UM Physicists Celebrate Advance in Search for Gravitational Waves

Seven years in making, international collaboration yields futuristic technology

Photo Illustration

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OXFORD, Miss. – An international collaboration of scientists, including those at the University of Mississippi, is thrilled with a major equipment upgrade that will greatly aid the search for gravitational waves, black holes and other interstellar phenomena.

The Advanced LIGO Project increases the sensitivity of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatories instruments by a factor of 10 and provides a 1,000-fold increase in the number of astrophysical candidates for gravitational wave signals. The system was officially dedicated May 19 in a ceremony at the LIGO Hanford facility in Richland, Washington.

“We’ve spent the past seven years putting together the most sensitive gravitational-wave detector ever built,” said David H. Reitze, executive director of the LIGO Project and a scientist at the California Institute of Technology. “Commissioning the detectors has gone extremely well thus far, and we are looking forward to our first science run with Advanced LIGO beginning later in 2015. This is a very exciting time for the field.”

Marco Cavaglia, UM associate professor of physics and astronomy and Ole Miss LIGO Project director, concurred.

“The LIGO Team at UM would like to express heartfelt thanks to all LIGO Lab and LIGO Scientific Collaboration colleagues who have worked so hard to make Advanced LIGO a reality,” Cavaglia said. “The success of LIGO to date is a remarkable accomplishment and a major milestone for our field. The next few years will no doubt be quite exciting.”

For a complete review of LIGO research at Ole Miss, visit

LIGO was designed and is operated by Caltech and MIT, with funding from the National Science Foundation. Advanced LIGO, funded by the NSF with important contributions from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Max Planck Society of Germany and the Australian Research Council is being brought online, with the first searches for gravitational waves planned for the fall of 2015.

The ceremony featured remarks from speakers, including Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, the Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair and professor of physics; Professor of Physics B. Thomas Soifer, the Kent and Joyce Kresa Leadership Chair of Caltech’s Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy; Kirk Kolenbrander, MIT vice president; and France Córdova, director of the National Science Foundation.

“Advanced LIGO represents a critically important step forward in our continuing effort to understand the extraordinary mysteries of our universe,” says NSF director Córdova. “It gives scientists a highly sophisticated instrument for detecting gravitational waves, which we believe carry with them information about their dynamic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot be obtained by conventional astronomical tools.”

Several international partners provided significant contributions of equipment, labor and expertise:

The UK partners supplied the suspension assembly and some optics for the mirrors whose movements register the passage of the gravitational waves; this has been funded via Britain’s STFC.

The German contribution was the high-power, high-stability laser whose light measures the actual movements of the mirrors; this has been funded via the Max Planck Society in Munich and the VolkswagenStiftung. The laser system was developed at the Albert Einstein Institute and the Laser Zentrum Hannover.

An Australian consortium of universities, led by the Australian National University and the University of Adelaide, and supported by the Australian Research Council, contributed the systems for initially positioning the optics and then measuring in place the optics curvature to nanometer precision.

The University of Florida and Columbia University assumed specific responsibilities for the design and construction of Advanced LIGO. Other members of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, with NSF and/or other funding, participated in all phases of the effort.

Predicted by Albert Einstein in 1916 as a consequence of his general theory of relativity, gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time produced by violent events in the distant universe, for example, by the collision of two black holes or by the cores of supernova explosions. Gravitational waves are emitted by accelerating masses much in the same way as radio waves are produced by accelerating charges, such as electrons in antennas. As they travel to Earth, these ripples in the space-time fabric bring with them information about their violent origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot be obtained by other astronomical tools.

Although they have not yet been detected directly, the influence of gravitational waves on a binary pulsar system (two neutron stars orbiting each other) has been measured accurately and is in excellent agreement with the predictions. Scientists therefore have great confidence that gravitational waves exist. But a direct detection will confirm Einstein’s vision of the waves and allow a fascinating new window into cataclysms in the cosmos.

For more information about the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, including Advanced LIGO, visit

UM Launches Wellness and Physical Activity Credential for Teachers

Mississippi Department of Education to offer new endorsement based on Ole Miss curriculum

Wellness and Physical Activity Endorsement

Wellness and Physical Activity Endorsement

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education has launched a new license endorsement in wellness and physical activity for K-6 teachers based on a specialized program designed by education faculty at the University of Mississippi.

This fall, the UM School of Education will begin offering a 12-hour curriculum in wellness and physical activity for elementary education majors who seek to understand the correlations between cognition, physical activity and overall wellness. All students who complete these courses will qualify for the new credential as part of their teaching licenses.

“Our goal is for our students to teach in a way that benefits the whole child,” said Alicia Stapp, assistant professor of wellness and physical activity and coordinator of the program. “Integrating wellness and physical activity into academics benefits all forms of intelligence including academic, physical and social.”

Stapp, a veteran of public schools in central Florida, joined UM to design the new program in 2014 after the School of Education obtained $1.2 million in private funding from the Bower Foundation in Ridgeland to create the wellness program in 2013.

The new endorsement is no typical PE program. In fact, the physical aspect of this methodology is only a small piece of the puzzle. The Ole Miss program focuses on what happens in the minds and bodies of children who are active in a well-designed academic environment.

In essence, the goal is to prepare teachers to jumpstart children’s brains to optimize their capacity to learn and generate positive health outcomes. Wellness education graduates will create and implement lesson plans that integrate music and movement while also focusing on academics.

UM’s coursework utilizes extensive research that shows a direct link between health, physical activity, academic achievement and student behavior. Other research also suggests that incorporating physical activity in a classroom for just 20 to 30 minutes a day could help prevent troublesome conditions such as obesity or Type 2 Diabetes.

With more than 400 students, elementary education is the largest professional major at Ole Miss and graduates should start to emerge with this training within a year.

“The strength of the wellness and physical activity endorsement is that it provides pre-service teachers with the knowledge and skills needed to integrate movement and wellness into the existing curriculum,” said Susan McClelland, chair of the Department of Teacher Education. “This integrated approach can transform a classroom and greatly enhance student involvement in the learning experience and thus, impact student achievement.”

The university’s eventual goal is to place small cohorts of wellness education graduates in individual schools to help shift school cultures in a positive direction.

For more information about UM’s endorsement program in wellness and physical activity visit

Day Camp Brings World of Ocean Science to North Mississippi Students

Registration open to sixth- through eighth-graders interested in STEM fields

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Students participate in last summer’s SSROV Camp.

OXFORD, Miss. – Middle school students from across north Mississippi are invited to sign up for a series of science, technology, engineering and math-related day camps that will give them a window into the life of a scientist who studies the ocean, an unusual treat so far from the coast.

The Seafloor Science Remotely Operated Vehicle Camp, or SSROV Camp, allows students in sixth through eighth grades to follow in the steps of an oceanographer doing research aboard a ship. Throughout the week, the students get hands-on opportunities to learn about technology, including programming circuit boards, building and operating underwater robots, and navigating underwater ecosystems.

The camps will be conducted in Oxford, Southaven and Tupelo in June and July. Registration is $200 and the camps are limited to 28 students per session, ensuring a low student-to-instructor ratio.

SSROV Camp was created by Geoff Wheat, director of the National Institute of Undersea Science and Technology, based at the University of Mississippi Field Station. Wheat is a geochemist and oceanographer who has been involved as a research scientist or chief scientist in hundreds of seagoing expeditions. The camp grew out of the classroom activities he would take to his kids’ schools in Monterey, California, and NIUST hosted the first Mississippi camp last year at the Field Station.

“The kids and their classmates enjoyed it so much that I expanded it into camp form, and it’s really taken off in California,” Wheat said. “We got such a good reaction at last year’s Mississippi camp in Oxford that we wanted to offer it to more kids. That’s why we have reached out to the Tupelo and Southaven communities this year to bring it to them, too.”

SSROV campers are immersed daily in a fun, problem-solving environment where they get to complete practical, real-world science projects and tasks. Activities are done in a team environment, so students also learn presentation skills and collaboration.

SSROV Camp runs from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. This summer’s camp schedule includes:

June 8-12 – University of Mississippi at Tupelo

June 15-19 – University of Mississippi at Tupelo

July 6-10 – Desoto Central Middle School, Southaven

July 20-24 – UM Field Station

NIUST is a partnership between the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi.

For more information about the camps and to register, go to, email or call 662-915-5479.

UM Inducts Three into School of Education Hall of Fame

Kuykendall, Reynolds and Smith honored for leadership, service in public education

UM education dean David Rock, Jerome Smith, Judith Reynolds and Milton Kuykendall at the Inn at Ole Miss following the School of Education Hall of Fame induction.

UM education Dean David Rock, Jerome Smith, Judith Reynolds and Milton Kuykendall at the Inn at Ole Miss following the School of Education Hall of Fame induction.

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi alumni were admitted into the inaugural class of the UM School of Education’s Hall of Fame.

The inductees were Milton Kuykendall, superintendent of the Desoto County School District; Judith Reynolds, a 45-year educator from Clinton; and Jerome Smith, a retired Jackson-area education leader and former education adviser to Gov. Kirk Fordice. The inductees were honored Friday (May 8) at the School of Education Awards Day Banquet.

“We are proud to honor the dedication and accomplishments of these outstanding alumni,” said David Rock, dean of the School of Education. “Milton Kuykendall, Judith Reynolds and Jerome Smith have made a positive impact on not only their profession but thousands of students and community members in Mississippi.”

The inductees were selected for the honor by the UM Education Alumni Advisory Board after being nominated by their peers in January.

Kuykendall, who holds a master’s degree from UM, has served as superintendent in Desoto County for the past 12 years and previously served as principal of Horn Lake High School for 18 years. During his 45-year career, he has been honored as the state’s top administrator, principal and superintendent by multiple professional originations and was once featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated with his twin brother, Malcom, when the Kuykendall brothers became the nation’s first siblings to simultaneously lead their respective basketball teams to state championships. He plans to retire in December.

“My education at Ole Miss equipped me with knowledge but more importantly, it prepared me to go on the job and apply it,” Kuykendall said. “I’m grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve had in my career, and this wonderful university has offered me so much over the years.”

Reynolds, who received her bachelor’s degree in education from UM in 1968, was a classroom teacher and spent much of her career at Clinton High School, where her teaching accolades included being selected as the school’s Star Teacher nine times, being named Mississippi Star Teacher in 1988, and serving as the chairperson of her school’s departments of English and Foreign Languages. Reynolds has been a National Board Certified Teacher since 1999 and is a member of the Mississippi Hall of Master Teachers at Mississippi University for Women.

“This is an overwhelming honor,” Reynolds said. “There is no career more rewarding than teaching, if you love it. I have spent my entire career working with students and I wouldn’t change a single thing.”

Smith, who earned a bachelor’s degree in 1948 and a master’s in in 1952 from UM, spent more than 52 years in Mississippi dedicated to service and leadership in public education. A World War II veteran, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps, then attended UM on the G.I. Bill and later went on to be a teacher and football coach at public schools in Louisville. He later served as a counselor and principal at multiple schools including Callaway High School, which became the first integrated public school in the state in 1966 under Smith’s leadership.

His other accomplishments in public education include serving as executive director of Mississippi Professional Educators, where he helped lawmakers appropriate funding for the State Health Plan, which gave health insurance to Mississippi teachers, and helping Gov. Fordice encourage the Mississippi Legislature to provide a $6,000-a-year pay increase for national board certified teachers.

“I’ve enjoyed my profession and I’ve enjoyed my life and I am very proud that I came to Ole Miss,” Smith said. “I would tell any student of education today to attend this university. It has a strong program and it will prepare you to succeed.”

UM Students Start Coaching for Literacy Chapter

Group focusing its efforts in state, with funding going to three Mississippi-based partners

University of Mississippi students, mostly from Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, and Kappa Alpha fraternities, have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group called “Coaching For Literacy" to raise money for literacy efforts across Mississippi.

University of Mississippi students, mostly from Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, and Kappa Alpha fraternities, have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group called Coaching For Literacy to raise money for literacy efforts across Mississippi.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group to raise money for literacy efforts across the state by raffling off the opportunity for fans to become an “assistant coach” during an Ole Miss sporting event.

Matt Bolton, an Ole Miss sophomore from Memphis, started the chapter of the nonprofit Coaching for Literacy with fellow sophomores Conner Adkins of Jackson, Tennessee, and Wade Meena of Jackson, Mississippi. Bolton is president, and Adkins and Meena serve as vice presidents. They’ve been working with James-Roland Markos, who is president of the Interfraternity Council and the Associated Student Body cabinet’s director of athletics.

Coaching for Literacy, which also has chapters at Vanderbilt University, Southern Methodist University and Mississippi State University, cites staggering data. The group estimates that 32 million, or 1 in 7, American adults can’t read. They also believe 19 percent of today’s high school graduates are functionally illiterate. They also say two thirds of students who can’t read well by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

“Illiteracy is a huge problem,” Bolton said. “If you can’t read, you can’t fill out a job application. You’re pretty much stuck. Illiteracy is something tangible we can work on.”

The group describes its mission as being to increase awareness about the number of Americans who are functionally or totally illiterate and the social problems associated with illiteracy. They leverage “the unique power of collegiate and professional sports” to raise money for effective local literacy programs and schools that work with elementary and middle school students. 

Coaching for Literacy was started by SMU basketball player Jonathan Wilfong and Andrew Renshaw, a Vanderbilt student. While in high school at Memphis University School, Wilfong and Renshaw were challenged by a teacher to make a difference in the world. They formed the chapter in August 2013. Bolton was a classmate of Wilfong and Renshaw at MUS. 

The Ole Miss chapter is made up of 16 students, mostly members of Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta and Kappa Alpha fraternities. They’ve held one auction already, which gave someone the chance to be with Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy when the Rebels took on Georgia in February at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“Most efforts in life are not successful without the coordination of a great team of individuals, each possessing specific skills and gifts, which they give to support the greater goal of the team,” said Ryan Viner, executive director of Coaching for Literacy. 

“This effort to allocate nearly $15,000 to Mississippi-based literacy programs would not have been a success without the literacy programs, our corporate sponsor, C Spire, Ole Miss Athletics, the administration and the students of the University of Mississippi, the support of the Oxford community and the work of the Ole Miss Coaching for Literacy Chapter.”

That raffle raised more than $17,000 through the sale of $10 raffle tickets, which were mostly bought by Ole Miss students. Of the proceeds, nearly $15,000 was allocated to three Mississippi literacy partners. 

Leap Frog Oxford, an Oxford tutoring and mentoring program for first-, second- and third-graders, received help starting a summer program for students.

“We recently lost a funder, as frequently happens with nonprofits, and were in search of funding to keep the program afloat,” said Teresa Adams, Leap Frog Oxford executive director. “I cannot tell you how much it meant to receive financial support from CFL. We are now able to serve our very deserving students and continue with our plans for a summer program.”

The Barksdale Reading Institute received help with an electronic library project in Quitman County.

The Mississippi Children’s Museum’s summer literacy program, called “Planting Seeds to Read,” also received funds. The program gives reading help and school supplies to children in kindergarten and first grade who are struggling in Jackson public schools. 

“Literacy is one of our key initiatives and our exhibits, programming and outreach efforts all correlate with each other to encourage early language skills development,” said Susan Garrard, Mississippi Children’s Museum president. “Our staff work especially hard planning experiences that encourage children to not only develop reading proficiency but also to discover the delight that stories and reading can bring.”

The UM chapter of Coaching for Literacy has purposely focused its work on Mississippi, which often ranks low in national literacy studies.

“It stays in Mississippi,” Markos said. “We do what we can locally, but it also has an impact statewide. It’s not just Oxford. We care about the whole state.”

They believe their efforts can grow exponentially and they’ve received support for the idea from the UM Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

“We are excited to once again partner with Coaching for Literacy in order to bring attention and support to a very worthy cause,” Ole Miss head basketball coach Andy Kennedy said. “The ability to read and write at a productive level is the foundation from which all success is achieved. Coaching for Literacy’s mission is to aid in this fundamental skill and we wanted to be involved in that pursuit.”

Miss University Delivers 1,600 Books to Delta Schools

Miss University France Beard and James C. Rosser Elementary School Principal Angela Winters.

France Beard and Angela Winters, principal at James C. Rosser Elementary School, look over some of the books Beard delivered to the school.

Miss University France Beard visited the Mississippi Delta earlier this week to deliver more than 1,600 books to schools in need.

Beard organized book drives in her hometown of Madison and in Oxford, the latter through the service honor society Gamma Beta Phi at the University of Mississippi. After research and several phone calls, she determined that Moorhead Middle School, James C. Rosser Elementary School, Quitman Elementary School and Quitman County Middle School had the greatest need for new books.

Miss University France Beard reads to a second grade class at Quitman Elementary School.

France Beard reads to a second-grade class at Quitman Elementary School.

“I think the best way to overcome illiteracy in Mississippi is to provide the tools the students need,” Beard said. “Stocking libraries makes a lasting difference. That’s the first step to take, especially in schools that need it.”

Beard plans to deliver more books later this month to Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson.

English Instructor Wins Statewide Poetry Prize

Poet Tim Earley credits state's literary influences with shaping his work

UM English Instructor Tim Earley is the 2015 recipient of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters poetry award.

Tim Earley is the 2015 recipient of the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters poetry award.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi English instructor and former graduate student Tim Earley is among the 2015 honorees in the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters‘ awards program.

The organization honors the state’s best writers, artists and musicians in seven categories with its MIAL Awards. Earley is the recipient of this year’s poetry award for his book “Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery” (Horse Less Press, 2014).

Living in Mississippi has greatly influenced his work, said Earley, who moved to Oxford in 2007.

“Interacting with the wonderful young writers the university’s M.F.A. program brings to Oxford, closely engaging with the work of Mississippi writers like Barry Hannah and Larry Brown, taking Friday night sojourns down to Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale, and teaching both in Oxford and at our outreach campuses in Grenada and Tupelo have brought me into close contact with the abiding creative and cultural energy this state breeds,” Earley said. “Living here has allowed me to write about my own postage stamp of native soil, the former textile mill communities in the foothills of North Carolina, with more clarity and intensity.”

Poetry competition judge and acclaimed poet Jason Koo had high praise for Earley’s work.

“Part Henry Miller, part Rimbaud, part Whitman, part Joyce, all swirled into the ‘poor, rude clown’ of mad John Clare resurrected and rampaging through the ‘post-natal slime’ of the American South, Tim Earley reinvents or damn near obliterates the prose poem in ‘Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery,'” Koo said. “Every sentence in this book is alive and creepy-crawly with creation, belying the book’s title, because there is nothing ‘descriptive,’ but detonating, about what these poems do to the language and landscape. … This is a book like no other.”

Earley is a strong member of Oxford’s literary community, said Beth Ann Fennelly, UM associate professor of English and director of the M.F.A. program.

“This award is our most important statewide award, and we are very proud that one of our former M.F.A. students has won this,” Fennelly said. “Tim makes a big impact on the University of Mississippi in many different ways and the book for which he won the award is deserving of the highest praise.”

Earley will be presented his award during a ceremony June 6 in Hattiesburg.

UM Economics Instructor Wins Excellence in Teaching Award

Yan Li honored for dedication to students, curriculum and instruction

Yan Li

Yan Li

OXFORD, Miss. – Yan Li is the recipient of the University of Mississippi’s 2015 Graduate Instructor Excellence in Teaching Award.

Li was recognized during the doctoral hooding ceremony Friday (May 8) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. In addition to being presented a trophy and $1,000, Li’s name is being added to the perpetual plaque displayed in the J.D. Williams Library and posted on the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning website.

“I was ecstatic,” Li said upon learning of her recognition. “When I teach and help students to make progress, it’s like I make a difference every single day. Hence, I find teaching to be very fulfilling.”

A native of China, Li earned her bachelor’s degree from Nanchang University in China and her master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati. A fifth-year economics doctoral candidate at UM, she graduates this summer.

“I have taught principle of microeconomics for six semesters at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “My passion for teaching not only comes from the content of the course, but mostly stems from the interaction with students. I believe all my students, with effort, can make great achievement.”

Li is considering multiple job offers after graduation, including one from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“I have given this offer a lot of consideration,” she said. “It would be an exciting experience joining the MDOE to continue my passion for students and education. It would be very rewarding to impact the younger generation on education by utilizing my Ph.D. training in economic research.”

Colleagues said she is most deserving of the accolade.

“Ms. Li is a highly regarded and effective instructor that is always willing to go an extra mile for her students,” said Joe Moen, chair and professor of economics. “She consistently obtains some of the highest teaching evaluations in the department.”

“Approximately 90 percent of her students recently ranked her as superior or excellent,” said Walter Mayer, professor of economics and graduate program coordinator. “Her effectiveness is also supported by department faculty who have attended and reviewed her classes.”

For more information about UM’s Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, go to or call 662-915-1391.

Six Freshmen Honored for Leadership, Academic Excellence

Omicron Delta Kappa honor society presents annual awards

(Left to Right) Olivia Dear, Christopher Feazell, Dillon Hall, Alexis Smith, Loden Snell

This year’s honorees include (left to right) Olivia Dear, Christopher Feazell, Dillon Hall, Alexis Smith and Loden Snell.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi chapter of Omicron Delta Kappa Honor Society has honored six students for their academic performance, leadership and community involvement.

This year’s recipients of ODK Freshman Leader Awards are Olivia Dear of Madison, Seth Dickinson of Mantachie, Christopher Feazell of Mendenhall, Dillon Hall of Saltillo, Alexis Smith of Picayune and Loden Snell of Ridgeland.

“These six students are among many outstanding freshmen here at the university,” said Ryan Upshaw, ODK adviser and assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering. “Our society is excited to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions during their first year on campus. We also look forward to their potential membership in our society later in their college career.”

Dear, a graduate of Madison Central High School, is president of ASB Freshman Council and serves on the Chi Omega sorority philanthropy committee. A member of Lambda Sigma honor society, she is a Provost Scholar and on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll. An English and journalism major, she volunteers with Leap Frog, Hermitage Gardens and the Oxford Humane Society.

“I’m really grateful to receive the ODK Freshman Leader Award,” Dear said. “It was a really motivating award to get, and now I am excited to spend the next three years engaging in activities that serve the student body even more.”

Dickinson attended Mendenhall High School. He is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Trent Lott Leadership Institute and is an Honors College Freshman Senator. A public policy leadership major, he is a recipient of a Lott Scholarship and is an Ole Miss Ambassador, member of Delta Psi fraternity and on the Dean’s Honor Roll. He volunteers with Brookdale Oxford retirement community.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson

Feazell, an accountancy major, attended Mendenhall High School. He is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Luckyday Success Program, National Association of Black Accountants, Undergraduate Black Law Students Association and Lambda Sigma honors society. He is a LuckyDay Scholar, on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll, a Rebel Quest counselor and a volunteer tutor for business calculus.

A graduate of Saltillo High School, Hall is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Engineering Student Body Leadership Council, Engineers Without Borders Design Committee, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and Delta Psi fraternity. A mechanical engineering major, he is a CME ambassador and a volunteer with Green Grove Initiative and Oxford City Market.

Smith, a graduate of Picayune Memorial High School, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies, and is an Honors College Freshman Senator and community service co-chair for International Justice Mission. She is a recipient of an Honors College scholarship and a member of the Chi Omega scholarship committee. An international studies major, she is a writer for the Daily Mississippian and a volunteer with Oxford Humane Society and More than a Meal.

A graduate of Saint Joseph Catholic School, Snell is a public policy leadership major in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and recipient of a Lott Scholarship. He is also a member of ASB Freshman Council, Residence Hall Association, College Republicans and the Chancellor’s Leadership Class, an ASB senator and Stockard Hall Council President. He volunteers with the Big Event and Green Grove Recycling.

Omicron Delta Kappa is a 100-year old leadership honor society that has initiated more than 300,000 members at since its founding. The society has more than 285 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States.

Three Faculty Members Receive Liberal Arts Teaching Awards

UM announces annual honors at graduation ceremonies

2015 College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award Recipients.  (from left): Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshman: Hilary Becker, Outstanding Teacher of Year: Kathryn McKee,Outstanding Instructor of Year  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

2015 College of Liberal Arts Teaching Award Recipients. (from left): Cora Lee Graham Outstanding Teacher of Freshman: Hilary Becker, Outstanding Teacher of Year: Kathryn McKee,Outstanding Instructor of Year Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three faculty members Saturday (May 9) for their excellence in teaching.

The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Kathryn McKee, McMullan associate professor of Southern studies and associate professor of English. Hilary Becker, assistant professor of classics, was given the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year honor was presented to Karen Forgette, core instructor for the Department of Writing and Rhetoric.

Each recipient was recognized at the college’s commencement ceremony and received a plaque and $1,000. Their names were also added to an award plaque in the dean’s office.

“We commend this year’s recipients for their outstanding dedication to teaching and service to our students,” said Rich Forgette, interim dean of liberal arts. “These awards symbolize the importance of teaching excellence to the college’s mission.”

Each recipient reflected upon the meaning of her selection for the prestigious honors.

“I was delighted,” McKee said. “Many fine colleagues and good friends have won it in the past, and I’m humbled to join their company. Teaching well is the most important part of my job; class is the most important part of my workday.”

Becker said she is pleased and honored that her students and the college had chosen to recognize her commitment to teaching.

“While at the University of Mississippi, I have been able to create many opportunities for students to learn about the ancient world in context, whether that is taking students to Rome to excavate, taking students to museums and galleries in New York City or providing opportunities in different classes for students to work with Greek and Roman objects from our University Museum,'” Becker said. “Whether those encounters take place locally, nationally or internationally, they contribute to what’s happening in the class but also contribute to the students’ intellectual growth.”

Winning her teaching award makes Karen Forgette, who joined the faculty 10 years ago, feel more connected than ever to the university and those who have walked its halls in the past two centuries.

“UM has so many outstanding teachers, and I am delighted to be associated with them,” she said. “This honor is especially gratifying to me because I truly enjoy my job. Working with young writers is like having a window into the future, and I am continually delighted and often amazed at the creativity and innovation of the next generation.”

All three honorees have degrees from the University of North Carolina. Becker was a 2004 Fulbright Scholar and received a research fellowship at Ohio State University last summer. McKee won the Cora Lee Graham Award and the Mississippi Humanities Council Teacher of the Year award for the UM campus in 2001.

Criteria for the awards include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare. Administrators praised the commitment and expertise of all the honorees.

“Dr. McKee is a consummate English professor who received the highest accolades from her students, and who has the respect and admiration of her colleagues in the English department,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “She is well-known for teaching rigorous, well-organized classes in 19th- and 20th-century American literature that inspire graduate students and undergraduates alike.”

Molly Claire Pasco-Pranger, chair and associate professor of classics, said Becker is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers she’s ever worked with.

“She is unstintingly generous in giving extra attention to those who are struggling, but spends just as much time encouraging and mentoring those who are thriving to push themselves to places they didn’t know they could go,” Pasco-Pranger said. “It goes without saying that she knows her stuff, and knows it well. She has taught at least a dozen different classes in her three years at the university and is as strong a teacher of Latin as she is of her specialty courses in Roman and Etruscan art and archaeology.”

Similar praises for Karen Forgette came from Robert E. Cummings, director and associate professor of writing and rhetoric.

“Students are asked to work hard in her classes, and she pushes them to find new writing capabilities,” Cummings said. “But the fact that they see the benefit and realize their gains quickly enough to record their gratitude at the end of the semester is a testament to her dedication and effectiveness. Students leave her classroom motivated and inspired to continue their development as college writers.”

Established 30 years ago by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, the Graham award was established to help retain better professors who teach freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for this annual award also include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

Founded in 1848, the College of Liberal Arts is the university’s oldest and largest academic division. For more information, visit