Pharmacy Practice Professor Wins Mentoring Award

Laurie Fleming trains student pharmacists in workplace skills

Laurie Fleming

JACKSON, Miss. – Laurie Fleming, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, has been recognized by the American Pharmacists Association with its 2017 Community Pharmacy Residency Excellence in Precepting Award.

The role of a preceptor is to mentor postgraduate student pharmacists in workplace situations. As part of the School of Pharmacy’s residency programs, Fleming, who is also a pharmacy practitioner, works alongside students and acts as a role model to teach skills needed to work in an ambulatory care setting.

Dylan Lindsay, a previous resident of the university’s Community Pharmacy Residency Program, nominated Fleming for the award. In his nomination letter, Lindsay highlighted Fleming’s commitment to her patients, residents and the profession, saying that she embodied “professional commitment and leadership.”

“This award is an amazing honor and is a direct result of the outstanding residents that I have precepted over the past 10 years,” Fleming said. “Their successes have been the most rewarding part of my career. I am indebted to my students, my colleagues and my family.”

Fleming went on to say that winning this award challenged her to be a better preceptor for her students and residents.

“Our profession allows us the opportunity to improve the lives of patients, no matter the practice setting,” she said. “Making even a small difference is so very meaningful.”

Besides this honor, Fleming was named the School of Pharmacy’s 2016 Preceptor of the Year by the school’s students. She has been a recipient of the school’s Teacher of the Year award four times. Previously, she served as president and association manager of the Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists.

“Laurie has demonstrated excellence in precepting, mentoring, leadership and administration of the residency program,” said Seena Haines, chair and professor of pharmacy practice. “She has endless energy and passion that is infectious to our students and residents. I truly appreciate her time and dedication to developing outstanding representatives of community practice.”

Fleming will receive the award at the APhA Annual Meeting and Exposition March 24-27 in San Francisco.

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

UM-DeSoto Graduate’s Career Soars

Alumna manages inventory accounting for Endeavor Air

Heather Gatzke

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – After earning her degree in finance from the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven, Heather Gatzke’s career has reached great heights.

The 2011 graduate works for Endeavor Air as a manager of inventory accounting. Her journey with the airline began while she was still in school at UM-DeSoto.

“While I attended UM-DeSoto, I worked for Memphis-based Pinnacle Airlines as an aircraft parts buyer,” Gatzke said. “About six weeks before I graduated, a financial analyst position opened and I applied. I was offered the position and started in early September of 2011.”

From there, Gatzke began to climb the corporate ladder at Pinnacle, which became Endeavor Air after being purchased by Delta Air Lines.

“In May 2013, Delta relocated our corporate offices to Minneapolis,” she said. “Prior to the relocation, I was offered the position of manager of revenue, which I held until January of 2016, when I transitioned to the manager of inventory accounting.”

With initial plans to attend pharmacy school, Gatzke hadn’t always considered a degree in finance. After receiving her associate degree in business from Northwest Mississippi Community College, she experienced the deaths of two grandparents and an uncle.

Gatzke made the difficult decision to take a break from school and reevaluate her goals.

By the time she was ready to go back to school, UM-DeSoto officially offered the finance program. She was able to take advantage of the 2+2 partnership with NWCC.

“Through research and lengthy discussions with friends, I decided that the degree in finance from Ole Miss was the best fit for me,” Gatzke said.

Gatzke thrived in the finance program. She said the material she learned was excellent in terms of its application to the real world. She became close to faculty mentors, one of which was clinical assistant professor of finance Lynn Kugele.

Her professors had “very high expectations” and were “eager to share their knowledge,” she said.

Gatzke said she was honored to earn the Outstanding Graduate in Finance designation that year.

“My entire academic career was as a nontraditional student, attending classes at night, on weekends and online,” she said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself to obtain a certain GPA. All I did for three years was go to work during the day and go to class at night. If I wasn’t at class I was studying or doing homework.

“Graduating summa cum laude was already enough of an honor. It just proves how hard work and dedication can pay off.”

Kugele applauds both Gatzke’s academic and career successes.

“Heather is easily one of the most outstanding finance students we have had at Ole Miss-DeSoto,” she said. “Her career path upon graduating is exactly what we hope will happen for our graduates: a move into the field of their choice and continued opportunities to move up.

“The combination of Heather’s work ethic and an Ole Miss finance degree gave her the credentials she needed to start that move up the corporate ladder. Though Heather is in Minneapolis now, we have kept in touch and get to visit in person when she comes home to visit family.”

Gatzke encourages other students to consider pursuing a finance degree and a “quality education” at UM-DeSoto. She plans to further her education by pursuing an MBA in the future.

For more information about finance and the University of Mississippi’s regional campus in Southaven, visit

University Offsets Electricity Use with Renewable Energy Certificates

Purchase allows Ole Miss to support sustainable resources and lower carbon footprint

The University of Mississippi is committed to the use of renewable energy sources, including the installation of more than 400 solar panels on the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communicationsd

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has offset a portion of the electricity it uses through the purchase of renewable energy certificates.

The purchase, which came about as a recommendation of the UM Energy Committee, allows the university to lower its carbon footprint, support the development of renewable energy technologies and practice resource stewardship, a tenet of the UM Creed.

“RECs are a simple and efficient way to immediately integrate renewables into an energy portfolio,” said Larry Sparks, vice chancellor for administration and finance. “This is an important next step for UM that complements our long history of increasing energy efficiencies, lowering energy utilization rates and investing in renewable energy installations on campus.”

One renewable energy certificate, or REC, represents the environmental benefits associated with one megawatt-hour of energy generated from renewable energy resources.

The university purchased 3,835 RECs for $1,800, which is 0.02 percent of the overall electricity bill. This offset 3 percent of institution-wide electricity use from fiscal year 2016.

“(This) is a way to demonstrate that the University of Mississippi supports the production of electricity from clean, renewable resources,” said Ian Banner, chair of the Energy Committee, director of facilities planning and the UM Office of Sustainability, and university architect.

“As well as making a contribution to a cleaner world, we feel this is an educational opportunity to show that there are alternative ways of producing power.”

It is estimated that the university’s RECs have an environmental impact similar to growing 69,848 trees per year for 10 years or not using 6,240 barrels of oil, according to 3Degrees Inc., the company through which Ole Miss purchased the certificates.

When electricity is produced from a renewable generator, such as a wind turbine, two products are created: the energy, which is delivered to the grid and mixes with other forms of energy, and the REC. Because renewable energy delivered to the grid cannot be distinguished from electrons of nonrenewable resources, the REC is a way to track the renewable electricity – it acts like a receipt for owning the environmental benefits associated with the generation of renewable energy.

“It is not practical to set up a wind or solar farm, just as we wouldn’t build a traditional power station to provide the university’s electricity,” Banner said. “Rather, we purchase electricity from the producer, usually the local power supplier.

“By purchasing RECs, we are able to certify and verify that a percentage of our electricity is tracked back to its source. In our case, the source is a provider that produces electricity using wind turbines that do not create greenhouse gas emissions such as CO2.”

RECs allow individuals and businesses to support renewable energy development and help to make renewable energy projects financially viable while lowering carbon footprints.

Besides the REC purchase, the Ole Miss campus is home to renewable energy installations that include more than 400 solar panels on the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence and geothermal heating and cooling at Insight Park.

February Blog: ‘Why I move more’

Andrea Jekabsons. Photo by Thomas Graning/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.

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:

More on 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 empowers employees to 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.


Need-to-know info on university’s 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

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 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 or 662-915-5432.

Further reading:

It’s more than 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 School of Engineering Teams with Tech Firms for STEM Initiative

New E2I programs aim to attract underserved youth and educators to university

Civil engineering professor and CAIT Director Waheed Uddin (center) is the UM point of contact for a developing partnership between the School of Engineering and GroupNotions LLC.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and two technology companies are working together to create a program aimed at attracting more underrepresented youth into science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, fields.

The engineering school, in partnership with GroupNotions LLC and Group HI LLC, is launching Engineering and Innovation Initiative, or E2I, programs to increase the number of underrepresented students interested in pursuing STEM careers, ultimately increasing workforce diversity.

E2I programs will include meeting and working with faculty, alumni and industry leaders to provide opportunities for 10th-grade students and high school teachers to gain insights into the type of science, engineering, technology and manufacturing jobs and skill sets that will be in demand in coming years.

Initially, the programs will include students and educators in Mississippi, Hawaii, Alaska and California.

“We are very excited to work with GroupNotions and Group HI,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM School of Engineering. “Collaborating with these advanced technology companies to provide a new approach for students and educators is a potential game changer for our school and will enable us to learn how to inspire future generations best.”

Based in Honolulu, GroupNotions teams with distinguished institutions and large corporations to develop and position advanced security and surveillance nanotechnologies. An Anchorage, Alaska-based firm, Group HI designs and shapes advanced nanotechnology solutions for the military, transportation and critical infrastructure industries.

An E2I advisory board, composed of government, institution, industry and community leaders, is being formed to address operational and financial support for the program. Waheed Uddin, professor of civil engineering and director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Technology, will represent Ole Miss on the board.

Representatives from both firms said they are excited about collaborating with the university.

“This partnership reflects our desire to collaborate with a major global institution that shares our vision of increasing workforce diversity in advanced technologies,” said Dan Akiu, managing partner for GroupNotions and executive director and a member of the E2I Core Team.

For more information about the UM School of Engineering, visit

For more about GroupNotions and Group HI, go to and