Clinical Pharmacy Pioneer to Give UM Waller Lecture

John E. Murphy selected as distinguished lecturer for Nov. 4 event

John E. Murphy

John E. Murphy

OXFORD, Miss. – John E. Murphy, professor and associate dean for academic affairs at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy, will deliver the 2016 Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture at the University of Mississippi.

The Nov. 4 lecture, “Pharmacy World Domination,” is set for 11 a.m. at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The School of Pharmacy and its Department of Pharmacy Practice are sponsoring this free event.

“The Department of Pharmacy Practice is very honored to have Dr. John Murphy as this year’s Coy W. Waller lecturer,” said Seena Haines, chair of pharmacy practice. “He has made significant contributions to our profession through numerous accomplishments related to his academic career, clinical practice advancement and service to the profession.”

Murphy is a former interim dean of the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy. He is also a professor of family and community medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson and an honorary professor at the University of Otago School of Pharmacy in New Zealand.

He earned his bachelor’s and Pharm.D. degrees from the University of Florida and has published more than 200 papers, 100 abstracts and five editions of the journal Clinical Pharmacokinetics. He also is co-editor of the Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program.

Murphy has also served as president of the American College of Clinical Pharmacy, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists and Georgia Society of Hospital Pharmacists. Among his numerous professional and teaching recognitions are the Award for Sustained Contributions to the Literature of Pharmacy Practice from the ASHP Research and Education Foundation, the ASHP Whitney award, the ACCP Education Award and the Robert K. Chalmers Distinguished Teaching Award from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

The Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture series was established in 2004 to recognize the former director of the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences’ contributions to the field of pharmaceutics and the pharmacy school. Each year, a department within the school hosts the lecture, and lecturers are selected for their contributions to the host department’s discipline.

UM Remembers Dedicated UPD Officer Robert Langley

Family, friends and co-workers share memories at campus service

Lisa Langley Robertson, left, and her late husband, UPD Officer Robert Langley, right. Submitted photo.

Lisa Langley Robertson, left, and her late husband, UPD Officer Robert Langley, right. Submitted photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – Law enforcement officers from across the state gathered Friday with friends and family members of fallen University of Mississippi police Officer Robert Langley to pay tribute on the 10th anniversary of his death in the line of duty.

Langley, who also was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, was killed Oct. 21, 2006, while assisting with a traffic stop on Jackson Avenue near campus. He left behind a wife, two sons and two stepdaughters. His widow, Lisa Langley Robertson, tearfully said at the memorial at Paris-Yates Chapel that her husband’s tragic death and all the pain that came with it had one positive consequence.

“This tragedy brought our community so close together,” she said. “He would be so proud. As so many have spoken today, he was loved and he still is loved.”

Her remarks came at the end of a somber service during which friends and colleagues remembered Langley for being a dedicated police officer, loving father and good friend who was always bringing people together. His widow challenged the crowd to reflect on how they themselves would want to be remembered.

“If you’re not completely satisfied at this point, you still have time to write your story,” Robertson said.

The Ole Miss student driving the vehicle that killed Langley pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years. The tragedy shocked and saddened the UM community and prompted changes aimed to create a safer campus environment.

Langley, 30, served in the Mississippi Army National Guard and had returned from a 14-month deployment to Afghanistan six months before he died. He also had become certified to work with the university’s K-9 officer, Truus, and served on both UPD’s motorcycle and bike patrols, among other duties. He grew up in foster care and was a high school running back at Madison-Ridgeland Academy, and also played running back at Delta State University.

His son Robbie Langley, a junior at Lafayette High School, wore his own football jersey to the ceremony ahead of the game Friday night. Langley is the starting kicker, and UPD helped arrange with his coach for him to be made captain for the game even though he is only a junior. He learned the news just before kickoff.

At the memorial Friday, Langley’s former UPD coworkers recalled that the officer radiated positive energy every day, and they all drew strength from it.

Robbie Langley’s football team is reading “The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy” by Jon Gordon. The book uses the analogy of a bus needing to be fueled with good gas (positive energy) instead of negative fuel as a metaphor for living.

“I’m not trying to say be like my dad,” Robbie Langley said. “That’s not what we’re trying to say, but from what everyone else has had to say today, he made an impact.

“I guarantee you he had positive energy on his bus. … Please don’t put negative energy in your bus before you go to work or go out or do anything because it’s going to have an impact on someone and you can’t take it back.”

At the ceremony, the Langley family was presented with a fallen officer’s flag honoring him.

The tragedy has had long-lasting effects on the community. A stretch of Jackson Avenue where Langley died was renamed for him with a marker placed there. All UPD vehicles still have “B-5,” which was Langley’s radio call number, on them, and all officers wear a B-5 emblem on their uniform. His picture hangs in the entrance to UPD.

Langley’s death sparked the creation of the Alcohol Task Force, which was charged with finding ways to make the university and Oxford community safer. As a result of the recommendations issued in 2007, the university created a two-strike policy for students with drug and alcohol violations.

The task force report also led to comprehensive health assessments of UM undergraduates, the creation of the Office of Health Promotion and the mandatory online education and prevention initiative, AlcoholEdu.

UM also launched an awareness campaign to explain the university’s expectations for student behavior on game days and other major campus events, as well as consequences of violating those expectations. The university and Oxford also created the Oxford-University Transit, a public transportation system.

Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Lynn Webb, a former UPD officer who rode on the motorcycle unit with Langley, worked with him on the night shift. She was reassigned to the same shift as Langley the week he died and got to spend the last few days working closely with her good friend.

Webb said she, Langley and the other UPD officers were a close group who often hunted, fished and rode all-terrain vehicles together when they weren’t on duty. She remembers Langley as fun-loving, but someone who worked hard to be the best at his job.

He checked in weekly with his UPD coworkers while he was deployed to Afghanistan. They would ask him if he was OK, but he would respond that his work was classified, just so he could keep the conversation focused on UPD happenings.

At the memorial service, Webb fondly recalled spending a few late-night hours hitting baseballs with Langley at Swayze Field the week he died. She was on duty with him the night he lost his life and said it’s important for coworkers, especially those in law enforcement, to have that kind of closeness.

“He had told me that he never wanted to be alone,” Webb said, choking back tears. “I feel that God put me on that shift that night to be with him because he knew something was going to happen. I just want you to remember that you don’t have to go out and be friends with your coworkers when you’re off, but when you put on that uniform, we are all brothers and sisters.

“You have to know something about each person you work with so you that know how they tick and you know what it takes to back them up. You have to know deep down in your heart that you have that person’s back. Robert had our back every day. You never had to guess where Robert was. He was there.”

Sue Keiser Named UM Chief of Staff

Longtime staff member represents chancellor's office on campus and beyond

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Sue Keiser. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Chancellor Jeff Vitter has announced that Sue Keiser, special assistant to the chancellor, is his new chief of staff.

“I am very pleased that Sue has agreed to assume the role of chief of staff,” Vitter said. “For almost 20 years now, she has been a cornerstone for our university and brings tremendous experience, knowledge and dedication to the position.

“Sue is one of our most respected and well-known ambassadors. She is absolutely the best representative Ole Miss could have, and I rely on Sue on a daily basis.”

Keiser has been with the university since early 1998, serving primarily as assistant to four chancellors. However, her connection to Ole Miss goes back much further. She came to UM from Greenville as a nontraditional student in the late 1970s, when she earned a bachelor’s degree in English.

“To be asked to serve as chief of staff to the chancellor for the University of Mississippi – an institution that opened the doors to a completely new world of knowledge and opportunity that changed the direction of my life and my children’s lives more than 35 years ago – is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened to me,” Keiser said.

“I am honored that Chancellor Vitter has entrusted me with this responsibility, and I look forward to working with him as we continue to change and transform lives through education in the future.”

Her duties include responding to a variety of questions and concerns from IHL board members, alumni, students and other members of the university community. She acts as a liaison between the office of the chancellor and vice chancellors and various departments and constituents on the Oxford campus.

Keiser also oversees the chancellor’s office and its staff, and serves as a chancellor’s office representative on many university committees.

She was honored with the Staff Council’s Outstanding Staff Member-Overall award in 2006.

She is married to Edmund Keiser, professor emeritus and chair emeritus of the university’s Department of Biology. She has four children, Mark, Skip, Julie and Jen, and six grandchildren.

John R. Gutiérrez Named UM Humanities Teacher of the Year

Honoree to present lecture in linguistics Nov. 9 on campus

John R. Gutiérrez

John R. Gutiérrez

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council have named John R. Gutiérrez, Croft professor of Spanish, as the university’s Humanities Teacher of the Year.

Gutiérrez joined the UM faculty in 2000 to teach and mentor students with the Croft Institute for International Studies and to develop Spanish-language instruction in Mississippi as a form of outreach.

In celebration of the award, Gutiérrez will present a lecture on “Untapping a Linguistic Resource: Teaching Spanish as a Heritage Language in the United States” at 7 p.m. Nov. 9 in Bryant Hall, Room 209. A Q&A session and reception will follow the lecture.

“Dr. Gutiérrez has been an exceptional teacher on the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages for many years, an educator who has demonstrated throughout his career that he puts his students first and who offers the highest quality education for those around him,” said Donald Dyer, UM chair of modern languages.

“He has worked steadfastly to improve the teaching of Spanish not only for students at the University of Mississippi but also through K-12 in the state itself.”

From 2000 to 2007, he worked with the National Foreign Language Center to secure grants from the U.S. Department of Education’s Foreign Language Assistance Program to implement Spanish language programs for elementary students in school districts across Mississippi. Since then, Gutiérrez has also worked with the UM Office of Study Abroad to establish international studies programs in Spain, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

“Anytime I walk across campus, I see my colleagues in other departments quietly toiling away at their jobs,” Gutiérrez said. “They impart their knowledge and their passion for their specific area of expertise, never seeking any recognition for doing what they love.

“I have done this at Ole Miss for several years now, and the award came not only as a big surprise, but it served to recognize that the university and the College of Liberal Arts have appreciated my attempts to instill my students with the passion for linguistics and the Spanish and Portuguese languages that I have cultivated over my long career.”

Each year since 1995, the award has been given to a humanities scholar at each of the state’s institutions of higher learning. The criteria include excellence of classroom instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

More than 70 percent of the students Gutiérrez has mentored have achieved an advanced score on the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview before graduation. His research focus includes exploring the factors that hinder American students from achieving high levels of proficiency in Spanish and Portuguese.

Andrew Hayes, a junior from Saltillo majoring in international studies, struggled with Spanish in high school, but after spending a year learning with Gutierrez, he’s traveled to Spanish-speaking countries without using English.

“None of this would have been possible without Dr. Gutiérrez’s clear instruction, simple breakdown of complex ideas and, most importantly, his enduring patience with his students,” Hayes said. “Every time Dr. Gutiérrez steps into the classroom, you know that he is just bursting to teach anyone who will listen everything he knows about Spanish, and that energy is infectious among the students.

“He has not only taught me how to speak another language, but he has opened up a whole new world of experiences and opportunities for me. That, more than anything else, is the gift that Dr. Gutiérrez has given to me in his Spanish class, and I think any of his students would agree that he has earned his recognition for excellence many times over.”

Gutiérrez earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from New Mexico State University and his doctorate in romance languages from the University of New Mexico. Before his arrival at the Croft Institute in 2000, he served as director of the Basic Language Program at the University of Virginia, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor of Spanish linguistics at Penn State University and director of the Spanish for Heritage Learners Program at the University of Arizona.

For the 2014-2015 academic year, he was invited as a distinguished visiting professor to the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he consulted faculty on their Spanish language program and created a Spanish for Heritage Learners course at the academy.

UM Engineering School Raises Admission Standards

Move makes entrance more stringent, odds of student success higher

Enrollment in the UM School of Engineering has nearly tripled in recent years, even as the school has raised its admission standards to help ensure students are adequately prepared for the rigors of the curriculum. Photo by Kevin Bain-Ole Miss Communications

Enrollment in the UM School of Engineering has nearly tripled in recent years, even as the school has raised its admission standards to help ensure students are adequately prepared for the rigors of the curriculum. Photo by Kevin Bain-Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – To give its students better chances to graduate and launch successful careers, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering has raised admission standards for most of its degree programs.

To enroll in the Bachelor of Science programs in chemical engineering, civil engineering, computer and information science, electrical engineering, geological engineering, geology, and mechanical engineering, students must have a minimum ACT math subscore of 25 and high school core GPA of 3.0.

These standards are based on the level of preparedness students need for the first-year engineering curricula, Dean Alex Cheng said.

“As a professional school in the state’s flagship university, the School of Engineering’s mission is to give its graduates, through an interdisciplinary background, the abilities to adapt to the rapid changes in engineering,” Cheng said. “The school is committed to its mission of providing a liberal arts-enhanced professional education of the highest quality that broadens students’ experiences and future success.”

As the standards have gotten tougher, demand for the school’s program has soared, said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics.

“During my 12 years in the engineering dean’s office, I have witnessed undergraduate enrollment in this school go from 576 to 1,565, total annual graduates go from 78 to 221, admission standards go from none to 25 on the ACT math, and career fair participation go from fewer than 10 companies to more than 50 companies,” Kendricks said.

“I am totally confident that we’re on the right track for the next decade. The rising tide of engineering-interested high school students has allowed this program to set new high-water marks in terms of admission standards, academic expectations and graduate achievement.”

Since fall 2004, the average overall ACT score of the entering freshman class has increased from 23.9 to 27.3, and the GPA from 3.24 to 3.66.

For less-prepared students, a pathway to success is created in the General Engineering degree program. Students with a minimum ACT math subscore of 20 and high school core GPA of 2.8 can be admitted to the pre-engineering program in general engineering.

Preparatory math and first-year student experience courses are provided to assist students in meeting the prerequisites of the first-year curricula. Students get individual advice for a successful transfer into the engineering degree programs they choose, for an on-time completion or a minimum amount of extra time to degree.

The General Engineering degree is one of the school’s most innovative and versatile programs. Students in this program can pursue different emphases, such as pre-med, pre-law, business, education, manufacturing, public policy and military leadership.

“The five engineering degrees – chemical, civil, electrical, geological and mechanical – have been accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology since the 1950s,” Cheng said. “The computer and information science degree is accredited by the Computing Accreditation Commission of ABET.”

Many engineering students are enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, one of the nation’s top honors programs. Many students have opportunities to pursue undergraduate research, study abroad or to enroll in special programs, such as the Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

In collaboration with the School of Law, the engineering school also has a 3+3 accelerated engineering and law degree program. Most Ole Miss engineering students are engaged in service, including the highly successful Engineers Without Borders chapter that renders service in Africa.

The school’s broad-based education has produced well-rounded engineers, and many of them have become national leaders in the industry, government and higher education sectors. Graduates enter not only the professions of engineering and technology, but also the diverse fields of medicine, law, business and public service.

“I’m so very optimistic about the future of Ole Miss engineering,” Kendricks said. “I can hardly wait for Summer Orientation to welcome our incoming 2017 freshmen class.”

UM Physics Department Offers Hair-Raising Night of Science

'Spooky Physics Night' shows off scientific principles in educational, fun format

Fairy princess had a hair-raising experience at previous Spooky Physics Night. Photo by Nathan Latil maging Services, The University of Mississippi

A fairy princess has a hair-raising experience at a previous ‘Spooky Physics Night.’ Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Frights, food and fun are the order of the evening when the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy presents its annual “Spooky Physics Night” demonstrations from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday (Oct. 28) in Lewis Hall.

The program will include a stage show at 8 p.m. Hands-on activities for the public through the evening include freezing objects in liquid nitrogen (at minus 320 degrees), generating sound waves with Bunsen burners and tubes, and levitating magnets with superconductors. Other fun presentations include optical illusions with mirrors, hair-raising encounters with a Van de Graaff generator, a bed of nails and other contraptions.

Physics department personnel also will prepare ice cream with liquid nitrogen and award prizes for the most original, scariest and cutest costumes to kids 12 and under.

“We at the Department of Physics and Astronomy really look forward to this event,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and coordinator of the evening’s activities. “As in the past years, there will be shows and a lot of hands-on science demonstrations with a Halloween twist to experience weird physics phenomena, from electricity to heat and pressure to the ultra-cold.

“And to make the evening sweeter, guests will be able to taste our world-famous liquid nitrogen ice cream!”

Visitors can park across the street in the various lots around the Turner Center. For more information or for assistance related to a disability, call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 662-915-5325.

Greers’ Love of Writing Leads to Endowment

Couple establishes fund to support critical thinking, empower students

Reba Greer (center, in blue) and her husband, Lance (front, to her left), attend a reception in their honor hosted by faculty and staff of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, for which the Greers established an endowment. Photo by Bill Dabney

Reba Greer (center, in blue) and her husband, Lance (front, to her left), attend a reception in their honor hosted by faculty and staff of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, for which the Greers established an endowment. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – To say that Reba McCullouch Greer simply has a passion for writing is an understatement. She has devoted her career and life to changing the way students learn to write.

With the establishment of the McCullouch-Greer Endowment to Advance Writing as a Civic Responsibility, Greer has extended this mission to include University of Mississippi students as well.

Greer graduated from Ole Miss in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in English, which prepared her for work in Georgia, California, New York and Maryland. As a teacher, school administrator and central office supervisor in Virginia, she developed programs to help K-12 students understand and apply their writing and research process to create hypothesis-based text.

“I was always looking for something that would incorporate writing and that would also give back to the state of Mississippi,” Greer said.

Returning to Oxford, Greer and her husband, Lance, were pleased to discover the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, a curriculum that did not exist during her days at Ole Miss. They instantly felt a connection and wanted to help the department grow.

“Reba Greer is known well as someone who is invested in improving literacy in Mississippi,” said Robert Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. “This is an interest that we quickly discovered we shared.”

The McCullouch-Greer Endowment was established to advance writing as a civic responsibility and to empower students to read, digest, craft and argue hypothesis-based responses. This is an integral part of what drives Greer’s fundamental beliefs about the value of proficient writing skills in a world where a liberal arts education is often underestimated.

“The department is over the moon about her involvement,” Cummings said. “Greer is someone who understands the centrality of writing and rhetoric in being a full participant in democracy, especially being able to translate and evaluate events.

“With this partnership, I am hopeful we can work toward this goal of improving literacy in Mississippi together.”

The endowment aims to support the department’s ongoing and future efforts to offer a writing education based on critical thinking, ethics-based reasoning, oral communication and written communication.

“I want to make sure that kids who have a need, who want a liberal arts education and who choose to pursue a degree in technical and research writing have the opportunity to do so,” Greer said.

“I want to encourage us to recognize that writing as a civic responsibility is a critical component of American democracy and also helps us grow Mississippi’s economy. I hope others will join us in this support for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.”

The McCullouch-Greer Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit

For more information about the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, call 662-915-2121 or visit

UM Physics Student Wins Prestigious Research Award

Wanwei Wu headed to FermiLab to further study particle physics

UM physics grad student Wanwei Wu conducting research in one of the departmental labs.(Submitted photo)

UM physics graduate student Wanwei Wu conducts research in one of the departmental labs. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – As scientists worldwide continue delving into the secrets of the universe, a University of Mississippi graduate student joins the ongoing exploration of particle physics, studying the most infinitesimally tiny pieces that comprise matter.

Wanwei Wu of China has been selected to receive a Universities Research Association Visiting Scholar Award of $25,920 for his proposal, “Beam Dynamics in the Muon g-2 Storage Ring.” The prestigious honor from the consortium that manages Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will fund 12 months of on-site research at the facility starting Nov. 1. This award is for the reimbursement of salary and university fringe benefits.

In the three years since the university joined URA, the research group led by Breese Quinn, associate professor of physics, has received two URA Visiting Scholar awards (postdoctoral researcher Jim Kraus also received the honor in 2013) and a FermiLab Intensity Frontier Fellowship (given to Quinn, also in 2013). Several other URA members have yet to receive an award.

“Wanwei’s proposal was selected in competition with postdocs and professors from the top universities in the nation,” Quinn said. “This record for Mississippi demonstrates that we are benefiting greatly from membership in URA, and the U.S. particle physics program is benefiting from the quality researchers that Mississippi is sending to work at FermiLab.”

Wu, who applied for the fall 2016 URA Visiting Scholars Program Award in August, said he was glad when he heard his proposal was approved at the end of September.

“I am glad that the URA offered me this award,” Wu said. “I will work hard and make sure the project completed on time.”

Wu’s work is based on the FermiLab Muon g-2 Experiment, which could produce important advances in particle research, Quinn said.

“We are measuring how much the muon precesses, or wobbles, when it moves in a magnetic field,” he said. “If we find that the amount of wobble is different than what we expect, it will be a discovery that there are definitely other particles in the universe that we have never seen before.

“Wanwei’s specific work is to produce an extremely high-quality and well-understood muon beam to measure.”

A graduate of Sichuan University in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, Wu said his intrinsic love with physics leads him to keep studying and exploring the amazing secrets of nature. He came to Ole Miss because he said attending here is the best way for him to pursue such a goal.

“The courses on physics I took at UM are important and helpful to start my research,” Wu said. “The academic spirits I learned from professors at the department really encourage me and my research with belief.

“The theoretical training on particle physics I got from Dr. (Alakabha) Datta (associate professor of physics and astronomy) is extremely useful to understand the phenomena on experimental particle physics. I really appreciate all the professors, as well as graduate classmates, at the department for their help.”

Wu’s award attests to the strength of the department and the quality of its faculty, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“All three of our URA Awards demonstrate that the University of Mississippi is leading the way in finding answers to the most complex questions everyone has about the universe and its origins,” Bombelli said. “As our reputation for excellence grows, I feel confident the department’s faculty and students will continue to attract researchers who excel in their studies.”

By building some of the largest and most complex machines in the world, FermiLab scientists expand humankind’s understanding of matter, energy, space and time. The organization is at the forefront of research into neutrinos, ubiquitous but hard-to-catch particles that might point to a better understanding of the first moments after the Big Bang.

The proposed international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, to be based at FermiLab, will be the world’s largest experiment for neutrino science and proton decay studies.

FermiLab is also heavily involved in research at the Large Hadron Collider and serves as the U.S. headquarters for the CMS experiment there.

FermiLab scientists are at the cutting edge of research in dark matter and dark energy, which helped shape the universe and will continue to guide its evolution into the future. Fermilab is a base for exploration of the fundamental particles and forces that govern our world on the smallest scales.

For more information about the UM Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit For more information about Fermilab, go to

UM Pharmacy Researchers Launch Diabetes Self-Management Project

Effort supported by $214,000 grant from independent research institute

UM School of Pharmacy researchers Meagen Rosenthal (left) and Erin Holmes meet with a diabetes patient as part of their PCORI-funded diabetes study. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

UM School of Pharmacy researchers Meagen Rosenthal (left) and Erin Holmes meet with a diabetes patient as part of their PCORI-funded diabetes study. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Researchers from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy invite diabetes patients from three north Mississippi communities to meet with physicians, pharmacists, nurses and others in a nonclinical environment to talk about where they struggle with diabetes self-management.

The effort to help patients self-manage their health is funded by a Eugene Washington Engagement Award of $214,084 from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

The researchers are seeking people with diabetes from Oxford, Charleston and Saltillo to meet with medical professionals. Together, they will brainstorm patient-centered research questions aimed at improving strategies for diabetes self-management.

“Traditionally, people with diabetes have been the receivers of information about how they can better manage their condition,” said Meagen Rosenthal, UM assistant professor of pharmacy administration. “This project is designed to turn people with diabetes from receivers of information to the generators of information.

“We will ask people specifically about areas where they struggle with diabetes self-management and use that information to develop research projects that specifically target those concerns.”

The project, titled “PaRTICIpate in Diabetes Self-Management Research Collaborative: A Conference Series,” will build on research that shows improvement in the health of diabetes patients when they are able to self-manage their treatment. (The “PaRTICI” in “PaRTICIpate” stands for “Patient Centered Research to Improve Community Involvement.”)

Rosenthal is leading the project, along with Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration, and Donna West-Strum, chair of the Department of Pharmacy Administration.

The initial meetings are set for 6-8 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Stone Center in Oxford, 1-3 p.m. Nov. 1 at Saltillo Pharmacy and Solutions in Saltillo and 6-8 p.m. Nov. 3 at the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston. Food and gift cards will be provided free for participants.

Mississippi has the second-highest rate of adults with type 2 diabetes in the nation. This prevalence is a major concern for pharmacists and one of the reasons for the study.

“Through these discussions, we hope to develop new research projects that matter to patients,” Rosenthal said. “These projects will develop evidence that is meaningful to people with diabetes, making the research more likely to be adopted and used to improve their health.”

The project is one in a portfolio of projects approved for PCORI funding to help develop a skilled community of patients and other stakeholders from across the entire health care enterprise and to involve them meaningfully in every aspect of the institute’s work.

“This project was selected for Engagement Award funding not only for its commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to increase the usefulness and trustworthiness of the information we produce and facilitate its dissemination and uptake,” said Jean Slutsky, PCORI’s chief engagement and dissemination officer.

“We look forward to following the project’s progress and working with the UM School of Pharmacy to share the results.”

The UM School of Pharmacy project and the other projects approved for funding by the PCORI Engagement Award program were selected through a competitive review process in which applications were assessed for their ability to meet the institute’s engagement goals and program criteria.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization that funds comparative effectiveness research that will provide patients, caregivers and clinicians with evidence needed to make better-informed health care decisions.

For more information or to RSVP for the initial discussion sessions, contact Rosenthal at 662-915-2475.

Ross Bjork Named UM Vice Chancellor for Intercollegiate Athletics

Ole Miss also announces athletics director's contract extended through 2020

Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork has been named vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi.

In announcing that Bjork had been given the new vice chancellor title, university officials also noted that an agreement was reached this summer to extend the athletics director’s contract to June 30, 2020.

UM’s request to give Bjork the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics was approved Thursday by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions for Higher Learning.

The new title, as well as the extension of Bjork’s contract to reach the four-year maximum allowed by the state, reflects the university’s appreciation and support of the athletics director’s exemplary work since coming to Ole Miss, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“Athletics serves an important role at our university as our ‘front porch’ – capturing the hearts and minds of people and bringing them to campus so that they can experience the full richness of our great university,” Vitter said. “Athletics has played a big role in elevating the Ole Miss brand to its strongest point in school history.

“The success of our athletics program is unprecedented and is directly attributable to Ross’ leadership. Naming him as the vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics will continue that momentum. I expect under Ross’ leadership that athletics will continue to be an integral part of our growth and increased visibility.”

Ole Miss is the fifth school in the SEC to give its athletics director the vice chancellor designation, which more accurately reflects the all-encompassing role of the position.

“The idea is that this puts the AD at the table with the provost and other academic leaders on campus on a regular basis,” said Ron Rychlak, UM professor of law and faculty athletics representative. “That facilitates communication between athletics and academics, which is good for all parts of the university.”

Bjork has led Ole Miss athletics programs to unprecedented success since his arrival in 2012. Under his guidance, support has increased with record private donations and record attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball. The athletics budget has increased from $57 million upon his arrival to $105.5 million for the 2016-17 season.

“My family and I are very grateful for the support and confidence shown by Dr. Vitter and the entire university community with a renewed long-term commitment to continue leading Ole Miss athletics,” Bjork said. “Holding the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics is not only symbolic of the department’s core values, but also solidifies our role in the university’s overall mission of educating the next generation of America’s leaders.

“I am a big believer in being fully integrated with the university and will continue forward with a great sense of responsibility.”

As a result, Stephen Ponder, the senior executive associate athletics director for external relations, will be promoted to the title of deputy athletics director.

“Stephen has shown great leadership in so many areas since his arrival four years ago,” Bjork said. “His energy level and ‘can do’ attitude have allowed us to grow our entire athletics program physically, financially, competitively and emotionally.

“This promotion to deputy athletics director is well-deserved and fitting for Stephen as my right-hand person. I am grateful for Stephen’s leadership and blessed to work with the best coaches and athletics staff in the country.”

Bjork’s direction of the Forward Together campaign has garnered more than $170 million in donations, resulting in the construction of The Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium expansion and the renovations of the Gillom Center, Track and Field complex and the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have witnessed immediate success in competition under Bjork’s leadership. The Rebel football team appeared in post-season bowl games for the last four consecutive years, reaching the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season for the first time in 46 years. Ole Miss soccer reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in program history.

In 2014, the Ole Miss baseball team competed in the College World Series in Omaha for the first time in 42 years, and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the SEC Tournament Championship in 2013. Ole Miss softball reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

Men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf and track and field have also reached post-season play, with pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claiming back-to-back NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014 and a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Track and field athlete Raven Saunders brought an NCAA Championship to Ole Miss for shot put.

But Bjork’s commitment to success reaches well beyond the field of competition. His strong emphasis on academics has led student-athletes to a record average GPA of 3.0, and the graduation success rate has increased from 72 percent to 81 percent.

His active involvement in other university programs, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, led to his recognition by the NCAA as a Champion of Diversity in 2015. He and former UM Chancellor Dan Jones were the first individuals highlighted with this designation for their work to support the interests of ethnic minorities and underrepresented populations.

Bjork encourages community involvement among student-athletes as well. Under his leadership, athletics programs and their members have participated in more than 50 service projects. Additionally, he’s traveled the country over the last five years, speaking to more than 19,000 Ole Miss alumni and fans on the Rebel Road Trip.

“We are extremely proud of what our team has accomplished over the past four-and-a-half years, and I truly believe the best is yet to come for the entire university and our athletics program,” Bjork said. “We are Ole Miss!”