UM Student Passes His Way to a $100K Scholarship

Jarrius Adams wins grand prize in the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway in Indiana

UM sophomore Jarrius Adams holds the $100,000 check he won during the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway football throw-off in Indiana. Submitted photo

UM sophomore Jarrius Adams holds the $100,000 check he won during the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway football throw-off in Indiana. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Throwing winning touchdown passes is always gratifying, but for Jarrius Adams on Saturday (Dec. 3), lobbing the football also proved to be very lucrative.

The University of Mississippi sophomore successfully threw 11 15-yard passes into a target to win the $100,000 Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway scholarship. The 30-second throw-off against another finalist was televised live during halftime at the Wisconsin-Penn State Big 10 Conference championship.

The windfall is a welcome surprise for the Hattiesburg native, who is majoring in public policy leadership and political science at Ole Miss.

“It’s a truly wonderful blessing,” the 19-year-old said Monday, still giddy from the prize-winning weekend. “I worked really hard to get to reach this level, but honestly, it’s hard to believe it really happened.”

Adams’ journey to the winner’s circle began in August, when he ran across an ad for the competition on his Facebook page.

“Years before, I’d watched another Ole Miss student I knew win second place in this same competition,” he said. “I told myself then I would one day enter it myself, but forgot about it until I saw the ad. That’s when I decided to enter the contest.”

The soft drink company contest invites students ages 18 to 24 to submit 350-word essays on how they would use their education to change the world. Social media users vote for the entries, and those whose entries receive a minimum of 50 votes each record 1-minute videos to gain even more votes.

To see Adams’ video, go to

Company officials then select 16 finalists who compete in preliminary throw-offs before appearing at ACC, Big 10, SEC and PAC-12 college conference football championships. Other institutions with finalists included Texas A&M University, Cornell University, George Fox University, Oklahoma City University and the universities of Georgia, Northern Colorado and Southern California at Santa Cruz.

Students from the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy, Enterprise State Community College and Bristol Community College were also finalists in the competition.

“Tuition costs are rising year by year,” Adams said in his video. “The No. 1 financial crisis for this nation for years to come is college students’ debt. The nation must make a commitment to alleviate the pressure on millenials.

“Financial constraints create unbearable obstacles, but I thank Dr Pepper for disabling those barriers for so many students.

Before Saturday’s telecast, Adams rehearsed throwing footballs alone with a friend.

“I really wasn’t nervous, but being on live television in front of thousands of people was a bit distracting at first,” he said. “Once the whistle blew and I started actually throwing the balls, I focused on winning. Only after it was over and I was being presented the check did I realize that I’d won. It felt so good!”

The runner-up got a $20,000 scholarship.

Since his winning moment, Adams has received hundreds of thousands of congratulations via his social media, emails, texts and phone calls. UM Chancellor Jeffery S. Vitter was among those who praised him for his winnings.

“I am so thrilled for Jarrius,” Vitter said. “He is such a deserving student who will use his college education to achieve great things and change lives. This prize money will certainly go a long way toward helping him reach his goals.”

A UM orientation leader, Adams is the son of Taquanna and Yahmani Adams of Hattiesburg. His siblings include a brother and a sister.

“To not have to worry about college tuition anymore is such a huge blessing for me,” he said. “I really hope that my good fortune inspires others to seek such opportunities in the future.”

He shared his short- and long-term goals for his unexpected funds.

“There are two issues that I hold dear to my heart: education and voter registration,” Adams said. “With my degree, I will work to rebuild the current educational system to ensure that all students have access to a free and adequate public education. I will continue to be an advocate for voter registration, making sure that it is more feasible for all citizens to participate in the voting process.”

For more information about the Dr Pepper Tuition Giveaway, visit

UM Master of Business Administration Program Ranks Among Nation’s Best

Bloomberg Businessweek lauds track record of alumni satisfaction, success

The University of Mississippi's Master of Business Administration program has been named one of the best in the nation for the third consecutive year. Photo by Nathan Latil, UM Brand Photography

The university’s Master of Business Administration program has been named one of the best in the nation for the third consecutive year. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the third consecutive year, the University of Mississippi’s Master of Business Administration program has been named as one of the best in the nation by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The UM program ranked No. 36 among American public universities in the annual rankings and No. 68 overall nationally.

“We are thrilled that the MBA program is getting the recognition it deserves,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “We are excited our efforts have paid off through the commitment of our faculty, staff and board to provide excellent graduate educational opportunities.

“We are proud of our MBA graduates and the recognition that the program is receiving and look forward to the future.”

More graduate degrees in business are awarded annually than in any other field in the U.S., the report said. Also, dozens of new business schools are accredited each year. The data in the survey was compiled from more than 1,000 recruiters, 15,000 alumni and 9,000 recent graduates.

“As leaders and professionals, our board members understand the big picture,” said Ashley Jones, director of the university’s MBA program. “They want an Ole Miss MBA student, with a polished resume in their hand, to walk into an interview and ‘wow’ a company, and to then transition into the workforce as a valued employee.”

The report indicates that more than 89 percent of MBA graduates find job placement within three months of degree completion.

“The recognition of the Ole Miss MBA program reflects the excellent efforts of our faculty, alumni board, administrators and the students themselves,” said Walter Davis, the program’s faculty director. “As a team, we are always looking for ways to add value to the experience of our MBA students.”

UM came in ahead of several respected programs, including Tulane, Case Western Reserve and Pepperdine universities, in the report. The university ranked sixth in the Southeastern Conference.

“I chose the Ole Miss MBA program not only to further my education, but to become a business professional,” said Shelby Buckley, of Farmington, Missouri, president of the 2016-17 MBA class. “The program focuses on how to apply skills learned in the classroom to our future careers.

“I value the professional development the program provides as well as the level of involvement of the board. They are a vital resource, and it is great to have other professionals helping us start our own careers.”

Bloomberg Businessweek News Service has ranked full-time MBA programs in the U.S. since 1988. Over the years, the organization has shifted its methodology to focus on how well programs prepare their graduates for job success. The survey measures recruiter opinions on how well MBA programs equip their graduates with relevant skills, and also records feedback from students on how thoroughly they have been prepared for the workforce.

According to the survey, the university’s MBA program’s two greatest strengths were in the employer survey and the student survey, ranking Nos. 37 and 46, respectively.

The UM School of Business Administration was established in 1917 and awarded its first MBA degree in 1946.

UM Engineering School Creates Biomedical Degree Program

Curriculum will prepare students for range of career opportunities in cutting-edge field

Biomedical Engineering students will soon be among those using chemical engineering laboratories such as the one pictured here. Classes in the new degree program begin Fall 2017. Photo by Kevin Bain.

Biomedical engineering students soon will be among those using engineering laboratories such as this one. Classes in the new degree program begin in fall 2017. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – After years of development, the University of Mississippi School of Engineering has launched its new biomedical degree program.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the curriculum for the new major during its November meeting. Students interested in pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering are encouraged to apply now for admission for the fall 2017 semester.

“Biomedical engineering at the University of Mississippi will prepare students for rapidly growing opportunities in three primary job markets,” said Dwight Waddell, associate professor of electrical engineering and director of the new program. “These include biomolecular engineering, biomedical systems engineering and bioinformatics.”

“I believe that the addition of the new biomedical engineering program will definitely serve the university, state and nation well,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the engineering school. “With so much attention currently being given to the field, having such a program here keeps us highly competitive.”

Biomolecular engineering is a growing discipline at the interface of molecular biology, biophysical chemistry and chemical engineering, whereby students gain expertise developing novel molecular tools.

“These tools are used to translate understanding of fundamental principles of physical biochemistry into useful processes, devices, therapies and diagnostics,” Waddell said.

Biomedical systems engineering incorporates elements of mechanical engineering design with physiological controls and instrumentation.

“Students can employ lessons from bioinstrumentation and systems mechanics to create sensors, test models and build devices to meet currently unmet needs in the medical field,” Waddell explained.

Bioinformatics is an interdisciplinary hybrid combining computer science, statistics, mathematics and engineering to analyze and interpret biological data.

“Techniques from bioinformatics have helped unlock the human genome, better understand evolutionary biology and are now pivotal in the coming era of ‘big data’ analysis,” he said.

In addition to fundamental engineering courses, biomedical engineering students will take courses in biology, chemistry and systems physiology to more effectively apply engineering science to specific medical and industrial needs.

The program has been requested by prospective students for several years, said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics in the engineering school.

“I’m delighted to finally be able to direct them to this exciting new opportunity,” Kendricks said. “I believe it will attract some of the best and brightest.”

The idea and initial work for the new program was initiated by Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair of the UM Department of Electrical Engineering, and Cheng. Waddell, also a research associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management at UM, moved into the School of Engineering to facilitate program development in 2013.

“It’s an exciting time,” Waddell said. “With increasing demands to share fiscal resources and promote interdisciplinary research, BME is uniquely situated at the cusp of applied technology, medicine and STEM education.”

A former postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Waddell earned his doctoral and master’s degrees in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas, and his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University. Formerly a faculty member at Tulane University, he has an active research program, including projects on stuttering mitigation, functional brain imaging and postural control of gait and locomotion.

For more information about UM’s biomedical engineering program, visit

UM Professor Shares His ‘A’ Game

Ken Sufka creates scholarship with book royalties

UM professor Ken Sufka (left) and his wife, Stevi Self, have established a scholarship from royalties received from the publication of Sufka's book. UM Provost Morris Stocks (right) was instrumental in making the book required reading for all entering students. Photo by Bill Dabney

UM professor Ken Sufka (left) and his wife, Stevi Self, have established a scholarship from royalties received from the publication of Sufka’s book. UM Provost Morris Stocks (right) was instrumental in making the book required reading for all entering students. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Ken Sufka, professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Mississippi, wants students to achieve academic success, so much so that he’s given them a guide that centrally involves bringing their “A” game to every class.

During Sufka’s 25 years-and-counting at Ole Miss, an increasing number of students have sought his counsel on improving their performance on assignments and exams.

“From interviews with students, I discovered a set of bad student habits and poor study skills that hinder academic performance,” Sufka said. “At the same time, I kept up with a growing body of scientific literature on student learning.

“It was interesting to see how well this research dovetailed with many identifiable problems that interfered with mastering coursework.”

His solution? Publish a list of study strategies that would give students a written roadmap to success. Sufka’s book, “The A Game: Nine Steps to Better Grades” (Nautilus Publishing, 2011) is given to every Ole Miss student at enrollment.

From the book’s increasing royalties, the professor and his wife, Stevi Self, have established the Kenneth Sufka Undergraduate Scholarship in Psychology Endowment.

“I originally wrote this book of study tips to help my students succeed in their coursework,” said Sufka, who was named the Elise M. Hood Outstanding Teacher in 1996. “Now, with the book’s proceeds, we can help fund a scholarship to make college a little more affordable so that students can focus more on their academic success.”

The scholarship is available to full-time junior or senior psychology majors with financial need and who maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average.

“I’ve had the privilege of observing Ken’s outstanding teaching and the way he inspires students to be the very best that they can be,” said UM Provost Morris Stocks, who invited Sufka to speak to the Provost Scholars during the program’s first year.

“I saw the reaction our students had to Ken about achieving excellence, and it sparked our interest in making his book available to all our students. When students put into practice Ken’s nine rules, they are empowered and equipped to meet the challenges and rigor of college academic life.”

Self witnessed the book’s transformative effect when a student approached her husband to say that the advice offered in “The A Game” enabled him to be admitted into the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“It was so sweet,” she said. “It took us totally by surprise.”

The Kenneth Sufka Undergraduate Scholarship in Psychology 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 information on establishing scholarship endowments, call 662-915-5944.

UM Students Share Hospital Shadowing Experiences

Students followed health care professionals at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi

UM Center for Population Studies Director John Green (left) chats with Assistant Professor of Religion Sarah Moses and BMH-NMS Chaplain Director Joe Young during the Medical Humanities students reception.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM Center for Population Studies Director John Green (left) chats with Assistant Professor of Religion Sarah Moses and BMH-NMS Chaplain Director Joe Young during the Medical Humanities students reception.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – After spending several weeks shadowing area health care professionals, University of Mississippi students interested in similar careers shared highlights of their mentorship experiences this week.

The Tuesday (Nov. 29) reception for those enrolled in the fall 2016 Medical Humanities course was held in Bryant Hall gallery on the Oxford campus. Members of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi who mentored the group joined UM administrators, faculty, staff and students for the event, which featured five of the 12 enrolled students making brief presentations.

“Our goal was for the students to gain a better understanding of how various factors shape the human experience in illness and in medicine,” said Sarah Moses, assistant professor of religion and course instructor. “Creating this class took lots of work, but hearing these students’ reflections today shows it was well worth the effort.”

John Green, professor of sociology and director of both the Center for Population Studies and the new Society and Health minor in the College of Liberal Arts, agreed.

“Listening to these students share their reflections is very rewarding,” he said. “We are definitely committed to making this course in the society and health minor a long-term investment.”

Medical Humanities, one of two advanced course requirements for the minor, is a combined readings and field experience course in a hospital setting to study the ethical, social and cultural issues in medicine. Additionally, students must take advanced elective courses.

“While only 12 students were able to take the course this fall, I already have 25 students on the waiting list for Medical Humanities in fall 2017,” Moses said.

Each of the presenters said that being in the course was more like a transformative “life experience” than a class.

“Being in this course made me a more well-rounded person,” said Josh Law, a senior religious studies and pre-med major from Birmingham, Alabama. “Ultimately, I believe I will be a more well-rounded health care professional in the future because of it.”

Sarah Robinson said she discovered how important addressing nonmedical needs and communication are to an ailing patient and his or her family members.

“Being in this course helped me to see both patients and those who work with them in various ways as whole people,” said the junior Spanish and pre-med major from Covington, Louisiana. “That understanding is critical to the effective treatment and care.”

Miller Richmond, a senior international studies and pre-med major from Madison, said Medical Humanities proved to be a perfect followup to his study abroad experience last spring.

“Being immersed in a different culture broadened my understanding of people as human beings,” he said. “Medical Humanities continued to expand my thinking. I now more fully understand that patient care goes much farther than physiology and medicine.”

Other student presenters were J.R. Markos, a senior from Jackson, Tennessee, who is majoring in public policy leadership, and Cayla Scott, a senior religious studies major from Mendenhall.

Green is slated to teach Society and Population Health, the other mandatory advanced course option for students entering the minor, during the spring 2017 semester.

“In Society and Population Health, students learn about health disparities in Mississippi and the value of interdisciplinary and interprofessional teams in tackling these issues,” Green said. “They also make field visits to medical/nursing schools and public health programs.”

Following the completion of Elementary Statistics and one of the advanced courses, Ole Miss students can apply to the minor program. It is also recommended that students take General Psychology and Introductory Sociology to complete the general education social science requirements.

Students must take courses from at least two different departments when completing the last requirement of 12 credit hours of advanced social science and humanities courses. They should note that the same course may not satisfy requirements for both the major and the minor.

Students who complete relevant internships, special topics, study abroad or directed study courses must consult with the director for approval before enrollment in the course.

“This unique and timely minor provides a social science and humanities perspective to the understanding of health,” said Lee M. Cohen, UM liberal arts dean. “I believe such a perspective will foster an appreciation and respect for team-based problem-solving to improve the delivery of health care.”

For more information about the minor in society and health, visit or contact Lynn Woo, research associate with the Center for Population Studies, at or at 662-915-7288.

Charting Their Own Course

Three female chemical engineering graduates find success with Cooper Tire Co.

Jessica Sinak is a Tire Engineer at Cooper Tire. (Submitted photo)

Jessica Sinak is a tire engineer at Cooper Tire. Submitted photo

In a field and industry traditionally dominated by men, three female chemical engineering alumni from the University of Mississippi are making their mark at the Cooper Tire manufacturing plant in Tupelo.

Jessica Sinak, Elizabeth Spence Taylor and Nichole Williams, all of whom earned their degrees within the past five years, each have launched promising careers within the company.

Sinak, a tire engineer in the technical department, works on new product designs and supports the products already run in the plant.

“Cooper is definitely a team atmosphere, and it makes my job more enjoyable knowing that everyone is willing to help if you need it,” said the St. Louis native who celebrates her second anniversary with the company this winter.

“It’s like a little family, and I enjoy coming to work every day. One of the best things about my position is that it changes day to day. I really love that variety and thrive on change.”

The 2014 graduate cited John O’Haver as her favorite professor, saying that his classes were where she learned the most.

“I could go to him about anything, on any given day and he would be there to help,” she said. “The courses were about learning the process, how to problem-solve and really just understanding the basics of engineering principles. It was these classes that made it clear to me that I had chosen the right major.”

A chemical engineer in materials development, Taylor, a 2011 graduate, works with the mixing of tread compounds. The Grenada native said she chose to study chemical engineering because she wanted a challenge after graduating from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.

Elizabeth Spencer Taylor is a Chemical Engineer in the Tupelo plant. (Submitted photo)

Elizabeth Spencer Taylor is a chemical engineer in the Tupelo plant. Submitted photo

“I fell in love with chemistry and physics in high school, so chemical engineering seemed like a logical choice for me,” she said. “I enjoy the challenge. Every day is different than the last, and my education at Ole Miss fully prepared me for the challenges that I face daily.”

In addition to her daily responsibilities, Taylor is also the co-captain of the Cooper Tire Dream Team. The Dream Team is a part of the Manufacturing Institute’s “Dream It. Do It.” program, an initiative geared toward enhancing the perception of manufacturing among middle school students.

“It’s very rewarding to get students interested in careers in STEM fields,” Taylor said. “I was also awarded a scholarship to attend Vanderbilt University’s executive MBA program, which I am currently attending.”

Like Sinak, Taylor said O’Haver was her favorite professor.

“He always emphasized that the major component of engineering is figuring out how to solve problems, and it also happened that he was great at listening to problems, engineering or otherwise,” she said. “I still call him when I need a sounding board.”

Taylor’s husband, Wesley, is also an Ole Miss alumnus, originally from Brookhaven. Her leisure activities include spending time with their daughter, cheering on the Rebels and wine tasting.

Williams, a 2013 graduate, joined the company in 2013 as a Six Sigma Black Belt. She is responsible for leading a variety of process improvement projects for the facility, focused in the plant’s mixing and receiving departments.

“I love the challenge that comes with being a Black Belt,” the Iuka native said. “I get the opportunity to work in several different areas of the plant and get exposure to different levels of our organization. I might go from a project that addresses a specific problem on a specific machine to a project affecting an entire department, to a project that requires me to interact with our corporate office.”

Six Sigma Black Belt Nichole Williams poses with her 2016 Emerging Leader Award. Photo courtesy of the National Assoc. of Manufacturers;Photo by Ian Wagreich

Six Sigma Black Belt Nichole Williams poses with her 2016 Emerging Leader Award. Photo courtesy of the National Association of Manufacturers/Ian Wagreich

Recently, Williams was named a 2016 Emerging Leader by the Manufacturing Institute’s Science Technology Engineering Production Ahead program. While 100 women are chosen annually to be honorees for achievements in manufacturing, only 30 are chosen as Emerging Leaders.

Williams also was one of only two honorees to speak during the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C. Her speech highlighted the importance of encouraging the next generation, particularly girls, to pursue careers in manufacturing.

Williams said that UM “always felt like home.” She intended to study chemistry but changed her mind after attending a Math Camp sponsored by the university’s Center for Mathematics and Science Education. That’s where Williams was first introduced to chemical engineering.

“I enjoyed each of my professors for different reasons, but two of my favorites were Dr. O’Haver and Dr. (Paul) Scovazzo,” Williams said. “‘Dr. O’ is such an inspirational teacher who makes you feel like you can achieve anything. Dr. Scovazzo provided great guidance for a professional career, and I credit him with pushing me to a career in engineering, as opposed to just an education.”

Williams and her husband, Drew, a 2009 UM computer science graduate, are parents of an infant son, Anderson. When she’s not at work, she enjoys adjusting to life as a new mom, reading, planning the next family trip or buried in whatever hobby she’s taken up recently.

Here’s to the all the UM women engineers. These women engineers are making a difference within a global manufacturing organization.

North Mississippi VISTA Project Seeks Recruits

Sixth year of community-building program begins in January 2017

nmvp-logo-copyOXFORD, Miss. – The North Mississippi Volunteers in Service to America, or VISTA, Project is recruiting members interested in helping community organizations that combat poverty across the region for the coming year, its sixth year of operation.

The VISTA Project, which is overseen by the University of Mississippi’s  McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, sponsors 15 community-based organizations and has funding for up to 25 full-year VISTA members to serve throughout north Mississippi and the Delta. 

The McLean Institute is a natural home for the North Mississippi VISTA Project, which previously was administered by the university’s College of Liberal Arts, said Albert Nylander, a professor of sociology and McLean Institute director.

“The McLean Institute’s mission of advancing transformative service and fighting poverty through education in Mississippi is bold,” Nylander said. “This initiative will continue establishing and fostering beneficial partnerships and programs that advance education in underserved communities across the state.”

Prospective applicants must be motivated, reliable team players who are 18 years or older and have earned at least a high school diploma or GED. Interested individuals can visit for application instructions. The deadline for applications is Dec. 12.

North Mississippi VISTA Ellen Olack (left) helps with Food Day activities at the Ole Miss Student Union. Submitted photo

North Mississippi VISTA Ellen Olack (left) helps with Food Day activities at the Ole Miss Student Union. Submitted photo

“The work of our VISTA members has been exemplary,” said Stephen Monroe, UM assistant dean of liberal arts and founder of the North Mississippi VISTA Project. “Across Mississippi, VISTAs have strengthened vital nonprofits and schools; they have written and received dozens of grants; they have organized national days of service; they have increased our flagship university’s capacity to connect meaningfully to neighboring communities.

“All of this work has shared the singular purpose of fighting poverty through education. We are proud of our previous VISTAs and excited about the future.”

VISTA members commit to one year of service within community-based organizations. VISTAs work to manage and recruit volunteers, create opportunities for low-income youth, build social entrepreneurship, write grants and increase access to higher education.

“Service has long been a part of my life,” VISTA leader Sara Baker said. “The opportunity to serve as a VISTA has allowed me to develop the skills to ensure that our campus and community partners create sustainable systems to further their missions to alleviate poverty.”

The NMVP serves several organizations based on the Ole Miss campus or in Oxford, including Good Food for Oxford Schools, the Horizons summer program, the Lafayette County Literacy Council and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Positions outside Lafayette County are available at Crenshaw Elementary School in Crenshaw, North Panola High School in Sardis and Youth Opportunities Unlimited in Marks.

In the next year and beyond, the NMVP will continue to develop host sites around north Mississippi, cultivating projects and placing VISTAs with community partners that fight poverty through education. In the 2016-17 program year, the VISTA project will bring more than $650,000 to the region.

North Mississippi VISTAs Liam Clements and Chelsea Herbert (right) work the United Way booth in the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

North Mississippi VISTAs Liam Clements and Chelsea Herbert (right) work the United Way booth in the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Submitted photo

Examples of VISTA projects include the creation of College Corps, programmatic and fundraising collaborations for LOU Excel By 5 and many other nonprofits in the community, the Traveling Trunks program at the UM Museum, and a mobile farmers market that offered fresh, local produce to residents of low-income housing developments.

Most VISTAs have been recent graduates of UM programs, such as the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Sylvia Stewart, who graduated from UM in 2014 and served as a VISTA with the United Way before becoming a North Mississippi VISTA leader, is studying poverty alleviation at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University.

“For me, the most fulfilling aspect of serving with the North Mississippi VISTA Project was being part of the movement to make Mississippi a better place,” Stewart said. “I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to meet and work alongside the intelligent, caring and passionate people involved in the struggle to alleviate poverty in our community.

“The friendships and professional relationships I formed will forever impact my life. I found my calling working with VISTA, but I also gained the skills to make my professional aspirations a reality.”

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

“Community partnerships inspire the work of the McLean Institute,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute. “We are thrilled to support VISTA members as they build capacity among our campus and community partners to impact quality of life in Mississippi.”

The association with the McLean Institute will help sustain and expand the VISTA Project, Nylander said.

“The goals and mission of NMVP and the McLean Institute align perfectly, and we look forward to NMVP’s future growth and continued success,” he said.

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact VISTA leaders Sara Baker and Shannon Curtis at or 662-915-2397.

Greg Moore Continues to Give Back

New CEO of AED Inc. generously supports his alma mater

Gregory Moore, CEO of AED, Inc. (Submitted photo)

Gregory Moore, CEO of AED Inc. Submitted photo

Giving to the University of Mississippi School of Engineering is something Greg Moore has done for many years. So when the alumnus recently became CEO of AED Inc., he naturally decided to continue supporting his alma mater.

“As a business leader with a marketing and business development background, the Ole Miss engineering school has provided a lot of very talented and tech-savvy engineers with a unique set of social skills that allow them to effectively communicate with their peers, but also the business and financial executives within a firm,” Moore said. “I have served on the engineering advisory board and have actively recruited and hired Ole Miss engineers.”

Moore is a model alumnus, said Kevin Gardner, UM development officer for the school.

“Greg Moore exemplifies all of what is best about Ole Miss engineering,” Gardner said. “Not only does he financially contribute to the school and its programs; he also serves as an adviser and recruits students as future employees for where he works.”

As chief executive officer, Moore works in coordination with AED chairman and founder Reginald Waters to leverage the firm’s strength in multiple segments to expand the scope of the company’s offerings and client base.

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Moore came to the university after being offered a scholarship.

“I fell in love while visiting, and it was the best decision I ever made,” he said. I” enjoyed a tremendous four years of personal growth and development, a wonderful education and an introduction to society and business. I also made lifelong friends and relationships that I exercise every day.”

Among Moore’s favorite professors were John Winkle and Mary Stuckey in political science and Dick Mackenzie and Bill Shugart in economics.

“All these people shaped my world view,” Moore said.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in public administration in 1991, Moore went on to earn a master’s degree in management from Florida Technical Institute.

Moore’s family includes his three sons: Ryan, an Ole Miss freshman; Nathan, a high school sophomore; and Bennett, a seventh grader.

Moore lists his favorite leisure activities as golf, hiking, anything in Oxford and the occasional glass of whiskey.

Lance Yarbrough Rejoins Geology and Geological Engineering Faculty

New assistant professor combines expertise in private sector, experiences in academia

Lance Yabrough (far right) assists students in Geology and Geological Engineering laboratory. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Lance Yabrough (right) assists students in a geology and geological engineering laboratory. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Lance David Yabrough’s career was soaring before he joined the University of Mississippi School of Engineering faculty. Still, the newest assistant professor of geology and geological engineering was eager to come aboard.

“I had been an adjunct associate professor with the department for more than a year while I was part of a small business technology startup in Vicksburg,” said Yarbrough, who earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees from UM. “I was already familiar with the faculty and their research areas.

“The thought of full-time effort at an R-1 university was a new challenge I could not ignore. The excitement of working with new colleagues in the department and school was also a draw.”

Before returning to his alma mater to teach, Yabrough was technical director of geospatial solutions for Crosstek Solutions LLC in Vicksburg. As a member of the leadership team, he helped the company deliver global solutions for agriculture, engineering and defense sectors. Yabrough also provided customized software solutions, conducted applied research for a variety of projects and developed sales prospects.

He was also principal engineer for Delta Engineering Solutions LLC in Vicksburg.

“The leadership team I was a part of in Vicksburg was phenomenal, and the work that we were doing with our clients, including private, defense and Army Corps of Engineers was important,” he said. “The laboratory was one of the few U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-validated materials laboratories in the state of Mississippi.”

Though Yarbrough has been back on campus only a few months, he already has set both short- and long-term goals.

“I have two main focuses for both my teaching and research interests,” Yabrough said. “For teaching, this would include the course ‘Engineering Geology’ and future drilling, mining and petroleum-related advance courses.”

The second focus is geospatial and remote sensing, with a special interest in big data and sensor integration.

“In the research area, both tend to complement each other well,” Yarbrough said. “For proper studies in geohazards, a high-fidelity data set is needed to characterize the study site environment. Sensors and geospatial tools are very effective in achieving this goal.”

Yabrough is a welcome addition to the department, said Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering.

“Lance was one of our own graduates who went on to a faculty position and tenure at the University of North Dakota before leaving to work in industry for a few years,” he said. “He now comes back to us with a wealth of experience in the areas of drilling, remote sensing and commercial geology applications. We are thrilled to have him back on our team as a colleague.”

Yarbrough said his long-term goals are to develop an advanced laboratory, develop his work with terrestrial Light Detection and Ranging, or LIDAR, a surveying method that uses laser light to measure distances; synthetic aperture radar; and UAS platform integration.

“Maintaining high-quality graduates and researchers is a goal that must be achieved,” he said. “To accomplish this and to keep things fresh, I draw from my research and industry experiences.

“This imbues an excitement about the profession in students, while creating opportunities for them to use my research laboratories to further their knowledge and understanding of complex Earth processes.”

A native of Arizona, Yarbrough earned his bachelor’s degree in geological engineering from the University of Missouri at Rolla. After that, he began his career working at the U.S. Geological Survey, Sverdrup Environmental, Environmental Monitor Systems Corp., the U.S. Department of Agriculture, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, the Hess Corp. and the University of North Dakota.

“My most fulfilling early personal achievements were obtaining my professional registrations,” he said. “A more recent achievement was when I was one of the founding members of the B.S. Petroleum Engineering degree program at the University of North Dakota.

“By positioning the established geological engineering program to help support the new petroleum program, we were able to support growth from four initial students to nearly 300 in only three short years.”

During this period, the GE program nearly quadrupled in size, Yarbrough said.

“Building the curriculum from the ground up, we worked with industry and other established programs from around the country,” he said. “Within five years of its creation, the program was accredited by ABET Inc.

“For my contributions with transitions and program building, I received the North Dakota Spirit Faculty Achievement Award.”

Yarbrough and his wife, Buffie, also a UM graduate with degrees in psychology and social work, live in Oxford with their son, David “Zeke,” who is a freshman at Oxford High School.

In his spare time, Yabrough enjoys residential construction and remodeling.

“I have had a hammer in my hand most of my life,” he said. “Helping people with landscaping or construction projects is fun and satisfying.”

UM Chapter of Society of Automotive Engineers Off to a Great Start

Group has leadership team, goals in place to compete on national level

UM chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers members display their flag on campus. (Submitted photo)

Members of the UM chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers display their flag on campus. Submitted photo

Chartered in the fall of 2015, the Society of Automotive Engineers is a new student organization within the University of Mississippi School of Engineering that is looking to provide students with opportunities to gain skills and further their interests in the automotive industry.

The organization boasts more than 127,000 members and has student chapters across the country, according to its website. The society’s design competitions have hosted more than 4,500 students from 500 universities. Scholarships are also offered through the SAE Foundation to assist students pursuing degrees in engineering.

The Ole Miss chapter of SAE was the idea of J.D. Heffington, senior research and development engineer at the university’s National Center for Physical Acoustics. Heffington also serves as the organization’s faculty adviser and organized the initial meeting that garnered enough student interest to launch the group. The chapter quickly formed and elected officers in the spring 2016 semester.

The organization was created to continue enhancing the professional development of engineering students interested in the automotive world and to give them experience that is difficult to get solely in the classroom, said SAE President Kevin Ozbirn, an unclassified mechanical engineering major from Reinzi.

“We wanted to give students at Ole Miss an avenue to get hands-on experience with production processes and design techniques,” he said. “The student design competition is a production proposal, much like students would see on the job.”

Students who join can learn budgeting and logistics, gain confidence in their use of engineering concepts and learn what it’s like being part of a team, he said.

The SAE Baja collegiate design competition is a primary focus for students involved in SAE, said Turner Wharton, a senior mechanical engineering major from Clifton, Virginia, who serves as vice president.

A young visitor to campus tests a SAE project on display. (Submitted photo)

A young visitor to campus tests a SAE project on display. Submitted photo

“In this competition, teams of engineering students from all over the world are tasked with designing and building an off-road race buggy from the ground up, all while maintaining strict parameters set by SAE International,” he said. “The final product is evaluated for design merits and ultimately tested against other teams in a four-hour endurance race.”

Brandon Boyd, another senior mechanical engineering major from McComb who serves as the chapter secretary, said the group is working diligently toward the goal of participating the SAE Baja challenge.

“Because we were just formed as an organization last year, we were not able to compete in the year-end student design competition,” he said. “We are continuing to recruit new members, and our end goal is to compete in the Baja car competition in Pittsburg, Kansas, in May.”

As secretary, Boyd works to support the organization in areas including team registration, material invoices and promotion for the organization.

The student leaders of SAE are confident that the organization will provide invaluable experience that cannot be obtained from engineering coursework alone.

Both Wharton and Ozbirn hope to see the organization grow and gain the support and experience to compete in the SAE Formula competition, an event where student groups compete in a high-level race series with scaled-down Formula One cars powered by 600cc motorcycle engines. They hope to garner support from industry partners and other groups to help reach their goals.