Daniell Mattern Chosen for Coulter Professorship

Organic chemist is fourth recipient of distinguished endowed honor

Dr. Daniell Mattern.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Dr. Daniell Mattern. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A renowned organic synthetic chemist is the newest recipient of the Margaret McLean Coulter Professorship at the University of Mississippi.

Daniell Mattern is the fourth UM faculty member to be awarded the endowed position, which was established in 1983 through a bequest in the will of the late Victor Aldine Coulter, for whom Coulter Hall is named. Coulter served as dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1936 to 1957 and was a professor of chemistry.

“I was stunned,” Mattern said after receiving the news from his department chair. “I thought perhaps he was joking, but he assured me he was not. The previous holders have been so impressive; it did not cross my mind that this was in the cards.”

The Coulter Professorship recognizes a professor in the department who has excelled in teaching and research. The award includes the honorific title “Margaret McLean Coulter Professor” and includes a yearly stipend that can be used as a salary supplement or for research support and travel.

Mattern was chosen for this distinction as a result of his outstanding achievements in research about organic electronic materials and his unparalleled success in teaching a difficult branch of chemistry to a myriad of UM students. Previous recipients include the late Charles A. Panetta, retired professor Jon F. Parcher and associate provost Maurice R. Eftink.

“It is rare to find anyone who has graduated from our university and pursued a career in the health professions, such as pharmacy, medicine or dentistry, who has not been touched in some way by Dr. Mattern,” said Charles Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “He is well known for his engaging teaching style in which he makes a game out of learning organic chemistry. Students quickly forget that they are studying a subject which had seemed so formidable to them in the beginning.”

Mattern joined the UM faculty in 1980, when Coulter Hall was just a few years old.

“Victor Coulter was alive at the time, although I never met him,” he said. “The position offered a good blend of teaching and research opportunities, and I have been able to keep engaged with both of those facets of being a professor for my 35 years here.”

Mattern was promoted to professor in 2004 and is a founding member of the UM chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. He has a long record of instructional excellence, having received the UM Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 1992. He was recognized as College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year in 1998.

“The Coulter Professorship is the first recognition I have received that speaks to the full spectrum of a professor’s responsibilities: research, teaching and service,” Mattern said.

The honoree has published extensively about the synthetic routes to organic molecular rectifiers, (such as electronic components that are composed of certain arrangements of organic chemical compounds instead the usual silicon-based electronic materials). Mattern’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation.

“Making a particular molecule a tiny bit smaller, solely by putting deuteriums in place of its hydrogens, has to be among the most personally fulfilling among my research achievements,” Mattern said. “I’d been fascinated with this concept as a graduate student and saw a way to demonstrate it by modifying a molecule we were using in another study. So this little side project satisfied a longtime quest for me.”

Equally gratifying for Mattern was a service task he took upon himself when he was on the Undergraduate Council: a complete revision of the undergraduate catalog.

“It had been assembled piecemeal over the decades and had accumulated a great deal of conflicting, awkward and obsolete passages,” he said. “I found it hard to use as a council member, and I’m sure students found it difficult, too. It took a couple of years, but we got every section reworked and approved.”

When it comes to instruction, Mattern said probably the most fun he has in teaching organic chemistry is on the last day of class.

“We have a course review in the form of a quiz show,” he said. “Teams of students try to answer questions to expose the ‘hidden reaction’ so they can ‘name that product.’ I wear a tux, and we give away goofy prizes to the winners.”

Mattern received a bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Stanford University. He did postdoctoral research at Tufts University Medical School in Boston and the University of California at San Diego before joining UM as an assistant professor in 1980. Mattern teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in organic chemistry.

He is married to Elaine Gelbard, a dance teacher and arts educator. They have two adult daughters, Sierra and Jillian.

Mattern has been a cellist for 50 years and plays with the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra. An author, he has written a few Ten-Minutes Plays that have been produced by Theatre Oxford. Mattern also enjoys hiking in mountains and riding his bike around campus.

For more about UM’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, go to http://chemistry.olemiss.edu.

Q&A: Meet Brett Harris, UM’s First Ombudsman

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has hired its first employee ombudsman, who will help the university build on its already strong reputation as one of the nation’s best places to work in higher education.

Brett Harris

Brett Harris

Brett Harris, who has worked as a mediator and attorney and more recently has been working as an organizational ombudsman in Idaho, will join the university July 13. Her post, which reports directly to the chancellor, was created to give employees a resource to mediate workplace conflicts or concerns and also help the university identify any systematic issues that may need addressing.

Harris said she’s thrilled about her new role to help employees at the university, which typically makes the annual Chronicle of Higher Education’s listing of “Great Colleges To Work For.”

“I loved everything about Ole Miss during my visit and I felt that this position was an ideal fit for me,” Harris said. “I have always wanted to serve as an ombudsperson at an organization that is already an excellent place to work and is genuine in its desire to ensure fair and effective dispute resolution for its employees. I believe Ole Miss also really tries to identify underlying problems to make the organization even better.”

Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from Idaho State University and a law degree from the University of Idaho College of Law. She and her husband, Wesley, have a 14-year-old daughter, a 9-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son.

She answered a few questions for Inside Ole Miss to help the university community get to know her better.

IOM: Tell me about how you became interested in being an ombuds?

Harris: As I transitioned from being a mediator and attorney to working as an organizational ombuds, I found that the work fit my skills and interests. I enjoy the problem-solving aspects of the job. I like the variety of such a multifaceted position wherein I can be working one-on-one with someone on a very sensitive concern and then later looking for trends in data and doing research. I enjoy setting goals for a program and achieving those goals. I also find it to be meaningful and fulfilling work. An ombuds can identify organization-wide issues and effect change in an organization. I have always been driven to promote fairness and I believe in compromise. As a practicing attorney, I would often discuss the potential costs and benefits of litigation with the hope that my clients would choose mediation as a less stressful and less expensive path. Now that dispute resolution is my main professional focus, I have the pleasure of regularly seeing the relief that people experience when a conflict can be resolved or more effectively managed.

IOM: How did you get your start in that as a career?

Harris: I spent two years investigating high-conflict custody cases for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe as part of my law degree emphasis in Native American law. This was the first of my experiences in crisis intervention, conflict management, investigating complex claims and promoting fairness of process for people from diverse backgrounds. I also completed basic and advanced mediation training and began mediating. Later, I became a mediation program director for the Idaho’s Seventh Judicial District Courts, training and supervising area mediators and managing all aspects of the courts’ mediation programs. I also worked as an attorney and gained experienced in employment law. This mix of legal experience, mediation experience and program management experience led to mediating employment issues and working as an organizational ombuds.

IOM: Not to make you brag or put you on the spot, but what are some of the qualities you possess that you think make you good at your job?

 Harris: I think I’m well suited for this role because I am analytical and empathetic. I can relate to people’s concerns and I take those concerns seriously. I am also a natural problem solver and I enjoy exploring different options in search of a solution. I like to think I am a great active listener and I strive to understand people’s needs and viewpoints. Finally, I’m not uncomfortable with conflict. I think of conflict as a natural part of life and I’m honored to be in a role where I am trusted to assist in handling these issues.

IOM: What is about working on a college campus that appeals to you?

Harris: College campuses are busy and exciting places. As a student, I enjoyed everything that my campus had to offer and I am looking forward to experiencing sporting events, guest speakers and music events as an employee at Ole Miss. From a professional prospective, universities are dynamic organizations with such a variety of people and perspectives. Universities are usually on the forefront of research and change. I can’t think of a more interesting place to work as an ombuds.

IOM: What does an ombuds officer do and not do and what services can your office provide?

Harris: An ombuds assists individuals within an organization with workplace-related conflicts or concerns and also assists the organization as a whole in identifying systemic issues that need to be fixed.

To assist individuals, an ombuds can assist in interpreting policies, provide information regarding different grievance options, generate options for managing conflict, provide coaching on workplace issues, mediate disputes and help visitors to the office find other resources they need. By tracking these individual issues – in a way that eliminates identifying information and maintains confidentiality – an ombuds can make recommendations that help the organization improve workplace climate, reduce loss of valued employees, prevent workplace bullying and other harm to employees, and reduce costs associated with more formal grievance channels.

An ombuds office is not an office of record, so if a visitor wants to document a complaint, the ombuds will direct the visitor elsewhere. An ombuds will not serve as an arbitrator or decision-maker for a dispute, nor will an ombuds serve as an advocate for any party, although an ombuds may serve as an advocate for fairness of process.

IOM: Some people may have trouble talking about any conflicts they have with other people, given that even acknowledging those conflicts can exacerbate the tension. Do both sides in a dispute become involved in the ombudsman process?

Harris: Not always. Sometimes visitors come in to talk about their concern and perhaps they just request some feedback in terms of interpreting a policy or figuring out what options are available for handling the issue. There are plenty of ways the office can assist without ever getting the other party involved. On the other hand, mediation, group facilitation and other processes that involve working with the other party can be highly effective in many circumstances. The office offers those options as well.

IOM: What are some of the guiding principles for the ombuds process?

Harris: The main guiding principles of an ombudsperson program are confidentiality, impartiality, independence and informality. This means that the office is a place to go to discuss concerns without fear of retaliation, formal record or other complications that can sometimes occur when an employee discusses a concern with a supervisor or files a formal complaint.

IOM: What principles guide you and the ombuds process?

Harris: First and foremost, I function under the principle of promoting fairness and respect. I also believe in the self-determination of the visitor, meaning that I respect the visitor’s wishes in regards to how to proceed. I will offer suggestions and options for handling an issue, but I don’t tell people what actions they must take and I don’t take any steps without their approval. The only exception is the rare circumstance in which an ombuds determines that there is a serious risk of harm to someone and that intervention of some sort is necessary.

I also adhere to the International Ombudsman Association Standards of Practice, requiring that an ombuds maintain the confidentiality of the visitor and the complaint, operate independently and without influence from the rest of the organization, and serve without bias. I strive to adhere to the International Ombudsman Association Best Practices as well. I am pleased that the University of Mississippi supports this office’s adherence to these practices.

IOM: What are the best means to contact you and discuss any problem that may arise?

Harris: It is best to call the office and schedule an appointment. Visitors are also welcome to stop by the office anytime but I may be helping another person or out of the office. I prefer not to be contacted by email by anyone who wishes to keep their identity confidential since I cannot guarantee confidentiality of email communications. Any person who does contact the office through email should limit the contents of the email to scheduling an appointment. For any non-confidential type of business, such as requesting outreach for your office or department, email is an excellent way to contact the office.

IOM: What is about Ole Miss that drew you here from Idaho?

Harris: I was initially drawn to Ole Miss because it is a large, diverse organization with a top-notch reputation. After spending time at Ole Miss, I was delighted to find that the organization is filled with exceptional people, the campus is beautiful and the city of Oxford has so much to offer. I am looking forward to experiencing life in Mississippi and becoming part of the Ole Miss community.

IOM: Moving away from the professional stuff, what are your hobbies, your interests?

Harris: I spend my time reading, cooking, traveling, hiking and exploring the outdoors, and cheering on my children at their various events. I also enjoy any kind of community or cultural event. Live music and sandy beaches are also on my list of favorite things, and I am happy to know that Mississippi has both of these to offer.

IOM: Tell me about your family.

Harris: My husband and I have a 14-year-old daughter who enjoys cheerleading and dance, a 9-year-old daughter who plays soccer and golf, and a 3-year-old son. My husband has served in the Air Force and Army as a medic for over 16 years and he works full-time as a registered nurse. He is an avid fisherman and outdoorsman and he keeps our family active and doing exciting things. We have lived in Idaho since our kids were born, so this will be an exciting change. We are all looking forward to a warmer winter season and a chance to visit the coast on a more regular basis.

IOM: What is your timeline for starting?

Harris: I will begin in mid-July. During the first couple of weeks, I will be establishing the office’s policies and procedures, creating the website and office documents, developing the office’s official charter agreement and networking with people on campus. I plan to have the office ready for visitors by the beginning of August.

IOM: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Ole Miss community?

Harris: I am so very pleased to be joining the Ole Miss community. It is my goal to be highly visible and accessible so that faculty, staff and graduate students will utilize this office and find it to be a valuable resource on campus. I will be making the rounds to introduce myself to all the departments and offices within the first few months and I am so excited to meet people and share more about what this exciting new program has to offer the Ole Miss community.

Danielle Sims Awarded Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship

Recipient hopes to gain new insights for her work in UM student housing

Danielle Sims

Danielle Sims

OXFORD, Miss. – Danielle Sims, area coordinator at the University of Mississippi, is a 2015 recipient of the Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship, which is given by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services.

Sims, who works in the Department of Student Housing, said she’s looking forward to gaining new ideas and learning about resources through the scholarship that will benefit the university.

“I am honored and excited to receive this scholarship and represent the Department of Student Housing here at the University of Mississippi at NACAS,” Sims said. “This scholarship will allow me the opportunity to attend any NACAS conference of my choice, and I will be sure to return to campus with ideas and resources on how we can add to operational quality and use best practices in regards to auxiliary services.” 

The Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship was established in 2005 in honor of the late Mereese Ladson, controller at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. Ladson was a president and longtime leader of NACAS, and the scholarship is intended to further her work to promote the advancement of diverse, career-minded higher education professionals. Sims was honored with the award, along with Gino Galutera, director of auxiliary technology at The Citadel.

NACAS, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a nonprofit higher education association serving auxiliary services, student support services and ancillary services professionals at two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and around the world. NACAS provides opportunities for members to share ideas, develop business solutions, enhance programs and revenues, and develop meaningful professional relationships.

Sims is an important part of UM’s Student Housing team and is very deserving of the honor, said Lionel Maten, director of student housing and assistant vice chancellors for student affairs.

“I am proud for Danielle and all the hard work she put into receiving this honor,” Maten said. “It is my person belief that NACAS provides quality educational opportunities to its member institutions and continues to add value in preparing our next generation of senior auxiliary services professionals. I know Danielle will return from NACAS ready to further move students toward their potential.”

IOM: ‘American Idol’ Coming to Campus for Open Auditions

American Idol

American Idol

OXFORD, Miss. – Come Tuesday (June 30), expect an unusually large number of people on campus for a mid-summer day.

In addition to orientation, “American Idol” will arrive on campus that day to hold audition for the final season of the series.

The American Idol bus will be parked on the Union Plaza and the line will extend into the Grove. About 1,500 to 3,000 hopefuls are expected to audition throughout the day, but no amplified sound will be used and security will be in place to keep the crowd and line organized.

Auditions are to begin at 9 a.m. and no more contestants will be allowed in line past 5 p.m. Anyone between the ages of 15 and 28 is eligible to try out. Audition hopefuls who do not already have a parking permit for the Ole Miss campus must obtain a visitor’s permit from the welcome center at the entrance of campus or by visiting the Department of Parking and Transportation website and purchase a daily pass.

If you or someone you know is interested in participating, more information can be found at AmericanIdol.com.

Watch past Ole Miss student, Michael Simeon, win over judges in season 14 of American Idol.

Randy Wadkins Named Inaugural BPS Congressional Fellow

UM associate professor of chemistry to study, lecture in nation's capital

OXFORD, Miss. – Randy Wadkins, an associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been selected as the Biophysical Society’s inaugural Congressional Fellow for 2015-2016.

Dr. Randy Wadkins.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Dr. Randy Wadkins. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Wadkins will be taking a break from his regular position to spend a year working on Capitol Hill. As a participant in the AAAS Science and Technology Fellowship Program, he will also participate in an orientation on congressional and executive branch operations and a yearlong seminar series on issues related to science policy.

“I’m proud to have been selected to represent the BPS in Congress to communicate the importance of science to our elected officials who control funding for scientific research,” Wadkins said. “A large part of my job will be to explain to lawmakers in Washington why physical sciences are important to the nation, and hence why federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation should be adequately funded to support scientific research.”

The fellowship is also an opportunity for Wadkins to learn the inner workings of the federal funding agencies and to see which research areas will be higher priorities for funding  over the next few years.

“This, in turn, should allow me to be a resource and guide for researchers seeking funding at Ole Miss when I return,” he said.

Wadkins was congratulated by Charles Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, for this honor.

“The selection of Professor Wadkins for this distinction demonstrates the high esteem in which he is held by his peers in the field of biophysical chemistry,” Hussey said. “It indicates that his research has matured to the point where he is recognized as a national leader in his field.”

It is rare for scientists to receive congressional fellowships, Hussey noted.

“In any case, such distinction is normally given to faculty members in large departments at nationally prominent research universities,” he said. “Thus, his selection is even more meaningful for our department and the University of Mississippi.”

Wadkins has long been affiliated with the BPS, having attended his first meeting in 1987 as a graduate student at UM.

“It is a society of scientists who work in the area of studying physics and physical chemistry of biological molecules,” Wadkins said. “Biomolecules can do very special things, but they are still constrained by the laws of physics. I find biophysics very interesting and important.”

The fellow represents the interests of the society in Congress. Wadkins will be placed as a staffer in an office of a representative, a senator or a congressional committee.

“I won’t know until mid-September exactly where I’ll be working,” he said.

The application was a multistep process. Wadkins was required to make a statement of why he was interested in the fellowship and provide three letters of recommendation.

“I was fortunate to get Sen. Roger Wicker to write one of those for me,” he said.

After being selected as a finalist, Wadkins had to complete two other tasks. The first was a two-page written memo to a fictional congresswoman, wherein he expounded on three areas of public policy involving science that needed federal action. The second was an interview with a panel at the annual BPS meeting in Baltimore in February.

Shortly after the meeting, Wadkins was informed that he had been selected as the fellow for 2015-16.

“I felt my application for the fellowship was very strong,” he said. “Apparently, so did they.”

UM Professor Wins Prestigious CAREER Award

National Science Foundation recognizes Jared Delcamp for teaching, research on solar energy

OXFORD, Miss. – Jared Delcamp, an assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has won a prestigious $523,000 National Science Foundation CAREER Award for his teaching and research on converting solar energy to electricity.

Jared Delcamp

Jared Delcamp

Delcamp was recognized for teaching, particularly his efforts to increase interest in STEM education among students of all majors and among high school students from Mississippi’s economically underprivileged regions. He was also recognized for his group’s research on converting solar energy to electricity through an affordable technology using dye-sensitized solar cells. He said the funding will greatly enhance that work.

“Personally, I have been blown away by the support shown to our research program and STEM recruiting efforts in the department and now by NSF,” Delcamp said. “I’m beyond overjoyed to have been awarded such a tremendous acknowledgement in my second year at Ole Miss, and I look forward to continuing our efforts to make the world a better place.”

The National Science Foundation is an independent federal agency that Congress created in 1950 to “to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity and welfare; to secure the national defense.” The NSF has a $7.3 billion annual budget, which funds about 24 percent of all federally supported basic research at U.S. colleges and universities.

“The NSF CAREER Award is the most sought-after recognition for any new science faculty member,” said Rich Forgette, interim dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts. “It is very competitive to receive a CAREER award, and our chemistry faculty members’ success indicates the quality of their research.” 

Nathan Hammer and Amala Dass, two UM associate professors of chemistry and biochemistry, have previously been awarded NSF CAREER awards. The three awards for the department are a testament to the quality its faculty, said Charles Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“This speaks to the quality of our younger faculty,” Hussey said. “We are fortunate that he has chosen the University of Mississippi for his career.”

Hussey said it’s no surprise the NSF honored Delcamp, whom he calls an “outstanding researcher and a dedicated student-centered instructor.”

“He has academic training from some of the best institutions in the world,” Hussey said. “He received this grant because he has many new ideas about organic materials for the conversion of solar energy that may revolutionize the field.”

Q&A: Meet Lee Cohen, New UM Liberal Arts Dean

Lee Cohen

Lee Cohen

OXFORD, Miss. – Lee Cohen, a professor, administrator and scholar whose research program explores mechanisms that contribute to nicotine use, withdrawal and dependence, has been hired as the next dean of the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts.

Cohen, who was professor and chair of Texas Tech University’s Department of Psychological Sciences before coming to UM, begins his job Aug. 1. He said he’s excited and humbled by his selection to lead the college.

“I know that the appointment of a new dean is an important decision, and I very much appreciate being given the opportunity to lead the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi,” Cohen said. “I am excited to get to work and learn all I can about the college as well as the traditions, legacies and history of Ole Miss.

“I am also very much looking forward to building upon existing relationships and forging new ones within the college and across the university and local community.”

But Cohen isn’t just a scholar. He’s also an avid runner, who has participated in the Boston, Chicago, Berlin and London marathons. He plans to run the New York marathon in November and hopes to one day run the Tokyo marathon.

His wife, Michelle, is an occupational therapist and an assistant professor at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. The couple has three children: Ross, who is 12, Rachel, 9, and Rebecca, 3.

Cohen answered some questions for Inside Ole Miss to help the university community get to know him better. Here’s the interview in its entirety.

IOM: Talk about your background in academia. 

Cohen: I am a first-generation college graduate who earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of California (at) San Diego. I subsequently attended Oklahoma State University, where I earned a Master of Science degree and a Ph.D. in psychology. For the past 15 years, I have been a faculty member at Texas Tech University and have served in various administrative roles including director of the nationally accredited doctoral program in clinical psychology and chairperson of the Department of Psychological Sciences.

While service has been an integral part of my professional identity, I have also engaged in significant research and teaching activity. Specifically, as a scholar, I have established a programmatic research program that explores mechanisms that contribute to nicotine use, withdrawal and dependence. I am primarily interested in identifying healthy alternative behaviors that may complement current smoking cessation efforts. As a teacher, I have been fortunate to teach classes at both the graduate and undergraduate level.

IOM: Tell me about what drew you to Ole Miss and the job as dean of the College of Liberal Arts. 

Cohen: The University of Mississippi has been on my radar for quite some time. At a personal level, I have had the good fortune of interacting with individuals who are, or were, affiliated with the university in some capacity. Each of these individuals have had such outstanding things to say about the university, as well as the local community, that I could not help but think that this might be a place I would like to call “home” one day if the right opportunity presented itself.

At a professional level, the University of Mississippi has an outstanding reputation as a flagship institution that is affordable, accessible and transformative. The university has ambitious, yet obtainable goals, and it does not forget that the students are the priority in all that we do. Finally, the University of Mississippi places a profound importance on outreach to the local community, a mission which is particularly appealing to me. Ultimately, I want to be part of a university community of which I can be proud, and Ole Miss is such a place.

My motivation to serve as dean comes from the fact that I have a strong interest in helping a major university enhance its excellence. I have had success in building successful teams, and I am ambitious and like a challenge. As chair, I saw that I could do much more to advance the mission of the unit I served than I could do in any of the roles I had been in before. Building a strong team and moving my unit forward became the most exciting part of my job, and I am thrilled to be able do this at the college level, where there are so many stimulating possibilities that can transcend departmental and college boundaries.

IOM: What do you perceive to be some of the strengths of our College of Liberal Arts?

Cohen: I am fortunate to be walking into what appears to be a very good situation. When I first visited the campus, I had the opportunity to meet many of the department chairs and institute directors and they appear to be a collegial group who care deeply about the individual units they serve as well as the college collectively. Further, the faculty of the college are strong, and members of the upper administration have clearly expressed their support for the college. Of course, there are numerous programs within the college that are well known nationally/internationally and are worthy of recognition, but without involvement from excellent faculty, staff and students, we cannot continue to move forward and be the very best we can be.

Another strength of the college is the diversity of disciplines represented and the potential for collaboration across academic units. I would be remiss if I didn’t take this opportunity to say that I believe that an education with a strong foundation in the liberal arts is the best education our students can get, given that is helps set the foundation for understanding the human condition, creativity, innovation and invention.

These are all important things, given that it has been said that 10 years from now, many of our students will have jobs that do not currently exist. As such, being able to think critically and having a strong ability to communicate via multiple modalities will make our graduates competitive in our ever-changing world.

IOM: What is it about working on a college campus that appeals to you?

Cohen: I have always enjoyed being a student and I believe that it is largely due to the many positive experiences I had during my formal education. During graduate school, it became clear to me that my strong preference was to work on a college campus because I wanted to be a lifelong student. Additionally, I believe that college campuses are special places that radiate energy, pride and exuberance. I cannot think of another work setting where you get to experience all these positive things while you are doing your job. I really just can’t imagine working in any other setting and enjoying it as much.

IOM: Not to make you brag or put you on the spot, but what are some of the qualities you possess that you think make you an ideal leader for our College of Liberal Arts?

Cohen: I believe I have effectively served in various administrative roles and have made an impact. I have an established record as a leader, professional experience managing budgets and in addressing pressing financial and resource needs. I have also worked well with members of the upper administration, serving as chair and member of various college and university committees. Additionally, as I noted earlier, I am an ambitious person who is also competitive and wants the unit I serve to be the very best it can be. Finally, in this new role, I understand that listening and problem solving are going to be critical skills to possess. Given my background in clinical psychology, these skills have been a foundation of all I do.

IOM: Talk about your vision for our College of Liberal Arts. 

Cohen: As dean of the College of Liberal Arts, my overall goal will be to support a sense of community within the college and across the university. I will lead, via a team-oriented approach that will encourage all faculty, students and staff to contribute in their own ways to an overall mission. Of course, for any vision to be successful, it must be a shared vision, so my initial plan is to ask the department chairs to work with the faculty in their departments to develop strategic plans that will lead to each unit being as strong as they can be. I am also quite interested in learning what our students want from their college experience and want them to have a voice in what happens as part of our academic community. The information I get from these sources will enable me to collaboratively develop a college plan that will embrace a commitment to excellence in all endeavors and across all units. I will be committed to supporting successful and new initiatives that create value within the college as well as to a college culture that values tolerance, flexibility, diversity, teamwork and inclusiveness.

IOM: Tell me about your family. 

Cohen: My wife, Michelle, and I have three children: Ross, 12, Rachel, 9, and Rebecca, 3. There never seems to be a dull moment in our household and the kids definitely keep us on our toes. Michelle is an occupational therapist and was most recently an assistant professor at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Before that, she was a therapist at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, where she specialized in working with adults with neurological conditions such as stroke and Parkinson’s disease.

IOM: Moving away from the professional stuff, what are your hobbies, your interests?

Cohen: My family life and work consumes the vast majority of my time. This said, I enjoy supporting my kids in the many activities they are involved with and am very fortunate to have Michelle by my side to keep me grounded. This said, I start each day off with an early morning run. I ran competitively in high school and college but left the sport for about 15 years. Over the past eight years, however, I have tried to regain some of the speed I have lost over time. Realizing I would never get close to the times I ran when I was younger, I turned my interest to the marathon – a distance I never ran when I was younger. I ran my first marathon in 2008 and qualified for Boston. After running Boston in 2009 and 2010, I decided I wanted to compete in all the major marathons. I have run Boston, Chicago, Berlin and London and I plan to run New York in November. That will only leave Tokyo on my bucket list.

IOM: What is your timeline for starting?

Cohen: I will be on campus in early August and plan to hit the ground running. Sorry, I just couldn’t resist. I know there will be a great deal of information to absorb and the learning curve will be steep, but I very much look forward to working with new colleagues across campus.

IOM: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Ole Miss community?

Cohen: I would like to take one more opportunity to express my appreciation to the many individuals who have been so incredibly supportive of me throughout the hiring process. Relocating a family is a stressful experience, but there has been an overwhelming sense of support that has made this transition as easy as it can be. Thank you and we look forward to joining you all soon!

Ole Miss Student Housing Boss Attends National Conference

Michael Cherry hopes to bring creative involvement and activities to Ole Miss

A team from UM will attend the National Summer Institute on Learning Communities to increase the effectiveness of living, learning communities on campus. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

A team from UM will attend the National Summer Institute on Learning Communities to increase the effectiveness of living, learning communities on campus. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The University of Mississippi is among fewer than 30 colleges and universities in the nation selected to attend the National Summer Institute on Learning Communities, a program designed to help institutions start or expand learning community programs by sharing best practices for learning communities.

The university’s goal is to increase the effectiveness of these communities, such as the Global Perspectives Living-Learning Community, said Michael Cherry, Ole Miss student housing area coordinator.

He hopes to bring back information from national leaders on creating activities and involvement opportunities for students in living-learning communities that will help them transition to university life while becoming engaged scholars and responsible citizens.

“We are very excited to attend this conference as an interdepartmental team to gather new ideas and learn from the experiences of other institutions,” Cherry said. “We look forward to implementing some new programs based on what we will learn and continuing to work to enrich the lives of our residential students.”

Accompanying Cherry to the program in July are Scott Oliver, assistant director of student housing for residential learning; Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts and FASTrack director; Toni Avant, director of the Career Center; and Chelsea Bennett, assistant dean of student services in the School of Pharmacy.

Meet Dion Sanford, June’s Staff Member of the Month

Dion Sanford, a UM procurement assistant and mailroom billing clerk, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for June.

Dion Sanford

Dion Sanford, a UM procurement assistant and mailroom billing clerk, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for June. To help us get to know him better, Sanford answered a few questions for Inside Ole Miss.

IOM: How long have you worked at Ole Miss?

Sanford: I was a student worker in the biology department from January through July 2011, was a campus mail student worker from October 2011 until June 2014, and have worked at Campus Mail full-time since June 2014, and have worked at Procurement since November 2014.

IOM: What is your hometown?

Sanford: Courtland/Batesville

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss memory?

Sanford: Walking across the stage as an Ole Miss accountancy graduate.

IOM: What do you enjoy most about your position or the department in which you work?

Sanford: I love the environment that I am around and love helping people across campus. I also love working with numbers and doing things right.

IOM: What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Sanford: I like to spend time at church or relaxing with family.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Sanford: I’d like to go to the White House.

IOM: What is your favorite movie?

Sanford: I don’t spend too much time watching movies, so I’ll choose the last one I saw and that was “Furious 7.”

IOM: What are three words you would use to describe yourself? 

Sanford: Honest, passionate, respectful

To nominate a colleague for the Staff Member of the Month, email staffcouncil@olemiss.edu with the name of the individual you’d like to nominate as well as why you feel he or she should be recognized.

Vukusich, Schaum Join Dean of Students Office

New assistants bring passion, student-centered approach to job

OXFORD, Miss. – Tony Vukusich and Kacey Schaum share a common bond of dedication to students and a passion for their work, which makes them strong additions to the team in the Office of the Dean of Students at the University of Mississippi.

Tony Vukusich and Kacey Schaum

Tony Vukusich and Kacey Schaum

Vukusich came to UM in February as assistant dean of students for fraternity and sorority life, and Schaum became assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement in May. Val Ross, the university’s associate dean of students, deems Vukusich and Schaum student-centered and dedicated student affairs professionals.

“Throughout the interview process, both Kacey and Tony demonstrated that they held the University of Mississippi in high regard,” Ross said. “They communicated without hesitation that they wanted to be here and shared that they were eager to contribute to creating and maintaining exceptional programming. Also, they had done their homework, and they were able to articulate a plan both verbally and in writing that was consistent with the mission of the institution and the Office of the Dean of Students.”

Schaum and Vukusich were no strangers. They first met in 2010 at an American College Personnel Association conference in Boston. Fitting with both Vukusich’s and Schaum’s personal principles, the ACPA is dedicated to advancing student affairs and engaging students for a lifetime of learning and discovery. Both served on the organization’s standing committee for graduate students and new professionals, where they got to know each other better.

Vukusich said his new position provides a great opportunity to work with a well-regarded Greek community and students who want to make a difference. He began his interest in student affairs at Indiana State University, where worked as a graduate assistant in the Office of Student Activities and Organizations and received his master’s degree in student affairs and higher education. Working with residential and Greek life at other universities, his career path then led him to work his own fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, at a national level as director of programs and stewardship and eventually as director of alumni services.

Each day gives Vukusich an opportunity to positively impact students’ futures, making the work rewarding, he said. While overseeing a national scholarship program, he received a letter from a scholarship recipient reminding him of the importance of his work.

“This young man was struggling to finance his education; working multiple jobs, maintaining an outstanding academic record and being a leader on campus had taken its toll,” Vukusich said. “Unbeknownst to me or the selection committee, this young man had planned to withdraw from school because of the financial hardship he was facing. Because of this award, he was able to complete his undergraduate degree and pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. I am confident that this award changed his life and outlook; however, I am equally confident that it changed mine.”

Vukusich wants to forge positive opinions of the Ole Miss Greek community by helping students and organizations define what they believe in and showing them how their actions fit into the plan. His motto is “fraternity and sorority done right.”

“Our students have the opportunity to make a difference on campus, in Oxford, in Mississippi and in the world,” he said. “The possibilities are limitless and it starts with being engaged, passionate and following your dreams.”

Schaum attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania as a first-generation college student and served as an orientation leader. Her work there sparked an interest in pursuing her work with students. Her supervisor, Catherine Dugan, served as a mentor and friend, and in times of need, she was the person whom Schaum could talk to and seek advice.

“I knew after working for her the first year that I wanted to pay it forward and be that person for other students,” Schaum said.

Schaum went on to pursue her master’s degree in higher education administration and student personnel from Kent State University and landed at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, where she became assistant director of student life. She credits the leadership students she worked with throughout their college careers with helping her grow into the professional and leadership educator that she is today.

Her new role at UM returns Schaum to her background in working with a larger institution. Ready to gain new experiences and delve into leadership programming, she looks forward most to building genuine, caring relationships with students.

Both Vukusich and Schaum lead by example and are ready to face the challenges and triumphs of their new positions and to embrace the UM spirit and Oxford community. Vukusich already claims red and blue as his favorite colors and Schaum is not-so-patiently awaiting football season, making them both perfect additions to the Ole Miss family.

And while she waits for football season, Schaum said she will continue to offer advice to students.

“Take full advantage of these years at Ole Miss,” she said. “Time goes by so quickly, and before you know it, you will graduate. Embrace opportunities. Don’t be afraid to meet new people and try new things. Grow comfortable with being uncomfortable. Get involved and be committed – future employers are going to want to see that you excelled inside and outside of the classroom.”