UM Admits 17 into Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program

Second cohort of elite education scholarship shows marked growth

The second cohort of UM's Mississippi Excellence in Teaching program hails from eight states and possesses an average ACT score of 29.1.

The second cohort of UM’s Mississippi Excellence in Teaching program hails from eight states and possesses an average ACT score of 29.1.

OXFORD, Miss. – Seventeen college freshmen gathered at the University of Mississippi’s Lyceum building recently to begin a life-changing college experience as new fellows in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.

The METP offers an elite scholarship for top-performing students who seek to become secondary English or mathematics teachers in Mississippi. This group marks the program’s second cohort, hails from eight states and boasts an average ACT score of 29.1.

The program’s inaugural cohort was admitted in August 2013 and included 15 students from three states, with an average ACT of 28.5. The Ole Miss METP chapter has a 100 percent retention rate.

“I’d like to thank each of you for choosing to be part of this program and our university,” Chancellor Dan Jones told the group during the Aug. 22 event. “As teachers, you’re not only going to make a positive difference in the lives of the students you will teach but also in the future of our state as a whole.”

The most valuable education scholarship ever offered in Mississippi, METP was established in January 2012 as a joint venture with Mississippi State University after the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation awarded the two institutions a $12.95 million grant to build the program. METP offers four years of full tuition, room and board, a technology stipend, professional development, study abroad and more. All fellows make a five-year commitment to teach in Mississippi public schools after graduation.

“This is probably the most signature, high-quality undergraduate teacher preparation program in the nation right now,” said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education. “METP fellows are not just here for a full scholarship; they’re here for much more. Most education majors don’t start training until their junior year of college, but our fellows start right away.”

The select group includes Mary Kathryn Barry of Charlotte, North Carolina; Ryley Blomberg of Belleville, Illinois; Meaghan Combs of Englewood, Ohio; Marjorie Cox of Tallulah, Louisiana; Rachel Ford of Siloam Springs, Arkansas; Drew Hall of Pearland, Texas; Taylor Huey of Long Beach; Shelby Joyner of Horn Lake; Charlie Kemp of Sarah; Paula Mettler of Hernando; Dillon Moore of Gautier; Elijah Peters of Hernando; Lindsay Raybourn of Long Beach; Laurel Reeves of Birmingham, Alabama; Abygail Thorpe of Gulfport; Anna Traylor of Brandon; and Gabrielle Vogt of Metairie, Louisiana.

Nine of the fellows will study English education and eight will study mathematics education. The program’s initial focus on English and mathematics was designed to meet the demands of the Common Core State Standards. The program also hopes to help change the perception of teaching as a career choice for the best and brightest incoming freshmen with the valuable scholarship.

“Our second cohort is an exceptional bunch and we’re excited to have them join our program,” said Ryan Niemeyer, the university’s METP director. “Our goal is to make METP a nationally competitive scholarship that brings the very best students to our university and to public education in Mississippi.”

Up to 20 fellows can be selected annually, but only the best incoming students are chosen at UM. Competition to gain admission into the program is expected to become increasingly fierce in coming years, Niemeyer said.

“The thing that attracted me to METP was the fact that this scholarship was specifically designed for future teachers,” Reeves said. “There aren’t many programs that give full scholarships to aspiring teachers. Becoming a fellow means that I have to set high standards for myself and be willing to achieve those standards when I become a teacher in Mississippi.”

While most education students begin teacher education coursework and field experiences after sophomore year, METP fellows are immersed in educational issues and theories from their first semester with specialized seminars. Also, METP students from both Ole Miss and MSU come together each semester for cross-campus learning activities at both campuses, allowing them to learn from faculty at both institutions. This spring, UM’s first cohort will take a special trip to Washington, D.C., to tour the White House, U.S. Department of Education and meet members of Congress.

“I’ve always wanted to give back to my community and to change people’s lives for the better,” Moore said. “I have had some amazing teachers, teachers who have shown me that being a good teacher can change the lives of hundreds for the better. A lot of people say ‘It only takes one person who cares.’ It’s my aspiration to be that one person who makes others better by caring and teaching them.”

Incoming Pharmacy Students Honored at White Coat Ceremony

Students recite Pledge of Professionalism at event

Dean David D. Allen congratulates Suman Ali on receiving her white coat at the Aug. 15 ceremony.

Dean David D. Allen congratulates Suman Ali on receiving her white coat at the Aug. 15 ceremony.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Class of 2018 participated in the school’s White Coat Ceremony Aug. 15 at the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The annual ceremony marks the students’ completion of their pre-pharmacy curriculum and entry into the professional program. The school has 120 first-professional-year students enrolled this fall.

“It is an honor to participate in our White Coat Ceremony,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “The event allows us to recognize our students’ commitment to professionalism and, in turn, recognize the commitment that the School of Pharmacy has to provide an innovative and quality education.”

Provost Morris Stocks delivered the ceremony’s keynote address.

“The White Coat Ceremony symbolizes the transition from pre-clinical to clinical education, but it also symbolizes much more,” Stocks told the students. “The bestowing of the white coat will serve as a reminder to you of the expectations that society has placed upon you. More specifically, it will serve as a reminder that you are embarking on a journey, and you are becoming a member of a profession that society holds to a high standard of trust and responsibility.”

Laurie Warrington Fleming, immediate past-president of the Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists and clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice, led the students in taking the Pledge of Professionalism. Leigh Ann Ross, the school’s associate dean for clinical affairs, presented each student with a copy of the pledge, which they each signed during the ceremony.

Allen and pharmacy student body president-elect Stephanie Sollis presented the coats. She urged her new classmates to be dedicated in all aspects of their education.

“You have all been dedicated in your studies by making it this far,” said Sollis, a native of Corning, Arkansas. “May the white coat remind you to continue that diligence in your studies to become the best pharmacists in the world. May the white coat also remind you to remain dedicated to the field of pharmacy. Strive to promote pharmacy, remain open to change and be willing to work to improve the profession.”

Stocks concluded by asking students to wear their white coats with “honor and humility,” while ensuring that the profession remains highly trusted by society.

For a list of the students (and their hometowns) who received their white coats, visit http://www.pharmacy.olemiss.edu/studentaffairs/whitecoat.html.

New Fund Created for UM Speech Therapy Program

Oxford mother focuses on building support to help others

Speech

Rheagan and Naden Vaughn with their son, Swayze

OXFORD, Miss. – Communication therapy has been an important focus for Rheagan Vaughn ever since her son Swayze was diagnosed with autism. For many children with the disorder, communication impairments can be an obstacle.

“We’ve been blessed that Swayze is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum,” said Vaughn, of Oxford. “But there are parents in this community who have children on the other side of the spectrum, and they need help too.”

After being involved in a number of national fundraisers for autism, Vaughn wanted to do something different. “I decided to find something local to support,” she said.

Early this year, the University of Mississippi’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders established the Hearing-Impaired Literacy and Language Laboratory. The program focuses on pre-school-level students with problems in speech, hearing and literacy. In its first year, the program achieved a number of positive results, such as children speaking for the first time. This success can be attributed to sessions between students and a staff of language-speech pathologists.

The program captured the attention of Vaughn after she learned it could help autistic children in areas of communication and literacy.

“What I specifically like about this program is that parents can sit and watch their children during lessons,” she said.

With an initial gift of $600, Rheagan Vaughn created the Swayze Vaughn Fund in dedication to her 7-year-old son. Vaughn hopes the Oxford community will contribute to the public fund and help the cause.

The Swayze Vaughn Fund will have a direct impact on the program, said Lennette Ivy, chair of the communication sciences and disorders department.

“(The fund) will help by providing whatever is needed,” Ivy said. “If we need any educational materials, we can utilize these resources.”

Ivy also suggested that the fund could help Oxford-area residents affected by autism.

“We could create support groups for parents of children with autism,” she said. “We could also bring in professional speakers and trainers. There are a number of things we can do with this fund.”

In the spring of 2015, Rheagan Vaughn hopes to organize an autism awareness walk in Oxford with the proceeds going directly to the Swayze Vaughn Fund.

“Every fundraiser I work from now on will benefit the Swayze Vaughn Fund,” she said.

Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the Swayze Vaughn Fund can send checks with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677. For more information, contact Michael Upton, development director, at 662-915-3027 or mupton@olemiss.edu.

Three UM Professors Launch Racial Climate Study

Professors to examine students' experiences with racial and ethnic issues

A monument to James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, stands on campus. Photo by UM Brand Photography.

A monument honoring James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, stands on campus. Photo by UM Brand Photography.

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi sociology professors are launching a comprehensive study to understand racial and ethnic issues on campus and are seeking student participants to chronicle their experiences in online diaries.

Professors Kirk A. Johnson, Willa M. Johnson and James Thomas are seeking volunteers to confidentially journal their experiences with race issues at UM. The identities of the students will be known only to the investigators. For now, the study is expected to last at least until the end of the school year, but the hope is to continue it through coming academic years.

“We’re casting a broad net, so all students are eligible to participate,” Kirk Johnson said. “We want to hear from undergraduate or graduate students, those taking classes on the main campus or satellite campuses and those from all races and ethnic groups as long as they have some sort of racial and ethnic experience to share.”

The professors will collect diary entries and then analyze them to see what sort of factors lead to everyday incidents of racial and ethnic tensions or conversely, racial and ethnic cooperation. The professors are still making arrangements for other universities to join the project, so for the time being, UM is the only school being studied.

Students who wish to enroll in the study can click this link on or after Aug. 24. The link takes students to an online consent form, after which they’ll be directed to the diary website. There’s also a brief tutorial that explains how to write a diary entry.

Deadly riots ensued when James Meredith became the first black person to enroll at the university in 1962. Over the years, other racial incidents have been reported at the university. In response to those incidents, Chancellor Dan Jones recently issued a comprehensive report with recommendations for making the university a more welcoming environment for all. Part of that recommendation is that the university deal head-on with issues of race.

Willa M. Johnson said the university is in a unique position to study the issue.

“We think that the University of Mississippi is well situated to discuss these things,” she said. “We think our history gives us an opportunity. Rather than just look at this as the grave problem that it truly is, we look at it from the perspective of the opportunity that it affords the University of Mississippi to both understand race and also to put scholarship out that explains prejudice, both where it comes from, how it’s expressed in all its iterations.”

Since the nation elected its first black president in 2008, many wonder if the country is “post-racial,” Willa Johnson said. She doesn’t believe that’s the case, but thinks the study can be a valuable look into how racial and ethnic dynamics work.

“We’re not post-racial, but where are we?” she added. “That’s what we’re trying to figure out.”

Professors who would like their students to participate in the diary project for extra credit should contact Kirk Johnson at kjohnson@olemiss.edu.

Three Incoming UM Freshmen Receive Carrier and Hill Scholarships

Scholars attracted to university's literary history, Honors College

Maggie Smith

Maggie Smith

OXFORD, Miss. – Three freshmen entering the University of Mississippi this fall have received two of the university’s most prestigious scholarships in recognition of their exceptional academic and leadership records.

William Pate of Mooreville and Margaret “Maggie” Smith of Madison were selected for the Robert M. Carrier Scholarship, and Alison Turbeville of Jackson was selected for the Sally Vick Hill Scholarship. Both scholarship awards are valued at $10,000 per year for up to four years, for a total of $40,000.

Among the Mid-South’s oldest endowed scholarships, the Carrier was established in 1955 to “bring the state’s future leaders” to UM for “maximum scholastic and personal development.” Nominations for the award are made by UM admissions counselors, and trustees of the Robert M. and Lenore Carrier Foundation choose the recipients.

At Mooreville High School, Pate was named valedictorian and a National Merit Finalist. A four-year member of the Mississippi Lions All-State Band and an Eagle Scout, he was also named a Mississippi Economic Council All-Star Scholastic Scholar. Pate, who is the son of Mike and Nita Pate, plans to major in music education. He also plans to pursue performance opportunities playing the trumpet while teaching choir and band and hopes to go on to graduate school.

Will Pate

Will Pate

“I’m eager to dive into the honors program along with others who share my love for scholarship,” said Pate, who was attracted to the rigorous program offered by the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Smith, a graduate of St. Joseph High School and the daughter of Sam and Kate Smith, was drawn to Ole Miss for its rich literary history. An aspiring writer and English major, Smith was a recipient of the Scholastic Art & Writers Awards’ Gold Key and ab American Voice Nominee, a member of the National Honor Society and mathematics honor society Mu Alpha Theta, as well as chapter president of the National English Honor Society. She was also a member of the high school swim team, theater and chorus group, and a lifeguard.

Like the Carrier Scholarships, the Sally Vick Hill Scholarship is designed to bring some of the state’s most accomplished students to the university.

Alison Tuberbville

Alison Turbeville

Turbeville is a graduate of Jackson Academy and the daughter of Karlen and Ben Turbeville of Jackson. A member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta and Chi Alpha Mu mathematics honor societies, she received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence and the Scott Branning Scholarship for personal integrity, respect for and sensitivity to others, and tenacity in dealing with circumstances in life.

Besides her sister and other family members attending the university, Turbeville cited the Honors College as a major reason for attending Ole Miss.

“I love Oxford and its people,” she said. “Ole Miss is a great school and environment, and I look forward to being independent and meeting new people in the fall.”

For more information about the Robert M. Carrier and the Sally Vick Hill scholarships at UM, visit http://finaid.olemiss.edu/scholarships.

Robinson Receives Inaugural Provost Fellowship at UM Center

Education professor using video to make new interdisciplinary teaching resource

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

UM teacher education professor Nichelle Robinson will serve at the first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

OXFORD, Miss. – Nichelle Robinson, an associate professor of teacher education at the University of Mississippi, will serve as the university’s first provost fellow in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, or CETL.

During the one-year fellowship, Robinson will begin building a video database focusing on interdisciplinary inquiry and discussion. The videos will tap into UM’s expert faculty resources on a variety of issues.

“I’m envisioning a TED Talks format where two to three instructors discuss a topic within 15 to 30 minutes, with one instructor serving as a moderator,” she said. “Think about Brown v. Board of Education. I know what I think about it from an education perspective, but what would someone in the political science department have to say about it? What about a faculty member in history?”

Starting in August, Robinson will begin creating such videos within the School of Education as part of an elementary education social studies course in the fall and a special education law course in the spring. The videos will provide an interdisciplinary view of different issues related to these courses by incorporating other UM faculty into classes.

The video database will be hosted on the CETL website and be organized by topic so users can find them online. After the first year, she hopes to expand the project by collaborating with other UM academic units in 2015.

“For example, a huge interest of mine is the civil rights movement and its impact on the state of Mississippi and our university,” Robinson explained. “A conversation I would love to participate in and share with my students would involve me, someone from the William Winter Institute and a third participant from African-American studies, history or political science.”

CETL was established in 2007 to enhance student learning by improving teaching at university. The center provides all UM faculty, including adjuncts, teaching assistants and graduate instructors, with resources and assistance in teaching.

“We are pleased that Dr. Robinson is our inaugural Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning provost fellow,” said Noel Wilkin, UM associate provost. “She is a dynamic educator who is enthusiastic about using technology to improve collaborative teaching and enhancing the content of the topics offered in the classroom. Her project has the potential to advance collaboration among faculty and between departments for the purpose of enhancing instruction.”

Robinson holds three degrees from UM, including a bachelor’s degree in business administration, a master’s degree in special education and a doctorate in elementary education. She worked as a special education teacher in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee for more than eight years before returning to UM as a doctoral student in 1999, and previously held faculty positions at the University of Memphis.

UM to Screen ‘Justice Is a Black Woman’

Civil rights attorney Constance Baker Motley biopic to be shown Sept. 3 at Overby Center

Mosley_Poster JPEGOXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will host a screening of “Justice Is a Black Woman: The Life and Work of Constance Baker Motley” at 6 p.m. Sept. 3 at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

Producer Gary Ford will participate in the showing of his award-winning biographical movie, narrated by journalist Juan Williams. It tells the story of Motley, the civil rights attorney who acted as legal counsel for James Meredith on his case to become the first black student at UM. Major cases she handled throughout her career also led to many schools, universities and businesses being desegregated.

Some of the most important events in Mississippi history are covered in the movie, said Curtis Wilkie, Overby Fellow and Kelly G. Cook Chair of Journalism at UM.

“It’s so important to Mississippi history that young people today see this and learn about some of the actors that were involved in all of the enormous changes that took place in this state in the late 1950s though 1960s,” Wilkie said. “(Motley) was a major figure, and I think it’s important that students today know about her.”

The event is co-sponsored by the university’s College of Liberal Arts, School of Law, Overby Center, Provost’s Office and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. The screening is the first of a planned series of annual events focusing on issues of race that are to be held early each academic year. The events are intended to create a respectful community discussion to help sensitize students and encourage them to think about and discuss race.

“Constance Baker Motley is a singular figure in the civil rights era,” said Richard Forgette, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of political science. “She’s someone people need to know more about. This is an opportunity to learn more about her, but it’s also an opportunity for the university community to have a dialogue about race. The hope is people can watch the video and there will be a good discussion afterward.”

Motley, a native of New Haven, Connecticut, served as a New York state senator and worked as a lawyer with the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. She successfully argued 10 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Wilkie said she was one of many strong women who fought racism and segregation during the civil rights movement.

“So often in the movement, the guys took credit for so much that was done, but there were so many influential, powerful women who were involved,” Wilkie said. “I think of Fannie Lou Hamer and also Marian Wright Edelman, who was a great civil rights lawyer. Judge Motley was also a major figure. She did her work in the courtroom rather than demonstrating in the streets, but she was a major figure in the civil rights movement, no question about it.”

She was a key legal strategist in other cases that helped desegregate schools, buses and lunch counters. Motley wrote the original complaint in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down school segregation.

She was also the first African-American woman to argue a case before the Supreme Court, Meredith v. Fair, which won Meredith the right to enroll at UM in 1962.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson also appointed Motley as the nation’s first black female federal judge.

Following a long legal career, Motley died in New York in 2005.

The production team for the documentary included Michael Calia, director of the Quinnipiac University Ed McMahon Mass Communications Center and director-producer of the film; Susan Bailey, scriptwriter; Lynn Bushnell, executive producer; and Gary Ford, co-producer who wrote his dissertation on Motley.

For more information, contact the UM College of Liberal Arts at 662-915-7178 or libarts@olemiss.edu.

‘Ole Miss Matters’ Campaign Will Make August a Month to Remember

#olemissmatters

#olemissmatters

August is a big month on the Ole Miss campus. From Move-In Week activities to the first day of classes, it’s a fun time to be a Rebel. Could there be a better time to launch our new national ad campaign?

This year, the campaign is targeted directly to the interests of prospective students. Research shows they’re very interested in knowing more about the majors offered here. And they want to choose a major that prepares them for careers they can be excited about. Bottom line: they want to know how Ole Miss can make a difference for them. That’s what led to a campaign called “Ole Miss Matters,” which provides a long, long list of reasons why an education at Ole Miss matters, using the television spot and a coordinated Internet/social media campaign. It’s more than a catchy phrase, slick graphics or poignant photography. It’s a strong statement about our university, our faculty, staff, students and alumni, and it shows the world that Ole Miss and its graduates matter – in a big way.

Why does Ole Miss matter?

Our leadership. The Patterson School of Accountancy is ranked among the top 4 accountancy programs in the country and has ranked as one of the top 20 accounting programs in the country for five years in a row. The forensic chemistry program at Ole Miss has been called one of the 15 best in the country. Our School of Law prepares space lawyers for the final frontier thanks to the nation’s only LL.M. program in air and space law. And the list goes on and on.

Our selfless service. Each year, thousands of students learn the meaning of service through a variety of initiatives, including support for the Lafayette-Oxford-University community in the annual Big Event. The Ole Miss chapter of Engineers Without Borders designed and built a school in the West African nation of Togo. They’re also working to provide the village with clean drinking water. The San Mateo Empowerment Project is building a road for a once-forgotten community in Belize.

We are accessible. Our student body includes representation from 93 countries around the world, and our university was one of only two in the SEC listed as “Best College Value Under $30,000 a Year.”

We achieve great things in the classroom. Since 1848, 25 Rhodes scholars have called it “home.” Nearly 100 percent of our School of Pharmacy graduates pass the national licensure examination on the first attempt. We boast some of the best graduation rates in the country.

We excel on the playing field. Eleven former or current Rebel athletes have participated in the Olympics. Since head baseball coach Mike Bianco began his career at the helm of the Ole Miss baseball program, 38 players have been selected in the Major League Baseball draft. And, ever seen “The Blind Side”?

The list goes on and on. In fact, we have dozens of other facts that we’ll be sharing via Internet/social media over the next month. So we encourage you to use our hashtag (#olemissmatters) and share your stories. No one knows Ole Miss better than all of you. You are our story: our past, our present and our future.

Yesterday, after months of planning and conceptualizing, we unveiled the “Ole Miss Matters” video right here on the Ole Miss News Blog. It’s the same one that will air at halftime of the Ole Miss-Boise State game on Aug. 28. Wow. That’s only six days away. Yet another reason why August is a great time to be a Rebel.

Sexuality Emphasis Added to Gender Studies Minor

UM becomes first in Mississippi to offer program

Gender Studies

Sarah Isom Center for Woman and Gender Studies is offering a new emphasis in sexuality.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies is offering a new emphasis in sexuality beginning this fall semester.

The new field of study will allow students to study sexuality in an open and engaging academic environment. Sexuality studies explore the social construction of sexuality, ways in which society shapes and determines its meanings, as well as the differences that exist within various cultures and moments in history.

The curriculum will feature two courses in the emphasis each semester, including a new course in queer theory and a course on Oscar Wilde this fall. The new program grew out of faculty concerns that the university needed a safe space for educational discussions about sexuality, said Jaime Harker, interim director of the Isom Center.

“It became clear that students needed more opportunities to be educated about issues of sexuality,” Harker said. “As faculty, we decided that setting up an academic program, where students could learn and ask questions in a structured environment, was one way to address this larger need for education.”

UM is the first in the state to offer the sexuality emphasis through a gender studies minor. However, a number of universities across the country have already incorporated programs in sexuality/queer studies, including Indiana University, New York University, and the universities of Florida, Maryland and Ohio.

“This new sexuality emphasis through the gender studies program at Ole Miss reflects the university’s commitment to undergraduate education built on inclusion, a perspective that embraces the complexities and diversity of human experience,” said Jaime Cantrell, a visiting assistant professor of English who will teach the queer theory course cross-listed with the Department of English and the Isom Center.

The term “queer” has historically been used in a number of ways, meaning things ranging from the strange to pejorative, Cantrell said. However, though her teaching, she is far more interested in providing an introduction to what queer theories do than defining what queer theory is.

“Certainly it suggests an anti-normative positioning in terms of sexuality, but someone who is heterosexual might also identify as queer with regard to their particular sexual preferences or pleasures,” she said. “Queer is an inclusive, fluid label that allows individuals to acknowledge that anti-normative positionality without necessarily revealing how or in what contexts.”

Harker hopes that the addition of these courses will begin a needed dialogue.

“We hope to continue to offer new and interesting courses such as the ‘South and Sexuality’ course in the spring,” Harker said. “We need to learn how to discuss sensitive topics in an unemotional, factual manner. The more institutional support this program has, the more it becomes a part of the fabric of our university.”

The Isom Center, named after the university’s first female faculty member, was established in 1981 to address the changing roles and expectations of women students, faculty and staff. The center is responsible for integrating scholarly research on women’s and gender issues.

New Center and UM Law Clinic to Advocate for Human Rights and Social Justice in Mississippi

Mississippi attorney Cliff Johnson hired as director

Cliff Johnson

Cliff Johnson

OXFORD, Miss. – The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center, a public interest law firm that advocates for human rights and social justice through litigation, has opened an office at the University of Mississippi School of Law, where the new MacArthur Justice Clinic will provide law students with opportunities for hands-on experience under the direction of experienced litigators.

Veteran Mississippi attorney Cliff Johnson has been named first director of the MacArthur Justice Center, and he has joined the faculty of the law school. He is an assistant professor of law and supervises law students participating in the MacArthur Justice Clinic.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Johnson prosecuted civil and criminal fraud cases in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi from 1996 to 2001. Most recently, Johnson was a partner for 13 years at the Jackson law firm of Pigott & Johnson, where he handled a wide variety of complex civil and criminal matters.

“I am pleased to see our School of Law engage in the issues of social justice,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “It is yet another way the university is reaching beyond our campus to transform the world around us.”

“The MacArthur Justice Clinic at Ole Miss law will have a positive impact on the lives of the people of Mississippi, while providing a wonderful learning experience for our students,” said Richard Gershon, law school dean. “It is an honor for us to partner with the J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation in this important endeavor.”

The MacArthur Justice Center at the law school will work in collaboration with the MacArthur Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law in Chicago and the new MacArthur Justice Center in New Orleans.

Since its founding in Chicago in 1985 by the family of J. Roderick MacArthur, the MacArthur Justice Center has played a prominent role in bringing Chicago police misconduct and torture to the public’s attention and has helped several wrongfully convicted men and women win multimillion dollar verdicts and settlements as compensation for the time they were imprisoned wrongfully. Among its many cases, the center has won major reforms to protect juvenile parolees previously subjected to arbitrary detention and imprisonment, has challenged the detention of terrorism suspects without trial or access to the courts, and helped lead the fight that ended capital punishment in Illinois.

The MacArthur Justice Center opened its New Orleans office last year. It is the lead counsel in Jones v. Gusman, the federal lawsuit alleging pervasive violations of prisoners’ constitutional rights in the Orleans Parish Prison. The center’s New Orleans staff is working to ensure the OPP abides by a consent decree to ensure prisoner safety and adequate staffing at the jail. In addition, the New Orleans office also has worked on capital punishment cases, including advocating for public disclosure of information about drugs Mississippi plans to use to carry out executions by lethal injection.

“There is a historic connection between Mississippi and Chicago, which traces back to the great migration. We are committed to fighting injustice in both locations,” said John R. MacArthur, lead board member of the MacArthur Justice Center. “We look forward to building on the success of our Chicago office at Northwestern law school as we establish a similar partnership with the University of Mississippi.”

“Cliff Johnson is the perfect choice to lead the MacArthur Justice Center at Ole Miss,” said Deborah H. Bell, associate dean for clinical programs and professor of law. “He has a long history of outstanding practice in Mississippi and has the state’s best interests at heart. We hope he will inspire generations of Ole Miss law students to make the state a better place.”

“I am thrilled to join the MacArthur Justice Center and this prestigious law school, and I look forward to beginning a collaborative relationship with the very talented lawyers at the center’s offices in Chicago and New Orleans,” Johnson said. “This will be a formidable alliance of experienced, savvy and successful litigators working with smart and committed law students who have been trained by the best and are enthusiastic about putting what they’ve learned into practice.

“During the past two decades, I have enjoyed a challenging and rewarding litigation practice. I have represented dozens of people in federal courts around the country who have blown the whistle on fraudulent schemes undertaken to wrongfully obtain taxpayer dollars, represented inmates facing death sentences and enduring deplorable prison conditions, and helped wage court battles against discrimination. I also gained valuable experience and insights handling criminal jury trials on behalf of the Department of Justice and, later, representing criminal defendants in federal courts.

“I’m looking forward to engaging in the same kind of fervent advocacy at this new Center and helping train the next generation of attorneys committed to the fight for human rights and social justice,” Johnson added.

Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in political science from Mississippi College in 1989 and a law degree from Columbia Law School in 1992. During 2005-2006, he was a Fulbright Scholar working as a professor at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law and the Lund University School of Law in Lund, Sweden. Since 2006, Johnson has lectured in Sweden on numerous occasions, including speeches at the Nobel Museum and Wallenberg Institute graduation ceremonies.