Music of the South Concert Series Rocks It Out

Lee Bains III to perform Jan. 27 at UM

Lee Bains III

Lee Bains III

OXFORD, Miss. – Lee Bains III brings his distinct Southern rock and soul to the University of Mississippi for a solo performance Jan. 27 as part of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture‘s Music of the South concert series.

Bains, a songwriter from Birmingham, Alabama, who lives in Atlanta, recently released his second full-length album, “Dereconstructed,” with his band The Glory Fires. The album finds Bains wrestling with questions of identity, culture and history through a highly personal, politicized, localized and Southern lens.

The concert is set for 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The venue has a capacity of 150 people. Tickets are available for $10 through the UM Box Office, 662-915-7411, and at the door.

The Music of the South Concert Series, which highlights intimate evenings with Southern performers, is a partnership between the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Ford Center that began in 2012.

The singer and guitar player first found out about the center while he was in school at New York University, studying Southern history and roots.

“Since adolescence, I’d certainly thought a lot about how I did and didn’t jibe with what I knew as ‘Southern,’ but it wasn’t until I was exposed to critical theory that I began to envision Southern identity as a thing to be interrogated and explored – and, ultimately, as a thing to dismantle into multitudinous identities,” Bains said. “My senior year, as I was preparing to write a paper that brought the writings of several post-colonial theorists to bear on Louis Rubin’s ‘I’ll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition,’ I came across a slew of articles dealing with Southernness from any number of angles that had come out of Ole Miss and the University of North Carolina, and – to be perfectly and nerdily honest – was giddy that such places existed.”

Bains will also visit two Southern studies classes to discuss his musical influences and how he sees music as a vehicle for both personal expression and social commentary, as well as what role he sees for music in Southern society today.

He said he always enjoys playing in Oxford, especially since The Glory Fires’ first album, “There is a Bomb in Gilead,” was recorded in nearby Water Valley.

“Plus, being there is something like transcending the line between art and reality. Walking through the Square, it’s hard not to think about Jefferson, and the Yoknapatawpha County courthouse and Quentin Compson,” Bains said. “William Faulkner shaped and has continued to challenge my own mission in writing, particularly in his devotion to writing about his particular place.”

Previous Music of the South performers include Caroline Herring, Randall Bramblett, Valerie June, Blind Boy Paxton and John “JoJo” Hermann, the Water Liars, Amy Andrews, Tyler Keith and the band Feufollet.

UM Staff, Students Join MLK Day of Service

Volunteers gathering to improve area schools, assisted living facilities

Dr. Marvin King will deliver the keynote address at the MLK Day of Service on Jan. 19.

Marvin King will deliver the keynote address Jan. 19 at the MLK Day of Service .

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students and staff are leading efforts to improve living conditions in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2015 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony begins at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 19 at the Oxford Activity Center. Program participants include UM Dean of Students Melinda Sutton, Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson and Lafayette County Board of Supervisors President Jeff Busby. Marvin P. King Jr., UM associate professor of political science and African-American studies, will deliver the keynote address.

The senior fellow at UM’s Residential College South, King received his doctorate in political science from the University of North Texas after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He has co-authored or authored publications on racial polarization in the electorate, representation of the black electorate and the effect of race in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. King teaches undergraduate courses in Introduction to American Politics and African American Politics, and an undergraduate and graduate course in Politics of the American South.

Following King’s speech, three awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in student and community categories. Honorees include Victoria Burgos of Oxford, a UM student who implemented a pilot composting program on campus; Barbara Wortham of Oxford, GED program instructor at the Oxford School District Learning Center; and Matt Gaw and Mari Susan Massey of Oxford, United Way volunteers.

Other activities scheduled during the day include a service fair featuring representatives from local nonprofits and organizations, a book drive for local correctional facilities, a letter-of-appreciation writing campaign for three area civil rights leaders and activities at five local assisted living facilities.

“It is exciting that University of Mississippi students and staff are choosing to make a difference in the lives of others,” sad Coulter Ward, assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement. “Volunteering builds communities and strengthens relationships. To have our students take opportunities to participate in endeavors like these is awesome.”

UM staff involved in planning of MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.

“Learning the larger history surrounding civil rights and MLK is important, but we see a need to educate our students about living leaders who made great movements right here in Mississippi,” said Haley Kesterson, coordinator of the letter writing campaign. “We hope to give proper gratitude to local leaders. We hope to educate students on the civil rights movement here in Mississippi and give them a local, current perspective about the continuous issue.”

Campus participation is crucial to the success of the observance, said Sarah Ball, director of Volunteer Oxford.

“This national day of service honors Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy and commitment to transforming our nation through service to others,” Ball said. “The LOU MLK Day of Service offers community members a chance to engage in a variety of volunteer opportunities that are designed to give back to the community.”

A recreation administration major, Burgos was awarded a $3,000 grant from the UM Green Fund for the pilot composting project, followed by an additional $5,234 grant to continue and expand it. She has also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity and Camp Lake Stephens, a United Methodist Church facility.

A two-time recipient of the Learning Center Teacher of the Year award, Wortham is the Lafayette County Adult Basic Literacy Education program coordinator. Through her work with the GED Prep course at Burns United Methodist Church, she has helped an estimated 100 people obtain their GEDs.

Working together, Gaw and Massey were the first to assist local non-profits with fundraising, donating equipment and countless hours of volunteer time. Their work has been essential in the building of Lafayette County’s first Born Learning Trail in Avent Park.

For more information about LOU MLK Day of Service, contact Coulter Ward at or Sarah Ball at

UM Graduate’s ‘Destiny’ is Video Game Voice-overs

Morla Gorrondona got first voice job at Ole Miss

Morla Gorrondona


OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi graduates have enjoyed plenty of success in the performing arts and Ole Miss alumna Morla Gorrondona is no exception.  Gorrondona, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, voiced the character Eris in the hot new video game “Destiny,” an action-adventure shared-world shooter developed by Bungie and published by Activision.

Eris is a mysterious guide for the Guardian (the character the player controls) throughout all the missions. However, Gorrondona is also responsible for voicing many other creatures in the game.

“It’s an interesting turn of game development events that my character Eris sends the Guardian on missions to eliminate other characters I voiced,” she said

A New Orleans native, Gorrondona lives in the Seattle area, but she began her voice career when she decided to attend Ole Miss.

“Within the theater arts program I was provided the tools with which to refine my craft as a professional voice actor,” she said. “The practices and methods presented in those classes became so ingrained during my college years that I use them now without even considering them. They are second nature”

Her first voice-over job came while she was a junior at Ole Miss, but after college, she worked in theater, film, improvisation and production in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Still, voice acting seemed to be her real calling.

“Though I wasn’t actively seeking it, I kept landing voice-over work.” she said. “When I decided to focus all my attention on a career in voice acting, things really started to take off.”

James Shollenberger, former chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, recalled the years Gorrondona was enrolled at Ole Miss and said he expected her to be successful.

“Destiny: The Dark Below"

‘Destiny: The Dark Below’

“Morla has always been a very skilled and talented woman who was born with an amazing voice and an even more amazing work ethic,” Shollenberger said. “It doesn’t surprise me in the least that she is finding success as a voice actor.”

Gorrondona said the challenging and promising curriculum at Ole Miss was ideal for her in her search for a university.

“I remember well weighing the options available to a high school senior looking to make acting career,” she said. “But the theater program at Ole Miss with Dr. James Shollenberger as department chair was comprehensive, demanding and encouraging. At the end of my four years, I held a degree from a prestigious university, and I use that degree every day.”

UM Common Reading Short List Announced

Former UM chancellor's book and a Hurricane Katrina story among five finalists

Common Reading Experience 2014

Common Reading Experience 2014

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Common Reading Experience list has been narrowed down to five books, with one to be chosen in early 2015 to be the focus of universitywide discussions and events over the coming year.

The Common Reading Selection Subcommittee will narrow the list, which includes a book about Hurricane Katrina, former Chancellor Robert Khayat’s memoir and the story of a group of men who took up rowing and entered the 1936 Olympics, among others. The committee, which is made up of faculty members from many departments, staff and students, will recommend one book to the provost. The chosen book’s author will be invited to speak at fall convocation.

Robert Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, and Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, are co-chairs of the Common Reading Experience. The committee will select a text that makes students analyze complicated issues, Cummings said.

“The Common Reading Experience provides our incoming first-year students the opportunity to build community around one text, blending social with academic purposes,” he said. “Each year’s selection has also provided an occasion for our students to wrestle with some complex issues. I am looking forward again this year to finding a text which changes our students’ assumptions about the world we live in.”

Discussions resulting from reading the book are crucial to broadening students’ awareness of the world around them, Banahan said.

“The university is a community of readers,” she said. “Reading is such an integral part of education and having a Common Reading Experience allows us to have discussions about one book. I think it introduces students to a different, higher level of learning. One thing they learn is to express their points of view and to learn things that are similar to their experiences and things that are different. I think the books challenge them to look at things differently.”

The committee will read these five books over winter break:

Last year, the committee chose “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan, which was about the experiences of young women who worked on a secret project during World War II. Kiernan spoke at last year’s fall convocation.

Banahan expects a healthy discussion before the final 2015 Common Reading Experience text is selected.

“We have people who are passionate about science fiction, biographies, literature and self-help books (among others),” Banahan said. “I like that there’s an appropriate amount of tension. As we discuss books, some people, myself included, can get pretty passionate about one we love.”

Documenting the Culinary Wealth of the South

Jim 'N Nick's founder, wife make major gift to Southern Foodways Alliance

Barnard Observatory houses the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Barnard Observatory houses the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

OXFORD, Miss. – Nick and Suzanne Pihakis of Birmingham, Alabama, have made a transformative gift to endow the Pihakis Foodways Documentary Fellow, a filmmaking and teaching position at the University of Mississippi and its Southern Foodways Alliance.

Thanks to their generosity, stories of the South’s diverse food cultures will be filmed and produced for posterity and shared with students, researchers and the general public.

For more than a decade leading up to this major gift, Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, has generously underwritten the documentary work of the SFA, a nonprofit institute of UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“Nick and Suzanne have long invested their time and money in the cultural and culinary wealth of the American South,” said SFA director John T. Edge. “With this gift, they help ensure that this important work will continue. This watershed gift will resonate for a long, long time.”

Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, and his wife, Suzanne, have contributed a major gift to support the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute in the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo courtesy Melany Mullens.

Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, and his wife, Suzanne, have contributed a major gift to support the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute in the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo courtesy Melany Mullens.

Pihakis, who established the business with his late father, Jim Pihakis, has long focused on honest barbecue, community service and locally-sourced crops and goods. A passion for making good food accessible and affordable has driven Jim ‘N Nick’s, led by the younger Pihakis, to become one of the nation’s most respected restaurant groups.

Endowed positions such as this one require a $1.5 million commitment. With investment income from the Pihakis endowment, UM will recruit a documentary fellow to direct films for the SFA and teach documentary classes on the Oxford campus. The start date for the position is expected to be fall 2015.

SFA has long worked with Andy Harper and Joe York of the Southern Documentary Project to make award-winning documentary films, Edge said. This gift will bring a second filmmaker partner to join the SFA team, producing documentaries and teaching students.

Pihakis began contributing to UM in 2004, when the SFA developed a year of foodways programming focused on the state of race relations in the American South. When the SFA staged its Summer Symposium in Birmingham, Pihakis marshaled the resources of his rapidly growing company to make the event a success. Soon after, he developed an innovative philanthropy plan for supporting SFA documentary initiatives, Edge said.

“I thought that what the SFA was doing – telling stories about fried chicken cooks and oystermen and pig farmers and vegetable farmers – was really important,” Pihakis said. “Through food and through hospitality, our company shares those stories. And I think it’s important that our company invest in the documentary work that the SFA does.”

The first investment Pihakis made in 2004 was a commitment to SFA of $2,500 per store annually. Those resources, which are contributed by local owners in markets from Alabama to Colorado, top $75,000 each year. Using Pihakis’ innovative philanthropic strategy, Jim ‘N Nick’s has already given more than $500,000 to support SFA work at the university.

Going forward, Edge said the future looks bright for this cultural partnership because as Jim ‘N Nick’s grows over the next few years, its ongoing SFA contribution will also grow in importance and impact.

Pihakis is proud of this gift. And he’s proud of his relationship with the SFA.

“Working with John T. Edge and his colleagues, I learned so much about the culture of food,” he said. “I recognized that the stories they tell of cooks and farmers are deeply important to my identity and to the identity of the South as a whole. My intent is that our gift ensures that great storytelling work continues for generations to come.”

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The SFA sets a common table where black and white, rich and poor – all who gather – may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation. A member-supported nonprofit institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the SFA sponsors scholarship, mentors students, stages symposia, collects and shares oral histories, and produces and publishes books, films and podcasts. For more information, visit and follow on Twitter @Potlikker.

For more information, contact Sara Camp Arnold at 662-915-3327 or

UM to Host 2015 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

Event is one of six prestigious regional meetings scheduled

Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, shares her research at a recent conference.

UM Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate student Ola Nusierat, shares her research at a recent conference.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is scheduled to host a prestigious Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in January.

The three-day event, set for Jan. 16-18, is one of six regional meetings nationally sponsored by the American Physical Society and the National Science Foundation.

Co-sponsored locally by UM’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and others, the Southeastern conference program includes research talks by prominent female physicists from academia and industry. Panel discussions on graduate programs, career opportunities and diversity issues in the workplace, a poster session for students and talks by young participants and graduate students are also slated.

“Every year five to six regional CUWIP conferences take place simultaneously across the United States,” said Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy and one of three faculty members coordinating the program. “This year, UM was selected on a competitive basis to host the Southeastern conference. This is a great achievement for us.”

As pre-registration continues, anticipation for the conference is rising as well.

“Everybody involved recognizes the importance of UM hosting this conference,” said Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and conference co-coordinator.

“We’re looking forward to hosting tens of the brightest young minds in physics from the region,” said Luca Bombelli, associate professor of physics and astronomy and co-coordinator. “These students will become tomorrow’s much-needed physics teachers and researchers.”

For more information, visit and the UM local conference website at

UM Professor Talks Turkeys On NPR Today

Richard Buchholz will talk about his research of the mating habits of America's favorite Thanksgiving bird

University of Mississippi Associate Professor of Biology Richard Buchholz will talk about the mating habits of wild turkeys on today’s NPR Science Friday. His segment is expected to air between 2:50 and 3 p.m. (Central).

The research, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, was conducted at the UM field station. To hear Buchholz talk about this timely topic with Thanksgiving less than a week away, check out this list of stations that air the program.

Second Annual Egg Bowl Run Set for Monday

ROTC cadets to make the 100-mile run from Starkville to Oxford to deliver game ball

UM ROTC cadets on the first leg of the inaugural Egg Bowl Run in 2013. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

UM ROTC cadets on the first leg of the inaugural Egg Bowl Run in 2013. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

The advent of cooler temperatures signals the beginning of the holiday season and the chilly reminder that the annual Egg Bowl is right around the corner. This year, fans of the two Egg Bowl rivals have another event to look forward to before the main event’s kickoff on Saturday.

The second annual Egg Bowl Run takes place Monday (Nov. 24) as Army ROTC cadets from both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University will cover more than 100 miles in two separate legs to deliver the game ball from Starkville to Oxford. Last year’s event was quite popular on social media. This year, members of the public may track runners’ progress in real time by visiting throughout the day, by following @UMEggBowl on Twitter or by following the hashtag #eggbowlrun on social media outlets.

2nd Annual Egg Bowl Run scheduled for Monday, Nov. 24.

Second annual Egg Bowl Run poster.

Not only is it an opportunity to honor cadets and veterans from all branches of our military during Military Appreciation Month, it’s a great way to support these programs. In fact, if you give to Ole Miss Army ROTC during the Egg Bowl Run this year, you’ll be eligible for some cool perks as well as be automatically entered to win the official Ole Miss game ball carried by cadets and signed by head coach Hugh Freeze. Other prizes include an opportunity to fire the cannon at Vaught-Hemingway during the Egg Bowl, joining the cadets and members of the Ole Miss football team during their walk through the Grove before the game and even the American flag flown over Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Check out the Ignite Ole Miss campaign site. They’ve already raised more than 15 percent of their goal, but with your help, they can easily reach $5,000 before the Egg Bowl Run kicks off early Monday morning.

If you aren’t able to give, go out and support our cadets along the route. They are estimated to arrive in front of the Lyceum around 9 p.m., and they’ll be making a quick loop around the Square before that time, so you’ll have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat before cheering them on during the last leg of their 50-mile journey.

Kenneth Sufka is Carnegie-CASE Professor of the Year

UM psychology educator received prestigious honor in Washington, D.C.

Ken Sufka lectures to one of his classes.

Ken Sufka lectures to one of his classes.

OXFORD, Miss. – A respected University of Mississippi educator and researcher is this year’s Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching-Council for Advancement and Support of Education Mississippi Professor of the Year.

Kenneth J. “Ken” Sufka, professor of psychology and pharmacology, received the prestigious honor Thursday (Nov. 20) at the U.S. Professor of the Year Awards celebration in Washington, D.C. The program salutes the country’s most outstanding undergraduate instructors and is the only national effort to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

“When I first read the letter, I was flat-out dumbfounded. I had to read it again,” Sufka said. “The CASE-Carnegie Foundation Award is by far the most prestigious recognition one can receive in this profession. For CASE-Carnegie to think that the entire body of my academic work is worthy of such recognition is both overwhelming and humbling.”

In addition to an all-expenses-paid trip, Sufka got a framed certificate of recognition. Winners were also recognized at a congressional reception and have opportunities to participate in media interviews, speaking engagements, teaching forums and other events.

The university shares Sufka’s recognition, UM administrators said.

“Dr. Sufka is a role model at our campus and is now a recognized model of excellence to the nation,” said Richard Forgette, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We are proud to have him as a faculty member at the University of Mississippi.”

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said Sufka sets the bar for excellent teaching and creative scholarship among students and colleagues.

“(He) has produced more final theses with our high performing Honors students than any other professor on campus,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “The ethic of excellence that guides his work and interaction with our students creates a powerful magnetic attraction to those who want to push the boundaries of knowledge and wisdom.”

Sufka is most deserving of the award, said Michael T. Allen, chair and professor of psychology.

“I immediately felt a sense of pride for him and the Department of Psychology, but I wasn’t really surprised,” Allen said. “Dr. Sufka has won essentially all of the awards for teaching and service that the university bestows, and he has been a magnificent teacher and mentor of students for many years. What makes him so special is his love of teaching and his constant effort to become better and better at it, along with his sincere desire to have students succeed in his classes.”

Sufka earned his bacheor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Iowa State University. Before joining the UM faculty in 1992, he conducted research at Drake University, Des Moines University and Duke University. Sufka is a visiting research fellow at Newcastle University and an associate member of the UM Medical Center’s Cancer Institute.

“The University of Mississippi was a good fit for me when I was offered the position and it remains a good fit more than two decades later,” Sufka said. “It offered the right balance of teaching and research I was hoping to find in a mid-sized, flagship university located in a great little college town. While the university and Oxford have grown considerably, I am still able to find that perfect balance of teaching courses in psychology and engaging in laboratory research in neuroscience.”

Sufka said he is following in the footsteps of professors who taught and mentored him.

“I think all of us can point to a teacher/mentor that inspired and nurtured us in immeasurable ways,” Sufka said. “Professor Ron Peters at Iowa State University was that person for me. His love and enthusiasm for teaching, alongside a masterful ability to convey the most complex and interesting material, made it clear that I wanted to become a brain scientist and university professor.”

Sufka teaches several courses at UM, including General Psychology, Biopsychology, Psychopharmacology lab, Physiological Psychology and Teaching of Psychology seminar. A campus favorite among students and faculty alike, he has received the 1996 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award, the 2005 Faculty Achievement Award and the 2006 Thomas F. Frist Student Service Award. His other awards and honors include Top 20 Psychology Professor in Mississippi, Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU’s Department of Psychology, Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association and Top 40 Under 40 Mississippian.

Sufka holds professional memberships in the Society for Neuroscience and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. With research interests in behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology, he has written more than 67 refereed papers, 10 book chapters and one book, “The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades” (Nautilus Publishing, 2011).

“I wrote that to help my students at UM to better transition from high school coursework to college level course work, or from lower division courses to the harder upper division courses,” Sufka said. “It is an academic survival guide of sorts that detail a number of bad habits commonly exhibited by students that contribute to poor grades and offers evidenced based tips/strategies that promote course learning and yield much higher grades.”

Many colleges and universities across the U.S. have used Sufka’s book for specific programs.

“Some schools, like UNLV and Washington State University, have given it out as a summer reading assignment for their incoming freshman classes,” he said. “This has led to my giving numerous faculty and student workshops on promoting students’ academic success across the country and here at UM.”

Sufka has been the principal investigator on grants and contracts totaling more than $660,000. A prolific author, he has presented more than 120 conference papers and abstracts.

Sufka has directed 12 master’s theses and eight doctoral dissertations. He is a regularly invited speaker at freshman summer orientation sessions and helped develop the initial Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College curriculum. He also volunteers with the Oxford-Lafayette County Habitat for Humanity.

CASE launched the awards program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982 became the primary sponsor.

For more about the UM Department of Psychology, visit For more about the U.S. Professor of the Year Awards program, visit

UM Alumnus Honored by Navy for Science and Technology Achievements

Kerry Commander receives National Defense Industrial Association Bronze Medal

UM graduate Kerry Commander, (center), is presented with the National Defense Industrial Association Bronze Medal for achievements in Science and Technology. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

UM graduate Kerry Commander, (center), is presented with the National Defense Industrial Association Bronze Medal for achievements in Science and Technology. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy.

A University of Mississippi graduate has earned the National Defense Industrial Association Bronze Medal for Achievements in Science and Technology.

Kerry Commander, a Clarksdale native who earned a doctorate in physics and bachelor’s degrees in physics and mathematics from UM, as well as a master’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Arizona, was recently presented the award by Navy Rear Adm. Michael Jabley in Groton, Connecticut.

Commander, a research scientist and administrator in the Panama City division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, was selected for the award because of his “numerous technical achievements that have laid the foundation for several fleet programs.”

“My most significant technical accomplishment to date is leading the first successful demonstration of a synthetic aperture sonar on a fully autonomous underwater vehicle in CJTFEX04-2 by our science and technology team,” Commander said in a Navy news release. “This was a major milestone in the transition of this early S&T program to advanced development programs and the beginning of a new era in MCM (mine countermeasures).”

He has more than 29 years of distinguished service with the Navy, which began when he became a research physicist at the Naval Coastal Systems Center in Panama City, Florida. His early research led to important discoveries in nonlinear bubble dynamics, multi-phase flow and inverse scattering acoustics and had a direct application to a surface ship torpedo defense program.

But he says the award recognizes the teamwork, rather than an individual effort.

“The reward is really a group recognition award for our science and technology team that worked for years to develop advanced technology that could perform some parts of the MCM mission from an autonomous underwater vehicle, removing people and marine animals from a very dangerous job,” Commander said. “The team consisted of experts in sonar systems, signal and image processing, unmanned systems and autonomy, and of course, all the support personnel from the test and evaluation side of the lab.”

A Navy news release details his professional accomplishments.

(Commander) serves as Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Science and Technology Department Head. Today, he is a senior leader for technical research and development initiatives of 180 scientists and engineers performing science and technology work in support of mine/undersea warfare and expeditionary warfare. Additionally, he serves as NSWC PCD’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO) where he is known for demonstrating outstanding leadership in developing and implementing latest S&T trends to evolving naval requirement.

“This prestigious undersea warfare award is a tribute to Dr. Commander’s leadership and technical excellence,” said NSWC PCD Technical Director Ed Stewart, a member of the Senior Executive Service Corps. “Currently, as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at NSWC PCD and head of the Science and Technology Department, his contributions to the undersea community are many and profound.”

At NSWC PCD, Commander is personally involved with and responsible for the execution of science, technology, unmanned systems, strategic systems, and threat analysis programs supporting Navy and Marine Corps research, development, test and evaluation, homeland defense, and force protection. This also includes championing and obtaining funding for associated programs, developing sponsor relationships, and driving the technology transition and Fleet support processes.

He has published and presented his research in numerous papers and conferences, and is recognized internationally as a Subject Matter Expert in Acoustics. He was the U.S. Navy representative on the Technical Committee for the Institute of Acoustics’ International Conference on Synthetic Aperture Sonar and Synthetic Aperture Radar, held in 2010 in Lerici, Italy and again in 2014.

His professional standing within the technical community has been recognized through his election to the grade of Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA). Dr. Commander currently serves on the ASA’s Technical Committee on Physical Acoustics and is a technical reviewer for the ASA’s Journal. He also continues to serve as a reviewer for the classified Journal of Underwater Acoustics and the IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering.