Symposium to Highlight Eggleston Exhibit at UM Museum

Panel discussions to examine photographer's influence and experiences

Eggleston’s work is now on display at the UM Museum in the exhibit The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston.

Eggleston’s work is on display at the UM Museum in the exhibit ‘The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston.’

OXFORD, Miss – “The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston” presented by the University of Mississippi Museum features 36 works from the fine art photographer in an exclusive exhibition of the museum’s permanent collection.

The exhibition, sponsored by Friends of the Museum, runs through Jan. 14, 2017. The public is invited to an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 6.

To further highlight Eggleston’s remarkable color and black-and-white photographs, the museum will host a symposium Oct. 7 at UM’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, featuring notable panelists across different disciplines.

“The University of Mississippi Museum and the Friends of the Museum are exceptionally pleased to present this convening of distinguished panelists and scholars, offering an exploration of the career and influence of the extraordinary William Eggleston,” said Robert Saarnio, the museum’s director.

The first panel at 10 a.m. will feature William Ferris, Maude Schuyler Clay and Megan Abbott, with Lisa Howorth as moderator. The second panel, at 2 p.m., with Ferris as moderator, will feature Emily Ballew Neff, Richard McCabe and Kris Belden-Adams.

The morning panel will approach Eggleston and his work from a perspective of those who have known him personally and have been significantly influenced by his images, Saarnio said.

“Enriched by anecdotes and personal reflections, the panel’s content will include consideration of formative influences and experiences, career highlights and the longitudinal development of an artist, as evidenced by this particular life in visual art and image-making,” he said.

“The afternoon panel will focus on the body of work across Eggleston’s career, with content including the influence of the work on the field of photography, its influence on other artistic and creative fields, the evolution of critical reception to Eggleston, how the work has had shifting meaning over time, and the meaning of the work today to contemporary audiences and contemporary practitioners.”

Howorth, a native of Washington, D.C., has called Oxford home since 1972. She and husband Richard Howorth opened Square Books in Oxford in 1979. After earning master’s degrees in library science and art history, she worked at Ole Miss as a reference librarian and an associate professor of art and Southern studies. She is editor of “The South: A Treasury of Art and Literature” and other books on Southern culture, writes for Garden & Gun and Oxford American magazines, and published “Flying Shoes,” a novel, in 2014.

Ferris is associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South and a history professor at the University of North Carolina. He is also the founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at UM, where he served as a faculty member for 18 years. A longtime friend of William Eggleston and a collector of his work, Ferris donated all pieces that are on display at the UM Museum. He has written or edited 10 books and will sign his new photography book, “The South in Color,” inspired by Eggleston, at 5 p.m. Oct. 7 at Square Books

Acclaimed photographer, first cousin and Eggleston protege Clay served as a consulting adviser for the exhibition. In 2015, Clay’s own photography collection of portraits titled “Mississippi History” was produced by German photo book publisher Steidl. The publisher discovered her photographs while working with Eggleston on the multivolume set “Chrome” (2011) and “Los Alamos Revisited” (2012). Clay was the 2015 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Visual Arts.

Detroit native and author Abbott also guest curated the exhibition. As the former John and Renée Grisham Writer-in-Residence, she has drawn her own inspiration from Eggleston’s work. Abbott is an Edgar Award-winning author for her novels “Queenpin,” “The Song Is You,” “Die a Little,” “Bury Me Deep,” “The End of Everything” and “Dare Me.” Her latest novel, “The Fever,” was chosen as one of the best books of the summer by the New York Times, People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly and one of the best books of the year by several media outlets.

Neff , executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum, spent nearly 20 years as curator of American painting and sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, where she organized numerous major exhibitions. Neff also served as director and chief curator of the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art at the University of Oklahoma.

McCabe, curator of photography at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, has curated more than 30 exhibitions and is also a photographer whose work has been the subject of several exhibitions. He has also taught photography courses at Xavier University in New Orleans, the Pratt Institute in New York, Montclair State Institute in New Jersey and Fairfield University in Connecticut.

Belden-Adams, an assistant professor of art and art history at UM, earned a doctorate in modern and contemporary art history, specializing in the history of photography, at the City University of New York. Additionally, she earned an master’s degree in art history, theory and criticism from the School of Art Institute of Chicago. Belden-Adams is the editor of the book “Photography and Failure” (2017). Her scholarly work in art history and photography has been published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and many journals.

Ole Miss Theatre Begins Season with ‘Clybourne Park’

Award-winning play and lecture series tackle issues of race, equity and neighborhood development

Daniel Schultz (left), Faith Janicki, Tysianna Jones and Jonathan Orange rehearse for a scene from the Ole Miss Theatre production of 'Clybourne Park,' opening Sept. 23 in Meek Hall Auditorium. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Daniel Schultz (left), Faith Janicki, Tysianna Jones and Jonathan Orange rehearse for a scene from the Ole Miss Theatre production of ‘Clybourne Park,’ opening Sept. 23 in Meek Hall Auditorium. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre Arts kicks off its fall season with a performance of “Clybourne Park” at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 23) in Meek Hall Auditorium.

Directed by Rory Ledbetter, “Clybourne Park” is a Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play written by Bruce Norris in 2010. A social satirical piece with two acts set 50 years apart in a fictional Chicago neighborhood, “Clybourne Park” portrays the evolution of racial relations from integration in the 1950s to the eventual point of gentrification a half-century later.

If you are unable to attend Friday’s performance, do not fret. Several more dates, including both evening and matinee stagings, are scheduled over the next three weeks. For the full show schedule and ticket prices, visit the Ole Miss Theatre website. Tickets are also available at the Student Union Box Office.

To encourage discussion of issues presented in the play, “Multidisciplinary Conversations Surrounding “Clybourne Park,'” a three-part “lunch and learn” lecture series has been organized with the cooperation of several different academic departments across campus. Attendees get a free lunch and the speakers will discuss topics raised by “Clybourne Park” with the hope of educating and promoting conversation in the community.

Michael Barnett, UM chair and associate professor of theatre arts, spearheaded the project.

“It is our goal to encourage an ongoing conversation around the issues that are presented in the play,” Barnett said. “Through the lecture series, the community will be able to see how these issues that are struggled with on stage are impacting people all over the country, and right here in north Mississippi.

“Through this collaboration, we hope that we will be able to reach a broader audience and expand the exploration of these themes beyond the theater.”

The first speaker is John Green, director of the UM Center for Population Studies. Green’s lecture, “Exploration of the Social and Community Factors Associated with Gentrification in Global and Local Contexts,” is set for noon Sept. 30 in Meek Hall Auditorium.

Next up is Rebecca Marchiel, a UM assistant professor of history. Her lecture, “From Panic Peddling to Gentrification: Clybourne Park in Historical Perspective,” is slated for noon Oct. 5 in Meek Hall Auditorium.

The final speaker of the series is Jennifer Stollman, academic director of the university’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. Stollman’s lecture, “Clybourne Park and Community: A Contemporary Dialogue Around Equity and Residential Spaces,” is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Oct. 11 in the Winter Institute, on the third floor of Lamar Hall.

The lectures are free and open to the public; however, space is limited. To reserve a seat, email

UM Choir Contributes to World Day of Peace

Concert singers videotaped performance, sang on live stream for global telecast

Stella Mbugua and the University of Mississippi Concert Singers take part in a worldwide performance for World Peace Day. The choir's performance in Paris-Yates Chapel was live-streamed on the internet. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Stella Mbugua and the University of Mississippi Concert Singers take part in a worldwide performance for World Peace Day. The choir’s performance in Paris-Yates Chapel was live-streamed on the internet. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – As World Day of Peace was observed around the globe Wednesday (Sept. 21), the University of Mississippi Concert Singers joined their voices as part of a worldwide choral cry for peace that live-streamed on the internet.

Led by Don Trott, director of choral activities, the 50-member group participated in a worldwide effort to promote peace through the singing of a South African song titled “Ukuthula,” which translates into “peace.”

The live performance aired at 2:30 p.m. on USTREAM under the group designated “AVoice4Peace.’ A pre-recorded performance of the UM Choir will be added to many from around the world on a website called “AVoice4Peace” at

“The idea for this worldwide choral celebration of peace was that of Ken Wakia, the conductor of the Nairobi Chamber Chorus from Nairobi, Kenya,” Trott said. “This choir performed in the Ford Center last November as part of their USA tour and included a performance of ‘Ukuthula.’

“Ken and Kevin Fenton, choral director at Florida State University, came up with the idea to organize many, many choirs to come together in this worldwide choral cry for peace.”

“Ukuthula” (pronounced oo-goo-too-lah) is a prayer set to music. Loosely translated, the lyrics say, “In this world of sin, the blood of Jesus brings peace, redemption, praise, faith, victory and comfort.”

“It’s wonderful being a part of something so heartfelt and meaningful,” Trott said. “All the students have been very passionate about this experience, both in rehearsals and in performances. It’s really amazing to see them sing as a form of self-expression and connect in this beautiful, unique way.”

Stellah Mbugua, one of the members of the Nairobi Chamber Choir who came to UM on their tour, sang background on “Ukuthula” then. She is pursuing a Master of Music in choral conducting at UM this fall and has become the featured soloist for the UM Choir’s performance.

Mbugua, 27, said she initially was hesitant about being the soloist, even though the song’s message resonates deeply within her.

“I’ve never led this song before and was very nervous about doing so,” she said. “But as I’ve sung it, I felt this energy making me stronger and compelling me to sing.

“No matter where we are from, music truly connects us. This song brought together people from all over the Earth and turned us into once voice for world peace, which is something I really believe in.”

Besides the website, a documentary about the “A Voice 4 Peace” experience is being filmed, Trott said.

World Peace Day – officially The International Day of Peace – is observed annually on Sept. 21. It is dedicated to world peace, specifically to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. Organizers hope that it will become the occasion for a temporary ceasefire in combat zones for humanitarian aid access.

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67PDF document of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.

In 2001, the General Assembly adopted resolution 55/282PDF document, which established Sept. 21 as an annual day of nonviolence and cease-fire.

For more about the UM Concert Singers, visit

Hispanic Heritage Month Begins Monday at UM

Observance includes film series, lectures and music

hispanic-heritage-month-banner-with-lyceum-1200x444OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will present five contemporary films from Spanish-speaking countries and conduct panel discussions and a “Latin Dancing with The Stars,” among other events, to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month on campus beginning Monday (Sept. 19).

The second installment of the “Hispanic Heritage Series,” the featured films all have English subtitles. The screenings are slated for Room 200 of the FedEx Student Athlete Academic Support Center, and all are free and open to the public.

“This series aims to promote an understanding of our global community,” said Carmen Sánchez, a UM modern languages instructor and one of the event’s organizers.

The group is pleased to offer opportunities to view these films “that would otherwise not be available to our community,” said Irene Kaufmann, UM lecturer in Spanish

The following Hispanic Heritage Month events are scheduled on campus:

– Monday (Sept. 19), 4 p.m., Student Union, Room 404 – Hispanic Heritage Month kickoff and opening lecture. Members of the UM community are invited to share Hispanic culture, life and influences.

– Thursday (Sept. 22), noon, Student Union Plaza – “Latin Dancing With The Stars” and “Union Unplugged.” At 5:30 p.m. in Bryant Hall, Room 209, a discussion titled “What Does Columbus Day Mean Now?” will cover the history of Columbian commemorations in the United States and the development of Hispanic Heritage Month.

– Friday (Sept. 23), noon, Lamar Hall, Room 555 – “Spanglish Reflections & Nuyorican Dreams: Latinos in the U.S. South.” This self-reflective talk features documentary photography that will take the audience on a cultural journey.

– Sept. 29, 6 p.m. – “Chico Y Rita” (“Chico and Rita”), directed by Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal and Tono Errando. This animated film features Cuban music and American jazz. Oscar-winning director Fernando Trueba (“The Age of Beauty”) and famous Barcelona designer and artist Javier Mariscal have teamed up to make an animated love story that features the music, culture and people of Cuba. Chico is a dashing piano player and Rita is an enchanting and beautiful Havana nightclub singer. An epic romance unfolds as the pair travels the glamorous stages of 1940s and ’50s Havana, New York City, Las Vegas, Hollywood and Paris.

– Oct. 6, 6 p.m. – “El Esclavo de Dios” (“God’s Slave”), directed by Joel Novoa. Based on the actual events of a 1994 bombing in Buenos Aires, winner at many film festivals, this film follows Ahmed, trained since childhood as an Islamic terrorist and assigned to execute a suicide bomb at a synagogue; and David, a cold-blooded Israeli special agent who will stop at nothing to prevent the attack. But neither man is defined solely by his extremist views. Ahmed, posing as a doctor, lives happily with his wife and young son; though David’s marriage is on the rocks, he remains devoted to his wife and daughter. With time running out before the attack, David zeros in on Ahmed as a suspect, his investigation culminating in violent, if unexpected, consequences.

– Oct. 13, 4 p.m., Bryant Hall, Room 209 – “Embracing Experiences” panel discussion. Members of the UM community share their stories about Hispanic and Latin American culture and heritage.

– Oct. 13, 6 p.m. – “Ixcanul,” directed by Jayro Bustamante. The film was Guatemala’s official entry to the Academy Awards. The story takes place in the heart of a Kaqchikel Mayan community in contemporary times and is a favorite with younger audiences. Maria, a 17-year-old Mayan girl, lives and works with her parents on a coffee plantation in the foothills of an active volcano in Guatemala. An arranged marriage awaits her. Her parents have promised her to Ignacio, the plantation overseer. But Maria doesn’t sit back and accept her destiny.

– Nov. 10, 6 p.m. – “El Libertador” (“The Liberator”), directed by Albert Arvelo. The most expensive Latin American film ever produced, this movie profiles Simon Bolivar, the man who led Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Peru and Ecuador toward independence. The movie was shortlisted with other eight titles for the Best Foreign Academy Award. Rising Venezuelan actor Edgar Ramírez stars in this biopic of one of Latin America’s greatest figures, who fought more than 100 battles against the Spanish Empire in South America and rode some 70,000 miles on horseback. His military campaigns covered twice the territory of those of Alexander the Great.

– Nov. 17, 6 p.m. – “Todos Se Van” (“Everyone Leaves”), directed by Sergio Cabrera. The movie is a celebration of freedom and a confrontation of the authoritarian Cuban regime of the 1980s, which led to one of the country’s worst economic crises. It’s based on the award-winning novel of the same name by Cuban writer Wendy Guerra. Eight-year-old Nieve is the object of her parents’ custody battle. Through her diary entries, Nieve reveals intimate details of a turbulent family life while painting a portrait of the social and political unrest in Cuba during a difficult time for the Castro regime.

The film series is made possible with the support of Pragda, the Spanish Film, SPAIN Arts and Culture, and the Secretary of State for the Culture of Spain. Locally, it is sponsored by the Department of Modern Languages, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement, and Alpha Lambda Delta.

Other sponsors for the month’s events include the UM College of Liberal Arts and its departments of English, History, Political Science, and Sociology and Anthropology; the college’s interdisciplinary cinema studies minor program; the Croft Institute for International Studies; FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Support Center; Sarah Isom Center for Gender and Women’s Studies; and the Oxford Film Festival.

Organizers hope to build on last year’s success, said Diane E. Marting, associate professor of modern languages.

“After our success last year, we wanted to bring more films to campus,” Marting said. “There is such a diversity of peoples and cultures in Spanish America, and in these films one can see a little bit of that variety.”

Second Annual Sarahfest Kicks Off Sept. 25

Festival to feature indie musician Jessica Lea Mayfield and artist Claudia DeMonte

sarahfestOXFORD, Miss. – The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies at the University of Mississippi will showcase live music, film, art installations and more at its second annual Sarahfest arts and music festival, which runs Sept. 25-29.

Headliners include acclaimed indie musician Jessica Lea Mayfield and artist and activist Claudia DeMonte.

The festival provides participants with cultural events that are unique and educational, which foster community building and learning while offering a glimpse into the Isom Center’s work regarding gender and women’s issues, said Theresa Starkey, the center’s associate director.

“The festival is an opportunity for us to acquaint the community with the work we do at the center and have fun while we’re doing it,” Starkey said.

The five-day festival kicks off Sunday (Sept. 25) with a special edition of “Thacker Mountain Radio” at 7 p.m. on the lawn of Rowan Oak, featuring New Orleans musician Maggie Koerner, Memphis musician Marcella Simien and poet Raquel Flowers Rivera. The event is free and open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to bring blankets or folding chairs.

In partnership with the Powerhouse Community Arts Center and the UM Museum, a monthlong exhibit of Claudia DeMonte’s work will be displayed at the Powerhouse in an exhibit titled “The Art of Making the Invisible Visible: A Retrospective.”

DeMonte’s interest in exploring women’s roles in society, perceived gender expectations and beauty standards resulted in this exhibit. More than a dozen pieces will be on display.

The artist will attend a reception at 6 p.m. Sept. 27 at the Powerhouse in conjunction with the Oxford Arts Crawl.

Other appearances throughout the week include local musicians Gina Sexton, Anne Freeman and Kit Thorn, and UM graduate student Alicia Marie Venchuk performing at Proud Larry’s.

The festival will culminate with a Sept. 29 performance by Mayfield at Proud Larry’s. Mayfield is known for her distorted guitar tones, crashing drums and heavy riffs, reminiscent of early ’90s rock, while singing of emotions and confessions. Oxford’s Kate Teague will also perform at the 9 p.m. show.

The event is possible through partnerships with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Proud Larry’s, Thacker Mountain Radio and the Oxford Film Festival and co-sponsorships from the UM Department of Art and Art History, University Museum, Rowan Oak, Department of Archives and Special Collections, and student organizations including FEMISS and OutGrad.

For more information about the Isom Center and the full schedule of events, visit

UM Swahili Program Provides Exotic Option for Students

East African language is 11th offered at university

OXFORD, Miss. – Like hundreds of students each year at the University of Mississippi, Estelle Blair signed up last fall for Spanish 101. But when the Brandon native decided that Spanish was not for her, she found a dramatically different alternative to fulfill her foreign language requirements.

Neema Loy (left), a graduate teaching assistant from Tanzania, leads UM students in her Swahili language class in traditional Tarab dances. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Neema Loy (left), a graduate teaching assistant from Tanzania, leads UM students in her Swahili language class in traditional taarab dances. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Blair has joined a small, but growing, group of UM students studying Swahili. One of the university’s more uncommon academic offerings, the East African tongue is the 11th language taught by the Department of Modern Languages.

Although she took two years of French in high school, Blair’s decision to try Swahili was not totally out of the blue.

“When I was in high school, I took a trip with my family to Tanzania to go on a safari,” said Blair, a sophomore pursuing a major in biology with a minor in chemistry. “The people there were just amazing. Their attitudes and culture and their outlook on life were just amazing, and I just loved them.”

Swahili, also known as Kiswahili, is the primary language of the Swahili people and a common language across eastern and southeastern Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. It is the national language of Tanzania and Kenya.

Beginning its fifth year of operation, the Swahili language program is expected to enroll 26 students in two levels for the 2016-17 academic year. That’s far behind popular offerings such as Spanish, Chinese, Arabic and French, but the number of UM students studying Swahili is expected to grow significantly, said Don Dyer, UM chair of modern languages.

Crissandra George explores the area around Ngorongoro Crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the world's largest inactive volcanic caldera, is noted for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. George was among 12 UM students who visited East Africa this summer as part of a study abroad course. Photo courtesy Crissandra George

Crissandra George explores the area around Ngorongoro Crater in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area of Tanzania. The UNESCO World Heritage Site, which includes the world’s largest inactive volcanic caldera, is noted for its natural beauty and abundant wildlife. George was among 12 UM students who visited East Africa this summer as part of a study abroad course. Photo courtesy Crissandra George

“Swahili is really making some strides nationally,” Dyer said. “The most rapidly growing languages at American universities are Korean, Italian and American Sign Language, but Swahili is sort of an up-and-coming language.

“We are proud to be one of a small and elite group of universities in the country that offers courses in Swahili.”

Neema Loy, a graduate teaching assistant from Tanzania, teaches the four Swahili courses offered at UM. Studying the language can provide insights into life in another part of the world, Loy said.

“To learn Swahili is to learn the language of East African people,” she said. “You also learn their way of living: their food, music, religion and culture.”

It also provides opportunities to broaden one’s perspectives, said Gracie Snyder, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism.

“When I first signed up to take Swahili, I was only thinking about fulfilling the core requirements for my major of taking at least two years of a foreign language,” said Snyder, from Eastman, Georgia. “I had no idea that I would fall in love with learning this language and one day visit Tanzania just to study this language further.

“I would definitely recommend this language to everyone because not only is taking Swahili a great conversation starter, but learning this language has been one of the ‘funnest’ experiences I have ever had.”

The emphasis on daily life in East Africa transforms the university’s Swahili program from a mere language class to a cultural education, said Crissandra George, a sophomore from Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

“So many language classes focus only on the grammar and vocabulary, but this class is so much more,” said George, who is majoring in Spanish and linguistics. “You learn the culture and history as well as the slang.”

Learning Swahili can yield benefits for a variety of academic majors, said George, who spent part of her summer studying abroad in Tanzania with Snyder and a group of UM students.

“A lot of environmental research and studies are done in Tanzania and regions surrounding it, thus helping science and engineering majors,” she said. “Also, anthropology, linguistics or really any social science is perfect to study here. The culture and language make it unique to study especially abroad.”

Gracie Snyder (left) and Crissandra George attend a rooftop dinner in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the east coast of Tanzania, where the group learned about Tarab traditions, which are a mix of Arabic and Swahili cultures. Snyder and George were among 12 UM students who visited East Africa this summer as part of a study abroad course. Photo courtesy Crissandra George

Gracie Snyder (left) and Crissandra George attend a rooftop dinner in Zanzibar, an archipelago off the east coast of Tanzania, where the group learned about taarab traditions, which are a mix of Arabic and Swahili cultures. Snyder and George were among 12 UM students who visited East Africa this summer as part of a study abroad course. Photo courtesy Crissandra George

Loy, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and Swahili from the University of Dae es Salaam in her native country, is pursuing a master’s degree in modern languages with an emphasis on Teaching English as a Second Language. She also serves as faculty adviser for the Swahili Club, which meets weekly during the academic year.

The club offers members and visitors opportunities to meet and have conversation with native speakers from Tanzania and Kenya, as well as activities to learn about Swahili culture.

“We also try our best to bring the actual Swahili world to the learning process, for example: doing real cultural activities in Swahili Club, cooking and dancing,” Loy said. “We also promote collaborative learning by video chatting with learners from other universities.”

The goal is to make learning the language fun, she said. The approach is a success, her students agree.

“Having a native-speaking teacher here at Ole Miss makes it a great place to learn this language,” Blair said. “The university continuously challenges us to grow as a person and a student, and this is just another example.”

Blair, George and Snyder each won one of the department’s language awards at last spring’s Honors Day. Although learning a new language is hard work, the experience of learning Swahili is unlike any other, Snyder said.

“I never thought in a million years that taking a language course would impact my life so greatly and influence the type of career I would want to enter into upon graduation,” she said. “Coming into college, I thought that I wanted to be a sports journalist, but learning Swahili has made me think about possibly working for an embassy one day or pursuing journalism that will allow me to use Swahili.

“Learning Swahili has shown me just how much effort and willingness it takes to learn a language, but how rewarding it can be to know that you are learning something that can help you relate to others around the world.”

Blair also has plans to use the language after graduation. Her goal is to attend medical school and become a physician, and she hopes to work with Doctors Without Borders, an organization that provides medical care for some of the world’s poorest people.

“My desire is to work somewhere in eastern Africa,” she said. “I want to learn the language so I’ll never need a translator.”

To learn more about the program, go to or contact Loy at or 662-915-1295.

UM Welcomes Most Accomplished Freshmen Class Ever

State's flagship university celebrates record enrollment as it builds for future

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has recorded its 22nd consecutive year of rising enrollment, registering its largest and most academically qualified freshman class ever.

Enrollment at the state’s flagship university hit 24,250 across all campuses, largest in the state, according to preliminary data. The freshman class of 3,982 students posted an average ACT score of 25.2, surpassing the UM record of 24.7, set last year.

“Students and families across the state and nation are noticing that great things are happening here at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They recognize the academic excellence and outstanding college experience we offer and continue to join us in record numbers.

“Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs at a competitive price, providing all qualified Mississippi students the educational opportunities to transform their lives and our communities. It’s gratifying to see those efforts acknowledged by a growing Ole Miss family.”

Total enrollment is up 412 students, or 1.7 percent, from last fall.

This year’s first-time students include 87 class valedictorians, 54 salutatorians, 94 student body presidents, 92 Eagle Scouts and 13 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the organization’s highest youth honor.

“Our university has a long history of attracting and developing student leaders,” Vitter said. “We offer them valuable experiences and help them hone their talents.

“I look forward to seeing what this talented group of freshmen can accomplish. I fully expect them to have a tremendous impact on our local and global communities during their time here and beyond.”

The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 last year to 3.57, another university record.

The group bucked declines in average ACT scores both nationally and on the state level. Among new freshmen from Mississippi, this year’s average was 24.8, up from last fall’s 24.4.

The progress in freshman ACT scores actually has been maintained over the past nine years, growing 2.5 points over that span. Several factors have contributed to that success, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“We offer more and more outstanding programs for excellent students,” Stocks said. “For example, the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is now admitting 30 students per year. These are honors-quality students planning to be teachers, and they have committed to teach in Mississippi upon graduation.

“Then there’s the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which brings in 60 top-level freshmen each year who are interested in the intersection of engineering, business and accounting. And over at the School of Accountancy, we’re admitting more students with ACT scores over 30 than we’ve ever had, and a lot of that stems from the school being ranked in the Top 10 for several years in a row now.”

Stocks also cited the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Arabic language and Provost’s Scholars programs for helping attract more high-achieving students. The university also offers more top-level scholarships, such as the Stamps Leadership Scholarships, than in the past, he said.

“We’re now competing against the best universities in the country for the best students in the country,” Stocks said. “At the same time, we remain committed to educating the people of Mississippi and giving all qualified Mississippi students a chance to succeed and make better lives for themselves and their families.”

The university’s efforts to help new students adjust to college life and be successful – including FASTrack and the Freshman Year Experience program – also continue to pay dividends. Student retention remained near record levels, with 85.3 percent of last year’s freshmen returning to campus to continue their studies this fall.

The majority, 59.4 percent, of Ole Miss students are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties. The university also attracts students from around the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state, the District of Columbia and 90 foreign countries.

Minority enrollment totaled 5,548 students, or 22.9 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,166 students, or 13.0 percent of overall enrollment.

With a newly expanded building, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College continues to grow, enrolling 1,420 students this fall, more than doubling over the past 10 years. It received 1,484 applications for this fall, up 15 percent from last year’s 1,293 submissions. The Honors College has a record 474 incoming freshmen, with 59 percent being Mississippi residents.

Once it settles into its new space and completes renovations on the existing facility, the Honors College has a target enrollment around 1,500 students. The new space allows faculty to broaden the challenges and opportunities for its students, Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“It gives us the physical capacity to go deep into conversation in public space,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “At a time when civil discourse is so lacking in America, we want to create a space where we can model civil debate on ideas, even ones that appear threatening.”

While many of the university’s schools and programs experienced growth, its accounting and journalism schools enjoyed the largest increases.

Enrollment in the Patterson School of Accountancy grew 9 percent, to 1,380 students this fall, compared to 1,261 last year. The school has been a mainstay in the Top 10 rankings for several years, and all three of its programs are again in the top eight this fall.

In the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, undergraduate enrollment increased 8 percent, growing from 1,375 students in fall 2015 to 1,486 this year. Founded in 2009, the school has benefited from being on a beautiful campus, with economical tuition, excellence in athletics and an exceptionally effective Office of Admissions, Dean Will Norton said.

“We have a program that focuses on preparing graduates for media careers in the modern world, not for 20 years ago, and we have a faculty who held significant positions in the media, many just within the last few years,” Norton said. “Because of this, many of them also are well-versed in social media, and they can help students master those areas.”

The school offers opportunities for students that are rare among journalism programs, he said.

“Not many places offer students a chance to do documentaries or depth reporting courses, or campaigns for companies throughout the region, but we offer all that here,” Norton said. “Our international projects also have been exceptional.”

Fall enrollment at the university’s Medical Center remained nearly level, largely because of space constraints.

“We are near or at capacity in all of our programs, with the exception of some of our online offerings,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Areas enjoying growth include the School of Medicine, from 563 students to 577; the Medical Center’s residency and fellowship programs, from 626 to 640; and the School of Dentistry, from 143 to 148.

The increase should accelerate with a new 151,000-square-foot, $74 million School of Medicine building set to open in fall 2017, Didlake said. The new building “is not only going to allow the School of Medicine enrollment to increase, but it will decrease pressure on other teaching space, allowing our other programs to grow.”

Enrollment should rise dramatically in the future, including the addition of a new School of Population Health, the seventh school on the medical campus. It opens to students in fall 2017.

To help accommodate the growing student population in Oxford, the university has opened two new five-story residence halls on the former site of Guess Hall, adding housing space for 603 students.

The university has launched a three-year project to expand and modernize the Student Union and is working on a new recreation center and transportation hub, a $32 million project on the south end of campus. Work also has begun on a $20 million renovation to Garland, Hedleston and Mayes halls, providing space for the School of Applied Sciences.

The university’s new STEM building, which will add 200,000 square feet of education and research space in the Science District for an estimated $135 million, will boost the university’s capacity to address workforce needs and enhance UM’s status as a Carnegie R-1 Highest Research Activity institution.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, go to

Ruth Cummins of the UM Medical Center contributed to this report.

Gravitational Wave Discussion Set for First Fall Science Cafe

Renowned cosmological physicist Michael Turner to speak Sept. 13

Michael S. Turner, Rainer Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago, will speak at the UM Science Café Sept. 13. (Submitted photo) (Submitted photo)

Michael Turner, Rainer Distinguished Service Professor at the
University of Chicago, will speak Sept. 13 at the UM Science Cafe.
Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The origins of the universe is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Michael Turner, the Bruce V. and Diana M. Rauner Distinguished Service Professor of Physical Cosmology and director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago, will discuss “Einstein’s Outrageous Universe: Gravitational Waves, Black Holes and the Big Bang” at the fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe.

Set for 6 p.m. Sept. 13 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd., the event is free and open to the public.

“Einstein changed the way we think about the universe,” Turner said. “In this presentation, I will discuss three of the most timely and interesting things in our universe: gravitational waves, the big discovery of this year; black holes, they are everywhere; and the beginning of the universe, the big bang.”

Turner’s 30-minute presentation will include discussion about the biggest science news story of the year, the discovery of gravitational waves – or ripples in space-time – that was announced in February by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration. UM is an institutional member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and was among the major contributors to the LIGO discovery.

“They came from two massive black holes that merged a billion years ago and spectacularly verified a major prediction of Einstein’s theory,” he said. “The detection involved measuring the distance between two mirrors to a precision of one-thousandth the size of the proton!”

Turner’s appearance is part of the Harlow Shapley Visiting Lectureship Program of the American Astronomical Society, a program of two-day visits by professional astronomers who bring the excitement of modern astronomy and astrophysics to colleges of all types. Besides his Science Cafe presentation, he is scheduled to give a talk on “Cosmology” in the colloquium series of the Ole Miss physics department at 4 p.m. Sept. 13 in Lewis Hall, Room 101.

Turner’s appearance should provide a fascinating look at cutting-edge research, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“Dr. Turner is one of the most prominent theoretical astrophysicists and cosmologists in the U.S.,” Bombelli said. “Among his many honors, he has served as chair of the Physics Section of the National Academy of Sciences, led the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the National Science Foundation and is a past president of the American Physical Society.”

A theoretical cosmologist who coined the term “dark energy” in 1998, Turner was formerly the assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences for the U.S. National Science Foundation from 2003 to 2006. His book, “The Early Universe,” co-written with fellow Chicago cosmologist Edward “Rocky” Kolb and published in 1990, is a standard text on the subject.

Turner’s 20-plus former doctoral students hold faculty positions at leading universities around the country, at national laboratories and on Wall Street. He has served as chief scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, chair and president of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and president and chairman of the board of the Aspen Center for Physics.

Turner’s national service includes membership on the NRC’s Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy and on the senior editorial board of Science Magazine, chairmanship of the OECD Global Science Forum’s Astroparticle Physics International Forum, membership on the board of directors of the Fermi Research Alliance, and serving as secretary of Class I of the National Academy of Sciences and founding chair of ScienceCounts, a new 501(c)3 organization that promotes awareness and support of science.

Turner received a bachelor’s degree in physics from the California Institute of Technology in 1971 and earned his doctorate in physics from Stanford University in 1978. He holds an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Michigan State University and was awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award from Caltech in 2006.

He helped establish the interdisciplinary field that combines cosmology and elementary particle physics to understand the origin and evolution of the universe. His research focuses on the earliest moments of creation, and he has made contributions to inflationary cosmology, particle dark matter and structure formation, the theory of big bang nucleosynthesis and the nature of dark energy.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

William Winter, Leland Speed to Receive Geographic Visionary Awards

Mississippi Geographic Alliance honoring leaders for their connections to global economy

William Winters

William Winter

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi will honor former Gov. William Winter and business mogul Leland Speed in September for their efforts to connect the state to the global economy.

The annual MGA Geographic Visionary Awards ceremony is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 20 at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. The award honors a Mississippi business or civic leader who recognizes the importance of global understanding and awareness for Mississippians and/or promotes understanding about Mississippi in other parts of the world.

Previous recipients include Ambassador John Palmer (2013), George Schloegel (2014) and U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (2015).

“I have a special interest in and appreciation for the work of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance and feel greatly honored to be the recipient of this award,” Winter said. “From my earliest experiences as a schoolboy, I developed a deep affection for the study of geography and was fascinated by the wonders of the world that I read about.

“I have since had my life enriched by the travels I have enjoyed to so many different places, including some 36 countries and all 50 states. Because this award is about geography, it has great significance for me.”

MGA officials said Winter is most deserving of the honor.

“William Winter is a role model and moral leader for those seeking to improve education in the state,” said Carley Lovorn, MGA assistant director. “Gov. Winter served in the United States Army during World War II and the Korean War, and he was also a member of the Mississippi National Guard.

“He has served Mississippi in the state Legislature, as state treasurer, as lieutenant governor and as governor of the state. Thanks to his visionary leadership, the 1982 Mississippi Education Reform Act was passed, establishing public kindergartens and other improvements to state education.”

Winter was also a member of President Clinton’s Advisory Board on Race and is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Mississippi Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

“There is no one in the state of Mississippi more deserving of this award than Gov. William Winter,” said Andy Mullins, UM chief of staff to the chancellor emeritus and an MGA board member. “Considering his many contributions to education over the length of his legendary career, it is most appropriate for him to join the list of previous Visionary Award recipients.”

Leland Speed

Leland Speed

Speed has worked to position Mississippi to thrive in the global economy through state-level business leadership in both the private and public sectors, Lovorn said.

Being honored with the former governor took Speed by surprise.

“At the tender age of 84, you don’t expect things like this,” Speed said. “It is truly an honor having my name associated with a Mississippi icon like William Winter.”

Speed grew Mississippi-based real estate businesses to national proportions and kept that business right in Mississippi.

“He is in the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame and was the 2008 recipient of NAREIT’s Industry Leadership Award,” Lovorn said. “Mr. Speed has twice served his state as executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority and has served as chairman of Metro Jackson Chamber of Commerce and Goodwill Industries, as well as other organizations.”

Speed is dedicated to improving education in Mississippi and has served as chairman of the Jackson State University Development Foundation.

The Jess McKee Award for Distinguished Service to Geography Education will also be presented at a noon luncheon to Barbara Boone of Petal. Top sponsors of the event include National Geographic Society and Southern Pipe and Supply.

“Barbara Boone spent decades in the classroom and countless hours outside of the classroom with groups like 4-H and the Boy Scouts of America,” Lovorn said. “Over the past five years, Ms. Boone has dedicated her considerable talents to improving geography education at the state level.”

Among her contributions, Boone has served as a teacher consultant for the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, a member of the MGA Steering Committee, an alumnus of the Geo-literacy Leadership Institute, faculty member of MGA’s Pre-Service Conferences and program director of the MGA Giant Traveling Map program.

She also develops materials for elementary classrooms and created a summer enrichment program for at-risk students.

Mississippians export billions of dollars in products to more than 100 different countries each year. The MGA at UM, part of National Geographic Society’s Alliance Network, helps prepare Mississippians to interact with the world around them by increasing geographic literacy through geography education services, including outreach to civic leaders and policymakers, awareness raising among the general public and professional development for K-12 educators.

All proceeds from the MGA Geographic Visionary Luncheon will help fund MGA programs in the state, including giant map programs for students and professional development for teachers.

Sponsorships at multiple levels are available. For more information on sponsorships and registration go to or call the MGA office at 662-915-3776.

UM Museum Exhibit Features Work of William Eggleston

Renowned photographer acclaimed for transforming ordinary scenes into fine art

William Eggleston's photographs will be on display at the UM Museum Sept. 13 to Jan. 17.

William Eggleston’s photographs will be on display at the UM Museum Sept. 13 to Jan. 17.

OXFORD, Miss. – Through the eye of photographer William Eggleston, nothing is ordinary, despite his photographs’ apparent depiction of ordinary things and ordinary people doing ordinary things.

Eggleston once said, “I am at war with the obvious,” a phrase curators at the Metropolitan Museum of Art thought apt enough to use as the title for a 2013 exhibit of his photographs from their permanent collection.

The University of Mississippi Museum presents “The Beautiful Mysterious: The Extraordinary Gaze of William Eggleston,” an exhibit of 36 color and black-and-white photographs from the museum’s own remarkable permanent collection, including some never before exhibited.

The exhibit, sponsored by Friends of the Museum, opens Sept. 13 and runs through Jan. 14, 2017. The public is invited to an opening reception from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 6.

Eggleston, a Memphis native, acquired his first camera in 1957 at age 18. During his time studying art at Ole Miss, his interest in photography grew. He soon began to experiment with color negative film. Today, Eggleston is a world-renowned innovator of color photography, transforming ordinary scenes into fine art.

The University Museum owes its collection of Eggleston photographs to the generosity of Bill Ferris, scholar, author and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, who personally donated them all. Ferris, a photographer and longtime friend of Eggleston, describes him as “the greatest living color photographer.”

“He is the Picasso or Faulkner of what he does,” Ferris said. “This exhibit at the museum allows everyone to know his work, which is part of the legacy of Ole Miss.”

Michael Glover, art critic for the British newspaper The Independent, agrees. His review of the 2013 opening of the permanent Eggleston installation at the Tate Modern was headlined, “Genius in colour: Why William Eggleston is the world’s greatest photographer.”

Greatest or not, art critics agree that Eggleston’s work has shaped art photography since 1976, when the Museum of Modern Art presented “William Eggleston’s Guide,” its first-ever solo exhibition of color photographs

Since that watershed exhibit, Eggleston’s work has influenced art photography and even filmmaking. Film directors citing his influence include John Huston, Gus Van Sant and David Lynch.

It was Lynch who brought Eggleston to the attention of this exhibit’s guest curator, Megan Abbott, the university’s 2013-14 John and Renée Grisham Writer in Residence and an Edgar Award-winner.

Abbott has drawn her own inspiration from his photos for many of her novels. She helped choose the pieces for the exhibit, which capture scenes from more than two decades.

“To me, his photographs evoke entire worlds, not worlds we merely see, but worlds we feel, smell, touch,” she said. “When you look long enough at his photographs, like the gorgeous, lonely blue parking lot chosen as one of the exhibit’s central images, you get lost in it. You’re in another place.”

Acclaimed photographer, first cousin and Eggleston protege Maude Schulyer Clay served as consulting adviser for the exhibit. Last year, German photo book publisher Steidl produced a collection of Clay’s portraits titled “Mississippi History.” Steidl discovered her photographs while working with Eggleston on the multi-volume set “Chrome (2011) and “Los Alamos Revisited (2012).

In conjunction with the exhibit, the museum will host a symposium Oct. 7 at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, with discussion panels at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The morning panel will include Megan Abbott, Bill Ferris and Maude Schuyler Clay, and will be moderated by author Lisa Howorth. The afternoon panel will feature Emily B. Neff, executive director of the Memphis Brooks Museum; Richard McCabe, curator of photography at the Ogden Museum of Art; and UM art historian Kris Belden-Adams.

The University Museum, at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street, is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, go to  or follow the museum on Twitter and Instagram at @ummuseum and on Facebook.