Booneville Native Reaping Benefits of Summers in Oxford

Warren prepares for college, earns scholarships and course credit through UM Pre-College Programs

Jontae Warren of Booneville has spent the last five summers in Oxford taking courses and preparing for college through several different programs geared for students in 8th- 12th grades.

Jontae Warren of Booneville has spent the last five summers in Oxford taking courses and preparing for college through several different programs geared for students in eighth-12th grades.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Most high school students look forward to sleeping in during the summer months. Many get a part-time job or spend time lounging by the pool, but Jontae Warren of Booneville has chosen to spend his past five summer breaks a little differently.

“I guess you would say I’m a Type A personality,” Warren recently commented.

Warren is known as one of the responsible ones in his family. He encourages his three younger brothers to stay on top of their schoolwork, and he helps his grandfather’s construction business with paperwork and billing whenever he can.

Because Warren is so focused on staying on top of his responsibilities, it is no surprise that he has already gotten a head start on career goals by participating in the JumpStart program for incoming freshmen, one of several pre-college summer programs offered on the Ole Miss campus in Oxford.

“I’m impressed by Jontae’s work ethic,” said Matthew Deloach, UM Jumpstart Program director. “He is really taking advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow and prepare himself for a successful future. I think the extra effort he has put in each summer here at Ole Miss is only going to help him stand out academically and become a leader on campus. He has a bright future ahead of him.”

This summer, Warren was also tapped by Ole Miss to participate in the new Grove Scholars program that works to acclimate science, technology, engineering and math majors into their first year of college. As a Grove Scholar, Warren was awarded a scholarship to take two Ole Miss courses and participate in the JumpStart program. This gave him a chance to get a boost on his classes at Ole Miss while getting to know other students in his major.

“I’m living in the residence hall this summer with students who are going to be in some of my same classes this fall,” Warren said. “I already feel like I am part of a community. We have some of the same courses together, study together and go out to eat. It’s like starting freshman year early.”

Warren’s responsible nature has also helped him to earn financial assistance at Ole Miss when he officially begins his full-time studies in August. He earned scholarships and grants that will help pay for tuition, room and board. He has even lined up a part-time job on campus to help pay for extra expenses.

“I think being a part of the JumpStart program this year is going to give me an edge as I start the competitive pharmacy program at Ole Miss in the fall,” Warren said. “I have a chance to knock a few of my courses out this summer while I’m getting adjusted to life as a college student. We manage our own time and come and go as we please, but the main goal is to do well in our courses.”

Summers at Ole Miss aren’t a new experience for Warren. He has been participating in the university’s programs since he was in middle school. He started with the UM Summer Academy program for eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders. In eighth grade, he studied environmental science; in ninth grade, he was a member of the Lott Leadership program examining American Democracy; and in 10th grade, he participated in an intensive ACT prep course that he credits with helping him earn an ACT score strong enough to qualify for several UM scholarships.

Once he started taking summer courses at Ole Miss, Warren was hooked. He came back in the summer after his 11th-grade year to participate in the Health Programs class and completed his first college biology course and lab.

“I’ve gotten to experience so much already,” Warren said. “We had fun in class, but we also had fun outside of class. We took trips, completed the Ole Miss ropes course and played basketball at the Turner Center. There was always something fun to do.”

Warren graduated with honors from Booneville High School last month. He says he will miss his family and friends but is excited to start his college career.

“I think I’ll be ready for the hustle and bustle of my first full semester in Oxford,” Warren said. “I’ve learned my way around the library and how to schedule study time each day.”

As usual, Warren continues to think ahead about his future.

“I’m considering taking business classes to go along with my pharmacy program,” Warren said. “I want to be prepared own my own pharmacy one day.”

Warren is the son of LaSonya Shumpert and John Warren, both of Booneville.

Ole Miss’ Saiz Helps Spain to Silver Medal at U20 European Championship

Ole Miss Men's Basketball vs LSU on Wednesday night, January 15th, 2014 in Oxford, MS.

Ole Miss Men’s Basketball vs LSU on Wednesday night, January 15th, 2014 in Oxford, MS.

HERAKLION, Greece — Ole Miss sophomore forward Sebastian Saiz finished with 6 points and 8 rebounds, as Spain fell 65-57 to Turkey in the gold medal game at the FIBA Under-20 European Championship Sunday.

Saiz and Spain claim the silver medal, its eighth-consecutive podium finish, and finished with a 7-3 record at the tournament, having won a bronze medal and finished with a 6-4 record at last year’s competition, where Saiz also represented Spain.

The Madrid native appeared in all 10 games, starting the last six and logging 21.2 minutes per game. He was fourth on the team in scoring, averaging 7.3 points per game, and second in rebounding, averaging 6.9 rebounds per game.

Saiz recorded two double-doubles with 13 points and 10 rebounds in a 60-58 second-round win over Greece and 13 points and 12 rebounds in a 63-61 semifinal win over Croatia. He also scored 10 points in a 65-53 first-round win over Germany and grabbed a personal-best 14 rebounds in a 76-59 second-round win over Great Britain.

As a freshman, Saiz played in all 33 games with 13 starts, averaging 5.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game. He scored in double figures three times, including a career-high 20 points in an 88-74 overtime win over LSU. He pulled down double-digit rebounds in five games, as he finished second on the team and fifth among Southeastern Conference freshmen in rebounding.

UM Recognized Among ‘Great Colleges To Work For’

Chronicle of Higher Education surveys university employees across the nation, finds high employee satisfaction at Ole Miss

Staff members are treated to a free "desk yoga" class sponsored by RebelWell as part of Staff Appreciation Week.  Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Staff members are treated to a free ‘desk yoga’ class sponsored by RebelWell as part of Staff Appreciation Week. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the sixth time in seven years, the University of Mississippi has been recognized as one of the nation’s “Great Colleges To Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education.

UM was cited for excellence in collaborative governance, employee confidence in the university’s senior leadership, workers’ job satisfaction and also on the availability of professional and career development programs. Chancellor Dan Jones said employees are deeply committed to the university’s mission, which unites the workforce.

“We are fortunate to have a great spirit among our faculty, staff and leadership,” Jones said. “I believe it is our common commitment to our mission that is the driving force. Offering transformation of individual lives and the broader community through education, research and service binds us together.”

The full results of the survey of employees at universities and colleges across America will be featured in the Chronicle’s Academic Workplace Special Issue, which comes out July 25.

The Chronicle has recognized “Great Colleges To Work For” for the last seven years, and UM has been recognized in six of those years. In 2013, the university was recognized in nine different categories, including collaborative governance, availability of professional career development programs, quality of the teaching environment, job satisfaction and confidence in senior leadership, among others.

This year, 92 colleges across the country were recognized for having good employment environments.

Earlier this year, the university participated in the survey, which is designed to recognize institutions that have built great workplaces. The surveys designed specifically for higher education were sent to a sample of each institution’s full-time faculty, staff, administrators, and exempt and non-exempt staff. The survey answers were submitted anonymously by the employees. The questionnaires were processed by an independent third-party company, ModernThink LLC.

The spirit of UM employees also helps create a great work environment, said Clay Jones, UM assistant vice chancellor and director of human resources.

“The university is honored to once again be mentioned among other elite universities as being a great place to work,” Jones said. “We believe we offer a fantastic environment that is conducive to learning, sharing and helping others, which leads to many individuals thriving in the workplace.”

The rewarding nature of working at the university and helping with its mission of preparing the nation’s future leaders is a definite employee mood booster, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“Our dedicated faculty and staff foster an environment of excellence, creativity and respect,” Stocks said. “Our work is more than a job. It is an opportunity to have a truly rewarding professional career and a chance to make a meaningful difference in the lives of our students. The gratification that our faculty and staff experience as they fulfill the mission of the University of Mississippi is manifested in the quality education that our students receive.”

The recognition comes at a time when many universities across the nation are dealing with budget struggles, while at the same time trying to keep tuition costs as low as possible for students. The head of the company that handled the Chronicle survey said those institutions that were able to keep employees happy during tough times deserve extra credit.

“It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink. “And those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

University to Host STEM Summit July 18-19

Meeting focuses on impact of forensic science on 21st century workforce

Students learn about forensic

The second annual STEM Summit will take place July 18-19.

OXFORD, Miss. – Representatives from governmental agencies, including the FBI and DEA, grades K-12 and higher education are scheduled to participate in a national conference this weekend at the University of Mississippi.

The second annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Summit meets July 18-19. The two-day event is being sponsored by UM’s forensic chemistry program, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Department of BioMolecular Sciences, the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory and the Committee for Action Program Services-Analytical Training Laboratory.

“The focus of this summit is to continue the effort to create a consortium of colleges, universities, corporations and government agencies,” said Murell Godfrey, UM director of forensic chemistry and associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry. “Our purpose is to address how forensic science will have an impact on the U.S. and the 21st century workforce.”

Scheduled UM speakers Friday include Godfrey; Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project and professor of law; and Maurice Eftink, UM associate provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs. Other presenters are Darrell Davis, former director of the DEA South Central Laboratory and CEO/president of CAPS-ATL, and Sam Howell, director of the Mississippi State Crime Laboratory.

Friday events include tours of the university’s marijuana field and medicinal plant gardens, the city of Oxford and an agency panel discussion featuring representatives from the Army Crime Laboratory, Mississippi State Crime Laboratory, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, DEA, FBI and Aegis Analytical Laboratory.

Saturday’s session includes presentations by Christopher McCurdy, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacology, and representatives from the UM STEM research panel, Bay Waveland Middle School, Oxford-Lafayette County schools and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Registration is $100 for out-of-towners and $50 for Oxford residents. For more information, contact Murrell Godfrey at 662-915-5143 or visit

UM Seeks Hosts for Japanese Exchange Students

Aoi Okabe (center) from Osaka, Japan, celebrates her birthday during her UM exchange program experience in the fall of 2013.

Aoi Okabe (center) from Osaka, Japan, celebrates her birthday during her UM exchange program experience  in fall 2013.

Want to learn a new language and experience a different culture without leaving your house? The University of Mississippi’s Intensive English Program is looking for local individuals and families to host college-age exchange students from Japan for four weeks.

Interested hosts must provide a safe and nurturing environment, two meals a day, a private bedroom equipped with a quiet homework space and transportation to the university. Host families will receive $600 to cover expenses.

The exchange students will be visiting from Aug. 19 to Sept. 14. While at the UM, the students will take intensive English courses to improve their language skills as well as learn about Southern culture. There are optional weekend activities organized for the students including tailgating for the first home football game against Louisiana-Lafayette.

An information session is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 15) in the Old Athletics Building on campus for those interested in learning more about the host family program. For more information about the exchange program, contact Laura Vaughn at 662-915-1560 or email

Gift Provides a Tribute to Lifelong Friendship, Gifted Scholarship

Fants honor McAlexander with endowed chair of English at Ole Miss

Ruff Fant of Washington, D.C., right, and his wife, Susan, have made a major gift to the University of Mississippi to establish the Hubert McAlexander Chair of English. McAlexander, left, and Fant have been friends since their childhood days in Holly Springs.

Ruff Fant of Washington, D.C., right, and his wife, Susan, have made a major gift to the University of Mississippi to establish the Hubert McAlexander Chair of English. McAlexander, left, and Fant have been friends since their childhood days in Holly Springs.

OXFORD, Miss. – Much like chess pieces moving around a game board, Ruff Fant and Hubert McAlexander have been in and around each other’s lives since they were boys. In fact, it was the game of chess that bonded their fast friendship in the first place.

“We were both kind of intellectual little boys and I think that intellect was one of the bonds between us,” said McAlexander, recalling that the two played hundreds of games of chess growing up in Holly Springs. They’ve been close friends since.

Close enough that Fant and his wife, Susan, now of Washington, D.C., made a $1.5 million gift to the University of Mississippi in honor of that friendship, establishing the Hubert H. McAlexander Chair of English.

“I was just flabbergasted when I learned about that!” McAlexander said. “I just couldn’t believe it.”

Fant says he wanted the chair established not only to honor his friendship with McAlexander but also to serve as a tribute to his friend’s teaching and writing.

“His career should be an inspiration to all students,” Fant said. “I also wanted to honor, indirectly, Hubert’s many friends at Ole Miss and in Oxford. Much is said about change at Ole Miss, but Hubert and his generation were at the center of change. What we look back on as change was, to them, as college students, their life. I truly believe that Hubert and his generation were Ole Miss’ great generation; I hope they will always be remembered as such.”

The son of former Ole Miss law professor Lester Glenn Fant Jr., Fant is founder and chairman of TowPath Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based specialty finance company that invests in mature renewable energy projects. A practicing attorney for more than 30 years, Fant has substantial experience in federal taxation, corporate transactions, corporate finance, governance and organizational structure. He was a partner in the Washington office of Sidley & Austin from 1984 to 1995 and served on the firm’s executive committee. From 1969 to 1984, Fant was an associate and then a partner in the D.C. law firm Cohen & Uretz. He served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law Center from 1978 to 1996, teaching an advanced course in corporate taxation and ethics in the graduate program.

“I wanted to give to the English department to support the study of liberal arts,” Fant said. “Today, liberal arts education is under attack in the press and from certain politicians on the grounds that study of liberal arts is not good job preparation. But liberal arts teaches students how to think critically, adapt to new situations and communicate with others; these are the most valuable skills in the job market today.

“Technology is evolving very rapidly, and narrowly based technical knowledge quickly becomes obsolete. But the ability to think critically, understand and adapt to new situations, and communicate effectively with others will always be valued in the workplace. I was an English major in college, and I believe that my study has been extremely valuable to me both in my professional life and in my life in general.”

Fant earned an English degree with honors from Vanderbilt University and graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1966. He served on active duty as a captain in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1966 to 1969 and was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal and the American Bar Association Award for Professional Merit.

UM Chancellor Dan Jones said he applauds both the Fants and McAlexander for their contributions.

“We are profoundly grateful for the devotion and generosity of Susan and Ruff Fant,” Jones said. “They obviously gave great thought to creating a meaningful tribute to Hubert McAlexander. Their significant gift honors his lifelong teaching and writing career, while also strengthening a university they all love. This gift will have a far-reaching impact on generations of Ole Miss students, mirroring the level of influence Hubert McAlexander has had on hundreds of college students during his distinguished career.”

When the endowment matures, the McAlexander Chair of English will be filled through a nationwide search. The Fants’ gift will enable the English department to recruit an esteemed senior scholar with strong teaching and research credentials.

“It’s very expensive to hire a senior faculty member with a national reputation,” said Ivo Kamps, chair of English. “We therefore typically hire at the assistant professor level, which is less expensive, and which is fine, but it takes about 14 years before a new hire reaches the rank of full professor. When you receive a private donation like the one made by Mr. and Mrs. Fant, you are able to use that money to leap over those 14 years of development and hopefully attract someone in the prime of their career.”

The department has two named chairs: the Howry Professor in Faulkner Studies, held by Jay Watson, and the Ottilie Schillig Chair in English Composition, held by Ben McClelland.

“The McAlexander Chair will substantively improve our department and raise our academic profile as one of the strongest English departments in the region,” Kamps said. “We expect the professor who holds it to have a significant impact in the classroom, teaching our Ph.D. students in small seminars and also lecturing in the survey classes we offer at the sophomore level. In short, he or she will teach majors, non-majors and graduate students, as well as direct M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations.”

McAlexander is professor emeritus of English at the University of Georgia, where he has inspired students with engaging lectures on Southern literature for more than 50 years. Also a celebrated author, he attracted widespread praise for biographies of authors Peter Taylor and Sherwood Bonner.

McAlexander would like to see the chair filled by someone with a genuine interest in students.

“What was good about my long career is that no matter what life would bring you – and everyone my age knows it brings all sorts of things – there were always the students, and I never thought that I was sacrificing in thinking that they were important,” he said. “What I was mainly interested in was their thinking. That’s really central. When you’re teaching literature, what is it about? What’s going on here? I wanted them to think and draw their own conclusions, not just repeat what some critic has decided. I’d like to see this chair filled by a teacher who’s going to make students think.”

McAlexander has many memories of his undergraduate days at Ole Miss: “My roommate was Tom McCraw, who won the 1985 Pulitzer Prize in History and is in the Hall of Fame. I remember talking until dawn … there’s something about that college age in which people are just opening up to life and realizing certain things and wondering about certain things. Ole Miss in the college years was an awakening for me. I was very happy there. I had very good professors like Dr. Charles Noyes, and I was fascinated by Adwin Wigthall Green.”

After graduating from Ole Miss in 1961, McAlexander returned as a 23-year-old graduate instructor, teaching his first classes in 1963, and finished a master’s degree in 1966. He moved to the University of Wisconsin, where he experienced culture shock – many thought he was ignorant or a bigot because of his Southern accent – while completing his dissertation on William Faulkner for a doctorate in English. There, he met his future wife, Patricia.

“I saw her the first day,” he said. “She was very good-looking and still is. She was in two huge lecture classes that I was in back-to-back. I thought maybe it was love at first sight. I was looking at her and I thought she was looking at me, but she’s blind as a bat. (laughing) She can’t see anything. So when I finally approached her, she had never seen me!”

After receiving the doctorate, McAlexander taught briefly at Texas A&M before landing his longtime job at Georgia. Known for his dapper style, sometimes outlandish humor and no-nonsense grading, he became a sought-after teacher, receiving nearly every UGA teaching award. He is a four-time recipient of the Outstanding Honors Professor award, twice earned the Sandy Beaver Teaching Professor award and was tapped for the Josiah Meigs Award, the university’s highest teaching honor. He retired in 2010 but continues to teach literature courses for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

McAlexander was nominated for a 2002 Pulitzer Prize for “Peter Taylor: A Writer’s Life,” which also was a finalist for the Southern Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction. His other books include “The Prodigal Daughter: A Biography of the Nineteenth-Century Regionalist and Feminist Sherwood Bonner,” “Conversations with Peter Taylor,” “A Southern Tapestry: Marshall County, Mississippi:1835-2000″ and “Strawberry Plains Audubon Center: Four Centuries of a Mississippi Landscape.”

Individuals and organizations interested in providing support to the McAlexander Chair of English can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677; contact Denson Hollis at 662-915-5092 or; or visit online

University Museum Gets Ready for Oxford Blues Festival

Fifth annual event features music, lectures, VIP reception for fans, scholars

5th Annual Oxford Blues Fest to be held July 17-19

5th Annual Oxford Blues Fest to be held July 17-19

OXFORD, Miss. – The fifth annual Oxford Blues Festival will take place July 17-19 on the lawn of the Walton-Young Historic House, which is adjacent to the University of Mississippi Museum. The museum will host a VIP reception Thursday night and several panel discussions on Friday.

“The museum is exceptionally pleased to continue our partnership with the Oxford Blues Festival, an annual event that enlivens our outdoor landscape and provides additional great content in its educational sessions,” said Robert Saarnio, University Museum director. “Occurring this year in conjunction with our primary summer exhibition, ‘Blues @ Home, Mississippi’s Living Blues Legends,’ the 2014 festival makes it a wonderful ‘summer of the blues’ here at the museum.”

The Jeff Jensen Band will kick off the festival with a performance Thursday at 7:15 p.m. The VIP Meet ’n’ Greet just prior to the performance will allow ticket holders to visit with the band while enjoying food inspired by blues music.

The mission of the Oxford Blues Festival is to preserve, protect and promote blues music and culture. The festival offers education, community events and workshops throughout the year, culminating with the production of an outdoor festival uniting a diverse citizenry in a celebration of American blues-based music.

Walton-Young House

Walton-Young House

“North Mississippi has a really rich blues heritage, but it doesn’t get as much attention as Chicago or the Mississippi Delta,” festival director Darryl Parker said. “This festival is a great way to bring attention to the North Mississippi music scene. Good music, fun with family and friends. It’s a reason to celebrate.”

Panel discussions featuring Mississippi blues visual artists, scholars and musicians will take place inside the University Museum, Friday, July 18, from noon until 3:30 p.m. DeWayne Moore, UM doctoral candidate in history, will moderate the panel discussions.

Festival ticket holders will have free access to Mississippi artist H.C. Porter’s “Blues @ Home” exhibit on Friday and Saturday. “Blues @ Home” is a collection of 30 portraits of Mississippi living blues legends in their at-home settings. The paintings are paired with music and oral histories collected by project manager Lauchlin Fields.

Other artists featured in the blues festival include Eric Hughes, Big Joe Shelton, The Blues Doctors, Cadillac Funk, Libby Rae Watson, Silas Reed ’N’ Da Books, the Bluez Boys, Effie Burt, Zack Tilotson, Cameran Kimbrough and The Zediker Boys.

Passes for a single day or for the entire festival are on sale now. Ticket information is available on the festival website, including discounted tickets for early purchases. Children 12 and younger can enter free of charge with an adult. Coolers are allowed for a $5 fee, but glass is not allowed inside the venue. Food vendors will be on-site. For more information, contact Darryl Parker at or visit the festival website.

The University Museum, which is celebrating 75 years of exhibitions and service to the community, is located at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, visit or call 662-915-7073.



UM, City of Oxford Renew Fire Contract

Arrangement mutually beneficial for campus, local communities

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

The Oxford Fire Department conducts rescue drills at several of the Ole Miss dorms, including Deaton Dormitory, before the students return for fall semester.

OXFORD, Miss. – Maintaining the longstanding arrangement that yields substantial savings and an improved fire rating, the University of Mississippi has renewed its quadrennial fire protection contract with the city of Oxford.

Effective July 1, the university and the municipality continue the mutually beneficial agreement, which began in the 1980s. The city will continue to lease land from the university for both its existing and new fire stations, while the university will be serviced in the event of fire on campus. The university pays the city $550,000 annually for the protection, along with debt payment assistance on the new station near the University-Oxford Airport.

“We are happy to continue the strong relationship with the city of Oxford for fire protection for our campus,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “No university community has a stronger mutually beneficial relationship between the university and the city than ours. I am grateful to the mayor and other city leaders for this relationship and for the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep the rest of us out of harm’s way.”

On behalf of the board of aldermen, Mayor Pat Patterson said the city of Oxford is pleased to be able to continue to provide fire protection for the university and the students, faculty and staff on campus.

“Chancellor Jones and his team continue to be solid partners and friends with the Oxford-Lafayette community, and we look forward to many more decades of that friendship,” Patterson said.

The Mississippi Insurance Rating Bureau has given the city’s fire department a 4.0 fire rating. The ranking is used to determine local property insurance rates.

Both entities benefit from the decades-old partnership, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at UM and a Lafayette County volunteer firefighter.

“Once again, the university and the city of Oxford teach the nation how we can work in each other’s interest and create a safer community with a top-notch fire department,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “My thanks to Mayor Pat Patterson for his constant optimism and his belief in what we can do together.”

Oxford Fire Chief Cary Sallis agreed.

“The university leases us land for our stations and we share costs for new equipment, which is the biggest benefit to the city,” Sallis said. “It’s definitely a ‘win-win’ situation.”

UM Field Station Hosts Seafloor Science Camp

Middle school students plunge into deep-sea exploration technology at UM Field Station


Students use deep-sea exploration technology at summer camp at the UM Field Station

OXFORD, Miss. – A dozen middle school students recently spent a week delving into deep-sea science and technology at a summer camp sponsored by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education and the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology at the UM Field Station.

Students in the Seafloor Science and ROV camp had opportunities to engage in electronics challenges, team-building and mock ocean exploration and research activities using remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, to simulate research on an ocean vessel.

Geoff Wheat, director of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, or NIUST, helped develop the program that aids young, aspiring scientists to better understand the equipment used to gather information from the deep sea.

“Oceanographers in general do not have the training to fix their electronic equipment if it breaks at sea” Wheat said. “This camp helps young students interested in ocean research get a better appreciation of all aspects of sea-going activities and an understanding of the basic electronics that make their equipment work”

Ocean science is a fascinating field that teachers can tell kids about, but the students get a better understanding of the work involved in an oceanography career by spending a week doing an actual oceanography or ocean engineering, said Michelle Edwards, marketing and outreach specialist for NIUST and the field station.

“We are trying to help kids understand the job opportunities they have in math and science by giving them a real-world application,” Edwards said.

The students spent the early part of the week learning the ins and outs of undersea ROV technology, including materials, design and fabrication, and sampling equipment. Students finished each activity with scientist’s log entries.

Since the camp was not be able to head to the coast, the weekly lessons culminated in the hands-on experience of operating an undersea ROV in the university’s Turner Center pool on Thursday (June 19).

“The students will build ROVs this week and operate them in the Turner Center pool and get a ‘deep ocean’ experience,” Edwards said.

This is the inaugural session of this camp, said Wheat, who came up with the idea while participating in his children’s kindergarten class. He has worked on the camp’s modules for the past eight years. He hopes to hold the camp in more places and continue teaching children about opportunities in ocean engineering and research.

Joe Rea, a seventh-grader from Mooreville, realized he wants to know more about underwater engineering because of the camp.

“Everything I’ve learned about underwater engineering is fun so far,” Rea said. “I enjoyed actually building the ROVs.”

Participants in the camp were: Katelyn Booker, Alphonse Johnson, Jahra Martin, Ciarra Nicholson and Olivia Toles of Coffeeville Middle School, Addison Floyd and McKayla Hodges of Okolona Middle School, John Stewart and James Jubera of Oxford Middle School, Joe Rea of Mooreville Middle School and Elijah Hollis of Fairview Elementary School in Asheville, North Carolina.

The UM Field Station offers opportunities for research in aquatic and terrestrial ecology. Located 11 miles northeast of the Oxford campus on Bay Springs Road, the 740-acre station lies in a scenic, three-mile-long, V-shaped valley surrounded by wooded hills and teeming with natural springs and seeps. To learn more about research and education programs at the Field Station, go to

UM Alumni Margaret and Kat King Celebrate Third Book

Oxford natives hold book launch at Off Square Books

King Book

Margaret and Kat King

OXFORD, Miss. – Oxford authors and Ole Miss alumni Margaret and Kat King will celebrate the publication of their third book, “Our Josephine,” at 5 p.m. Tuesday (July 1) at a book-signing event at Off Square Books.

The identical twins’ most recent publication is a memoir set in Vicksburg in 1957, when the King sisters were sent to stay with their 88-year-old great grandmother for 10 days. The book focuses on the duo’s relationship with a young woman named Josephine, a 16-year-old African-American caregiver to their great-grandmother. In the memoir, Kat and Margaret experience the complexities of race relations in the 1950s South from a 9-year-old white child’s perspective.

“I remember we went into town one day and there were two water fountains: white and colored,” Margaret recalled. “So, I remember that I wanted to drink some colored water. I went over there and thought it was broken. It was just like the water out of the white fountain. We went through a lot of different phases of trying to understand what was going on in the world. We realized our lives were so different from Josephine’s.”

The alumni aren’t looking to turn a profit with the publication of “Our Josephine.” The pair said that if success does come their way, they plan to invest it into the Oxford community. They also hope to help Josephine, who is still alive and well in Vicksburg, build a nice house on her family’s land with profits from the book. Josephine is scheduled to attend the book-signing event.

Graduates of the Ole Miss School of Education, Margaret and Kat have previously published two other works concerning their childhood, the first being “Y’all Twins?” and the second book “Which is Which?” Their debut work, Y’all Twins?” is set in Oxford in the 1950s and paints a picture of their hometown when the Oxford and Ole Miss community was a fraction of its current size.

During this time, the King sisters had more than one run-in with Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, who lived just down the road. When they weren’t sneaking rides to the corner of their street in the back of Faulkner’s wagon, the two were usually getting into some other sort of trouble or adventure.

Kat, Margaret King Book Cover“I’d be Lucy and she’d be Ethel,” said Kat, speaking in reference to her sister. “Lucy was always the one that got them into trouble. That was pretty much always me.”

Kat, a lifelong educator, is a mathematics instructor at Northwest Mississippi Community College, and Margaret is a retired government employee. The twins built a house together on land in Oxford that their father bought in the mid-1950s. Their writing process consists of the two recalling memories in their living room with one laptop.

“Margaret always insists that we write it together,” Kat said. “If I did it all, I would probably just paint the entire picture to make myself look better.”

The event will be catered by Louisiana Rub Down and will also feature wine, cheese and chocolate chip cookies baked personally by the King twins. The sisters will sign copies of their book that will be available for purchase at the event.