Sustainability Enthusiasm Wins UM Student Udall Scholarship

Grace Sullivan is the university's third award recipient since 2008


Grace Sullivan is the recipient of the Morris. K Udall Scholarship. 

OXFORD, Miss. – Every leap year since 2008, a University of Mississippi student has been surprised with a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. This year is no exception, as Grace Sullivan became the university’s third recipient of the prestigious academic award.

The junior social work major from Madison got the news recently when she was summoned to Chancellor Jeffery Vitter’s office in the Lyceum. Led to believe that the chancellor was meeting with all institutional nominees for national fellowships, Sullivan had no idea she had actually won the Udall.

“I was just overwhelmed by the support that I have been given in my years at Ole Miss,” she said. “So many people have come alongside me and provided me with opportunities to serve and develop my ambitions in sustainability. I know that I would not be a Udall Scholar without the support of all of them.”

As the chancellor announced the good news, he extended thanks to her professors, staff members who have assisted her and family supporters.

“I love to see effective passion, and Grace has taken a lot of good advice and channeled it in healthy and constructive ways,” Vitter said. “Part of what education is about is helping people find what they love and then use it to make the world a better place. Our students are making a difference, and we are pleased when their efforts are recognized on a national scale. We look forward to following Grace’s career and seeing what she will accomplish.”

The Udall Scholarship provides $7,000 for one year of study. Previous UM students to be awarded Udall Scholarships are Alecia Waite in 2008 and Taylor Cook in 2012.

Sullivan is among 60 national winners of the scholarships, given annually to college sophomores and juniors who are committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American health care.

“I will be putting the monetary scholarship from the Udall toward my graduate studies,” Sullivan said. “I plan to attain a master’s in social work and a law degree, so I am thankful to have this assistance as it seems I have a lot of education left to go. More importantly, I think that the Udall will help me in my further studies by providing a network of support through the other scholars.”

Sullivan is a graduate of Madison Central High School. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Phi Kappa Phi and Order of Omega, she is actively involved in the Associate Student Body, Green Fund Committee, Delta Gamma fraternity, Active Transportation Advisory Committee and Gamma Beta Phi community service honors society.

She is also a member of the Ole Miss Cycling Club and UM Garden Club.

As a sophomore, she led her sorority’s team in the Green Cup competition, an annual event among Greek houses to be named the most sustainable, culminating in Green Week. Intent on being interactive with members and on encouraging involvement, the team developed a project to reduce transportation waste.

“I had everyone sign a pledge to carpool, take a bus or ride a bike to campus at least once a week,” she said. “When I gave a presentation about easy sustainable choices on campus, I asked to see the hands of those who had used our recycling receptacles or who had noticed them and chosen the nearby trashcans instead.”

As a second project, Sullivan took groups to local recreation trails to pick up litter.

“After that year, I think that a significant difference will be made,” Sullivan said. “I see this experience as a microcosm for culture around sustainability in Mississippi and the potential for progress. For anything to change, individuals have to be engaged and understand their impact.”

“I have known Grace Sullivan since her freshman year, and I have worked with her extensively both formally through internships and informally through collaborative partnerships and committee service, which speaks to the kind of dedication and commitment she has,” said Anne McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability. “She is passionate, driven, smart and yet humble. I am thrilled to see her being recognized and know that she certainly deserves this honor.”

Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-González said he was pleased, but not really surprised.

“Grace Sullivan leads by example,” Sullivan-González said. “She makes her academic pilgrimage come alive with her commitment to our university community as both citizen and scholar, and Udall distinguished that record with this extraordinary award.”

Sullivan credits the university with developing her leadership skills.

“Social work and law are not the typical avenues through which people expect environmental activism to grow, but I think that the Udall Foundation appreciates that change has to come from every direction,” she said. “Getting to know the diverse group of students that will become the generation that fights with me will likely help direct and support me in my future studies even more than funds can.”

Besides her work in the world of environmentalism, Sullivan fosters education and activism for local birds, volunteers at an Oxford nursing home and is a member of the Student Gardening Club, all while maintaining a 3.76 GPA.

In her Udall application, she wrote that she hoped “to go into public service in Mississippi, eventually transitioning into a community planning position in which I will encourage sustainable practices as a way to combat social ills.” This scholarship is a sign of Sullivan’s dedication and potential, and will offer unique opportunities as well.

One of Sullivan’s mentors is Tess Lefmann, assistant professor of social work.

“Grace is a wonderful student whose passion for sustainability is evident in her work and presence in the classroom,” Lefmann said. “Her united interest in social welfare and the environment has sparked new dialogue among social work students, which has been a joy to witness.”

Lefmann said she has no doubt that Sullivan will continue to make valuable contributions to the country’s policies on energy use and environmental sustainability.

Sullivan’s parents are Dr. David and Claire Sullivan of Madison, both UM alumni.

Congress established the Udall Foundation as an independent executive branch agency in 1992 to honor Morris K. Udall’s 30 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives. Students interested in pursuing a Udall Scholarship can contact Tim Dolan, the university’s Udall representative, at

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement conducts workshops each semester to introduce students to major national scholarships. Go to for more information.

UM Social Work Department Makes Huge Strides

Transformation includes tenure-track faculty hirings, rising national rankings for master's program

Jandel Crutchfield presents her social work research.

Jandel Crutchfield presents her social work research.

OXFORD, Miss. – With a significant climb in national rankings and the hiring of tenure-track faculty, the Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi is experiencing unprecedented growth.

U.S. News and World Report ranked the department’s master’s program No. 103 out of 200 nationally, which is a 45-spot climb since 2013. In addition, seven new professors have joined the department, each bringing years of expertise in the field.

“Basically, we wanted to make the University of Mississippi Department of Social Work nationally visible and continue providing flagship-quality education and mentorship to students,” said Daphne Cain, chair and associate professor of social work. “We’re doing that.”

Formerly interim director of social work at Louisiana State University, Cain accepted the position here in 2014. A graduate of the University of Tennessee, her research interests include disaster mental health and parenting interventions with high-risk and vulnerable families.

“After arriving here, many of my goals were to hire new tenure-track faculty from premier social work programs, grow the graduate program and improving licensure exam passing rates,” she said. “These professors, whose research interests range from addictive behaviors to economic insecurity and poverty, are experts in the discipline.”

The latest rankings demonstrate the department’s effort to become one of the best places to earn an MSW, said Velmer Burton, dean of UM’s School of Applied Sciences and professor of social work.

“We are all pleased with the progress the department’s faculty and staff have made over the past three years,” Burton said. “The continued success of our MSW program is a testament to the value of investing in our people and programs in the School of Applied Sciences.”

Viktor Burlaka shares a moment with his social work students.

Viktor Burlaka shares a moment with his social work students.

Other new social work faculty are Javier Boyas, Viktor Burlaka, Jandel Crutchfield, Yi-Jin Kim, Tess Lefmann and Younghee Lim. Institutions they earned doctorates from include Boston College, the University of Michigan, LSU, the University of Texas at Arlington and the University of Tennessee. Each has had peer-reviewed articles published in various professional journals.

“The department has been able to recruit some of the brightest scholars in social work over the past three years,” said Mark Loftin, associate dean of the applied sciences school. “This upward trend in the social work department is very exciting.”

The academic mission of the Department of Social Work is one that aligns with the UM Creed, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“In and out of the classroom, the social work department pursues the ideals of respect, civility and freedom for all people,” Stocks said. “The University of Mississippi is proud of the department’s growth and academic success.”

Established in 1974, the Department of Social Work’s mission is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic needs of all people – with particular attention to the needs of those who are vulnerable, oppressed and living in poverty.

For more information, visit

UM Professor Hopes To Revolutionize Alloy Development

Amrita Mishra explores using technology to find 'the right recipe'

Amrita Mishra

Amrita Mishra

OXFORD, Miss. – Discovering, developing and commercializing alloys and other advanced materials can take up to 20 years, but a University of Mississippi mechanical engineering professor hopes to speed up the process by applying computational methods to the periodic table.

A paper detailing that work co-authored by Amrita Mishra, a UM assistant professor, and seven other professors from other universities was published recently in Scientific Reports, a publication of Nature.

Alloys are materials made up of a blend of elements, Mishra said. Finding the right mixture of elements from the periodic table, which often happens in the lab by accident, is almost like cooking a new recipe in some ways, she said.

“The best way I describe this to my students is that if I asked them to make hot chocolate, everyone’s hot chocolate would taste different because of the amount and type of sugar, cocoa powder and milk they might add, just like similar elements in the periodic table,” Mishra said. “What we are trying to do is give engineers and scientists a recipe for which elements we would add for materials to function properly for a particular application.”

Her research is in alignment with the Materials Genome Initiative launched by the White House in 2011.

The idea behind Mishra’s work is that discovery of new materials can be accelerated by establishing design rules based on thermodynamics and electronic structure calculations.

Her hypothesis is that combining and utilizing computational methods with more traditional experiments will provide a methodology for creating composition-structure and structure-property correlations, thereby accelerating the pace of discovery of new materials and alloys. 

The research is mostly done through theoretical and computational methods.

“We spend so much time on experimentation and trial-and-error methods, but we want to move away from that,” Mishra said. “We can do this by developing and using methods, which involve studying the thermodynamics and atomic arrangement of materials. Atomic interactions can predict how a material is going to perform for various applications.”

One of her research areas is focused on finding new alloy materials for turbine blades used in jet engines in hopes of finding a replacement for nickel-based super alloys, which have been around for more than 60 years. There has been some recent interest in cobalt super alloys as a potential replacement.

Mishra is trying to secure federal funding for her research.

“Advanced materials are the key for the next generation of research in clean energy, human welfare and national security,” she said. “Accelerating the pace of discovery and the deployment of modern materials is crucial in achieving global competitiveness in this day and age.”

The potential for Mishra’s research is exciting, given the difficulties materials science and engineers face when determining the proper mixture to obtain the correct property, said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. The number of possible combinations is so large, it’s not realistic to investigate all of them, he said.

“Prediction tools and methodologies such as the one Dr. Mishra is developing will help overcome a significant barrier in designing better materials, which will lead to wide-ranging benefits to society,” Gladden said. “The University of Mississippi is proud and excited to have her on our faculty and looks forward to many more exciting developments from her group.”

‘Operation Magnolia Lightning’ Teams Up ROTC, Arabic Students

UM language program and military cadets both benefit from realistic simulation exercise

Ole Miss ROTC students teamed up to sharpen their skills Photo by Rusty Woods

UM Arabic Language students teamed up ROTC cadets to help them sharpen their language and mediation skills. Photo by Rusty Woods

OXFORD, Miss. – Two neighboring Muslim villages – one Sunni and one Shia – were locked in a dispute after one of the communities accused the other of intentionally contaminating its drinking water.

Fourteen students from the University of Mississippi’s Arabic Language Program and 250 ROTC cadets from UM and four other Mississippi universities found themselves in the thick of it. But the conflict wasn’t real; rather, it was only a drill to sharpen their language and mediation skills.

The simulated dispute was part of “Operation Magnolia Lightning,” staged at the Mississippi National Guard’s sprawling Camp McCain Training Center near Grenada.

The Ole Miss students came up with the water dispute storyline and spent a week in class developing key roles they chose to play in each village, said Allen Clark, assistant professor and director of UM’s intensive Arabic program. ROTC cadets were the military force dispatched to intervene.

“There were sectarian differences and ideological differences between the two villages,” Clark said. “The students had to figure out how to bridge the gap between English and what we know as cultural norms, how to cross that bridge and also what behaviors were accepted by the Arabs and the Muslims.

“The ROTC cadets had to figure out how to find certain common elements within these two villages and solve their problems at a shura (negotiation).”

Being thrust into the conflict forced the ROTC students and the Arabic students to rely on one other’s skill sets, much like they would in the “real world,” Clark said.

“The ROTC students have to depend on our knowledge of Arabic, and we depend on their knowledge of military science to make this work,” he said. “It leads to what we hope to be close to a real-life scenario, like experiential language learning for us and experiential real-world military training for them.”

The event showed Army ROTC cadets how to interact with a given populace despite language and cultural barriers, said U.S. Army Lt. Col. E. Scott Walton, UM professor and department chair of military science and leadership. The complexity of the conflict and longstanding divisions between the two groups also forced them to adapt and think critically.

arabic1“If they didn’t display proper customs and courtesy, properly use their interpreter or take into considerations the local’s needs, the scenarios became much more challenging,” Walton said. “Much of which is very relevant today as these students will very soon go on and lead soldiers in various countries with differing missions.

“Having the Arabic department out there was essential for achieving these outcomes.”

Sabrina Kosloske, a UM senior linguistics and Arabic major from Stafford, Virginia, worked as a translator for one of the villages. She quickly came to understand the difficulties of overcoming language barriers in a tense environment.

“It opened my eyes to how important translators are,” Kosloske said. “They can soften someone’s words or make them more offensive. Cultural customs were hard to get across.”

James Stubbs, a junior Arabic and political science major from Bolton, played the role of a sheik, which is the social and religious leader of an Arabic tribe, family or village. He represented his village in negotiations with the other village, which were held exclusively in Arabic and translated to the cadets acting as soldiers who facilitated the shura.

“Operation Magnolia Lighting not only gave the UM Arabic department a chance to practice our language skills, but also to help members of the Army ROTC better understand the culture of the Near East and value of communication, which is essential to the success of operations overseas,” Stubbs said.

Corey Fuller, a senior Arabic major from Pinson, Alabama, is also an ROTC cadet in charge of operations for the ROTC program. His role in Operation Magnolia Lightning was to use the “Military Decision Making Process” with other members of his battalion staff to come up with a scenario that would be mutually beneficial to the cadets and the Arabic students.

We accomplished this through the help of our cadre and the Arabic department,” Fuller said. “The cadets were forced to adapt in a both culturally and linguistically different environment to make decisions that would drive their mission success.”

Zach Crosby, a freshman Arabic and international studies major from Baltimore, played the Shia imam at the shura. He answered many questions about his village, never straying from speaking in Arabic. 

“I was able to speak to many soldiers about mundane things, but it allowed for the creation of a more cohesive image of the village,” Crosby said.

“Having very few people around me who spoke Arabic made it easy for it to fall right off my tongue. This was because I was no longer held back by the fear of making a mistake. It was definitely a great feeling to speak without limitations.”

For more information about the Arabic Language Program at UM, go to

Online MBA Earns First-Place Ranking from College Choice

UM program scores high in qualities important for students choosing a graduate program

1page_collegechoice-1OXFORD, Miss. – Consistently ranked among the nation’s top programs for some time, the University of Mississippi’s online Master of Business Administration degree program has been ranked No. 1 based on what students feel are the most important factors when choosing a college for post-graduate studies.

Working with data from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA that explains the most important factors for students, the College Choice ranking system determined that the Ole Miss online MBA program had the highest values in areas students are looking for as they make decisions on where to pursue a degree.

The survey system gives weight equally to four parts of evaluation done by graduates and students in the program. These parts include a school’s academic reputation, value, career success for graduates and overall cost.

“Because location is by definition less of a factor in online learning, our online MBA rankings are based primarily on reputation and affordability,” said Robert Hand of College Choice. “And as you move your way up the list, you will find a unique balance between these two important considerations when evaluating what fits best for a student, their present opportunities and their aspirations.”

The university’s online MBA program is also ranked among the country’s top 25 online MBA programs by U.S. News and World Report.

“We are especially pleased to hear that this latest high ranking is based around the factors that actual students feel they need to be successful,” said Ashley Jones, the university’s director of MBA administration. “We collaborate with faculty and alumni to make sure the online MBA program is as highly-engaging and inspiring as the in-person program.”

For more information about the online MBA program at UM, visit

Law School Student Publishing Sets New Record

Twenty-eight UM students accept publication offers

A record 28 Mississippi Law Journal student members published this spring.

A record 28 Mississippi Law Journal student members published this spring.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law has enjoyed another banner year for student publishing.

Twenty-eight student members of the Mississippi Law Journal accepted publication offers this spring, with a record 16 of those offers coming from outside journals such as the Gonzaga Law Review, the South Dakota Law Review, the Southern Methodist University Journal of Air Law and Commerce, and the Wake Forest Journal of Law and Policy.

Last year, 10 students published externally, with another 19 publishing with the Mississippi Law Journal.

“I think this success speaks to our students’ abilities,” said Ben Cooper, associate dean for academic affairs. “It is quite an achievement for our students to get their articles published in outside law journals where they are competing with law professors, practicing lawyers and judges for publication slots.”

This publishing success is direct result of the Mississippi Law Journal’s rigorous comment development program, a writing program for the journal’s second-year members, who must author articles for potential publication as part of their membership on the journal.

The comment program is run by third-year journal members C.J. Robison and Merry Johnson, who serve as executive notes and comments editors. The comment program provides students with structure and guidance from faculty, third-year-law mentors and their second-year peers.

The writing process starts at the beginning of the fall semester and ends in February. Students attend MLJ seminars, discuss paper topics, create outlines, write drafts and finally submit their finished work to various journals. Most students also write in conjunction with writing courses taught by faculty.

The journal’s success in publishing is a testament to the school’s commitment to both teaching and research, Robinson said. Publishing can be a challenge, especially externally.

“A lot of outside journals will not publish student-written pieces” Robinson said. “They want a practitioner or professor.”

“I think our success in publishing is primarily attributable to two factors,” Cooper said. “First, the hard work and dedication of our students. Completing a comment worthy of publication requires a lot of hard work.

“Second, Professor Jack Nowlin’s outstanding and innovative Academic Legal Writing class. Professor Nowlin has put tremendous effort into developing that class and untold hours helping students improve their comments.”

Nowlin, the school’s associate dean and MLJ faculty adviser, heads Academic Legal Writinga special writing seminar for second-year journal students. Each year, the seminar coordinates with the journal’s comment program, instructs half the journal’s econd-year-law members and helps train students for later third-year editorial work.

Nowlin is a strong supporter of student publishing.

“Student scholarship is very important,” Nowlin said. “It’s a chance as a student to really enter the world of the legal profession and influence law and public policy. And the skills the students learn – research, writing and argument – serve them well for the rest of their careers. The publication credential is also a big help with employment.”

Besides the Academic Legal Writing class, the school offers writing seminars on a variety of other topics such as criminal law, constitutional law, intellectual property, civil rights, international trade and aviation law.

“Our faculty’s dedication to student scholarship has been a major foundation of our success,” Nowlin said.

Cate Rodgers, a second-year law student and new editor-in-chief of the Mississippi Law Journal, is publishing her article with University of Denver’s Transportation Law Journal.

“A publication credential has many benefits,” Rodgers said. “On a personal level, a publication enhances your resume and sets you apart in the job market. There is also a level of prestige attached to an external publication specifically because the student competes on a level playing field with practitioners and professors.”

A list of students who published, with their paper titles and a link to their articles on SSRN, can be found on the Intellectual Life section of the law school website.

To learn more about student scholarship, please visit the Student Scholarship page on the Intellectual Life section of the website.

Meet Mary Ann Crocker, April’s Staff Member of the Month

Mary Ann Crocker

Mary Ann Crocker

Mary Ann Crocker, senior administrative secretary at the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for April. To help us get to know her better, Crocker answered a few questions for Inside Ole Miss.

IOM: How long have you worked at Ole Miss?

Crocker: Sixteen years and 3 months. I started work at Ole Miss on Jan. 11, 1999.

IOM: What is your hometown?

Crocker: Coffeeville, Mississippi

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss memory?

Crocker: There are so many good memories here at the university (that) it would be difficult to choose just one!

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

Crocker: Working at the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience is very rewarding. We see students from all over campus, but mainly freshmen. Watching them mature from nervous freshmen to confidant graduates is most satisfying. The faculty and staff here are dedicated to the success of all students and it is a joy to work with these people.

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

Crocker: I enjoy reading books of all kinds.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Crocker: I would like to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railroad. That would be the thrill of a lifetime!

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?

Crocker: The football team walking through the Grove on game day is exciting and something each student, staff member and faculty member should enjoy at least once.

IOM: If you could have lunch with anyone alive or dead/fictional or real, who would it be and why?

Crocker: I would like to talk with Dr. Charles R. Gates, the first director of the Academic Support Center, and tell him how his dream (of a freshman center) has grown into reality as the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience.

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

‘Star Analysts’ May Drive Dramatic Stock Shifts

UM professor co-authors study on influence of elite group of forecasters

Rich Gentry

Rich Gentry

OXFORD, Miss. – So-called “star analysts” have great power over stock prices, a University of Mississippi professor and director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has discovered.

Richard Gentry, an assistant professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, worked on the study with Steven Boivie, of Texas A&M University, and Scott D. Graffin, of the University of Georgia. Their findings shed light on the importance of “star analysts.”

These analysts’ opinions on certain investments can cause changes in valuations for stocks, and usually those opinions with the investing public outweigh the reputations of the CEOs running the companies being evaluated by the analysts.

“This study examined how people interpret information when they are confronted with sometimes conflicting sources,” Gentry said. “CEO reputation was only influential in influencing the market reaction to downgrades when the analyst making the downgrade did not have a strong reputation.”

The team’s paper, “Understanding the Direction, Magnitude, and Joint Effects of Reputation when Multiple Actors’ Reputations Collide” is in the February-March issue of the Academy of Management Journal. The peer-reviewed publication is published every other month by the academy, which, with more than 18,000 members in 123 countries, is the largest organization in the world devoted to management research and teaching.

The business world has a number of star CEOs. There are many publications devoted to leadership each year, and American companies spend an estimated $14 billion per year on grooming leaders. This might give the appearance that a CEO’s reputation for superior leadership would prove dominant over the best analysts, but the study found the opposite.

“A downgrade by a star analyst causes tremendous valuation changes, which are not offset by the CEO’s reputation,” the study finds. ” … CEO reputation buffers the stock market reaction to downgrades by regular analysts, but, when a downgrade is issued by a star analyst, the CEO’s reputation has almost no effect on the market reaction.”

The study draws on large databases of corporate, financial and market information compiled over a 13-year period. CEO reputation is determined by the number of leadership awards bestowed on a chief over the five years leading to a given year by seven leading business magazines.

The team studied the stock market’s reaction to a downgrade by a star analyst, particularly someone ranked among the top one-sixth or thereabout. They found those downgrades led to an average market-adjusted, two-day decline of a stock of 3.5 percent to 3.6 percent, whether the CEO had won as many as five prestigious leadership awards over the previous five years or had been honored with one or two or none at all.

In marked contrast, the impact of a downgrade by analysts outside that select circle varied considerably, depending on the reputation of the CEO.

While leading to an average market-adjusted decline of 1.93 percent for firms headed by five-time leadership honorees, it produced a 2.74 percent decline for those headed by non-honorees, a drop of 42 percent more.

In contrast, the mean response to upgrades, improvements in the ratings, by nonstar analysts ranged from 1.86 percent for firms with five-time-honoree CEOs to 2.29 percent for companies of nonhonorees, a 23 percent greater boost for the latter group.

Why do firms of pedestrian CEOs receive this significantly greater bump when their ratings go up? The study explains, “Increased expectations for future performance will cause shareholders to react less positively to upgrades by analysts because their expectations that star CEOs will continue to deliver high levels of performance are already reflected in the firm’s value.”

CEOs who had received one or more awards generally elicited more recommendation changes than others, the study also found. The professors speculate this may be attributable to analysts’ seeking to “garner attention.”

At the same time, having a large number of CEO awards decreased the number of downgrades a firm received by star analysts. The two findings lead the authors to observe that “firms led by star CEOs receive greater scrutiny in general … but CEO reputation may offset that scrutiny for star analysts.”

Gentry, noting the findings of star analysts causing dramatic market shifts and their being more likely to issues recommendations, suggested that it may be worth reconsidering which types of firms they’re assigned to analyze. Markets could function more effectively if these influential analysts are distributed more evenly across all kinds of firms, he said.

“Instead of having so much insight and influence clustered around a relatively small number of the sexiest firms, maybe that talent can be of more service covering a more varied group,” said Boivie, one of the study’s authors. “Instead of having three or four all-stars covering Google or Apple, maybe we could do as well with one or two.”

TEDxUM Talk Applications Being Accepted

Eight positions are available for the 2017 season of popular series

TEDxUM now accepting nominations for 2017 conference.

TEDxUM now accepting nominations for 2017 conference.

OXFORD, Miss. – Organizers of the TEDxUM 2017 event are seeking ideas and speakers for the popular lecture series.

The window to suggest ideas and nominate participants is open through April 18. Last year’s event featured 10 speakers, and eight speaking spots are available for the coming year.

“In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TED created TEDx, where x equals (an) independently organized TED event,” said TEDxUM organizer Georgia Norfleet, a UM sophomore majoring in business from Kenosha, Wisconsin. “These are programs of local, self-organized events bringing people together to share a TED-like experience.”

UM hosted its first “TEDx” talk in October 2015, featuring 10 brief lectures from Ole Miss faculty members to showcase “ideas worth spreading.” Though the event was open to only 100 attendees, those talks are available on YouTube for everyone who missed it.

“TEDxUM 2015” used the TED Talks conference format, which brings together lecturers and other participants in a globally popular set of conferences run by the Sapling Foundation under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” Under the rules set by TED, seating was limited for the event, although interest was very high.

Lizzy Wicks, a senior international studies and French major from Ocean Springs, organized the event along with Marvin King, UM associate professor of political science and African-American studies.

“Each of the talks focused on really different topics, so there is something for everybody,” King said. “I was most happy when audience members told us how much they learned because of the talks.

“We really want people to watch these videos and share them with their friends and family. It’s really amazing how much you can learn watching these short, 12-minute videos.”

The following talks, all 12-18 minutes long, are available at

  • Randy Wadkins, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, talking about nanotechnology
  • Matthew Wilson, assistant professor of performance, lecturing on humor
  • Mitchell Robinson, of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center, discussing diversity and environmental activism
  • Cathy Janasie, research counsel for the National Sea Grant Law Center, lecturing on water scarcity
  • Michele Alexandre, professor of law and Leonard B. Melvin Lecturer in Law, giving her talk on “The B Word”
  • Gregory Heyworth, associate professor of English, lecturing on digital humanities
  • David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education, discussing classroom technology
  • Laura Johnson, associate professor of psychology, lecturing on cross-cultural engagement
  • Marc Slattery, professor of pharmacognosy, talking about drug research from the ocean
  • Chris McCurdy, professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, lecturing on natural products used to diagnose neural damage

Heyworth’s video has been viewed more than a half-million times since its debut. A textual scientist, he works to save historical texts that have been damaged by war, water damage, mold and/or chemical reagents using a process involving multispectral imaging.

Working beside other professors and pioneers in the digital imaging field, Heyworth has traveled to libraries both in the U.S. and aboard in efforst to preserve and reclaim numerous historical texts. His work is known as the Lazarus Project.

To nominate an idea or an individual speaker (self-nominations accepted), complete the nomination form at no later than 5 p.m. April 18. Please submit questions and inquiries to

University Observes National Volunteer Week

Dean of Students office partners with various organizations for week of service and reflection

National Volunteer Week, starting April 10 and continuing through April 16, is a chance for UM to give back to the community.

National Volunteer Week, set for April 10-16, is a chance for Ole Miss to give back to the community.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will celebrate National Volunteer Week with a slate of activities beginning Sunday (April 10).

The UM Office of the Dean of Students and Volunteer Services has teamed up with organizations such as Volunteer Oxford, the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the Lafayette County Retired and Senior Volunteer Program, and AmeriCorps VISTA to create a week of volunteer opportunities and recognition.

National Volunteer Week is an initiative established by Points of Light in 1974 and is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage with their communities through service.

“This is a week full of diverse service opportunities, so that everyone on campus and in the L-O-U community can get involved,” said Kacey Schaum, UM assistant dean of students for leadership and involvement.

The week kicks off Sunday with the Sardis Lake Improvement Project, slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Planned by Volunteer Oxford in coordination with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this volunteer opportunity focuses on the maintenance of equipment and landscaping in the Hurricane Landing area.

Participants can learn more about national service Monday (April 11) at the AmeriCorps Day Service Fair and Panel. Coordinated by local AmeriCorps programs UM College Corps and the North Mississippi VISTA Project, the AmeriCorps Day Service Fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Ole Miss Student Union, with more than a dozen organizations available to answer questions about serving the community and country with AmeriCorps.

The AmeriCorps Panel is set for 6 to 8 p.m. in Bryant Hall, Room 209, and will include representatives from College Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, City Year and Teach for America.

“We’re very excited to bring such a wide variety of AmeriCorps programs and opportunities to the Service Fair,” said Sylvia Stewart, North Mississippi VISTA Project leader. “We are also very happy to be having Dr. Melissa Bass, assistant professor of public policy leadership, as a speaker for the AmeriCorps Panel, as Dr. Bass has written a book on the politics of national service.”

Tuesday (April 12) is a day to “Find Your Fit.” Visit or to locate the perfect volunteer opportunity or service organization for you.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Volunteer Week will turn toward recognizing community members and students who have gone above and beyond in their service. The UM Volunteer Recognition Luncheon on Wednesday (April 13) will celebrate the university’s outstanding student volunteers.

On Thursday (April 14), Lafayette County RSVP and Volunteer Oxford will host the Nonprofit Leader Recognition, a breakfast at the Oxford Activity Center. This invitation-only event will allow time to recognize the L-O-U community’s nonprofit leaders and volunteers.

Go Green on Friday (April 15) and volunteer to help make Ole Miss more sustainable. The UM Garden Workday will involve tending and harvesting the university’s garden, with the harvested crops going to the UM Food Bank, or getting your hands dirty with the Compost Sift-a-thon. Also, Students for a Green Campus need help picking up litter from their adopted highway to recycle and throw away.

“I am thrilled National Volunteer Week has dedicated an entire day for projects centered around sustainability,” said Ellen Olack, VISTA worker with the Office of Sustainability. “This is a great opportunity for students to have hands on experience with ongoing programs on campus since we’re always looking for volunteers.”

To wrap up on Saturday (April 16), volunteers can help with a school supply drive benefitting Youth Opportunities Unlimited Inc. Donated school supplies will help students in Quitman County, ensuring that they have the tools and resources needed to succeed. The drive is set for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Oxford Walmart.

For more information on UM Volunteer Week, contact Kacey Schaum at or Sarah Ball at