UM Professor’s Research Published in Journal of Consumer Research

Christopher Newman and colleagues studied effects of various front-of-package nutrition labels

Christopher L. Newman co-authored an article in the Journal of Consumer Research.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Christopher L. Newman co-authored an article in the Journal of Consumer Research.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi’s marketing professor’s joint study of the effects of front-of-package nutrition labels shows they serve different purposes depending upon the shopping situation, greatly affecting consumers’ abilities to make proper evaluations and healthful choices.

Christopher L. Newman, assistant professor of marketing, is a co-author of “Effects of Objective and Evaluative Front-of-Package Cues on Food Evaluation and Choice: The Moderating Influence of Comparative and Noncomparative Processing Contexts.” The results were published recently in the Journal of Consumer Research.

His co-authors are Elizabeth Howlett, professor of marketing, and Scot Burton, distinguished professor and Tyson Chair in Food and Consumer Products Retailing, both at the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas.

The research was partially supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Healthy Eating Research Program and by the SEC Faculty Travel Grant Program.

“Our research suggests that one potential reason that the Nutrition Facts Panel has not been effective in preventing the rise of obesity may lie in its failure to directly address the fact that consumers’ evaluative tasks and environments can, and often, vary greatly,” Newman said.

For example, consumers are frequently faced with the rather complex task of assessing the healthfulness of many different products at once, such as when they are considering different food items in a category at the grocery store shelf. This type of “comparative” information processing requires considerable effort and time from consumers because they must first assess all the different available options and then make comparisons between the alternatives.

Other times, consumers may only need to evaluate the healthfulness of a single product by itself in a noncomparative manner, such as when they are examining a particular food item at home. This type of processing is much simpler. Though these tasks are clearly different, the NFP provides consumers with the same type of standardized nutrition information for both types of tasks.

“The purpose of our research was to determine if different types of front-of-package nutrition labels – either an objective or evaluative FOP label – could help consumers by providing them with the nutrition information that’s best suited for the specific task they were faced with,” Newman said.

“Objective FOP labels provide information that is quantitative and objective. In contrast, evaluative FOP labels provide interpretive information about a product’s overall healthfulness and/or specific nutrients.”

Overall, the researchers’ results indicate that the type of processing environment faced by consumers influences the extent to which specific food package cues can affect their food-related evaluations and decisions.

Information that is more detailed and objective may benefit consumers more than when they assess the healthfulness of a single product. When consumers make relative comparisons between many different brands in a product category, information that is more evaluative in nature is likely to be more beneficial in assessing product healthfulness and making healthy choices.

“We believe that the relationship between the type of front-of-package label and the type of evaluative task that a consumer is faced with should be directly considered by public policy makers and the health community in general, particularly given all of the different FOP labeling systems that are currently in the marketplace,” Newman said.

“Our research suggests that there is not a single ‘one-size-fits-all’ front-of-package nutrition label that is suitable for all of the different types of food evaluations and choices that consumers must make,” Howlett said.

Burton agrees with his colleagues.

“If the primary goal of nutrition labeling is to help consumers make healthier choices, then the ability to identify the most healthful alternatives from a broad set of options is crucial,” he said. “Our research suggests that, in general, when there is a match between the choice processing context and the type of format used to present front-of-package nutrition information, consumers tend to make more healthful food choices.

“This is particularly important in comparative contexts in which evaluative information may improve choice from a set of brands.”

For more information about the UM School of Business Administration, visit

New Endowment Sets High Standards for UM Business School

Admiration compels Millette family to honor patriarch with named endowment

Sam Millette Jr. (left) stands with his father, Samuel M. Millette, the namesake of an endowment the Millette family established to honor their patriarch and to support faculty recruitment and retention in the School of Business Administration.

Sam Millette Jr. (left) stands with his father, Samuel M. Millette, the namesake of an endowment the Millette family established to honor their patriarch and to support faculty recruitment and retention in the School of Business Administration.

OXFORD, Miss. – Samuel M. Millette is a U.S. Marine war veteran, an esteemed attorney with a 50-year career in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a revered family man.

“He is the standard to which I aspire,” said Sam Millette Jr. of Destin, Florida, whose admiration for his 93-year-old father led him to establish an endowment in his name.

The Samuel M. Millette Faculty Support Endowment in Business will provide funds to support and expand the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration by enabling the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty. The endowment can support salaries, research and creative activity, programs, and other faculty needs.

“The gift is to honor my dad who generously paid for my education in the ‘B School’ even though I had not decided to be a serious student until I entered law school years later,” said Millette, a 1975 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration.

He and his wife, Lynne, who earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Ole Miss in 1975, have two children, Martin and Lindsey, both UM graduates.

The Millettes are life members of the Ole Miss Alumni Association; Lynne is a past board member. Sam and Lynne are charter members of the Vaught Society and members of the Lyceum Society. In establishing the endowment, Millette said he wants to see the university continue to hire faculty members who have the experience and expertise to prepare students for life after graduation.

“In these very tough economic times, the job market is especially competitive,” he said. “Also, we need to continue to hire the best of the best in our business school in order to attract bright minds and continually raise the academic standing of the university.”

Sam Millette Sr. is a Greenville native who would have attended Ole Miss, if circumstances had been in his favor.

In 1942, at age 19, he was accepted into the U.S. Navy V-5 aviation cadet program. While waiting to enter cadet school, he enrolled at Northeast Junior College in Monroe, Louisiana, where he completed a civilian pilot training course with 35 hours in a Piper Cub and 50 hours in an acrobatic bi-plane.

He then went to pre-flight at the University of Georgia for three months, to Lambert Field in St. Louis for primary flight training, and then to Pensacola, Florida, for secondary and final flight training and instrument instruction. In October 1943, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Many transfers were in store for Millette, from Daytona Beach Naval Air Station for operational training in dive bombers to Terminal Island Naval Air Station in California, where he ferried new planes to air stations nationwide. He was assigned to join a fighter bomber squadron at Cherry Point Marine Air Station, where he met and married his wife, Sue.

Soon after, Millette was sent to the South Pacific, where he served in a Marine dive bomber squadron for about 14 months, seeing action in the Admiralty Islands, the Philippines, Okinawa and China.

In 1946, he returned to the states, where he was detained for debriefing in California before he could travel to Ole Miss to apply for college. But missing the deadline, he enrolled instead at Wake Forest College in North Carolina.

“His brother Teddy Millette played football for Johnny Vaught,” Sam Jr. said. “And by the way, Sam, Sr. loves the Rebels and cheers for them in Oxford and Charlotte as long as they are not playing Wake Forest.”

In 1951, after graduating from Wake Forest Law School, Sam Sr. accepted a job in the legal department of Northeast Gas Transmission Co. in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Next, he and Sue returned to North Carolina to start a law practice in Charlotte. After practicing solo for eight years, Millette was invited in 1959 to join the law firm of Bell, Bradley, Gebhart & DeLaney as a partner.

Twenty-seven years later, the firm dissolved, so he partnered with Robert G. Sanders for another 10 years before going solo again. The bulk of his work was in litigation in both criminal and civil court with many appellate cases.

“I could not have planned things better than the way they fell together by happenstance,” Millette said. “Mine has been a full life of marriage and parenthood, church and civic life, and a very rewarding professional career.”

Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration, said establishing an endowment, as the Millettes did, is one of the best ways to honor a beloved family member while also supporting a cherished institution like Ole Miss.

“We all have people in our lives whom we could honor in this way,” Cyree said. “I am thrilled that Sam chose to honor his father by designating his gift to support faculty recruitment for the School of Business Administration.

“Faculty support is a wonderful way to leverage a gift because it helps provide excellent educational opportunities for hundreds of students each year while giving them the opportunity to interact with the meritorious and outstanding faculty members who are supported by the gift. I am equally grateful for the Millette’s generosity and active involvement at Ole Miss through the years.”

The Samuel M. Millette Faculty Support Endowment in Business 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

Yates Wins Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship Award

Annual recognition honors graduate advancing family-owned construction firm

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the School of Business Administration honor William Yates as the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year during a reception at the Farrington Gallery in Bryant Hall. Pictured are Dean Ken Cyree, Jan Farrington, Yates and Lawrence Farrington. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the School of Business Administration honor William Yates as the 2016 Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year during a reception at the Farrington Gallery in Bryant Hall. Pictured are (from left) Dean Ken Cyree, Jan Farrington, Yates and Lawrence Farrington. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – William G. Yates III, president and CEO of W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Co., is the recipient of the 2016 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award, presented by the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration.

The award, named for Ole Miss alumni Jan and Lawrence Farrington, is given annually to a graduate who exemplifies the best of entrepreneurship.

Yates, a Philadelphia native who graduated summa cum laude in business administration from UM in 1993, calls the recognition “truly an honor.”

“This selection is really a reflection of the wonderful people that I work with at Yates Construction and I share this award with them and accept it on their behalf,” Yates said. “I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with an amazing and committed team.”

The Farrington Distinguished Award was created to honor successful entrepreneurs who carry on the tradition of the Farringtons in creating businesses that make a difference.

“Jan and Lawrence Farrington have been involved in innovation and entrepreneurship in the state of Mississippi for many years and have been an integral part in funding a number of businesses,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM business school.

“They are keen business people who help other entrepreneurs bring their ideas to fruition, thereby providing valuable goods and services, as well as creating employment for Mississippi citizens. They give back their time as well to the university and are great ambassadors for the business school and the university.”

Yates said that this award differs from others he’s received because it recognizes entrepreneurship.

“To me, entrepreneurship means how you identify and manage risk and then how you can do that while still providing true value to your customers,” he said. “That is what we do every day at Yates: we work hard to understand what is important to our clients, provide value to them and do it in way that equitably shares risk.”

Yates’ father, William G. “Bill” Yates Jr., and grandfather, Gully Yates Sr., started the family-owned company in 1964. In its 52nd year, the firm has offices in eight states and Mexico. Its portfolio includes projects from arts and culture, civil, commercial, education, entertainment and gaming, federal, health care, hospitality, manufacturing, municipal, retail and technology.

Ole Miss was truly a great experience for me,” Yates said. “It helped prepare me for my professional life in many ways, both technically from a business perspective but, just as importantly, it introduced me to people that have been lifelong business associates and friends.”

Before becoming president, Yates served several years as executive vice president of the Gulf Coast division of Yates Construction. He is the incoming 2017-2018 chairman of the Mississippi Economic Council.

Yates, who also earned a master’s degree from Arizona State University, has served on the board of directors for Trustmark National Bank and Trustmark Corp., where he is chairman of the Wealth Management Committee. He is immediate past chairman of the Mississippi Partnership for Economic Development and is also on the board of directors for the Gulf Coast Business Council. He is the immediate past president of the Board for the United Way of South Mississippi and was the 2013-14 co-chairman of the Southeast U.S.-Japan Association annual meetings.

He also has served on the Millsaps College board of trustees, the Blueprint Mississippi advisory council and the MEC’s board of directors. He is also on the UM Foundation’s board of directors and has been a member of the Young Presidents’ Organization since 2004.

He is a past chairman of Mississippi Associated Builders and Contractors and served as a member of the Associated Builders & Contractors national board of directors. He has served as co-chairman of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Pacesetter Campaign, and was the 2011 chairman for the American Heart Walk for the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

In 2016, Yates received the United Way’s President’s Award and was recognized by the Mississippi Business Journal as a Mississippi Top CEO. He has also been featured in the Mississippi Business Journal and the Sun Herald as a Top Businessmen Under Forty and was inducted into the Roland Weeks Hall of Fame Outstanding Community Leaders Class of 2010. He was also a recipient of the Coast Young Professionals 4 Ever Young award in 2011.

In 2009, Yates was named the Construction Person of the Year by the Mississippi chapter of the Associated Builders and Contractors. He has served on the advisory council of the Mississippi State University School of Architecture and on the advisory committee of the University of Southern Mississippi School of Engineering Technology.

Yates is married to Tara Duett Yates, a former teacher. They reside in Biloxi with their daughter, Abby, and their son, Gully.

For the Farringtons, lending a helping hand is all part of their desire to give back.

“Lawrence and I want to do everything we can to encourage entrepreneurs in Mississippi,” Jan Farrington said. “We have so many bright, talented entrepreneurs in our state who have had the vision and tenacity to start their own companies. These businesses can and will make a difference in the future of our state if we can keep them here in Mississippi.

“Encouragement from the government, universities, organizations such as Innovate Mississippi, investors and individuals can help make this happen. This award was just a small way that we thought we could contribute.”

Gamma Iota Sigma Reactivated on Campus

GIS affiliation gives students more networking opportunities

The University of Mississippi’s risk management and insurance program in the School of Business Administration reactivated the Mu chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma this past fall.
GIS is the only international business fraternity for risk management and insurance students, and the goal of the organization is to promote student interest in the industry as well as encourage high academic and moral standards.
The Mu chapter of GIS at Ole Miss currently has more than 40 members. Junior and senior RMI majors on the executive committee of GIS are working to expand the organization.
Stephen Fier, assistant professor of finance and GIS faculty adviser, assisted in restarting GIS on the Ole Miss campus.
“We believe that our affiliation with GIS will enhance the RMI program’s visibility nationally and, more importantly, will allow us to offer our students additional opportunities that might not otherwise be available to them,” Fier said.
“The reactivation will provide our students with a number of benefits, including participation at GIS national conferences, a greater ability to network with individuals who are currently in the industry, as well as with RMI students from across the country, and access to GIS-specific employment and scholarship opportunities.”

Alumna Recognized by Million Dollar Round Table

Brown also named in Mississippi Business Journal’s top 50 under 40

Madeleine Brown

Madeleine Brown

Madeleine Brown (BBA 07), a vice president at Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance in Jackson, continues to excel in the risk management and insurance industry, just like she did in the classroom as an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi.

Brown said that through her course work, she learned the skills that would prepare her for the next stage in the professional world.

“I learned from my studies and course work how to properly identify corporate risk and communicate the appropriate solution to employees and employers.”

Brown noted Finance 542 as her most memorable course. She said this course taught her how to work within a group dynamic as well as hands-on application of skills.

“A large part of the course grade came from a challenging team project we had to complete by the end of the semester,” Brown said. “Completing the project taught me how to work in a team setting, evaluate corporate risk, prepare risk analysis reports, and set and meet deadlines.”

Today, Brown’s responsibilities at Fisher Brown Bottrell Insurance include business development and portfolio growth among larger employers. She has distinguished herself in the RMI industry, receiving the National Association of Health Underwriters’ prestigious Soaring Eagle award in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Brown was also named a 2015 Million Dollar Round Table Top of the Table quality member, which is recognized as one of the most prestigious honors in the industry. She was also featured in Mississippi Business Journal as a 2015 top 50 businessperson under the age of 40.

“I was very proud of all of these achievements, as each represented a new milestone in the climb that has been my career,” Brown said. “I am most proud of the recognition I received last year as a Top of the Table Employee Benefits Insurance Producer by the Million Dollar Round Table association. This award recognizes a higher level of production for members that qualify for Million Dollar Round Table, not only nationally but worldwide.”

Brown said she has been humbled with her success in the industry and that this recognition will inspire her to strive for other goals and recognition.

“Achieving this award was a goal that I wanted to accomplish at some point in my career, and I was lucky enough to do it in 2015. I continue to be driven to further my career and assist employers with their employee benefit planning.”

Two Professors Honored for Teaching Excellence

Fier, Liebenberg show exceptional dedication to preparing students

Two University of Mississippi risk management and insurance program faculty members have earned awards for their commitment to creating a culture of academic excellence in their classrooms.


Stephen Fier

Stephen Fier, holder of the Liberto-King Professorship in Insurance and assistant professor of finance, received the UM School of Business Administration’s Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award for 2015. Andre P. Liebenberg, Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance, was honored with the American Risk and Insurance Association Excellence in Teaching Award at ARIA’s global conference in Germany.

Fier said his award is a testament to the rigorous, high-quality education the Ole Miss RMI program offers its students.

“I’ve always taken pride in the fact that the SBA and the Ole Miss RMI program recognize the importance of academic excellence,” Fier said. “One of our primary objectives is to prepare students so they can succeed professionally and ultimately become leaders in the risk and insurance industry. I enjoy working with our students both inside and outside of the classroom, and I take great satisfaction in their personal and professional achievements.”

Fier said he would be remiss if he didn’t acknowledge the constant support and guidance from Liebenberg, who won the same award in 2014 and 2010. Fier said Liebenberg has set the standard for teaching excellence in the RMI program.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been selected for this honor,” Fier said.

Full-time faculty members are eligible for the award. Each department within the business school can submit one nominee to the Office of the Dean, and the school’s executive committee selects the winner.


Andre P. Liebenberg

Liebenberg received his award at ARIA’s global conference in Munich, Germany, this past August. The award, created in 2007, is given only when an exceptional candidate emerges. It recognizes excellence in risk management and insurance teaching.

“I was very humbled,” Liebenberg said. “One of my mentors (Rob Hoyt) from the University of Georgia, where I got my Ph.D., won the award in 2007. I’ve always thought of him as an incredible teacher and someone I really look up to as a scholar and teacher. It was very humbling to be recognized with an award he previously received.”

The honor comes with a rigorous set of qualifications. Requirements include a teaching portfolio with a statement of teaching philosophy, summaries of student evaluations for at least two recent courses, grade distributions for several recent courses, a list of previous teaching awards, and letters of recommendation from students and colleagues. 

Fier and Liebenberg said they’re pleased to be a part of the UM risk management and insurance program, which has an award-winning group of instructors. The success of the group speaks to the university’s ability to attract and retain excellent teachers who are focused on their students, they said. 

Ken Cyree, dean of UM’s School of Business Administration, said the two professors’ commitment to high-quality teaching is a big reason that the Ole Miss RMI program is the ninth largest in the country, and he greatly appreciates their dedicated service to students. 

“We are thrilled and thankful for the recognition of the outstanding teaching of our risk management and insurance faculty,” Cyree said. “Both Drs. Liebenberg and Fier are dedicated teachers and scholars who understand the importance of doing an excellent job in preparing our students, and this recognition is a reflection of their dedication.”


Shoalmire Adds Assets to RMI Program

Project coordinator expands scope, opportunities

Kathryn Shoalmire

Kathryn Shoalmire

As project coordinator for the risk management and insurance program at the University of Mississippi, Kathy Shoalmire (JD 88) brought 27 years of institutional experience into the position. After a year on the job, she shared some of the highlights of the last several months and her observations about the program.

“I have been impressed first and foremost by the leadership of the program both historical and present day,” said Shoalmire, who formerly worked as the childbirth educator and international board-certified lactation consultant at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi. “Larry Cox (former RMI chair) and Camille Mitchell (former RMI project coordinator) did an excellent job laying the foundation for this program. Andre (Liebenberg, RMI chair) has built on that success and has taken the program to new heights.”

Shoalmire said she is amazed not only by the impressive credentials of the insurance advisory board members but also by their commitment to the program.

“The first meeting that I attended, we had board members from all over the state, Tennessee and California who came to a Wednesday afternoon meeting (lunch not included) that lasted for roughly two hours,” she said. “This showed me right off that there was something special about this program. I have continued to be impressed at the subsequent meetings by the attendance, leadership and desire to expand the RMI program. Their commitment is to the students, Ole Miss and the insurance industry.”

Shoalmire’s experience as a staff assistant in Washington, D.C., for Sens. John Stennis and Thad Cochran helped prepare her for her current responsibilities.

“I had worked in government, law and medicine and thought before I retired that I would like to try the academic realm,” she said. “I wanted something part time that allowed me flexibility to be self-directed and project focused. The job description seemed to fit, and after meeting with Andre and the interviewing team, I was sold on this job. I might add, I have not been disappointed. I don’t think that I have ever worked in a more professional environment.”

As project coordinator, Shoalmire handles the printing and mailing of RMI’s annual resume book, two RMI career fairs, the insurance symposium, golf tournament, plus four advisory board meetings. Regarding the career fairs, she said the highlight is the industry representatives’ enthusiasm about meeting the Ole Miss RMI students.

“The first career fair I organized was fall 2014,” she said. “I was nervous about how things would go, but during the second career fair in February 2015, I was relaxed and found myself feeling like a proud parent. I was able to go from focusing on my performance to watching as our students took a major leap in seeking to establish themselves in their chosen profession.”

From December through March, Shoalmire said she basically lived and breathed the insurance symposium.

“There is a great deal of effort that goes on behind the scenes,” she said. “Andre and the symposium committee from our advisory board secure the speakers. This year, we had an impressive lineup, which resulted in a record attendance. To see all the individual components come together to form a successful event is beautiful. I truly loved it.”

Her first academic year ended with the golf tournament, which gave her a fresh perspective on the game.

“I have a 20-year-old son who grew up playing competitive golf, so I’ve spent hundreds of hours on the golf course with him,” said Shoalmire, who played for a few years before he was born. “I see why some people refer to golf as a disease instead of a game. The golf tournament committee and Annandale (Golf Club) made this essentially an easy task. We had an excellent turnout, and my son got to play. I was very proud when I learned he won longest drive, estimated to be 340 yards.”

Trying to update and maintain the RMI mailing list has been a challenging task for Shoalmire. 

“My first email was sent to about 1,600 people. Within an hour, I received a call from Sam, our IT person,” she said. “There were so many returned emails that I clogged the system. He gently explained that sending this many emails looks like phishing. I learned and have now culled the list to about 900.”

So far this year, Shoalmire has been busy helping to re-establish the chapter of Gamma Iota Sigma, an international business fraternity for students of insurance, risk management and actuarial science. 

“Andre and Steve (Fier, assistant professor of finance) have asked me to take a more active role in working with the students,” she said. “I tend to be very people oriented, so that has been enjoyable. I have joined them for meetings and took a group of officers to the GIS conference in Chicago.” 

The chapter officers are enthusiastic and dedicated to getting the chapter moving in the right direction. 

It is a great privilege to be a part of this process, and I appreciate the confidence that Andre and Steve have placed in me,” Shoalmire said. As this year comes to a close, I am looking forward to deepening my relationship with our advisory board, sponsors, alumni, students and the industry representatives.”

A Starkville native, Shoalmire earned her bachelor’s degree in secondary education with an emphasis in history and political science from Mississippi State University. Following a career in Washington, she graduated from the Ole Miss law school in 1988. Prior to working at Baptist, she worked for several years with Arnold, Bass and Associates, a science consulting firm that specialized in accident reconstruction. She recently passed a rigorous exam to renew her certification as an international board-certified lactation consultant. Shoalmire continues to do private consulting in her spare time. 


Two Young Alumnae Shine in Corporate World

Alivia Cooper and Anna Bendgen both 2014 graduates

Alivia Cooper

Alivia Cooper

Alivia Cooper (BBA 14) and Anna Bendgen (BBA 14) are quickly making an impression at their jobs.

Cooper, a marketing underwriter for Amerisure Insurance Co. in Tampa, Florida, started her undergraduate career as a chemistry major in hopes of pursuing a career in medical research. Unsure of what she wanted to do, she decided to change her major and joined UM’s School of Business Administration in spring 2012. Cooper chose to triple major in risk management and insurance, managerial finance, and banking and finance.

Along with succeeding in the classroom, Cooper was also a member of the Ole Miss rifle team for four years and participated in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for a chance to compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

With three majors worth of knowledge, Cooper, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, realized during job training that she was immediately applying loads of information from her undergraduate degrees to her job at Amerisure. This helped her become the youngest individual to receive the University Associate Certified Risk Manager (UACRM) designation in January 2015 and then go on to achieve the Certified Risk Managers designation. Fast forward to November 2015, and Cooper was assigned as lead underwriter of Amerisure’s second-largest agency.

“Becoming an underwriter after completing my risk management and insurance degree has proved to provide me with an extremely solid foundation,” Cooper said. “Continually enhancing the coverage form knowledge that it takes to be an underwriter will prove beneficial in virtually all aspects of the insurance industry.”

Cooper’s first project as an underwriter was to implement a property coverage form into a new policy management system. Along with underwriters selected from across the country, she was selected to specialize in the coverage, test the system for errors and become a resource for other underwriters in her office who had questions about this particular form.

Most recently, Cooper was selected as one of three underwriters in the company to learn how to model wind risks throughout the country. Prior to her selection, all wind modeling had to be sent to a corporate consultant to have this task performed. Cooper is now able to perform this task for other underwriters in her office, mainly focusing on accurately pricing hurricane risks in coastal regions

Anna Bendgen

Anna Bendgen

Bendgen, a business continuity and risk administrator for Sedgwick Claims Management Services Inc. in Memphis, Tennessee, knew when she started college that she wanted to enter the workforce immediately after graduation. During her junior year, she interned with Sedgwick in the risk management department and enjoyed the opportunity to learn about the risk management and insurance world. In fall of her senior year, a position opened with Sedgwick, and Bendgen was quick to apply.

Bendgen, a Munroe Falls, Ohio, native, said she uses knowledge she learned from the classroom every day at her job and that the communication courses and soft skills have helped her succeed quickly. Since starting her job in May 2014, she received the Risk and Insurance Management Society Rising Star of the Year award, an accolade given to risk professionals who have demonstrated exceptional initiative, volunteerism, professional development, achievement and leadership potential. Along with winning the national honor, Bendgen accepted the inaugural award at the society’s annual conference.

Currently, she is leading the effort to develop a workplace violence prevention and response training program and also is charged with maintaining and testing Sedgwick’s business continuity plans.

With the help of RMI professors Stephen Fier and Andre Liebenberg, both Cooper and Bendgen were able to seek out scholarships and internships to help find which area of insurance was right for them. “The passion they have for the subject matter they teach is infectious, and the amount of time and energy they invest in helping their students succeed is inspiring,” Bendgen said.

Innovate Mississippi’s Startup Weekend Returns to Oxford

Workshops help participants move from ideas to viable business plans

Volunteer coaches and professionals help advise emerging entrepreneurs throughout the course of the weekend.

Volunteer coaches and professionals help advise emerging entrepreneurs throughout the course of the weekend.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Insight Park and School of Business Administration are co-hosting Startup Weekend Oxford, set for Feb. 12-14.

The weekend will feature Innovation Boot Camp, Discovery Luncheon and Startup Weekend activities. The beginning of the weekend will give participants experience with assembling business models, with the end of the weekend resulting in pitching these business models to potential investors.

Innovation Boot Camp is a two-hour workshop beginning at 3 p.m. in Holman Hall, Room 38, designed to help students develop viable business and product ideas. Students are able to have one-on-one communication with faculty and brainstorming sessions with other participating students. The boot camp is the Startup Weekend kickoff event for students.

The Discovery Luncheon begins at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Oxford Conference Center and features guest speaker Garret Gray, president and CEO of Next Gear Solutions of Oxford.

Later that evening, the Startup Weekend activities commence. Over the course of 54 hours, participants have an opportunity to create a viable business. Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, this three-day event brings together entrepreneurs, programmers, coders, developers and other business-minded individuals to form ideas and create business plans.

“Startup Weekend is an opportunity for startup enthusiasts to collaborate and go from concept to creation over a weekend,” said William Nicholas, UM director of economic development and organizer of the event. “It is a real pleasure to be surrounded talented people with a passion for entrepreneurship.”

Participants begin by taking 60 seconds to pitch their ideas to the group of attendees. All attendees vote for their favorite ideas, and the winning ideas are selected to build upon for the weekend. The group then divides into smaller teams, and each team spends the remainder of the weekend focusing in on a single business idea to develop.

Clay Dibrell, associate professor of management and holder of the William W. Gresham Jr. Entrepreneurial Professorship, is also the CIE’s executive director. He said he is excited to see members of the campus, community and state entrepreneurial-focused organizations work together to make this event possible.

“It is thrilling to see people who come to Startup Weekend with just an idea, and then over the weekend, you can see these potential entrepreneurs turning the corner from an idea to starting a new venture,” he said.

Stephen D. Johnston, CEO and board member of SmartSynch Inc. in Jackson, is the guest speaker on Friday night. His expertise at leading his company from start-up to a global technology leader for cellular-based smart grid communications will inspire participants in their quest to succeed as entrepreneurs.

During the course of the weekend, volunteer coaches will assist the teams and provide advice. A panel of professionals evaluates each group’s business development and their chances of real-world success.

“It is a highly beneficial partnership between Ole Miss entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship entities outside of the university,” Dibrell said. “Our common goal is to build an entrepreneurial ecosystem which allows Mississippi entrepreneurs to successfully stay in Mississippi.”

Insight Park staff members, the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation and employees of Innovate Mississippi organize Startup Weekend Oxford.

Registration is open to the public. Tickets for students are $25 and $50 for nonstudents. Click here to register.

UM Ranked Among Nation’s Best MBA Programs

Campus and online programs rise in prestigious Businessweek and U.S. News listings

Holman Hall

Holman Hall

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Business Administration has risen significantly on Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2015 list of Best MBA programs.

UM ranked No. 69 this year in the second year that Bloomberg Businessweek has compiled the list. This is up seven places from its No. 76 position a year ago. Bloomberg compiled data from more than 13,150 students, 28,540 alumni and 1,460 recruiters. The university ranked highest in the student survey and job placement areas of the five-part survey.

“We are excited about the ranking, and it indicates the wonderful work of our faculty and staff in recruiting exceptional students and creating meaningful educational opportunities,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM business school. “The ranking will help our academic reputation, but is more of a reflection of what is already happening in the school and MBA program.”

The Ole Miss MBA program is an exceptional value for students, said Ann Canty, associate professor of management and faculty director of the MBA program.

“Students get an outstanding educational experience from an internationally accredited and highly respected business school at an affordable cost,” Canty said. “Most MBA programs are much more expensive.”

Cyree attributed much of the business school’s success to hiring talented faculty who understand its mission of providing high-quality teaching and research, as well as the engagement of its MBA board who have diligently worked to create an environment of learning the soft skills – such as speaking, writing and job-seeking – to help bolster solid academic preparation.

“Of course we could not do this without the intentional effort to recruit the best students, and our staff has been instrumental in raising the bar for admissions, which helps enhance our success,” he said. “Most importantly, it is rewarding that our graduates will benefit from the MBA degree and this ranking helps indicate the value that is obtained through earning an Ole Miss MBA.”

MBA_LogoTypeUM also recently was ranked among the Top 14 online MBA programs by U.S. News. The 36-hour online program, designed for working professionals, is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business.

The program may be completed in two years by taking two courses in fall, spring and summer. There is no residency requirement and students are not charged nonresident fees. More than 70 percent of the online students complete the MBA program in two years.

“Support from the MBA Alumni Board makes our program unique,” said Del Hawley, associate professor of finance and senior associate dean of the business school. “The board is made up of alumni who work at successful businesses, such as FedEx, Auto Zone and KPMG. Members come to campus several times a year and work one-on-one with our students.”

Alumni also lead professional development workshops for students with the goal of making Ole Miss MBAs stand out.

“They want Ole Miss graduates to have a polished resume in their hand, to walk with confidence into an interview and to be a valued employee in their company,” said Ashley Jones, director of MBA administration. “Recent exit interviews with students indicate the MBA students are successful in their job search. According to interviews conducted with May and August graduates, 67 percent had jobs prior to degree completion. The average compensation was $63,000.”

For more information about Bloomberg rankings, visit

For more information about UM’s online MBA program, go to