RebelTHON Fundraiser Shatters Goal

UM dance marathon raises more than $172,000 for Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital

UM students dance the night away during RebelTHON 2017. The annual marathon fundraiser generated more than $172,000 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The annual RebelTHON charity fundraiser celebrated hope and generated more of the same for ailing children by exceeding the $150,000 goal set for the dance marathon.

After last year’s event almost doubled its goal to raise $60,000, RebelTHON organizers set the bar high this year with a goal of $150,000. When the final tally came in around 3 a.m. Sunday (Feb. 19), participants had eclipsed that mark, bringing in $172,169.22 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center.

“It was always the expectation to not only meet our goal, but to surpass it,” said Charlie Walker, a UM senior from Carmel, Indiana, and 2016-17 development director for RebelTHON. “It was a really awesome feeling to know that we did exactly what we set out to do for the kids.”

Ole Miss students danced nonstop for 12 hours beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb 18) at the Turner Center. During each hour, students listened as families shared their stories and experiences from Batson.

The visiting children danced and played games with the students throughout the night. Members of the Ole Miss football, baseball, basketball and track and field teams, plus cheerleading and Rebelette squads came out to spend time with the children, walking them down the runway for a surprise fashion show, posing for photos and signing autographs for the families.

Ken and Brittney Bullock, of Pearl, attended RebelTHON for the first time with their son Colton, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at 3 years old.

“Batson means the world to us because it was right there in our backyard, and we didn’t even really know it was there,” Ken Bullock said. “We have a jewel right here in Jackson, and the money being raised is awesome.”

This year, part of the money raised at RebelTHON is going to the renovation of the Children’s Cancer Clinic at Batson Hospital. The center has not been updated since the 1990s.

“So Batson is about to expand and it’s going to get a new cancer clinic,” Ken Bullock said. “It’s awesome that part of this money is going straight to that. It’s so great that these students danced the night away and raised that money for Batson. It is truly a blessing.”

Angela Cook and daughter Analiese, both of Brookhaven, also were first-time RebelTHON participants. At age 3, Analiese was diagnosed with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia at Batson.

“You see this hospital and you hear all of the wonderful things, but until you are actually a part of it and you feel it, you can never really understand the magnitude of it and the effect that it has on this community and this place,” Angela Cook said. “That is why RebelTHON is so important in celebrating because this money goes straight to the kids, and these kids fight and fight hard and fight for their lives, and it’s the least we can do to give them the chance to fight.”

Brandi Mead, of Madison, attended RebelTHON for the second year with daughter Sydney, who was born with a rare genetic disease called Williams syndrome and had heart surgery only days after birth.

“We are so thankful for Batson and so blessed to be 10 minutes away from it because we have had many ER visits, and it is so great to know that we can get in the car, drive to Batson and be with all of her doctors,” Brandi Mead said.

At the beginning of the dance marathon, the children were introduced one by one and ran down a red carpet to the stage. RebelTHON is one of few dance marathons that brings children and their families to the events, said Andrew Russell, Children’s Miracle Network coordinator.

“I think RebelTHON is our most unique event, and it’s one of our cooler events for our patients,” Russell said. “These students literally roll out the red carpet for these kids.

“The money raised goes to a good cause, but the way they make these kids actually come to the event is so special. We are so appreciative of the students and we know they work hard throughout the year.”

The unique nature of RebelTHON makes it fun for participants, said Walker, who has been involved in the event every year at Ole Miss and has participated in similar dance marathons since middle school.

“The really cool thing about this organization is that it is unlike any other thing on this campus,” he said. “The ability to be so close to the cause, to see actually where your money is going and see and be a part of the difference you’re making is unprecedented to any other organization I have ever been a part of.”

“We work really hard all year putting on events, and it all culminates in this one night where we get to stand on our feet for 12 hours for kids who can’t stand for themselves. We are legitimately making a difference in the lives of these children and their families who really need it at Batson.”

Cooper Tire ‘Dream Team’ Visits UM

Manufacturer donated tire cutaway display to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence

Representatives from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. meet with UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence administrators and staff recently. Present were (front, from left) Scott Kilpatrick, Ross Blare, Jessica Sinak, Nicole Williams, Robert Haggerty, (back, from left) Ryan Miller, Tyler Biggs, Josh Lavanway, Matthew Fulmer and Randy Moore. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Expanding upon an already solid relationship with the University of Mississippi, the Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. “Dream Team” visited the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence on Wednesday (Feb. 15).

Led by plant manager Robert Haggerty, six rising, early-career employees from the manufacturing firm’s Tupelo facility met with CME administrators and School of Engineering faculty members for an extended discussion and tour of the center. The Cooper group donated a sectional tire display, which shows the various layers of an SUV tire manufactured at the company’s Arkansas plant.

“Cooper Tire is a leading manufacturer with deep roots in Mississippi,” said Scott Kilpatrick, CME associate director of internal operations. “This concept certainly aligns with the mission of the CME in providing support to new and existing manufacturers in our state.

“This display will be important in demonstrating not only Cooper Tire makes their products, but it will also remind out students that there are exciting career paths available through the manufacturing sector right here in Mississippi.”

The “Dream Team” is a group of employees who visit middle schools, high schools, colleges and universities to inform students of career opportunities in manufacturing and with Cooper, Haggerty said.

Ole Miss chemical engineering alumni Nicole Williams, a Master SigmaSix Blackbelt; and Jessica Sinak, tire engineer; are on the team. Other members include Randy Moore, liability lead; Ross Blare, wire assembly utility; Josh Lavanway, VMI MAXX operator; and Matthew Fulmer, mechanical engineer.

“Through the ‘Dream Team,’ Cooper wants to show bright young students that they can find rewarding manufacturing opportunities right here in Mississippi,” Haggerty said. “Through automation in daily operations, we’re improving both the quality and increasing the quantity of tires we make.”

Sinak and Williams briefly explained the tire manufacturing process.

“Operators load raw materials into a mixing machine,” Sinak said. “Once the machine mixes the materials into rubber, it goes on to materials preparation, where the various tire components are made.”

The components go from material preparation into the VMI MAXX equipment.

“Inside the VMI MAXX, robots assemble the components into what we call a ‘green tire,” Williams said. “The green tires then go into a curing process where they are heated. Once they are done, the tires go to the finishing process.”

The VMI MAXX can assemble all the components into a “green” tire in seconds, Haggerty said.

“Each and every tire is placed on a test wheel, inspected and quality-checked before it is sent off to our warehouses,” he said. “Our goal is to build the best tire we possibly can in the fastest manner possible.”

The company’s longevity and the consistent quality of its products are cause for celebration, said Ryan Mille, CME associate director.

“Manufacturing, such as occurs at Cooper, has been ongoing in Mississippi for a long, long time,” Miller said. “The University of Mississippi School of Engineering and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence certainly want to continue contributing to the state’s economic growth by producing graduates who find stable jobs within the state of Mississippi.”

The CME was established in June 2008 to provide opportunities for students interested in manufacturing. The center is developing interdisciplinary educational opportunities within an innovative academic learning model that provides students with the practical experiences, fundamental knowledge and creative skill sets needed to lead the world of modern manufacturing.

Cooper’s U.S. history dates back to 1914, when brothers-in-law John F. Schaefer and Claude E. Hart purchased M and M Manufacturing Co. in Akron, Ohio, producing tire patches, tire cement and repair kits. In 1915, Schaefer and Hart purchased The Giant Tire & Rubber Co. of Akron, a tire rebuilding business, and two years later moved the business to Findlay, Ohio. The firm changed its name to Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in 1946, and by July 11, 1960, the company became a publicly held corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more information about the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, visit For more information about Cooper Tire, go to

UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

The business (including accounting) and engineering programs were also ranked nationally.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among both public and private colleges in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

University’s Annual Pack-a-thon Surpasses Goal

More than 1 million meals have been packed over seven-year campaign

Pack-a-thon volunteers fill meal bags at this year’s annual event. In seven years, more than  1 million meals have been prepared in Oxford for Feed the Hunger. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Seven years of diligent work paid off big time Saturday (Feb. 18) when a University of Mississippi-led Feed the Hunger campaign topped its goal to provide 1 million meals for impoverished children.

“We packed 180,000 meals,” said Emily Barnhnouse of Dallas, a sophomore business marketing major and chair for the event.

Roughly 700 Ole Miss students and Oxford-Lafayette County residents participated in the weekend packing sessions in the Oxford Intermediate School gym. Money for the event was raised through donations from campus organizations, local businesses and churches.

“I was overwhelmed with emotion when we not only reached the goal of a million meals, but surpassed it,” Barnhouse said. “I shed tears of joy and happiness watching the community come together to make this goal achievable.”

UM was the first university in the nation to partner with the nonprofit organization in conducting pack-a-thon events. Since then, at least six other universities have also launched Feed-the-Hunger programs.

Workers (from left) Mary Rhodes Manley, Gracyn Perry, Witt Bolton, Mary Katherine Phillips and Lynlee Addy happily help pack nearly 200,000 meals during the Pack-a-thon. Submitted photo

A Mississippi State University student who participated in an Ole Miss pack-a-thon four years ago shared her experience with students on the Starkville campus. MSU conducted its first pack-a-thon two weekends ago.

“Over the years, it has been an honor to have the University of Mississippi partner with us to feed hungry children around the world,” said Melinda Staples, project manager at the organization’s headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. “We hope that this relationship continues to grow, impacting thousands of lives everywhere.”

Students who participate in the pack-a-thon often travel to other countries to make deliveries.

“The meals that are packed are now on an 18-wheeler and are waiting to be shipped overseas,” Barnhouse said. “Our packing number was ‘4,’ therefore we can track our boxes through photographs and see where it is and at what stages of the delivery process.”

Plans are already in the works for future pack-a-thons.

“We will be hosting at least two more events during this spring school semester to start raising funds for next year’s pack-a-thon,” Barnhouse said. “The next packing event will be taking place again at the end of February.

“Each year we try and make it bigger than the last. Next year, I believe the pack-a-thon chair will reach for an even higher packing goal.”

Cayla Hari, last year’s Pack-a-Thon chairperson, was among those who made the trip to Haiti in January. She described what she witnessed while visiting Haitian schools, orphanages and remote villages.

“Being able to make a difference beside those who are in your community is so rewarding,” said Harli, a junior psychology and Spanish major from Southaven.

“The need in Haiti is so great. One day, we witnessed school kids literally filling their pockets and backpacks with extra food in order to take it home to their starving families. It was heartbreaking.”

Hundreds from UM, Oxford and surrounding areas participate in the Feed the Hunger Pack-a-thon at Oxford Intermediate School. Submitted photo

Staples said she understands how deeply being involved with actual deliveries affects students.

“Actually seeing these malnourished children helps university students to briefly step out of their world and connects them to something great,” Staples said. “Most times, the meal delivered is the only one these children may eat the whole day. Sometimes, it’s the only one they have for an entire week.”

Barnhouse said participants also brought donations for the local program Love Packs, which provides meals for Oxford and Lafayette County school students who may not have meals over the weekend. Items being collected included Beanee Weenees, pop-top soup or ravioli, applesauce and granola bars.

“We’re showing the local community how passionate we are about feeding children that need it,” she said. “These people really need us. That’s the message we want to get across.”

To learn more about Feed the Hunger, go to

Physicists to Gather for International Workshop at UM

Scientists from around the globe coming to Feb. 27-March 2 event on gravitational research

Luca Bombelli (left) and Marco Cavaglia are members of the Ole Miss Gravitational, Astrophysical and Theoretical Physics Group. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of esteemed scientists from around the globe are headed to the University of Mississippi for a four-day workshop on the latest in gravitational-wave astronomy, hosted by the UM Gravitation, Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics Group in the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The “Strong Gravity and Binary Dynamics with Gravitational Wave Observations” workshop convenes Feb. 27 to March 2 in the Yerby Conference Center. The event is supported in part by Emanuele Berti’s National Science Foundation CAREER Award and by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange Action network, funded by the European Union’s FP7 program.

“This network supports exchanges of gravity researchers among the participating nodes,” said Berti, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “In addition to Ole Miss, there are five nodes in Europe, one in in Japan and one in Canada. A dozen researchers will visit campus for a month before and after the workshop.”

About 50 scientists representing some 30 research agencies and institutions of higher learning are scheduled to attend. Researchers will discuss several topics in the newborn field of gravitational-wave astronomy, including the astrophysics of compact binary populations, spin measurements in compact binaries, strong-field tests of Einstein’s theory of general relativity and how to look for hints of new gravitational physics beyond Einstein’s theory.

U.S. registrants include researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, California Institute of Technology, NASA, Montana State University, and the universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas at Dallas, among others.

International affiliates include Instituto Superior Técnico-Lisbon and University of Aveiro in Portugal; Sapienza University of Rome; Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris; the universities of Birmingham, Cambridge and Nottingham in England; Nagoya University in Japan; and Amsterdam University in the Netherlands.

Emanuele Berti is coordinating the international Strong Gravity Workshop at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

A fellow of the American Physical Society, Berti is well-known for his theoretical work in gravitational physics. He was invited to write a “Viewpoint” piece that accompanied the paper announcing the discovery of gravitational waves in the journal Physical Review Letters. Other scientists often visit the university to collaborate with him.

“Mauricio Richartz, a professor in Brazil, won a Fulbright fellowship to visit my group for four months in 2017,” Berti said. “Caio Macedo, a postdoc in Brazil, won an American Physical Society Travel Award to work with me this spring.”

Ole Miss physicists were part of the research collaboration that first detected gravitational waves in 2015. Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy, serves as assistant spokesperson for the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and was founding chair of its Education and Public Outreach and Diversity Committees.

The department’s standing in research circles is reflected in U.S. News’ 2017 listing of Best Global Universities, where the university is ranked No. 11 globally for overall international collaborations in physics. Also, the department’s faculty rank No. 6 in the world in terms of producing work that is cited by others in their research publications.

“Our department’s worldwide reputation and competitiveness has been increasing in recent years because of the quality of our research and our strong ties to global collaborations, and we have been able to attract high-quality faculty and graduate students with international backgrounds,” said Luca Bombelli, chair and associate professor of physics and astronomy.

These achievements continue to benefit the department as it branches out into new areas, says Josh Gladden, who joined the faculty in 2005 and is the university’s interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“When you raise the bar like that in a department, the standard becomes nationally and internationally recognized work, and that breeds more nationally and internationally recognized work,” said Gladden, also an associate professor of physics and astronomy. “If that’s what you’re around – your colleagues are publishing papers and getting invited to present at conferences around the world and being recognized for their contributions to their fields – then that’s the bar you’re going to try to jump over. It really elevates the work that everybody does.”

For more about the workshop, visit For more about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, go to

Nominations for Sullivan Award for Community Service Due Feb. 24

Annual honors recognize students, alumni and local residents

OXFORD, Miss. – The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi is seeking nominations for The Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

The award recognizes those who exhibit “nobility of character, exemplified by selfless service to others and the community.” UM will accept nominations through Feb. 24 for one student, either undergraduate or graduate; one alumnus; and one member of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community.

To nominate someone, visit the McLean Institute’s website. Recipients will be announced at 3 p.m. April 5 in the ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss

Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award nominations are due Feb. 24. Recipients of the community service award, which is given to one student, one alumnus and one member of the community, will be announced April 5. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Recognizing service is crucial to the mission of the McLean Institute, which supports transformation through service, said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director.

“This is UM’s fourth annual celebration of service recognition, and we’re proud to honor wonderful individuals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to make lives better for others,” Nylander said. “The Sullivan Award is an opportunity to honor a student, an alumnus and community member who have made our community a better place because of their humble service.”

Last year, UM senior Ann-Marie Herod and alumna Barbara Wortham were honored.

Herod was double-majoring in broadcast journalism and African-American studies, served with the McLean Institute’s Horizons program, College Corps, Ole Miss Ambassadors and the Black Student Union, in addition to years of volunteer work.

Wortham is coordinator for the Adult Basic Literary Education program for the Lafayette County Literacy Council and a tutor and instructor who has helped more than 400 people get their GED, among other accomplishments. 

Like honorees in years past, ideal candidates are selfless and committed to improving life for others, said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. 

“The Sullivan Award honors individuals who place serve above self,” Martin said. “Sullivan Award recipients have distinguished themselves by embodying the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion.”

The honor was established in 1890 to recognize those who emphasize service to others before oneself, while also having integrity and being honest, moral, ethical, responsible, determined, courageous and compassionate. Those who do not actively seek recognition are prime candidates.

The award has been given for 130 years and is awarded at 72 colleges and universities across the South, said Steve McDavid, president of the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation. 

“The Sullivan Award is the highest nonacademic honor at most schools where it is given,” McDavid said. “The award recognizes and honors those that humbly serve others in their day-to-day life.”

RebelTHON Team Sets High Goal for Weekend Fundraiser

Annual event benefits Batson Children's Hospital; portion to help renovate cancer center

RebelTHON 2017 begins at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) at the Turner Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With last year’s RebelTHON fundraising event at the University of Mississippi almost doubling its goal, the bar is set high for the 2017 dance marathon to benefit the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center.

This year’s event begins at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 18) at the Turner Center. The entertainment will be similar to last year’s event, but some details are being kept secret in hopes of surprising the dancers and families.

“This year, we really wanted to get our name out to the students and faculty even more, which I think we accomplished through various events like bar nights, percentage nights and union tables on campus,” said Marianna Schmidt, a UM senior from Houston, Texas, and executive director of RebelTHON.

RebelTHON organizers have set a goal to raise $150,000 by the end of the 12-hour dance marathon.

“To build up anticipation since the dance is so close, we have taken down our thermometer showing our fundraising progress on the donor drive,” said Schmidt, a business management major.

The organizers to do something a little different with part of their donations this year. They will be giving some of the final total directly to help fund renovation of the hospital’s Children’s Cancer Center.

“It will provide a more comforting area for kids that sometimes spend days in the center,” Schmidt said. “The Cancer Clinic lobby hasn’t changed much since the ’90s, so it will be great for it to receive a facelift.”

The event is a major boost each year for the hospital, said Jennifer Hospodor, director of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and community-based fundraising for the UM Medical Center.

“RebelTHON is an enormous inspiration to our team, and more importantly, it inspires our patients,” Hospodor said. “To see this group of college students work together like they do, with different personalities and backgrounds, all for the sake of our patients, is extraordinary. And then to see how their hard work pays off in such a big way makes their efforts truly astounding.

“We are all so grateful for these students and the countless hours of hard work they put in for the kids. Inspiring may not cover it.”

 Anyone interested in attending the event should visit and click “Register.” Participants can sign up until the day of the event, but each person must raise $100 in order to attend. For those who cannot attend the full dance marathon, a community block party is set for 6-9 p.m., when any student or member of the L-O-U community can pay $5 to see what RebelTHON is all about.

Anyone interested in donating to RebelTHON can go to the website and click “Donate.” The site allows donors to designate a specific dancer or give to the event in general. Donations will be accepted throughout the event until one hour before the final reveal.

Chili’s will host a RebelTHON percentage night tonight (Feb 15) at the restaurant on West Jackson Avenue. A flyer will be posted on social media that participants must show in order for RebelTHON to get a percentage of purchases.

“We would love to see people there getting ready for the dance,” Schmidt said.

To learn more about RebelTHON, go to To view a YouTube video from the 2016 Ole Miss RebelTHON, visit

Former UM Director Receives Arts Commission Lifetime Achievement Award

Bill Ferris to be honored at 2017 Governor's Arts Awards

Bill Ferris (left) looks over a copy of Living Blues magazine with blues great B.B. King during a visit by King to the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, when Ferris was director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William R. Ferris, the preeminent scholar and documenter of Mississippi’s rich culture, music and folklore, has been documenting the lives of Mississippians for more than 50 years. On Feb. 16, the Mississippi Arts Commission will honor him with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Governor’s Arts Awards.

Ferris is a scholar, author, documentary filmmaker and founding director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi. For him, the award is linked to the center in a deep and wonderful way, as well as to the Oxford community.

“It’s a tremendous honor, and I know it would never have happened without the work I was blessed to do at the University of Mississippi and at the center,” Ferris said. “It was a special period in my life that connected me to Mississippi in ways that were very special and very moving, and I know full well that the friendships I was able to share there are a big part of why I was selected for this honor.”

The award is an opportunity to look back and appreciate more deeply what one’s life’s work represents, since in the moment, totally engaged and working, it can be difficult to see where things will land, said Ferris, who was on the Ole Miss faculty from 1979 to 1998.

Southern studies students are leading various areas in new and exciting ways, said Ferris, who keeps up with the program’s students and alumni.

“I look around the state, the region and the nation and know there are powerful voices that were shaped at the center and by the Southern studies program,” he said.

Ferris grew up on a farm south of Vicksburg and developed an early love of storytelling, books, art and music. In 1997, he became chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Bill Clinton.

Since 2002, he has served as Joel Williamson Eminent Professor of History and senior associate director of the Center for the Study of the American South at the University of North Carolina.

The 2017 recipients will be recognized at the 29th annual Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony at the Old Capitol Museum in downtown Jackson at 6 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 16). A public reception at 4:30 precedes the awards.

“When I first found myself out in the cultural landscape of Mississippi’s vast richness, Bill was already there, established and knee-deep in the exploration of art and culture,” said Malcolm White, executive director of MAC. “Bill is a pathfinder and an icon of this work, and I am proud to be at the helm of MAC on this occasion of his recognition.”

Other award recipients include Sammy Britt (MFA art ’66), Excellence in Visual Art; Vasti Jackson, Arts Ambassador; Lucy Richardson Janoush, Arts Patron; Jaimoe Johnie Johnson, Excellence in Music; and the Mississippi Opera, Artistic Excellence.

“Because these six recipients have made a significant and lasting impact on our state’s arts culture, it is fitting to recognize them during Mississippi’s bicentennial celebration,” White said.

Ferris is the author of 10 books, including “Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues” (University of North Carolina Press, 2009), “You Live and Learn. Then You Die and Forget it All: Ray Lum’s Tales of Horses, Mules, and Men” (Anchor Books, 1992) and his latest, “The South in Color: A Visual Journey” (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Charles Frankel Prize in the Humanities and France’s Chevalier and Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters. The Blues Hall of Fame recognized his book “Blues from the Delta” (Anchor Press, 1978) as one of the classics of blues literature.

Established in 1988, Governor’s Arts Awards are given to individuals and organizations for the excellence of their work in a wide variety of art forms including visual, literary and performing arts, and community development through the arts in Mississippi.

Eunique Jones Gibson Challenges UM, Community to Activism

'Because of Them, We Can' founder delivered Black History Month keynote Monday night

Eunique Jones Gibson delivers the UM Black History Month keynote address at Fulton Chapel. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Flowing with candor, charisma and in a conversational style, Eunique Jones Gibson urged listeners Monday night (Feb. 13) at University of Mississippi to become social activists who improve living conditions for present and future generations.

Delivering the keynote address for the university’s Black History Month observances, the creator of the “Because of Them, We Can” campaign addressed more than 200 students, faculty, staff and community members gathered in Fulton Chapel. The audience listened attentively as Jones Gibson shared her experiences and issued a call for change.

“Our mission is to help our children reimagine their possibilities,” she said. “We need you to help us. There is so much work to be done. Now is the time to get involved because life is short and none of us knows how many years we have left.”

During her presentation, which included videos and a question-and-answer session, Jones Gibson outlined three things necessary for individuals to engage in finding and fulfilling their purpose and passion in life.

“First, get to know you,” she said. “Learn your history because that’s how you build your foundation and your confidence.”

“Second, decide what works for you. There’s no cookie-cutter way to be involved because real activism doesn’t come in a box.”

“Third, know that it’s bigger than you,” Jones Gibson said. “Because it’s for those who are coming after us, what we do matters more than our comfort and complacency.”

To drive the last point home, the speaker shared that she had surgery last weekend but didn’t cancel her scheduled UM appearance.

“Being here is more important than my pain,” she said. “It’s bigger than me.”

In 2013, Jones Gibson launched the “Because of Them, We Can” campaign during Black History Month with a mission to empower the next generation to honor the legacy of their ancestors through individual pursuit of greatness.

The campaign went viral and is considered to be one of the most prolific and virally successful Black History campaigns of all time.

“I didn’t envision this becoming what it is when I started it,” Jones Gibson said. “I was simply striving to combat the negative and false narratives of black people to which my children and their peers are being exposed. As it grew, I realized I had an opportunity to create weapons of mass empowerment.”

“Because of Them, We Can” now encompasses a website, social media outlets and videos. A coffee table book, posters, T-shirts and sports jackets are available for purchase online. The campaign also has featured billboards and bus shelter advertisements in major cities.

A team travels to elementary schools to speak to students and leave behind copies of the book for them to keep.

Jones Gibson and her assistants donated 40 copies of the book, three of which were given away to audience members, for her visit to Oxford. The remainder will be delivered to the Boys and Girls Club of Oxford, the Oxford-Lafayette County Public Library and elementary school libraries in the area.

“It’s time to be determined and intentional … especially now,” she said. “By being resilient, we can change the values of our children. The more excited people become about their futures, the more real change can be accomplished in our communities.”

Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, said she hopes that all members of the university community will respond to Jones Gibson’s appeal.

“As our university strives to be a leader in racial reconciliation and inclusivity, this year’s keynote address is a continuation of our educational efforts,” Mead said. “Having engaged with Mrs. Jones Gibson and learned more about the founding, as well as the guiding principles, of ‘Because of Them, We Can,’ we should be even more determined to fulfill our mission.”

Ole Miss students and others in attendance said they were moved by Jones Gibson’s words.

“I’m definitely more motivated to continue to work,” said Joshua Bell, a master’s student in higher education from Miami. “Her take on ‘failing fast’ is a perspective that I never considered before as a pathway to success. Though the work is never over, I’m encouraged to keep going forward.”

“She reminds me of a stick of dynamite,” said Baba Wovoka Subkwe of Oxford, founder of the Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom School and Culture Center in Etta. “Organization and unity is key.

“I’m definitely inspired to continue teaching everything we know to the people of the community in which I live.”

Jones Gibson said she hopes that the UM community will never tire of talking about its 1962 integration by James Meredith.

“Every black person in this room is a miracle,” she said. “Just your going to college makes you a trailblazer and an example for those looking to you. Because of those who came before us, we can. Because of us, those who come after us can also.”

For a full list of sponsors and Black History Month calendar of events, visit


History Professor Awarded Prestigious NEH Fellowship

Jarod Roll among nation's top scholars chosen for distinction

History professor Jarod Roll has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jarod Roll, associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a coveted fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The yearlong fellowship allows scholars in the humanities to focus solely on their research or writing. Of the 1,298 scholars who applied for the 2017 fellowship, only 86 – less than 7 percent – were chosen for the award. Roll, a highly regarded historian of modern America with a focus on labor in U.S. history, joined the faculty in the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History in 2014.

He plans to use his fellowship, which begins in August, to complete a book project, tentatively titled “American Metal Miners and the Lure of Capitalism 1850-1950.” Roll is exploring the history of the white working-class anti-unionism and conservatism movements in the Tri-State Mining District of Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, a region that was national leader in the production of zinc and lead.

“Unlike miners elsewhere in the United States, the Tri-State miners resisted unionization and government reforms for over a century,” he said. “I am particularly interested in how their ideas about capitalism, as well as ethnicity and gender, influenced these views.

“Scholars in my field of labor history have not given much attention to workers who opposed unions, particularly over an extended period. My research fills that gap. It’s important, I think, to understand that white working-class conservatism is not a recent development, as some commentators would have it, but rather a subject with a deep history that we can trace back into the middle of the 19th century.”

“We are very proud of Dr. Roll’s achievement and what it represents for the university’s legacy of academic excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “This fellowship is one of the most coveted and competitive awards in the humanities, and Dr. Roll’s selection by the NEH is further evidence of his standing as one of the top humanities researchers in the country.”

The honor also is important because of the role humanities play in understanding and applying arts and sciences in today’s world, said Lee Cohen, dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts

“Research in the humanities helps us not only to contextualize development in the sciences, innovations in technology and advances in medicine, it offers us an opportunity to recognize that the work being done on campus by our faculty has a broad reach, beyond the laboratory, beyond the studies and beyond the classroom,” Cohen said.

“This work influences how we understand ourselves in very real, very tangible ways that impact our everyday lives. Dr. Roll being chosen for this well-regarded NEH fellowship indicates that his work is being recognized at the highest level, which is consistent with an R1 institution.”

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the National Endowment for the Humanities supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation.

“NEH provides support for projects across America that preserve our heritage, promote scholarly discoveries and make the best of America’s humanities ideas available to all Americans,” said William D. Adams, NEH chairman. “We are proud to announce this latest group of grantees who, through their projects and research, will bring valuable lessons of history and culture to Americans.”

Roll has previously authored two books “Spirit of Rebellion: Labor and Religion in the New Cotton South” (University of Illinois Press, 2010) and “The Gospel of the Working Class: Labor’s Southern Prophets in New Deal America” (University of Illinois Press, 2011).