UM Reaches Gold as a Heart Association Fit-Friendly Worksite

University promotes wellness, healthy eating to make employees healthier

Workout equipment for students and facility that have a “FIT” sticker their Identification card.

Workout equipment for students and facility that have a ‘FIT’ sticker on their ID card.

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi has been recognized as a Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association, which commended the university’s efforts to make its workplace a healthy environment for employees.

The university recognizes that this support may yield positive business results, such as reduced health care costs, reduced absenteeism, improved productivity, lower turnover and enhanced university image,” said Andrea Jekabsons, assistant director of the UM Department of Human Resources.

The gold level recognizes a worksite that practices healthy eating while promoting a wellness culture. In order to earn the distinction, the university must have a minimum of 25 employees who fulfill at least six physical activities, two nutrition criteria and a culture criteria form.

The worksite has specific tools such as a walking tracker, wellness kit, an e-newsletter and more. These tools can help employees live longer, healthier lives.

Since November 2014, the university has been on the Fit-Friendly Worksite Honor Roll. At the worksite, the university offers each employee a 20 percent discount on customized booklets and brochures to raise the awareness about heart disease and strokes.

Human Resources continue to partner with departments and committees on campus to provide wellness-related programs and communications with the objective of enhancing individuals’ health.

While making employees aware of healthy lifestyles, the university receives recognition at local events, a recognition plaque to hang in the workplace and the right to use a recognition seal for internal and external communication programs.

For more information on the Gold Fit-Friendly Worksite, call Human Resources at 662-915-7431, or visit the American Heart Association website at

Bruce Levingston, New UM Friends Share ‘Words and Music’ at Ford Center

Chancellor's Honors College artist-in-residence leading all-star local line-up for March 27 show

Ross Bjork and Bruce Levingston

Ross Bjork and Bruce Levingston

OXFORD, Miss. – When acclaimed concert pianist and recording artist Bruce Levingston returns to the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts next Friday (March 27), he’ll be joined by an all-star line-up of campus celebrities.

“Music Noir: An Evening of Words and Music” begins at 7:30 p.m. Combining the melodies of classical composers with readings from both legendary and modern authors and poets, the program features UM faculty such as violinist Robert Riggs and singers Nancy Maria Balach, Jos Milton and Jaci Skoog. Readers include poet Beth Ann Fennelly, novelist Tom Franklin, journalist and author Curtis Wilkie and patron Patricia Lewis.

“This concert is really a concert about friendships, collaboration and inspiration,” Levingston said. “There is also a cool twist in that each piece is a little noir, about the night, so there will be pieces ranging from the haunting Dracula Suite of Philip Glass to nocturnes of Chopin.”

Ballerina Genevieve Fortner, founder and director of Oxford Ballet School, will perform, as well as star Ole Miss student-athletes Robert Nkemdiche, football; Jon Luke Watts, track and field; Taina Laporte, volleyball and track and field; and Forrest Gamble, golf. Special guests from the athletics world will be football Coach Hugh Freeze, Athletics Director Ross Bjork and Billy Chadwick, the former Rebels tennis coach.

“One of the pieces we will be performing will be the hilarious ‘Sports and Divertissements’ by Erik Satie,” Levingston said. “We think we have the perfect cast!”

Tickets range from $20 to $33 and can be purchased at the Central Ticket Office in the UM Student Union from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays.

While the event combines the music of Chopin, Satie, Debussy and Liszt with the words of great writers such as Verlaine, Hugo, Mann, Byron, Fennelly and Franklin, Levingston said the program is mostly about collaboration.

“As I’ve come to know each performer, I’ve learned so much from them,” he said. “Robert Nkemdiche is a tremendous reader and thinker and an incredibly sensitive and thoughtful human being. Ross Bjork is also just one of the greatest leaders here on campus and one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met.”

He voiced similar words of praise for the other cast members.

“Coach Freeze cares not only about his players, but about the impact he has on the lives of so many people outside his field,” Levingtson said. “Beth, Tom and Curtis are world-class writers and we are so blessed to have them at the university. The incredible musicians Robert, Nancy, Jos and Jaci are some of the finest I’ve ever performed with anywhere. Patty and Genevieve simply epitomize elegance.”

Balach, an associate professor of music, said she is looking forward to the evening’s performance.

“It is an absolute joy to work with someone who cares so passionately about music and creating a concert experience that is interesting and genuine,” she said. “We will be performing two gorgeous art songs with beautifully sincere texts: ‘Si mes vers avaient des ailes (If my verses had wings)’ by Venezuelan-born and naturalized French composer Reynaldo Hahn and ‘Goodbye, Goodbye World’ by American composer Lee Hoiby.”

Skoog, a graduate student in voice performance who studies with Balach, will join her and Levingtston for a third selection by Gioacchino Rossini.

Meeting and working with the students has been equally, if not more, transformative for Levingston.

“Fast-rising stars like Jon Luke Watts, who was just accepted for a year of study at Oxford University in England, Ty Laporte and Forest Gamble, both amazing leaders in their sports and brilliant, caring and powerful individuals, have changed my life,” he said. “Their spirits and passion for what they do inspire me in my own work and life.”

Laporte, a junior journalism major from Columbia, South Carolina, said Levingston has influenced her life as well.

“Meeting and watching Bruce play brought back why I love my sport,” Laporte said. “It’s an amazing thing to watch someone do something they love and see their love and passion for it. The way he plays is how I want people to see me when I play, to see my passion.”

The pianist thinks the evening will be one of most unique and entertaining evenings of classical music ever presented at the Ford Center.

“People can really inspire one another regardless of coming from different worlds and disciplines and places,” Levingston said. “I believe when the audience sees our performance, they will all share in this inspiration of friendship.”

For more information, visit

UM Launches Partnership with African Universities

Ole Miss in Africa initiative includes education, research and exchange collaborations

University of Mississippi students enjoy a meal at a restaurant in Addis Ababa while hearing from AAU President, Dr. Admasu Tsegaye, about cultural relationships between various dances and Ethiopian cuisine.

University of Mississippi students enjoy a meal at a restaurant in Addis Ababa while hearing from AAU President, Dr. Admasu Tsegaye, about cultural relationships between various dances and Ethiopian cuisine.

OXFORD, Miss. – Long known as a mysterious continent seen only in movies or on the evening news, Africa is opening up for University of Mississippi students to study, experience and learn firsthand about international issues.

The UM Office of Global Engagement has launched a major international initiative to develop and establish a significant footprint in sub-Saharan Africa for the university. The new initiative, known as Ole Miss in Africa, has already produced functional partnerships with reputable universities in the eastern, western and southern regions of Africa.

The Ole Miss in Africa initiative will contribute significantly to the university’s strategic objective of “bringing the world to Mississippi and taking Mississippi to the world,” Provost Morris Stocks said.

“We are committed to broadening the university’s reach around the world,” Stocks said. “This will provide many more opportunities for our students to get real-world experience beyond the classroom and also allow our students and faculty to apply their knowledge to help solve global problems that affect us all.”

The initial African institutional partners include Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia; the University of Benin and Federal University of Technology-Minna, both in Nigeria; the International Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering in Burkina Faso; and Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.

Each of these institutions is partnering with UM for student and faculty exchange activities, research partnerships and educational collaborations. These collaborations include training students and faculty from these institutions at UM, and study abroad opportunities for Ole Miss students.

“In our present globalized world, the University of Mississippi takes the education of our students as global citizens very seriously. Therefore, the development of a strong presence in Africa will not only enhance the global reach of the University of Mississippi, but also contribute significantly to our ongoing comprehensive campus internationalization efforts” said Nosa O. Egiebor, UM’s senior international officer and executive director of global engagement.

The African initiative is being developed on the platform provided by a new United States Agency for International Development grant under the African-U.S. Higher Education Partnership Program. It is managed by the American Council on Education through the Office of Higher Education for Development in Washington, D.C.

Egiebor is the project director for the grant at UM.

The university has similar initiatives planned in Asia, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Australasia.

UM Literacy Center Takes Lead Role in Jumpstart Program

Educators look to expand pre-K reading program in Mississippi

Photo by UM photographer Nathan Latil.

Photo by UM photographer Nathan Latil.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction has taken over as the lead unit for the university’s ongoing partnership with Jumpstart, a national organization that helps children prepare for kindergarten by developing language and reading skills.

Jumpstart, which places college students in pre-K classrooms to work with children on basic skills, is in its third year at UM. It previously was administered through the College of Liberal Arts with training support from CELI staff. UM is the only Jumpstart partner in Mississippi, but CELI director Angela Rutherford hopes to identify new collaborators across the state.

“We hope to grow the positive impact we’re making on the lives of children,” Rutherford said. “We know from research that the more words children can hear, speak and understand, the more they can improve their language and literacy skills. Jumpstart allows children to be actively engaged in language experiences with adults in a pre-K setting, which is essential in closing the knowledge gaps that exist in Mississippi.”

A 2014 assessment by the Mississippi Department of Education found that more than 65 percent of Mississippi children do not possess the reading skills needed for entering kindergarten. Literacy research suggests that children who enter kindergarten with quality pre-K instruction are much more likely to be proficient readers by third grade.

“Because our volunteers go in as a team at consistent times, they are able to lower the adult-to-student ratio to about 3-to-1,” said CELI literacy specialist Olivia Pasterchick, who oversees volunteers and provides training. “That’s huge, considering it’s often about 17-to-1.”

With 21 volunteers, the UM Jumpstart program has nearly doubled in size in three years and has directly affected more than 130 Mississippi children enrolled in pre-K programs in Oxford and Okolona.

“I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but Jumpstart helped me realize that I want to specialize in early childhood,” said Sarah Howell, a first-year master’s student in elementary education who has volunteered at ABC Learning Center in Oxford and at Okolona Elementary School. “It’s a lot of work but it’s also very rewarding. The lessons are very strategic and you learn how children develop vocabulary and comprehension.”

Each Jumpstart volunteer makes an overall commitment of more than 300 hours in an academic year, which includes training, lesson preparation beforehand and professional evaluation after.

“The job requires dedication but it doesn’t feel like work once you begin developing relationships with the kids,” said Benjamin Parkman, a senior biology major from Jackson who has worked at ABC and Mary Cathey Headstart Center in Oxford. “One of my greatest aspirations in life is to be a good parent one day, and Jumpstart has given me the opportunity to build the foundation for that.”

As part of Jumpstart training, volunteers complete 40 hours of preparation before entering the classroom, including early learning knowledge assessments. UM volunteers saw nearly a 10-point jump on this assessment in 2014, Pasterchick said.

“This opportunity has a huge effect on not only the children but on the volunteers, even the ones who aren’t education majors,” Pasterchick said. “We have business and biology majors who come through this and become advocates for early childhood education because they’ve seen it work. Because of this experience, they will be better future parents and neighbors and citizens.”

Prominent Guest Speakers Highlight Annual Insurance Symposium

Annual event helps connect students and industry professionals

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The state insurance commissioner and industry leaders are among the speakers headlining the University of Mississippi’s annual Insurance Symposium. The event, hosted by the School of Business Administration, is set for Wednesday and Thursday (March 18-19) at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The school’s Risk Management and Insurance Program offers many opportunities for students to meet and interact with professionals through internships and special events. The annual symposium also brings professionals and students together through education.

“Our program is delighted to once again host such distinguished industry leaders at our symposium and we are proud to showcase our program, the university and our state to our industry guests,” said Andre Liebenberg, the school’s Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance. “The strength of our speaker lineup is the result of excellent work by our advisory board members who guide our program and lead our fundraising efforts.

“We are honored to serve the regional insurance industry in this manner and know that the 200-plus industry participants and all the student attendees will value this opportunity to learn from today’s thought leaders.”

The insurance program at Ole Miss is the nation’s seventh-largest, and almost 100 percent of engaged students are placed in the insurance industry upon graduation, Liebenberg said.

Early bird education sessions begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday, followed by sessions throughout the afternoon. A welcome reception at the Oxford-University Club concludes the day.

Thursday’s activities begin with breakfast at The Inn at Ole Miss, followed by a welcome session featuring Mike Chaney, Mississippi commissioner of insurance. The day’s education offerings include a session with Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute, and another with Glenn Renwick, chairman, president and CEO of Progressive Insurance.

Robert Khayat, UM chancellor emeritus, is slated to speak at the symposium luncheon, and educational sessions will continue throughout the afternoon.

Registration for the symposium is $200. Online registration is available at For more information, contact Kathy Shoalmire at 662-915-2830 or at

33 Campus Construction Projects You Should Know About

Artist rendering for Residence Halls #2 and #3  located at the former site of Guess Hall.

Artist rendering for Residence Halls #2 and #3 at the former site of Guess Hall.

The University of Mississippi campus is constantly improving and growing to accommodate our increasing student population. Over the next few years, several construction projects will enhance student life and transform the campus.

Here’s a list of current and upcoming projects:


Coulter Hall Additions and Renovations

Renovations to Coulter Hall began in 2013 and the four-story east addition includes research laboratory space and support offices. The single-story north addition added a 200-seat auditorium, lobby and food service installation. Two existing laboratories are being renovated and will serve as teachings labs. Construction is estimated to be completed in May 2015.

National Center for Natural Products Research Phase II

This 96,000-square-foot building expansion includes a facility for clinical trials, an expanded botanical specimen repository and laboratories for expanding efforts to discover natural products. The project, funded by several federal grants, began in October 2012 and is virtually complete, pending a few minor items.

Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Renovation

New addition to Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College is expected to be completed by December 2015.

New addition to Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College is expected to be complete by December 2015.

In March 2014, the renovation and addition on the Honors College began. The 15,695-square-foot addition will add classrooms, study nooks, administrative offices, a conference room and lounge area. The addition is expected to open by December 2015. Existing facilities will also be renovated after the addition is completed.

Music Hall West Wing Renovation

The west wing of the music building is getting a complete renovation, which includes a new porch for receptions and events, new facades, new entrance, a renovation of mechanical systems in the west and south wings and minor HVAC modifications in the Nutt Auditorium. Construction is estimated to be complete by May 2015.

Parking Garage

The university broke ground in 2013 on the new five-story parking garage next to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Construction is ongoing on the facility, which includes 829 parking spots. Reservations are available for spots for faculty and staff. The cost is $500 annually and selections will be made on a first-come, first-served basis.

The Pavilion at Ole Miss

Construction of the much-anticipated multipurpose arena is well underway. The new arena will includes seating for 9,500 fans, a student concourse, courtside seating, 1,500 premium seats and other amenities. It is expected to be completed for SEC basketball play at the beginning of 2016.

Artist rendering of residence hall currently under construction located on Northgate Drive between Crosby Hall and Northgate Apartments.

Artist rendering of residence hall under construction on Northgate Drive between Crosby Hall and Northgate Apartments.

Residence Hall 1

The new Student Housing building on Northgate Drive is a four-story building that will look much like Burns Hall. The building will accommodate 304 beds and should be ready for occupation by August 2015.This new residence hall, not yet named, is between Crosby Hall and Northgate Apartments.

Alpha Delta Pi House

The chapter broke ground in September 2014 on a new sorority house for Alpha Delta Pi on Rebel Drive. The chapter returned to campus in 2013, and this is the first new sorority house built on campus since the 1970s. The 18,790-square-foot house is expected to be completed by August 2015.

Residence Halls 2 & 3

Enrollment is steadily growing and so is housing. At the former site of Guess Hall on Rebel Drive, the university is building two new five-story residence halls to house 624 students. Demolition of Guess Hall finished earlier this year, and the new buildings have an estimated opening date of August 2016.

Vaught Hemingway South End Zone

An expansion of the south end zone is underway, adding 30 luxury suites and 770 club-level seats. This work is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2015 football season. The west skyboxes are also undergoing interior renovations to improve safety and comfort. The existing seats in each of the 48 suites will be replaced, in addition to exterior sliding windows, ceilings and furniture. The public areas will get new paint and carpet.

Manning Center Practice Fields

The Manning Center practice field will receive minor renovations in the coming months, including new lights and touchups around the area.


Fraternity Drive/Rebel Drive Connection

The area where Rebel Drive meets Fraternity Row will soon change. A new road addition will extend Rebel Drive to Fraternity Row behind Guyton Hall. The street in front of Guyton, now part of Rebel Drive, will be renamed Guyton Place. This project is expected to begin later this semester and completed by August 2015.

Storm Water Corrections

Construction on Coulter Hall is estimated to be completed in May 2015.

Construction on Coulter Hall is estimated to be completed in May 2015.

The underground storm water collection system on Hill Drive near the track facility will be corrected beginning after May commencement. Problems with the underground drainage system have created issues at the track facility. The entire drainage system in that area will be replaced, with work expected to be completed by August 2015.

Student Union Expansion

After May Commencement ceremonies, the university will begin a four-year, $50 million renovation to the Ole Miss Student Union. The renovation and expansion will include a larger dining area, new student government offices, a ballroom and conference space, among other amenities. This will increase the building’s size from 97,000 square feet to 157,000 square feet. The expansion will encompass the loading dock area and parking lot. During the expansion, the existing food court will remain open. When the expansion portion is completed in about two years, a new food court will open and the existing one will close. Student Union Drive will remain open during the project, though at times it may be reduced to one lane. The entire project is expected to be completed by May 2019.

University Avenue Bridge

This summer, the University Avenue bridge near Old Taylor Road will be renovated to increase its load capacity. The bridge will remain open to pedestrian traffic and some lanes will be periodically closed throughout construction to vehicular traffic, but it will remain passable. Work is expected to be complete by August 2015.

Kennon Observatory Bus Stop

The bus stop area near Kennon Observatory will be renovated to better handle bus transportation. The renovations will accommodate growth in the transit system and provide a central campus location for drop-offs and pick-ups. The project is expected to be complete by August 2015.

Croft Institute Renovation

Following May Commencement, the Croft Institute will undergo exterior renovations to its brick facades. It is expected to be complete by October 2015.

Physical Plant Department West Addition

In efforts to keep up with a growing campus, the Physical Plant is adding space for its growing staff. A new 5,000-square-foot building will be added to the existing Physical Plant Administration Building and will include additional office and departmental space for the Department of Facilities Planning. This projected will begin in August 2015 and is expected to be complete by May 2016.

Track Facility Restoration

Once storm drainage corrections near the track facility are completed, the track will get a brand new surface. The stands and existing building will remain. This project is expected to begin in September 2015 and be complete by March 2016.

Jackson Avenue Center Phase II Renovations

This project includes renovation of approximately 41,500 square feet of the 95,000-square-foot Jackson Avenue Center (old Wal-mart). This is the remaining area of the building that was not renovated in the 2012 project. The renovation project will provide a new location for the University Testing Center, multipurpose rooms, office space and support spaces. New HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems will be provided, and new restrooms will be constructed to accommodate the occupation of this area. The project will begin in September 2015 and expected completion is May 2016.


Vaught Hemingway North Addition

The north end zone will look completely different by the start of the 2016 football season. Construction will begin in December 2015 and the entire section will be bowled-in with a brick facade. A new scoreboard, measuring 109 feet wide by 49 feet tall, will be installed, and two smaller scoreboards, 30-by-50-feet each, will be added to the south end zone. The addition will increase stadium capacity by about 5,500 seats.

Johnson Commons East Renovation

Johnson Commons East building will receive a full exterior and interior renovation. The upper floor will continue to be used for banquet and large meeting spaces. The lower floor, formerly Human Resources Department, will be renovated to house the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. Construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2016 and be complete by spring 2017.

South Campus Recreation Facility

To accommodate a growing student body, Campus Recreation plans to build a new facility. The South Campus Recreation Facility, near Whirlpool Trails, will include renovating the old Whirlpool factory building to house about 100,000 square feet of recreation space unique to Ole Miss. This area will also include a transportation hub and parking services.

New Science Building

Last year, Ole Miss received a $20 million lead gift from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation for a new science building. The $100 million building will be added along Science Row between University Avenue and All American Drive, with construction expected to begin in early 2016 and be complete by August 2018. The building will include about 200,000 square feet for research and education efforts.

Chucky Mullins Drive Roundabout

Construction will begin on a roundabout to improve traffic flow on Chucky Mullins Drive in May 2016. It is expected to be complete by August 2016.

Garland, Hedleston and Mayes Renovation

Garland, Hedleston and Mayes halls were built in 1938 as men’s dormitories. These three Neo-Georgian buildings sit empty in the west-central part of campus. They are strong examples of their architectural style, but housing needs have changed, and their low floor-to-floor heights and tight structural bay sizes make them unsuitable for modern needs. Although not viable for housing, they remain appropriate for academic or administrative use. While the interiors have deteriorated, they are structurally sound. The project will completely replace the mechanical, electrical, fire protection and plumbing systems and reconfigure the space to support the needs of the School of Applied Sciences.

Gillom Center Expansion

In the planning stages, this project will eventually yield an expanded Gillom Sports Center Complex.


The University Museum is working on repairs to Rowan Oak and the Walton Young House. Rowan Oak will be repainted in areas and undergo some exterior repairs. The Walton Young House will also be repainted. Roofs will be replaced on both the National Center for Physical Acoustics and the Turner Center, and the ventilation system will be renovated in Meek Hall. All these projects are underway.

UM Campus Leaders Work to Achieve Climate Neutrality

University establishes Broad Council for Sustainability, works on environmental education and research

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi leaders gathered recently to discuss an action plan to advance sustainable initiatives on campus, with the long-term goal of achieving climate neutrality.

The Feb. 24 gathering took place as part of the university’s first-ever meeting of the Broad Council for Sustainability, a group that will advise, adopt and begin implementing a climate action plan designed specifically for Ole Miss.

“Higher education institutions have a significant role here,” said Ian Banner, university architect and director of sustainability and facilities planning. “There are a lot of unknowns on the road to climate neutrality – it may even be our graduates who develop solutions to help us reach our goal. In the meantime, it’s our responsibility to begin this necessary journey. What we do here matters.”

The creation of the council is a result of the university’s participation in the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment, or ACUPCC, which Chancellor Dan Jones signed in April 2014. UM is among 686 universities nationwide to make this commitment to climate neutrality.

During the meeting, Provost Morris Stocks acknowledged the university’s unique position when addressing climatic issues, not only because of the large-scale operations taking place on campus but also from a research and educational standpoint.

“As our chancellor says, our responsibility of transforming lives extends to helping our students be good stewards of our resources,” said Stocks, who welcomed the council on behalf of Jones. “When we integrate sustainability into our educational experience, we are achieving our mission of supporting students’ development of critical and creative-thinking abilities, their sense of global responsibility and promotion of lifelong learning.”

To achieve climate neutrality, the university must reach a point at which it has net zero greenhouse gas emissions. This goal is attainable by eliminating or reducing these emissions as much as possible and mitigating the remaining emissions, according to the APCUCC.

The university will begin its journey toward climate neutrality by gathering data through a greenhouse gas inventory and by assessing UM through the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. UM groups will then move forward to develop and begin implementing the plan.

“Human influence and greenhouse gases are the dominant causes of the increase in global average temperature of the Earth,” said Mustafa Altinakar, director and research professor of the UM National Center for Computational Hydroscience and Engineering, who spoke at the meeting. “The impacts are observed in rising sea levels, precipitation patterns, hydrologic regimes, floods and droughts, and environmental processes. We must reduce our carbon footprint and take the necessary steps to reduce our vulnerability to future climate change impacts.”

‘The Education of a Lifetime’ Chosen for Common Reading Experience

Robert Khayat's memoir recounts experiences growing up and leading UM's transformation

Photo by Robert Jordan

Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – A memoir by Robert Khayat, chancellor emeritus of the University of Mississippi, has been selected for the university’s 2015 Common Reading Experience.

Each incoming freshman will receive a copy of “The Education of a Lifetime,” (Nautilus Publishing Co., 2013) with instructions to read it before the start of fall classes. Khayat will speak at the fall convocation, set for Aug. 25 at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“I think students will identify with the author’s account of his first days as a freshman on an unfamiliar campus,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and a co-chair on the Common Reading selection committee.

Chosen from among five finalists by the Common Reading committee, Khayat’s book tells the story of growing up in Moss Point during the days of segregation and recounts his days in college at Ole Miss and Yale University. He also tells stories about his experiences as the university’s 15th chancellor and how the university grew under his direction.

“Every new student has pangs of homesickness and uncertainty, and I think knowing that our former chancellor had those same experiences will be reassuring to members of the class of 2019,” Banahan said. “The UM Common Reading Experience is important to our campus as we are a community of readers. Reading is at the very core of education, and sharing one book with students, faculty, staff and alumni affords us the opportunity for rich, stimulating, insightful discussions. Hopefully, students will learn how to express their opinions and respectfully listen to others opinions, even when they disagree.

“Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat played a pivotal role in changing the University of Mississippi and changing the perception others had of the university. Reading ‘The Education of a Lifetime’ will expose students to Chancellor Emeritus Khayat’s leadership style, the challenges he faced and overcame during his career, his disappointments and the legacy he leaves for all of us.”

Part of the book is devoted to Khayat’s efforts to change some of the school’s traditions in order to change perceptions and rid UM of symbols that were damaging its reputation. While most Ole Miss alumni supported Khayat, some were outraged. Many hateful letters and even death threats found their way to the chancellor’s office.

“I have come to believe that many external forces shape and mold us,” Khayat writes. “I am no exception. … Frequently, there is no way to prepare for a particular challenge or situation, and you have to go with what you have and who you are. And who you are is often determined by your family.”

During Khayat’s tenure as chancellor, academic standards were raised, old buildings were renovated and faculty salaries grew dramatically. The university was granted a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honor society for liberal arts. Enrollment increased by 70 percent and the university’s budget grew from $500 million to $1.5 billion annually.

For more information on the Common Reading Experience, visit For more information on Khayat and his book, go to

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