UM Recognized Among ‘Great Colleges To Work For’

Chronicle of Higher Education surveys university employees across the nation, finds high employee satisfaction at Ole Miss

Staff members are treated to a free "desk yoga" class sponsored by RebelWell as part of Staff Appreciation Week.  Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Staff members are treated to a free ‘desk yoga’ class sponsored by RebelWell as part of Staff Appreciation Week. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the sixth time in seven years, the University of Mississippi has been recognized as one of the nation’s “Great Colleges To Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

UM was cited for excellence in collaborative governance, employee confidence in the university’s senior leadership, workers’ job satisfaction and also on the availability of professional and career development programs. Chancellor Dan Jones said employees are deeply committed to the university’s mission, which unites the workforce.

“We are fortunate to have a great spirit among our faculty, staff and leadership,” Jones said. “I believe it is our common commitment to our mission that is the driving force. Offering transformation of individual lives and the broader community through education, research and service binds us together.”

The full results of the survey of employees at universities and colleges across America will be featured in the Chronicle’s Academic Workplace Special Issue, which comes out July 25.

The Chronicle has recognized “Great Colleges To Work For” for the last seven years, and UM has been recognized in six of those years. In 2013, the university was recognized in nine different categories, including collaborative governance, availability of professional career development programs, quality of the teaching environment, job satisfaction and confidence in senior leadership, among others.

This year, 92 colleges across the country were recognized for having good employment environments.

Earlier this year, the university participated in the survey, which is designed to recognize institutions that have built great workplaces. The surveys designed specifically for higher education were sent to a sample of each institution’s full-time faculty, staff, administrators, and exempt and non-exempt staff. The survey answers were submitted anonymously by the employees. The questionnaires were processed by an independent third-party company, ModernThink LLC.

The spirit of UM employees also helps create a great work environment, said Clay Jones, UM assistant vice chancellor and director of human resources.

“The university is honored to once again be mentioned among other elite universities as being a great place to work,” Jones said. “We believe we offer a fantastic environment that is conducive to learning, sharing and helping others, which leads to many individuals thriving in the workplace.”

The rewarding nature of working at the university and helping with its mission of preparing the nation’s future leaders is a definite employee mood booster, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“Our dedicated faculty and staff foster an environment of excellence, creativity and respect,” Stocks said. “Our work is more than a job. It is an opportunity to have a truly rewarding professional career and a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students. The gratification that our faculty and staff experience as they fulfill the mission of the University of Mississippi is manifested in the quality education that our students receive.”

The recognition comes at a time when many universities across the nation are dealing with budget struggles, while at the same time trying to keep tuition costs as low as possible for students. The head of the company that handled the Chronicle survey said those institutions that were able to keep employees happy during tough times deserve extra credit.

“It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink. “And those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

Ole Miss MBA Program Bestows Honors on Alumni, Faculty, Students

Honorees chosen for exemplifying best of MBA program

Dean with

Christopher Thomas and Sam Cousley pictured with Dean Ken Cyree after receiving the Most Outstanding Faculty award.

OXFORD, Miss – A crowd of nearly 100 University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered June 19 at the M-Club room of the Starnes Athletic Training Center to honor members of the university’s MBA program.

Dean Ken Cyree welcomed guests, including Jeffrey Conley, recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Conley, who earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1975 and his MBA in 1977, was also a member of the 1972 Rebels baseball team that competed in the College World Series. Accompanied by his wife, Susan, Conley received his award just hours before this year’s Rebels beat TCU to advance to the final four of the CWS.

“I am humbled by this, as I think there are so many deserving people,” said Conley, who is president of Conley Buick Subaru in Bradenton, Florida. “You certainly make friends for life here at Ole Miss and in this program.”

Lisa Heros Ellis, who received a BBA in marketing in 2001 and an MBA in 2003, received the Outstanding Young Alumnae award. Ellis, who was joined by her husband and parents, serves as senior regional event specialist for ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. She says she was surprised by the award and hopes “to do more to support the program” that has done so much for her.

Students voted for the Most Outstanding Faculty awards, which were given to Sam Cousley, clinical assistant professor of marketing, and Christopher Thomas, assistant professor of management.

While the event drew in alumni and faculty for recognition, a theme throughout the night was about supporting students, whom Cyree challenged to stay focused on the future.

“Don’t underestimate your power and abilities to influence and to create great opportunities,” Cyree said. “You will be the ones we talk about in the future.”

Two awards based on academic performance were presented to students. Andrew Ritter, of Jackson, received the Outstanding Campus MBA award, and Elizabeth Albers, of Knoxville, Tennessee, received the Outstanding Professional MBA award.

Ashley Mesecke, of Oxford, who served as MBA class president, and William Allen, of Houston, Texas, who served as class vice president of recruitment, were each recognized with an MBA Student Leadership Award.

The Rebel with a Cause award, which is voted on by students, was presented posthumously to Zach McLendon.

In closing remarks, Christopher Daniel, incoming MBA advisory board president, reinforced the purpose and mission of the program to the students. “We are here for you,” he said. “We want to grow with you.”

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.”

UM Launches Early Childhood Education Curriculum

Program leads to state license endorsement for pre-K teachers

Dr. Lynn Darling visited Willie Price Daycare recently.  Dr. Darling has received a regional award for her work setting early childhood curricula standards for the entire state.

Dr. Lynn Darling is one of three expert early childhood education faculty members hired at UM in 2013 to develop new curricula to prepare pre-K teachers.

OXFORD, Miss. – To meet the demand for qualified pre-K teachers across the state, a new curriculum offered by the University of Mississippi allows students to specialize in early childhood education and obtain a license endorsement in the field from the Mississippi Department of Education.

The curriculum, which is offered online this summer, will be provided in a traditional format during the 2014-2015 academic year and is designed to be completed over two semesters as part of the School of Education’s elementary education program. Working educators can also complete the program to obtain an endorsement from MDE.

“One problem we’re facing in Mississippi is that many teachers haven’t had the specialized training to teach pre-K,” said Burhanettin Keskin, UM associate professor and coordinator of early childhood education. “Some people believe that teaching early childhood is just kindergarten and first grade watered down, but it’s a completely different and very important field.”

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, many studies show quality preschool programs can produce long-term gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics, and can support positive social-emotional development. Studies also show an estimated 7-to-1 return on investment dollars in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

Mississippi does not support universal pre-K education in public schools and there is no standard assessment for students entering kindergarten.

The Ole Miss curriculum was designed by three expert early childhood education faculty hired at the university last year after the School of Education received a $1.1 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson to build the program. UM’s early childhood faculty includes Keskin, as well as assistant professors Beverly Alford and Lynn Darling.

“Our faculty have worked tirelessly to create a valuable program leading to a state-issued endorsement in early childhood education,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “Elementary education is our largest program, and our hope is we can drastically increase the number of new teachers with specialized training in early childhood education who can make an impact in schools across the state.”

The curriculum comprises four courses (12 credits):

Early Childhood Methods, an introduction to methods and theories in pre-k instruction and early learning.

Child Development, an examination of cognitive, affective, psychomotor and social development requiring at least 10 hours of specialized field experience.

Special Education for Early Childhood Development, an examination of early intervention for young children with delays, disabilities or exceptionalities.

Early Language and Literacy, an exploration of the function of play in early childhood learning as it relates to cognitive, socio-emotional and physical development.

The new undergraduate emphasis is the first of what will be two major pushes to expand early childhood education programs at UM. In 2015, Ole Miss plans to also offer an online master’s degree in the field for educators and researchers who seek advanced specialization in early childhood learning.

McClelland Named Chair of Teacher Education at UM

Educational leadership expert to continue role on permanent basis

After serving more than two years in an interim capacity, Susan McClelland will has been named chair of teacher education at UM.

After serving more than two years in an interim capacity, Susan McClelland will has been named chair of teacher education at UM.

OXFORD, Miss. – After serving more than two years as interim chair, Susan S. McClelland has been selected to serve as chair of the University of Mississippi Department of Teacher Education.

McClelland’s appointment begins July 1 and marks her third major move at UM. With more than 1,000 students and more than 40 full-time faculty in the areas of elementary, literacy, secondary, special and early childhood education, the department is one of the university’s largest individual academic units.

“As the flagship university in Mississippi, it’s our job to ensure we are preparing pre-service teachers to meet the demands of educating the children in our state,” said McClelland, who also serves as an associate professor of educational leadership. “In Mississippi, we face challenges like low literacy rates and high poverty rates and we must constantly look at how we can improve our programs to better prepare our pre-service teachers to be effective, innovative educators.”

During McClelland’s tenure as interim chair, the department has grown to include new programs such as the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, an all-inclusive four-year scholarship and teacher preparation program for top-performing students. The program has an average incoming ACT score of 29.

The department also offers new coursework in early childhood education as well as a new doctorate in special education. An emphasis in health and physical activity for elementary education majors is also in the planning stages. McClelland’s vision for the department includes a two-year plan to revise the unit’s undergraduate curriculum and a reevaluation of its master’s and doctoral programs.

“Dr. McClelland is an excellent educational leader who has been instrumental in the development of new programs at the School of Education,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “She has both the experience and the understanding of educational issues in our state to help us prepare highly effective educators. I am excited to have Dr. McClelland continue her leadership and work as the chair of teacher education at Ole Miss.”

Before serving as chair, McClelland was the founding director of the Principal Corps, a highly selective educational leadership program with a 99 percent success rate in placing outstanding Mississippi educators into K-12 leadership positions. She was hired at UM in 2005 as an assistant professor of educational leadership to design the program after the School of Education received a $2 million startup grant from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation.

A 21-year veteran of public K-12 education in Mississippi, McClelland has served in a variety of educational leadership positions in north Mississippi, including stints as assistant superintendent of the New Albany School District, principal of New Albany High School and vice principal of Oxford High School. She holds a doctorate and master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM, as well as a bachelor’s degree in English education from Blue Mountain College.

“Our department should continue to be a community that both challenges and provides resources for faculty and students,” McClelland said. “The School of Education’s teacher education program should be a place where faculty feel supported and students go on to become influential educators and leaders who transform education in Mississippi and beyond.”

UMMC Dentist’s Reaction to Staged Burglary to Get National Airing

Dr. Steve Magee's actions caught on camera as part of 'What Would You Do?' taping

Dr. Steve Magee, left, and Dr. Jim Fitchey return to the scene of the "crime" May 21.

Dr. Steve Magee, left, and Dr. Jim Fitchey return to the scene of the “crime” May 21.

JACKSON, Miss. – While enjoying a leisurely meal, you notice someone walk up to a parked car, appear to force a door open and begin to rifle through the vehicle’s contents.

Every instinct you have indicates that the person is committing a burglary, but no one else seems to notice and there’s no security in sight. What would you do?

Dr. Steve Magee’s response to that very scenario will most likely be broadcast to a national television audience at 8 p.m. Friday (May 30) on the ABC newsmagazine “Primetime: What Would You Do?” hosted by John Quinones.

In the hidden camera-format show, actors portray scenes of conflict or illegal activity in public while bystanders’ reactions are recorded. Once the ruse is revealed, Quinones interviews the bystanders about the incident.

Quinones and his crew visited Jackson April 3 and furtively set up the “car burglary” scenario at a local restaurant. So when Magee, an assistant professor of dentistry at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and three colleagues from the Department of Care Planning and Restorative Sciences happened to have lunch there that day, they fell right into the television producer’s “trap.”

“It was my first time to go (to that restaurant), and the parking lot was packed,” Magee said. “We were just having lunch, talking about the things we’re always talking about. I didn’t pay any attention to the car at first.”

Magee’s party had been seated at a table on an outdoor terrace that was separated from the street by an exterior wall. A woman in a brand-new black automobile had driven up, parked mere feet away from Magee and gone into the restaurant.

A few minutes later, Dr. John Smith, associate professor of dentistry, noticed something out of the ordinary: a man wearing a jacket walked up to the car and started to peer into the windows. Smith began snapping his fingers to summon assistance.

“I was trying to get somebody’s attention, but nobody would respond,” Smith said. “First, I saw the guy look in the car, then he started digging around, and then I saw him pick up a purse. He went around the car and I think he pulled out a guitar case.

“Finally, Steve did something.”

What Magee did was confront the would-be burglar.

“When John looked up and said, ‘That guy’s getting something out of that car,’ I turned around to look. That’s when I heard the trunk lever click open,” Magee said. “The guy continued to walk around to the trunk. He was looking in and behaving like he was getting something out of the trunk.”

When Magee said something, the intruder pulled his hoodie up over his head and continued his work unabated.

“That was an obvious sign that he was trying to hide his face from us,” Magee said. “I had tried to get his attention, but he was ignoring us. At this point, I thought he was starting something.”

So Magee picked up his stool and started after the intruder.

“It all happened in a matter of seconds, but one thought I had, ‘If I swing this chair and miss this guy, I might mess the car up and that would probably cost more than what the stuff he got out of it cost,’” Magee said. “But right away, he started yelling, ‘It’s my car,’ and tried to defuse the situation.”

It wasn’t until Quinones and the cameramen appeared that Magee realized the scenario wasn’t real.

“I’ve seen the show before, and I recognized him (Quinones), but I wasn’t expecting them to be here in the South,” Magee said. “I was really glad I didn’t take a swing at the guy.”

After being interviewed by Quinones, Magee and his party were seated elsewhere for their “real” meal, and the scene was reset for another unsuspecting table of diners. Magee observed them as they watched the intruder rifle through the car, pull out all manner of contents and slink away with the goods.

“They giggled about the guy until the lady came back later, and they told her someone had stolen stuff out of her car,” Magee said. “I couldn’t believe that. It’s amazing how many times people (in that situation) do almost nothing.”

Which may be the point of the show – and Magee may be an exception, someone who will come to a stranger’s assistance, even if he or she isn’t around.

Magee said he’s looking forward to seeing himself on national TV, and he’s got a good reason to be confident that his reaction to the scenario will be broadcast.

“Later that day, I went back to the restaurant and saw the same waitress that had served us,” Magee said. “She told me that the producer had said they’d never had anyone pick up a chair before, so that’s probably going to be on the air.

“It was kind of a hoot, and a good practical joke. It sure felt real at the time. I’m not sure how the program will turn out, but I hope viewers will look at it from the perspective that at least there’s still someone around who will help protect people’s stuff.”

UM Faculty Members, Alumni Win MIAL Honors

Derrick Harriell wins Poetry Award, William Beckwith honored with Lifetime Achievement Award

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African American Studies, speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and African-American Studies, speaks at the Oxford Conference for the Book.

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi faculty member and others with UM ties were among those honored by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters earlier this year for works first published, performed or shown in the year 2013.

Award winners include Derrick Harriell, UM assistant professor of English and African-American studies; alumnus and author Steve Yarbrough; Jesmyn Ward, a former Grisham-Writer-in-Residence; and the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. The Noel Polk Lifetime Achievement Award went to sculptor William N. Beckwith, an adjunct assistant professor of art at the university.

The award recipients, chosen by out-of-state judges prominent in their respective fields, will be honored at the annual Awards Banquet, set for June 7 in the Grand Hall of the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. At 1 p.m. that day, readings and signings by award winners will take place at Lemuria Bookstore.

Founded in 1978, MIAL aims to recognize the elite in fiction, nonfiction, visual art, musical composition, photography and poetry. The award is coveted and highly competitive.

Harriell the won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters 2014 Poetry Award for his new collection of poems, “Ropes” (Willow Books).

“Receiving the news that my collection of poems ‘Ropes’ won the MIAL Award was gratifying in so many ways,” Harriell said. “I’m happy contributing to the high standard set by our English department and MFA program. Having only been in Oxford for a year-and-a-half, I’m pleased to be embraced both personally and professionally.”

In 2010, Harriell composed his first collection of poems, “Cotton” (Willow Books). For the follow-up, “Ropes,” he focused on the lives of black boxers in America.

Harriell was born and raised in Milwaukee. He has a doctorate in English from University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and an M.F.A in Creative Writing from Chicago State University. He has worked as an assistant poetry editor for Third World Press and The Cream City Review, and has taught countless writing workshops for students of all ages. He is a two-time Pushcart Nominee and his work has appeared in various literary journals and anthologies.

The award reflects well on the university, said Ivo Kamps, professor and chair of the UM Department of English.

“This is quite an honor for Derrick, for the department and the university,” Kamps said. “(Harriell) is relatively new to the university and the state of Mississippi, but he is already making a significant impact on our literary culture and our students. We are pleased and fortunate to have him on our faculty.”

Yarbrough is the winner of the Fiction Award for his novel “The Realm of Last Chances” (Alfred A. Knopf). Jeffrey Lent says of “The Realm of Last Chances,” “This novel is that rare achievement, a page-turner that also turns pages within the reader.”

This is the second MIAL Fiction Award for Yarbrough, who was born in Indianola and is a professor at Emerson College in Boston. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from UM and his M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas. He is the author of eight books, and in 2010, he won the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence.

Ward was the winner of the Nonfiction Award for “Men We Reaped: A Memoir” (Bloomsbury). The DeLisle native earned her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan and was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University and a Grisham Writer-in-Residence at UM. She is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of South Alabama.

Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction for her novel “Salvage the Bones” (Bloomsbury, 2011). “Men We Reaped: A Memoir” is an elegy to her brother and four other young black men who lost their lives in her hometown.

Beckwith, a native of Greenville who lives in Taylor, teaches sculpture and 3-D design at UM.  He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sculpture from the university and studied with Leon Koury, Bob Tompkins and Charles Gross.

He has produced public and private bronzes for more than 40 years and is widely known for his portrait busts and public monuments for such icons as William Faulkner, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Tennessee Williams, Richard Wright, Eudora Welty, Jefferson Davis, L.Q.C. Lamar, Jim Henson and Coach Margaret Wade.  In 1976 Mr. Beckwith formed Mississippi’s first commercial fine art bronze foundry with Wallace Mallette.

His work has been exhibited in Splashlight Studios and Frank Marino Gallery in New York, in the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, at the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition in New Orleans and at the Smithsonian Institutionin Washington. Beckwith has won numerous awards and honors and is represented in public and private collections across the nation.

For information about attending this year’s Awards Banquet, visit the MIAL website at

Robin Street Receives Top PRAM award

Robin Street, (on right) Meek School of Journalism and New Media lecturer, who coordinates the School’s PR program, was presented the Professional Achievement Award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi by PRAM President Shannon Coker. The award, given to one PR professional yearly, is given for outstanding achievements in the profession of PR.

Robin Street, (on right) Meek School of Journalism and New Media lecturer, who coordinates the School’s PR program, was presented the Professional Achievement Award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi by PRAM President Shannon Coker. The award, given to one PR professional yearly, is given for outstanding achievements in the profession of PR.

OXFORD, Miss. – Robin Street, lecturer in the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media who coordinates the school’s PR emphasis, was presented the Professional Achievement Award by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi.

The award, given to one professional yearly, is the association’s top honor. It was presented to Street April 25 at a ceremony in Hattiesburg by PRAM President Shannon Coker. Recipients “embody the highest degree of professionalism, are committed to advancing the profession and have outstanding achievements in the practice of public relations,” according to PRAM.

Street was previously named PRAM’s Educator of the Year, and it is rare for an educator to be honored in the professional category. However, judges selected Street for her continued involvement in the profession, the multiple awards her work has won, and her commitment to ethics and diversity, according to Tara Burcham, PRAM vice president for awards.

“The judges said she is an inspiration to her students and other professionals,” Burcham said. “They also noted that her commitment to the field of PR is unparalleled.”

Multiple former students who are now PR professionals joined in supporting Street’s nomination.

Former student Alex May-Sealey wrote,”Her career achievements speak for themselves, but it is her enthusiasm, energy and ideas that truly make her shine as an inspiration to all. Robin is an excellent mentor and is consistently a favorite among her students and colleagues.”

Other student statements of support included, “(T)he epitome of a public relations professional.” “Trains the next generation of PR professionals while being one of the best the profession has to offer.” “A woman of integrity, keen intelligence, responsibility, calm confidence and compassion.”

“Although Ms. Street is winning this award for one year, she has practiced quality public relations for decades,” said H. Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the journalism school.

Street’s previous awards include a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America, the highest award given for PR work, and more than 30 awards in the PRAM Prism and the Southern Public Relations Lantern competitions. Her work previously won “Best in Show” from in both the Prism and Lantern competitions and twice won “Judges Choice” in the Prisms.

As the PRAM winner, Street now becomes Mississippi’s nominee for the SPRF multi-state competition.

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit their website at or email


UM Marks Disability Awareness Month

Two faculty members recognized for their support of students with disabilities

Buford and Scott were recognized by SDS for their outstanding service to students with disabilities.

Buford and Scott were recognized by SDS for their outstanding service to students with disabilities.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Office of Student Disability Services at the University of Mississippi has named two professors, Kerri Scott and Jennifer Buford, as recipients of the 2013-2014 Access Award for their relentless support for students with disabilities in their classes.

Stacey Reycraft, SDS director, presented the award April 23 during the celebration of Disability Awareness Month and the SDS office open house.

Receiving an award for doing one’s work gratifying and validating, said Scott, UM instructional assistant professor and associate director of forensic chemistry.

“It is a fantastic honor, as I was just trying to do what I thought I needed to do,” Scott said. “To be recognized for trying to do my best is an incredible feeling.”

Buford, a clinical instructor of social work, agreed.

“It is simply an honor to receive this, students with disabilities bring a new dimension of diversity to the classroom, and we teach diversity,” she said. “It is an opportunity to practice what you teach.”

During the presentation, Reycraft commended the two faculty members for their work.

“I really enjoy this day; I enjoy giving recognition to those who show their support for these under-represented students,” she said. “It is nice that we are supportive and recognize those who help them.”

Scott and Buford were among several faculty members who were nominated by students for the award. The SDS staff reviewed the nominations and chose the recipients. The staff review showed that Scott and Buford provided exceptional service and assistance to students with disabilities, exhibiting an understanding that students with disabilities are as capable as any students to excel academically, Reycraft said.

SDS is charged with ensuring equal access to a quality education for qualified students with disabilities through the provision of reasonable academic accommodations that support university standards and academic integrity.

This is the fifth year for SDS to celebrate Disability Awareness Month. New events were added this year to enhance the observance, including an employment panel that explained the requirements of the corporate world for students with disabilities, and how to meet those requirements. Resource people from UM’s Career Center and Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance office, as well as the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services also gave presentations during April.

Nationally, an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of college students identify as having a disability. At Ole Miss, more than 750 students, or just 4 percent of the student population, are registered with SDS. This number is likely only a fraction of the total number of students with disabilities at Ole Miss, Reycraft said.

For more information about SDS, visit

UMMC’s Dr. John Hall Named SEC Professor of the Year

Respected researcher, student mentor named best teacher from the conference's 14 member schools

Dr. John Hall

Dr. John Hall

JACKSON, Miss. – Dr. John Hall, a professor and administrator at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, has been named the Southeastern Conference’s 2014 Professor of the Year in recognition of his excellence both in the classroom and as a topflight obesity and cardiovascular researcher.

The SEC announced Hall’s selection today as the top professor among those teaching at the SEC’s 14 member institutions of higher education.

“Dr. John Hall represents what is best about academic leadership in the Southeastern Conference,” UM Chancellor Dan Jones said. “His reputation as an educator spans the globe and his contributions in the broad fields of medicine and physiology are substantial. He exemplifies the ideals we should all have for an SEC Professor of the Year.”

Hall is the Arthur C. Guyton Professor and chair of physiology and biophysics, and director of the Mississippi Center for Obesity Research at UMMC. He is one of the most recognized teachers and researchers in the areas of cardiovascular and renal physiology, mechanisms of hypertension, obesity and metabolic disorders.

At UMMC, he’s mentored more than 120 postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and medical student researchers. He’s seen six of his understudies go on to become chairs or directors of various university departments, and one is dean of graduate studies at UMMC.

Hall said the award is a tribute to the university and the team of researchers there.

“I am deeply honored and feel very privileged to represent the University of Mississippi,” Hall said. “There are 14 outstanding universities, so it was a real surprise to me when I received the notice that I was chosen for this honor. I think this to me is important because it does signify that the Southeastern Conference really values academics and scholarship.

“This is a tribute not to me so much, but the university – that we have a good team here of cardiovascular researchers and many folks that work together. I like to say that the team is a lot more than the sum of its parts. I think that’s especially true in this case.”

The award is given each year to one SEC faculty member with a record in research and scholarship that places them among the elite in higher education. The winners are picked from the universities’ SEC Faculty Achievement Award nominees. The SEC will provide Hall with a $20,000 honorarium and recognize him at the SEC Spring Meetings in May.

Hall has fostered development of the next generation of “exemplary scientists,” said Dr. James Keeton, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the UMMC School of Medicine.

“Dr. Hall is part of a lineage that includes some of the finest scientists this country has produced,” Keeton said. “He is the product of a department that has nurtured many leaders in the field of physiology and, in turn, his leadership has fostered the development of the next generation of exemplary scientists. There’s no greater legacy than that, and no person more deserving of this honor.”

Hall received his bachelor’s degree at Kent State University, his doctorate in physiology at Michigan State University and his postdoctoral training at UMMC before joining the faculty.

His laboratory was the first to use renal-pressure natriuresis to demonstrate how the kidney’s ability to excrete salt and water plays a vital role in controlling blood pressure and maintaining salt and water balance in hypertension. Hall’s lab was also the first to discover that increases in leptin, a hormone secreted by fat cells, causes high blood pressure and links obesity and hypertension.

He has been the principal investigator of grants that have brought roughly $50 million in extramural funding to UMMC. Hall’s research has been funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute since 1975 and he’s also been director of a National Institutes of Health Program Project since 1988. He has written more than 530 publications and has been cited more than 35,800 times. He also co-authored the “Textbook of Medical Physiology” that is considered the leading textbook on the subject. It has been translated into 14 different languages and is one of 18 books he has either written or edited.

Hall has been inducted into the Norman C. Nelson Order for Teaching Excellence at UMMC, and in 2005, his students nominated him as an All-Star Professor.

Mississippi Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds praised Hall’s accomplishments as both a researcher and educator.

“Dr. Hall’s excellence both in research and in the classroom has affected so many lives in a positive way,” Bounds said. “His research on obesity and cardiovascular problems – two of the most important issues facing our state and our nation – is invaluable. As a mentor to more than 120 postdoctoral students, graduate students and medical student researchers, he has had an immeasurable positive impact on the medical field.

“This recognition is well-deserved and Dr. Hall is to be congratulated on this wonderful professional accolade from the Southeastern Conference.”