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

Memphis Businessman Pledges $2 Million to Journalism, Business Schools

John Glass pays tribute to his 'Pop' through faculty chair in Meek School

Longtime UM donor John Glass, center, holds a photo of his father, the late William Quintard Glass. John Glass is paying tribute to his father’s influence with a named faculty chair in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. On hand to thank Glass for his support are UM Foundation President/CEO Wendell Weakley, left, and School of Business Administration Development Officer Adam Lee. Part of Glass’ gift also will benefit the business school. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Longtime UM donor John Glass, center, holds a photo of his father, the late William Quintard Glass. John Glass is paying tribute to his father’s influence with a named faculty chair in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. On hand to thank Glass for his support are UM Foundation President/CEO Wendell Weakley, left, and School of Business Administration Development Officer Adam Lee. Part of Glass’ gift also will benefit the business school. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – When businessman John D. Glass talks about his father – a hard-working business owner of a printing company and publisher of a newspaper – the love and respect can be heard each time he recalls a memory.

A longtime benefactor of the University of Mississippi, Glass has established two new endowments, including a named faculty chair to pay tribute to his father’s life. The William Quintard Glass Chair of Journalism in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media is a nod to his father’s long career at the helm of Glass Printing Co. and The Newbern Tennessean newspaper in Dyer County.

John Glass of Memphis, Tennessee, has committed a planned gift of $2 million to establish the faculty chair and to create the John D. Glass Endowment for Business Excellence in support of the university’s School of Business Administration. Previously, Glass funded a faculty support endowment in his name and a speaker series in his father’s name, both for the business school.

“I have always loved my father and the University of Mississippi,” Glass said. “I could not think of a better way to remember both. Think about it – his name will be linked forever to Ole Miss. I am proud to make this gift. I remember when Pop and I were hugging each other for the last time, he whispered into my ear, ‘Son, I love you, and have you said your prayers?’ These are the words I hold dear.

“My Pop only had a fifth-grade education. His father died when he was young, leading him to quit school and work to help support his family. Even with this background, he was a great believer in college and always encouraged me to give my best efforts. As a result, I have earned undergraduate, master’s and law degrees, all because of him.”

While $500,000 of his new planned gift is directed to the business school, where Glass earned his undergraduate degree, the remaining $1.5 million secures a named chair-level faculty position in the journalism school. Building faculty support continues as a top priority for UM, which boasts the largest student enrollment among Mississippi’s public universities and needs to add around 215 faculty members over the next three years, Ole Miss leaders have said.

Named faculty positions offer prestige and salary supplements needed to recruit top faculty members.

Will Norton, dean of the journalism school – an academic unit experiencing rapid growth with undergraduate enrollment soaring 26.6 percent, from 1,044 students in fall 2014 to 1,322 this year – expressed appreciation for Glass’ decision to fund and name a faculty chair for his father.

“It means a great deal to the Meek School and the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics when an accomplished professional makes a significant donation to pay tribute to a longtime journalist,” Norton said.

“John Glass is not only honoring his father, but he is also helping assure that future students benefit from outstanding professional instruction. We are deeply grateful for this tremendous gift and feel that Mr. Glass’ father would be proud to have his name permanently linked with the preparation of future journalists.”

Glass hopes the holder of the William Quintard Glass Chair of Journalism can mentor UM students, as his father mentored him. After an almost-50-year career in the trust area of banking with Union Planters, First Tennessee and Morgan Keegan, Glass and a business partner formed Sentry LLC, a private wealth management firm in Memphis.

“Because of Pop’s guidance, I chose to pursue a banking career from 1960 to 2009 in the trust department,” he explained. “He told me this area was the best way to learn how to make and manage money; that turned out to be very good advice.”

Ken Cyree, dean of UM’s School of Business Administration, saluted Glass for sharing his resources.

“John Glass continues to enjoy an incredible career and stands as an excellent role model in ‘giving back,'” Cyree said. “He doesn’t take his successes lightly, maintaining a strong belief in ‘paying it forward’ to express his dedication to a father, who passed on valuable life lessons, and to his alma mater, which prepared him for his career.

“The impact of Mr. Glass’ investments in the business school will be far-reaching, helping to assure students are taught to be business leaders and visionaries.”

Glass grew up in Newbern, Tennessee, and joined the Ole Miss student body, where he says he learned, in addition to academic study, “to get along with people and how to conduct myself in public.”

“When I arrived on campus, I felt as though I was ‘home.’ If you love home, you always come back,” said Glass, who also has a home in Oxford and attends athletics and other events. “I’m thankful for everything – every opportunity – that I was given. I want to bless Ole Miss for what it’s done for me.”

When giving credit to Ole Miss and his father, Glass also makes a point of thanking God.

“My Heavenly Father has blessed me more than I could ever imagine. He has been more than abundantly good to me. Everything I have comes from Him for reasons known only to Him. I want to give back to Him what He has graciously given me. It is much better to serve than to be served.”

Glass hopes his gifts provide educational opportunities that students embrace. When asked what he would tell today’s college students, he said, “Make good grades and persevere – never think about quitting. College is a real opportunity; try diligently and stay with it.”

Glass said his father encouraged him to do the same by using a unique illustration: “When I graduated from Ole Miss, Pop took me into the kitchen and turned on the water. He said, ‘This is you in college.’ Next he turned off the water. ‘This is you out of college; get a job and get off my payroll.’ As you can see, both the University of Mississippi and my Pop have blessed me over and over again. I am giving back to them because they graciously gave to me.”

Glass’ planned gift gives him membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university opened its doors. The society recognizes generous donors who thoughtfully provide for the university through planned and deferred gifts. For more information, call the UM Foundation at 800-340-9542 or 662-915-5944, or visit

Prominent Guest Speakers Highlight Annual Insurance Symposium

Annual event helps connect students and industry professionals

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The state insurance commissioner and industry leaders are among the speakers headlining the University of Mississippi’s annual Insurance Symposium. The event, hosted by the School of Business Administration, is set for Wednesday and Thursday (March 18-19) at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The school’s Risk Management and Insurance Program offers many opportunities for students to meet and interact with professionals through internships and special events. The annual symposium also brings professionals and students together through education.

“Our program is delighted to once again host such distinguished industry leaders at our symposium and we are proud to showcase our program, the university and our state to our industry guests,” said Andre Liebenberg, the school’s Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance. “The strength of our speaker lineup is the result of excellent work by our advisory board members who guide our program and lead our fundraising efforts.

“We are honored to serve the regional insurance industry in this manner and know that the 200-plus industry participants and all the student attendees will value this opportunity to learn from today’s thought leaders.”

The insurance program at Ole Miss is the nation’s seventh-largest, and almost 100 percent of engaged students are placed in the insurance industry upon graduation, Liebenberg said.

Early bird education sessions begin at 1 p.m. Wednesday, followed by sessions throughout the afternoon. A welcome reception at the Oxford-University Club concludes the day.

Thursday’s activities begin with breakfast at The Inn at Ole Miss, followed by a welcome session featuring Mike Chaney, Mississippi commissioner of insurance. The day’s education offerings include a session with Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the Insurance Information Institute, and another with Glenn Renwick, chairman, president and CEO of Progressive Insurance.

Robert Khayat, UM chancellor emeritus, is slated to speak at the symposium luncheon, and educational sessions will continue throughout the afternoon.

Registration for the symposium is $200. Online registration is available at For more information, contact Kathy Shoalmire at 662-915-2830 or at

UM Ranks Among Nation’s Best Online MBA Programs

U.S. News & World Report lists university in Top 25

Graduates from the online MBA program share their exhilaration at 2014 commencement ceremonies.

Graduates from the online MBA program share their exhilaration at 2014 commencement ceremonies.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s online MBA program is ranked in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2015 list of 25 Best Online MBA Programs.

UM tied Ball State University for No. 16. Other SEC schools on the list include Florida at No. 4, Auburn (No. 10) and Mississippi State (tied with the University of Tennessee at Martin for No. 18). Indiana University, Temple University and the University of North Carolina all tied for No. 1.

“We are very proud of the success of the online MBA program and the recognition of the incredible value this program provides to our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration. “The fact that they can continue working and provide for their families while furthering their education is a wonderful opportunity. It is especially satisfying to be able to help our men and women in uniform to further their education.”

Besides this overall ranking, U.S. News & World Report ranks UM as a top university in the areas of:

  • Faculty credentials and training rank: 49
  • Student services and technology rank: 53
  • Student engagement rank: 35
  • Admissions selectivity rank: 20
  • Peer assessment score (out of 5): 3.1

MBA logo

UM’s online MBA program 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.

“We strive to be accessible to students through both predetermined interactions such as weekly discussion board meetings, in addition to the ability to ask questions to the class or professor,” Cyree said. “We also have several opportunities for students to meet face-to-face to develop connections with their classmates. The courses are rigorous and demanding and are a companion to our on-campus program, and in many cases the same professor teaches online and on-campus.”

The online program’s student population is a combination of young professionals and experienced, successful professionals.

“They are located from coast to coast and abroad,” said Ashley Jones, director of MBA/MHA Administration. “We have bankers, engineers and entrepreneurs. Along with those in the fields of business and accounting, we have students in the field of medicine that include a surgeon, anesthesiologist and a pharmacist. All have different career goals, and they each bring learning opportunities to the class.”

For more information about U.S. News & World Report rankings, visit For more information about UM’s online MBA program, go to


Ole Miss MBA Program Ranked by Businessweek

New mark is highest national ranking ever for program

The University of Mississippi School of Business is located in Holman Hall.

The UM School of Business Administration is housed in Holman Hall.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s MBA program has been ranked 76th nationally by Bloomberg Businessweek.

The schools that made the ranking are considered by Businessweek to offer the strongest education and best preparation for business careers.

“We are very happy with the MBA ranking,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “This ranking reflects the hard work of our faculty and staff, as well as the board who has helped us in many ways. We are grateful for the recognition and will continue the good work to provide an excellent education and preparation to our students entering the workforce, and enhance the value of the MBA degrees for our alumni.”

MBA_76The MBA program has been ranked in the low 90s by U.S. News and World Report, but this is the highest national ranking it has ever received, said Del Hawley, the school’s senior associate dean. The program was ranked higher than other respected programs, including those at the University of Alabama, Oklahoma University and Baylor University, he said.

“The Businessweek ranking is exciting news!” Hawley said. “Clearly, our program delivers tremendous value to our students and is an increasingly attractive alternative to many larger and more costly programs.”

The rankings are based on student satisfaction, which includes school culture and academic quality; a survey from employers that hire those graduates to reflect career prep of the program; and the expertise of the faculty that administers the education, including articles published in business journals.

“This upward ranking trend reinforces what so many global employers, alumni and current students know: graduating with an Ole Miss MBA provides students with an educational cornerstone to succeed throughout their career,” said Chris Daniel, MBA Alumni Board president and a strategic buyer for Exxon Mobil in Houston.

Ann Canty, the MBA program faculty director, said she is thankful for student participation in the survey.

“We are aware that MBA students consistently tell us that school culture is important in selecting the right MBA program,” Canty said. “The unique aspects of the Ole Miss MBA program school culture were communicated very well by our students.”

The program’s goal is to increase enrollment with strong candidates and equip MBA students with the tools to succeed in a competitive workforce, said Ashley Jones, director of MBA/MHA administration.

“Support from our MBA Alumni Board makes our program unique,” Jones said. “The board realizes the importance of professional development and has created a series of professional development workshops to make Ole Miss MBAs stand out. Their time and dedication to prepare our students is an asset to our program.”

According to the findings, the Ole Miss business school has an average GMAT score of 550 for admitted students. The cost of the program for Mississippi residents is around $15,000 and the average salary of graduates from the program is $56,000 annually.

Rebel Venture Capital Fund Aids Student Businesses

A student clothing line and an app were awarded the funds' inaugural grants

Left to right: John Cassimus, a successful entrepreneur and Ole Miss supporter, UM students Dwight Barnes and Jasmine Brown, who were awarded seed money for their clothing company, and Bill Fry, chair of the Rebel Venture Capital Fund.

Left to right: John Cassimus, a successful entrepreneur and Ole Miss supporter, UM students Dwight Barnes and Jasmine Brown, who were awarded seed money for their clothing company, and Bill Fry, chair of the Rebel Venture Capital Fund.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has awarded seed money to students through the newly created Rebel Venture Capital Fund, which helps with business startup costs.

Clay Dibrell, an associate professor of management and executive director of the center who also holds the William W. Gresham Jr. Entrepreneurial Lectureship, said the fund began to gain traction last spring after UM business Dean Ken Cyree suggested it. Bill Fry chaired the fund, which has raised about $35,000 in donations from UM alumni, which will be used to help students with their business ideas.

“We think about it in terms of factors of production – land, labor, capital,” Dibrell said. “So the entrepreneurs are providing the ideas and the knowledge, and the drive to get something going. Our donors wanted to give them an opportunity to try, and possibly fail, with their ideas in a nurturing environment.”

Left to right: Diane Barrentine, a Domino’s franchisee owner, and UM students Alicia Netterville and Cydney Archie, who were awarded seed money for their app and website, and Bill Fry, chair of the Rebel Venture Capital Fund.

Left to right: Diane Barrentine, a Domino’s franchisee owner, and UM students Alicia Netterville and Cydney Archie, who were awarded seed money for their app and website, and Bill Fry, chair of the Rebel Venture Capital Fund.

Dibrell credits Fry with his work as chairman to get the fund started, which resulted in grants totaling $7,000 awarded to two student projects in October.

Dwight Barnes, a senior business management major from Jackson, and Jasmine Brown, a senior accounting major from Jackson, were given one of the grants to help get their clothing line started. “Chasing Ten Figures” clothing is a joint effort between Barnes and Brown, as well as Barnes’ cousin, Theodis Barnes, who lives in New Mexico. The clothing company idea was awarded $4,000.

“For us to be in the venture challenge and win, it just shows the hard work and dedication we put in is being rewarded,” Barnes said. “It just made me hungry to succeed and continue to do more and stay on the course. We’re going in the right direction. I’m very grateful for the opportunity.”

The company started in February, and the partners use digital printers for their T-shirts, and are also making baseball caps, bucket hats and hockey jerseys, among other items, Barnes said.

A proposal to launch a web platform and a mobile application that links  reliable students who want to sell their services to people and businesses willing to hire them got the other grant, for $3,000. The developers of the website and mobile app, called Geeks n Gigs, hope to give students a place to get both professional and nonprofessional jobs, which can help them earn extra money or find jobs that beef up their resumes.

The venture also helps people and businesses find and hire students to perform their temporary tasks.

The website is expected to launch in January 2015. Two third-year law students, Alicia Netterville, of Greenville, and Cydney Archie, of Brandon, created the site and are preparing it for launch.

“The Rebel Venture Capital Fund has allowed us to significantly increase our marketing campaign and complete the method by which payments will be received and distributed via our system,” Archie said. “Outside financial support, the Rebel Venture Fund has provided a wealth of information and support that has made some of our growing pains easier. The fund also provided us with mentors who have offered candid and valuable advice.”

The CIE’s mission is “to inspire our students to create valuable new businesses and enhance the economic value of all businesses in the state of Mississippi through excellent teaching, exceptional service and world-class research.” Through the Rebel Venture Capital Fund, the CIE is to award grants to student projects each semester.

The next grants are slated be awarded this spring, and students are invited to present business proposals.

Applications should not be submitted until student entrepreneurs have discussed their ideas with friends and, preferably, already generated some sales or revenue, CIE officials advised. Proposals are not likely to be considered for funding if they have not generated revenues. Students seeking more information can email questions about the fund to

New Funding to Support UM Entrepreneurship Programs

Two grants provide collaborative opportunity for UM business, community engagement programs

School of Business Administration Dean, Ken Cyree

School of Business Administration Dean, Ken Cyree

OXFORD, Miss. – A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation is expanding the capacity of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The $370,500 grant will provide support for the center’s student-led consulting program for three years.

Through the Student Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development Program, the center will create a student-led consulting program that focuses on helping startup and early-stage Mississippi businesses achieve growth, profitability and success.

“This grant is extremely important to get the center off the ground and to help us provide the knowledge and skills so our students can start businesses and engage in the economy,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “I believe this is a watershed moment for the Mississippi and regional economy and I am hopeful that the center will provide the catalyst for many startup firms that are successful, in addition to better innovation in existing businesses. We look forward to the focus the center will bring to entrepreneurship and to funding Rebel-led businesses for many years. ”

The program, which will launch during the fall 2014 semester, will provide employment for up to 10 UM business students. Working under faculty supervision, the students will assist entrepreneurs throughout Mississippi, including those in UM’s Office of Technology Transfer, Small Business Development Center and to businesses located within UM’s Insight Park business incubator. The students will also participate in the projects and initiatives developed by the center.

“A primary goal of the business school is to provide our students with opportunities to gain real-world work experience,” said Clay Dibrell, UM professor of business management and the center’s executive director. “The Hearin Foundation grant provides us with an avenue for students to be able to work on actual entrepreneurship projects, which will help their entrepreneurial clients be more successful. This experience will allow the students to use the skills they learn in the classroom and to apply these skills, which we anticipate will enable them to be more competitive in the job market or enhance their probabilities of success if they choose to start their own business.”

Student teams will provide a broad range of services aimed at helping startups develop and implement stable business plans. Services will include social media marketing, payment system development, accounting system implementation, marketing design, customer outreach, promotions, process reengineering, bank document preparation and more. Students may also connect clients to other university resources as needed.

A separate, $1.6 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will support the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, which seeks to increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development in rural Mississippi communities. The McLean Institute and the business school plan to collaborate on projects that will help improve economic development through both traditional and social entrepreneurship programs.

“The entrepreneurship faculty envision the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be a catalyst in continuing to develop and enhance the Ole Miss entrepreneurial ecosystem to benefit our stakeholders,” Dibrell said. “This grant enables us to further develop our collaborative relationships with other departments on campus, as well as increasing the likelihood for entrepreneurial ventures coming out of Ole Miss to be successful, which is good not only for the university but also for the state of Mississippi.”

Jones Earns Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneur Award

Annual recognition honors visionary graduate building unique business to aid security personnel

Henry Jones, recipient of the 2014 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award.

Henry Jones, recipient of the 2014 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award.

OXFORD, Miss. – Henry Jones, co-founder of Kopis Mobile, is the recipient of the 2014 Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneurship award. The award, named for University of Mississippi alumni Jan and Lawrence Farrington, is given annually to a graduate who exemplifies the best of entrepreneurship.

Jones, a Richton native who earned his mechanical engineering degree from UM in 1995, calls the recognition “a big surprise and an enormous honor.”

“I know who the past honorees are; they are entrepreneurs who are working hard to grow businesses in Mississippi,” Jones said. “To be included in that group is humbling, and it is also a vote of confidence from peers who face the same challenges that I do as an entrepreneur.”

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

“Jan and Lawrence Farrington have been involved in 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 School of Business Administration. “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.”

According to Jones, whose Flowood-based company creates apps and app-enabled equipment for use by law enforcement, private security personnel and the military, the experience gained at Ole Miss set him on a path to success. While studying at Ole Miss, Jones took advantage of opportunities to participate in student government and study abroad programs. The diverse exposure helped him earn a full scholarship to graduate school at Stanford University.

He also credits his time at Ole Miss with allowing him to build relationships with other entrepreneurs – relationships and friendships that continue to this day – as well as to learn from people as successful as the Farringtons.

“I truly appreciate what the Farringtons have done in creating this award,” Jones said. “What they do to support young entrepreneurs is meaningful to me and to others who also have a vision for a brighter future for Mississippi and are trying to create businesses as a way to make that happen.”

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.

“Recognizing successful Mississippians highlights examples of what is happening to brighten the future of our state. We not only want to celebrate these successes, but we also want to help and encourage our students to pursue their own visions and dreams of becoming entrepreneurs.”

University Honors Burns Family with Building Dedication

State-of-the-art residence hall, team meeting room named in honor of accountancy alumnus

Roland Burns with wife, Sheryl, son Derek, Ole Miss Accountancy Professor Jimmy Davis and son Tyler stand in front of the newly dedicated Burns Hall. Roland and Derek shared Davis as a professor while at Ole Miss, and youngest son, Tyler will be taking a class Davis is teaching this fall.

Roland Burns with wife, Sheryl, son Derek, Ole Miss Accountancy Professor Jimmy Davis and son Tyler stand in front of the newly dedicated Burns Hall. Roland and Derek shared Davis as a professor while at Ole Miss, and youngest son, Tyler will be taking a class Davis is teaching this fall.

OXFORD, Miss. – A crowd of nearly 100 students, faculty and staff participated in a ceremony hosted Friday (April 4) by the University of Mississippi to honor Sheryl and Roland Burns of Frisco, Texas, for their legacy of support with the naming of a premier campus residence hall and the new football team meeting room in the Manning Performance Center.

The Burnses have given generously to support both academic and athletics programs, with their recent $2 million gift elevating their lifetime giving to more than $5 million. Roland Burns, a 1982 graduate who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in accountancy, says it is humbling to see his family’s name on the building.

“It is not anything I ever thought I would see,” Burns said. “It is a really attractive building and there is a lot of history here (on this campus). We are so proud to be associated with Ole Miss and the School of Accountancy; it has been such an outstanding program.”

The Public Accounting Report, the independent newsletter of the accounting profession, recently rated UM’s undergraduate accountancy program as No. 4 in the country (behind Texas, Illinois and Brigham Young) and the master’s and doctoral programs at Nos. 5 and 8, respectively. The accountancy programs are No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference.

Burns Hall, which has been temporarily known as Ridge South, stands on the site of the former Miller Hall. Burns Hall opened in August 2012 and is one of three new residence halls on that site. The four-story structure houses 272 students and provides a shared courtyard and many of the amenities requested by students, including private bathrooms, microwaves, refrigerators in each room, study rooms, community kitchens, laundry facilities and lounges with TVs on each floor.

“Today, the residence halls are an extension of the learning experience, and when we talk about the Ole Miss family, it’s important that we know our family comes home here every night,” said Brandi Hephner Labanc, UM vice chancellor of student affairs. “We see this as a wonderful extension of our academic environment, and we are grateful to the Burnses for being involved in the living learning experience here.”

With a growth in enrollment on the Oxford campus from 9,412 in the fall of 1982 to 18,423 in fall 2013, much has changed since Burns graduated. The former Kincannon Hall resident noted that the housing looks quite different than when he was a student here.

It was a visit from UM Provost Morris Stocks, who at the time was the new dean of the School of Accountancy, and Debbie Vaughn, senior executive director of development, that reinvigorated Burns’ connection to the university. They visited Burns in Texas, where he is president and chief financial officer of Comstock Resources Inc. Stocks asked Burns to create an intern program in his company’s financial reporting department that would provide opportunity for Ole Miss undergraduate students.

“Morris got us interested by showing us the success the (accountancy) program is having on the national level, and that gave us a deep sense of pride,” said Burns, who transferred from Mississippi State after his freshman year to join the then-new accountancy school in its first year of programs set apart from the School of Business Administration.

“Being a part of something new made all of us know we were part of something special. Giving back through the internship program and in other ways is really rewarding to us, and we are grateful to be included as part of the Ole Miss family.”

This was the second time in a year that a campus building has been named for a Patterson School alumnus. Another of the Ridge residence halls was named last spring for alumnus Lucian Minor.

“There is much to celebrate today, as we are so grateful to Roland and Sheryl for their continued dedication to the university,” said Chancellor Dan Jones. “They support us financially and today, they are lending us their name, and what a great thing for the university to be associated with their name.”

Stocks praised the Burnses for their holistic approach to support for the university.

“The Burnses have continued to support our school and our university in many ways, including the Burns Chair in Accountancy,” Stocks said. “Outside of the major public accounting firms, (Roland) has also recruited more accountancy students to our program and formed an internship program at his company that is critical to our program. The Burnses’ lend constant moral support to our efforts to transform lives. We are a better place because Roland chose to attend Ole Miss.”

During a ceremony held earlier in the day, Ole Miss Athletics honored the Burnses with the naming of the team meeting room. That naming took place in conjunction with the ribbon-cutting for the newly- renovated Indoor Practice Facility, now called the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

“Sheryl and Roland support excellence in academics and support academics in athletics equally, making sure that we move forward together,” Jones added. “They are making a big difference in the lives of students in their local community and here. We are so grateful to them.”

Along with family friends, the Burnses were joined by their sons Derek, an Ole Miss graduate student in accountancy who earned a bachelor’s degree here in 2013, and Tyler, an Ole Miss freshman majoring in biology with a minor in accountancy. Their daughter, Stephanie, is a graduate of Southern Methodist University.