UM Panhellenic Council Receives Top Award

National honor places Ole Miss Greek community among nation's elite

The 2015 Panhellenic Executive Council

The 2015 Panhellenic Executive Council

OXFORD, Miss. – The National Panhellenic Conference has recognized the University of Mississippi’s Panhellenic Council with its College Panhellenic Excellence Award.

Ole Miss is among 21 universities to receive the award, out of 672 colleges and universities with Panhellenic organizations across the United States and Canada.

The award is based on core competencies of Panhellenic organizations, including recruitment planning and execution, structure, communication, implementation of judicial procedures, programming, academics and community impact.

“We proud of the Panhellenic community on earning such distinction from the National Panhellenic Conference,” said Jenell Bukky Lanski, UM coordinator of fraternity and sorority life. “The efforts from students, local alumnae, national organizations and the university in creating a meaningful experience for sorority women are inspiring. We look forward to the new academic year and future accomplishments.”

The university demonstrates those characteristics and other important qualities of a successful Greek community, said Julie Johnson, Panhellenic chairman.

“NPC is excited to recognize the outstanding efforts of undergraduate sorority women who are working together,” Johnson said. “These awards are given to those who are following the standards of excellence set for college Panhellenic associations.”

Ole Miss students on the Panhellenic Council will travel to Dallas in October to accept the award.

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program Admits Third Cohort

Prestigious teaching scholarship provides unique opportunities in exchange for commitment to teach in state

UM third METP Cohort (left to right). Back row: Harper Panter, Luke Lee, Alex Battaglia, Bre Comley, Austin Bradley, Abby Ozement. Middle row: Allie Roberson, Katie Simpson, Meg Besaw, Julie Banys, David Hamidy. Front row: Sarah Moncrief, Jenna Antolik, Shevanti Retnam, Allison Herman, Savannah Reeb.

UM third METP Cohort (left to right). Back row: Harper Panter, Luke Lee, Alex Battaglia, Bre Comley, Austin Bradley, Abby Ozement. Middle row: Allie Roberson, Katie Simpson, Meg Besaw, Julie Banys, David Hamidy. Front row: Sarah Moncrief, Jenna Antolik, Shevanti Retnam, Allison Herman, Savannah Reeb.

OXFORD, Miss. – Sixteen University of Mississippi freshmen from nine states joined the student body this week as fellows in the third class of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, one of the nation’s most valuable scholarships for future educators.

The group possesses an average ACT score of 29 and represents substantial growth for the UM program, which has 46 students enrolled from 13 states.

“You’re part of the UM family already,” UM Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks told the group Aug. 21 during an orientation session at the Lyceum. “This is the largest and brightest freshman class our university has ever seen and you are now part of it.”

The select group includes: Jenna Antolik and Julia Banys, both of Glencoe, Missouri; Alex Battaglia of Bel Air, Maryland; Meghan Besaw of Madison, Alabama; Austin Bradley-Tillett of Burleson, Texas; Breanna Comley of Belleville, Illinois; David Hamidy of Alpharetta, Georgia; Allison Herman of Niceville, Florida; Luke Lee of Madison; Sarah Moncrief of Olive Branch; Abigail Ozment of Iuka; Harper Panter of Saucier; Savannah Reeb of Lawrence, Kansas; Shevanti Retnam of Oxford; Allie Roberson of Canton and Katie Simpson of Madison.

METP prepares top-performing students for careers as secondary English or mathematics teachers and is funded by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson, which awarded UM and its sibling chapter at Mississippi State University a $12.95 million grant to build the program in 2012.

Ten of the new students will study English education and six will study mathematics education.

“There is no other program like this in the nation,” UM education dean David Rock told the group. “There are programs all over the country that will cover your tuition, but METP provides opportunities that you won’t see anywhere else because bringing students like you into education is just that important.”

The program 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.

“It’s wonderful to see such talented and passionate young people from across the nation coming here to focus their attentions on education,” said Ryan Niemeyer, METP director. “We’ve maintained the highest standards for METP. Each fellow was selected because he or she holds top credentials and a genuine belief in the important role education plays in our society.”

While most education majors begin education coursework and field experiences during their junior year, METP fellows are immersed in educational issues and theories from their first semester with specialized seminars each year.

“I want to be a teacher because I believe the greatest goal worth striving for is helping others,” said Hamidy, an English education major. “METP provides the very best opportunity for me to one day accomplish my ultimate goal and life purpose: to be a successful and impactful high school English teacher who influences students’ futures.”

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.

“I think it’s great that this is a collaborative program,” said Ozment, a math education major. “All of the plans we have to work together make me think that METP is a program that will have a very positive impact on the state of Mississippi as a whole.”

This summer, UM’s first METP cohort (Class of 2017) will take the program’s first study abroad trip to England and Scotland, where they will visit universities and secondary schools to gain a multicultural perspective on education issues.

UM Receives $575,000 Grant to Maintain VISTA Project

College of Liberal Arts given federal funding for fifth consecutive year

Susan Nicholas (left), North MS VISTA Project assistant director at UM, welcomes new volunteers Allen and Susan Spore.

Susan Nicholas (left), North Mississippi VISTA Project assistant director at UM, welcomes new volunteers Allen and Susan Spore.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts  is leading the fight against poverty through education, thanks in part to a federally-funded volunteer program.

The North Mississippi Volunteers in Service to America project entered its fifth year of funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Directed by Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the college, VISTA brings more than $575,000 annually into the region.

“In the last four years, VISTA has partnered with university departments, local nonprofits and schools in rural areas to build and strengthen programs that fight poverty through education,” Monroe said. “Our VISTAs serve with passion and energy. They are selfless people who work behind the scenes to improve lives in Mississippi.”

Examples of VISTA projects include a back-to-school fair in Tupelo that benefited thousands of low-income students, a community mentoring program to help children in the DeSoto County Youth Court system, tutoring and fundraising collaborations between UM’s LuckyDay Academic Success Program and Crenshaw Elementary School in Panola County, and the Horizons Summer Learning Program on the Ole Miss campus.

Most VISTAs have been recent graduates from UM programs, such as the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Doug Odom, a 2013 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in classics and English, spent last year building academic support programs for low-income college students and raising funds and recruiting volunteers for youth programs. He is attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University this fall.

“The most fulfilling aspect of the VISTA project, at least in my eyes, is the fact that it’s so focused on education,” said the Jackson native, who launched an after-school and summer program in Abbeville during his time as a VISTA. “I had the chance to help coordinate educational programs for elementary students in impoverished areas, as well as programs for first-generation college students from low socio-economic backgrounds. The students may have differed in age, but the underlying focus of all of the programs was the same: improving education in my home state.”

Many other VISTAs have followed a similar path, going into graduate programs at New York University, the University of Georgia, Harvard University and Stanford University.

“VISTA service benefits include a living allowance and education award,” said Susan Nicholas, assistant director of the program. “I believe the greatest benefit is the professional experience volunteers receive while honing their skills in program development, fundraising and engaging in diverse communities. All these are important to future employers and graduate school admissions committees.”

Although most VISTAs come from the university, others such as Susan and Allen Spore of Oakland, California, are recruited from out-of-state. The retired couple will be stationed at different schools in north Panola County.

“We had been researching for full-time volunteer programs, including the Peace Corps and VISTA, and were interested in working with youth and in public schools,” Susan Spore said. “We did extensive research on the Internet and felt the University of Mississippi had the best all-around VISTA support and had projects that were in line with our interests.”

The couple’s son, a Jackson attorney, encouraged them to consider Mississippi. After visiting Oxford, the Spores decided that it would be a great place to live during their assignment.

“My short-term goal is to start a literacy reading program for the lower grades at Crenshaw Elementary,” Susan Spore said. “A long-term goal is to develop and train volunteers to expand the program and ensure sustainability and investigate the feasibility of writing programs.”

Her husband shared similar objectives.

“My short-term plan is to assess the needs for college/career awareness programs, determine potential resources and partners, and recommend possible programs for the North Panola High School,” Allen Spore said. “My first long-term goal is to develop and implement college/career awareness programs, including recruiting volunteers to staff the programs and ensure sustainability. Secondly, I want to develop a fine art photography program for North Panola High/ Junior High and to recruit volunteers to implement and sustain the program.”

Monroe said he is grateful to CNCS for the work made possible by its grant.

“We’re inspired everyday by our VISTAs,” he said. “They are people of action who are strengthening our state.”

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact Susan Nicholas at or 662-915-1905.

UM Launches Online Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education

Program makes pre-K specialization accessible for educators

Several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education is offering a new online master’s degree in early childhood education. The Master of Education program is designed to prepare professional educators for a variety of roles within the field.

“If you look at the states leading in education, you will see that they have invested a substantial amount of resources in early childhood education,” said Burhanettin Keskin, UM coordinator and associate professor of early childhood education. “All the research is clear on the long-term value of programs focused on pre-K education.”

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

The 30-credit degree program includes a program track that leads to licensure from the Mississippi Department of Education. Coursework within the program will cover child development, theoretical foundations, educational research, the integration of arts and play in pre-K learning, contemporary issues and more.

ECE-banner-WhiteBGUM began developing its program in 2013, after the School of Education received $1.1 million in external funding from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation to develop both undergraduate and graduate level curricula in the field. Last fall, UM launched a 12-hour undergraduate pre-K endorsement option for elementary education majors.

“Our early childhood faculty have designed a program that integrates sound research with effective practice to provide early childhood educators with a program that will enable them to be experts in the field,” said Susan McClelland, chair of the UM Department of Teacher Education. “Research clearly demonstrates that early interactions between children and teachers focused on creating an engaging learning environment helps children acquire new knowledge and skills and enhances verbal communication. Our faculty have done an exceptional job in designing such a program.”

The online M.Ed. program requires applicants to hold a minimum 3.0 GPA on the last 60 hours of their undergraduate coursework as well as competitive Praxis II content scores or competitive GRE scores. The licensure track requires students to hold or be eligible to hold a teaching license in elementary education.

The new degree program is an opportunity for education professionals to expand their knowledge and skills in way that directly benefits young children and, by extension, Mississippi and beyond, Keskin said.

“Think of early childhood education more about providing optimum environments for children so that they can unfold their capabilities rather than solely ‘educating’ them,” he said. “You can have two identical seeds, but the one that gets the best sunlight and soil and water is more likely to do better than the one that does not.”

Janai Walton Impresses as Intern at Semmes Murphey

UM senior gained practical experience while gaining a passion for health care

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Janai Walton speaking with Ole Miss Alum and CEO, John Lewis.

OXFORD, Miss. – Everybody is familiar with the satisfaction of a job well done. But for many college students, that doesn’t necessarily translate to having high spirits about their prospective careers. Luckily for Janai Walton, her internship this summer provided both the satisfaction of good work and a career path she can be passionate about.

Walton, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Mississippi, interned for the Semmes Murphey Foundation, which specializes in technology and procedures pertaining to neurological and spinal disorders.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field,” said Walton, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee. “At first, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but a family member exposed me to pharmacy, which is now what I want to do.”

A family friend had notified Walton that the foundation would be offering internships for the first time this summer. She was chosen among a dozen summer interns to receive college credit while also gaining valuable experience in the medical field.

“It was a real good experience for me. This basically solidified this as my chosen profession,” Walton said. “Everything was straightforward and hands-on. I never got out of my comfort zone and everyone there made me feel very comfortable.”

Most of Walton’s work revolved around creating spreadsheets for various medications as well as shadowing the doctors and nurses. Surgical procedures are not for the faint of heart, but Walton was calm and collective throughout the summer.

“I was able to look in on surgeries and get real practical experience,” she said. “The opportunity to witness the whole surgical procedure was the biggest takeaway. For us even to be in the room, the patients had to sign off and OK it. It was definitely what I expected. It was crazy.”

Walton already knew that she wanted to a career in the medical field, but still would urge other students to take advantage of internship opportunities while still in school.

“Everyone should take the experience because areas can be so broad,” she said. “You never know until you are put in that situation.”

After such an eventful summer with her internship, Walton said she cannot wait to finish up her remaining courses and be able to apply what she learned.

“I really think this experience will give me more passion in my studies,” she said. “The journey in my studies has been hectic, but now I know it was all for a purpose. I know that journey was worth it.”

Following dreams and being satisfied with the outcomes are becoming less and less likely in this technological business climate, but not for Walton. Her dreams are on the cusp of coinciding with the ultimate satisfaction of finding the career she has wanted all along.

UM Pharmacy School Ranks in Top 10 for Funding

School jumps to No. 7 for extramural support for research

The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy is recognized as a major research institution and has been highly ranked for years in terms of external research funding.

The UM School of Pharmacy is recognized as a major research institution and has been highly ranked for years in terms of external research funding.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy has landed in the nation’s top 10 for total extramural funding, according to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy. Ranked No. 7 for the 2014 calendar year, the school jumped from No. 12 in 2013.

The school received $15.6 million in total extramural funding, which includes $4.7 million awarded by the National Institutes of Health. The funds garnered by the school support a variety of research projects including drug discovery and development.

Funding is highly competitive and critical to the national reputation of the university and pharmacy school.

“It is a testament to our talented faculty and scientists that the school’s funding is so highly ranked,” said David D. Allen, the school’s dean. “I am honored to work with these individuals who are dedicated to research excellence.”

The University of Mississippi is the only Southeastern Conference school ranked in the top 10.

Included in the $15.6 million is funding from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation.

“The overall ranking and the diversity in funding mechanisms speaks volumes about the breadth and depth of our research program, which continues to grow,” said Soumyajit Majumdar, associate dean of research and graduate programs.

This funding helps the School of Pharmacy further its mission to be recognized for its multidisciplinary research in the discovery, development and translation of innovative solutions to health care problems.

Leadership of Outgoing Chancellor Prompts Scholarship, Faculty Support

More than $1 million raised for endowed chair, student service award honoring Dan Jones

Dan Jones

Dan Jones

OXFORD, Miss. – Gifts continue to mount in a fundraising campaign to recognize outgoing Chancellor Dan Jones for his commitment to the University of Mississippi through faculty support and a culture of academic integrity.

To date, the Daniel W. Jones, M.D. Faculty Chair has received more than $1 million from roughly 400 alumni, faculty, staff members and friends. When completed, the chair will provide critical faculty support on a rotating basis among schools and colleges on the Oxford campus.

Rose Flenorl, chair of the UM Foundation board, expressed appreciation to everyone who has embraced the effort.

“Dr. Jones has had a deeply meaningful impact during his administration,” said Flenorl, of Memphis, Tennessee. “The Ole Miss family feels a very personal connection to him. We are so happy to have this chance to thank him for his service and give back to Ole Miss in a way that illustrates his example.”

At his 2010 inauguration, Jones highlighted attracting faculty support as a priority. Since then, the university has assembled approximately $40 million in endowed funds to continually strengthen teaching and research among UM faculty. It is estimated that UM must recruit around 215 new faculty members by the 2018 fall semester to stay on par with soaring enrollment growth.

UM alumna Suzan Thames, of Jackson – an ardent volunteer, fundraiser and board member of the Friends for Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center – turned her attention to the Dan Jones Faculty Chair initiative.

“I was ecstatic and honored to have an opportunity to assist in the campaign to endow this faculty chair in Dr. Dan Jones’ honor,” said Thames, who serves on the board of the UM Foundation and has been honored with a faculty chair in her name at Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. “I have served under Dr. Jones’ leadership for the past 12-plus years, both under his vice chancellor’s role at Medical Center and under his tenure on the Oxford campus. His exceptional leadership encouraged us all to aim for the stars.

“Talk about a win-win endeavor to honor his contributions through a named, endowed faculty chair. All the individuals I asked to support this initiative responded with an overwhelmingly enthusiastic ‘Yes.’ What a positively exciting and meaningful experience all of us have had in honoring Dr. Dan Jones.”

Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, agreed, saying, “Without question, the trust that Dan Jones engendered from supporters of the University of Mississippi helped achieve new possibilities for scholarships, funds for research and faculty support, and our ability to plan for future development and growth. His leadership has been an embodiment of his inaugural remarks regarding our duties to service and transforming lives through education.”

Before Commencement, leaders from the graduating Class of 2015 led an initiative to raise $25,000 for the Chancellor Dan Jones Service Before Self Scholarship Fund as their class gift to UM. More than successful, the campaign added an additional $27,560 to the scholarship fund.

Touted as a true public servant for education in Mississippi, Jones’ commitment to students’ well-being, academic integrity and heightened expectations of the flagship university garnered trust and admiration from numerous individuals and groups.

“I love Ole Miss,” Jones said. “I leave this position with great joy in my heart. The opportunity to be a part of this university for 30 of my 66 years is the greatest professional privilege of my life.”

Those interested in making a gift to the Dan Jones Faculty Chair can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; contribute online at; or contact Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director and chief development officer of University Development, at 662-915-3937 or

Khayat Urges UM Students to Use Opportunities and Make Choices Wisely

Former chancellor delivers address at Fall Convocation

Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat delivers the keynote address at the 2015 Fall Convocation.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat delivers the keynote address at the 2015 Fall Convocation. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Incoming students at the University of Mississippi had a unique opportunity to hear from Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat at the university’s Fall Convocation Tuesday night at Tad Smith Coliseum.

The annual Fall Convocation serves as an official welcome for first-year students. In addition, students received their class coin, a memento that serves as a reminder to uphold the values and beliefs of the university.

Khayat, author of the best-selling memoir, “The Education of a Lifetime” (Nautilus, 2013) shared stories from his years on the Ole Miss campus. The book, which was chosen for the 2015 Common Reading Experience, will serve as an integral text in First Year Experience courses.

“You have found a new home,” Khayat said. “It may seem a little strange now, walking into the residence hall for the first time and it’s not the same room you lived in while you were at home. But this home was built on 167 years of commitment of ethereal values: honesty, integrity, courage, sensitivity, truth, freedom and free expression.”

The 4,000-plus members of the audience, including both freshmen and transfer students, were presented with a perspective of the university that was as unique as Khayat himself.

“You are enrolled at a new Ole Miss that has grown and has retained its soul and its spirit, and you are sailing on fresh seas and are charting your own courses,” Khayat said.

Ending his charge to students, Khayat noted, “When you reach the end of your time at Ole Miss, the value of your experiences and who you are will be determined by the choices that you make.”

Other speakers included Morris Stocks, acting chancellor; Noel Wilkin, acting provost; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs; Melinda Sutton, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs; and Rod Bridges, Associated Student Body president.

Stocks encouraged the incoming students to remain true to themselves.

“When you are challenged by a tough situation or difficult class or uncertain expectations, call forth your will,” Stocks said. “Be strong and of a good courage, remind yourself that you have faced difficult and uncertain times in the past and that you have succeeded.”

At the conclusion of the event, students lined up to sign the Creed book. Many also had Khayat autograph their copies of his memoir as the former chancellor offered a few final words of advice.

A Decade Later, Katrina Evokes Strong Memories

UM recalls deadly storm, the response and lessons learned

A team from Ole Miss helps clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport. Photo by Robert Jordan

A team from Ole Miss helps clean up and rebuild after Hurricane Katrina at Lynn Meadows Discovery Center in Gulfport. Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss – On Aug. 29, 2005, Mississippi was changed forever as Hurricane Katrina, the worst natural disaster in United States history, ravaged the Gulf Coast, killing hundreds of people in the state and displacing thousands.

When the storm passed through, recovery efforts began immediately. Emergency agencies and personnel partnered with research institutions to get many forms of aid to the damaged area as soon as possible. The University of Mississippi, far enough north of the storm’s landfall to avoid significant damage, was able to respond in a variety of ways, as students collected and sent relief supplies to shattered communities and faculty members and students helped counsel evacuees and provide vital information to rescuers.

Almost immediately after the storm passed through the state, a team from the UM School of Engineering headed south to help in preparing maps and images for emergency response personnel and decision makers using Geographic Information Systems, or GIS. Gregory Easson, director of the UM Geoinformatics Center and professor of geology and geological engineering, took several graduate students and their equipment to Jackson to help develop a variety of maps needed by personnel in the emergency response center and in the field.

“There were a lot of people who just wanted to help,” Easson said.

Just two days following the storm, Easson and five graduate students, along with other university partners and government agencies, were set up at an emergency operations center in Jackson to make maps of everything from locations of food and ice distribution sites to cell tower coverage.

Another important service provided by the GIS support volunteers was geocoding addresses of Mississippians in need of medical help or evacuation. These maps were critical because most landmarks and street signs were destroyed in the storm, making it difficult for rescue workers to find people who needed help. Whenever the National Guard received a call with an address, the GIS team converted that address to geographic coordinates that could be used to find the person in need.

Other maps showing damage on the Mississippi Gulf Coast were used by the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency for personnel briefings, and maps created to illustrate the progress in restoring electrical power provided a good indicator of the recovery progress. The maps were distributed via the media, used in press briefings and by decision makers at MEMA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“The students were getting to use what they learned in their coursework in a vital, real-life situation,” Easson said. “It was an incredibly gratifying experience to see the amount of people that stepped up to help any way they could.”

Due to the mass outage of electricity and cell towers, many Gulf Coast-area students attending Ole Miss were unable to contact family members, said Sparky Reardon, who was the university’s dean of students at the time.

“After the storm, a father from San Antonio called me because he couldn’t get in touch with his daughter,” Reardon said. “She had a Coast telephone number and since the towers were out, nothing would go through. Someone suggested to try texting her. Shortly after that, she found a landline and called us in tears, excited that we were able to put her through to her father. That was great to be able to help with.”

The Office of the Dean of Students offered practical advice for students traveling to help their parents in the damaged area, including road damage information, and helped coordinate with instructors about class absences, Reardon said.

“The amount of issues we were dealing with was incredible,” he said.

He took the efforts a step further that October, leading a team of students to the Gulf Coast to assemble furniture for a Long Beach public school so that classes could resume.

Student groups organized collection drives on campus that netted two truckloads of bottled water, canned food and paper goods that were sent to agencies coordinating relief efforts along the Gulf Coast.

The university also established a fund for Ole Miss students displaced by the storm. Alumni, students, football fans and other donors contributed more than $250,000 to the fund, which provided direct financial assistance to more than 400 students affected by the hurricane.

On Oct. 1, 2005, the university also hosted a star-studded telethon to raise money for Gulf Coast recovery efforts. “Mississippi Rising,” a three-hour program broadcast live on MSNBC from Tad Smith Coliseum, was organized by Ole Miss alumnus and former Hollywood agent Sam Haskell. The event, which featured more than three dozen celebrities, raised more than $15 million for the Mississippi Hurricane Recovery Fund.

Stefan Schulenberg, a UM associate professor of psychology, and a multidisciplinary team of researchers have conducted research on the long-term psychological impact of the storm, in one study examining the relationship between self-efficacy and symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Schulenberg was also involved in the mental health response to Katrina. Following the storm, evacuees began to head north, many coming to Oxford, where an American Red Cross Resource Center was established at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center. Evacuees were provided with a variety of aid, including food, water and mental health assistance.

While the primary focus was on helping survivors of the storm, these efforts also gave UM graduate students a way to train in clinical disaster psychology in a real-life, critical scenario.

These research and service experiences laid the groundwork for Schulenberg and his team to study the psychological impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill among Gulf Coast communities. Both Hurricane Katrina and the oil spill were integral to the development of the university’s Clinical-Disaster Research Center in 2012. Schulenberg serves as director of the center, which is dedicated to research, training and service work in the area of disaster mental health.

“Through the center, we hope to train our graduate students in clinical psychology how best to assist mental health efforts during a time of disaster,” Schulenberg said. “Disaster preparedness, mitigation and response should be key focal areas for the state of Mississippi in preparation for the next disaster.”

UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education Awarded $1.6 Million

Funding for STEM education center renewed for three years

Middle and high school teachers develop hands-on science lessons during ASM Materials Camp, one of many professional development opportunities provided by the CMSE.

Middle and high school teachers develop hands-on science lessons during ASM Materials Camp, one of many professional development opportunities provided by the CMSE.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson has awarded $1.6 million to the University of Mississippi’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education to support its efforts to improve STEM education statewide over the next three years.

The grant marks the third time Hearin has renewed funding for the influential center, which celebrates 10 years of service in December.

“For us, this is affirmation that our work is having a real and positive impact,” said John O’Haver, CMSE director. “We’re proud and grateful for the Hearin Foundation’s support of our mission to improve the STEM pipeline flowing throughout our state.”

Established in 2006, the CMSE is part of the UM School of Education and provides professional development for more than 1,000 Mississippi STEM educators each year as well as a variety of hands-on STEM education programs for thousands of K-12 students. The CMSE has a direct impact on more than 66 percent of public school districts in Mississippi.

Over the next three years, CMSE staff plan to work more closely with the UM Department of Teacher Education. Through the grant, the center will collaborate with the department’s existing “Grow as a Group” initiative, a study of the professional development partnership possibilities when a school has a mathematics student teacher from UM who is part of its yearlong student teaching program.

The program will help bring professional development opportunities to teachers at schools where student teachers are placed. The development activities will be conducted by UM graduate students working in the field with student teachers. This initiative aims to provide updated skills and knowledge to teachers who do not have time to attend training away from their school site.

The new grant also will help provide scholarships for K-12 students to attend numerous camps and learning activities at UM.

In addition to professional development and K-12 STEM programs, the CMSE has provided valuable research fellowships for graduate students that have helped the university increase the number of earned Ph.D. degrees in mathematics education by 790 percent over the past nine years.

Alumni of the CMSE fellowship program work as faculty members at K-12 and post-secondary institutions across the state and beyond, including Blue Mountain College, Middle Tennessee State University, Mississippi State University, Mississippi College and the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, as well as at Ole Miss.

Other accomplishments by the center include:

  • Redesign of mathematics content courses for UM education majors
  • Introduction of National Science Foundation’s Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program at UM
  • Launch of FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics competitions for middle and high school students statewide, with 975 percent growth over four years
  • Development of a portable planetarium program that has benefitted more than 7,400 students since 2012
  • Establishment of UM’s MathCamp, Engineering Camp, ASM Teacher’s Camp and STEM Competition and Trebuchet Competition
  • Launch of more than 10 major professional development programs for teachers, including UM’s Mathematics Specialist Conference, Project PrIME, the MaPLES Initiative, the DEEP Learning Communities Project and UM Common Core Workshop series.

“From the start, we’ve had this vision of providing good work that benefits the state of Mississippi,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. “I like knowing that the hard work and the effort that we’ve put in has been recognized and is making an impact.”