Jeffrey Vitter Inaugurated as UM Chancellor

Leader unveils several initiatives to move university 'from great to greater'

Jeffrey Vitter was officially named 17th Chancellor of the University of Mississippi during his Investiture ceremony Thursday, Nov. 10. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Jeffrey Vitter was officially named 17th chancellor of the University of Mississippi during his investiture ceremony Thursday (Nov. 10). Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi community celebrated a momentous occasion in the university’s life Thursday (Nov. 10) afternoon with the investiture of its 17th chancellor, Jeffrey S. Vitter.

In his inaugural address, Vitter called on the Ole Miss family to imagine what the future could look like if the full power of higher education was used to help people lift themselves above their circumstances and disadvantages.

He went on to recognize and praise the legacy of excellence that has grown at the university over recent decades through the efforts of visionary administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni, government leaders and friends who have invested their time, talents and resources.

“We are standing atop a peak in our history, and, from where we now stand, we can see higher peaks,” Vitter said. “In becoming what we are, we have created greater capacity for what we can be.”

The new chancellor declared that the university must continue to seek greatness and announced that he will call on the UM community to develop ideas for high-impact multidisciplinary research initiatives called Flagship Constellations.

These clusters of faculty, staff, students, alumni and partners will tackle compelling challenges that require multidisciplinary collaborations. The Flagship Constellations will include joint degree programs across disciplines and campuses, engage in strategic growth of graduate programs, and develop key partnerships revolving around innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Just imagine what we can do if we identify universitywide priorities where we can be international leaders in addressing the important challenges in our state and world,” Vitter said. “Imagine what we can do if we take our collective strengths, leverage them, exploit multidisciplinary synergies and in the process come up with imaginative solutions to these grand challenges.

“No one discipline has all the answers, and only collaboration and deep insights from multiple points of view will discover solutions. Intersecting our disciplines will take many forms.

“As an example, imagine what we can do when we build upon the momentum from our recent CEO Technology Summit to establish an interdisciplinary program in data science and big data, which will inform and support discovery and decision making across the spectrum from health and medicine to science and engineering to the arts, humanities and social sciences.”

This is not the first time Vitter has encouraged input and collaboration from the Ole Miss community. In January, he conducted the Flagship Forum, a 100-day listening and learning tour from which emerged four themes for the university to create a roadmap into the future: academic excellence, athletics excellence, building healthy, vibrant communities and being key enablers of people, places and resources.

He also held a town hall meeting in August based on these four themes that resulted in more than 550 ideas for opportunities at the university.

Vitter also announced plans Thursday to develop a cultural gateway to the UM campus east of the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The goal is to bring together arts and cultural programs and create space for performance, experiential learning and enrichment opportunities.

He also plans to increase the university’s endowment from the existing $600 million to $1 billion. Those plans include an athletics endowment initiative, an endowment specifically to support the development, retention and engagement of talented staff, and growth of faculty excellence by creating new endowed professorships around the Flagship Constellations.

About 1,200 state officials, guests and members of the university community gathered for the ceremony at the Ford Center. Glenn Boyce, Mississippi commissioner of higher education, administered the oath of office.

“Dr. Vitter, I charge you to preside with fairness, humility and strength, striving always for excellence, knowledge and truth,” Boyce said. “I charge you to maintain and celebrate a climate that encourages the search for truth, a passion for justice and an expansion of the limits of knowledge. I charge you to serve the university with good stewardship, to protect and defend the university and to build the university to heights never before seen.”

In response to Boyce’s charge, Vitter responded in a uniquely Ole Miss fashion with the opening lines of the Hotty Toddy cheer: “Hell yeah, damn right.”

U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker highlighted previous accomplishments and welcomed Vitter to Ole Miss.

“Ole Miss continues to grow and prosper, producing leaders that have helped shape it into the world-class university it is today,” Cochran said. “I look forward to working with Chancellor Vitter to build on these successes. I look forward to seeing Ole Miss prosper and grow under his leadership.”

Wicker noted the historic nature of opportunities ahead.

“Chancellor Vitter has an impressive record upon which to build,” Wicker said. “His job is straightforward. Keep this historic university a place where Faulkner and Welty and Willie Morris can coexist with cutting-edge technology.

“Know this, Dr. Vitter: hundreds of thousands of alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends are counting on you and wishing you the best.”

Vitter said he was drawn to Ole Miss because of its rich tradition of academic excellence, strong sense of community and recognized history as an economic driver and thought leader.

He closed his address with a challenge to the university community.

“The next chapter in the life of this magnificent university sits squarely in all of our hands, waiting to be written – and read by future generations,” Vitter said. “All of us will ultimately be defined by what we leave behind.

“It is our destiny as a flagship university to desire more, to give more, to be more and to leave more behind. It is our calling to transform lives, communities and the world.”

For the full text, visit http://inauguration.olemiss.edu/.

Sue Keiser Named UM Chief of Staff

Longtime staff member represents chancellor's office on campus and beyond

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Jeff Vitter has announced that Sue Keiser, special assistant to the chancellor, is his new chief of staff.

“I am very pleased that Sue has agreed to assume the role of chief of staff,” Vitter said. “For almost 20 years now, she has been a cornerstone for our university and brings tremendous experience, knowledge and dedication to the position.

“Sue is one of our most respected and well-known ambassadors. She is absolutely the best representative Ole Miss could have, and I rely on Sue on a daily basis.”

Keiser has been with the university since early 1998, serving primarily as assistant to four chancellors. However, her connection to Ole Miss goes back much further. She came to UM from Greenville as a nontraditional student in the late 1970s, when she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

“To be asked to serve as chief of staff to the chancellor for the University of Mississippi – an institution that opened the doors to a completely new world of knowledge and opportunity that changed the direction of my life and my children’s lives more than 35 years ago – is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me,” Keiser said.

“I am honored that Chancellor Vitter has entrusted me with this responsibility, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to change and transform lives through education in the future.”

Her duties include responding to a variety of questions and concerns from IHL board members, alumni, students and other members of the university community. She acts as a liaison between the office of the chancellor and vice chancellors and various departments and constituents on the Oxford campus.

Keiser also oversees the chancellor’s office and its staff, and serves as a chancellor’s office representative on many university committees.

She was honored with the Staff Council’s Outstanding Staff Member-Overall award in 2006.

She is married to Edmund Keiser, professor emeritus and chair emeritus of the university’s Department of Biology. She has four children, Mark, Skip, Julie and Jen, and six grandchildren.

Melody Musgrove Joins Graduate Center for Study of Early Learning

Former U.S. Department of Education administrator to serve as co-director and associate professor

Melody Musgrove is the new co-director of the UM Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Melody Musgrove is the new co-director of the UM Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Melody Musgrove, an accomplished public education leader and advocate, has joined the University of Mississippi faculty as co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning and associate professor of special education.

Housed within the UM School of Education, the center was established in 2015 to provide research and collaborative leadership to advocate for more quality pre-K education programs throughout the state. The center is financially supported by the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

“The combination of working with the graduate center and the chance to teach at this university is a very appealing opportunity,” said Musgrove, a Mississippi native. “I believe that Ole Miss is on the move in the field of teacher education and I am excited to be part of that.”

Before joining UM, Musgrove served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education from 2010 to 2016. OSEP oversees the administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a law that ensures educational services and opportunities for children of all ages. The $13 billion program provides grants, monitoring and technical assistance to states.

Musgrove, who also served as state director of special education with the Mississippi Department of Education, started her career as a classroom teacher. This is Musgrove’s first major faculty appointment in higher education.

In her new role, she will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in education and work alongside the center’s other co-director, Cathy Grace. As collaborative leaders, the two will work to provide professional development for pre-K teachers, conduct research on the importance and impact of early learning, and provide public and political advocacy for the expansion of early childhood education statewide.

“I am thrilled that a person of Dr. Musgrove’s experience and long-term commitment to Mississippi’s children will be joining the center,” Grace said. “Her wealth of knowledge relative to meeting the needs of all children, especially those with special needs, will allow the center to broaden the opportunities we will offer.”

The Graduate Center was established as a continuation of the School of Education’s efforts to prioritize the training of pre-K educators in Mississippi.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

Mississippi offers no statewide early childhood education in public schools.

Musgrove holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in education from Mississippi College.

“We have a responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of early learning both in general education and in children with disabilities,” Musgrove said. “Dr. Grace has done a great job with this already, and I am excited to be part of that good work.”

UM Welcomes Most Accomplished Freshmen Class Ever

State's flagship university celebrates record enrollment as it builds for future

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has recorded its 22nd consecutive year of rising enrollment, registering its largest and most academically qualified freshman class ever.

Enrollment at the state’s flagship university hit 24,250 across all campuses, largest in the state, according to preliminary data. The freshman class of 3,982 students posted an average ACT score of 25.2, surpassing the UM record of 24.7, set last year.

“Students and families across the state and nation are noticing that great things are happening here at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They recognize the academic excellence and outstanding college experience we offer and continue to join us in record numbers.

“Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs at a competitive price, providing all qualified Mississippi students the educational opportunities to transform their lives and our communities. It’s gratifying to see those efforts acknowledged by a growing Ole Miss family.”

Total enrollment is up 412 students, or 1.7 percent, from last fall.

This year’s first-time students include 87 class valedictorians, 54 salutatorians, 94 student body presidents, 92 Eagle Scouts and 13 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the organization’s highest youth honor.

“Our university has a long history of attracting and developing student leaders,” Vitter said. “We offer them valuable experiences and help them hone their talents.

“I look forward to seeing what this talented group of freshmen can accomplish. I fully expect them to have a tremendous impact on our local and global communities during their time here and beyond.”

The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 last year to 3.57, another university record.

The group bucked declines in average ACT scores both nationally and on the state level. Among new freshmen from Mississippi, this year’s average was 24.8, up from last fall’s 24.4.

The progress in freshman ACT scores actually has been maintained over the past nine years, growing 2.5 points over that span. Several factors have contributed to that success, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“We offer more and more outstanding programs for excellent students,” Stocks said. “For example, the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is now admitting 30 students per year. These are honors-quality students planning to be teachers, and they have committed to teach in Mississippi upon graduation.

“Then there’s the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which brings in 60 top-level freshmen each year who are interested in the intersection of engineering, business and accounting. And over at the School of Accountancy, we’re admitting more students with ACT scores over 30 than we’ve ever had, and a lot of that stems from the school being ranked in the Top 10 for several years in a row now.”

Stocks also cited the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Arabic language and Provost’s Scholars programs for helping attract more high-achieving students. The university also offers more top-level scholarships, such as the Stamps Leadership Scholarships, than in the past, he said.

“We’re now competing against the best universities in the country for the best students in the country,” Stocks said. “At the same time, we remain committed to educating the people of Mississippi and giving all qualified Mississippi students a chance to succeed and make better lives for themselves and their families.”

The university’s efforts to help new students adjust to college life and be successful – including FASTrack and the Freshman Year Experience program – also continue to pay dividends. Student retention remained near record levels, with 85.3 percent of last year’s freshmen returning to campus to continue their studies this fall.

The majority, 59.4 percent, of Ole Miss students are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties. The university also attracts students from around the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state, the District of Columbia and 90 foreign countries.

Minority enrollment totaled 5,548 students, or 22.9 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,166 students, or 13.0 percent of overall enrollment.

With a newly expanded building, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College continues to grow, enrolling 1,420 students this fall, more than doubling over the past 10 years. It received 1,484 applications for this fall, up 15 percent from last year’s 1,293 submissions. The Honors College has a record 474 incoming freshmen, with 59 percent being Mississippi residents.

Once it settles into its new space and completes renovations on the existing facility, the Honors College has a target enrollment around 1,500 students. The new space allows faculty to broaden the challenges and opportunities for its students, Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“It gives us the physical capacity to go deep into conversation in public space,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “At a time when civil discourse is so lacking in America, we want to create a space where we can model civil debate on ideas, even ones that appear threatening.”

While many of the university’s schools and programs experienced growth, its accounting and journalism schools enjoyed the largest increases.

Enrollment in the Patterson School of Accountancy grew 9 percent, to 1,380 students this fall, compared to 1,261 last year. The school has been a mainstay in the Top 10 rankings for several years, and all three of its programs are again in the top eight this fall.

In the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, undergraduate enrollment increased 8 percent, growing from 1,375 students in fall 2015 to 1,486 this year. Founded in 2009, the school has benefited from being on a beautiful campus, with economical tuition, excellence in athletics and an exceptionally effective Office of Admissions, Dean Will Norton said.

“We have a program that focuses on preparing graduates for media careers in the modern world, not for 20 years ago, and we have a faculty who held significant positions in the media, many just within the last few years,” Norton said. “Because of this, many of them also are well-versed in social media, and they can help students master those areas.”

The school offers opportunities for students that are rare among journalism programs, he said.

“Not many places offer students a chance to do documentaries or depth reporting courses, or campaigns for companies throughout the region, but we offer all that here,” Norton said. “Our international projects also have been exceptional.”

Fall enrollment at the university’s Medical Center remained nearly level, largely because of space constraints.

“We are near or at capacity in all of our programs, with the exception of some of our online offerings,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Areas enjoying growth include the School of Medicine, from 563 students to 577; the Medical Center’s residency and fellowship programs, from 626 to 640; and the School of Dentistry, from 143 to 148.

The increase should accelerate with a new 151,000-square-foot, $74 million School of Medicine building set to open in fall 2017, Didlake said. The new building “is not only going to allow the School of Medicine enrollment to increase, but it will decrease pressure on other teaching space, allowing our other programs to grow.”

Enrollment should rise dramatically in the future, including the addition of a new School of Population Health, the seventh school on the medical campus. It opens to students in fall 2017.

To help accommodate the growing student population in Oxford, the university has opened two new five-story residence halls on the former site of Guess Hall, adding housing space for 603 students.

The university has launched a three-year project to expand and modernize the Student Union and is working on a new recreation center and transportation hub, a $32 million project on the south end of campus. Work also has begun on a $20 million renovation to Garland, Hedleston and Mayes halls, providing space for the School of Applied Sciences.

The university’s new STEM building, which will add 200,000 square feet of education and research space in the Science District for an estimated $135 million, will boost the university’s capacity to address workforce needs and enhance UM’s status as a Carnegie R-1 Highest Research Activity institution.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, go to http://www.olemiss.edu.

Ruth Cummins of the UM Medical Center contributed to this report.

Local Senior Citizens Invited to Learn Something New this Fall

Variety of noncredit classes available through UM Communiversity Program

Oxford residents can learn more about taking and sending photos, texts, and much more during the UM Communiversity class, 'iPhone, iPad, iWhat?' offered Thursday (Sept. 8) in Weir Hall. Communiversity is a noncredit enrichment program open to the community with no tests, papers, or grades.

Oxford residents can learn more about taking and sending photos, texts, and much more during the UM Communiversity class, ‘iPhone, iPad, iWhat?’ offered Thursday (Sept. 8) in Weir Hall. Communiversity is a noncredit enrichment program open to the community with no tests, papers or grades.

OXFORD, Miss. – Senior citizens in the Oxford area who would like to try out a new hobby or learn a new skill are invited to check out the University of Mississippi’s fall Communiversity schedule, which is packed with a variety of classes that anyone in the community can try.

Senior citizens can take advantage of a special discount for people ages 55 and over.

“There are no tests, papers or grades,” said Sandra Sulton, UM Communiversity coordinator. “These classes are for those who want to have fun and learn something new.”

If you are still trying to figure out your iPhone or iPad, a special course for senior adults will be offered from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 8) in Weir Hall. The course, “iPhone, iPad, iWhat?” is designed to help users feel comfortable with basic settings and navigation of your devices. The cost is $45.

“We have a lot of grandparents enroll in this class so that they can communicate with their grandkids through their cellphones,” Sulton said. “They want to learn to take photos and send them and to keep in contact via their phones, computers and iPads.”

The opportunity to learn more about computers and computer programs such as Microsoft Excel, Word, and PowerPoint will be offered 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sept. 13, 15 and 20 in the computer labs in Weir Hall. The cost for all three sessions is $85.

“Digital Photography Basics” will be led by award-winning UM photographer Robert Jordan. The class meets 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 13 and 9-11:30 a.m. Oct. 15. The cost is $85.

Topics in this class include efficient use of manual modes, quick-shooting techniques for more professional-looking shots and, most importantly, how to have fun with your camera. The instructor will touch on post-production editing and enhancing images, as well as hardware options for archiving and printing.

If sewing is a hobby you always wanted to explore, check out two classes being offered this fall by Oxford artist Andi Bedsworth. Learn more about the basics of using your sewing machine with “Sewing 101: Introduction to Using a Machine,” offered from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 12 in Lamar Hall, Room 133. The cost is $59.

“I’ll show you what all the buttons and knobs on your sewing machine are for,” Bedsworth said. “You’ll learn how to sew in zippers and button holes, thread your machine, change out your bobbin and all those little things that may be intimidating when you take your machine out of the box.”

Bedsworth’s next course in the series, “Sewing: Basics and Beyond,” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 17, 18, 24 and 25, and Nov. 1. The cost is $145 for all five sessions and will show participants how to use patterns, make simple garments and upgrade their sewing skills.

Ann Saxon from Oxford’s Knit1 store will lead the “Knitting for Beginners” class from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Oct. 20 and 27 and Nov. 3, 10 and 17 in Lamar Hall. This class will cover beginning knit and purl stitches, how to cast on and bind off, and increasing and decreasing. The cost is $45.

New this year are the “Happy Holiday Hour” lecture-and-learn classes held during the noon hour for those who want to explore new decorating ideas for this holiday season, but are short on time. The classes cost $10 each.

Kicking off the series on Oct. 26 will be tutorials for taking the perfect Christmas card photo with photographer Robert Jordan. The class meets in the HR Training Room at Insight Park.

If you have always wanted to have a Christmas tree like the ones you see on Pinterest, stop by the Oxford-University Depot on Nov. 16 for the “Tips for Trimming Your Tree” class.

On Nov. 30 at the Depot, Whitney Pullen from Oxford Floral will show you how to transform your mailbox into a festive decoration that your whole neighborhood will enjoy.

The final holiday hour class will be, “Designing a Christmas Tree for the Birds.” This class will demonstrate what beautiful elements to use in decorating a tree that can later be moved outside for the birds to enjoy. This will be taught Dec. 14 at the Depot.

The fall Communiversity class schedule is full of many more great classes, including the popular CPR certification and Safe Sitter courses, public speaking and self-defense for mother and child.

To find out more, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/communiversity or call 662-915-7158.

 

New UM Academic Adviser Enjoys Building Structures and Futures

BGS program counselor helps students construct an academic pathway to successful careers

Christie Rogers (right), an academic adviser for the UM Bachelor of General Studies program, enjoys building Lego structures with her sons "D" (left) and Currie. She began her new position working with students in the BGS program this month in Oxford. Photo courtesy Don Rogers

Christie Rogers (right), an academic adviser for the UM Bachelor of General Studies program, enjoys building Lego structures with her sons “D” (left) and Currie. She began her new position working with students in the BGS program this month in Oxford. Photo courtesy Don Rogers

OXFORD, Miss. – Putting together 1,000-piece Lego displays is a regular occurrence at the home of Christie Rogers. Her dining room table is home to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, an entire cityscape with three-story buildings, a police station, Avengers characters and Scooby-Doo’s Mystery Machine.

“The feeling of accomplishment you get when you’ve struggled, tried every possible solution and finally get the right fit; that’s why I love building projects with Legos,” Rogers said.

Rogers began working a different type of puzzle this month as she steps into her new role as an academic counselor for the University of Mississippi’s Bachelor of General Studies program.

“I’m excited to help students put together the pieces of their academic journey,” Rogers said. “I hope I can help them set goals and make plans for their future.

“I want to encourage them to look at what’s working for them academically and what might not be. I hope to talk through the challenges and set them up for success.”

Originally from Martin, Tennessee, Rogers completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology at the University of Tennessee at Martin, and went on to complete her master’s degree in community counseling there in 1997.

In 1994 she began her first job in the higher education field with the office of UT-Martin’s associate vice chancellor for student affairs and affirmative action. There, Rogers was able to advise students and also work with university entities to make sure programs and classes were compliant to American Disability Act standards.

In 1998, she and her husband, Don Rogers, moved to Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and both began working for Southeast Missouri State University. She became the academic coordinator at the Sikeston Area Higher Education Center, a partnership between Southeast and Three Rivers Community College.

“Working at the Sikeston Center was a great learning experience,” Rogers said. “It was my job to look out for our students and help them navigate transfer credits so they were on the path to graduate.”

In July 2001, the couple moved to Oxford when Don accepted a position as a residence hall area coordinator with Ole Miss.

“We lived in an apartment in Garland Hall,” Rogers recalled. “I brought our first-born son, Donald, home to that dorm in May 2002. So, I guess he has literally been an Ole Miss kid his whole life.”

The family later moved to faculty housing at Northgate Hall when their second child, Currie, was born in 2004.

“Some of the college kids would stop by when we were outside and play with the boys,” Rogers said. “One time a student brought us a big box of Legos he didn’t want anymore, and that is when our new hobby began.”

Rogers said that for Christmas and birthdays, her two children begged for new Lego sets.

“The more we built, the more we enjoyed it, so we kept going,” Rogers said. “I would love to be a Lego master builder one day.”

From 2007 to 2012, Rogers worked as a 4-year-old preschool teacher at Oxford-University Methodist Church. She then transitioned to a teaching assistant and office staff member at Bramlett Elementary within the Oxford School District.

“I really enjoyed my time teaching fundamentals to the younger children because those early building blocks are so important,” Rogers said. “But I also enjoy working with college students who are nearing the end of their formal education and need just a little guidance to put all of their hard work into a career plan.”

Within just a few weeks of Rogers starting, her impact on students was apparent, said Terry Blackmarr, the BGS program’s assistant to the dean.

“Within the first week, we received an email from a student thanking Christie for helping her,” Blackmarr said. “The student was so grateful. She just helped calm the student and take her nervousness away.”

Rogers said that when she saw the position open within the BGS program, she thought it seemed like a very interesting degree with potential for great student success stories.

“I liked that this degree was not a cookie-cutter program,” she said. “It made room for individuality. I have seen people making some really creative choices in order to gain the knowledge they need to do something special with their career.

“I’ve also seen folks who have taken a winding path in their career, and this degree can help get them where they ultimately want to be. Paths in your life can be a puzzle sometime, I hope I can be of assistance to our BGS students and really incorporate their goals and navigate their career journey.”

Rogers’ experience in advising and counseling has reinforced her love for students and academic advising, Blackmarr said.

“She develops an instant rapport with everyone she meets,” she said.

Rogers will continue getting to know UM students this fall as she advises some of the 350 BGS majors on the Oxford campus.

“Priorities do change, and people change their minds about their career,” Rogers said. “A degree like this is perfect for today’s generation who want to be individuals and want to choose their own path.

“There are a lot of pieces out there, and I want to help them put together the right ones their own personal and academic success.”

The BGS academic program is found within UM’s Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. For more information, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/generalstudies.

CMSE Staffer Receives International Award for Robotics Work

Mannie Lowe honored for growth, impact of FTC Robotics Challenge statewide

Mannie Lowe is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Mannie Lowe (left), pictured with John O’Haver, is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mannie Lowe, a staff member at the University of Mississippi, is the 2016 recipient of the International Volunteer of the Year Award from FIRST, an organization that promotes an interest in STEM fields among students, with programs such as the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition for middle- and high-schoolers.

As this year’s honoree, Lowe, a program manager at UM’s Center for Mathematics & Science Education, was selected from more than 200,000 volunteers in 80 countries worldwide for his more than 12 years of service to the organization. He received an honorary certificate from FIRST at a surprise ceremony in July at Ole Miss.

“I’m touched by this award because I hold other people who have won this honor in such high admiration,” he said. “People who have won this in the past have done some truly amazing work with FIRST and with students. I didn’t realize I was held in such high esteem.”

As the manager for FIRST Tech Challenge robotics, Lowe, who previously ran FTC programs as a volunteer in Georgia, has spent the past five years carving out an infrastructure to allow Mississippi middle and high school students, as well as home-schooled children, the opportunity to design and build their own robots and compete in tournament-style competitions at the local, state, regional and even international level.

The competitions allow students to learn and apply knowledge in such disciplines as engineering, computer science, physics and mathematics. Many students participating in FTC programs go on to earn valuable scholarships to study STEM fields at colleges and universities around the world.

Under Lowe’s leadership, FTC programs in Mississippi have grown from just four robotics teams in 2012 to more than 40. Lowe spends about two days a week on the road, working with students and teachers to help FTC teams with their robot designs, a task that requires countless hours of travel and work after hours.

“First and foremost, Mannie has a passion for what he does,” said John O’Haver, CMSE director. “He loves what he does and is loved for it. He will use his vacation time and weekends to drive across the state to work with students and teachers. He will tell you himself that he feels like he is living the dream.”

Lowe also helps plan other events related to the robotics competitions, such as regional qualifying tournaments in communities across the state. Each February, the CMSE hosts a statewide competition at UM. This year, the event attracted more than 450 students.

Besides his work in Mississippi, he serves on the FIRST game design team, which brings together an international group of robotics mentors and volunteers who design a new challenge for students each year. This year, the FIRST Res-Q challenge required robotics teams to design a robot that can simulate a mountain rescue mission by lighting beacons, clearing debris and climbing an uphill rack made to simulate a mountain ascent.

“One of the things that amazes me is that we will come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no way the students will be able to do this,'” he said. “But every year they find a way to top our challenge. It really is amazing to see.”

Lowe said he hopes to help FTC robotics programs continue to grow across the state and to see the number of participating teams rise to 50 in 2017.

UM Biology Professor Aims to Reduce Shark Deaths

New device could help commercial fishermen to avoid bycatch

University of Mississippi Professor of Biology Glenn Parsons is researching ways to reduce shark deaths from accidental catches.

UM biology professor Glenn Parsons is researching ways to reduce shark deaths from accidental catches.

OXFORD, Miss. – Fishermen unintentionally catch millions of sharks each year, and many don’t survive the physical stress of being reeled in, but University of Mississippi biology professor Glenn Parsons is designing a device that could prevent them from ever being hooked.

Accidental catches, referred to as “bycatch”, are a nuisance for commercial and recreational fishermen who are usually after tuna, swordfish and other seafood instead. The problem threatens to upset the ocean’s ecosystem, in which sharks play a major role but are dying in large numbers.

Parsons recently began testing a prototype and expects to make several trips into the Gulf of Mexico to fine-tune it. If his “entangling leader” device is successful, fisherman may not have to handle sharks, which have roamed the ocean mostly unchanged for some 400 million years.

“Commercial fisherman don’t want to catch these sharks,” Parsons said. “It’s dangerous to handle them. It takes time away from fishing and they also damage their gear. They’d rather not hook them at all.”

Some experts estimate that as many as 100 million sharks are killed each year. Many of them are larger, open ocean-dwelling sharks such as hammerheads, makos, tigers, great whites and others.

The deaths prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is working on a National Bycatch Strategy for sharks and other species, and the National Marine Fisheries Service to award research funds to find solutions. Parsons has received a $120,000 federal grant to develop his device and has an online crowdfunding campaign for his graduate students’ research. 

The problem with bycatch isn’t that fish are simply hooked; rather it’s that the physical stress of fighting the reel, or being on the line for as long as six hours and then being hauled into the boat, that can kill them. Even if they’re released after many hours on the line, the outcome usually still isn’t good.

“Mostly everyone agrees that a huge percentage of those sharks die,” Parsons said.

Parsons’ entangling leader has several of loops of line near the hook. The design is based on the idea that the way sharks eat their food is much different than tuna or swordfish.

Sharks have larger, sharper teeth that they use for slicing prey into manageable pieces before swallowing them. Tuna, which have small teeth, and swordfish, which only have a rough a gripping surface along the edges of their mouths, both hold their food only long enough to swallow it whole.

The theory is that the loop design allows tuna and swordfish to take the bait and be hooked, but sharks would be prevented from doing the same. 

“When a typical fish, one without sharp, cutting teeth, takes it, those loops will just spool out and hopefully the fish will be captured,” Parsons said. “When a shark takes it, the teeth entangle in the loops and that either breaks it immediately or it compromises the integrity of the line, so when they pull on it – and a big shark can pull like the dickens – it pops and they swim away.”

Recently, Parsons and his graduate assistants left from Destin, Florida, and ventured into the Gulf of Mexico to test the leader. Using a GoPro camera submerged near the hook, the Ole Miss team observed that for every shark that took the bait, about 10 looked at it and swam away. The ones that actually took the bait also broke the leader, Parsons said.

“The initial tests were really good,” Parsons said. “We have caught the larger sport fish, but the sharks break off.”

Further testing could determine if the bait is still attractive to other fish with the loop device in place. Parsons’ team will make trips from the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi coasts into the Gulf later to continue the research.

The team caught four different shark species on the recent trip to Destin, said Lauren Fuller, a biology graduate student from Cabot, Arkansas, who is helping with the research.

“We had many entangling leaders break as they were supposed to,” Fuller said. “After looking at the GoPro video, we’re pretty certain these were sharks and we know one was for sure. The research looks promising but, of course, we’ll have to wait until we analyze all of the data to know more.” 

Fuller’s graduate research focuses on finding ways to reduce the stress on caught sharks. She is examining whether using clove oil to sedate them could help.

“It is my hope that this will lead to higher chances of survival after release,” Fuller said.

Ehlana Stell, a biology graduate student from Booneville, studies fish biology and has been working with silver carp, but is also helping with the shark project. She has hope Parsons’ device can greatly reduce shark deaths. 

“The preliminary data for the entangling leader is looking very promising and hopefully this summer’s work will continue to allow Dr. Parsons to improve his design,” Stell said.

This project received funding under award NA15NMF4720378 from NOAA Fisheries Service, in cooperation with the Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program. The statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the investigators and do not necessarily reflect the views of NOAA Fisheries.

Isom Center Director Grayzel Returns to Full-Time Teaching

History faculty member says she is proud of accomplishments during her tenure

Susan Grayzel

Susan Grayzel

OXFORD, Miss. – Susan Grayzel, director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies for four of the last five years, will soon step down to return to teaching history full time.

Grayzel became the Isom Center’s director in 2013 after having served as interim director since 2011. Having been awarded an American Council of Learned Societies Collaborative Fellowship, she was on leave during 2014-2015 and came back to finish up a four-year term. That is up and the time for a new leader is right, she said. 

“When I came on, I said I thought this position should rotate,” Grayzel said. “I think an interdisciplinary program needs different voices and different visions. I think it is really important that different people have an opportunity to lead at our university.”

Grayzel said she’s proud of the center’s work during her tenure. Leading the center is a rewarding job, and she expects the next director will also find the work fulfilling.

“There are not that many opportunities faculty can have to learn from the experience of engaging with something that is academic, but also has programming functions that are interdisciplinary and put you in touch with so many different parts of the campus,” Grayzel said.

Kirsten Dellinger, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, is an Isom Center-affiliated faculty member and has served on the center’s advisory board since 1998. She said the university was fortunate to have Grayzel leading the center.

Dellinger is tasked with finding a new director and hopes to find someone with some of Grayzel’s qualities and her dedication to lead the center. 

“She is a brilliant gender scholar with an international reputation and she is dedicated to making this campus a better place,” Dellinger said. “As a longstanding member of the Isom Center-affiliated faculty, I appreciate Sue’s dedication to a democratic approach to leading the center and for all of her efforts to achieve gender equality for a broad range of groups on campus and in the community.”

Grayzel’s accomplishments include increased work on women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers, a trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner on campus, high-caliber guest lecturers, a mechanism for applying for conference travel funds for affiliated faculty and graduate students, and increased student involvement, Dellinger said.

Grayzel said she’s proud of creating the center’s assistant director position, which could be redefined going forward as an associate director job. She credits Theresa Starkey, gender studies instructor, for excelling in the new role for the center.

Expanding programming, including helping create two “Rethinking Mass Incarceration in the South” conferences in 2014 and 2016, working with stakeholders on issues of sexual violence and child care and parenting, and also instituting an annual “queer studies” lecture were other major achievements. Expanding the gender studies minor to include an emphasis on sexuality was another important project, and Grayzel said she is proud of the first sets of students in the graduate certificate in gender studies who have completed that program.

Susan Grayzel, director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, is stepping down to return to teaching history full time.

Susan Grayzel, director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, is stepping down to return to teaching history full time.

Moving forward, the center is poised to continue offering multidisciplinary programming that includes art and film and music, as well as academics.

The center faces some challenges to overcome to raise its profile at Ole Miss. Many students aren’t aware the Isom Center moved to the Lyceum basement a few years ago when renovations at Johnson Commons began, Grayzel said. The center needs a permanent home, she said.

“Our lack of visibility is really an issue,” Grayzel said. “Students can’t find us.”

Grayzel joined the Department of History in 1996 after receiving her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a scholar of modern Europe, the cultural history of war, and women’s and gender history.

She looks forward to returning to the classroom to focus on teaching about modern warfare, gender and sexuality, and 20th-century Europe, and also to working on a book project examining how in the 1920s and 1930s, European countries such as Britain and France imagined and prepared for the prospect of the first war using weapons of mass destruction, namely chemical arms.

She’s fulfilling one of her long-term goals this fall by teaching the first UM stand-alone class on the global history of World War I during the 100th anniversary of its fighting in 1914-1918. She and Susan Pedigo, a UM biochemistry professor, also plan to teach a course they developed on “science and war in the 20th century” for the second time.

The Isom Center is named for UM faculty member Sarah McGehee Isom, who was also the first female faculty member at a coeducational institution of higher learning in the Southeast. She taught here from 1885 until her death 20 years later. The Sarah Isom Center was established in 1981 with the goal of providing a forum for the study, discussion and advancement of women and gender studies.

When UM opened its doors to women in 1882, 11 female students registered for classes. Today, women constitute half the student body. But, the campus, state and nation will continue to confront sexism, racism, homophobia and other problems, and the Isom Center will always have a vital role in the university’s response to those issues, Grayzel said.

“Our work is not going to go away anytime soon,” Grayzel said. “I know Isom will continue to fight against intolerance generally and fight for gender equality with all of our allies on campus who want this truly to be a welcoming, inclusive space where everyone is safe and valued. That’s the core of what I think this job is.”

Derek and Kelly King Honored with Inaugural Mullins Scholarship

Mississippi Teacher Corps alumni pursue graduate degrees with help from new scholarship

Derek and Kelly King stand with Andy Mullins in Lyceum at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Derek and Kelly King stand with Andy Mullins in Lyceum at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Just ask University of Mississippi alumni Derek and Kelly King about their students in the North Panola School District in Sardis, and the husband and wife team light up with excitement.

As the instructional coach for North Panola High School (Kelly) and the assistant principal at North Panola Middle School (Derek), the Kings can personally name more than 710 students between their two schools this year – just ask them.

“Both of us love teaching and being in the classroom,” said Kelly, who provides instructional leadership to more than 32 faculty members at her school. “Once you get into teaching, it’s really addictive. I’ve directly taught at least three-fourths (of those students) myself.”

The Kings are UM’s inaugural recipients of the Andrew P. Mullins Jr. MTC Alumni Scholarship, which supports Mississippi Teacher Corps alumni who wish to pursue advanced graduate study.

The endowed scholarship is available to Teacher Corps alumni with at least three years’ of teaching experience in K-12 education and may be awarded twice to individuals. Recipients may pursue an advanced degree in any field of their choosing on the Ole Miss campus.

Founded in 1989, the Teacher Corps has placed more than 630 new teachers in critical-needs school districts throughout the state. The alternate-route teaching program is highly competitive and has attracted recruits from 216 colleges and universities around the country. All participants receive job placement and two years of funding to earn a master’s degree in education from UM.

Derek and Kelly were selected for the honor by a committee of administrators within the School of Education and will each receive $1,500 per semester toward tuition throughout the next academic year.

“It’s an honor to receive anything with Dr. Mullins’ name on it,” said Derek, who has also served as head coach for men’s track and football at North Panola. “I think (Dr. Mullins) is proud to see Teacher Corps people who are still working in education here in Mississippi. It’s an honor to just to be a small part of what he originally envisioned for the program.”

In addition to their full-time jobs at North Panola, Derek and Kelly – who met during their first year in the Mississippi Teacher Corps – are enrolled in UM graduate programs in K-12 leadership. Derek hopes to finish a doctorate within the next two years, and Kelly is on track to claim her second Ole Miss diploma in December when she finishes a Specialist in Education degree that will grant her a state school administrator’s license.

“It warms my heart to see this scholarship awarded to two such worthy recipients,” said Mullins, Mississippi Teacher Corps co-founder and former chief of staff to the chancellor. “They have both been valuable resources to the school districts in which they have served.”

As 2010 recruits for the Teacher Corps, the Kings came from very different parts of the country before joining the program and landing their first teaching jobs at Byhalia Middle School.

Kelly, a Boston native, received a bachelor’s degree in black studies from Amherst College. Derek, a native of Fairfield, Alabama, earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rhodes College, where he played football and baseball and even began his coaching career as an undergraduate while working for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Memphis Grizzlies Preparatory Charter School.

Back then, the Teacher Corps offered opportunity for the two aspiring educators to enter the classroom after college. After an intensive summer training program, Kelly took a job teaching social studies. Derek taught English and coached men’s track and football.

They did not, however, expect that it would lead to a whole new life. After dating for four years, the couple found themselves both working at North Panola High School and soon married. The couple, alongside numerous other current and former Teacher Corps members, played key roles in the school’s drastic graduation rate turnaround. Between 2010 and 2014, the school increased its graduation rate by nearly 30 percent and rose from failing to “B” status.

“This is my sixth year in education,” Kelly said. “I have been able to see how Teacher Corps has transformed (North Panola) over the years. It’s as close as you can get to a ‘Teacher Corps School.’

“There are several other Teacher Corps people at my school. One in her seventh year of teaching and one in her fifth, and before that we had other people who stayed at least four or five years. The program has made a strong lasting impact in that district.”

After their graduate studies, the Kings hope to continue pursuing opportunities in education. Kelly hopes to pursue a leadership position at the district level, helping teachers develop and coordinate curricula, and Derek hopes to one day serve as a full principal or perhaps a career in academic development for student-athletes.

“When two people are doing graduate school at the same time, it’s definitely a big investment,” Derek said. “So, it is amazing to receive this first scholarship. Any amount of scholarship helps, but to have one named after Dr. Mullins makes us both very proud.”