Engineering Administrators Visit Bay Area Alumni

Time in Silicon Valley yields connections, information

Right to Left: Dr. Vish, Skip Saul, Dean Cheng, and Monsters, at

UM engineering Dean Alex Cheng (left), alumnus Skip Saul and professor Ramanarayanan Vishanathan visit

Many talented University of Mississippi engineering graduates work in high-tech fields, including a number in the Silicon Valley area. Recently, leaders of the School of Engineering visited these alumni to bring them news from campus and to make mutually beneficial connections.

Dean Alex Cheng and Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, accompanied Kevin Gardner, the school’s development officer, to San Francisco, Mountain View and San Jose. The trio’s mission was to create networking opportunities not only between the school and the alumni, but also among the alumni themselves.

“We seek to explore recruitment, intern, co-op and career opportunities for our students and assistance to academic programs,” Cheng said.

With a few hundred engineering alumni scattered among the millions of people in Bay area, getting together was a challenge. Former Water Valley residents Greer Person and David Aune, who each attended Ole Miss at different times, moved through a number of places and finally met in San Francisco a few decades later. They fondly chatted about mutual hometown acquaintances.

“We held an after-work networking reception and a lunch, respectively in San Francisco and San Jose and Santa Clara,” Viswanathan said. “Alumni from most of our disciplines were represented – chemical, civil, computer and information science, electrical and mechanical engineering.”

Topics of discussion included present technology, Ole Miss engineers reconnecting, favorite professors, lab tales and longing for their next trip back to the beloved Circle. The dean also reported on the progress of the school, the promotion of a unique blend of engineering taught in a liberal arts setting, the increase in enrollment, improvement of student quality, and development of the new biomedical engineering program.

The engineering alumni also showed the group around town. Skip Saul (BS in Computer and Information Science 90 and MS 93) hosted them at Greer Person (BS in Electrical Engineering 84) took them to XILINX. Orevaoghene Addoh (BS in Electrical Engineering 11 and MS in Computer and Information Science 14) led a tour of Intel while Will Vaughan (BS 01 and MS 04 in Computer and Information Science) hosted them at LinkedIn.

Seeing demonstrations of the futuristic self-driving Google cars and a six-armed robot surgeon, the engineering leadership team was impressed by the folks at Silicon Valley, the nation’s prime location for high-tech development.

“It was a terrific experience where the engineering leadership could only merely scratch the surface in just two-and-one-half days, yet the information gathered by strengthening our relationships in the area of the latest science advances were immeasurable,” Cheng said. “We continue to look for opportunities to have our faculty and staff meet with our alumni and prospective students and this venue will be duplicated again.”

Any alumni who would like to help host School  Engineering leaders in their town for an alumni gathering are invited to  contact Alex Cheng at or 662-915-7407, or Kevin Gardner at or 662-915-7601.

Engineering Students Welcome New, Future Students

Colton Singleton and Rodrick 'Leo' Rogers served as orientation leaders for incoming freshmen

Colton Singleton

While many University of Mississippi engineering students headed home for the summer to take on jobs or traveled for vacation, Colton Singleton and Rodrick “Leo” Rogers remained in Oxford to support programs led by the Office of Admissions and the Office of Outreach and Continuing Programs.

Both Singleton and Rogers hold leadership roles within programs that help incoming UM freshmen as well as students still in high school. These roles also help them develop as student leaders and gain skills that will help them in their careers.

During the 2015 fall semester, Singleton learned of the opportunity to apply to be an orientation leader. Orientation leaders are students who lead small groups of freshmen during their summer orientation sessions, guiding families around campus, answering myriad questions about campus services and opportunities as well as provide assistance in other areas to make orientation a welcoming experience for new students and their parents.

Students who serve as orientation leaders also have a chance to represent the university at the Southern Regional Orientation Workshop.

A sophomore electrical engineering major from Erin, Tennessee, Singleton decided to apply for this role as a result of his own experience during orientation.

“Coming from a small town and being nervous about coming to Ole Miss, I had doubts about orientation,” he said. “My orientation leader quickly took me under her wing and made me feel at home during my orientation session. I soon fell in love with Ole Miss and everything it has to offer.”

To prepare for the role, Singleton reflected on his high school leadership experiences. However, he was unsure if he would be selected to work with the orientation staff.

“When I began applying, I did not feel that I fit the energetic orientation leader mold,” Singleton said. “I’m very introverted and didn’t know what to expect from the process.”

Singleton is thankful that the orientation staff seeks diversity in the leaders that can benefit the team and can represent the university in the most positive way. Singleton was the only engineering major selected to serve as an orientation leader.

His favorite thing about serving as an orientation leader was meeting all the new incoming students and making connections with them. It helped him realize that Ole Miss welcomes students from across the country and across the world.

Singleton enjoyed the learning experience and hopes to take what he has learned into future positions. His work with the Office of Admissions, however, did not end when orientation finished. In July, he served as a group leader for the APEX Leadership Summit for high school seniors, also sponsored by the Office of Admissions.

Rogers, also an electrical engineering major, serves as a counselor for the Summer Academy program hosted by the Office of Outreach. The academy gives students entering the eighth, ninth or 10th grades a taste of college life through a two-week residential academic program.

Summer Academy offers two sessions with different courses offered each session. Students can earn a one-half Carnegie unit that may be counted by their high school toward graduation.

An Oxford native, Rogers learned of the position through a family connection and through having served as a mentor for Summer Academy last summer.

Students who serve in these roles receive training from the Office of Outreach in a variety of areas, such as working with minors on a college campus. As a counselor, Rogers is responsible for the well-being of the student participants. He lives in a residence hall with the students in Summer Academy and leads them around campus to places such as the Rebel Market for meals and to other campus facilities for meetings and activities.

The goal is to give the students an early look into college life while ensuring they have a good experience on campus.

“My favorite thing about serving as a counselor is when the students come to sit with us at meals, because it helps us know that the students are having a good time,” he said. “We get to know the students personally even though they are only on campus for a limited amount of time. I was able to encourage one of our students to consider majoring in engineering in college.”

Because these students are at a formative age, Rogers hopes they will learn how to get along with others despite their differences. He also hopes that the students gain new perspectives about being on a college campus and what opportunities are available to them after graduation.

Some of the program’s participants are already looking at their college options, Rogers said, and he enjoys being able to answer questions from a university student perspective.

Besides his work with Summer Academy, Rogers is working on research with Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering. He is also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Both Singleton and Rogers encourage more engineers to consider applying for positions like theirs in the future as they feel that it is important for engineering students to be well-represented in campus life.


‘An Ambush of Tigers’ Claims CELI Read Aloud Book Award

UM literacy center honors top picture book of the year with annual award

CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell reads "An Ambush of Tigers" to children at Willie Price University Lab School.

CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell reads ‘An Ambush of Tigers’ to children at Willie Price University Lab School.

OXFORD. Miss. – “An Ambush of Tigers,” by author Betsy R. Rosenthal and illustrator Jago Silver, is the 2016 winner of the CELI Read Aloud Book Award, which presented annually by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction to recognize outstanding new books to read aloud to young children.

Published in April 2015 by Millbrook Press, “An Ambush of Tigers” conjures a wild gathering of rhyming and collective nouns to pique the interest of young children while educating them on vocabulary referring to groups of animals, such as a prickle of porcupines or a shiver of sharks.

“This book really focuses on enriching children’s vocabulary and engaging them with rich illustrations,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell, who serves on the Read Aloud award selection committee. “We had a great deal of positive comments and it engaged children in asking questions about the book.”

A committee of UM School of Education faculty and staff and working educators field-tested the eligible books with young children in a variety of educational settings, including schools, homes and media centers.

“Our class loved reading ‘An Ambush of Tigers,'” said Sarah Siebert, pre-K teacher at Willie Price University Lab School and a committee member. “It was an awesome way to introduce new vocabulary words to explain the different names of groups of animals.”

Committee members, who are selected based on their experience with children and their knowledge of children’s books, choose the best read-aloud picture book of the year using rubrics that measure children’s reactions to the books.

The book was chosen as the 2016 winner from 25 eligible books and will carry a seal on its cover. All remaining Read Aloud submission books will be donated to needs-based classrooms in north Mississippi.

Established in 2010, the Read Aloud Book Award recognizes honors books created for children from toddlers to 8 years old and promotes a love of reading. The award is partially supported by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.

Ryan Holmes Heads Dungan Engineering in Brookhaven

CE alumnus oversees projects, scheduling, business development and client management

Ryan Holmes

Ryan Holmes

As a child, Ryan Holmes decided early on that he would become a dentist But, the University of Mississippi graduate’s choice changed during a summer internship for Dungan Engineering.

“I realized that I wanted to follow in my father’s steps and become a civil engineer,” said the Columbia native. “It was very hard work, but I grew a deep appreciation for all aspects of the engineering field.”

Driven by his dreams, Holmes landed a job as a branch manager of Dungan’s Brookhaven office in 2007. Several promotions later, he is a principal engineer and vice president for the firm.

“We moved to Brookhaven without an office, staff or clients,” Holmes said. “Today, our office has grown significantly into one of the largest firms in southwest Mississippi. I currently oversee all phases of projects, scheduling, business development and client management.”

Jeff Dungan, the firm’s co-founder and principal engineer, said he knew right away that Holmes had great potential and leadership ability.

“Ryan puts his heart and soul into any engineering project that he undertakes,” Dungan said. “He has done an incredible job of cementing our firm’s presence in Brookhaven through his character, work ethic and dedication to improving the conditions within his community.”

Holmes’ family was not Ole Miss-friendly, but young love and generous financial aid packages soon convinced him that Rebel country was the place for him.

“As I began dating my wife (the former Whitney Wallace of Columbia), she and her parents introduced me to Ole Miss,” he said. “We visited the campus and attended sporting events. The dean of students at Pearl River Community College encouraged me to follow my dreams and helped open doors for many scholarship opportunities at Ole Miss. Soon, I grew to love Ole Miss and everything it stands for.”

Holmes said he found the smaller classroom sizes within the engineering school allowed him to develop closer relationships with professors.

“As my adviser, Dr. Alexander Cheng (formerly chair and professor of civil engineering, now School of Engineering dean) was always available to discuss any issues that I had and gave me great advice to achieve my goals,” Holmes said. “I enjoyed Dr. Ahmed Al-Ostaz (Brevard Family chair and professor of civil engineering) and his Structural Analysis class the most. As the ASCE faculty sponsor, he aggressively pushed our chapter and expected exceptional results.”

Holmes said he also enjoyed the senior design class taught my Chris Mullen, professor of civil engineering.

“The class entailed designing a project that utilized the skills we had learned from all of our classes,” he said. “Dr. Mullen made it challenging, yet fun at the same time.”

As a student, Holmes was involved with student affairs and organizations within the School of Engineering. He received both the Outstanding Senior Award and the Student Service Award for Civil Engineering before graduating in 2004.

“Our professors emphasized leadership and provided many classes to build these skills,” he said. “This also gave me the leadership skills needed to become the engineer I wanted to be. As a result, I later passed the professional engineering exam and am now very involved with many organizations improving the community in which we live.”

Among his many projects with Dungan over the years, Holmes said his most rewarding is his most recent: the design and development of a state-of-the-art sports complex in Brookhaven.

“After many years of discussing the idea, our firm was finally given the opportunity to work with local officials to develop this facility,” Holmes said. “We had one year in which to design and build the sports complex. There were several hurdles to overcome with permits, local politics and dealing with drought during construction, followed by above-average rainfall.”

Stull, Holmes and his team completed the project on time and within budget.

“On opening day, I felt a sense of pride as I saw smiles beaming from both children and parents,” he said. “The children in our community were given a complex they so deserved, and I was blessed to have been a part of it.”

Holmes’ brother-in-law, Brooks Wallace, is also a principal engineer and vice president of Dungan. Founder and CEO of DebrisTech (a rising firm in the debris removal and management industry), Wallace manages the Picayune office and often works with Holmes on projects for both firms.

“Ryan and I have both taken the same career path with Dungan,” Wallace said. “As one of my partners, I know that he is always willing to take on any task that may be needed to help DebrisTech be successful. Often, this includes making last-minute changes of plans to hop on a plane in order to make a meeting, deliver a proposal or spending a week or more in a disaster area, looking for ways to help communities recover.”

Holmes said his long-term goals include building more partnerships and volunteering more in his community.

“Networking is the critical path to career growth,” he said. “The more relationships formed, the more opportunities. I want to communicate more effectively and develop long-time relationships with my clients.”

Holmes said he lives by the “work hard, play hard” philosophy.

“I take work very seriously,” Holmes said. “I feel like my clients deserve the best experience and the best engineering available, no matter the size of the project.”

Holmes and his wife are the parents of two children, Collin and Carley, and have a baby due Dec. 31. His parents, Bennie and Linda Holmes, still reside in Columbia. A sister, Carmen Holmes Duncan, rounds out the family tree. He and his family enjoy being outdoors and traveling.

A proud Ole Miss alumnus, Holmes joined the Woods Order soon after graduation.

“Contributing to the university that gave me so much just felt natural,” Holmes said. “I received large scholarships and I wanted to make sure other students have the same opportunity I did.”

Brenda Prager Practices What She Teaches

New assistant professor of chemical engineering excels, inspires others to do so

Brenda Prager

Brenda Prager

Brenda Prager is many things, but an underachiever is not among them.

A three-time honors graduate of the University of Melbourne in Australia, she previously held positions as a research scientist at Kodak Australia, a research fellow at the Australian Pulp and Paper Industry and in the chemical engineering department of Monash University. Prager also was a senior process development engineer at Universal Biosensors and a secondary school teacher in Australia’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development.

Last fall, the assistant professor of chemical engineering joined the faculty of the University of Mississippi, where she has continued to build upon her solid record of teaching, research and service.

“We are very glad she decided to come to Ole Miss from the ‘land Down Under,'” said John O’Haver, UM chair and professor of chemical engineering. “She is a great team player, actively developing collaborations both within and outside the department. Her work on paper coatings brings a new industrially-focused research area to the department.”

Prager’s experience, commitment to the classroom, effective pedagogy and understanding of educational research all enhance her performance in the classroom, O’Haver said. “Her research on differentiated instruction could revolutionize first-year courses in engineering, helping to significantly improve retention of students to STEM.”

When Prager first taught a subject in the master’s program in pulp and paper engineering at Monash, she was mindful that she didn’t actually “know” how to teach and didn’t understand how students learned.

Therefore, in due time, Prager left engineering to work on a master’s in teaching, while at the same time spending five years with the Victorian Education Department in Australia as a secondary school teacher specializing in chemistry, physics and mathematics for grades 7-12. This experience was invaluable in learning and honing her teaching skills.

“When I felt ready to return to academia, I wanted the chance to experience life in another country, gaining an appreciation of how other cultures conduct their research and teaching,” Prager said. “I have been to the USA several times and therefore set about looking for a position over here.

“I looked only in the Southern states due to the climate, and saw the job opening at Ole Miss. The requirements seemed to match my skills, and I was impressed by Ole Miss as a university, so therefore accepted the position willingly.”

Prager has taught “Separation Processes” and “Chemical Process Principles I.” This fall, she will be teaching the freshman “Introduction to Chemical Engineering” class.

Her research interests mainly involve surface and interfacial characterizations of pigmented coatings on porous substrates, and modifications of surfaces using supercritical techniques.

“As a research fellow at Monash, I investigated rates of coating consolidation onto paper substrates when coated at high speed,” she said. “I identified the first and second critical concentrations during consolidation, found to be far more rapid under realistic conditions than had previously been thought.”

Members of Prager’s coating team also identified ultrasonic vibrational frequencies that were a function of the coating roll covering and not of high speeds. The detection of these frequencies coincided with the onset of common defects observed in surface coating, such as misting and spitting.

“I am presently building up my research group again here at Ole Miss,” Prager said. “My small team is comprised of two graduate students and two undergraduate students. We are investigating a variety of novel coatings onto paper substrates, with the view to developing innovative packaging for food-related goods.”

One project is continuing Prager’s earlier work with supercritical impregnation of AKD, as well as other environmentally friendly hydrophobic agents, to create a superhydrophobic surface onto paper. The team is also investigating solubility properties of these agents in supercritical carbon dioxide with the help of Wei-Yin Chen, a UM professor of chemical engineering.

“Another project is aimed at developing thermally resistant coatings using nanoparticles and other unique materials introduced into the coating,” she said. “A third project has investigated superhydrophobicity by allowing silane monomers to polymerize in-situ on the paper substrate, and has monitored the rate of hydrophobic development.”

She is developing grant proposals for future projects, including the development of an antimicrobial coating using nanoparticles, and investigating the fate of nanoparticle migration from sources such as novel packaging, either into the environment or alternatively into food.

“Not a lot is known about the safety aspects of nanoparticles if released to the environment,” Prager said. “So investigating the mechanisms of nanoparticle migration will assist in better understanding what processes are taking place.”

Prager said that her most exciting research achievement was gaining her first patent while working at Kodak Australia.

“It is very meaningful to me because it incorporated a number of ‘firsts’: my first patent, my first engineering job after graduating with my Ph.D., and my first team where I was highly influential in the direction of the research to be undertaken,” she said.

Her short-term goals include continuing to grow into her job, building her research team, understanding the day-to-day operation of the department, maintaining her annual teaching/research/ service targets to stay on track for tenure and creating outreach opportunities for girls in engineering by visiting local schools and spending time with future cohorts.

Prager’s long-term goals are to build up her scientific research and publish results, to expand collaborations with other Ole Miss faculty and beyond, and to submit successful grants to fund continued research efforts.

“Ultimately, I plan to develop innovative coatings for food packaging and develop strong collaborations with paperboard industries to progress this work through to full production,” she said. “As for teaching, I want to implement differentiation techniques into my classes as well as assist other faculty in implementing these techniques into theirs and to continue to refine and learn new teaching methods for the betterment of my students.”

With regards to service, Prager wants to establish ongoing outreach to attract high school students into STEM careers at the university and to become involved with freshmen education more generally.

Prager’s husband, Michael, has fully supported her in this major move and career progression. A retired director of nursing from a large hospital and a clinical nurse specialist, he has participated in extensive voluntary work both in England and Australia.

He also was a justice of the peace and bail justice in Australia and a magistrate in England. He has had experience running large community-based organizations as chairman.

Prager’s leisure activities include playing the piano, photography and travel.

“I am on the roster for the 9 a.m. service at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church,” she said. “I enjoy playing classical music – especially Mozart and Handel – as well as blues and ragtime music.”

Prager and her husband also enjoy traveling the state to see and photograph various sights. “Our next trip planned is to see part of Natchez Trace from Tupelo to Nashville,” she said.

Prager said that she is confident that, with lots of hard work and persistence, she will eventually achieve all the goals she has set for herself at UM.

“I think it is important to seek out tenured faculty and other staff who are willing to act as a mentor and help me navigate through all the intricacies of being an academic,” she said. “I am fortunate to have found some wonderful people who are supporting me in this process.”

Native American Artifacts on Display at UM

Exhibits at Barnard Observatory, J.D. Williams Library include pottery, tools and decorative items


Maureen Meyers, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, documents the Native American artifacts as they are installed in display cases. The Department of Sociology and Anthropology will have many Native American artifacts from its archaeology collection on display in Barnard Observatory until mid-August. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology, documents the Native American artifacts as they are installed in display cases. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Artifacts dating back to the 1400s offer a glimpse into the life of Native Americans in Mississippi through multiple exhibits over the next month at the University of Mississippi.

Barnard Observatory is housing an exhibit of “The Davies Collection: Mississippian Iconographic Vessels,” which features 15 ceramic vessels recovered from the Walls site in northwest Mississippi by physician Julius Davies in the early 20th century.

The items are part of the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology’s Davies Collection, which includes about 270 items. The full university collection contains about 1,300 boxes of artifacts.

“These Davies vessels are unique because of their iconography, which show religious symbols of Native Americans who lived during the Mississippian period in the Southeastern United States,” said Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology.

Visitors can see these items in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays in Barnard Observatory until mid-August.

Many items in the collection have been used for continuing research of Native American culture in the Southeast.

“These artifacts are in need of a proper curation facility, so we can use them to their fullest extent and share with researchers across North America their research potential,” she said.

Meyers also added original drawings and photos of these artifacts taken by Calvin Brown, an amateur archaeologist and professor and chair of the UM Department of Modern Languages in the 1920s, to the exhibit.

Additionally, similar items are on display in the J.D. Williams Library’s Department of Archives and Special Collections this summer and fall in conjunction with the university’s Common Reading Experience. Native American author Sherman Alexie wrote this year’s featured book, “Ten Little Indians.”

The exhibit, which is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays through the fall semester, displays artifacts that offer a sneak peek into the breadth Native American ethnographic collection. It includes Alaskan Inuit objects such as a scrimshaw, harpoon hooks and wooden sun visors, a Southwestern Zuni pot, baskets from Northern California Indians, beaded work, moccasins and blankets made by Lakota Sioux and Cherokee in Oklahoma, and items from the Southeast, such as ceramic pots from the Walls site, stone tools and toli sticks used in games of stickball.

Meyers said all these items likely date to the 1920s, when they were procured.

“These items have the potential to contribute greatly to educating the public about Native Americans in our state,” Meyers said. “We hope these two exhibits give the UM community a sense of what rich resources we have.”

UM Hosts World Health Organization Working Group

Three-day session helps group develop guidelines for herb and drug interactions

The World Health Organization's Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program gathered at the University of Mississippi to develop an update to the WHO guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

The university’s National Center for Natural Products Research hosted a working group assembled by the World Health Organization’s Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program to develop an update to guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

OXFORD, Miss. – A working group constituted by the World Health Organization’s Traditional and Complementary Medicines Program gathered recently at the University of Mississippi to develop another in the series of WHO guidance documents on the utilization of traditional and herbal medicines.

The increased use of herbal medicines and botanical supplements around the world raises concerns about their interactions with conventional prescription medicines. The goal of the July 12-14 meeting was to frame these issues and draft globally relevant guidelines on herb and drug interactions for health care professionals and regulatory or compliance organizations.

The university’s National Center for Natural Products Research served as local hosts for the three-day meeting, which included 35 representatives from around the world. Dr. Zhang Qi, coordinator of the WHO’s Traditional and Complementary Medicine Program, led the group.

“We are grateful to the University of Mississippi for their hospitality in providing this venue for our meeting, and for facilitating the meeting organization on the ground,” Zhang said. “This allowed us to spend three productive days focusing on these important guidelines.”

The National Center for Natural Products Research has a long-standing research program focused on the authenticity, quality and safety of botanical supplements in this country. The program is led by Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR associate director, and supported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a Center of Excellence.

Several scientists from NCNPR also participated in the meeting as working group members or invited observers.

“We were very pleased to host such a distinguished group from WHO, with other scientists, health policymakers and regulators, and to participate in these deliberations,” said Larry Walker, NCNPR director and a UM professor of pharmacology.

Interdisciplinary Employee Writing Groups to Begin This Fall

The University of Mississippi will sponsor employee writing groups beginning in the 2016-2017 academic year to increase collaboration between representatives of different departments and disciplines on professional writing projects.

The Faculty Writing Groups, which are open to both UM faculty and staff members, will work together on projects ranging from grant applications to getting scholarly texts published. Interdisciplinary groups of three or four people will meet at regular intervals during the fall and spring semesters.

Alice Johnston Myatt, assistant chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric, is heading up the creation of the collaborative groups.

“Interdisciplinary faculty writing groups offer more than just a space and time for faculty to write in a structured way,” Myatt said. “They also are places where group members can take time to reflect on their learning and development within a peer-based framework of cooperation and collaboration.”

Research shows that faculty are more productive in their research and writing when they write daily, keep track of time spent writing and hold themselves accountable to others, said Myatt, who is also an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric. Faculty Writing Groups, which meet twice monthly on days the group selects, will help faculty writers and scholars put this into practice, she said. 

The groups are a collaborative effort led by the Department of Writing and Rhetoric; Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning; and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning.

To join a Faculty Writing Group, contact Myatt at

UM Pharmacy Student Awarded Phi Kappa Phi Scholarship

Meghan Walker is university's second straight fellow of the honor society

Meghan Wagner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Meghan Wagner. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi pharmacy student Meghan Wagner has been named a 2016 fellow of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, which recognizes academic excellence in higher education.

This marks the second year in a row that an Ole Miss student has won a fellowship from Phi Kappa Phi, which is the oldest honor society that recognizes all academic disciplines. The honor society honors 57 students a year from around the country with fellowships.

Wagner, who is entering her second year of the Doctor of Pharmacy program, also receives a $5,000 scholarship as part of the fellowship. The Grenada native plans to use the award money to pay for books and class fees, and to lessen her need for student loans.

“I was extremely grateful to be chosen for this fellowship,” Wagner said. “I know the list of potential candidates was stellar, so to be first chosen by the university, then by Phi Kappa Phi, I felt honored.

“For me, to have such a distinguished group of people find my hard work to be worth the recognition and financial support helped validate that I have been working hard in the right direction.”

Applicants must first apply within their local chapter of Phi Kappa Phi in hopes of being selected as the university’s sole applicant to the national chapter.

Michael L. Warren, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and a former president of the university’s Phi Kappa Phi chapter, knows Wagner through a course she took with him in the pharmacy school.

“She is a gifted student with a positive attitude and professional demeanor,” Warren said. “Meghan is actively engaged in community service, both on- and off-campus. She is passionate about having a positive impact on children’s lives after graduating from pharmacy school.

“I cannot speak for the national committee, but her passion to help others was likely evident in her application materials and led to her selection.”

Wagner hopes to go into pediatric pharmacy.

Past Phi Kappa Phi fellows include notable names such as poet Rita Dove, YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley and two NASA scientists. Marcus Daniels, who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological science in 2015, was last year’s fellowship winner from UM.

“My dream job would be to work in an oncology wing of a pediatric hospital as a clinical pharmacist, and I am very grateful to both the school of pharmacy and Phi Kappa Phi for supporting me in this endeavor,” Wagner said.

CMSE Staffer Receives International Award for Robotics Work

Mannie Lowe honored for growth, impact of FTC Robotics Challenge statewide

Mannie Lowe is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Mannie Lowe (left), pictured with John O’Haver, is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mannie Lowe, a staff member at the University of Mississippi, is the 2016 recipient of the International Volunteer of the Year Award from FIRST, an organization that promotes an interest in STEM fields among students, with programs such as the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition for middle- and high-schoolers.

As this year’s honoree, Lowe, a program manager at UM’s Center for Mathematics & Science Education, was selected from more than 200,000 volunteers in 80 countries worldwide for his more than 12 years of service to the organization. He received an honorary certificate from FIRST at a surprise ceremony in July at Ole Miss.

“I’m touched by this award because I hold other people who have won this honor in such high admiration,” he said. “People who have won this in the past have done some truly amazing work with FIRST and with students. I didn’t realize I was held in such high esteem.”

As the manager for FIRST Tech Challenge robotics, Lowe, who previously ran FTC programs as a volunteer in Georgia, has spent the past five years carving out an infrastructure to allow Mississippi middle and high school students, as well as home-schooled children, the opportunity to design and build their own robots and compete in tournament-style competitions at the local, state, regional and even international level.

The competitions allow students to learn and apply knowledge in such disciplines as engineering, computer science, physics and mathematics. Many students participating in FTC programs go on to earn valuable scholarships to study STEM fields at colleges and universities around the world.

Under Lowe’s leadership, FTC programs in Mississippi have grown from just four robotics teams in 2012 to more than 40. Lowe spends about two days a week on the road, working with students and teachers to help FTC teams with their robot designs, a task that requires countless hours of travel and work after hours.

“First and foremost, Mannie has a passion for what he does,” said John O’Haver, CMSE director. “He loves what he does and is loved for it. He will use his vacation time and weekends to drive across the state to work with students and teachers. He will tell you himself that he feels like he is living the dream.”

Lowe also helps plan other events related to the robotics competitions, such as regional qualifying tournaments in communities across the state. Each February, the CMSE hosts a statewide competition at UM. This year, the event attracted more than 450 students.

Besides his work in Mississippi, he serves on the FIRST game design team, which brings together an international group of robotics mentors and volunteers who design a new challenge for students each year. This year, the FIRST Res-Q challenge required robotics teams to design a robot that can simulate a mountain rescue mission by lighting beacons, clearing debris and climbing an uphill rack made to simulate a mountain ascent.

“One of the things that amazes me is that we will come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no way the students will be able to do this,'” he said. “But every year they find a way to top our challenge. It really is amazing to see.”

Lowe said he hopes to help FTC robotics programs continue to grow across the state and to see the number of participating teams rise to 50 in 2017.