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

Keep up with the gravitation, astrophysics and theoretical physics group at UM by visiting

Aaron Shirley, M.D. posthumously receives Community Service Award

UMMC’s professor named Diversity Educator of the Year

Trustee Shane Hooper, Dr. Betty J. Crouther, Associate Professor of Art, Dr. Morris Stocks, Provost, and Trustee Aubrey Patterson, President of the Board of Trustees.

Trustee Shane Hooper, Dr. Betty J. Crouther, Associate Professor of Art, Dr. Morris Stocks, Provost, and Trustee Aubrey Patterson, President of the Board of Trustees.

JACKSON, Miss. — The Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning recently held its Diversity celebration by recognizing campus and community leaders for the impact they have made in advancing diversity and encouraging understanding and respect.

The late Aaron Shirley M.D., (1933-2014) received the Community Service Award for courage, commitment, persistence and humility in being a strong voice in working as an ambassador to end healthcare disparities for all citizens. Dr. Claude D. Brunson, Senior Advisor for External Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, was named the 2015 Diversity Educator of the Year.

“The Board of Trustees is honored to recognize Dr. Brunson and the late Dr. Shirley for their tremendous contributions as leaders, mentors and physicians, healing Mississippians through their medical expertise, tireless devotion and generous spirit,” said Trustee Karen Cummins, Chair of the Board of Trustees’ Diversity Committee. “Both trailblazers in the medical profession, their work to bridge health care disparities will have an impact on our state for generations to come.”

Working through its Diversity Committee, chaired by Trustee Karen Cummins, the Board selects one individual as the Diversity Educator of the Year and one individual as the Community Honoree. Other Trustees serving on the committee include Trustee Shane Hooper, Trustee Bob Owens, Trustee Alan Perry, Trustee C.D. Smith, along with IHL Staff member Pearl Pennington. Ms. Clotee Lewis, IHL staff member, has been the coordinator of the recognition program several years.

Trustee Shane Hooper, Dr. James Ke eton, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine, honoree Claude D. Brunson, M.D., Senior Advisor for External Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, “2105 Diversity Educator of the Year,” the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Dr. Morris Stocks, Provost, The University of Mississippi, and Trustee Aubrey Patterson, President of the Board of Trustees.

Trustee Shane Hooper, Dr. James Keeton, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean, School of Medicine, honoree Claude D. Brunson, M.D., Senior Advisor for External Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine, “2105 Diversity Educator of the Year,” the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and Dr. Morris Stocks, Provost, The University of Mississippi, and Trustee Aubrey Patterson, President of the Board of Trustees.

The youngest of eight children, Dr. Shirley was born in Gluckstadt in 1933. He graduated from Lanier High School in 1951 and he received his Bachelor of Science degree from Tougaloo College in 1955. He received his Medical degree from Meharry Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee in 1959, and later interned at Hubbard Hospital before completing his residency in pediatrics in 1967 at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson. He was the first African American pediatric resident at UMMC and for many years the only Black pediatrician in the state.

Dr. Shirley began private practice in 1960 and practiced general medicine in Vicksburg for 15 years. From 1963 to 1967, he helped to organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and served as chairman for Warren County. Dr. Shirley also served as director of the Mississippi Action for Progress, an organization which provided health care and education to children.

In 1970, Dr. Shirley played an instrumental role in developing the largest community health center in the state of Mississippi, Jackson-Hinds Comprehensive Health Center, which is the largest provider of primary health care services to the uninsured and under-served in Central Mississippi and serves as a model for federally funded community health centers nationwide. Dr. Shirley also served as Chairman of J-HCHC.

In 1993, Dr. Shirley received the MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the Genius Award, which recognizes devotion, dedication and strides’ made in one’s field. In 1995, Dr. Shirley pushed to transform the dilapidated Jackson Mall into the Jackson Medical Mall, a one-stop shop health care facility for the underserved, a plan now duplicated around the country. Dr. Shirley served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Jackson Medical Mall Foundation, as well as Director of Community Medical Services and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Dr. Shirley was honored with the endowment of Chair for the Study of Health Disparities at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 2005. He was also elected to serve as a member of the Citizens Health Care Working Group, which was mandated by Congress to hold hearings and community meetings across the country on health care coverage and cost issues, and to produce a “Health Report to the American People.”

In 2010, Dr. Shirley founded the HealthConnect program, an idea that originated in Iran, that sends doctors and nurses to poor homes to help prevent unnecessary emergency room visits. Dr. Shirley was recognized for his uncommon fortitude and commitment to working to enhance the quality health care for African Americans and all the citizens of Mississippi. Throughout his life, he touched the lives of all who knew him and earned him  the respect and admiration of people in Mississippi and all over the world.

The 2015 Diversity Educator of the Year is Claude D. Brunson, M.D., who serves as Senior Advisor for External Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine and Professor of Anesthesiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. A member of the UMMC faculty since 1991, Dr. Brunson’s contributions to diversity and to positive relations among all segments of the Medical Center and the broader community are numerous and varied. He has been described as “an outstanding and effective faculty member, mentor and role model who is deeply committed to diversity” and one who brings “voice and action to the concept of promoting cross cultural understanding at the Medical Center and within the campus community.”

Dr. Brunson is a graduate of the University of Alabama and the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham. He completed a residency in anesthesiology at UMMC and later earned a Master’s degree in clinical health sciences at UMMC. He is also a graduate of the leadership course for physician executives offered by Harvard Medical School.

A veteran of the U.S. Navy, Dr. Brunson became professor and chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology in 2002, the first African American chair of a department at the Medical Center. In 2009, he stepped down from this administrative role in anesthesiology to become senior advisor for External Affairs, but continues to practice one day per week.

Dr. Brunson has encouraged the advancement of diversity through his efforts to mentor rising young minority professionals at UMMC as well as Jackson State University. He is a true advocate of community involvement, as evidenced through patient building of trustful relationships with colleagues over many years. He serves as the first African American President in the 159-year history of the Mississippi State Medical Association, a post he was elected to August 2014.

In recommending him for the award, Dr. James E. Keeton, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, wrote “Dr. Brunson is a person of considerable achievement. He is an individual who is arguably one of the most influential people in our state’s health care industry, both in an official capacity and behind the scenes. He is a major force for building bridges between the white and black communities and especially within the physician community. He has also been one of the most effective people in Mississippi at building sustainable approaches to delivery of health services to the underserved. Dr. Brunson encourages in others the value of embracing diversity in thought, cultural background, experience and identity.”

Dr. Brunson was instrumental in helping UMMC get legislation passed in 2012 that enabled providers to be reimbursed for services delivered via telemedicine. This achievement opened the floodgates for telehealth to be deployed in the state, with the potential to bring more services to rural areas.

He has received numerous honors and awards for his work and has continuously been included in the Best Doctors in America listing since 1998. Last year, he was named by Ebony magazine as being among the 100 Most Influential African-Americans in the United States.

Dr. Brunson has been a leader in UMMC’s efforts to develop a Community Health Advocate Program (CHAP). This program trains lay people to be health advisors in their local communities. Many organizations, such as the United Methodist Church of Mississippi, have adopted UMMC’s program to implement among their constituents.

He has been a member of the board of directors of the American Society of Anesthesiologists since 2002, leading several committees including finance. He has also served on several expert panels of the Food and Drug Administration.

The Board honored faculty from each of Mississippi’s public universities for advancing diversity at their institutions. These honorees include:

Dr. Dovi Alipoe, Director of Global Programs and Professor of Agricultural Economics

Alcorn State University

Dr. Noah Lelek, Assistant Professor of Communication Studies and Theatre Arts

Delta State University

Dr. Brandi L. Newkirk-Turner, Interim Department Chair and Graduate Program Director for the Department of Communicative Disorders in the College of Public Service

Jackson State University

Dr. Lakiesha N. Williams, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering

Mississippi State University

Dr. Leslie Burger, Assistant Extension Professor in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture

Mississippi State University

Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine

Ms. Janie Shields, Life Enrichment Coordinator, Office of Outreach and Innovation

Mississippi University for Women

Dr. Xiaoquin Wu, Associate Professor of Mathematics, Department of Mathematics, Computer and Information Sciences

Mississippi Valley State University

Dr. Betty J. Crouther, Associate Professor of Art

The University of Mississippi

2015 Diversity Educator of the Year

Dr. Claude D. Brunson, Senior Advisor for External Affairs to the Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and Dean of the School of Medicine

The University of Mississippi Medical Center

Dr. Tammy Greer, Associate Professor of Psychology and Director of the Center for American Indian Research and Studies

The University of Southern Mississippi


Mississippi Native Chosen to Lead UM Medical Center

Dr. LouAnn Heath Woodward renowned for expertise in emergency medicine, medical education

ole miss university of mississippi medical center Dr LouAnn Heath Woodward vice chancellor for health affairs school of medicine dean IHL physician academic

Dr. LouAnn Heath Woodward

OXFORD, Miss. – Dr. LouAnn Heath Woodward, an emergency medicine physician and academic administrator who has served as second-in-command of the University of Mississippi Medical Center for the last five years, has been named the institution’s next vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

UM Chancellor Dr. Dan Jones made the announcement Wednesday afternoon following a meeting of the board of trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Woodward, 51, a native of Carroll County who serves as associate vice chancellor for health affairs and vice dean of the School of Medicine, will succeed Dr. James E. Keeton, who held the post for five years. Keeton, 75, had earlier announced he would retire no later than June 30, depending on the appointment of his successor.

“It’s not a surprise to me that a robust national search led us to Dr. Woodward as the best fit for this key leadership position, and I look forward to working with her on our shared passion for making health and health care better for all Mississippians,” Jones said. “She has earned a national reputation in medical education and has contributed greatly to our medical school’s recognition as one of the very best in the country. I am grateful to her for offering herself for leadership here at home, when large opportunities exist for her nationally.”

Woodward’s appointment follows a national search by a committee that ultimately narrowed the field of candidates to two finalists, including Dr. Stephen J. Spann, a family medicine physician who is chief medical officer for the Johns Hopkins Medicine-affiliated hospital in the United Arab Emirates. Jones made the final selection, which was affirmed by the IHL board.

“I’m grateful to Provost Morris Stocks for his leadership in the selection process while I was out with illness, to Dr. Patrick Smith and other members of the search committee, and to members of the medical center and broader community who participated in the process,” Jones said. “I’m particularly grateful to the IHL board for accepting the selection of Dr. Woodward.”

Hank M. Bounds, commissioner of higher education, said, “Dr. Woodward is an exceptional physician, educator and leader. I am certain she will continue the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s rich tradition of excellent patient care, important research on Mississippi’s most pressing health problems and training the next generation of health care providers.”

Aubrey Patterson, president of the board of trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, said, “Dr. Woodward’s years of experience with the University of Mississippi Medical Center make her the perfect choice to lead the institution. She understands every aspect of the UMMC mission and will provide leadership to expand the medical center’s service to its patients, its students and the state.”

Woodward thanked the chancellor, Provost Stocks, IHL board members and Bounds for the opportunity.

“I am deeply grateful to the Medical Center family – faculty, staff, and students – for the tremendous support that has been extended to me,” Woodward said. “It is my earnest desire to continue the positive momentum to advance the Medical Center as the foremost leader in Mississippi for health care, health sciences discovery and health sciences education. I feel a personal responsibility to accelerate the shared vision of everyone who works, learns and teaches at UMMC to improve health in Mississippi.”

By tradition, the leader of the Medical Center holds the dual role of vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the medical school. The vice chancellor essentially acts as CEO of the Medical Center, with responsibility for 10,000 employees, 3,000 students, four teaching hospitals and two community hospitals, five health professions schools and the state’s largest health care research enterprise. The Medical Center’s operating budget is $1.6 billion annually, about 11 percent of it from the state.

Keeton said Woodward has been instrumental in leading many of the recent initiatives at the medical center and is highly respected in Mississippi’s broader health care community. “She will serve UMMC and our state very well in the years ahead.”

A native of Carroll County in north central Mississippi, Woodward graduated from Mississippi State University and attended medical school and completed a residency in emergency medicine at UMMC. After residency training, she joined the faculty in the Department of Emergency Medicine, where she holds the rank of tenured professor. She is a fellow of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

While serving in the emergency department, she gradually became more involved in educational administration of the medical school, first as director of the emergency medicine residency program and later as associate dean for academic affairs. In the last few years, she has overseen not only a substantial expansion of the medical school’s class size but the successful 2012 re-accreditation of its academic programs.

In 2013, Woodward was invited to serve on the Liaison Committee on Medical Education, the accrediting body for U.S. and Canadian medical schools, and chairs its subcommittee on international relations.

During a town hall-style forum Jan. 29 at the Medical Center, then-candidate Woodward said lessons she learned growing up on a Carroll County farm and spending long hours treating patients in the emergency department showed her Mississippi’s vast need for quality, accessible health care. Work in the ED also gave her “a comfort level in making hard decisions.”

Woodward is the 10th person and the first woman to serve as institutional head in the 60-year history of UMMC in Jackson. She and her husband, Jon, live in Madison and have four children.

Deadline Extended for Sullivan Award Nominations

2014 Sullivan Award student finalist trophies

2014 Sullivan Award student finalist trophies

Today is the final day to submit nominations for the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement 2015 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, which recognizes a University of Mississippi student, alumnus or community member who sets an outstanding example of selfless service to others.

“Recognizing and celebrating service is crucial to the mission of the McLean Institute, which supports transformation through service,” said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director. “The Sullivan Award is an opportunity to honor a student and community member who have made our community a better place because of their humble service to others.”

This is the second year the McLean Institute will present the award at the Celebration of Service event to one student (graduate or undergraduate) and one Ole Miss alumnus or member of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community, including faculty members. The deadline to nominate individuals was extended until today (March 2) due to the inclement weather.

“The humble servant is the individual we seek to recognize with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award,” said Steve McDavid, president of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. “Rather than honoring servant leaders, the Sullivan Award shines light on those whose selfless efforts behind the scenes touch the lives of those in their community.”

The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award was established in 1890 to honor individuals who demonstrate nobility of character through service. The award recognizes those who put service and the community above themselves and who show honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion. Prime candidates are those who serve others without seeking recognition.

 The award is a bronze medallion along with a framed certificate describing the award.

 To nominate someone deserving of recognition for outstanding community service, click here.

Billy Crews Hired as Education Development Officer

Former Daily Journal executive joins UM in fundraising role

Billy Crews education development officer ole miss university of mississippi daily journal school of education um foundation tfa oxford

Former newspaper executive and public education proponent Billy Crews joins the UM School of Education as its new development officer.

OXFORD, Miss. – Longtime newspaper executive and public education proponent Billy Crews has joined the University of Mississippi as the new development officer for its School of Education.

Crews’ position is a new one, in which he will head fundraising efforts from within the school in collaboration with the UM Foundation.

“I believe the School of Education is one of the most important units at the university in terms of potential impact on our state,” said Crews, an Oxford native. “After 35 years in business, I am committed to a new career focused on supporting public education in Mississippi.”

Crews joins the university after more than two years working for Teach for America’s Mississippi region, where he served as vice president for strategic partnerships. Before TFA, he led the Tupelo-based media company Journal Inc., which owns the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, serving as chairman and chief executive before retiring in 2010. Crews also previously served as chief operations officer and as a member of the board of trustees for the Tupelo Public School District.

“Billy Crews is an asset to the University of Mississippi because of his experience and his genuine passion for education,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “We are very fortunate to have his experience and expertise as we advance our mission to support and improve education in Mississippi and beyond.”

Crews’ experience in support of public education dates to the late 1970s when, while working as a community service representative for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, he helped establish the Mississippi Reading Improvement Program, an endeavor that placed assistant teachers in K-2 public classrooms throughout the state. More recently in 2010, he helped lead a citizen initiative to raise $100,000 to fund pre-K classrooms in Tupelo public schools. Crews also helped establish Mississippi’s first multicorporation pre-K learning center for employees of five Tupelo-based organizations.

A UM alumnus, Crews received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1978 and was the Associated Student Body president and a Rhodes Scholar finalist. The son of former UM English professor John Crews, he spent much of his childhood on the Ole Miss campus.

“In a sense, I’ve come full circle from growing up on this campus, graduating college here and now returning for a new career,” he said. “I’m looking forward to working with Dean Rock and the School of Education’s faculty and staff to enhance the university’s commitment to excellence in education.”

Tyner to Lead Higher Education Lawyer Group

UM general counsel to become head of the National Association of College and University Attorneys

UM General Counsel Lee Tyner (left) has been chosen to lead the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

UM General Counsel Lee Tyner (left) has been chosen to lead the National Association of College and University Attorneys.

OXFORD, Miss. – Lee Tyner, general counsel at the University of Mississippi, has been elected board chairman of the National Association of College and University Attorneys, a group of more than 4,000 higher education lawyers across the country. He begins his new role in June.

UM Chancellor Dan Jones said those who have the honor of working with Tyner on a daily basis aren’t surprised by his selection to head a national group of his peers.

“It’s gratifying that his peers have selected him for this large honor and responsibility,” Jones said. “This brings recognition to our friend, Lee, that he deserves and certainly puts our university in the national spotlight. We value leadership and service. We are grateful to Lee for his leadership and service to both Ole Miss and this important national organization.”

Tyner, a Columbus native, earned a bachelor’s degree from UM in 1987 and his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1990. He worked as a litigation attorney for Butler Snow in Jackson for six years before coming back to Ole Miss in 1998. At UM, he worked for Mary Ann Connell, who was the university’s chief legal officer. When she retired in 2003, then-Chancellor Robert Khayat hired Tyner to become her replacement.

Tyner said NACUA is the best professional organization with which he’s ever been involved.

“My primary goal in my year as board chair is to do no harm because it’s such a highly effective, highly functional and healthy professional association,” Tyner said.

He has been active with NACUA for years and said he’s looking forward to leading the impressive group of lawyers from all levels of higher education, representing many universities and community colleges. He’ll assume his duties at the NACUA annual conference in Washington, taking over from the current board chairman, Tom Cline, vice president and general counsel at Northwestern University.

“I was humbled that my colleagues around the country who do what I do would ask that I serve in this way, particularly when I think of the other lawyers who have played this role nationally, whether it’s my mentor, Mary Ann Connell, who served in this role several years ago, or other professionals that I respect so much who have gone before me,” Tyner said.

The group is full of many dedicated professionals with whom Tyner enjoys working, he said.

“The thing about higher education lawyers is they are lawyers who like their job. They’re happy lawyers, which is not always an easy thing to find. They’re typically very interesting people and highly competent people and they are passionate about higher education. It makes for a pretty good combination of colleagues.”

The job of a university lawyer has become more challenging in recent years as federal regulations have become more far-reaching. The vast network of lawyers is a good resource for members of the group because the members have encountered almost any issue that can arise on a college campus, Tyner said. They often talk by phone or through email.

The group doesn’t take positions on issues, but does help other higher education trade groups with issues they encounter, he said.

“We’re trying to be a resource for these other organizations,” Tyner said. “We don’t take positions, but we’re trying to figure out how to have a seat at the table and have healthy discussions of our regulatory climate and how our student experiences are enhanced and not inhibited by that regulatory climate.”

Tyner was chosen for many reasons, including his record of leadership and service to the group, his commitment to its mission and also his modeling of NACUA‘s values of civility and collegiality, said Kathleen Santora, NACUA president and chief executive officerHe’s also always willing to help his colleagues with any issues they encounter, she said.

“Lee is held in the highest regard by NACUA’s members, and election to board leadership is clear evidence of that esteem,” Santora said. “If you ask NACUA members what stands out most about Lee, though, I am virtually certain they would respond that it is the warmth, graciousness and generosity of spirit with which he treats everyone he meets. It is my honor to know and to work with Lee, and we all look forward to working with him when he becomes board chair at the annual conference in late June in Washington.”

Tyner’s former boss, Mary Ann Connell, served in the same role at NACUA in 1999. Connell works in private practice with the Mayo-Mallette firm in Oxford and is still active with the organization. She said she’s also not surprised by the choice.

“He is the most capable person I think I’ve ever known,” Connell said. “He’s an excellent choice to be board chair. He’s a great leader, he’s brilliant, kind, considerate and hardworking. He gets along with people beautifully. He has all the qualities you want in a leader for such a large organization like NACUA.”

Award Created for Environmental Toxicology Students

Recognition named in honor of influential former faculty member

Kristine Willett (left), William Benson and David D. Allen

Kristine Willett (left), William Benson and David D. Allen

OXFORD, Miss. – To honor a former faculty member and environmental toxicology research leader, the School of Pharmacy has created the William H. Benson Distinguished Graduate Student Award.

“I was honestly in disbelief when I first learned of the plans for the award,” said Benson, who served as a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the school for a decade. “I am just incredibly flattered and honored that it would even be considered.”

The award will recognize the most outstanding graduate student in environmental toxicology each year. Recipients will receive a plaque and monetary gift. Kristine Willett, professor of pharmacology, developed the idea for the award after realizing that other graduate programs had similar recognitions.

“Dr. Benson really spearheaded the environmental toxicology research program here at the University of Mississippi,” Willett said. “Many of his former students and mentees are still actively involved with our School of Pharmacy and provide networking opportunities for our current students.”

Benson joined the School of Pharmacy as a faculty member in 1988. He served as director of environmental and community health research at the school’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences before leaving in 1999.

The associate director for ecology at the Environmental Protection Agency fondly remembers his time at Ole Miss.

“The beauty of the pharmacy school was our ability to work across departments,” he said. “We worked together in the best interest of our students. It was so easy to work in a multidisciplinary culture because everyone pitched in. It was almost like a family, not a lab.”

Willett said that Benson continues to influence the University of Mississippi, despite being away from campus for nearly 15 years.

“As environmental toxicology-associated faculty members have prepared training grant proposals, Dr. Benson has volunteered his laboratories as internship locations for our students,” she said. “When I teach environmental toxicology, I use slide sets from short courses he has taught. Most importantly, he is always on the lookout for job opportunities for our students. At meetings, he enthusiastically encourages them and introduces them to other experts in the field.”

Benson said he hopes the award will give opportunities to deserving students who are dedicated to improving the state of Mississippi.

“I hope it goes to students who really believe in doing the right thing for the right reason,” he said. “I hope they work toward public, environmental good and that their work is beneficial to the people of Mississippi, while having impact on the nation and the world.”

To contribute to the William H. Benson Distinguished Graduate Student Award, send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. For more information, contact development director Raina McClure at

UM Ranks Among Nation’s Best Online MBA Programs

U.S. News & World Report lists university in Top 25

Graduates from the online MBA program share their exhilaration at 2014 commencement ceremonies.

Graduates from the online MBA program share their exhilaration at 2014 commencement ceremonies.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s online MBA program is ranked in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 list of 25 Best Online MBA Programs.

UM tied Ball State University for No. 16. Other SEC schools on the list include Florida at No. 4, Auburn (No. 10) and Mississippi State (tied with the University of Tennessee at Martin for No. 18). Indiana University, Temple University and the University of North Carolina all tied for No. 1.

“We are very proud of the success of the online MBA program and the recognition of the incredible value this program provides to our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration. “The fact that they can continue working and provide for their families while furthering their education is a wonderful opportunity. It is especially satisfying to be able to help our men and women in uniform to further their education.”

Besides this overall ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranks UM as a top university in the areas of:

  • Faculty credentials and training rank: 49
  • Student services and technology rank: 53
  • Student engagement rank: 35
  • Admissions selectivity rank: 20
  • Peer assessment score (out of 5): 3.1

MBA logo

UM’s online MBA program is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The program may be completed in two years by taking two courses in fall, spring and summer. There is no residency requirement and students are not charged nonresident fees. More than 70 percent of the online students complete the MBA program in two years.

“We strive to be accessible to students through both predetermined interactions such as weekly discussion board meetings, in addition to the ability to ask questions to the class or professor,” Cyree said. “We also have several opportunities for students to meet face-to-face to develop connections with their classmates. The courses are rigorous and demanding and are a companion to our on-campus program, and in many cases the same professor teaches online and on-campus.”

The online program’s student population is a combination of young professionals and experienced, successful professionals.

“They are located from coast to coast and abroad,” said Ashley Jones, director of MBA/MHA Administration. “We have bankers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Along with those in the fields of business and accounting, we have students in the field of medicine that include a surgeon, anesthesiologist and a pharmacist. All have different career goals, and they each bring learning opportunities to the class.”

For more information about U.S. News & World Report rankings, visit For more information about UM’s online MBA program, go to


UM Staff, Students Join MLK Day of Service

Volunteers gathering to improve area schools, assisted living facilities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nutrition Clinic Begins Weight Management Classes in January

Classes open to the public and include weekly group meetings, cooking demos and one-on-one consults

Janie Cole gives a tour of a local grocery store.

Janie Cole gives a tour of a local grocery store.

OXFORD, Miss. – Janie Cole, registered dietitian and adjunct professor in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management at the University of Mississippi, leads a group of six through an Oxford grocery store.

She hands out a “Grocery Store Shopping guide that provides tips such as “Plan ahead and make a list” and “Don’t be on your phone while shopping. It gets you off task.” Cole tells the group to examine and compare nutrition facts for deli meats, bread, cereal and bacon.

In one of the aisles, Cole says, “Pay attention to calories, sodium content and saturated fat.”

The grocery store tour is a part of the weight management program organized by UM’s Nutrition Clinic, which is devoted to helping the community with weight loss, eating disorders and other nutrition issues. The program offers weekly group meetings, food record analysis, cooking demonstrations, tastings and one-on-one consults.

“Walking through the store and comparing labels helps the participants make healthy choices,” Cole said, regarding the grocery store tour. “Oftentimes, they are pleasantly surprised by what is considered a healthy choice.”

The program started in 2011 after the clinic got requests to begin a weight management class. But people take the class for reasons beside weight loss, Cole said.

“They want to eat better, improve their overall health and basically have a healthier lifestyle in general,” she said.

And the classes are improving lifestyles. The program has consistent success in lowering weight, blood sugar and cholesterol, and improving energy levels.

“This class is different from others available in that we teach you how to eat healthy without eliminating your favorite foods,” Cole said. “It’s so simple, but it works.”

The weight management classes begin Jan. 21 at Lenoir Hall and are open to the public. The fee for the 12-week course is $150. Participants can register for the classes by calling the UM Nutrition Clinic at 662-915-8662 or by emailing