical Center.

“Dr. Wicker has many international outlets at any given time, and I am proud to have her as a member of the Department of Art and Art History,” said Virginia Rougon Chavis, UM chair and associate professor of art. “She is passionate about Scandinavian artworks and welcomes conversation about her investigations.

“I know she is excited about her upcoming sabbatical, where she can submerge herself in her creative scholarly research. The faculty and I are all proud of her fellowship with the National Humanities (Center).”

While Wicker will not be collaborating during her residency at the National Humanities Center, she will be provided with an environment conducive to writing, an excellent library and research assistance.

Her co-directors for the NEH-funded Project Andvari are Lilla Kopár, associate professor of English and director of the Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies at the Catholic University of America; Worthy Martin, associate director of the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH) and associate professor and associate chair of Computer Science at the University of Virginia; and Daniel Pitti, associate director of IATH at the University of Virginia.

Her contacts at the international partner institutions are Daniel Pett, information and communications technology adviser for the Portable Antiquities Scheme at the British Museum; Marcus Smith of the Swedish National Heritage Board; and Tim Pestell, senior curator at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

“Professor Kopár and I will be involved in ongoing development of iconographic descriptive vocabulary and will assist in interface design for the aggregator,” Wicker said. “We will provide input in an iterative testing cycle as we develop the initial pilot program, leading to system refinements. We will also disseminate project developments through presentations at scholarly conferences and meetings, and we will write system documentation and introductory training materials.”

Martin and Pitti will oversee platform coding and development, and will execute data harvesting. Pett, Smith and Pestell will oversee taking in data from external sources.

During Wicker’s summer faculty research grant, she is collaborating with Lotta Fernstål, head curator of Prehistory Collections at the Swedish History Museum; Hilde Skogstad, conservator at the Swedish History Museum; and Jason Griggs, associate dean for research in the School of Dentistry and professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Materials Science at UMMC.

“I made impressions of jewelry breakage at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm under the direction of Fernstål and with the assistance of Skogstad,” Wicker said. “Dr. Griggs will analyze the fractal geometry of my PVS impressions from broken gold as part of his analysis of material fatigue and failure.”

Many people are fascinated by the Vikings, as witnessed by their popularity in TV shows and movies.

“The general public is also interested in metal detecting for historic and prehistoric finds, and the Andvari online portal will offer a way for European avocational metal (detectors) to search for parallels to materials that they discover,” Wicker said. “We are creating the project with tiered access for researchers and for the public, and we are harnessing the public’s help in reporting and cataloguing new finds.”

Wicker’s research on the breakage of gold contributes to Griggs’ ongoing research on material properties and developing methods for the analysis of material failure with direct relevance to dental prostheses.

“As an archaeologist, she needs to analyze artifacts that cannot be removed from their depositories around the world,” Griggs said. “One way of doing that is to cast a replica of the specimen after using an impression material to capture the shape of the original.”

Wicker and Griggs met at the joint UM and UMMC Research Day, where they discussed how the elastomeric impression materials that dentists use to make replicas of patients’ teeth have been designed for high levels of performance and might make archaeology research easier. He had been using dental impression materials to capture microscopic features on the broken surfaces of failed dental prostheses and offered to examine the broken surfaces of Wicker’s specimens.

“The features on the broken surface can sometimes provide clues as to the conditions that were present at the time the object broke,” he said. “The project has been going well. She took some dental impression materials with her (to Scandinavia), and I’m looking forward to seeing the result.”

For more about the UM Department of Art and Art History, visit

Rural Entrepreneurship Forum Happens July 19

Event brings together business owners, other stakeholders to foster economic development in state

McleanLogoOXFORD, Miss. The Rural Entrepreneurship Forum takes place July 19 at 9:30 a.m. at the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, where experts will discuss economic development opportunities in Mississippi.

Sponsored by the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the event is part of the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) initiative.

“Our second annual Rural Entrepreneurship Forum is focused on bringing business owners, economic development professionals, universities and community members together to learn from each other and develop avenues to improve our state,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager. “This CEED initiative has been working over the past two years to build actionable partners in helping foster entrepreneurship and economic development throughout Mississippi.” 

Speakers at the forum include Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and UM sociology professor; William Nicholas, UM director of economic development; John Brandon, manager of the Mississippi Development Authority’s Entrepreneur Center; Cobie Crews with UM’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Mike Clayborne with the CREATE Foundation of Lee County; and Judd Wilson, vice president of the Tupelo Chamber of Commerce’s Community Development Foundation.                  

Wilson said the CDF is looking forward to hosting the Rural Entrepreneurship Forum this year, which complements its mission of entrepreneurship.

“The mission of the Renasant Center for IDEAs, our business incubator at the Community Development Foundation, is to provide the physical and social infrastructure to assist in the formation and development of successful small business, which will diversify our area’s economy, create regional job opportunities, and foster economic growth and vitality,” he said. 

The CEED initiative works with UM students and faculty to build partnerships with Mississippi communities. These partnerships aim to increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development in rural Mississippi. Since the CEED initiative started in 2014, students, faculty and community partners have created connections to more than 26 counties in Mississippi.

The registration deadline for the forum is Tuesday, July 12. To register or get more information, visit this link. For questions about the forum, contact J.R. Love at or 662-915-8832.


Faulkner Conference and Rowan Oak Offer Learning Opportunities

The Faulkner Conference will be held July 17 to 21 in Oxford. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The Faulkner Conference began July 17 in Oxford. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi‘s 2016 Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference is underway.

This year’s theme, “Faulkner and the Native South” will allow writers, teachers, students and William Faulkner enthusiasts to learn about his work through five days of lectures and discussions in mid-July.

Participants will explore elements of the Choctaw, Chickasaw, European and African cultures and histories that Faulkner used in his writing.

Confernce highlights include a reading and discussion by Choctaw writer and filmmaker LeAnne Howe, panel presentations, guided daylong tours of north Mississippi and the Delta, and informational sessions on “Teaching Faulkner.” Faulkner collector Seth Berner will give a brown bag lunch presentation on “Collecting Faulkner,” and collaborators on the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project, a Faulkner database and mapping project at the University of Virginia, will present progress updates.

Throughout the conference, the university’s J.D. Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and other memorabilia.

The conference began July 17 with an opening reception at the University Museum and concludes July 21 with a closing party at Rowan Oak.

For more information about the conference, registration and schedule, visit

Can’t make the conference but still want to learn about William Faulkner? Rowan Oak, Faulkner’s family home and part of the museum, is open to visitors. 

June and July hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. From August to May, hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $5. For more information about Rowan Oak, visit

Three UM Students Accepted into Rural Physician Scholarship Program

Scholars agree to serve four years in small Mississippi communities after graduation

Cal Wilkerson, Kaleb Barnes, and Judi Beth McMillen have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Cal Wilkerson, Kaleb Barnes, and Judi Beth McMillen have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

JACKSON, Miss – Kaleb Barnes of Booneville and Judi Beth McMillen of Mantachie, juniors at the University of Mississippi, along with Cal Wilkerson, a senior from Woodville, have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Barnes is the son of Rodney and Melissa Barnes, McMillen is the daughter of Tracy and Michelle McMillen, and Wilkerson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. David Wilkerson.

Created in 2007, MRPSP identifies college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become competent, well-trained rural primary care physicians in the state. The program offers undergraduate academic enrichment and a clinical experience in a rural setting.

Upon completion of all medical school admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the UM School of Medicine or William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

During medical school, each MRPSP scholar is under consideration for $30,000 per year, based on available funding.

Consistent legislative support of MRPSP translates to 60 medical students receiving a total of $1.8 million to support their education this fall. Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support.

Upon completion of medical training, MRPSP scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics.

Each MRPSP scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 20,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

MRPSP provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn a seat in medical school, receive MCAT preparation, earn a $120,000 medical school scholarship in return for four years of service and learn the art of healing from practicing rural physicians.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRPSP associate director, at 601-815-9022 or, or go to

McLean Institute Teams with Catholic Charities for Financial Education

Free workshop series offers financial empowerment to Calhoun County residents

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement has teamed with Catholic Charities to offer a series of free financial awareness workshops in the Calhoun County town of Vardaman.

The first session was June 18 at the Vardaman Public Library, and three more workshops are planned over the next six weeks. The remaining workshops will be held at the Catholic Charities of Northeast Mississippi Family Life Center, 210 North Main St., and are free and open to the public.

The financial awareness workshops, which feature information and activities for adults and children, are made possible by a grant from the Caterpillar Foundation.

“The mission of the McLean Institute is to advance transformation through service at the university and to fight poverty through education,” said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director and UM professor of sociology. “Financial education for the entire family is a critical tool for economic mobility, and we are pleased to collaborate with students and community partners to expand our work in this area.”

The upcoming sessions, all set for 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays, are:

  • July 9 – Budgeting and Credit Scores
  • July 23 – Banking and Savings Options
  • Aug. 13 – Credit Cards and Debt Management

“The first workshop was a conversational, question-and-answer-based approach covering budgeting and saving,” said Vera Gardner, an Innovation Scholar with the McLean Institute. “Our goal is to reach a total of 100 youth and adults through these workshops, which are designed to strengthen family financial stability by offering money management resources and teaching children to think about money.”

As an Innovation Scholar, Gardner works with the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative, which is funded through a grant from the Hearin Foundation. The CEED program offers university students opportunities to work with community partners as they develop solutions to challenges facing communities across Mississippi.

“Financial empowerment is a priority area for Catholic Charities,” said Danna Johnson, who serves as program coordinator. “These workshops will allow us to support families and serve the community by engaging adults and children in financial education.”

Materials will be provided to all workshop participants. Children are invited to attend and participate in age-appropriate financial education activities.

For more about the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, visit For more about Catholic Charities of Northeast Mississippi, go to

McLean Institute Gives Youth Hands of H.O.P.E.

Monthlong summer enrichment program serving Lambert, Marks communities

UM students (from far left) Janae Owens and Taiesha Gambrel introduce Hands of H.O.P.E. Program participants to Albert Nylander (far right), director of the McLean Institute. (Submitted photo)

UM students (from far left) Janae Owens and Taiesha Gambrel introduce
Hands of H.O.P.E. Program participants to Albert Nylander (far right),
director of the McLean Institute. (Submitted photo)

OXFORD, Miss. – Eighteen youth in Quitman County are working to better themselves and their community, thanks to a University of Mississippi summer enrichment program.

Hands of H.O.P.E., or Helping Others Pursue Excellence, is a four-week, nonprofit effort for students ages 5 to 18. Presented by two Innovation Fellows of the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, initiative at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the program meets through July 7 at Youth Opportunities Unlimited in Marks.

“Taeisha Gambrel and Janae Owens, two outstanding students in the McLean Institute, are making a difference in the lives of students in Quitman County in the Mississippi Delta,” said Albert Nylander, McLean Institute director and UM professor of sociology. “This transformative experience, for both the university students and Quitman County residents, is part of the CEED program at the McLean Institute.”

The CEED program, funded through a generous grant from the Hearin Foundation, offers students an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial approaches to improve quality of life for Mississippians.

“While visiting Marks, we have observed that students lack access to the resources they need in order to engage in physical activity, mental health awareness and education,” said Gambrel, a UM graduate student in community health counseling.

“The mission of this summer program is to provide a fun, educational experience for students to keep them engaged during the summer,” said Owens, who recently earned a master’s degree in health education and promotion. “Our goal is that children are continuously learning, developing healthy habits and participating in experiences that build self-esteem.”

Hands of H.O.P.E. has been providing breakfast, lunch and a snack for all participating youth. Other activities include movie screenings, cooking lessons, gardening, financial planning, dressing for success, teen pregnancy and bullying prevention.

A tour of the Ole Miss campus and an awards ceremony at Pirate Adventures in Oxford is also scheduled.

Participants include first-graders Jazmine Anderson and Calton Griffin; second-graders Lizzie Luckett and Jordan Merrell; third-grade students Asher Boykins, Makhi Crawford, Mackenzie Riley, Paris Riley, Sterling Taper and Jamarion Williams; fourth-graders Kentaries Gordon, Jeremiah Pryor and Jaylen Watson; fifth-graders Tiawanna Luckett and Laleah Merrell; sixth-grader Joshua Chapple; eighth-grader Latavies Johnson; and ninth-grade student Robert Page Jr.

Two of the youngest students weighed in on their experiences.

“My favorite activity was movie day,” said Boykins, 8, of Lambert. “We watched ‘Inside Out’ and talked about the different emotions that we feel.”

The cooking class was “really fun” for Luckett, 7, of Carthage. “We got to learn about healthy foods and we got to make our own snack after.”

Halfway through the program, both UM students said they are pleased with its success.

“This is a pilot program,” Gambrel said. “I believe Hands of H.O.P.E has been successful in its attempt to provide children in the community with a safe environment for them to come together and learn about mental and physical health while participating in fun educational activities to keep them engaged during the summer.”

Owens agreed.

“I feel that it has been successful enough to continue,” she said. “After learning that the Marks community did not have many summer programs, I thought it would be great to provide a way for the youth to be active in educational activities that will provide aspirations toward their future, and the kids seem to be benefitting from it so far.”

Quitman County education officials also expressed a desire to see Hands of H.O.P.E. continue and expand.

“Our efforts are not just merely implementing programs for youth, but setting a standard of excellence that ensures quality and professional services for the youth and families we serve,” said Evelyn Jossell, Quitman County superintendent of education and CEO of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. “It is my desire to keep the communities we serve informed of all of our program services and activities.”

“There are a lot of moving pieces here,” said Samuel McCray, Youth Opportunities Unlimited chairman. “By exposing the children to positive activities and role models, it is very educational for them.”

Hands of H.O.P.E. is modeled on another entrepreneurial project conducted last summer by CEED students in Vardaman.

“The McLean Institute believes such partnerships as this one will advance community and economic development in the state of Mississippi,” Nylander said.

The affirmations are appreciated, but the real benefit for Gambrel and Owens is seeing lives being changed by their efforts.

“Our hope is to use what we are learning in our master’s programs to inspire students to become healthy, productive citizens of Quitman County,” Owens said.

For more about the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, visit For more about Youth Opportunities Unlimited, go to

UM Biology Professor Aims to Reduce Shark Deaths

New device could help commercial fishermen to avoid bycatch

University of Mississippi Professor of Biology Glenn Parsons is researching ways to reduce shark deaths from accidental catches.

UM biology professor Glenn Parsons is researching ways to reduce shark deaths from accidental catches.

OXFORD, Miss. – Fishermen unintentionally catch millions of sharks each year, and many don’t survive the physical stress of being reeled in, but University of Mississippi biology professor Glenn Parsons is designing a device that could prevent them from ever being hooked.

Accidental catches, referred to as “bycatch”, are a nuisance for commercial and recreational fishermen who are usually after tuna, swordfish and other seafood instead. The problem threatens to upset the ocean’s ecosystem, in which sharks play a major role but are dying in large numbers.

Parsons recently began testing a prototype and expects to make several trips into the Gulf of Mexico to fine-tune it. If his “entangling leader” device is successful, fisherman may not have to handle sharks, which have roamed the ocean mostly unchanged for some 400 million years.

“Commercial fisherman don’t want to catch these sharks,” Parsons said. “It’s dangerous to handle them. It takes time away from fishing and they also damage their gear. They’d rather not hook them at all.”

Some experts estimate that as many as 100 million sharks are killed each year. Many of them are larger, open ocean-dwelling sharks such as hammerheads, makos, tigers, great whites and others.

The deaths prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is working on a National Bycatch Strategy for sharks and other species, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to award research funds to find solutions. Parsons has received a $120,000 federal grant to develop his device and has an online crowdfunding campaign for his graduate students’ research. 

The problem with bycatch isn’t that fish are simply hooked; rather it’s that the physical stress of fighting the reel, or being on the line for as long as six hours and then being hauled into the boat, that can kill them. Even if they’re released after many hours on the line, the outcome usually still isn’t good.

“Mostly everyone agrees that a huge percentage of those sharks die,” Parsons said.

Parsons’ entangling leader has several of loops of line near the hook. The design is based on the idea that the way sharks eat their food is much different than tuna or swordfish.

Sharks have larger, sharper teeth that they use for slicing prey into manageable pieces before swallowing them. Tuna, which have small teeth, and swordfish, which only have a rough a gripping surface along the edges of their mouths, both hold their food only long enough to swallow it whole.

The theory is that the loop design allows tuna and swordfish to take the bait and be hooked, but sharks would be prevented from doing the same. 

“When a typical fish, one without sharp, cutting teeth, takes it, those loops will just spool out and hopefully the fish will be captured,” Parsons said. “When a shark takes it, the teeth entangle in the loops and that either breaks it immediately or it compromises the integrity of the line, so when they pull on it – and a big shark can pull like the dickens – it pops and they swim away.”

Recently, Parsons and his graduate assistants left from Destin, Florida, and ventured into the Gulf of Mexico to test the leader. Using a GoPro camera submerged near the hook, the Ole Miss team observed that for every shark that took the bait, about 10 looked at it and swam away. The ones that actually took the bait also broke the leader, Parsons said.

“The initial tests were really good,” Parsons said. “We have caught the larger sport fish, but the sharks break off.”

Further testing could determine if the bait is still attractive to other fish with the loop device in place. Parsons’ team will make trips from the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi coasts into the Gulf later to continue the research.

The team caught four different shark species on the recent trip to Destin, said Lauren Fuller, a biology graduate student from Cabot, Arkansas, who is helping with the research.

“We had many entangling leaders break as they were supposed to,” Fuller said. “After looking at the GoPro video, we’re pretty certain these were sharks and we know one was for sure. The research looks promising but, of course, we’ll have to wait until we analyze all of the data to know more.” 

Fuller’s graduate research focuses on finding ways to reduce the stress on caught sharks. She is examining whether using clove oil to sedate them could help.

“It is my hope that this will lead to higher chances of survival after release,” Fuller said.

Ehlana Stell, a biology graduate student from Booneville, studies fish biology and has been working with silver carp, but is also helping with the shark project. She has hope Parsons’ device can greatly reduce shark deaths. 

“The preliminary data for the entangling leader is looking very promising and hopefully this summer’s work will continue to allow Dr. Parsons to improve his design,” Stell said.

This project received funding under award NA15NMF4720378 from NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the investigators and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA Fisheries.