UM Employees Play Santa’s Helpers

Books and Bears program changes venue, sets new record for donations distributed

UM's annual Books and Bears event.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

UM’s annual Books and Bears event. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – There will be many more presents under a lot of University of Mississippi Physical Plant employees’ trees on Christmas Day, thanks to the generosity of the campus community and its Black Faculty and Staff Organization.

Smiles abounded Friday morning (Dec. 19) in the Gertrude Castellow Ford Ballroom at the Inn at Ole Miss as BFSO members distributed more than 1,000 gifts through the group’s 17th annual Books and Bears program. The items were donated by UM faculty, staff, students and alumni over the past three weeks. The number of presents given reached a new record.

Reception at the event was enthusiastic.

“Without this event, lots of kids wouldn’t have very much on Christmas Day,” said Pauline Beard of Oxford, a general maintenance worker. “Every little bit helps and a little goes a long way.”

Alice Fryson of Oxford, who has attended every Books and Bears distribution since the program began, said she hoped to leave with a very special present for one of her nieces or nephews.

“I’m trying to get that bike,” Fryson said. “Maybe today is the day. If not, I definitely hope it will happen before I retire.”

Specificity is not a requirement for Randall Pino of Oxford.

“It doesn’t have to be any particular thing for my children,” the 10-year employee said. “Just seeing the excitement on their faces over whatever they receive is a blessing.”

The donations were noticed and greatly appreciated by BFSO officials.

“The thoughtfulness and outpouring of support from the UM family has been nothing short of amazing this year,” said Donald Cole, associate provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. “By helping others, we have truly captured the spirit of the holidays.”

The spirit of generosity generated by the program appears to be contagious.

“I don’t have any children myself, but one of my co-workers is adopting several kids and couldn’t be here today,” said James Tindle of Oxford. “He doesn’t even know I’m doing this for him. I just wanted to help him and his family out in any way that I could.”

Spreading the good will beyond the boundaries of the main campus, all employees videotaped a group holiday greeting, which will be shown to Chancellor Dan Jones and his wife, Lydia. Jones, who has been a cancer patient at the UM Medical Center in Jackson since late October, has actively supported and attended past Books and Bears distributions.

“Merry Christmas and happy new year!” the crowd shouted.

BSFO members expressed their pleasure over the assistance in obtaining toys and books for the children.

“Over the years, Books and Bears just keeps growing and growing,” said Jackie Certion, senior academic adviser in the UM College of Liberal Arts. “We outgrew the Union Ballroom, which is why it was moved here. Next year, we’ll probably pack out the Jackson Avenue Center. Then we’ll need the Ford Center and maybe the coliseum after that. Who knows?”

New teddy bears, children’s books and toys have been collected for children of custodial and grounds workers each year since 1997.

Space Plants on Way Back to Earth

Following six months aboard the International Space Station, UM researcher's experiment germinates

Scene from the launch of SpaceX-4 in September 2014.

Scene from the launch of SpaceX-4 in September 2014.

OXFORD, Miss. – Farming in deep space is explored in the recent movie “Interstellar,” but a University of Mississippi biologist’s research program appears to be bringing the sci-fi scenario closer to reality.

The Seedling Growth Series of plant biology experiments is part of an agreement between NASA and the European Space Agency, said John Z. Kiss, dean of the UM Graduate School and NASA’s principal investigator for the project. PIs from both agencies combined proposals to maximize scientific returns.

“The major goals are to determine how gravity and light responses influence each other in plants and to better understand the cellular signaling mechanisms of phototropism and cellular response of light stimulation involved,” Kiss said.

The first phase of the space seedlings experiment was aboard the SpaceX-2 launch in March 2013 and returned on the SpaceX-3 in May 2014. The second phase traveled to the International Space Station on SpaceX-4 last September and is due to return on SpaceX-5 in January 2015.

Preliminary data indicates the plants are taking root, showing promise for future such experiments and eventually leading to actual extraterrestrial crops and harvests.

“In SG-2, we have successfully completed the reduced gravity series, which can be added to the series in SG-1,” said Kiss, whose leading role as a NASA spaceflight researcher spans more than 20 years. “To our knowledge, for the first time in the course of plant space biology, we will have information on a physiological response across a continuum of gravity conditions.”

Scientists are confident they have a sample size that will produce statistically significant results due to the robust design of their experiment. Findings will be published in respected peer-reviewed journals.

F. Javier Medina, a researcher at the Spanish National Research Council and ESA’s PI on the space seedlings project, indicated the development of SG-2 operations in flight is quite satisfactory.

“The seeds have germinated at a good rate, and seedlings of all genotypes have shown a robust growth,” Medina said. “In the first run of the experiment, we have attempted for the first time the growth of seedlings under the constant conditions of gravity throughout the entire growth period, either micro-G or one-G.”

Following the return of the seed cassettes and subsequent findings next month, NASA and ESA will develop SG-3, which is expected to launch on SpaceX-9 in late 2015. The development of SG-4 is to be determined.

For updates on the Space Seedlings Growth Series project, visit view video of astronaut Butch Wilmore harvesting seedlings on the ISS at the end of the experiment in November, go to

ISS Minor Becomes Internationally Certified Program

Certification is dream come true for UM intelligence studies faculty, staff

Dr. Carl Jensen teaching a course

Dr. Carl Jensen teaching a course

OXFORD, Miss. – The Intelligence and Security Studies minor at the University of Mississippi is officially an internationally certified program.

The UM minor is the first program to receive certification from the International Association for Intelligence Education, or IAFIE. The endorsement helps CISS remain a leader at the forefront of intelligence education.

Following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. intelligence agencies sought ways to improve the critical task of analysis. As part of this effort, the UM School of Applied Sciences created the CISS to train students for careers in intelligence analysis and provide educational and scholarly resources to the national intelligence community.

IAFIE’s decision to certify the CISS minor is a validation of the hard work faculty and staff have done building the program over the last six years, said Carl Jensen, the center’s director.

“We have sought this IAFIE certification since the first day it was offered,” Jensen said. “Being the first program to receive it is an incredibly rewarding experience.”

IAFIE certification required meeting 32 standards, including intelligence history, organizations, planning, collection, analysis, counterintelligence and security. The organization has more than 230 member institutions and agencies.

“These days, we have a steady stream of students from all over the country visiting the center,” said Melissa Graves, associate director and instructor of the center. “Having this certification allows us to provide evidence that people from within the intelligence community and academe have reviewed our program inside and out and concluded that we meet their rigorous standards.”

The IAFIE certification further enhances the minor’s appeal to potential students, UM Provost Morris Stocks said.

“The Intelligence and Security Studies minor is one of the premier programs offered at the University of Mississippi,” he said. “Students have come to Ole Miss from across the country to become part of this important program.”

Formed in 2003, IAFIE has become the organization generally recognized for advancing the interests of intelligence educators. IAFIE began as the brainchild of Bob Heibel, founder of the intelligence studies program at Mercyhurst College in 1992. Heibel saw the need for an organization that could bring together intelligence educators from around the country and the world.

For more information about CISS, visit For more about IAFIE, visit

Documenting the Culinary Wealth of the South

Jim 'N Nick's founder, wife make major gift to Southern Foodways Alliance

Barnard Observatory houses the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Barnard Observatory houses the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

OXFORD, Miss. – Nick and Suzanne Pihakis of Birmingham, Alabama, have made a transformative gift to endow the Pihakis Foodways Documentary Fellow, a filmmaking and teaching position at the University of Mississippi and its Southern Foodways Alliance.

Thanks to their generosity, stories of the South’s diverse food cultures will be filmed and produced for posterity and shared with students, researchers and the general public.

For more than a decade leading up to this major gift, Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, has generously underwritten the documentary work of the SFA, a nonprofit institute of UM’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“Nick and Suzanne have long invested their time and money in the cultural and culinary wealth of the American South,” said SFA director John T. Edge. “With this gift, they help ensure that this important work will continue. This watershed gift will resonate for a long, long time.”

Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, and his wife, Suzanne, have contributed a major gift to support the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute in the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo courtesy Melany Mullens.

Nick Pihakis, who founded Jim ‘N Nick’s Community Bar-B-Q in Birmingham in 1985, and his wife, Suzanne, have contributed a major gift to support the Southern Foodways Alliance, a nonprofit institute in the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo courtesy Melany Mullens.

Pihakis, who established the business with his late father, Jim Pihakis, has long focused on honest barbecue, community service and locally-sourced crops and goods. A passion for making good food accessible and affordable has driven Jim ‘N Nick’s, led by the younger Pihakis, to become one of the nation’s most respected restaurant groups.

Endowed positions such as this one require a $1.5 million commitment. With investment income from the Pihakis endowment, UM will recruit a documentary fellow to direct films for the SFA and teach documentary classes on the Oxford campus. The start date for the position is expected to be fall 2015.

SFA has long worked with Andy Harper and Joe York of the Southern Documentary Project to make award-winning documentary films, Edge said. This gift will bring a second filmmaker partner to join the SFA team, producing documentaries and teaching students.

Pihakis began contributing to UM in 2004, when the SFA developed a year of foodways programming focused on the state of race relations in the American South. When the SFA staged its Summer Symposium in Birmingham, Pihakis marshaled the resources of his rapidly growing company to make the event a success. Soon after, he developed an innovative philanthropy plan for supporting SFA documentary initiatives, Edge said.

“I thought that what the SFA was doing – telling stories about fried chicken cooks and oystermen and pig farmers and vegetable farmers – was really important,” Pihakis said. “Through food and through hospitality, our company shares those stories. And I think it’s important that our company invest in the documentary work that the SFA does.”

The first investment Pihakis made in 2004 was a commitment to SFA of $2,500 per store annually. Those resources, which are contributed by local owners in markets from Alabama to Colorado, top $75,000 each year. Using Pihakis’ innovative philanthropic strategy, Jim ‘N Nick’s has already given more than $500,000 to support SFA work at the university.

Going forward, Edge said the future looks bright for this cultural partnership because as Jim ‘N Nick’s grows over the next few years, its ongoing SFA contribution will also grow in importance and impact.

Pihakis is proud of this gift. And he’s proud of his relationship with the SFA.

“Working with John T. Edge and his colleagues, I learned so much about the culture of food,” he said. “I recognized that the stories they tell of cooks and farmers are deeply important to my identity and to the identity of the South as a whole. My intent is that our gift ensures that great storytelling work continues for generations to come.”

The Southern Foodways Alliance documents, studies and celebrates the diverse food cultures of the changing American South. The SFA sets a common table where black and white, rich and poor – all who gather – may consider our history and our future in a spirit of reconciliation. A member-supported nonprofit institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi, the SFA sponsors scholarship, mentors students, stages symposia, collects and shares oral histories, and produces and publishes books, films and podcasts. For more information, visit and follow on Twitter @Potlikker.

For more information, contact Sara Camp Arnold at 662-915-3327 or

Three-Year-Old Hero Drives Grandfather to Run

CME professor Jack McClurg is running in the St. Jude half marathon Saturday for his granddaughter

Jack McClurg and granddaughter Lylah

Jack McClurg and granddaughter Lylah

OXFORD, Miss. – Not many college professors would ascribe hero status to a 3-year-old, but Jack McClurg is not just any college professor. And his granddaughter Lylah is not just any 3-year-old.

Since April, Lylah has been at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital battling Stage 4 neuroblastoma. She has finished six rounds of chemotherapy, gone through three surgeries and is halfway through a stem cell transplant procedure.

Her grandfather, Jack McClurg, is an associate professor of practice at the University of Mississippi’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence and a UM alumnus. He wanted to do something to show support not only for Lylah but also for St. Jude, which has offered remarkable care not only for Lylah but also for her family, McClurg said.

So McClurg has been training to run in the St. Jude Memphis Half Marathon, set for Saturday (Dec. 6) in Memphis. For someone who hasn’t run in a very long time, it was a challenge to train and work up his distance. But it’s been worth every painful step.

“She is just the strongest little person I have ever known,” he said. “To say the least, she is my hero!”

On his St. Jude fundraising page, McClurg describes himself as “Lylah’s Pop” and says that until she was diagnosed, he did not pay a lot of attention to the fundraising efforts going on around him for many deserving organizations.

“Don’t get me wrong, I knew they were for a good cause, but I never knew how much good it was doing,” he explained. “The main reason I am doing this is because St. Jude has been so incredible to us! They have taken excellent care of my granddaughter, but they haven’t forgotten about the needs/concerns of the parents and immediate family. The fact is, they have provided outpatient housing for the family when they are not confined to the hospital, discounts on food, gas vouchers for travel back and forth from Booneville to the hospital for my son-in-law and many more things.”

McClurg said he took on the challenge to bring attention to the work of St. Jude and to show personally how much their care has meant to his family.

“They try so hard to make it such that the parents don’t have to worry about anything, except their child,” he said. “There is never a bill with St. Jude. Whatever the insurance doesn’t cover, St. Jude does. When you see and experience that firsthand, you have to do something.”

So when he laces up his running shoes Saturday at the starting line for this long-awaited race, McClurg said he will be racing for Lylah and for all the children touched by St. Jude.

“Running the St. Jude half marathon is my way of doing that,” he said. “It is hard to get this over-the-hill, overweight body out there and training, but it reminds me of the hardships that Lylah is going through and the good that St. Jude is doing, not just for my granddaughter, but for all of the children that are there.”

To make a donation to St. Jude, visit McClurg’s fundraising page at:


Jack McClurg and granddaughter Lylah

Jack McClurg and granddaughter Lylah


UM to Host 2015 Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics

Event is one of six prestigious regional meetings scheduled

Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, shares her research at a recent conference.

UM Department of Physics and Astronomy graduate student Ola Nusierat, shares her research at a recent conference.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is scheduled to host a prestigious Conference for Undergraduate Women in Physics in January.

The three-day event, set for Jan. 16-18, is one of six regional meetings nationally sponsored by the American Physical Society and the National Science Foundation.

Co-sponsored locally by UM’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, College of Liberal Arts, Office of Research and Sponsored Programs and others, the Southeastern conference program includes research talks by prominent female physicists from academia and industry. Panel discussions on graduate programs, career opportunities and diversity issues in the workplace, a poster session for students and talks by young participants and graduate students are also slated.

“Every year five to six regional CUWIP conferences take place simultaneously across the United States,” said Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy and one of three faculty members coordinating the program. “This year, UM was selected on a competitive basis to host the Southeastern conference. This is a great achievement for us.”

As pre-registration continues, anticipation for the conference is rising as well.

“Everybody involved recognizes the importance of UM hosting this conference,” said Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy and conference co-coordinator.

“We’re looking forward to hosting tens of the brightest young minds in physics from the region,” said Luca Bombelli, associate professor of physics and astronomy and co-coordinator. “These students will become tomorrow’s much-needed physics teachers and researchers.”

For more information, visit and the UM local conference website at

UM Artist-in-Residence Creates Unique Opportunities for Students

Bruce Levingston

Bruce Levingston

In 2013, concert pianist Bruce Levingston, who was serving as the chancellor’s special adviser on the arts, was approached by University of Mississippi administrators to develop a program in which Ole Miss students would experience the art of classical music.

Levingston invited students to attend his performances around the country to get a behind-the-scenes look at how concerts are staged, to meet key players at each venue and to act as ambassadors for the university in each city.

Some students were even asked to participate in some of Levingston’s performances. Students Clarissa Brumley and Richard Culpepper both performed with Levingston in front of local schoolchildren in Lexington. The Ole Miss musicians played their instruments, trumpet and piano, respectively, and answered questions from the enthusiastic crowd.

Students also performed with Levingston at Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant’s event touting 2014 as the “The Year of the Creative Economy” at Power APAC Elementary in Jackson, attended a performance at the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson and visited Levingston in New York, where he invited them to his concert at Carnegie Hall.

Students also got to join Levingston as he played piano for the Boston Ballet premiere of “Close to Chuck.” Katie Shuford and Kate Prendergast ventured backstage to meet dancers, choreographers and other members of the Boston Ballet creative team. Shuford and Prendergast also visited the Boston Ballet School to see how the school was run and meet with the physical therapist who treats the dancers.

In August 2014, Levingston assumed a new role as Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College artist-in-residence and plans to continue providing students with opportunities to experience the arts.

Kenneth Sufka is Carnegie-CASE Professor of the Year

UM psychology educator received prestigious honor in Washington, D.C.

Ken Sufka lectures to one of his classes.

Ken Sufka lectures to one of his classes.

OXFORD, Miss. – A respected University of Mississippi educator and researcher is this year’s Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching-Council for Advancement and Support of Education Mississippi Professor of the Year.

Kenneth J. “Ken” Sufka, professor of psychology and pharmacology, received the prestigious honor Thursday (Nov. 20) at the U.S. Professor of the Year Awards celebration in Washington, D.C. The program salutes the country’s most outstanding undergraduate instructors and is the only national effort to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring.

“When I first read the letter, I was flat-out dumbfounded. I had to read it again,” Sufka said. “The CASE-Carnegie Foundation Award is by far the most prestigious recognition one can receive in this profession. For CASE-Carnegie to think that the entire body of my academic work is worthy of such recognition is both overwhelming and humbling.”

In addition to an all-expenses-paid trip, Sufka got a framed certificate of recognition. Winners were also recognized at a congressional reception and have opportunities to participate in media interviews, speaking engagements, teaching forums and other events.

The university shares Sufka’s recognition, UM administrators said.

“Dr. Sufka is a role model at our campus and is now a recognized model of excellence to the nation,” said Richard Forgette, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “We are proud to have him as a faculty member at the University of Mississippi.”

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said Sufka sets the bar for excellent teaching and creative scholarship among students and colleagues.

“(He) has produced more final theses with our high performing Honors students than any other professor on campus,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “The ethic of excellence that guides his work and interaction with our students creates a powerful magnetic attraction to those who want to push the boundaries of knowledge and wisdom.”

Sufka is most deserving of the award, said Michael T. Allen, chair and professor of psychology.

“I immediately felt a sense of pride for him and the Department of Psychology, but I wasn’t really surprised,” Allen said. “Dr. Sufka has won essentially all of the awards for teaching and service that the university bestows, and he has been a magnificent teacher and mentor of students for many years. What makes him so special is his love of teaching and his constant effort to become better and better at it, along with his sincere desire to have students succeed in his classes.”

Sufka earned his bacheor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Iowa State University. Before joining the UM faculty in 1992, he conducted research at Drake University, Des Moines University and Duke University. Sufka is a visiting research fellow at Newcastle University and an associate member of the UM Medical Center’s Cancer Institute.

“The University of Mississippi was a good fit for me when I was offered the position and it remains a good fit more than two decades later,” Sufka said. “It offered the right balance of teaching and research I was hoping to find in a mid-sized, flagship university located in a great little college town. While the university and Oxford have grown considerably, I am still able to find that perfect balance of teaching courses in psychology and engaging in laboratory research in neuroscience.”

Sufka said he is following in the footsteps of professors who taught and mentored him.

“I think all of us can point to a teacher/mentor that inspired and nurtured us in immeasurable ways,” Sufka said. “Professor Ron Peters at Iowa State University was that person for me. His love and enthusiasm for teaching, alongside a masterful ability to convey the most complex and interesting material, made it clear that I wanted to become a brain scientist and university professor.”

Sufka teaches several courses at UM, including General Psychology, Biopsychology, Psychopharmacology lab, Physiological Psychology and Teaching of Psychology seminar. A campus favorite among students and faculty alike, he has received the 1996 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award, the 2005 Faculty Achievement Award and the 2006 Thomas F. Frist Student Service Award. His other awards and honors include Top 20 Psychology Professor in Mississippi, Distinguished Alumni Award from ISU’s Department of Psychology, Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association and Top 40 Under 40 Mississippian.

Sufka holds professional memberships in the Society for Neuroscience and the Society for the Teaching of Psychology. With research interests in behavioral neuroscience and psychopharmacology, he has written more than 67 refereed papers, 10 book chapters and one book, “The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades” (Nautilus Publishing, 2011).

“I wrote that to help my students at UM to better transition from high school coursework to college level course work, or from lower division courses to the harder upper division courses,” Sufka said. “It is an academic survival guide of sorts that detail a number of bad habits commonly exhibited by students that contribute to poor grades and offers evidenced based tips/strategies that promote course learning and yield much higher grades.”

Many colleges and universities across the U.S. have used Sufka’s book for specific programs.

“Some schools, like UNLV and Washington State University, have given it out as a summer reading assignment for their incoming freshman classes,” he said. “This has led to my giving numerous faculty and student workshops on promoting students’ academic success across the country and here at UM.”

Sufka has been the principal investigator on grants and contracts totaling more than $660,000. A prolific author, he has presented more than 120 conference papers and abstracts.

Sufka has directed 12 master’s theses and eight doctoral dissertations. He is a regularly invited speaker at freshman summer orientation sessions and helped develop the initial Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College curriculum. He also volunteers with the Oxford-Lafayette County Habitat for Humanity.

CASE launched the awards program in 1981. That same year, the Carnegie Foundation began hosting the final round of judging, and in 1982 became the primary sponsor.

For more about the UM Department of Psychology, visit For more about the U.S. Professor of the Year Awards program, visit

Ole Miss MBA Program Ranked by Businessweek

New mark is highest national ranking ever for program

The University of Mississippi School of Business is located in Holman Hall.

The UM School of Business Administration is housed in Holman Hall.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s MBA program has been ranked 76th nationally by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The schools that made the ranking are considered by Businessweek to offer the strongest education and best preparation for business careers.

“We are very happy with the MBA ranking,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “This ranking reflects the hard work of our faculty and staff, as well as the board who has helped us in many ways. We are grateful for the recognition and will continue the good work to provide an excellent education and preparation to our students entering the workforce, and enhance the value of the MBA degrees for our alumni.”

MBA_76The MBA program has been ranked in the low 90s by U.S. News and World Report, but this is the highest national ranking it has ever received, said Del Hawley, the school’s senior associate dean. The program was ranked higher than other respected programs, including those at the University of Alabama, Oklahoma University and Baylor University, he said.

“The Businessweek ranking is exciting news!” Hawley said. “Clearly, our program delivers tremendous value to our students and is an increasingly attractive alternative to many larger and more costly programs.”

The rankings are based on student satisfaction, which includes school culture and academic quality; a survey from employers that hire those graduates to reflect career prep of the program; and the expertise of the faculty that administers the education, including articles published in business journals.

“This upward ranking trend reinforces what so many global employers, alumni and current students know: graduating with an Ole Miss MBA provides students with an educational cornerstone to succeed throughout their career,” said Chris Daniel, MBA Alumni Board president and a strategic buyer for Exxon Mobil in Houston.

Ann Canty, the MBA program faculty director, said she is thankful for student participation in the survey.

“We are aware that MBA students consistently tell us that school culture is important in selecting the right MBA program,” Canty said. “The unique aspects of the Ole Miss MBA program school culture were communicated very well by our students.”

The program’s goal is to increase enrollment with strong candidates and equip MBA students with the tools to succeed in a competitive workforce, said Ashley Jones, director of MBA/MHA administration.

“Support from our MBA Alumni Board makes our program unique,” Jones said. “The board realizes the importance of professional development and has created a series of professional development workshops to make Ole Miss MBAs stand out. Their time and dedication to prepare our students is an asset to our program.”

According to the findings, the Ole Miss business school has an average GMAT score of 550 for admitted students. The cost of the program for Mississippi residents is around $15,000 and the average salary of graduates from the program is $56,000 annually.

UM Focuses International Recruitment Efforts on India and China

With a goal of doubling international enrollment, officials recruit students in Hyderabad and Nanjing

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi officials have set a goal of doubling international student enrollment in five years, and officials from the UM Office of Global Engagement recently ventured into India and China to recruit freshman students from high-performing secondary schools.

Greet Provoost, director of the Office of International Programs, traveled with Jean Robinson, the office’s assistant director, to Hyderabad, India, where UM sponsored the Oakridge International School’s Model United National Conference, or OAKMUN. The conference brought together global-minded students from 30 schools around India and South Asia. Provoost also traveled to Nanjing, China, for the Jiangsu Star Student Search and met with prospective students to get the word out about UM.

“We are increasing awareness that we are on top of our game here at the University of Mississippi,” Provoost said. “We are letting prospective students and their parents know about our excellent academics, our incredible scholarship program, our safe and beautiful campus, and about the opportunities available to them as part of our campuswide focus on internationalization.”

University officials want to double international enrollment, which is nearly 1,000 students from 92 countries. To reach that goal, the Office of Global Engagement is partnering with schools, universities and media, as well as government and private agencies in target recruitment countries, with the goal of promoting the UM brand and its reputation for academic excellence.

At the suggestion of Univariety, a private enterprise commissioned by more than 300 Indian high schools, including Oakridge International School, to aid in college-abroad counseling, UM sponsored OAKMUN, which brought together more than 600 students and advisers from many of those schools.

Some of the strong selling points at OAKMUN were UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies and the university’s strong bachelor’s degree programs. Efforts to get attention from international students were helped by the Manning name and the movie “The Blind Side,” to which students often referred when talking with Provoost. Video clips and pictures prompted prospective students to say UM’s campus looked as nice as a resort. 

“Having the University of Mississippi on board with us at OAKMUN 2014 was a wonderful experience, mutually beneficial, and added significant value to the conference,” said Mohseena Hussain, activity coordinator for Oakridge International School. 

Her colleague agrees.

“It is clear that Oakridge International School and the University of Mississippi share a common objective – that is to impact students across the globe,” said Biju Baby, Oakridge vice principal for international curriculum. “We look so very forward to our continued association with the University of Mississippi through OAKMUN and any other opportunities which may arise.”

In the meantime, plans are being made for Provoost to be present via remote media at Oakridge’s upcoming parent meetings to further discuss opportunities at UM. 

Some of UM’s international freshman students come from countries such as Brazil, Oman and Saudi Arabia, whose governments offer generous scholarship funds and tuition grants for their studies in the U.S. Self-funded high-performing students may be awarded UM’s academic excellence scholarships.

“We’re always looking for good students and we’re always happy if they’re funded,” Provoost said. “It balances the scholarships we give to others. But in the end, we are looking to make sure every UM student graduates having had global exposure.”

While UM has its reasons for helping international students study on campus, students have their own motivations for studying in the U.S. and at UM.

For many years, India has produced a large number of graduate students to attend American universities. That holds true at UM, too, as the vast majority of its students from India are enrolled in master’s or doctoral programs. As India develops, the competition for an undergraduate seat in one of India’s top-tier universities is fierce, so many Indian high school graduates seek a first-rate undergraduate education in the United States instead. 

“Now, it’s either the best in India, or it’s the best abroad,” Provoost said. “Students want to get into top-notch American schools.” 

In China, UM participated in the Jiangsu Star Student Search scholarship contest, presented by IntroAmerica in collaboration with the Jiangsu Education Association. The contest engaged 300 high schools in Jiangsu province. More than 9,000 essays were submitted and pared down to 625 by judges in China and the U.S. The finalists were invited to meet with officials from American universities about enrollment and scholarship opportunities.

Efforts to recruit international students will continue in China, India and other target countries by the various offices that make up the Office of Global Engagement: Office of International Programs, Study Abroad Office and the Intensive English Program. 

“The experience of bringing people from all over the world to study at UM benefits all of our students as they prepare to step into a global economy,” Provoost said. “They will collaborate with, lead and manage, or be led or managed by people with different values, who may be fluent in other languages and view the world through a different lens. It is a privilege and an opportunity for all students to be able to practice those global skills while still in school. This global astuteness is a prereq to success.”