‘The Education of a Lifetime’ Chosen for Common Reading Experience

Robert Khayat's memoir recounts experiences growing up and leading UM's transformation

Photo by Robert Jordan

Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – A memoir by Robert Khayat, chancellor emeritus of the University of Mississippi, has been selected for the university’s 2015 Common Reading Experience.

Each incoming freshman will receive a copy of “The Education of a Lifetime,” (Nautilus Publishing Co., 2013) with instructions to read it before the start of fall classes. Khayat will speak at the fall convocation, set for Aug. 25 at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“I think students will identify with the author’s account of his first days as a freshman on an unfamiliar campus,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and a co-chair on the Common Reading selection committee.

Chosen from among five finalists by the Common Reading committee, Khayat’s book tells the story of growing up in Moss Point during the days of segregation and recounts his days in college at Ole Miss and Yale University. He also tells stories about his experiences as the university’s 15th chancellor and how the university grew under his direction.

“Every new student has pangs of homesickness and uncertainty, and I think knowing that our former chancellor had those same experiences will be reassuring to members of the class of 2019,” Banahan said. “The UM Common Reading Experience is important to our campus as we are a community of readers. Reading is at the very core of education, and sharing one book with students, faculty, staff and alumni affords us the opportunity for rich, stimulating, insightful discussions. Hopefully, students will learn how to express their opinions and respectfully listen to others opinions, even when they disagree.

“Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat played a pivotal role in changing the University of Mississippi and changing the perception others had of the university. Reading ‘The Education of a Lifetime’ will expose students to Chancellor Emeritus Khayat’s leadership style, the challenges he faced and overcame during his career, his disappointments and the legacy he leaves for all of us.”

Part of the book is devoted to Khayat’s efforts to change some of the school’s traditions in order to change perceptions and rid UM of symbols that were damaging its reputation. While most Ole Miss alumni supported Khayat, some were outraged. Many hateful letters and even death threats found their way to the chancellor’s office.

“I have come to believe that many external forces shape and mold us,” Khayat writes. “I am no exception. … Frequently, there is no way to prepare for a particular challenge or situation, and you have to go with what you have and who you are. And who you are is often determined by your family.”

During Khayat’s tenure as chancellor, academic standards were raised, old buildings were renovated and faculty salaries grew dramatically. The university was granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honor society for liberal arts. Enrollment increased by 70 percent and the university’s budget grew from $500 million to $1.5 billion annually.

For more information on the Common Reading Experience, visit http://umreads.olemiss.edu/. For more information on Khayat and his book, go to http://www.robertkhayat.com.

Physicist’s Studies of Black Holes Spins Make Prestigious Journal

Global research team's findings advance understanding, get international attention

Black hole precessing model (created by Prof. Midori Kitagawa).

Black hole precessing model (created by Midori Kitagawa)

OXFORD, Miss. – A global team of scientists, including a University of Mississippi physicist, provides new insight about the most energetic event in the universe: the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a larger black hole.

The research findings by Emanuele Berti, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy, and his colleagues appear in the March issue of Physical Review Letters, one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed academic journals in the field. “Effective potentials and morphological transitions for binary black-hole spin precession” is co-authored by scientists Michael Kesden, Davide Gerosa, Richard O’Shaughnessy and Ulrich Sperhake.

PRL is among several publications produced by the American Physical Society and American Institute of Physics describing selected physics research papers to a broad audience of physicists, journalists, students and the public. This paper details how the scientists, who work in the United Kingdom and the U.S., explored the influence of black hole spins on the dynamics of black hole mergers.

“The work should have significant impact upon our understanding of how black holes are born, live and die, and also on the search for gravitational waves in the cosmos,” Berti said.

Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that two massive objects in a binary system should move closer and closer together as the systems emit a type of radiation called gravitational waves. Using gravitational waves as an observational tool, researchers could learn about the characteristics of the black holes that were emitting those waves billions of years ago, such as their masses and mass ratios. That data is important to more fully understanding the evolution and nature of stars and black holes.

This year, a large-scale physics experiment called the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory aims to be the first to directly detect gravitational waves. LIGO is the largest physics project funded by the National Science Foundation.

“The equations that we solved will help predict the characteristics of the gravitational waves that LIGO would expect to see from binary black hole mergers,” Kesden said. “We’re looking forward to comparing our solutions to the data that LIGO collects.”

The equations the team solved deal specifically with the spin angular momentum of binary black holes and a phenomenon called precession. Angular momentum is a measure of the amount of rotation a spinning object has. Spin angular momentum not only includes the speed at which the object rotates, but also the direction in which that spin points. For example, a spinning figure skater’s angular momentum would point up.

Another type of angular momentum, called orbital angular momentum, applies to a system in which objects are orbit about each another. Orbital angular momentum also has a speed (related to how fast the objects move around each other) and a direction.

“In a binary black hole system, the directions of the individual types of angular momenta change, or precess, over time,” Sperhake said.

“In these systems, you have all three angular momenta, all changing direction in time,” Kesden said. “The solutions that we have now describe the shapes that are traced out by the precessing spins of these black holes.”

In addition to solving existing equations, the researchers also derived equations that will allow scientists to statistically track binary black hole spin precession from the formation of black holes to their merger far more efficiently and quickly than has been possible.

“With these solutions, we can create computer simulations that follow black hole evolution over billions of years,” Kesden said. “A simulation that previously would have taken years can now be done in seconds. But it’s not just faster; there are things that we can learn from these simulations that we just couldn’t learn any other way.”

Berti earned his doctorate at the University of Rome in Italy. He later worked in Greece, France and the U.S. before moving to UM, where he is an associate professor. He is also a visiting associate professor at the California Institute of Technology and the recipient of a highly competitive CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation. His research interests include theoretical astrophysics and relativity, black holes, neutron stars, gravitational wave emission and detection and experimental tests of Einstein’s general relativity theory.

Kesden earned his doctorate in physics from the California Institute of Technology. He is an assistant professor of physics at the University of Texas at Dallas and recipient of a 2015 Sloan Research Fellowship. These prestigious fellowships recognize the most promising scientific researchers for their achievements and potential among the next generation of scientific leaders in the U.S. and Canada.

Sperhake is a lecturer at the Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics of the University of Cambridge, an adjunct professor of physics at UM and a visiting associate professor at the California Institute of Technology.

Gerosa was a summer student at the California Institute of Technology, a visiting student at UM and a Master’s student in Milan (Italy) under Berti’s supervision. He was awarded an Isaac Newton Studentship and he is a doctoral student working under Sperhake’s supervision in Cambridge. In February, Gerosa got a prize for the best poster at the conference “Compact Objects as Astrophysical and Gravitational Probes” for work based on this paper.

O’Shaughnessy is an assistant professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

This study was funded, in part, by National Science Foundation Grant No. PHY-0900735 and by CAREER Grant No. PHY-1055103.

To view the team’s PRL paper, go to http://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.081103.

Keep up with the gravitation, astrophysics and theoretical physics group at UM by visiting http://www.phy.olemiss.edu/GR/.

Croft Lecture Focuses on Latin American Grassroots Activism

Boston University professor Jeffrey Rubin to discuss business response March 2

Jeffrey Rubin

Jeffrey Rubin

OXFORD, Miss. – The responses of private businesses to the social reforms and activism in Latin America over the past 20 years will be examined during a presentation March 2 at the University of Mississippi’s Croft Institute for International Studies.

Jeffrey Rubin, associate professor of history and research associate at the Institute on Culture, Religion and World Affairs at Boston University, plans to discuss “Business Responses to Grassroots Activism in Latin America.” The lecture is set for 7 p.m. in the Joseph C. Bancroft Conference Room of Croft Hall. Rubin’s talk is the latest installment in the Croft Speaker Series.

“With each scholar we bring to campus, we aim to provide Mississippi undergraduates with the opportunity to engage seriously with political, economic, social and cultural issues they will encounter as citizens of the world,” said Joshua First, Croft assistant professor of history and international studies.

First and Joshua Howard, a Croft associate professor of history, selected a group of speakers with expertise in emerging social movements and problems of democratization in Latin America, China, the Middle East and Eastern Europe.

“Dr. Rubin is an ideal speaker to address this topic because, not only has he done extensive research in places like Mexico and Brazil, he combines his scholarly pursuits with a personal interest in social justice and activism,” First said. “In this way, he will ideally speak to how students can get involved in making the world a more democratic and egalitarian place.”

Up until the 1990s, Latin America’s private sector and other socio-political elites inflicted violent repression on progressive movements. Rubin’s research has demonstrated business responses to reform have become more open-ended as Latin America’s democracies have deepened, with repression tempered by the economic uncertainties of globalization, the political and legal constraints of democracy, and shifting cultural understandings of poverty and race.

Rubin’s lecture is based on the findings of the “Enduring Reform” project, which he directed with Vivienne Bennett, a professor at California State University at San Marcos.

Rubin, who is specializes in social movements, holds a bachelor’s degree in social studies and a doctorate in political science from Harvard University. He is the author of the book “Decentering the Regime: Ethnicity, Radicalism, and Democracy in Juchitán, Mexico” and co-author of “Sustaining Activism: A Brazilian Women’s Movement and a Father-Daughter Collaboration.” He is also co-editor of “Enduring Reform: Progressive Activism and Private Sector Responses in Latin America’s Democracies,” among other works.

His current project, “Citizen Subjectivities Reconfigured,” examines how social movements, business and religion have reshaped the ways people understand themselves as citizens and become involved in politics in Latin America’s democracies.

Madeline Fumi, a senior international studies and public policy leadership major from Chicago, said she is interested in learning about Latin America activism and also hearing about the implementation of society-based reforms.

“I am very interested to hear about the level of grassroots activism taking place in Latin America and if the international community is, in some way, supporting its efforts,” Fumi said. “Furthermore, I am eager to hear how businesses in Latin America balance economic interests with positive community engagement.”

For assistance related to a disability, contact croft@olemiss.edu.

Singer-songwriter Caroline Herring Returns to Campus

Free Feb. 27 concert honors Charles Reagan Wilson

Caroline Herring will perform at Barnard Observatory on Feb. 27 at 7:30 p.m.

Caroline Herring will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 at Barnard Observatory.

OXFORD, Miss. – Singer-songwriter Caroline Herring returns to University of Mississippi this week for a special concert as part of the Porter Fortune Jr. History Symposium. The symposium honors the recent retirement of Charles Reagan Wilson with a series of talks and panel discussions on Southern religion and Southern culture.

Set for 7:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 27) in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory, the concert is free and open to the public. Herring’s music combines a unique voice and multiple musical influences.

She said it is her great pleasure to play a concert honoring Wilson.

“Dr. Wilson taught me when I earned my master’s in Southern Studies at UM, and I loved everything about him, including his extensive Southern kitsch collection,” Herring said. “I also went to the local Episcopal church with him and we took a yearlong Education for Ministry course together. After moving to Texas and working in El Paso with colonias communities, I came to a new appreciation of the fact that Dr. Wilson grew up in El Paso and then shifted his work and life from one deepest South to another.”

It was a natural choice to have Herring perform in honor of Wilson, a former director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, since she is a native Mississippian and 1998 Southern studies alumna.

“Charles Wilson has cared for many, many students, me included,” Herring said. “I remember introducing him to my newborn daughter – he is the kind of person whom you want to meet your kids. A lot of the songs I sing are due, in part, to his tutelage.”

Ted Ownby, director of the CSSC, said it will be fun to welcome Herring back.

“Caroline Herring does Southern studies when she writes and sings, so we’re excited she can be part of the symposium,” Ownby said. “Her M.A. thesis was on a topic in Southern religious history – she studied the religious roots of anti-lynching activists – and she deals with the intersections of religion, history and, obviously, the history of music in her performances. She’s also a good friend to a lot of people around here, and she has plenty of fans both through her CDs and her work with ‘Thacker Mountain Radio.'”

Herring released “I Will Go into the Day” in January 2014, where she sets to music the magic and wonder of childhood.

Fats Kaplin, who played on her 2012 album “Camilla” and plays more than 15 instruments, will accompany Herring at this concert. A review of that album named Herring one of the “most literate songwriters of her generation.”

“I’m thrilled Fats Kaplin likes my work because he is a busy man,” Herring said. “The last time I asked him to play a gig, he couldn’t because he was playing with Jack White in Paris. Thankfully, he’s free on the 27th.”

Listeners can hear Herring’s music at http://www.carolineherring.com/.

A full schedule of the history symposium is available at http://southernstudies.olemiss.edu/events. It began in 1975 as an annual conference on Southern history and is named for the late Porter L. Fortune Jr., UM chancellor emeritus. Past events have examined topics such as the Southern political tradition, childhood, religion and the role of gender in shaping public power.

Music of the South Concert Series Continues with Rory Block

Monday performance at the Ford Center blends traditional and new blues with folk stylings

Rory Block will perform at the Ford Center on February 23 at 7:30 p.m. Photo courtesy Rory Block.

Rory Block will perform at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Ford Center. Photo courtesy Rory Block.

OXFORD, Miss. – Blues artist Rory Block performs Monday (Feb. 23) at the Studio Theatre of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts as the Music of the South Concert Series continues at the University of Mississippi.

The 7:30 p.m. show is also sponsored by the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture. General admission tickets are $25 each at the UM Box Office inside the Ole Miss Student Union or online at http://www.fordcenter.org.

“Rory Block brings a unique style to blues and folk music,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “Her dedication to blues will delight our Mississippi audience.”

Block was born in New Jersey and spent her childhood in New York City, but has dedicated her life and career to not only preserving the Delta blues tradition, but delivering it to audiences in a new way. She combines traditional blues with an innovative new style, redefining the world of acoustic blues and folk music.

Block has been called “a living landmark” by Berkeley Express and “one of the greatest living acoustic blues artists” by Blues Revue. The New York Times said, “Her playing is perfect, her singing otherworldly as she wrestles with ghosts, shadows and legends.”

Isom Center Hosts Artist Talk with Maggie Renzi

Film producer, actor to discuss career and work Thursday evening

Maggie Renzi will speak Thursday night at Bryant Hall.

Maggie Renzi will speak Thursday night at Bryant Hall.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies will host an artist talk event Thursday (Feb. 19) with actor and film producer Maggie Renzi.

Slated for 6:30 p.m. in Bryant Hall, Room 209, the event is free and open to the public. A reception follows the talk in the Farrington Gallery.

Renzi has worked with independent filmmaker John Sayles for more than 35 years, producing most of his movies, including landmarks such as “Lone Star,” “Brother from Another Planet,” “Sunshine State” and “Passion Fish.” She also acted in several of Sayles’ films. In addition, she produced three Bruce Springsteen videos directed by Sayles: “Born in the USA,” “I’m on Fire” and “Glory Days.”

Renzi will discuss her career and her partnership with Sayles and also show examples of her work.

“We are very excited to have Maggie Renzi come to campus,” said Theresa Starkey, assistant director and instructor of gender studies. “She is an important figure in independent cinema, especially in terms of women’s roles in the industry. She is a maverick who has carved out a space for herself as a producer.”

Her work appeals to filmmakers, film buffs and those interested in the history of filmmaking and independent cinema. Renzi also plans to visit Leigh Anne Duck’s Introduction to Film course.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for the students,” Duck said. “Many of them hope to pursue careers in the film industry and are already eager to interact with – and hopefully gather advice from – a working producer.”

Renzi also can offer an insider’s perspective on the issues of women’s representation in film and their general absence behind the camera, Duck said.

renzi_poster-01 copy“Today’s students are skilled at analyzing representations of gender in older films, but they join long-term participants and observers in wondering why it is that women still constitute such a minority in film production and even as fictional protagonists,” Duck said. “Students need both realistic awareness and energetic inspiration concerning possible career choices. I’m hoping this talk will provide both in equal measures.”

The event is a great way to inform the community about gender issues, said Jamie Harker, the center’s interim director.

“The Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies is responsible for integrating scholarly research on women’s and gender issues with advocacy for women in the classroom, on the campus and in the larger community,” Harker said. “We seek to educate the community and campus on women’s and gender issues. Maggie Renzi’s experience as a woman in the film industry will be a compelling story for the University of Mississippi community.”

The event is sponsored by the English and theatre arts departments and the UM cinema studies program. For assistance related to a disability, contact Kevin Cozart at 662-915-5916 or isomctr@olemiss.edu.

Centennial of General Relativity Theory Topic for Feb. 17 Science Cafe

UM physicist presents new perspectives on Einstein's theory

Luca Bombelli

Luca Bombelli

OXFORD, Miss. – The centennial of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Feb. 17 at Lusa Pastry Cafe, 2305 West Jackson Ave. Luca Bombelli, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy, will discuss “General Relativity at 100.” Admission is free.

“Albert Einstein published the first papers on his theory of gravity, General Relativity, 100 years ago,” Bombelli said. “Several predictions of the theory for the solar system, where gravity is relatively weak, were tested and confirmed early on. The first observations of galaxies outside the Milky Way mostly fit the predictions of the theory for the evolution of the universe as a whole.”

Bombelli’s 30-minute presentation will include discussions of how Einstein’s theory has been challenged by new discoveries in recent years.

“The mathematical beauty of the fact that it explained gravity as curvature of space-time helped make general relativity the currently accepted theory,” he said. “But predicting the behavior of objects where gravity is really strong, such as near black holes or neutron stars, is much more difficult. In this sense, our understanding of gravity is still in its youth.”

In cosmology, the quality of scientists’ observations of very distant regions of the universe has improved dramatically in recent years.

“Those results appear to challenge the predictions of general relativity,” Bombelli said. “Studies of how to combine gravity with quantum theory and the other known forces in nature also indicate that at microscopic scales, general relativity will need to be replaced by a different theory.”

Bombelli earned his doctoral and master’s degree from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from Laurea, the University of Milan in Italy. He began working at UM in 1996 as a visiting professor. Before that, he was employed at the universities of Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania, the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Brussels, Belgium, the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Vienna in Austria.

Bombelli’s research interest is theoretical physics. He has been published in numerous peer-reviewed scholarly journals.

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

UM Department of Art to Host Four Virtual Lectures

Virtual Visiting Artist Program will bring talented artists from around the country to campus via Skype

Virtual Visiting Artist Program to be held on select dates throughout the spring semester in Meek Hall.

Virtual Visiting Artist Program to be held on select dates throughout the spring semester in Meek Hall.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Art and Art History will utilize videoconference technology to bring artists from all over the country to Meek Hall, beginning Wednesday (Feb. 11).

The Virtual Visiting Artist Program, or VVAP, uses Skype to host four separate artist lectures throughout the spring semester. The lectures will provide students’ access to artists that currently live, work and practice in the field, but cannot visit campus in person.

The lecture series will introduce students to the importance of how art can inform their lives and the lives of others, said Brooke White, associate professor of art and VVAP creator. The program enhances the learning experience by exposing students to a wide range of artists who work in various disciplines throughout the country.

“My main goal when I created this program was simply to bring great art, art historians, critics, curators and artists to campus for our students,” White said. “I want students to be excited and passionate about what they are doing, and sometimes it helps to hear and see real live people talk about their practice.”

The VVAP program has been a great addition to the Department of Art and Art History, said Virginia Chavis, department chair. It has allowed students to meet to artists who they otherwise may not have been able to because of the travel costs involved in bringing artists to campus.

“While the artists aren’t physically on campus, the students are able to ask questions and, oftentimes, take a virtual tour of the artists’ studio space,” Chavis said. “It presents valuable face time between the artist and student they may not be able to experience in a gallery setting.”

VVAP came to life during 2014 fall semester to foster deeper discussions about art, art history and curatorial practices, and to give students as much access to the art world as possible. White wanted to do this in an intimate setting where students could become more engaged with visiting artists.

Since the introduction of the VVAP last fall, the number of artists to visit grew from three to four, and two additional faculty members got involved. Josh Brinlee, assistant professor of art, and Kris Belden-Adams, assistant professor of art, joined the VVAP committee and helped bring in some of the upcoming artists.

“Initially, I scheduled three speakers throughout the course of the semester, and for the spring we expanded to four artists,” White said. “Based on the interest last fall, we wanted to expand the roster by one more speaker.”

This semester’s lineup of artists is especially impressive, White said. Students will have opportunities to speak with the director of the Master of Fine Art in Book Arts and Printmaking at the University of Arts in Philadelphia, and a nationally known multimedia artist with an exhibit at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas. Also on the schedule are one of the nation’s top 10 photographers and an art professor at Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Art.

All lectures are set for 5 p.m.

– Feb. 11 – Cynthia Thompson, director of the MFA in Book Arts + Printmaking program at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

– Feb. 25 – Matt Moore, multimedia artist and farmer based in Phoenix. Recent Tedx presenter and exhibiting at the Crystal Bridges museum in “State of the Art, Discovering American Art Now.”

– March 18 – Greg Friedler, a photographer known for his portrait projects called “Naked New York,” “Naked Los Angeles” and “Naked London.” He was listed as one of the World’s Top Photographers in 2000 and two documentaries have been made about him, “Naked London” and “Stripped: Greg Friedler’s Naked Los Angeles.”

– April 8 – Buzz Spector, professor of art, Sam Fox School of Art, Washington University. An internationally recognized artist and critical writer, Spector works in a wide range of mediums including sculpture, photography, printmaking, book arts and installation. His work makes frequent use of the book, both as subject and as object, and is concerned with the relationships among public history, individual memory and perception.

UM FASTrack Peer Mentoring Program a Success

Upperclassmen help first-year students get a head start on academic achievement

fastrack university of mississippi ole miss mentoring program foundations academic success college of liberal arts mentors students

FASTrack academic adviser Jackie Certion (left) mentors a student in the program.

OXFORD, Miss. – Many University of Mississippi freshmen are receiving valuable help from their older peers, thanks to a unique mentoring program in the College of Liberal Arts.

Foundations for Academic Success Track is designed to help first-year students transition from high school to college in a supportive environment. Approximately 400 FASTrack students per year benefit from the smaller and enhanced classes, individualized advising/mentoring and a community of supportive peers. FASTrack students earn higher GPAs, go on academic probation less often and return for their sophomore year at higher rates that their peers.

“The program is an amazing way to use your experience to help younger students adapt to and love a whole new environment,” said Emily Richmond, a junior accounting major from Jonesboro, Arkansas. “It is awesome to be able to not only connect with these students, but to see them connecting with each other, providing them with a support group of peers that are experiencing the same growth and change.”

FASTrack peer mentors serve as role models and co-instructors in the EDHE 105 Freshman Experience courses in the fall semester. Mentors guide their protégés through the challenges they face in the first year while helping them become familiar with the campus, student services and academic resources. Many mentors were once FASTrack students themselves.

“Serving as a peer mentor for the students of FASTrack has opened my eyes to what I truly enjoy most in life, and that is affecting the lives of those around me in a positive way,” said Ryan Williams, a sophomore math major from Clinton. “Being a peer mentor has allowed me to come out of my shell and gain the qualities of a true leader.”

Students helping students is a best practice, enhancing student success and leadership, said Sarah Smitherman, FASTrack peer mentoring director.

“‘I’m a big believer in the power of mentorship at any level and have personally and professionally benefited from it over the years,” Smitherman said. “There is comfort in knowing that there is someone looking out for you who knows exactly what you are experiencing because they have just gone through it as well.”

Upperclassmen also help coordinate various social activities throughout the semester, helping further build the FASTrack community.

“In FASTrack, our students support each other, and our peer mentors are the best example of this principle,” said Stephen Monroe, assistant dean in the College of Liberal Arts and FASTrack director. “FASTrack peer mentors are savvy student leaders who make our university a better, more welcoming place.”

Doug Odom, EDHE 105 instructor and AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, said having peer mentors in class connects him to the students.

“As a recent graduate of the University of Mississippi and as a 24-year-old, I leaned heavily on our peer mentors,” Odom said. “As young as I am, students were willing to open up to me a bit more than I would have expected, but there were still subjects they did not want to discuss with me. That’s where our mentors shined.”

Odom said he gave mentors the last 15 minutes of every class to guide, advise and listen to the first-year students.

“I guarantee our class would not have been as tight-knit had we not had such great peer mentors,” he said. “The peer mentors are invaluable to the FASTrack program.”

For more information about the FASTrack Peer Mentor Program, go to the link here. For more about UM’s College of Liberal Arts, visit their website here.

UM Alumnus Leads VQR Magazine to Prestigious Nominations

W. Ralph Eubanks credits English faculty with providing his solid career foundation

ralph eubanks ole miss university of mississippi virginia quarterly review national magazine award alumnus finalist general excellence nomination

W.Ralph Eubanks

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumnus W. Ralph Eubanks has led Virginia Quarterly Review magazine to four National Magazine Award nominations.

That’s the equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize for magazines. Each year the American Society of Magazine Editors recognizes outstanding work. VQR is a finalist in four categories for 2014: General Excellence, Reporting, Fiction, and Essays and Criticism. This is the eighth General Excellence nomination for the publication in the last 11 years.

Eubanks, from Mount Olive, earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1978 from UM. He said he is happy with the recognition for his team’s work.

“I am proud to see VQR acclaimed by the magazine publishing community,” Eubanks said. “We are able to attract major writers because of the close amount of care that we give their work – and that we allow them to write longer pieces than they can at other publications. VQR is also dedicated to launching emerging talent, so they can be published alongside their more established peers.”

Before becoming VQR editor in 2013, Eubanks was director of publishing at the Library of Congress.

But his foundation began at Ole Miss.

“I firmly believe that when I arrived in Oxford in 1974, Ole Miss was a place for ambitious small-town boys like me to think beyond their modest beginnings,” Eubanks said. “Without forward-thinking English professors like Louis Dollarhide, James Mengert, Thomas Brown, John Crews, Evans Harrington and Christina Murphy to inspire me – to name just a few – I never would have expanded my thinking and my world beyond the small town in which I began.”

VQR is among good company with the award nods. Other magazine nominees include Bon Appetit, The New Yorker, The Atlantic and GQ.