UM Enrollment Tops 23,000 Students for Fall Semester

State's flagship university sees improvement in freshman ACT scores, GPAs

Students gather for class outside of Holman and Connor Halls.

Students take advantage of beautiful weather by gathering for class outside Holman and Conner halls.

OXFORD, Miss. – Enrollment at the University of Mississippi surged this fall for the 20th consecutive year, making history with more than 23,000 students across all its campuses for the first time.

Preliminary enrollment figures show a total unduplicated headcount of 23,096, largest in the state. That’s up 805 students from last fall, or 3.6 percent. The figures include the largest freshman class ever for any Mississippi university, a class that sports the highest ACT scores and high school GPAs in Ole Miss history.

“We are very pleased that students and families across Mississippi and throughout America continue to recognize the quality education and outstanding college experience we offer at the University of Mississippi, all at a very competitive price,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs for students, and it’s truly rewarding to see those efforts being acknowledged with extraordinary interest in attending our university.”

The incoming freshman class swelled to 3,814 this fall, up 6.5 percent from 3,582 last year. Student retention also remains near record levels, with preliminary reports showing 84.6 percent of last year’s freshmen have returned to campus this fall, the second-highest retention rate in school history.

“While we’re very happy with the endorsement of so many new freshmen this fall, we’re particularly pleased with the success of the first-year programs we have in place to help freshmen adjust to the rigors of a world-class university,” Jones said. “Many of our students are the first in their families to attend college, so we try to give them all the tools they need to be successful during their time on campus and then as they launch their careers.”

Nearly two-thirds, 61.2 percent, of Ole Miss students are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties. The university also attracts students from across the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 92 foreign countries.

Ole Miss By the Numbers.

Ole Miss by the Numbers.

This year’s freshmen are better prepared for college course work, with an average ACT score of 24.3, compared to an average of 24.1 last fall. Their high school GPA increased too, from 3.46 to 3.49. Both measures have increased every year since 2010.

This year’s freshman class includes 57 class valedictorians, 52 salutatorians, 73 student body presidents, 83 Eagle Scouts and 10 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

“Student leaders are an important component of our campus community,” said Morris Stocks, UM provost. “The University of Mississippi has a long history of attracting top students with demonstrated leadership skills. We have the wonderful opportunity to provide a leadership training ground and to influence these young people for a short but important period of time. We are thrilled that this freshman class is filled with future leaders.”

Minority enrollment totaled 5,488 students, or 23.8 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,285 students, or 14.2 percent of overall enrollment.

The student body also is diverse in age and national origin, ranging from four 15-year-old students to an 87-year-old pursuing a bachelor’s degree in French. Two of the 15-year-olds are dually enrolled at Oxford High School and the university. One of the other students, from Vietnam, has not declared a major, and the other is an international studies major from Lee County. The youngest graduate student is an 18-year-old from China who is pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences.

The university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College continues to expand, enrolling 1,210 students this fall, a more than 15 percent increase since fall 2012. The acclaimed Honors College has a record 373 incoming freshmen, with 54 percent being Mississippi residents. This fall’s honors freshmen have an average ACT of 30.2 and an average high school GPA of 3.93. The college’s facility on Sorority Row is undergoing a major expansion and renovation to accommodate its larger student body.

The university’s undergraduate schools of Accountancy, Engineering, Nursing, and Journalism and New Media all enjoyed double-digit growth. The number of undergraduate students in accountancy hit a record of 962, up from 869 last fall, and enrollment in the School of Journalism and New Media topped 1,000 for the first time – 1,044 this fall, compared to 886 last year.

Students travel across campus in between classes.

Students travel across campus between classes.

In the School of Nursing, based on UM’s Medical Center campus in Jackson, enrollment is up by 18.4 percent this fall, from 685 to 811 students. That follows a 28 percent spike last year. The dramatic growth reflects the school’s emphasis on lifelong learning, from the undergraduate level through its doctoral programs, said Marcia Rachel, the school’s associate dean for academics.

“Faculty members in the School of Nursing have worked hard to make sure all programs are current and relevant, and that the classroom and clinical experiences are distinctive, dynamic and engaging,” Rachel said. “We have excellent pass rates on national licensure and certification exams, and our reputation in the community is solid.

“In short, we are committed to our mission – to develop nurse leaders and improve health through excellence in education, research, practice and service.”

After seven consecutive years of growth, the UM School of Engineering ranks as one of the nation’s fastest growing. The undergraduate enrollment, which topped 1,000 for the first time in 2012, is 1,419 this fall, up from 1,285 last year.

“The UM School of Engineering has always been somewhat of a hidden treasure with small classes and personable faculty,” said Alex Cheng, the school’s dean. “But lately, more and more students from across the country and around the world are discovering just what we have to offer: a first-rate engineering education with the added liberal arts element, preparing our students for leadership positions in their careers.”

The numbers of students majoring in mechanical engineering, geology and geological engineering, and chemical engineering have more than doubled in the past five years. During that time, the school renovated many classrooms and laboratories, and moved its administrative offices into the renovated Brevard Hall. The university also added the Center for Manufacturing Excellence to complement and enhance existing engineering programs.

Another area experiencing rapid growth is the university’s professional pharmacy program, which leads to a Pharm.D. degree and professional certification. The number of students pursuing their Pharm.D. after earning a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences grew from 232 in 2013 to 290 this fall.

“The growth in our professional program is directly related to the quality pharmacy education that we provide,” pharmacy Dean David D. Allen said. “We’re proud of our program’s accessibility and affordability for both Mississippi students and out-of-state students. Not only do we have a tuition ranked in the country’s lowest 20 percent, but our graduates also have top scores for the national pharmacy licensure exam. I think students are additionally encouraged by our high job placement rate. Nearly 100 percent of our graduates are employed by the time they receive their degrees.”

To help accommodate the growing student population, the university has opened Rebel Market, a totally new dining facility in Johnson Commons, replacing the old cafeteria, as well as several satellite eateries across campus. Construction began this summer on a new residence hall in the Northgate area of campus, and Guess Hall is slated to be demolished soon to make way for two new five-story residence halls on that site.

Construction is continuing on a new facility for the School of Medicine, which will allow the university to increase class sizes, helping train more physicians to serve the state’s health care needs. A major expansion is underway at Coulter Hall, home of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, and a new water tower is nearly complete near Kinard Hall. Work to renovate and modernize locker rooms and other fitness facilities at the Turner Center should wrap up by the end of the fall semester. Also, a three-year project will begin soon to expand and modernize the Student Union.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, go to http://www.olemiss.edu.

Hastings’ Donations Support Summer Geology Camps

Gifts were given to support benevolent faculty in creating student programs

The Hastings Family Fund is comprised of John, his wife Sarah, and sons Harrison, and  Andrew '16.

The Hastings Family Fund  was created by John Hastings (left), son Harrison, wife Sarah and son Andrew, a senior at UM.

When it comes to generosity toward the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, the Hastings family of Houston, Texas, is a shining example.

The Hastings (John, his wife, Sarah, and sons Harrison and Andrew) made an initial unrestricted gift of $15,000 for the greatest need within the Department of Geology and Geological Engineering. Recently, the couple donated an additional $5,000. Both gifts were made through their Hastings Family Fund.

With these two gifts, geology department administration and UM Foundation staff collaborated to create the Department of Geology Faculty Support Fund specifically to address anticipated teaching needs and opportunities. The financial support has already enhanced tailor-made classes and programming for the department and the engineering school.

“For more than two decades, we have relied on a consortium of universities organized by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to conduct the traditional field camp experience for our students,” said Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering. “A year ago, the faculty decided that in order to meet the particular needs of our students, we needed to start our own field camp.”

This decision required two GE faculty members, Terry Panhorst and Robert Holt, to invest several weeks of their own time in Oklahoma and New Mexico to develop field exercises.

“The timing of the Hastings gift was perfect, as it allowed us to offset the cost of their travel and to compensate the instructors for their time.” Davidson said. “They gave $15,000 that has gone toward the development of our own summer field camp program.”

Two camps were held: an introductory one and a more advanced camp.

“The introductory camp (GE 301) required two sessions because of the large number of students needing to take it,” said Panhorst, an assistant professor. “The first session ran the second half of May, and the second session was the first half of June. Both sessions were held in the Arbuckle Mountains of south central Oklahoma, which is about midway between Oklahoma City and Dallas.”

Thirty-eight students attended the first session, and 21 students were in the second session.

The advanced camp (GE 401) will be operated by Holt, an associate professor. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the camp runs during the first half of August. About 35 students attended the inaugural session.

“The camps are designed to give the students experience in the field with basic geologic procedures, such as measuring and describing rock units, creation of geologic maps based on field observations and application of engineering fundamentals to evaluating sites for development,” Panhorst said.

Giving to Ole Miss engineering comes naturally for the Hastings. John is a lifelong geologist and has immensely enjoyed his profession. Both sons are pursuing careers in geology and geological engineering. Andrew is a senior geology and geological engineering major at UM.

“We as a family want to help support Ole Miss and specifically the geology and geological engineering department within the university,” John Hastings said. “We are pleased to be able to help the department in their efforts to produce engineers who will go out into the world and make positive impacts through their professional passion and excellence.”

Hastings worked for Shell Oil Co. from 1984 to 1994 and for Edge Petroleum from 1994 to 2005. He is owner and executive vice president of exploration for Paloma Resources LLC. He graduated from Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in earth sciences and from Texas A&M University with a master’s degree in geology.

The Hastings’ donation has already proven very beneficial to the program, said Panhorst, who spent the week of spring break in Oklahoma attempting to find suitable places for meaningful projects where he and about 40 students could gain access.

“Altogether, I spent about 16 days in the Oklahoma field area, spread between January, March and April, attempting to generate a coherent set of projects,” he said.

Charitable gifts are the foundation for many School of Engineering activities.

“With the impending growth that has steadily become the norm at the School of Engineering, donations of any type are very well-received, especially ones for faculty support such as the gift from John and Sarah Hastings,” said Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering. “The Hastings’ timely generosity is helping to accomplish the provision of unique prototype programs for the School of Engineering.”

Matthew Morrison Joins Electrical Engineering

Newest faculty member heading computer engineering emphasis

Matthew Morrison has proven his leadership abilities both in the U.S. Navy and at the University of South Florida. As a new assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Mississippi, the award-winning teacher and researcher is overseeing the department’s new emphasis in computer engineering science.

Matthew Morrison

Matthew Morrison

A three-time alumnus of USF, Morrison will be teaching Advanced Digital Design this fall and CMOS/VLSI next spring. His other courses scheduled later include Low-Power Digital Design, Digital Circuit Synthesis, VLSI Algorithms and Design, Testing and Fault Tolerance, Embedded System Design, Foundations of Hardware Security and Foundations of Engineering.

“The University of Mississippi provided me with a unique opportunity to apply my teaching and research skills toward updating the computer engineering program within the electrical engineering department, and building the graduate program for both master’s and doctoral students,” he said. “I am committed to excellence in both research and teaching, and believe that improving education at all levels will lead toward enhancing the future of Mississippi and its young women and men.”

As a graduate assistant at USF, Morrison taught seven classes totaling 391 students. Awarded the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant, he implemented many of the teaching methods developed at Naval Nuclear Power School, which he found engendered greater creativity in students.

“My teaching vision is to develop one of the best computer engineering programs in the world at Ole Miss by imbuing students with world-class study habits by combining Navy teaching methods with modern engineering teaching tools,” Morrison said. “This will allow us to develop students academically, creatively and morally, and to engender ideals of integrity, professionalism and lifelong learning and teaching in order to graduate engineers who are dedicated to a career of utilizing the principles of science for humanity’s benefit.”

Morrison’s research is in the areas of CMOS/VLSI, embedded systems, low-power hardware design and hardware security.

“My vision is to help improve the security, safety, reliability and efficiency of computer architectures, embedded systems and application-specific designs for the benefit of humankind,” he added. “Additionally, I will get to work with outstanding faculty who are cordial and genuinely work well together in a positive environment.”

Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, said he is pleased that Morrison accepted the position here after completing his doctorate in May.

“Dr. Morrison will take a lead role in revising the BSEE computer engineering emphasis curriculum and in putting together a new computer engineering emphasis within the M.S. engineering science program,” he said. “Matt is very passionate about teaching and research in the broad area of computer engineering. He has a keen interest in K-12 education and its role in preparing students to pursue an engineering major at colleges.”

Morrison won the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award in U.S. Navy Recruit Training. The award is presented to the graduating recruit who best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military appearance and behavior, self-discipline and teamwork.

“I am proud of this award because I realized during boot camp that I have the potential to lead, give to my community and achieve excellence through hard work and dedication,” Morrison said. “Receiving this award marked a significant milestone in my life, and every achievement since has been the result of the same enthusiasm and discipline that I developed in boot camp.”

While a USF student, Morrison was involved with the Student Bulls Club, which is the student athletics fan group. He attended many home games for football, soccer, baseball, basketball, softball and tennis. He enjoys watching late-night comedy shows and “Doctor Who,” attending blues concerts, running and biking.

His parents, Alfred and Kathleen Morrison, live in North Venice, Florida, and are the chief scientist and chief financial officer, respectively, of Missile Systems Engineering. Morrison’s brother, James, is a project manager for Walsh Group and is working on the new U.S. Embassy in Oslo, Norway.

Morrison has authored several refereed journal articles and holds memberships in the Institute of Electronic and Electrical Engineers and the Association of Computing Machinery.

Engineering Students Shadow at UMMC

Gordji and Vaughnn participated in Honors College summer program

UMMC

Roya Gordji and Joella Vaughnn

Two students in the School of Engineering took full advantage this summer of an opportunity to closely shadow physicians at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, thanks to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s Physicians Shadowing program.

Juniors Roya Gordji, of Oxford, and Joella Vaughnn, of Rockville, Maryland, spent a month shadowing and observing physicians working in a variety of areas. The program is meant to give prospective medical students, regardless of major, a chance to personally experience the fast-paced environment of a hospital. The Honors College provides stipends to assist students with living expenses in Jackson during their rotations.

“The clinical shadowing program allows potential medical students the opportunity to experience the daily life and rhythms of one or two medical fields,” said John Samonds, associate dean of the Honors College. “It also exposes students to the health issues so prevalent in Mississippi.”

A general engineering major, Gordji became aware of the program through the Honors College’s weekly newsletter when she was a freshman.

“Engineering has a unique curriculum because of the real-world applications that exist in all areas of engineering,” she said. “I think this foundation will be helpful for me because in medicine, every problem is a real-world problem. It is immediate and right in front of you, so learning how to apply the things I’ve learned in the classroom to actual situations will be beneficial.”

Gordji and Vaughnn shadowed in the emergency and anesthesia departments in separate two-week rotations. Both observed a variety of real-life situations and interacted directly with physicians.

“The ER was fast-paced and the cases that came in were really interesting,” Gordji said. “I saw cases that varied in severity from a black eye to a crushed foot. The doctors were also very happy to teach.

“In anesthesia, I spent most of my time in the operating room. I was also able to do a few hands-on things there, like manually ventilating a patient. Although I didn’t know what to expect coming into the program, the entire experience was great.”

A chemical engineering major, Vaughnn learned about the program after seeing it on the Honors College’s website.

“I am going to need the engineering analysis tools to solve problems in medicine because medicine is not about having the perfect answer; medicine is about recognizing similarities between cases in order to help the patient as much as you can,” she said.

“A student can read about pulmonary embolisms as long as they want, but they have to be trained to recognize them in patients, even if they do not present 100 percent of the symptom list.”

Her experience gave her a better sense of the hospital environment and of areas that fit her interests.

“During the first two weeks in Jackson, I spent time shadowing an anesthesiologist in the operating room,” Vaughnn said. “There were several different ORs that I got to visit, including the main OR, day surgery center, maternity OR and the pediatric OR.”

Initially, Vaughnn planned on becoming a neurosurgeon, but after watching three different neurosurgery cases, she quickly changed her mind. Her favorite types of surgery to watch were knee, hip and shoulder replacements.

Before participating in the physician’s shadowing program, Gordji spent last summer doing computational research that involved designing tumor-targeting nanoparticles. She was able to present her research at the 2013 Mid-South Annual Engineering and Sciences Conference.

This fall, she begins research for her honors thesis. She also completed UMMC’s Community Health Advocacy Program and volunteered at Northeast Mississippi Baptist Hospital ER as an ambassador for the School of Engineering.

Vaughnn participated in a medical mission trip to Bolivia, where she organized a handout of reading glasses to a local tribe. She is also actively involved with the American Medical Students Association and her social sorority. Research for her honors thesis combines her interests in engineering, medicine and art.

Both students plan to apply for medical school during the upcoming academic year.