Mother of Five ‘Pursues Dreams’ at UM DeSoto Campus

Cheryl Scott slated to graduate in May with bachelor's in elementary education

Cheryl Scott

Cheryl Scott

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Cheryl Scott is no stranger to hard work. A student in the elementary education program at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven, Scott is finishing her degree while also caring for her five children.

“It has been extremely challenging,” Scott said. “I have to balance my time studying and working on assignments with spending time with my husband and kids.”

Scott is on track to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. She is interested in teaching in an inclusion classroom, which includes children in the special education program as well as regular education students.

During her time at the UM regional campus, Scott worked as a special education assistant at Hernando Middle School.

“I will be dually certified in special education when I graduate,” she said. “My professors understand that most teachers will have students with disabilities of some sort in their classrooms and believe it would be an advantage for education majors to be knowledgeable in how to meet the needs of all students.”

The ability to make a difference in the lives of students was a driving force for Scott. Even more so, however, was the encouragement of her children, Morghan, 16, Halle, 13, Landon, 12, Jacob, 9, and Jaiden, 8, as well as her husband Michael.

“Sometimes it was hard, especially for my younger children, to understand why I couldn’t be there or do things with them,” she said. “They knew I was very busy but that it wouldn’t be for long. Knowing that I was so close to being finished with all this hard work helped them to be patient.”

It has been a long road for Scott. She first attended Northwest Community College the summer of her high school graduation in 1999. After marrying the following October, she immediately started a family.

Cheryl Scott’s family encouraged her to finish her bachelor’s degree in education.

Cheryl Scott’s family encouraged her to finish her bachelor’s degree in education.

“I had three children and was pregnant with my fourth by the time I graduated,” she said. “It took me six years to complete my associate degree. That took a lot of patience and determination. I had one more child after graduation and decided to stay home with the kids until they were old enough to attend school.”

All of Scott’s kids were enrolled in school in 2014, so she decided it was time to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“UM-Desoto was the obvious choice,” she said. “It was convenient, and I knew that the University of Mississippi would be an excellent school from which to obtain my degree.”

Amber Carpenter-McCullough, assistant professor of teacher education, supported Scott during her time at UM-DeSoto.

“Throughout the duration of the courses in which I was fortunate to have her as a student, Cheryl actively participated and provided insight to our class discussion,” Carpenter-McCullough said. “Although Cheryl has had to continue to be a wife, a parent and an employee, her continued devotion to college illustrates her personal strength and resilience. I believe that Cheryl has demonstrated that she will not only make an impact on students in her K-12 classes, but that she will also excel as a teacher.”

Scott said she learned how capable she was while taking classes at the DeSoto campus. At times, she questioned if she was neglecting family obligations and even if she was smart enough to complete the coursework.

“By being a good example and working hard, I realized I was being a good mother,” she said. “By working hard, being persistent and giving it my all, I realized I was smart enough to do what needed to be done. I learned so much about myself.”

Scott said many of her classmates have families and work, which is why the location of the regional campus is so pivotal.

“The UM-DeSoto campus makes it possible for us to have the opportunity to pursue our dreams and excel in areas we never thought possible,” she said.

Scott, who hopes to teach for a year and then enroll in graduate school, has some advice for those who are thinking about furthering their education.

“It won’t be easy; it will be hard work,” she said. “It will take time; it won’t happen overnight. However, you will meet classmates who will become lifelong friends and professors with contagious passion.

“You will be challenged, and sometimes you will think there’s no way you will succeed. Don’t lose heart, don’t lose faith and remember why you started the journey. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish once you put your mind to it.”

Housed in the DeSoto Center, the regional campus offers undergraduate (junior and senior) and graduate programs for traditional and nontraditional students. For more information, visit or call 662-342-4765.

UM Students Lead ACT Prep Initiative in North Mississippi

Team 36 program assists more than 100 high school students

METP Fellow Emily Reynolds works with Team 36 students at Coffeeville High School.

METP fellow Emily Reynolds (center) works with Team 36 students at Coffeeville High School.

OXFORD, Miss. – Since January, University of Mississippi juniors Ben Logan and Emily Reynolds have traveled to Coffeeville High School once a week to dedicate a few midday hours to leading ACT workshops for nearly a dozen 11th- and 12thgraders at the small-town school.

Like thousands of high school students across the state, Coffeeville students spent January and February preparing for ACT examinations in March. However, this group is supported by Team 36, a new nonprofit dedicated to mobilizing college students to provide ACT test preparation for rural schools.

“A lot of the ACT is just knowing how to take the test,” explained Logan, a Sherman native who is double majoring in mathematics education and public policy leadership at UM. “In a way, the test favors those who have the means to take extra classes to learn the rules and strategies for taking it. We are here to try and close that gap for these students.”

Established last fall with support from the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, the program has had a positive impact on more than 100 students in Coffeeville, Sardis and Water Valley. The effort is led by nine UM undergraduates, or “team leaders,” who serve as Team 36’s volunteer workforce.

Besides Logan and Reynolds, Ole Miss students involved are: Maggie Conerly, of Alexandria, Louisiana; Brenna Ferrell, Ocean Springs; David Hamidy, Alpharetta, Georgia; Anna Claire Kelly, Madison; Luke Lee, Madison; Lindsay Parker, Pass Christian; and Paige Stolen, Ferrisburg, Vermont.

Seven of the volunteers, including Logan and Reynolds, also are part of the university’s prestigious Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, one of the most valuable and competitive scholarships for aspiring teachers in the nation. Since 2013, METP has admitted 48 undergraduate fellows from 13 states with an average ACT score of 29.

“Education is one of society’s greatest equalizers,” said Reynolds, an English education major from Brandon. “If we can help students achieve a higher ACT score, then we can help them come closer to achieving their dreams.”

Less than one year into the initiative, Team 36 has taken a two-step approach to ACT preparation in partner schools.

Last fall, the Team Leaders offered eight weeks of intensive standardized test training that gave students a strong understanding of how the ACT is structured and graded. The course included test strategies focusing on time management, identifying question types, self-assessment and the forming of independent study plans.

This spring, the UM undergraduates are wrapping up a five-week course that focuses more on English, mathematics and other content areas. All lesson plans were designed by UM student volunteers.

The team leaders switch schools to work with different students each semester, allowing them to gain different experiences and a better sense of the “big picture” Team 36 is working to improve.

“The students are the real heroes here,” said Louise Vigeant, founder and director of the program. “They are the ones who go out and do the work each week.”

The educator, who holds a doctorate in philosophy from Cornell University and has spent the past two years as a UM visiting assistant professor of public policy leadership, has more than 10 years’ experience in higher education. She previously was head of studies at Amsterdam University College in the Netherlands.

Vigeant, who recruited the Team 36 members and secured the program’s initial funding, explained that the inspiration for the program came after her experiences volunteering in local schools. She recognized a need for ACT preparation in rural communities where students can see the ACT as a sizable obstacle.

“The ACT isn’t always a good indicator of how well a student will perform in college,” she said. “Once I realized this, I saw there was this huge population of students out there who might do well in college if only given the chance.”

Organizers hope that Team 36 grows, with the goal of assisting 300 children in north Mississippi in the coming year, Vigeant said. As the program expands, she hopes to identify partners at other universities who may want to open additional chapters of Team 36 to make a wider impact on Mississippi students.

“I want to be a nurse practitioner because I like helping people,” said Moneisha Gwan, a junior at Coffeeville enrolled in Logan and Reynolds’ class. “Our counselor told us about this opportunity and I volunteered (to take the class).”

As a general rule, the team focuses on helping high school students reach at least an 18 on the exam, the point where Mississippi student can gain acceptance into a public university or community college.

If a student is able to increase his or her score a few points higher through ACT preparation, scholarship opportunities that can dramatically expand opportunities may become available.

Kwan Wrenn, another Coffeeville junior who also wants to be a nurse practitioner, noted that she has learned a lot about the ACT this semester, including a few strategies that she may not have considered otherwise and that will help her improve her subscores this month.

“You always read the questions first,” Wrenn said. “You might not have to read the whole passage to find the correct answer, and that can save you a lot of time.”

Team 36 has plans to reconnect with rural north Mississippi schools in fall 2016 and hopes to recruit more volunteers at UM and beyond.

Longtime Educator Donates $250,000 to UM School of Education

Bob Depro's gift to support scholars of social studies

Bob Depro is most at home among his students.

Bob Depro is most at home among his students.

OXFORD, Miss. – Bob Depro has called basketball games as the PA announcer for the Sikeston (Missouri) Senior High School Bulldogs for 53 years. He’s passionate about his support of the team, but there’s one thing he’s even more passionate about: education.

“Very few people have an opportunity as I have for the last 51 years in teaching to get up every morning and be excited about going to their job,” Depro said. “I know that I owe that to Southeast Missouri State and to Ole Miss, so I made a gift to both schools in the exact same dollar amount, $250,000, for the same purpose: to encourage social studies education.”

The Cape Girardeau, Missouri, native received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from Southeast Missouri State University in 1966 and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Mississippi in 1970. He returned to Missouri, where he taught social studies and history at Sikeston High School for 34 years and Southeast Missouri State University for 15 years and counting.

His gift to the UM School of Education has established the Bob Depro Education Excellence Scholarship Endowment for Social Studies Majors, a fund he hopes will give students the support they need to earn master’s degrees in social studies or history and then become teachers.

“We have too many people who have degrees in administration and counseling and not enough people with graduate degrees who are teaching in the field,” Depro said, adding that he hopes to inspire other teachers who have financial ability to make similar gifts in support of their respective fields.

“We desperately need good, young teachers with master’s and specialist degrees in social studies to remain in the field and improve upon it. That will make our teaching area more exciting and more relevant to students.”

Depro’s generous gift will be appreciated for generations to come, said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education.

“I have great respect for Bob Depro, who had the foresight to provide such significant support for our students, knowing that gifts like this will ultimately have a great impact on the profession itself,” Rock said. “Mississippi and our country need great schools of education. That is what we are constantly working toward at Ole Miss.”

Depro knows the importance of private giving.

“If you rely on public funding, all universities are going to be in sad shape,” he said. “They have to have alumni and interested individuals step up and help support the programs the university offers. That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s paying it forward. I’ve had a great career. I’m still teaching for Southeast and I just think it’s the time to do it.”

Billy Crews, development officer for the School of Education, traveled to Sikeston twice last fall, had lunch with Depro and observed him at work in the classroom.

“Based on my observation, he must have recruited many students from Sikeston to attend Ole Miss,” Crews said. “There is a regular pipeline of students from that area who have come to Ole Miss for years. I suspect Bob is influential in inspiring many of those.”

Recently, Depro personally accompanied three high school seniors on a campus visit. In fact, he has invited hundreds to campus through the years.

“I always look for an excuse to go to Ole Miss,” Depro said. He hopes the students will grow to love his alma mater as much as he does.

“I had a cousin who went to Ole Miss and lived right across the street from me,” he recalled. “She kept saying what a beautiful place it was and how nice the people were. In my senior year at Southeast, I was looking for a place to do my graduate work, so I came down and just fell in love with Ole Miss and Oxford.

“I owe a deep debt of gratitude to people like Dr. Roscoe Boyer, who was one of my instructors at Ole Miss, and others who helped to hone my teaching skills and make me a better teacher. The thing I appreciated most was that everything I did in graduate work, I could bring back home and use in my classroom.”

Depro considered being a journalist until high school, when one of his teachers, Carl Wright, inspired him to become an educator. He has never looked back.

“It’s seeing kids excited about learning,” Depro said. “It’s seeing kids who are inspired to go further than just textbook material. It’s seeing students of mine 10 or 20 years after I had them in the classroom come back and realize what great citizens they are and they tell you they appreciate what they learned in your class. That’s what’s really rewarding.

Among many other professional achievements, Depro was named Missouri Teacher of the Year in 1988 and was the Missouri winner of the 1996 National Teacher of the Year competition. He also received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Missouri State Teachers Association.

He has served as president of a number of organizations, including the Southeast Missouri Teachers Association, Sikeston Community Teachers Association, Missouri Council for Social Studies and the Missouri Council for Geographic Education. He is a 16-year national delegate to the National Council for Social Studies and has served on the executive committee of the Missouri State Teachers Association.

Depro is also active in his church and community, having served on the Sikeston School Board (2000-2004) and Sikeston City Council (2011-present) among other organizations.

For more information about including the university in a will or other estate plans, contact the UM Foundation at 800-340-9542 or visit To give to the UM School of Education, contact Billy Crews at 662-915-2836 or

UM Lands $1.2 Million Grant to Benefit Math Teachers

Center for Mathematics and Science Education kicks off Project C4 to enhance classroom efforts

CMSE professional development coordinator Julie James (left) advises a Mississippi teacher during a professional development workshop.

CMSE professional development coordinator Julie James (left) advises a Mississippi teacher during a professional development workshop.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Department of Education has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the University of Mississippi Center for Mathematics and Science Education to fund a professional development initiative that will benefit up to 120 math teachers in Mississippi public schools over the next three years.

Dubbed the C4 Project, the Creating Continuity and Connections across Content Project seeks to improve student achievement in mathematics among K-8 students and enhance teacher performance. C4 will fortify teachers’ content knowledge and, more importantly, their big-picture understanding of objectives and the learning processes across multiple grade levels.

“In this project, teachers in grades K-8 will all be together in one class and look at the spectrum of how students learn math across those grade levels,” explained Julie James, CMSE professional development coordinator. “We want to equip these teachers with a bigger picture understanding of where they fit in the puzzle of how students learn mathematics.”

The grant funding for C4 hails from the Mathematics and Science Partnerships, or MSP, between MDE and the U.S. Department of Education. This is the third major grant-funded project the CMSE has launched through MSP-MDE funding since it opened at UM in 2006.

Starting this summer, the project will benefit select educators in north Mississippi through a two-week summer institute. An annual conference for participating teachers, as well as follow-up activities led by accomplished mathematics instructors throughout the academic year, is also in the works.

The second focus of C4 is on formative assessment, a concept that integrates assessment into the teaching process, James said. Formative assessment training will be an online component of the project and the major focus of the annual conference.

“This is an opportunity to help teachers learn how to assess students on a daily basis or on a weekly basis, so when it comes time for the end of unit or even the state test, there’s no surprises,” James said. “Teachers will know how everyone is going to perform because you know what they’ve learned and will have evidence from the students.”

The CMSE will use an assessment team from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to evaluate the project throughout its three-year run. Both teams will work together to measure the impact of C4, assessing content knowledge at the beginning and end of summer institutes among teachers.

“I really hope we can begin to embrace the new college and career readiness standards statewide and come together as a state to improve mathematics education,” said Alice Steimle, CMSE associate director. “We can work together to form these communities of teachers that learn from each other, learn best practices and rely on one another in this network of teachers that we’re creating with the C4 Project.”

James Reid and Laura Sheppardson, both professors in the Ole Miss Department of Mathematics, will also work with the C4 Project by providing in-depth content instruction during the summer institutes.

“There will be opportunities for teachers to come in and do some pure math things that are beyond the classroom,” James said. “This gives teachers an opportunity to see how math is applied beyond K-12. Their focus will be more on real world application of math.”

UM Hosts Statewide Robotics Competition

Center for Mathematics and Science Education hosts fourth FIRST Tech Challenge

Area high school students contend in the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition sponsored by the Center for Mathematics & Science Education at the Jackson Avenue Center on Saturday. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Area high school students contend in the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition sponsored by the Center for Mathematics & Science Education at the Jackson Avenue Center. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi middle and high school students will get to show off and compete with autonomous and driver-controlled robots they constructed in the state’s fourth robotics tournament at the University of Mississippi.

The UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education will host Mississippi’s FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament on Saturday (Feb. 27) at the Jackson Avenue Center. Opening ceremonies begin at 10:30 a.m., and all FIRST events are free and open to the public.

Four qualifying tournaments held throughout the state determined the advancements of the 22 qualifying teams that will compete in Mississippi’s FIRST Tech Challenge, or FTC. From there, the top four teams move on to compete in the South Super Regional in San Antonio to determine who goes to the world championship in St. Louis.

The Center for Mathematics and Science Education, or CMSE, is a division of the UM School of Education that sponsors the state’s robotics tournaments. These competitions are facilitated by the nonprofit organization FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, founded 20 years ago by renowned inventor Dean Kamen.

Students learn through hands-on activities to apply science, technology, engineering and math in competitions with an entertainment dynamic like that of a sporting event, said Mannie Love, CMSE program manager.

“FTC is aimed at students grades seven through 12 to inspire them to enjoy science, technology, engineering and math,” Lowe said. “We’re basically trying to say, ‘Let’s borrow from what works for sports and entertainment,’ and show young people that being smart and competing as a team in something like a robotics tournament is just as exciting as a being on a basketball or football team.”

Lowe, who has worked for the CMSE program since 2012, goes around the state to recruit new teams to the FIRST program while also helping to instruct schools’ faculty liaisons. When Lowe came to Mississippi in 2012, only four robotics teams existed. This year, 37 teams competed in the qualifying stages and 22 made it to the state FTC competition, he said.

FTC teams are adult-driven, usually by a school instructor, and student-led. The students get a reusable robotics kit and design, construct and program their robot to compete in challenges. Teams can be school-based, home-school-based, part of an after-school program or part of a community-based organization.

Lafayette County High School science teacher Taylor Langford was approached by a group of students to mentor the school’s team in the state’s first official FTC event. In his school’s fourth year of competing, Langford still considers it a learning process.

“I was glad they asked me to help,” Langford said. “At the time when we fielded our first team, it was just as much as learning experience for me as it was for the students.

“This year our group is a bit different because most of our original group has graduated, but we hope to be competitive, enjoy ourselves and learn as much as we can.”

The UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education will host Mississippi's FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament on Saturday (Feb. 27) at the Jackson Avenue Center.

The UM Center for Mathematics and Science Education will host Mississippi’s FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Tournament on Saturday (Feb. 27) at the Jackson Avenue Center.

This year’s game is called FIRST RES-Q, played on a 12-by-12-foot square field with a surrounding foot-high wall, a soft foam mat floor and mountain or floor goals. The match pits pairs of robots against one another, starting with a 30-second autonomous period, where robots are operated via pre-programmed instructions, followed by a two-minute driver-controlled period.

Robots are scored on a pre-determined list of criteria. During the driver-controlled period, the team’s objective is to retrieve up to five “debris” pieces from the playing field and place them in the mountain goals or floor goals.

In the end game, robots can earn bonus points by scaling the mountain goals on the field to the topmost vertical section, extending more than three feet high at a serious incline.

Langford praises the camaraderie and competitiveness these tournaments invoke, but he has seen firsthand the opportunities and values students gain by participating in FTC.

“It is readily apparent as they went through the process of competing in robotics tournaments, students grew more confident in creative thinking, in their ability to execute a plan and in their overall robotics construction and programming,” Langford said. “Students have not only grown confident in their abilities, but also grown more confident in leadership roles and working together as a team.”

This is the overall goal of the FIRST experience, Lowe said. Although competitive in nature, the tournaments reward students for working together to solve problems outside the classroom in a fun, inventive way.

“We let the students learn,” Lowe said. “It’s all about student empowerment. We want them to get their own healthy educational experience.”

Follow Mississippi FTC on Facebook (MississippiFTC) and Twitter (@ms_ftc). For more information about the FIRST Tech Challenge or how to sign up for next year’s competition, go to or, or contact Mannie Lowe at

UM to Honor First African-American Faculty Member in Education

School of Education seeks donations for memorial Henderson endowment

Dot Henderson

Dot Henderson

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community are working to establish a new endowment to honor the legacy of the late Dorothy “Dot” Henderson, the University of Mississippi’s first African-American faculty member in education.

Henderson, who passed away in December, was an instructor in elementary education at UM from 1978 to 1998. She was the first African-American to hold a full-time faculty position in the School of Education, where she influenced a vast number of students, faculty and staff through her intellect, knowledge and enduring commitment to education in and out of the classroom.

An endowment in Henderson’s name is in the early stages and will provide scholarships for future education students. Donations to the fund can be made online.

“We never knew that (our mother) was the first, because she was never the type of woman to put herself before anyone else,” said Deborah Gipson, Henderson’s eldest daughter and one of six children. “I remember that people always smiled everywhere she went. She encouraged people to find their ‘spirit of strength.’ I think that was one of her greatest qualities – bringing out the best in people.”

In January, the UM School of Education opened the Dorothy Henderson Memorial Scholarship Fund. A total of $25,000 is needed to finalize the legacy endowment, which will benefit future Ole Miss education students. Nearly $24,000 is needed to achieve this goal, which many community members hope to accomplish in the near future.

“Dorothy Henderson’s imprint is seen and felt throughout our community,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “Those who knew her best are inspired by her life. Her pioneering leadership role deserves a permanent remembrance for her contribution to Ole Miss, Oxford and her passion for the education of children.”

For more than half a century, Henderson was a beloved and respected figure in the LOU community. She was an active member of many local and state organizations including the Second Baptist Church, Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, the Oxford School District Board of Trustees, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the Mississippi Early Childhood Association, Head Start, the Mississippi Humanities Council, the YWCA, Church Women United, the League of Women Voters and numerous others.

A native of De Kalb, Henderson moved to Oxford in 1963 when she and her husband, Robert Lee Henderson, who was also an educator, took faculty positions in local schools. The Hendersons raised six children in Oxford. Over the decades, their family grew to also include 15 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren and one great great grandchild.

“Her presence could change the whole atmosphere of a room,” said the Rev. Andrew Robinson, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Oxford, where Henderson was a dedicated member of the congregation. “She was always full of wisdom and worked with our mission faithfully. She was the type of person who could always see beyond the challenges in front of you. She saw the positive and the good in all people.”

At Second Baptist, Henderson held multiple leadership positions, including serving on the church’s board of trustees and missionary board. She also taught Sunday school, sang in the choir and more.

Before joining the LOU community, Henderson held teaching positions at elementary schools in Heidelberg, Meridian, Lexington and in Memphis, Tennessee. She also served as director of education at the Institute of Community Services in Holly Springs before joining the UM faculty. Her community service with Head Start and young children would continue throughout her university career, as well.

“Dot was always a real go-getter,” recalled Fannye Love, a longtime colleague of Henderson and UM’s first African-American to obtain the rank of tenured, full professor at the School of Education. “We presented multiple papers and attended multiple conferences together and I remember that she had a great knowledge based of how teachers should be prepared to work with children. She was always involved with so many people across the campus and community.”

Henderson was a published scholar in her field and received many awards and honors for her teaching and service during her Ole Miss tenure. She was her high school salutatorian and held a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University, a master’s degree from UM and an education specialist degree from Mississippi State University.

“Dorothy always brought a unique perspective to any situation,” said Jean Shaw, UM professor emerita of elementary education. “I remember that her philosophy was that you need to know the children that you teach. They each have significance as individuals and have different backgrounds, likes and dislikes.

“It’s easy to say that children are our future, but she really believed it and lived life as she taught.”

Contributions to the Henderson endowment can be made online or via check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 401 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655, and designated for the Dorothy Henderson Memorial Scholarship Fund.

Online Certificate Program Focuses on Program Evaluation

UM graduate option to help a variety of professionals enhance evaluation skills

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OXFORD, Miss. – A new online certificate program offered at the University of Mississippi will help working professionals and graduate students from a variety of backgrounds specialize in program evaluation, a highly sought skill in many public and private sector jobs.

Offered through the UM School of Education, the online graduate certificate in program evaluation offers a broad view of evaluation tools and research methods that can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of professionals in education, government agencies, nonprofits and more. Graduates will be trained to use research tools to determine if organizations are on track to meet institutional goals. 

“The purpose of the certificate program is to make applied research accessible to professionals of all kinds,” said Lori Wolff, professor of higher education, director of the Dr. Maxine Harper Center for Educational Research and Evaluation, known as CERE, and coordinator of the program. “More and more organizations today are requiring employees to perform these types of evaluations on the job.”

The UM School of Education was recently ranked among the nation’s top universities for online graduate degrees in education by U.S. News and World Report.

The program may be completed in as little as one year and requires 18 hours of graduate study, including courses in program evaluation, survey research and quantitative and qualitative methods. The program also requires an Internship in Program Evaluation course where students complete a hands-on evaluation project at an organization relevant to their profession.

“There is a huge demand, especially in nonprofits, for evaluation support from consultants,” said Marie Barnard, research assistant professor, associate director of CERE and a member of the program faculty. “This program will prepare professionals who can help agencies design, implement and replicate effective programs.”

The certificate also can be earned as part of an in-progress graduate degree at UM if a graduate student chooses program evaluation as an elective area of study. 

For more information about UM’s online graduate certificate in program evaluation, including information on how to apply whether considering as an add-on or stand-alone certificate, visit or email

UM Among Nation’s Top 25 for Online Graduate Degrees in Education

Ole Miss programs climb 10 spots in new U.S. News rankings

Students and faculty members from the UM School of Education celebrate Commencement in the Grove. The school has been ranked among the nation's Top 25 programs for online graduate studies in education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Students and faculty members from the UM School of Education celebrate Commencement in the Grove. The school has been ranked among the nation’s Top 25 programs for online graduate studies in education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has been ranked among the nation’s top 25 institutions for online graduate degrees in education by U.S. News & World Report.

At No. 25, the UM School of Education rose 10 spots from U.S. News’ 2015 rankings.

“We are proud to be recognized for the hard work of our faculty, staff and students,” said David Rock, UM’s education dean. “We are committed to creating quality graduate education that is accessible for working teachers, higher education professionals and counselors who seek to be change agents and leaders in their classrooms and communities.”

Ole Miss is tied with the New York Institute of Technology, the University of Dayton, the University of Nebraska at Kearney and William Carey University, falling directly behind the University of South Carolina and Indiana University, which are tied at No. 22.

UM offers four online graduate degrees designed to be accessible for education professionals including:

  • Master of Arts in higher education
  • Master of Education in early childhood education
  • Master of Education in elementary education
  • Specialist in Education in counselor education/play therapy

The School of Education began offering online degrees in 2010, when it accepted the first class into its online master’s degree in elementary education. In the past five years, the education school has attracted online students from more than 15 states in its four programs.

Education faculty are recruiting for the first class of the university’s new online master’s degree in early childhood education. It is the state’s only online master’s degree in the field and can lead to license endorsement from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“Today, it’s more important than ever to ensure quality graduate programs are accessible to working professionals,” said John Holleman, the school’s director of graduate studies. “We provide the academic quality of a flagship university in a way that fits into the lives of talented and hardworking professionals.”

The School of Education also offers a graduate certificate in program evaluation that can be completed online.

In 2015, the school made news when it unveiled three hybrid Ed.D. programs in higher education, mathematics education and educational leadership, which use a combination of online and in-person coursework designed for experienced practitioners, furthering its ongoing efforts to make quality graduate education accessible to working educators.

The school is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the nation’s top education accrediting body for U.S. colleges and universities.

For more information about U.S. News & World Report rankings visit

For more information about graduate programs at the UM School of Education, visit

UM Establishes Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning

Childhood education program to support collaboration among pre-K stakeholders

Studies show longterm investment into quality pre-K education provides improved academic performance and longterm public cost savings.

Studies show longterm investment into quality pre-K education provides improved academic performance and longterm public cost savings.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education has established a new center to provide research and collaborative leadership to support the growth and development of quality early childhood education throughout the state.

Financed with more than $121,000 in external funding from The Phil Hardin Foundation, UM’s Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning was recently officially approved by the Mississippi Institutes of Higher Learning.

“Our primary purpose is to raise visibility of the importance of early childhood education,” said Cathy Grace, the center’s co-director. “We hope to collaborate with all stakeholders and to share innovative ideas and collectively work toward a better education system for all Mississippi children.”

Above all, the new center is dedicated to providing pre-K stakeholders – including students, teachers, teacher educators, school administrators, policy makers, elected officials, parents, community members and more – with valuable data and research findings about early childhood education programs in Mississippi. The center will also provide research on methods to overcome challenges in the pre-K field, particularly in high-needs districts.

“We are extremely fortunate to have a pre-K leader as influential and talented as Dr. Grace to lead this new center,” said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education. “We have the opportunity to make a dramatic impact in the area of early childhood education. We must be willing to invest not only money but our time and effort in pre-K education because we know the critical impact it will have on the future achievement and advancement of our state and nation.”

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research, several studies show quality preschool programs can produce lasting gains in academic achievement, including gains in reading and mathematics. Studies also show an estimated $7 return on every $1 invested in public pre-K education in the form of long-term cost savings.

Mississippi offers no statewide early childhood education in public schools.

“As a School of Education, our focus is on improving education for all children in Mississippi,” said Susan McClelland, chair of teacher education at UM. “We believe the center will enable our faculty to have a greater impact on providing educational opportunities and current research that extends beyond our students to our state and community leaders.

“Our hope is that early childhood education in Mississippi will be transformed to ensure every child receives a quality pre-K learning experience.”

The creation of the new center is a continuation of the university’s push to prioritize the training of quality pre-K educators in Mississippi. In 2014, the school launched a new undergraduate endorsement program for elementary education majors and unveiled an online Master of Education program in early childhood education just this August.

“I have no doubt that this center will have a dramatic impact on the future of Mississippi,” said Burhanettin Keskin, associate professor and coordinator of early childhood education at UM. “If we have the collaboration that we are aiming for, it is going to be a game-changer in this state.”

Grace, who has more than three decades of experience in early childhood education, served previously as a professor and the director of the Early Childhood Institute at Mississippi State University and has served as director of early childhood development policy for the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, D.C. She has also held multiple other leadership positions at the national, regional, state and local level.

Another major goal for the center will be to support the university’s new online master’s degree in early childhood education, which is the only graduate degree of its kind offered in Mississippi. Launched this fall, the online degree can be completed in two years and allows graduates to obtain pre-K teaching licensure from the Mississippi Department of Education.

“From an institutional standpoint, there is a rich history here in support of training quality early childhood educators,” Grace said. “I look forward to helping Ole Miss continue to offer valuable opportunities for educators and others.”

Oliphant-Ingham Named National Top 10 Faculty Member

Secondary education professor honored by Kappa Alpha Theta

Rosemary Oliphant-Ingham is one of 10 outstanding faculty members to be recognized by Kappa Alpha Theta nationwide.

Rosemary Oliphant-Ingham is one of 10 outstanding faculty members to be recognized by Kappa Alpha Theta nationwide.

OXFORD, Miss. – Rosemary Oliphant-Ingham, a professor of secondary education at the University of Mississippi, has been honored by the national Kappa Alpha Theta Fraternity as one of the nation’s Top-10 Outstanding Faculty Members.

Oliphant-Ingham has been a member of the UM School of Education faculty since 1998 and is the coordinator of secondary education in the Department of Teacher Education. She was among 10 educators selected from 110 nominees nationwide to receive the honor.

“I knew that I had been nominated by the Ole Miss chapter of Theta, but I had no idea it was for national recognition,” Oliphant-Ingham said. “I was quite surprised when I found out that I had been selected. It really was quite nice.”

Recipients are considered for the award based on nominations provided by students within the fraternity. Gabby Vogt, a sophomore English education major at Ole Miss, nominated Oliphant-Ingham. Vogt is a fellow in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program, where she has worked closely with Oliphant-Ingham.

“Scholarship is Theta’s highest aim,” said Vogt, a native of Metairie, Louisiana. “Dr. O-I makes it clear that academic success is critical. She encourages lifelong learning and sets the example by continuing to take classes in subjects that do not pertain to her field. Dr. O-I continues to be an example of a leading woman and mentor for me and other fellows in METP.”

Established in 1870, Kappa Alpha Theta was the nation’s first Greek-letter fraternity for women. Since 2011, the organization has selected 10 outstanding college faculty members annually to receive this prestigious award.

“Since our founding nearly 150 years ago, scholarship has been our highest aim,” said Laura Ware Doerre, Kappa Alpha Theta national president. “We are delighted to recognize the faculty members who help cultivate our intellectually ambitious women.”

As part of this recognition, Oliphant-Ingham and her work at UM will be featured in the winter edition of the Kappa Alpha Theta Magazine.

Besides Oliphant-Ingham, the 2015 honorees are:

  • George Bent, Washington & Lee University
  • Allison Calhoun, Whitman College
  • Justin Dyer, University of Missouri
  • Peter Gallay, Quinnipiac University
  • Richard Hardy, Indiana University
  • Kristen Jamison, University of Richmond
  • Katherine Merseth, Harvard University
  • Rupert Nacoste, North Carolina State University
  • William Smedick, Johns Hopkins University