RebelWell Fitness Classes Continue to Grow, Get UM Moving

Sessions help participants improve health, develop relationships across campus

Deetra Wiley participates in one of RebelWell’s kettlebell classes at the University of Mississippi.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Deetra Wiley never thought of herself as someone who exercises until she discovered a RebelWell kettlebell and total body resistance workout class. 

The University of Mississippi applications analyst and business communication specialist figured she’d try the kettlebell class offered by RebelWell as part of its “New Year New You” program. Wiley swung the cannonball-like object with a handle, which is branded as a modern piece of fitness equipment, and also did squats, lunges and used ropes hanging from the ceiling until she was sore. 

“After my first kettlebell-TRX class, I was extremely sore the next few days, but I knew I had to keep going and stay motivated,” Wiley said. “Within the first week, I could see some toning. My body feels great. I have even more energy, and I sleep better through the night.”

In the kettlebell-TRX class, participants are encouraged to get in groups of four or five and move through various exercise stations using the kettlebell or other techniques. Wiley said this reminds her of the importance of teamwork.

“I love being part of a team to accomplish tasks, goals and, in this case, exercise,” she said. 

The winners of this year’s “New Year New You” challenge are Pam Barefield, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs, and John Berns, assistant professor of management. Both were successful in attending the workouts, weighing in and losing the most weight, percentagewise, over the six-week challenge.

RebelWell sponsors several faculty, staff and student fitness classes to give everyone a chance to work out with peers, led by a certified instructor. The classes are $30 per semester for those without a Turner Center membership and free to members.

The slate includes Zumba and Groovin’ and Movin’, cycling, yoga, aqua aerobics and TRX, which is a body-weight suspension training exercise, and a Kettlebell and TRX fusion class.

The programs started with only four classes a year ago, said Andy Karch, a certified instructor and coordinator of fitness for the Department of Campus Recreation. The number has grown to nine offerings.

This spring, 86 faculty and staff members are signed up, 56 of whom aren’t Turner Center members and otherwise wouldn’t have be able to benefit from training there. 

Each class has about 20 participants. Their enthusiasm is inspiring, Karch said. 

“The group’s consistency, energy and excitement towards the classes is incredible to see,” Karch said. “These classes are highly sought-after by our students due to the commitment, energy and just plain fun that the faculty and staff bring to them.”

The instructors and participants should be commended for helping the classes grow, said Andrea M. Jekabsons, associate director of human resources who works with RebelWell.

The University of Mississippi’s RebelWell program offers kettlebell, Zumba, cardio and many other fitness classes for faculty, staff and students. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“The challenge, ‘New Year, New You!’ really seemed to resonate with our employees, and they continue to be committed to making the classes,” Jekabsons said. “It is rewarding to see how far we have come from no faculty and staff classes, to two held in the Thad Cochran Research Center’s atrium, to a comprehensive schedule of nine options a week at the Turner Center.”

JoAnne Costa, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for finance and administration, has been participating in a variety of classes this semester but finds strength training the most beneficial. 

“Walking or other cardio activities are easy enough to do on my own, but strength training is not,” Costa said. “While I am not looking to bulk up, I understand the importance of maintaining muscle mass, and the guidance provided in these classes have been very helpful toward this goal.”

Costa has attended some of the “Sunrise Strengthening and Training” sessions with Ben Fleming, assistant coordinator of strength and conditioning in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Olympic sports area. All the campus fitness instructors have helped her tremendously, Costa said. 

“Each class offers a unique physical challenge and the instructors are great at adapting the exercises to accommodate different fitness levels,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of student instructors, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them and hearing about their classes and activities.”

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and professional development coordinator for the Intensive English Program, first enrolled in the fitness classes in spring 2016. She began with Zumba and yoga and is taking the TRX and kettlebell class and an occasional cardio session. They help her “let loose” and decompress during the day, she said.

Sapp is grateful to the university for supporting the programs, and also thankful for the efforts of the Turner Center staff. 

“These classes are lifesavers,” Sapp said. “I also wanted to keep my exercise routine and to strengthen my body and spirit. I’ve seen a difference in my physical and mental health.”

Wiley said the classes offer opportunities to meet employees from across campus that she may only speak with over the phone. Putting faces with names and building friendships by persevering through tough workouts is fun, she said. 

“The best self-motivation for me was to keep smiling through the hardest activities,” Wiley said. “The participants are awesome and their endurance motivated me as well.”

The biggest obstacle to staying committed is forcing herself to get out of the office and go. Once she enters the gym, she gets excited. 

“It’s so easy to get engrossed in work and tell yourself that you can do it another day,” Wiley said. “However, there have been times when I would push myself to go, even though I’d get there later. The way I see it, some exercise is better than none!”

UM Faculty Present Research at Universities and Slavery Conference

Harvard gathering allows scholars to share findings and pursue collaborations

A rendering of the University of Mississippi campus in the 1860s, created by group member and graphic designer Deborah Freeland based on research findings. Submitted Photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the University of Mississippi Slavery Research Group shared their ongoing research at the Universities and Slavery: Bound by History conference earlier this month at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Universities from around the world attended the conference, including representatives from Stanford University and the universities of Alabama, Cape Town, South Carolina and the West Indies.

The UM Slavery Research Group is exploring the history of slavery on the Oxford campus. Last fall, the group partnered with an archaeology course to conduct an on-site excavation on the grounds of Rowan Oak, formerly the Sheegog estate, to find evidence of slave life.

“I came away realizing that we’re ahead of a lot of people around the country as far as research,” said Chuck Ross, the group’s co-chair and UM director of African-American studies. “A lot of other universities are surprised at what we’ve been able to accomplish.”

Jeff Jackson, associate professor of sociology and the group’s other co-chair, said he and Ross were invited to an invitation-only workshop because of their ongoing research. The workshop was designed as an information-sharing session for campuses involved in slavery research.

“As representatives of the University of Mississippi, we are very fortunate to be invited to such a prestigious and historically significant event,” Jackson said. “It was this workshop that allowed us to discuss partnerships: some already existing, as we are already a member of UVa’s Universities Studying Slavery Consortium, and some that we hope to pursue further.”

Jackson and Ross are seeking possible collaborations with other scholars and universities, including Columbia University, because of the shared history of Frederick A.P. Barnard, who served as chancellor at UM and president at Columbia; and Clemson University and the University of Alabama, because of similar research exploring slavery’s relation to Deep South universities.

“We hope by collaborating, we can pull these resources together,” Ross said.

The Slavery Research Group already has discovered the names of several slaves who worked on the UM campus, identified several buildings used as living space for slaves and servants from the 1850s to 1890s, and recovered original maps of campus, Oxford and Lafayette Country during this era.

“One of the strengths of our UM Slavery Research Group is its interdisciplinary makeup,” Ross said. “Several disciplines and areas of interests are represented which allows us to have diversity in our perspectives, research interests, strategies and ideologies.” 

Blog: ‘Why I move more’

Andrea Jekabsons holds up a photo of her parents, who inspired her to ‘move more.’ Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Those who know me or meet me sometimes refer to me as the “RebelWell Lady.” The “HR Lady” is a close second. So, not being an exercise or nutrition professional, how did “RebelWell Lady” come to be?

A few weeks after relocating to Oxford, my father passed away. My father was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who went on to work in Human Resources (Personnel in those days) for Xerox and Ford. Then, finally hitting his harmonic gait, he recruited minority engineering students for NASA programs.

Dad described himself as “a peaceable man,” and everyone he met was a friend. He appreciated a hotdog, root beer float and my mother’s cooking. Long gone were his collegiate baseball seasons and military exercise drills. The lack of exercise and a love of food led to obesity and diabetes, the demise of many Americans. My mother, who spent most of her years raising nine children, found herself caring for my father.

After his death, I walked and I walked often. I had always enjoyed walking, but these were “grief” walks, not power walks.

In 2009, a colleague asked me to join her to meet with a personal trainer. So sure, this mom of two, with a full-time job, who had gained a little weight, agreed to go. That night proved to be my rock bottom. The sit-ups were challenging. The push-ups (on my knees) were nearly impossible. And who ever thought that high knee runs were a good idea for cardio never considered what might possibly jiggle on a 41-year-old. Sore and stiff the next morning, I thought of my parents (my mom was also suffering from diabetes), and I decided that I didn’t want to wake up at 45, 50, 55 feeling old, sick and tired. I didn’t want that for my children. The journey began.

My schedule didn’t allow for me to continue working out with that personal trainer, and the fitness classes were mostly attended by young flexi-bendy students. I began jogging and riding my stationary bike again. I ate out less. I also tried different home workout DVDs and programs that included Oxford Adventure Boot Camp.

Jekabsons and colleague Jessica Hughes jog on the South Campus Rail Trail. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

As the story goes, I began to feel better. I have more energy, feel happier, and think more creatively and clearly with much more confidence. I recently shared with a colleague that since I began practicing energy management, the world seems brighter, problems seem smaller, and my patience continues to grow.

I recognized how my improved wellness was benefiting my work and have been fortunate enough, with the support of our university leaders, to be in a position to enhance our work-site wellness programs and policies. The benefits of a healthy workforce include increased productivity and lower absenteeism. Healthier employees also tend to be happier – and their co-workers appreciate that! Our RebelWell campus partners offer support, infrastructure, enthusiasm and programming.

Why I move more? I move because of my family history. I move more for my family. And along the way, I have found my harmonic gait.

More on RebelWell: http://rebelwell.olemiss.edu/

More on harmonic gait: https://www.tugboatinstitute.com/video-finding-your-teams-harmonic-gait/

Recommended Reads:

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Andrea M. Jekabsons is associate director of Human Resources at the University of Mississippi.

Employee Self-Service helps staff take care of business online

Photo by Nathan Latil/University Communications

Employee Self-Service, or ESS, allows you to view and change some of your employee information via myOleMiss.

From ESS you may:

  • Update your payroll direct deposit information
  • Update your employee address and communication preferences
  • View your semimonthly pay stubs
  • Elect to receive and view your Form W-2 online
  • Record time worked and leave taken
  • View current benefit selections via the Benefits Confirmation Statement

Addresses & Communication Preferences

You may use the Employee Self-Service application and Addresses & Communication Preferences to update your home address, office address and emergency contact information. Additionally, you can provide your cell phone information, which allows you to receive emergency text message notifications from the university. You may also set your preferences to receive optional text messages or emails about campus news and events.

To access Employee Self-Service, log in to myOleMiss =>  choose the Employee tab => Self Service => then, select Address/Communication Preferences from the “Detailed Navigation” menu located on the left.

Record Time

Eligible employees are required to use the Employee Self‐Service interface in myOleMiss to record time worked and leave taken for the payroll pay period. In general, permanent employees who do not record their time against Facilities Management or Telecommunications work orders are required to log into the myOleMiss portal to record their time. Employees who currently use approved time clock systems, student employees and Rebel Reserve employees may not use the online time sheet and should continue to use Form UM4/HR12.

Open Enrollment

Since October 2011, Employee Self-Service has been available for employees to make changes to their benefit plans during the entire month of October.

“The university is excited about using SAP’s Employee Self-Service module for the implementation of Online Open Enrollment,” said Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits.

Administratively, the online system streamlined the enrollment process, enabled the university to extend the Open Enrollment period and hold employees accountable for benefit elections. The system is easy to navigate and meets the university’s Open Enrollment needs.

All employees are encouraged to become familiar with the myOleMiss portal and enjoy the benefit and ease of using the features.

 

411 on supplemental retirement programs

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Retirement is the goal of all employees. Whether this event will happen soon or several years down the road, financial stability is a common concern. 

Questions you may be asking yourself are will I be able to retire on my scheduled date, have enough money to support the retirement lifestyle I want, or have sufficient funds to last throughout retirement?

If these thoughts have crossed your mind and you are looking for opportunities to increase future assets, consider taking advantage of the university’s supplemental retirement programs.

The university offers two voluntary, supplemental retirement programs, 403(b) and Deferred Compensation. Participation is available to all employees (faculty and staff), student workers and re-employed retirees. If you receive compensation via the university payroll system, then you may participate. These individual retirement accounts are funded by employee contribution only. The university does not match contributions. The amount you contribute is at your discretion.

Both programs offer a diversified set of investment options to include but not limited to global/international, small cap, large cap and bonds. For calendar year 2017, the contribution limit is $18,000. Employees age 50 or older may contribute an additional $6,000, which increases their contribution limit to $24,000.

With the 403(b) program, there are three authorized providers with which you may invest (TIAA, Voya and VALIC). To participate is a two-step process. First, you must select the provider(s) in which you will invest and establish an investment account. Second, you must complete and submit to 108 Howry Hall a Salary Reduction Agreement, or SRA, to set up payroll deduction. Contributions may be pre- and/or post-tax. Please ensure you provide the pay period contribution amount in the appropriate box designating pre-tax versus post-tax on the SRA.

Financial consultants from TIAA, Voya and VALIC are available to discuss this program and assist in setting up an investment account, selecting investment options and completing the SRA. The SRA and contact information for financial consultants can be accessed at http://www.olemiss.edu/hr/retirement.html.

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Deferred Compensation is administered by the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi with investment accounts managed by Empower Retirement. 

To participate, complete the Participant Enrollment Form, and fax or mail it to Empower Retirement. The form is available at https://mdcplan.gwrs.com/login.do via the Resource Center tab. This step must occur one month in advance of when the payroll contributions will begin. Deferred Compensation is a pre-tax contribution.

Questions about these programs should be directed to Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits, at pkjohnso@olemiss.edu or 662-915-5432.

Further reading: https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/top10ways.pdf

It’s OK to ‘disconnect’

Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

That notification ping from a new email on your phone while you lie in bed isn’t just another work matter you feel obligated to respond to after hours.

It’s also a contributing factor to increased “anticipatory stress,” which is causing burnout and harming productivity and work-life balance for employees around the country, new research has shown.

A federal labor law that was scheduled to take effect in November but is on hold reclassified many university employees as hourly, which gives those employees the right to “disconnect” when not on duty.

Salaried workers are also encouraged by the Human Resources department to take steps to unplug when possible. Many supervisors and employees on campus are reaping the benefits of time to disconnect.

“I try not to use email after hours and on weekends, and I encourage those who report to me to do the same,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student success and wellness. “If there is an emergency or an issue that needs immediate attention or response, we call or text. After-hours emails do not require immediate responses and can wait until the next workday.”

Banahan has worked for decades in higher education, including the time before email existed. She said this helped her understand that the strain on workers caused by 24/7 connectivity can actually be worse for productivity than some periods of unresponsiveness.

A study titled “Exhausted but Unable to Disconnect” found that it’s not simply the amount of time spent on work emails, but anticipatory stress and being expected to answer emails at all times also drains employees. The study by researchers at Lehigh University, Virginia Tech and Colorado State University was presented in August at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

Information from 297 workers was sampled, focusing on the role of their employer’s expectation for after-hours emailing. They concluded employees’ emotional states are negatively affected, which can lead to “burnout” and harm to work-family balance.

“Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process,” the study’s authors wrote. “Its accessibility contributes to experience of work overload since it allows employees to engage in work as if they never left the workspace and, at the same time, inhibits their ability to psychologically detach from work-related issues via continuous connectivity.”

The proposed federal labor law is in part designed to improve work-life balance for employees.

Hourly employees should completely disengage from work outside business hours. Some exceptions apply, however. A supervisor may require workers to be on call or participate in activities that require the need for response. However, without prior approval from the supervisor, employees who are paid hourly should not respond to email or text messages outside the normal workday.

Employees’ time spent responding to work emails after the workday should be documented because employees may receive compensation for that time. New university time sheet protocols say hourly workers’ time should be recorded in quarter-hour increments, and, for example, eight minutes or less is rounded down and eight minutes or more is rounded up.

The university has also taken steps to improve work life on campus.

UM leaders created the UM 2020 strategic plan with specific wellness objectives. They included developing and implementing a multiyear plan for promoting and advancing health, nutrition, exercise and individual wellness among all workers.

The university’s leadership has also made changes to two employee policies in 2015 to promote a healthier work environment. Department heads are allowed to be flexible with scheduling to let employees participate in physical activity and UM wellness programs.

With the department heads’ approval, employees are also allowed to take two breaks, up to 20 minutes each day. These breaks are designed to encourage workers to stretch, walk or take short bike rides around campus, which can benefit work performance and individual health. These breaks are crucial for “disconnecting” and recharging, employees said.

But, completely unplugging isn’t always easy to do, said Jessica Hughes, a UM human resources generalist. She admits she loves her iPhone and enjoys the diversion of social media when not working.

“I think it’s something everyone in today’s society struggles with – finding the right balance between social media and disconnecting,” Hughes said. “The idea of always being available has made unplugging that much more difficult.”

Hughes said taking a workout session led by an instructor forces her to unplug, and she tries to use the “do not disturb” feature on her phone when she needs some time to herself.

“Going to a workout class led by an instructor forces you to be 100 percent in the moment with your workout, so you really zone out for an hour and have 60 or so minutes of ‘no screen’ time,” Hughes said.

Jill Layne, a senior accountant at the university, has two young children, which leaves her with very little personal time, except daily lunch breaks. She either runs or takes group fitness classes at the Turner Center to de-stress and unplug.

“I have learned that by taking this break during the middle of the day, it has allowed me to recharge,” Layne said. “I may have a crazy morning where I can’t seem to get anything done. If I step away and leave it for a while and clear my head, I can usually come back and turn the day into a productive one.”

She said she’s in the best shape of her life and doesn’t get sick very often, partly because of her wellness efforts. She has also become friends with employees from many different campus departments whom she might not have ever met without the classes.

Judy Hopper, UM’s manager of compensation and classification in HR, said salaried employees should consider taking their lunch away from their work space, which can help remove the temptation to answer the phone or an email.

“It’s OK,” Hopper said. “Give yourself permission for periods of complete disengagement.”

 

 

New payroll manager joins the HR team

HR payroll manager Desha Ferguson. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Desha Ferguson assumed the role of payroll manager in the UM Department of Human Resources in November. Previously, Ferguson served as a senior accountant for the Office of Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance, where she had an opportunity to learn about the payroll function.

“We are excited to have Desha join the Human Resources team as the campus payroll manager,” said Clay Jones, assistant vice chancellor of administration and human resources. “Desha is very bright and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position.

“We also want to say thanks to Audrey Floyd for her years of service in this role. She is very deserving of her opportunity to serve the university as director of budget.”

The university’s payroll office processes payroll distribution for over 8,000 individuals a year, including faculty, staff and student employees.

Ferguson will join Kathy McCluskey and Cheri Provence of payroll and Ethelene Beard and Kirstie Manning of reconciliation. She has nine years of experience as an accountant, general manager and store manager, and graduated from UM’s accountancy program in 2004.

Fun Facts about the Payroll Office

  • 8,425 W-2s prepared: 6,098 printed, 2,327 online for CY 2016
  • 136,497 payroll direct deposits for FY 2016
  • 3,700 payroll checks printed for FY 2016
  • Over $218 million total gross payroll for FY 2016

UM Helps Students Prepare for Careers in Sports Administration

New degree program includes business and communication training for majors

The new UM bachelor’s degree in sports and recreation administration will provide opportunities for student-athletes who want to make their craft their career. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Professional athletes may be the ones most often recognized in the media, but the owners and managers are just as vital to their longevity in the sports world. A new degree program at the University of Mississippi is helping students prepare for careers in sports administration.

The university’s Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management launched its new Bachelor of Arts in Sport and Recreation Administration in fall 2016. Two new faculty members were hired to teach, research and lead development of the program.

“Our overarching goal was to provide a service-based sport and recreation education to increase the marketability of students after matriculation as young professionals as well as prepare them for graduate education,” said Kim Beason, professor of park and recreation management who coordinates the new program. “The new B.A. in Sport and Recreation Administration finally cleared the IHL last summer and we began accepting majors this past August.”

Some 70 students are already in the SRA program, with about 15 first-year students in the sports emphasis. Four sports-related courses were added to the curriculum to support the emphasis: “The Business of Sports,” “Marketing and Communication in Sport and Recreation,” “Sports Economics and Finance” and “Legal Aspects of Sport and Recreation.”

UM students in the sports emphasis are singing the program’s praises.

“The sports emphasis corresponds directly to what I hope to do with my career,” said Sydney Malone, a senior from Tuscumbia, Alabama. “I want to work on the business side of the sports industry, particularly Major League Baseball, so taking these specific classes benefits me the most.

“For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to work for the MLB, so you can imagine my excitement when I learned about the new program!”

As the program and faculty grow, administrators plan to work toward accreditation by the Commission on Sport Management Accreditation. Officials expect to see the undergraduate program grow to house at least 200 students, plus master’s and doctoral degrees in sport and recreation administration.

“Our goal is for our students to have a 100 percent placement rate in the field and enough students and faculty to support forming a sport and recreation department,” Beason said.

All students must complete a capstone 400-hour internship within a sports, recreation, tourism or related organization/agency, plus earn a minor in an approved field, such as business or journalism. By completion of the program, students will have a core education that will prepare them to sit for the Certified Park and Recreation Professional certification test during their last semester.

“”Whether they wish to work for a sport franchise, sport tourism authority, community recreation agency or college recreation department, their Ole Miss education will prepare their entry into leadership, direct service and/or front-line supervisory positions,” Beason said.

Velmer Burton, dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences, said the move is sure to benefit both the school and the university.

“This new program’s development is the result of several years of planning by our faculty in sports and recreation and working with the School of Business to create a high-quality curriculum for our students,” Burton said. “In addition to courses in sport and recreation, our students will benefit from a strong foundation of business courses.

“As a member of the SEC, along with the University of Mississippi’s rich tradition in athletics, offering this new program both meets the needs of our students, faculty and friends of the university and just makes good sense.”

Officials in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics agreed.

“The new sports and recreation management degree is of great interest to not only student-athletes but to the entire student body,” said Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director. “We see this program as a tremendous opportunity for student-athletes who want to make their craft their career.

“And it is something that many prospective student-athletes are interested in when ultimately choosing their school. This program is a tremendous asset to the university.”

Bryanna Castro, a senior recreation administration major from Orange County, California, agreed.

“Having the sport emphasis is beneficial to me because of the name itself,” said Castro, who plays second base for the Ole Miss Rebels softball team. “I also want to be a college softball coach when I finish college.”

The dedicated faculty members are the most important part of the program, Malone said.

“They are all extremely personable and genuinely want us each to succeed,” she said. “(Assistant professor) Nick Watanabe has even helped connect me with professionals already working in the sports industry, as well as landing me an internship with the Cape Cod Baseball League in baseball operations this summer. The program definitely wouldn’t be the same without our current professors.”

The Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management has offered a Bachelor of Arts in Recreation degree since 1973, which focuses on a service-based education preparing students for a variety of positions in the sports, parks, recreation, leisure and tourism fields.

After years of program development and support from the School of Applied Sciences plus the schools of Business Administration, Law and Journalism, the department added a sports emphasis to the undergraduate recreation administration program in 2016. The M.S. in Sport and Recreation should be available by 2018, followed within five years by a doctorate in the field.

For more information about the Department of Health Exercise, Recreation and Sports Management, visit http://hesrm.olemiss.edu/.

UM Business Law Program Named Among Nation’s Best

Program provides unique opportunities to learn, network and compete

The Robert C. Khayat Law Center is home to the School of Law.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Business Law program at the University of Mississippi School of Law was featured recently in preLaw Magazine as one of the country’s top programs. In an article entitled “Top schools for business and corporate law,” UM was one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ in the area of business law.

“We appreciate the recognition of our extraordinary program, which provides a broad range of practical learning opportunities and unprecedented student-faculty interaction,” said Mercer Bullard, professor of law and director of the Business Law Institute. “With four wins this year, our Negotiation Board is cementing its position as one of the nation’s best, and our student-taught CLE program is unique among U.S. law schools.”

At the heart of the law school’s stellar business law program is the Business Law Institute. The institute offers interested students a chance to obtain a concentration in business law during their legal education careers.

After completing all requirements, students can graduate with the concentration to give them an edge in the increasingly competitive marketplace.

Also housed in the Business Law Institute is the Negotiation Board, an advocacy board that focuses on developing essential lawyering skills in a simulated environment. The Negotiation Board was formed to compete in negotiation but has since expanded to include arbitration and mediation. Members of the board compete in competitions all over the country.

“The competitions typically consist of each team strategizing and analyzing their client’s interest in order to reach an agreement to build a new business relationship or mend an existing relationship in conflict,” said Rachel Smith, a third-year law student from Grenada and chair of the Negotiation Board. “Members are challenged to draft contracts, proposals and exhibits to aid judges in understanding their respective client’s position in seeking a resolution.”

The Negotiation Board is composed of 20 members who are chosen through internal competitions. The board has won numerous awards, including four national championships this year.

Another standout component of the Business Law Institute is the Business Law Network, a student organization with the primary mission to connect members with practitioners in the field of business law. With more than 50 members, the Business Law Network is one of the school’s most active organizations.

“The Business Law Network is one of the premier student organizations at the University of Mississippi School of Law and provides an excellent platform for network members to meet with attorneys, businessmen and political leaders,” said Hattiesburg native Gregory Alston, a third-year law student and CEO of the Business Law Network.

The organization brings in successful individuals in the business law arena for monthly flash classes. Members not only get a chance to hear these success stories, but they also have opportunities to network following the presentations.

Students also can present to practicing attorneys during the network’s CLE conferences. CLE conferences are held each year in Oxford, Memphis and Jackson, and network members present their written pieces in relevant areas from the Business Law Newsletter at the sessions.

“The Business Law Network provides a unique and rare opportunity among law schools across the country for students to offer CLE credit to practicing attorneys through student presentation,” Alston said.

Rounding out the opportunities students have in the business law program is the Transactional Clinic. Students in the Transactional Clinic get real-world experience by assisting low-income entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations to foster economic development, increase access to capital and promote job growth in the state.

Duties of the students include entity formation, contract negotiation, commercial leasing and other legal matters.

“Students learn that the legal world goes far beyond the world of lawsuits and litigation,” said Marie Cope, clinical assistant professor of law. “Lawyers play an important role in advising clients about business development and navigating the complex world of compliance with state and federal regulations.

“The Transactional Clinic brings nonprofit corporations into existence and gives our students experience in contract drafting and anticipating the pitfalls that may lie ahead for their clients.”

For more information on the Business Law Institute, visit http://law.olemiss.edu/organizer/business-law-institute/.

Living Your Dream Can be Sweet

UM student and Batesville police officer makes a difference in community

Eddie Flores

Batesville police officer Eddie Flores won the hearts of several children in his community one warm Sunday afternoon. Flores, also a University of Mississippi student, was patrolling a neighborhood when he saw a few children throwing a football around.

He decided to surprise the children with a few frozen treats from a nearby ice cream truck. Greeted by several bright, smiling faces, he was inspired to buy enough treats to share with everyone.

Residents of the community were thrilled by what they witnessed. Flores became an instant celebrity, posing in photos and videos with community members. Later that day, a photo and video of Flores’ deed had received 381 “Likes” and 216 “Shares” on Facebook.

Flores said that he had no intentions of telling the Batesville Police Department about what he had done. The next morning, the chief and deputy chief found out about his random act of kindness through social media and said that it brought a good image to the department.

“I feel like it’s a big thing to be involved with the community and community policing,” Flores said. “It shows them that we’re human, too. … It’s always good to show a positive image. They’re good kids.”

Flores is originally from Houston, Texas. In addition to helping keep the Batesville community safe, he is a part-time student at the University of Mississippi, where he is studying business management. During his time at Ole Miss, he has been involved in the Latin American Student Organization and works full-time so he can support himself while attending school.

Flores said that he had many friends who convinced him to come to Ole Miss. He knew that the university had a good business program and that he also loved the atmosphere on the campus. Being a student at Ole Miss has impacted him in many ways, he said, from meeting great people to experiencing the true Southern hospitality that fills the town with good vibes.

Stefun Gill, an Oxford police officer, met Flores through a mutual friend while he was an Ole Miss student. He describes Flores as “a very caring person who puts other people before himself.” Becoming a police officer while in school is not an easy feat, Gill said.

“He will definitely exceed any goals he has set for himself,” Gill said.

This month marks a full year that Flores has been a Batesville police officer. He said that he loves the department and that everyone is good to him there. Being in law enforcement is something that Flores has always wanted to do. His father is a police officer back in Houston, where he has served the Harris County Police Department for 31 years.

Many years ago, there was a tragic incident that involved his father’s brother. That incident is what led Flores’ father into law enforcement; he wanted to make a difference. Flores expressed that when he was growing up, he not only watched his father make a good career out of being a police officer, but he also raised his family with that job, which is why he looks up to his father.

Flores’ long-term goals include continuing to gain experience in the field of law enforcement and becoming an ideal candidate for a federal agency such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Flores’ generosity is a wonderful reminder that an abundance of good still remains in a seemingly unkind world.

To anyone who is thinking about going into law enforcement, Flores said, “It’s not for everyone. … You can’t halfway do it. Your life becomes a fishbowl and everyone is watching you.

“Go in with an open mind. You’ll be able to figure out if it’s for you or not when you go to the police academy for training. They’ll instill that lifestyle on you. It just changes you to be a better person.”