University to Host STEM Summit July 18-19

Meeting focuses on impact of forensic science on 21st century workforce

Students learn about forensic

The second annual STEM Summit will take place July 18-19.

OXFORD, Miss. – Representatives from governmental agencies, including the FBI and DEA, grades K-12 and higher education are scheduled to participate in a national conference this weekend at the University of Mississippi.

The second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Summit meets July 18-19. The two-day event is being sponsored by UM’s forensic chemistry program, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of BioMolecular Sciences, the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory and the Committee for Action Program Services-Analytical Training Laboratory.

“The focus of this summit is to continue the effort to create a consortium of colleges, universities, corporations and government agencies,” said Murell Godfrey, UM director of forensic chemistry and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Our purpose is to address how forensic science will have an impact on the U.S. and the 21st century workforce.”

Scheduled UM speakers Friday include Godfrey; Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and professor of law; and Maurice Eftink, UM associate provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Other presenters are Darrell Davis, former director of the DEA South Central Laboratory and CEO/president of CAPS-ATL, and Sam Howell, director of the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory.

Friday events include tours of the university’s marijuana field and medicinal plant gardens, the city of Oxford and an agency panel discussion featuring representatives from the Army Crime Laboratory, Mississippi State Crime Laboratory, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, DEA, FBI and Aegis Analytical Laboratory.

Saturday’s session includes presentations by Christopher McCurdy, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and representatives from the UM STEM research panel, Bay Waveland Middle School, Oxford-Lafayette County schools and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Registration is $100 for out-of-towners and $50 for Oxford residents. For more information, contact Murrell Godfrey at 662-915-5143 or visit

University, Americorps VISTA Partner for Community Service

Visiting Grisham fellows build a community garden at Crenshaw Elementary School

Grisham fellows

Grisham fellows help build a community garden at Crenshaw Elementary School

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s commitment to service was demonstrated recently when administrators took visiting Grisham fellows from Dallas, Texas, to Crenshaw Elementary School to build a community garden during a weeklong campus visit.

With help from Mclean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and Americorps Volunteers in Service to America, the fellows helped lift some cultural barriers and made a difference in a small Mississippi community.

Kathy Trabue, Americorps VISTA federal volunteer, said she was thrilled to work with UM to help make that difference.

“We have some cultural isolation here in Mississippi and we try to break that down a bit,” Trabue said. “Seeing that happen makes my students from Dallas believe they can come to Ole Miss and serve the community.”

The fellows had a chance to work with college students and to visualize themselves as college students. They learned about the university and themselves as they prepare to make decisions on where to get a college education.

Cora Bunker, assistant principal at Crenshaw Elementary, was thrilled to partner with UM on another project. Volunteer projects can help open young people’s eyes not only to community service, but also to the endless possibilities that begin with attending college.

“Ole Miss has been an incredible partner throughout the past couple of years,” Bunker said. “The university gets out here to volunteer and they get us out there, and the kids get a different look at the college experience.”

Grisham fellow Victoria Hernandez said she traveled from Dallas because she loves the university and wanted to gain leadership experience.

“I thought it was a cool trip because of the leadership opportunities,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to make a difference outside the state of Texas, and taking part in this garden is a big part of making a difference for me.”

The volunteers constructed benches and tables so the entire Crenshaw community can enjoy the new community garden. An Americorps VISTA representative will stay in the area and help the community maintain the garden.

The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement creates pathways through which the university cultivates mutually beneficial partnerships to enhance the quality of life for all Mississippians and instill a commitment to community and civic engagement in all members of the UM community.

VISTA was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs.

Grammy Nominee Spotted on Campus

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Nancy Maria Balach Schuesselin (center). Photo by Robert Jordan of Ole Miss Communications

A 2015 Grammy nominee has been spotted on campus.

In fact, one of the university’s very own music professors has been selected as a Grammy quarterfinalist out of nearly 7,000 nominees for the 2015 Grammy Music Educator Award.

Nancy Maria Balach Schuesselin, an associate professor of music, joins music educators from prestigious music education programs around the country who were nominated.

Schuesselin has been a faculty member at UM since the fall of 2000 and teaches studio voice, undergraduate diction, graduate pedagogy and vocal methods for instrumentalists.

She also is the creator/editor of, an online video library on vocal subjects, and she hosts the Beat, an interactive interview series live streamed from the Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi.

Schuesselin was nominated by UM music student Heather Higginbotham, a rising junior who has been working with her on the living music online resource. She was notified that she was a nominee in March.

“I was flattered beyond measure when I was notified that Heather had nominated me.  I love teaching and what I get to do each day at Ole Miss. We have amazing students!” Schesselin said.

According to the Grammy Foundation website, one recipient will be selected from 10 finalists and will be recognized for his/her remarkable impact on students’ lives. The winner will be flown to Los Angeles to accept the award, attend the Grammy Awards ceremony and receive a $10,000 honorarium. The nine finalists will each receive a $1,000 honorarium and the schools of all 10 finalists will receive matching grants. The honorariums and grants provided to the finalists and schools are made possible by the generosity and support of the Grammy Foundation’s Education Champions Converse, Disney Performing Arts, Ford Motor Company Fund and Journeys.

“Of course I would be thrilled to win, but it wouldn’t simply be me winning,” she said. “The ‘win’ would be for the University of Mississippi and all of the wonderful students and teachers we have here in Oxford.  Most importantly, I would be elated to have the Music Department at Ole Miss showcased on such an enormous platform.”

‘Barkery’ Earns Top Awards in 2014 Gillespie Business Plan Competition

Annual UM program offers mentoring, skills-sharpening opportunities for aspiring entrepreneurs

Janet McCarty and her dog, Cotton

Janet McCarty and her dog, Cotton

OXFORD, Miss. – When it comes to the University of Mississippi’s Gillespie Business Plan Competition, it seems things have gone to the dogs. Well, at least to the treats made especially for those canine companions.

During the 2014 competition, Madison native Janet McCarty, founder of Cotton’s Café Dog Treat Barkery, walked away with top honors, including Best Business Plan (First Place), Best Concept for Mississippi and Best Concept for Social Entrepreneurship. In addition to barking rights, McCarty earned $10,000 in prize money, funds she was able to invest right back into her business.

“After winning the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, we have grown exponentially,” McCarty said. “With the proceeds from the competition, we have procured a commercial kitchen space, acquired an automatic dough roller and a convection oven, purchased a significant inventory of raw ingredients and have increased cash flow, allowing us to move forward with confidence as a growing business.”

The business is named after Cotton, a rescue dog who inspired McCarty’s vision. While making natural, healthy treats for pets is second nature to McCarty, winning the business plan competition was no cakewalk for this senior from Madison, who is majoring in art.

“For me, the learning curve was steep. It was like learning another language in a couple of months,” McCarty said. “(The competition) forced me to look at parts of the business that I wasn’t focusing on. For example, I had to look at how to prepare a balance sheet, a cash flow statement and a profit-and-loss statement. I had to learn about gross margins, break-even points and how to create a business model.”

Thirty-one plans were entered into this year’s competition. The team composed of junior engineering majors William Ault, from Charlotte, North Carolina, and brothers Michael and Stephen Greer, from Clinton, won second place for their “Social Data Services” plan. Graduate students Nathan McCartney of Oxford, Miles Nerren of Tupelo and Blake Pruett of Belden teamed up with senior business major Adam Vonder Haar of Brandon to present “U-Scoot” and walked away with awards for third place and best interdisciplinary team honors.

The competition included three rounds and provided the finalists with access to mentors from the real world. That resource helped McCarty create and deliver and a polished presentation and strengthened the overall credibility of the competition.

“The business plan competition helps the participants refine their business models and gain access to a broader network of resources, whether in the forms of advice or capital,” explained Clay Dibrell, UM associate professor of management. “For instance, Janet was already selling premium dog biscuits before she entered the competition. The competition forced her to think more about the business side of the equation. As she proceeded through the different rounds of the competition, you could see marked improvement not only in her pitches but also in her business acumen.

“When she won, Janet was then able to plow her winnings back into her business and increase her manufacturing capacity, which has led to an increase in her sales.”

In its 10th year, the Gillespie Business Plan Competition is a hallmark of the esteemed business program offered at Ole Miss. This year, participants took advantage of Startup Weekend Oxford, as well as a “pitch night” hosted by the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce. These events generated excitement and allowed several of the semi-finalists an opportunity to practice their pitches in front of live audiences.

“The Gillespie Business Plan Competition is a wonderful experiential learning environment for our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration. “The generous gift from the Gillespie family and other donors, along with the time commitment from our judges and the efforts of School of Business faculty, make the competition successful. We in the business school are proud to have such an impactful event for our future entrepreneurs.”

“The business plan competition helped me to create a rock solid business plan and presentation that I can use when approaching investors, banks, retail store chains and others,” McCarty added. “The plan is my guide and my reference for tracking my progress and reaching the goals I laid out in it.”

Mississippi’s First Lady Sees Horizons’ ‘Life Changing Connections’

Deborah Bryant read from 'Corduroy' to energetic elementary students, praised UM enrichment program

Mississippi first lady Deborah Bryant, wife of Gov. Phil Bryant, reads to the children in the Horizons program at UM. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi first lady Deborah Bryant came to the University of Mississippi Wednesday and was met by bright, inquisitive and energetic Oxford elementary students who are enrolled in the Horizons summer enrichment program.

The first lady has made it a goal to travel to schools in all 82 counties in Mississippi, which often ranks near the bottom in national childhood literacy scores, to underscore the importance of reading. Wednesday’s visit to UM made the 50th stop to read to students since she became first lady in 2012, when her husband, Gov. Phil Bryant, was sworn into office.

She met with about 35 students from Bramlett Elementary and Oxford Elementary schools who are participants in the program, which is a partnership between UM and the Oxford School District.

“I enjoyed seeing the students who are participating and also seeing the faculty engaging with these children,” Bryant said. “The children seem to love every one of them. The connection with these students is going to change their lives.”

Horizons is an educational enrichment program serving students who might not otherwise have such opportunities. For six weeks each summer, Horizons students improve their reading and math skills, learn how to swim at the campus pool and take art lessons at the UM Museum. This is the state’s first Horizons program and one of the first housed at a major research university. The program’s goal is to eliminate summer learning loss.

Children start Horizons after kindergarten and are invited to participate for at least nine consecutive years. Horizons works with a variety of community and campus partners to provide an enriching and educational summer experience.

The Horizons program has its own professional lead teachers from the Oxford School District. Teachers have freedom to teach in an environment that encourages them to be creative, resulting in students gaining an average of two to three months’ worth of math and reading skills during the short summer program. Students are also taught to swim, which helps them build confidence and a drive toward achievement that will help them both in and away from the classroom.

Emma Tkachuck, project manager at the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, serves as the program’s director.

Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts, is founder and board president of the campus Horizons program. He said the first lady’s support is important.

“Horizons is a successful partnership between the Oxford School District and UM,” Monroe said. “The United Way, AmeriCorps and other organizations and individuals make Horizons possible. The children were thrilled to meet first lady Bryant. We were all honored by her visit and we appreciate her support.”

Bryant showed students pictures of the Bryant family and their dog, Maddie, during her visit. She shared insight into their lives in Jackson. She also read from a book called “Corduroy,” which tells the story of a teddy bear who goes to find his lost button in a department store.

The students also eagerly answered the first lady’s questions about what they want to be when they grow up. Some said they aspire to be cheerleaders, models, basketball coaches, scientists, teachers and police officers.

After talking with the students, Bryant noted the program is valuable because it keeps students engaged and learning during the summer while school is not in session.

“This is an excellent opportunity for kids to keep busy and keep learning during the summer,” she said. “I also love the swimming concept to give them confidence to achieve something a lot of children are afraid of. It’s important to have a program like this where people are interacting with them daily and giving them an opportunity they may not have had otherwise. Sometimes kids get a little stagnant during the summer, but this is an excellent learning opportunity for them.”

Giving young students an opportunity to learn on a college campus has been immensely valuable, said Oxford School Superintendent Brian Harvey, who attended the first lady’s visit.

“It offers a summer opportunity that we have been unable to match at the school level,” Harvey said. “They’re able to come to a university campus, which is huge at this age, not only for the immediate future, but the long-term future for these children as well. We’re so happy to be part of this program.”

Charles Reagan Wilson Retires from Teaching to Focus on Writing

History, Southern studies professor leaves UM after 33 years

Director of The Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Dr. Charles R. Wilson

Charles Reagan Wilson

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles Reagan Wilson brought together everything from Hank Aaron to zydeco as co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, and now his final chapter at the University of Mississippi is complete. After 33 years as a history and Southern studies professor, Wilson retired in May.

During his three decades at UM, Wilson has watched both the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the university grow.

“I have been so fortunate to be able to think about the South and to talk to visiting scholars, researchers, lecturers, students and to think about the South from the perspective of the University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi,” Wilson said.

Wilson made quite a name for himself during his time at UM, said Ann Abadie, associate director emeritus.

“He came to the University of Mississippi for an interview in early 1981 and, after visiting with him and hearing his lecture on religion in the South, Bill Ferris, Sue Hart and I, along with many others affiliated with the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, knew that he would be the perfect director for our encyclopedia project,” Abadie said. “Charles accepted the challenge and in the fall began working on the encyclopedia, teaching courses in history and Southern studies, and enlightening the community with talks about the religious and cultural history of the South.”

In the beginning, Wilson’s job was managing editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. The National Endowment for the Humanities gave the university a grant to fund the project.

On Jan. 26, 1983, he spoke about Robert E. Lee and other Southern heroes who at their deaths were honored with elaborate funeral processions and mourned throughout the region. Answering an audience question about the next Southern hero likely to receive such acclaim, Wilson predicted Bear Bryant. Later that day, when news broke of Bryant’s death, students and colleagues began referring to Wilson as “Dr. Death,” a moniker that has stuck.

The nationally acclaimed publication of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture in 1989 earned him a second epithet, the “Diderot of Dixie.”

He served as director of the Southern studies academic program from 1991 to1998, and as director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture from 1998 to 2007. As director of the center, Wilson played important roles in helping establish the Southern Foodways Alliance and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, and continued to receive accolades as a teacher and a scholar, including the 2010 Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

Wilson’s first book, “Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause, 1865-1920″(University of Georgia Press, 1983), helped bring the concept of civil religion into Southern studies scholarship and was the first book to address the topic of how white Southerners came to remember the Civil War as a kind of religious effort. Historians continue to use the book to understand the meanings and memories of the Civil War.

In 1995 Wilson published a collection of closely related essays, “Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis,” and in 2011 he published “Flashes of a Southern Spirit: Meanings of the Spirit in the U.S. South,” both with University of Georgia Press. All three works show his expertise in Southern religious history, a topic Wilson taught in numerous undergraduate and graduate classes.

Despite saying that one of the things he learned from the first encyclopedia was never to do another one, at the beginning of the 2000s, Wilson and colleagues at the center and the University of North Carolina Press decided a “New Encyclopedia” should be published, with 24 volumes.

“It was a bit daunting when we first started, but looking back on it, that was a great decision, enabling us to expand the scope of that encyclopedia, update everything and add new articles, and really make it an encyclopedia for the 21st century, raising a lot of the issues that have come out of the explosion of scholarship in Southern studies in the last 15 years or so,” Wilson said.

Wilson has an extraordinary record as an adviser of graduate work. He has directed more than 20 dissertations in history and more than 100 master’s theses in Southern studies and history, and he has served on, as described by center director Ted Ownby, “too many thesis committees to count.”

“The encyclopedia work Charles has done really contributes to his teaching, because it means he is interested in everything,” Ownby said. “Charles has a great talent for listening to what students say about their interests and then finding the best ways to help them turn those interests into scholarly projects.”

Wilson was also interested in how religion related to the issues of race, gender, social class and the diversity of social places beyond the stereotypes of the South.

“History became a way for me to think about and research particular topics that would help to illuminate the complexity of the South,” Wilson said.

In retirement, Wilson will focus on two writing projects.

“After retirement this spring, he will complete his books on the Southern way of living, the Southern way of dying and other topics, and have time to enjoy other names he has earned, including Distinguished Professor, Witty Raconteur, Gourmet Cook, Charming Host, Superb Guest and Dear Friend. I wish him well,” Abadie said.

Besides researching and writing “The Southern Way of Life” and a short cultural history of the South, Wilson will be traveling more, spending time in his garden and experimenting more in the kitchen.

Fred McDowell Subject of Latest SouthDocs Project

Filmmakers hope to have documentary about hill country bluesman ready for 2015 release

Scott Barretta (left) and Joe York with Shirley Collins in Lewes, England. Collins accompanied Alan Lomax on his 1959 trip through the South, during which the duo made the first-ever recording of Fred McDowell.

Scott Barretta (left) and Joe York with Shirley Collins in Lewes, England. Collins accompanied Alan Lomax on his 1959 trip through the South, during which the duo made the first-ever recording of Fred McDowell.

OXFORD, Miss. – The life of hill country bluesman singer and guitar player Mississippi Fred McDowell is the subject of a documentary film by University of Mississippi faculty member Scott Barretta and senior producer Joe York.

The idea for the film came about when the two discovered that the university owned a short film about McDowell called “Bluesmaker,” which was made in his longtime home of Como by Christian Garrison, who was a resident filmmaker for the university.

Barretta and York were interested in the Como community, and in particular, the Hunter’s Chapel, where McDowell was a member.

“McDowell made recordings with other members, including his wife,” said Barretta, a UM sociology and anthropology professor. “Otha Turner, the patriarch of the fife and drum tradition in the Hill Country, was also a member, and the current preacher is (the) Rev. John Wilkins, a gospel bluesman whose father was pioneering bluesman Robert Wilkins. Joe and I covered all of this information in a ‘Highway 61′ radio show a couple years ago, and Joe filmed Wilkins and some other artists at a North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic.”

McDowell’s story is a fascinating one. He was a laborer who played local house parties, and for most of his life was relatively unknown. In 1959, Alan Lomax and his assistant, Shirley Collins, made his first recordings, and shortly after the recordings were released, McDowell went out on the festival and coffeehouse circuit. He later traveled several times to Europe and was a major inspiration to artists including Bonnie Raitt and the Rolling Stones, who covered his song “You Gotta Move.” He has also been a major influence on guitarists who play in the bottleneck slide style.

“That’s the general arc of our story – from obscurity to international influence – and we’re trying to capture as many parts of it as possible,” Barretta said. “Earlier this year, we traveled to England, where our interviewees included Shirley Collins, now 79, who had wonderful recollections of McDowell’s ‘discovery.’”

Other interviewees so far include Oxford’s own Dick Waterman, who managed McDowell, and Wolf Stephenson, who booked McDowell at “tea dances” on campus when he was the social chairman of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity and later recorded McDowell’s classic “I Do Not Play No Rock ‘n’ Roll” album at the Malaco studios in Jackson.

York, senior producer at the Southern Documentary Project at UM, has served as producer of “Highway 61,” Barretta’s radio show, for almost a decade, and they worked together some years ago on another film, “Smoke and Ears,” about the Big Apple Inn on Jackson’s Farish Street.

“We’ve both always been drawn to Fred’s music and his remarkable story, from his chance encounter with Alan Lomax that launched his recording career, through his influence on the Rolling Stones and Bonnie Raitt, to name a few, and his lasting impact on the culture and music of Mississippi,” York said. “We’ve traveled as far as San Francisco and London and parts in between recording interviews for the film and we couldn’t be happier with how well it’s coming along.”

Given the SouthDoc’s commitment to tell stories about the region through food, literature and, in this case, music, it was finally the right time to make the film, York said.

The biggest obstacle is raising money to pay for the film clips and sound recordings of McDowell.

“We’ve discovered some film clips that are not even known to blues aficionados, and they don’t come cheap,” Barretta said. “I expect that we’ll be finished with the interview process by the end of this year, so hopefully the film can come out sometime next year.”

Three Students Receive Critical Language Scholarships

Trio set to study in China this summer, hope to use experience to further career goals

Photo by Nathan Latil

Photo by Nathan Latil

OXFORD, Miss. – After a competitive application process, three University of Mississippi students have been selected for the prestigious U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship program this summer.

Susannah Slimp of Meridian, Abigail Szabo of Brandon and Steven Mockler of Ocean Springs have been awarded the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship to study critical needs languages this summer in China.

The CLS program is a part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. Participants in the fully-funded program will spend seven to 10 weeks in intensive language institutes receiving intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences.

This, however, will not be the first trip abroad for the UM students.

“Last summer, I studied abroad in Qingdao, and while I was there I took a few trips to Beijing,” said Slimp, a sophomore in chemical engineering. Slimp will study this summer at Zhejiang University of Technology in Hangzhou.

“After the trip of a lifetime in Seoul, South Korea, I knew that learning a critical language was key to an international lifestyle,” said Szabo, who also was a participant the U.S. Department of State’s National Security Language Initiative for Youth in high school. “After a whole summer of intensive Chinese under my belt, I decided to stick with it. Now, two years later, I have come so far in such a short time that there is no turning back.”

Szabo, a sophomore majoring in political science and Mandarin Chinese with a minor in environmental science, will be studying at Suzhou University-Dushuhu Campus, in Suzhou, Jiangsu.

“Being in China while learning Chinese is completely different than an Ole Miss setting, for in China, the world is my classroom,” Szabo said. “Intensive language programs abroad offer an invaluable opportunity for building language skills.”

Mockler, who is a second-time recipient of the CLS, has traveled to China three times.

Every street has at least a thousand years of history, and, from this American’s perspective, Chinese society is filled with so many contradictions that I wanted to dedicate myself to understanding the language and culture so I could build more trust and understanding between our two nations,” he said.

Mockler, a rising senior majoring in Chinese and international studies, will be studying in Guangzhou at Sun-Yatsen University.

“The Department of Modern Languages is very proud of the students who this year have received a Critical Language Scholarship to study in China,” said Donald Dyer, chair of the department. “Ms. Slimp, Ms. Szabo and Mr. Mockler have all demonstrated their linguistic prowess over the years and are very deserving of this award, which puts them in an elite category of students to receive this honor.”

CLS participants are expected to continue their language study beyond the scholarship period, and later apply their critical language skills to their future professional careers.

After graduation, Slimp plans to attend graduate school in engineering and hopes to work in the petroleum industry, while Szabo plans to go to graduate school, studying Mandarin and environmental science. Mockler plans to attend graduate school and hopes to work in government on Chinese issues related to education, cultural exchange and diplomacy.

Two UM Students Land Prestigious Boren Scholarships

Awards provide $20,000 apiece for year of study abroad

Alison Bartel

Alison Bartel

William Bumpas

William Bumpas

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students William Bumpas III and Alison Bartel have been awarded Boren Scholarships to study in China for the academic year.

Bumpas, of Dyersburg, Tennessee, and Bartel, of Harvest, Alabama, both international studies and Chinese majors, will use the scholarship to complete their capstone year in the Chinese Language Flagship Program.

“Mr. Bumpas and Ms. Bartel are two of the strongest students in our Chinese Language Flagship program and very deserving of a Boren Scholarship,” says Donald Dyer, chair of modern languages. “They have worked hard to develop their language skills and have high proficiencies in the language to show for it. The Department of Modern Languages and, indeed, the University of Mississippi community are very proud of their accomplishments.”

Scholarship recipients receive up to $20,000 to study abroad in areas of the world that are critical to U.S. interests and underrepresented in study abroad, including Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America and the Middle East. In exchange for funding, Boren award recipients agree to work in the national security arena of the federal government for at least one year.

“I am happy but not surprised Alison Bartel and William Bumpas both won Boren Scholarships,” said Kees Gispen, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies. “They are among the very strongest students in the Croft Institute for International Studies at the university. These are two fantastic students, shining examples of what it is possible to accomplish at the University of Mississippi.”

Bumpas, who graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree earlier this month, plans to pursue a graduate degree after studying in Nanjing for a year. He is a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Scholar and member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies, and he credits the Croft Institute for the opportunity to combine his Chinese language skills with a nuanced understanding of the evolving world.

“I’m excited to take what I’ve learned at the University of Mississippi and put it to use during my time as a Boren Scholar and also in my career,” Bumpas said.

“William was a terrific student to work with these past few years and he wrote a superb senior thesis on the mass expansion of enrollment in China’s higher education system,” says Joseph Howard, Croft associate professor of history and international studies. “I am so proud of him that he received a Boren fellowship to continue his studies at Nanjing University this coming fall.”

Bartel, a rising senior, will continue her study of the language and focus on refining her understanding of governance from the Chinese point of view through an internship in Nanjing. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Bartel hopes to pursue graduate studies in international relations and public policy and then work in government service.

“Alison is one of those great students who seems to excel at everything she does,” says Carl Jensen, director of the UM Center for Intelligence and Security Studies. “A few years ago, she and another student took first place in a briefing competition at a prestigious conference in Washington, D.C. We’re very proud but not at all surprised that she was awarded the Boren.”

Bartel and Bumpas are the university’s 15th and 16th Boren Scholars since 2000. Last year, Kevin Scott (China, Mandarin) won a Boren Scholarship.

Students interested in applying for a Boren Scholarship or Boren Fellowship are encouraged to contact Andrus Ashoo, Boren campus representative, at

New Professor Hired to Teach Foodways Classes

Catarina Passidomo's research, teaching interests blend studies of community, food and geography

Zac Henson, a post-doctoral fellow, teaches a foodways class in Barnard Observatory, home to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Generous private support has provided an endowment for a permanent professorship in the academic study of foodways. UM is searching for an expert who will fill the position beginning with the 2014-15 academic year.

Zac Henson, a post-doctoral fellow, teaches a foodways class in Barnard Observatory, home to the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Generous private support has provided an endowment for a permanent professorship in the academic study of foodways.

OXFORD, Miss. – Cultural geographer Catarina Passidomo is joining the faculty of the University of Mississippi, where she is to merge the study of food and society through a joint appointment in the departments of Southern studies and sociology and anthropology.

Passidomo will teach foodways courses to undergraduate and graduate students.

In 2013, the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of the Southern Culture, and the College of Liberal Arts endowed a professorship in the academic study of foodways. Generous gifts from individuals and foundations augmented the endowment.

“The University of Mississippi’s academic environment is greatly enriched when we are able to offer classes and faculty members representing new fields of study,” said Glenn Hopkins, dean of liberal arts. “The study of foodways provides another important facet for our students to explore in understanding the world around them.”

Passidomo is the first UM faculty member hired specifically to teach foodways classes. She holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology from Washington and Lee University, and a master’s ecological and environmental anthropology and a doctorate in geography, both from the University of Georgia. Her dissertation examines organizations that worked to build community food sovereignty in post-Katrina New Orleans.

Since 2010, Passidomo has been an instructor of human geography and the geography of food at Georgia, where she received the university’s Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award in 2013.

“She brings an important and unique perspective to the department as a cultural geographer,” said Kirsten Dellinger, chair and professor of sociology and anthropology. “Her interests in space, food and engaged community research complement the work of many of the anthropologists and sociologists in our department in ways that have already sparked talk of synergistic collaborations in the future.

“The Department of Sociology and Anthropology has benefited from a strong relationship with Southern studies for many years and looks forward to supporting Catarina and exploring new ways of connecting with the work of the Southern Foodways Alliance.”

Besides holding joint appointments in Southern studies and sociology and anthropology, Passidomo will work closely with the SFA.

“Since its inception in 1999, the SFA has pioneered documentary and public programming approaches to the field of foodways,” said John T. Edge, the alliance’s director. “With this hire, we aim to serve the next generation of students, excited by the prospects of foodways studies.”



Passidomo said she is thrilled and honored to be joining the university and the SFA.

“It is an exciting and dynamic time to both study and engage with issues of food and society, and I am eager to work with the many creative and thoughtful individuals pursuing this work both in the university and throughout the region,” Passidomo said.

Passidomo’s areas of research and engagement will be of interest to many students, especially those in the Southern studies graduate program, said Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“As a cultural geographer, she brings a set of academic skills that will be new and welcome here,” said Ownby, also a professor of history and Southern studies. “As a scholar who studies issues of foodways and justice in both New Orleans and Georgia, she brings insights into a good range of experiences.

“She should be skillful in Southern Studies 555 (Foodways and Southern Culture), in other Southern studies classes and in helping students think through their research projects. She’ll be the ideal scholar to work with both the programs of the Southern Foodways Alliance and the classes in Southern studies.”

The Center for the Study of Southern Culture investigates, documents, interprets and teaches about the American South. CSSC offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in Southern studies through more than 60 courses taught by faculty in 10 departments. CSSC houses two institutes, the Southern Foodways Alliance and the Media and Documentary Projects Center. For more information, visit or