Robinson Receives Inaugural Provost Fellowship at UM Center

Education professor using video to make new interdisciplinary teaching resource

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

OXFORD, Miss. – Nichelle Robinson, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Mississippi, will serve as the university’s first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, or CETL.

During the one-year fellowship, Robinson will begin building a video database focusing on interdisciplinary inquiry and discussion. The videos will tap into UM’s expert faculty resources on a variety of issues.

“I’m envisioning a TED Talks format where two to three instructors discuss a topic within 15 to 30 minutes, with one instructor serving as a moderator,” she said. “Think about Brown v. Board of Education. I know what I think about it from an education perspective, but what would someone in the political science department have to say about it? What about a faculty member in history?”

Starting in August, Robinson will begin creating such videos within the School of Education as part of an elementary education social studies course in the fall and a special education law course in the spring. The videos will provide an interdisciplinary view of different issues related to these courses by incorporating other UM faculty into classes.

The video database will be hosted on the CETL website and be organized by topic so users can find them online. After the first year, she hopes to expand the project by collaborating with other UM academic units in 2015.

“For example, a huge interest of mine is the civil rights movement and its impact on the state of Mississippi and our university,” Robinson explained. “A conversation I would love to participate in and share with my students would involve me, someone from the William Winter Institute and a third participant from African-American studies, history or political science.”

CETL was established in 2007 to enhance student learning by improving teaching at university. The center provides all UM faculty, including adjuncts, teaching assistants and graduate instructors, with resources and assistance in teaching.

“We are pleased that Dr. Robinson is our inaugural Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provost fellow,” said Noel Wilkin, UM associate provost. “She is a dynamic educator who is enthusiastic about using technology to improve collaborative teaching and enhancing the content of the topics offered in the classroom. Her project has the potential to advance collaboration among faculty and between departments for the purpose of enhancing instruction.”

Robinson holds three degrees from UM, including a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in special education and a doctorate in elementary education. She worked as a special education teacher in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee for more than eight years before returning to UM as a doctoral student in 1999, and previously held faculty positions at the University of Memphis.

New Center and UM Law Clinic to Advocate for Human Rights and Social Justice in Mississippi

Mississippi attorney Cliff Johnson hired as director

Cliff Johnson

Cliff Johnson

OXFORD, Miss. – The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public interest law firm that advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation, has opened an office at the University of Mississippi School of Law, where the new MacArthur Justice Clinic will provide law students with opportunities for hands-on experience under the direction of experienced litigators.

Veteran Mississippi attorney Cliff Johnson has been named first director of the MacArthur Justice Center, and he has joined the faculty of the law school. He is an assistant professor of law and supervises law students participating in the MacArthur Justice Clinic.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnson prosecuted civil and criminal fraud cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi from 1996 to 2001. Most recently, Johnson was a partner for 13 years at the Jackson law firm of Pigott & Johnson, where he handled a wide variety of complex civil and criminal matters.

“I am pleased to see our School of Law engage in the issues of social justice,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “It is yet another way the university is reaching beyond our campus to transform the world around us.”

“The MacArthur Justice Clinic at Ole Miss law will have a positive impact on the lives of the people of Mississippi, while providing a wonderful learning experience for our students,” said Richard Gershon, law school dean. “It is an honor for us to partner with the J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation in this important endeavor.”

The MacArthur Justice Center at the law school will work in collaboration with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and the new MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans.

Since its founding in Chicago in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur, the MacArthur Justice Center has played a prominent role in bringing Chicago police misconduct and torture to the public’s attention and has helped several wrongfully convicted men and women win multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements as compensation for the time they were imprisoned wrongfully. Among its many cases, the center has won major reforms to protect juvenile parolees previously subjected to arbitrary detention and imprisonment, has challenged the detention of terrorism suspects without trial or access to the courts, and helped lead the fight that ended capital punishment in Illinois.

The MacArthur Justice Center opened its New Orleans office last year. It is the lead counsel in Jones v. Gusman, the federal lawsuit alleging pervasive violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights in the Orleans Parish Prison. The center’s New Orleans staff is working to ensure the OPP abides by a consent decree to ensure prisoner safety and adequate staffing at the jail. In addition, the New Orleans office also has worked on capital punishment cases, including advocating for public disclosure of information about drugs Mississippi plans to use to carry out executions by lethal injection.

“There is a historic connection between Mississippi and Chicago, which traces back to the great migration. We are committed to fighting injustice in both locations,” said John R. MacArthur, lead board member of the MacArthur Justice Center. “We look forward to building on the success of our Chicago office at Northwestern law school as we establish a similar partnership with the University of Mississippi.”

“Cliff Johnson is the perfect choice to lead the MacArthur Justice Center at Ole Miss,” said Deborah H. Bell, associate dean for clinical programs and professor of law. “He has a long history of outstanding practice in Mississippi and has the state’s best interests at heart. We hope he will inspire generations of Ole Miss law students to make the state a better place.”

“I am thrilled to join the MacArthur Justice Center and this prestigious law school, and I look forward to beginning a collaborative relationship with the very talented lawyers at the center’s offices in Chicago and New Orleans,” Johnson said. “This will be a formidable alliance of experienced, savvy and successful litigators working with smart and committed law students who have been trained by the best and are enthusiastic about putting what they’ve learned into practice.

“During the past two decades, I have enjoyed a challenging and rewarding litigation practice. I have represented dozens of people in federal courts around the country who have blown the whistle on fraudulent schemes undertaken to wrongfully obtain taxpayer dollars, represented inmates facing death sentences and enduring deplorable prison conditions, and helped wage court battles against discrimination. I also gained valuable experience and insights handling criminal jury trials on behalf of the Department of Justice and, later, representing criminal defendants in federal courts.

“I’m looking forward to engaging in the same kind of fervent advocacy at this new Center and helping train the next generation of attorneys committed to the fight for human rights and social justice,” Johnson added.

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mississippi College in 1989 and a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1992. During 2005-2006, he was a Fulbright Scholar working as a professor at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and the Lund University School of Law in Lund, Sweden. Since 2006, Johnson has lectured in Sweden on numerous occasions, including speeches at the Nobel Museum and Wallenberg Institute graduation ceremonies.


Education Faculty Recognized by Honor Society

UM professors hailed by Kappa Delta Pi for member recruitment success

UM Grenada graduates Tiffany Goff, Kasey Hammett, Jenney Dukes, Angela Rushing and Suzanne Shaw were among the 141 seniors inducted into Kappa Delta Pi in 2014.

UM Grenada graduates Tiffany Goff, Kasey Hammett, Jenney Dukes, Angela Rushing and Suzanne Shaw were among the 141 seniors inducted into Kappa Delta Pi in 2014.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Kappa Delta Pi international honor society in education has honored its University of Mississippi chapter with the 2014 Education Excellence Award for membership recruitment

The award was presented to UM faculty members Fannye Love and Virginia J. Moore, who helped initiate 141 students and five faculty members into the society last spring. Love, the chapter counselor, is a professor of teacher education at the DeSoto Center-Southaven regional campus. Moore, the chapter associate counselor, is an assistant professor of elementary education at the Tupelo regional campus.

Founded in 1911, Kappa Delta Pi is an international honor society for students and faculty in education. Green and purple cords worn during graduation signify membership. To be invited into Kappa Delta Pi, undergraduates must hold a GPA above a 3.0. Graduate students must possess a GPA of above 3.25. Faculty are admitted for leadership attributes.

“When our Kappa Delta Pi inductees receive green and purple graduation cords and their families see them join the honor society, it makes them feel special,” Moore said. “I strongly encourage our regional campus inductees to attend graduation in Oxford and show off the cords they worked so hard for.”

The officers of the UM chapter wanted to make sure that initiation into the society was a special event for students at regional campuses. Many nontraditional students, who return to school later in life, make up this group, so the UM chapter hosted three separate induction ceremonies at different campuses in late April.

“In the past, we held one ceremony,” Moore explained. “But with having our students travel so far, it didn’t feel much like an honor at the end of the day. So we decided to cover all five campuses in three induction ceremonies. We had one in Tupelo, one in Southaven and one here in Oxford.”

Many students expressed gratitude for Moore’s efforts with these ceremonies.

“I witnessed Dr. Moore recruiting my fellow classmates in the most genuine and sincere manner,” said Thierry Beard, a 2014 UM graduate and society member. “Her enthusiasm inspired me to volunteer and help with induction ceremonies. She stressed to me, on a personal level, that she was surprisingly pleased with the increase in applications and new initiates.”

Five UM faculty members were inducted last spring. The group includes Amber Carpenter-McCullough, assistant professor of teacher education; Renee Cunningham, assistant professor of mathematics education; Susan Bennett, assistant professor of teacher education; Karen Davidson-Smith, clinical assistant professor of teacher education; and Stacy Britton, assistant professor of secondary education.

Another main player in recruitment was UM elementary education professor Nichelle Boyd-Robinson, who traveled between campuses to recruit and distribute applications. Thea Williams-Black, associate professor of education, and Nancy Douglass, clinical assistant professor of special education, also helped with recruitment.

“We put a lot of thought into our induction ceremonies,” Boyd-Robinson said. “We want our all of our students to know that this is a real honor and they deserve to be recognized for hard work.”

With new Kappa Delta Pi faculty members on each UM campus, the officers said they hope to have ceremonies at all five campuses next year.

Kirkland to Lead World Class Teaching Program

Ole Miss alumna returns to campus as director

New Albany resident Tammy Kirkland will serve as the new director of the UM World Class Teaching Program.

New Albany resident Tammy Kirkland will serve as the new director of the UM World Class Teaching Program.

OXFORD, Miss. – Veteran educator Tammy Kirkland has joined the University of Mississippi School of Education as director of the UM World Class Teaching Program. The Pine Grove native takes the helm from the program’s previous leader, Jackie Parker, who retired in May 2014.

Designed for working teachers, the WCTP helps Mississippi educators become National Board Certified Teachers, or NBCTs, from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The credential is a mark of excellence among educators and comes with a $6,000 pay raise funded by the state Legislature. Educators must pass a series of assessment exams and a portfolio review to become a NBCT.

Kirkland, who will also serve as an instructor in teacher education, begins her leadership in the wake of two significant events for the program: last spring, UM led the nation in NBCT recruitment with 409 teachers enrolled in WCTP. Meanwhile, the NBPTS has revamped the process of earning the credential.

“The national board process is going through a revision,” explained Kirkland, who became a NBCT in 2008. “Research conducted by the NBPTS indicated there are two main reasons educators are not participating in or completing the process: time and money. Educators initially are concerned and somewhat hesitant when they hear about the change, but that’s only because they are unfamiliar with the process. It’s my mission to educate them and explain it is being changed for their benefit.”

The new process will be rolled out over a three-year period. As a result, the certification process will temporally require three years rather than one. All components, formally known as entries, have been updated, reducing the number from five to four components. Teachers will be allowed to pay for the components individually, rather than all at once. By 2017, the NBPTS will give educators an option of staying with the three-year layout or completing all the components in a more flexible timeline.

The Ole Miss WCTP boasts a 50 percent first-time passage rate for teachers seeking the credential, 20 percent higher than the national average, according to NBPTS data. Kirkland said continuing this trend and acclimating teachers to the new system is top priority, along with utilizing the already nationally certified teachers.

“Tammy Kirkland has consistently demonstrated effective instruction, student growth and reflective teaching,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “We believe the WCTP will continue to be the best program in the state under her leadership.”

During the 2013-2014 academic year, the WTCP will prioritize helping teachers understand the new procedures. On Sept. 6, Kirkland will lead a workshop called Standards Saturday at Insight Park, where she will explain the new procedures for board certification. The session is open to all educators.

Kirkland holds a master’s degree in educational leadership and a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from UM. Since 2003, she has taught at New Albany Elementary School. She also has served as a middle childhood generalist mentor for the university’s WCTP.

“I think we’re going to have a great year,” Kirkland said. “I’m very excited and we have a lot of big plans in the works.”

For more information, contact Kirkland at or 662-915-7138.

KPMG Establishes Chair of Accountancy at UM

Big Four firm commits to top level of faculty support

Mark Wilder, dean of UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy, from left, visits with KPMG partners Tom Avent of Atlanta and Chuck Walker of Nashville, along with Morris Stocks, UM’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Big Four accounting firm KPMG has established a prestigious endowed a chair-level faculty position in the accountancy school.

Mark Wilder, dean of UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy, from left, visits with KPMG partners Tom Avent of Atlanta and Chuck Walker of Nashville, along with Morris Stocks, UM’s provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Big Four accounting firm KPMG has established a prestigious endowed a chair-level faculty position in the accountancy school.

OXFORD, Miss. – Big Four accounting firm KPMG LLP, through the KPMG Foundation, has elevated the KPMG Professorship in Accountancy at the University of Mississippi to the prestigious chair level that carries a $1.5 million commitment.

The new chair is the first established by an accounting firm at the nationally ranked Patterson School of Accountancy and the second new chair announced for the school in just under a year. UM Provost Morris Stocks has named Mark Wilder, dean and KPMG Professor in the school, as the holder of the KPMG Chair of Accountancy.

The major gift comes from a firm that has built a strong legacy of support at the university through contributions to undergird the Patterson School and through its recruitment of Ole Miss graduates. Several KPMG partners established a lectureship endowment in 2002 and later were joined by other colleagues to elevate the faculty position to the KPMG Professorship in 2008.

“We recognize that state funding for higher education has decreased across the country,” said Tom Avent of Atlanta, KPMG’s Southeast partner in charge of mergers and acquisitions-tax and a UM alumnus. “To maintain a world-class program at a public university, you’ve got to have private support. We are dedicated to helping strengthen Ole Miss and assisting the School of Accountancy in its continuing efforts to produce top-tier accounting graduates who can excel in any specialty or environment.

“As a top employer of Ole Miss accountancy students, we wanted to be the first firm to have a named chair-level faculty position there. The establishment of the KPMG Chair at Ole Miss is a dream come true for us and is attributable to the combined efforts and generosity of our partners, employees, alumni and, of course, the KPMG Foundation.”

Something “outstanding” has happened at the accountancy school in recent years, due in part to generous gifts from alumni and friends. All three of its programs are ranked nationally in the Top 10 by the Public Accounting Report. Recently, UM programs reached all-time highs with the undergraduate program at No. 4, graduate program at No. 5 and doctoral program at No. 8. This places all three programs at No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference.

“When we initially sat down with leadership to discuss the greatest need for the School of Accountancy, it was made clear that faculty support was very important,” said Chuck Walker, national partner in charge of alternative investments-tax at KPMG and a UM alumnus. “Today, we can see a direct correlation between the incredible faculty talent assembled, the quality of the students graduating and the school’s rapid climb in national rankings.”

Avent also praises the school’s rankings.

“We are proud of the national prominence the Patterson School has achieved,” he said. “It was certainly a compelling factor in making the case for directing private support to the Ole Miss accountancy program. I believe the best schools attract the best students, and the accountancy faculty members are always concerned about their students being prepared for great career opportunities. The professors have a love for their students, for the program and for the university.”

Audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG LLP is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative. KPMG International’s member firms have 145,000 professionals, including more than 8,000 partners, in 152 countries.

Walker credits the faculty for the great number of successful graduates.

“We are all grateful for the legacy of excellence left by former professor Gene Peery, which has continued to be forged through Jimmy Davis, Dale and Tonya Flesher, and so many others,” he said. “I am very proud to be a graduate of the School of Accountancy at Ole Miss, and it is a privilege and pleasure to give back, hoping in some small way to continue that legacy.”

Avent agrees. “We feel Ole Miss graduates are very well-prepared for professional careers, from their technical accounting skills to their ability to develop relationships with clients, network with business colleagues and conduct themselves in social situations. Ole Miss is a school that imparts that type of individual development.”

UM Chancellor Dan Jones calls KPMG an important stakeholder.

“The University of Mississippi’s goal is to transform lives through exceptional educational opportunities, and providing the most outstanding professors to teach our students is absolutely critical to that goal,” Jones said. “Clearly, KPMG understands and appreciates this priority, as evidenced by its deep commitment to help provide our students with the best accounting education possible.”

Wilder says the firm’s support carries a powerful impact.

“We appreciate so much all that KPMG is doing for our students, faculty and program,” he said. “The remarkable thing is that the KPMG partners who are alumni of our program are leading by example by contributing to faculty support, but they also are ensuring all Ole Miss alumni in the organization understand that they also need to be part of the firm’s commitment. These partners have established a goal to have 100 percent of KPMG Ole Miss alumni giving to this endowment. The KPMG Foundation continues to be instrumental in providing generous matching funds for employees’ contributions.”

The Patterson School has six fully endowed faculty positions, and others are being expanded. Named and endowed chairs, scholars, professorships and other esteemed positions are usually held by faculty members whose accomplishments indicate national and international leadership in their field.

Wilder, who has taught at UM since 1993, is a certified public accountant whose primary teaching has been in financial accounting. He has conducted research in a variety of areas, including earnings forecasting, financial reporting and issues facing the profession. He has been instrumental in the development of the school’s highly successful internship program. Wilder has also been active in the Mississippi Society of CPAs, previously serving as president of the Northeast Chapter, as state treasurer, appointee to the Board of Governors and chair of the Awards, Education and Scholarships Committee.

The dean has received the top two campuswide faculty awards at Ole Miss: the prestigious Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award in 2005 and the Faculty Achievement Award, an all-around faculty award recognizing outstanding teaching, research and service, in 2004. In 2006, Wilder was honored as the Mississippi Society of Certified Public Accountants’ Outstanding Educator and was also the university’s HEADWAE Faculty Honoree for 2006. He is also a two-time winner of the Patterson School’s top faculty honors, the Outstanding Teacher and Outstanding Researcher awards.

Individuals and organizations interested in learning more about supporting faculty in the Patterson School of Accountancy can contact Brooke Barnes, development officer, at or 662-915-1993.

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.”