UM Electrical Engineering Alumnus Named Gates Cambridge Scholar

Dozie Ibekwe was a junior entry into the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

UM electrical engineering alumnus Dozie Ibekwe (left) of Nigeria is a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship recipient.

Electrical engineering alumnus Dozie Ibekwe (left) of Nigeria is a 2015 Gates Cambridge Scholarship recipient.

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi electrical engineering alumnus is among this year’s recipients of the prestigious Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Chiedozie “Dozie” Ibekwe is the second UM graduate to win the full scholarship to the University of Cambridge. Sam Watson, a 2008 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in mathematics, physics and classics, was the first UM recipient in 2009.

“I knew that I had just gotten a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Ibekwe said. “I’ll study for a Master of Philosophy in public policy. After Cambridge, I will utilize my manufacturing and supply chain management expertise to advise African policymakers on crafting and executing effective industrial policies to boost manufacturing and diversify African economies.”

Ibekwe enrolled in UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College through its Junior Entry program and was ranked as the university’s best graduating engineering student in December 2011. He is slated to earn his Master of Professional Studies in supply chain management from Pennsylvania State University in August.

He has been employed by General Electric since graduating from UM, beginning as a lean manufacturing engineer in GE Energy’s aeroderivatives division in 2011. Since then, he has been a process improvement leader in GE Power and Water, a sourcing project manager on the Chevron Big Foot Project of GE Oil and Gas, a manufacturing operations leader for blowout preventers and a supplier quality engineer for GE Nigeria.

“My career goal is to use manufacturing, with localized supply chains, to drive development in Africa,” said Ibekwe, now lead buyer in the pressure control division of GE Oil and Gas in Houston, Texas.

Ibekwe is “a superb example of a citizen scholar,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, UM Honors College dean.

“Dozie studies, he analyzes and then he acts,” Sullivan-González said. “As an engineer or as a policy analyst, he has a gift for seeing how things can be better, and he consistently turns his own talents toward those efforts. We are immensely proud of what he has accomplished already and of what he plans to accomplish.”

At Ole Miss, Ibekwe was a summer research intern at both the Jamie L. Whitten National Center for Physical Acoustics and the University of Southern Mississippi. He won an award for best undergraduate research presentation at a state conference for the former and researched the development of a new technique in facial recognition at the latter.

“Professor Paul Goggans has been the most influential teacher in my life,” Ibekwe said. “He challenged me to be curious about the world. He always thought that I was capable of a lot more if I really applied myself.”

Ibekwe said William Shughart’s engineering economics class was the most important course in his undergraduate career.

“It got me thinking about the economics and sustainability of engineering and infrastructure projects,” he said. “Professor Shughart has been an excellent mentor, especially as I try to figure out possible solutions to Africa’s problems.”

Ibekwe also acknowledged several UM administrators who helped him achieve his goals.

“Ms. Toni Avant, the career center director, has been my go-to person for career coaching, still advising me to this day,” he said. “I had a strong support system through the Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education program, led by Ms. Jacqueline Vinson and Ms. Stephanie Brown.”

Faculty and staff members in the School of Engineering said Ibekwe’s latest accomplishment is part of his destiny and the lasting legacy he is building.

“The selection committee of the 2012 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award knew he’d bring honor to the School of Engineering as a professional,” said Marni Kendricks, assistant dean for undergraduate academics. “Once again, Dozie’s exceeding our expectations.”

Other honors and recognitions Ibekwe received include Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities, Tau Beta Pi, Phi Kappa Phi, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Distinguished Scholar Award, National Society of Black Engineers Fellow, ExxonMobil Scholar, Board of Corporate Affiliates Scholar, John G. Adler Engineering Scholarship, Outstanding Engineering Senior Award and GE African American Forum Icon Award.

“Eventually, I hope to become a Nigerian policymaker,” Ibekwe said. “In addition to addressing infrastructure challenges that hinder manufacturing, I am interested in engaging the Nigerian private sector to develop the manufacturing capabilities and human capital in Nigeria.”

His leadership experiences include the UM International Student Organization, serving as treasurer; Toastmasters International; GE Houston Club, in which he served as treasurer; Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, where he served as director of education; GE African American Forum, serving as professional development committee co-chair; GE recruiter at the National Association of Black Accountants annual conference; and GE/Alpha Phi Alpha College-to-Corporate Program. Ibekwe has volunteered at Second Baptist Church in Oxford, the Martin Luther King Memorial dedication, Thompson Elementary School in Houston, Engineers Without Borders and the Rotary Club of West Houston.

In his spare time, Ibekwe enjoys playing soccer as a goalkeeper. He won the UM Intramural Outdoor and Indoor Soccer Championships and was a runner-up in the Oxford City League. He plays in the Houston Football Association.

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship, open to citizens of any country outside the United Kingdom, provides a full-cost scholarship to Cambridge for a post-graduate degree. Established in 2000 through a $210 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gates Cambridge Trust has selected more than 1,300 scholars from some 100 countries. It makes 95 awards each year, 40 to applicants from the U.S. and 55 to applicants from other countries.

For more about the scholarship, visit http://www.gatescambridge.org/.

Climbing Mountains in the Sky

Talented scholar Charlie King remembered with engineering scholarship

Charlie King

Charlie King

By the time he was 2, Charlie King had already started filling his pockets with rocks. At 25, he was honing his skills as a scholar in geological engineering and geophysics and filling his life with people, travel, music, the outdoors and the environment he loved.

The University of Mississippi graduate student lost his life after a climbing accident on Mexico’s Mount Orizaba in early 2014, but his life and spirit will continue to be interwoven with others through the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment. Created by his parents, Kerry and Terry King of Dillon, Colo., the scholarship will assist graduate or undergraduate students in geology and geological engineering.

“Charlie led a life that deserved to be remembered, and his love for Ole Miss and the School of Engineering inspired us to choose a scholarship,” Kerry King said. “Charlie had plans to work in the field for several years and then pursue a doctorate. We believe he would eventually have become a college professor.”

Adnan Aydin, professor of geology and geological engineering, was King’s undergraduate and graduate adviser, giving him “the privilege of knowing this extraordinary young person.”

“Charlie was a brilliant independent thinker, ready to embark on a great academic journey and to leave his lasting mark on the world,” Aydin said. “He was the most decent person, a perfect student, a dear friend and a young colleague.

“Charlie was fully aware of his capacity for a substantial contribution, and for him, that contribution had to be something that made a real and significant difference. He had the pure and selfless views of an ideal youth on all facets of academia and society at large. He was a compassionate and unifying person.”

The Kings, their son Matthew King and many other family members are Ole Miss alumni and appreciate the continuing support they are receiving from the UM School of Engineering since Charlie King’s death. The Oxford natives are quick to acknowledge the engineering program’s impact on his life.

“Charlie knew from a very early age what he wanted to do and never wavered,” Kerry King said. “He loved that program and it matured Charlie. He was like one of those rough rocks he collected all his life. The School of Engineering faculty helped smooth his edges, helping him to become a complete person.”

Robert Holt, a UM professor of geology and geological engineering, and his wife, Shari, became close to King.

“I chose Charlie as my teaching assistant because during his senior year he earned As in both of my courses,” Holt said. “He assisted me for several years in my course on geological subsurface site characterization. Charlie was excellent; he was so good at anticipating what we needed to prepare. He could have gone to graduate school anywhere. He had great scientific intuition and wrote very well, which set him apart. We lost one of our shining stars.”

Gregg Davidson, chair and professor of geology and geological engineering, said the department “greatly misses” the talented student who was plugged into the academic and the social life of the Ole Miss community.

“The scholarship established by his parents has been a wonderful way to keep him in our minds and not let the business of life dull our memories,” Davidson said. “We especially appreciate their wisdom in adding flow-through funds as the endowment is growing that enabled us to offer scholarships the same year the fund was established. By doing so, students who knew Charlie personally benefited from the scholarship in his memory.

“Two graduate students have been beneficiaries, Austin Patton and Zhen Guo. The scholarship for Austin was timely, because he had just months earlier lost everything he owned in an apartment fire. The Charlie King scholarship helped get him back on his feet much faster than would have been possible otherwise.

“Zhen was especially moved by the award and struggled with accepting a financial benefit from the loss of his friend. On learning of his concern, Charlie’s parents reminded Zhen of Charlie’s giving nature and assured him that it was a special privilege to be able to know that the scholarship was going to someone who knew and loved Charlie.”

Patton, an inaugural recipient and now a project engineer for an environmental remediation construction company in Houston, Texas, had every class with King from Geology 101 through graduate school, and their friendship developed over a shared enjoyment of adventure and the outdoors. Patton also benefited from King’s positive attitude and humor, saying, “Charlie was one in a million. … If you were having a bad day, he would most definitely find a way to cheer you up.

“Charlie seemed to excel in all his geology and engineering classes. It came to him naturally and was something he just ‘got.’ This was probably because he enjoyed it so much.”

Patton shared memories of an upper-level geological engineering course that he passed because of the time his friend dedicated weekly to teaching him the material.

“Charlie accomplished so much and influenced so many lives in the short time that God gave him on this earth,” he said. “Though quite a hackneyed expression, I truly believe that if the world was filled with more people like Charlie King, it would surely be a more enjoyable place. Charlie left this earth doing what he loved most. I will never forget his bright, jubilant demeanor as long as I live. A piece of Charlie will always be with his closest friends and his family members on any adventure we may seek. And rest assured we will all meet again soon, but as for now, Charlie is thoroughly enjoying himself climbing mountains in the sky.”

The reason so many fellow Ole Miss students, faculty members and others felt such fondness for Charlie King can be glimpsed through descriptions of his personality, hobbies and passions. He was an environmentalist, mountain climber, skier, cyclist, paddle boarder and musician who had goals of traveling the world. He brought back rocks from every place he visited, and his parents keep those rocks scattered throughout their home where they can be seen.

“Charlie was happy all his life,” Terry King said. “He went out of his way to help others and was very generous with his time. Not only did he enjoy tutoring other students, but he also enjoyed cooking Chinese and Indian dishes for them. Charlie was obviously serious about his academic studies, but he likewise appreciated the light moments of life.”

One such moment was recalled by Holt, who said Charlie had a “playful spirit with a rebellious streak.”

“I remember one field trip to Tishomingo State Park, we had about 100 freshmen on the trip,” the professor said. “We always take as many graduate students and faculty as we can to help corral this group. We were about to hike up along the highway on the Natchez Trace, so I used my very serious, drill sergeant tone and told the students how to conduct themselves, especially to stay off the road.

“A couple minutes later I look up and there’s this student, jumping on and off the road, over and over again. I’m ready to go yell at this disobedient freshman, and I get closer and realize it’s Charlie, just having some fun at my expense. He was always a rebel at heart.”

That humor was also countered with love and respect for others, his dad said. “Charlie was one of those rare human beings who never said an unkind word to anyone.”

King had been affectionately called “Charlie Bear” all his life, and his parents now give rocks with a Charlie Bear inscription to family and friends, particularly when they are traveling. The rocks have been placed on mountain peaks and many other places, and on the first anniversary of Charlie King’s death, a climber placed a memorial marker on Mount Orizaba.

Friends and family also joined to contribute to the scholarship fund.

“There was a great outpouring of support for the scholarship,” Terry King said. “We’re so happy the endowment continues to grow and serve as a tribute to our son. There are many students who find they are literally broke after earning college degrees, and we want this fund to help.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Charles Dunbar King Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift; or contacting Kevin Gardner, development officer for the School of Engineering, at 662-915-7601 or kevin@olemiss.edu.

Ryan Upshaw Named Outstanding Staff Member by BSU

Assistant dean has long association with university

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

Ryan Upshaw receives the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award from Briana O’Neal, president of the UM Black Student Union.

When Ryan Upshaw helped plan the University of Mississippi’s annual Black History Month observances, he had no idea that he would be honored during the activities.

The School of Engineering’s assistant dean for student services is this year’s recipient of the Outstanding Faculty and Staff Award, presented by the Black Student Union.

“My reaction was pure shock, especially since a student I recruited was the one who presented the award,” Upshaw said. “This is the first award like this I have received as a professional. It means a great deal that the students involved in the BSU would choose to honor me in this way. There are so many faculty and staff members on our campus who could have been selected.”

As a student affairs professional, Upshaw said his goal is to help students have the best experience possible. Over the past eight years, he has worked to actively recruit, retain and graduate students as well as encourage them to be active alumni.

“I push students to perform well academically, but also to find their passions outside the classroom via campus or community involvement,” he said. “I also want to provide them with a sounding board when they are experiencing challenges.”

A UM alumnus, the Moss Point native earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in higher education. He hopes to pursue the new Doctor of Education in higher education soon.

“I chose to attend the university after visiting through an event called Scholars Day, hosted by the Office of Admissions, and being fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Luckyday Foundation,” Upshaw said. “I am thankful to have had mentors like Dr. Thomas Wallace, Mrs. Valeria Ross and Dr. Donald Cole who continue to inspire me as higher education professionals.”

Cole, assistant provost and special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, spoke highly of Upshaw.

“When the university recruited Ryan as a student here a number of years ago, I knew that it was a milestone event,” Cole said. “Ryan’s real impact on the university came when he decided to remain for employment with us. At UM, Ryan not only found an institution from which he could obtain a quality education and meaningful employment, he found a home.”

Before working with the School of Engineering, Upshaw worked for five years in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where he coordinated recruitment efforts and the admissions process.

Briana O’Neil, president of the UM Black Student Union, has known Upshaw for almost five years. During this period, he has been her mentor and friend.

“He is a big reason that I chose to come to Ole Miss and he has been supportive ever since,” O’Neil said. “You can always tell that he cares about the students at Ole Miss and wants to see them succeed. He is friendly and welcoming, but also gives solid advice.”

Upshaw has always been willing to give students his time, said Benjamin Lapane, president of the UM Engineering Student Body. “I think that is one of the most admirable characteristics a student adviser can have,” he said.

“I really enjoy being involved in both the university and Oxford communities,” said Upshaw, a lifetime member of the Ole Miss Alumni Association. “At the university, I serve as adviser to a number of organizations, including the Engineering Student Body, Omicron Delta Kappa senior honor society, Lambda Sigma sophomore honor society and the RebelTHON board of directors.

He also serves on the university’s scholarship committee, housing appeals committee and judicial council. Outside the university, Upshaw has been on the board of directors for the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County since 2009 and serves as chair of its Community Investment Committee. On the Leadership Lafayette program’s steering committee since 2010, he is also on the National Advisory Council for Omicron Delta Kappa society and the Region III Advisory Board for the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. He is a proud member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

Upshaw enjoys supporting Ole Miss athletics by attending sporting events whenever possible.

Jim Newman is Soaring High

Civil engineering alumnus once worked for NASA, became distinguished professor at MSU

Jim Newman

Jim Newman

One of Mississippi State University’s most distinguished engineering faculty members happens to be an alumnus of the University of Mississippi.

Jim Newman received his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Ole Miss in 1964. Since then, he’s evolved into one of the world’s leading fracture mechanics experts. Newman spent 37 years at NASA-Langley before coming to MSU in 2001.

“The education that I received at Ole Miss was the foundation for my future studies at Virginia Tech and my research work at the NASA Langley Research Center,” Newman said. “A job at NASA was a dream come true.”

Newman has received a legion of awards for his substantial contributions to fatigue and fracture mechanics, including the NASA Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the NASA Superstars in Aeronautics Award. He is a William Giles Professor at MSU (the highest honor a faculty member there can achieve) and he was the first recipient of the Richard Johnson Chair in Aerospace Engineering.

“At NASA and MSU, I have continued my research in the area of fatigue and fracture mechanics for aerospace materials and structures,” Newman said. “Since arriving at MSU, Dr. Steve Daniewicz, Dr. Judy Schneider and I have built a world-class fatigue and fracture laboratory, with the support of MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering and the Office of Research and Economic Development.​”

Undoubtedly, Newman has earned the respect of his colleagues.

“Jim is an outstanding faculty member,” said Jason Keith, interim dean of MSU’s Bagley College of Engineering. “We are proud to have him in our college.”

“Jim is still very loyal to Ole Miss,” said Thomas E. Lacy Jr., professor and interim head of MSU’s Department of Aerospace Engineering. “When you meet Jim, I think you’ll find him to be a very genuine, kind, modest and down-to-earth person. That makes us feel especially lucky.”

A native of Memphis, Newman decided to attend UM because a cousin, Peggy Newman, and her husband, David Orr, attended Ole Miss a few years before him.

“I remember listening to the radio when Eagle Day was the Ole Miss quarterback,” he said. “As far back as I can remember, I was an Ole Miss football fan.”

One of Newman’s favorite engineering professors was C.C. Feng, who taught mechanics classes.

“I still have the notes that I took in his class and the homework assignments in my office at MSU,” Newman said. “I enjoyed his classes because he was tough and made us work a lot of homework. I believe in homework. That is the only way a student will ever learn the subject.”

Newman considers his selection as one of three engineers from Langley to be named Superstars in Modern Aeronautics (along with three engineers from several other NASA research centers) to be his greatest career achievement.

“I was placed on the same poster with Dr. Richard Whitcomb (Langley Research Center), the real superstar in aeronautics,” he said. “Dr. Whitcomb’s achievements were many times more significant than all of the others on the poster.”

Newman was married to Frances Mehan Newman, who passed away in January 2014. They had four sons.

“My mother, my sons and my grandkids are the greatest joy in my life,” Newman said. “My dad was my inspiration to become an engineer, but he passed away in January 1980. Ironically, after World War II, he was a ‘crack’ inspector for an airline in Memphis. And his son would become a world expert on ‘crack’ mechanics (the field of fracture mechanics).”