Implicit Bias Expert Benjamin Reese Jr. to Speak at UM

Duke University VP to lead frank discussion on subconscious attitudes

Ben Reese, senior vice president for institutional equity

Ben Reese Jr., senior vice president for institutional equity at Duke University, speaks Thursday at UM.

OXFORD, Miss. – Benjamin Reese Jr., chief diversity officer and vice president of the Office for Institutional Equity at Duke University, will speak to University of Mississippi faculty, staff and students Thursday (Oct. 6) to discuss the role of implicit bias in people’s everyday lives.

Free and open to the public, the event is set for 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Ole Miss Student Union ballroom.

“I think everyone is familiar with explicit biases, the conscious behaviors that are discriminatory,” explained Reese, a clinical psychologist with more than four decades of experience. “However, implicit biases refer to the ways in which we behave, or make decisions, that we are not aware of.

“We may think our decisions are fair and equitable, but there is still a subconscious bias.”

Implicit bias is a judgement and/or behavior that is rooted deep in subconscious attitudes and/or beliefs. Implicit biases can be either positive or negative toward a specific group with certain characteristics, such as age, appearance, race, sexuality or weight.

“We want people to be aware that we all have biases,” said Nichelle Robinson, UM School of Education diversity officer, who coordinated the event. “It’s once we are aware of these biases that we can begin to work to change these behaviors.”

During the event, Reese will define implicit bias and share steps that individuals can use to identify and decrease these subconscious judgements.

He will also discuss free implicit association tests that can help individuals identify their own implicit biases. One example is Project Implicit, hosted by Harvard University.

bias“I think it’s important to walk away (from this discussion) with an understanding of how bias develops within us,” Reese said. “There is some compelling research that suggests all of the different ways that implicit bias operates, and I will give some examples so people can gain an understanding of their own everyday decisions.”

Reese also will conduct a special session with students from the School of Education at 9 a.m. Friday (Oct. 7) at the Jackson Avenue Center.

For close to 40 years, Reese has consulted both public and private institutions on organizational change, conflict resolution, race relations, diversity and more.

The event is sponsored by the UM School of Education, Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and Office of Multicultural Affairs.

University Partners with USM to Expand Jumpstart

UM literacy center plans statewide expansion through collaborations

Jumpstart recruits college students from a variety of academic majors to teach language and literacy skills in pre-k classrooms. Photo by Nathan Latil- University Communications

Jumpstart recruits college students from a variety of academic majors to teach language and literacy skills in pre-K classrooms. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A new collaboration between the University of Mississippi and the University of Southern Mississippi will expand Jumpstart, a national organization that helps children develop the language and literacy skills needed to excel in kindergarten.

This ongoing effort to expand Jumpstart statewide is led by UM’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. Last fall, the university announced a similar partnership when CELI staff helped expand Jumpstart into the Columbus area by partnering with Mississippi University for Women.

“We have a goal of having a Jumpstart presence at all IHL campuses statewide,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director. “The University of Mississippi will be the ‘central hub’ for Mississippi Jumpstart as we help grow the program.”

Jumpstart opened its first Mississippi chapter in 2012 at Ole Miss. The program recruits undergraduate students from all academic disciplines and provides volunteers with specialized training and placement in pre-K classrooms where students provide support to existing education centers.

“Jumpstart is a great hands-on experience, and a lot of it,” explained Olivia Morgan, CELI literacy specialist and the state program manager for Jumpstart. “The experience is not just beneficial to education majors, but anyone who wants to work with children or have children of their own one day.”

Volunteers complete at least 300 volunteer hours in an academic year between training and teaching as part of the program. Students also receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award that can be applied toward education expenses.

“Children in Hattiesburg need this kind of exposure to rich vocabulary and social skills,” said Laura Beth Hull, the new site manager for the USM chapter and a graduate student in speech pathology there. “Jumpstart is here to help bridge that gap and our students want to be a part of it.”

As the site manager, Hull is working on recruitment and hopes to have 12 students working in two classrooms by the end of October.

Mississippi does not offer universal public pre-K education and state data suggests a significant need for it. A 2015 assessment conducted by the Mississippi Department of Education found that approximately 64 percent of Mississippi children do not possess the literacy skills needed for entering kindergarten.

As noted by Rutherford, literacy research suggests that children who experience quality early childhood education are more likely to be proficient readers by third grade.

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

CELI oversees more than 35 Oxford-based volunteers at three sites in north Mississippi, and the chapter serves more than 100 children. At the MUW chapter, more than a dozen volunteers serve more than 40 children in Columbus area. The new Hattiesburg chapter is expected to be operational by mid-October.

CELI hopes to identify new partnerships for the expansion of Jumpstart in the coming year.

Melody Musgrove Joins Graduate Center for Study of Early Learning

Former U.S. Department of Education administrator to serve as co-director and associate professor

Melody Musgrove is the new co-director of the UM Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Melody Musgrove is the new co-director of the UM Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Melody Musgrove, an accomplished public education leader and advocate, has joined the University of Mississippi faculty as co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning and associate professor of special education.

Housed within the UM School of Education, the center was established in 2015 to provide research and collaborative leadership to advocate for more quality pre-K education programs throughout the state. The center is financially supported by the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

“The combination of working with the graduate center and the chance to teach at this university is a very appealing opportunity,” said Musgrove, a Mississippi native. “I believe that Ole Miss is on the move in the field of teacher education and I am excited to be part of that.”

Before joining UM, Musgrove served as director of the Office of Special Education Programs at the U.S. Department of Education from 2010 to 2016. OSEP oversees the administration of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, a law that ensures educational services and opportunities for children of all ages. The $13 billion program provides grants, monitoring and technical assistance to states.

Musgrove, who also served as state director of special education with the Mississippi Department of Education, started her career as a classroom teacher. This is Musgrove’s first major faculty appointment in higher education.

In her new role, she will teach undergraduate and graduate courses in education and work alongside the center’s other co-director, Cathy Grace. As collaborative leaders, the two will work to provide professional development for pre-K teachers, conduct research on the importance and impact of early learning, and provide public and political advocacy for the expansion of early childhood education statewide.

“I am thrilled that a person of Dr. Musgrove’s experience and long-term commitment to Mississippi’s children will be joining the center,” Grace said. “Her wealth of knowledge relative to meeting the needs of all children, especially those with special needs, will allow the center to broaden the opportunities we will offer.”

The Graduate Center was established as a continuation of the School of Education’s efforts to prioritize the training of pre-K educators in Mississippi.

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.

Musgrove holds a doctorate in educational leadership and a master’s degree in special education from the University of Southern Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in education from Mississippi College.

“We have a responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of early learning both in general education and in children with disabilities,” Musgrove said. “Dr. Grace has done a great job with this already, and I am excited to be part of that good work.”

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program Admits 30 at UM

Elite scholarship program expands to elementary and special education, draws students from nine states

The fourth cohort of METP is composed of 30 freshmen from nine states and has an average ACT score of 29.7.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The fourth cohort of METP is composed of 30 freshmen from nine states and has an average ACT score of 29.7.Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The 30 outstanding freshmen who comprise the fourth class of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program at the University of Mississippi posted an average ACT score of 29.7, making it the program’s largest and most academically accomplished incoming cohort yet.

Originally designed for secondary education majors, the METP scholarship program has expanded to accept students majoring in elementary education and special education. It also increased its maximum cohort size from 20 to 30 students, thanks to $600,000 in new funding from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.

The freshmen, who come to Ole Miss from nine states, met with faculty and administrators recently during the program’s orientation at the Lyceum. This new cohort brings the number of METP scholarship recipients at UM to 75, and the first class of the program will graduate this May.

“I’m here to welcome you and to thank you for your commitment to go out and change the world,” Provost Morris Stocks told the group at the orientation.

“I am committed to our university and its efforts to transform lives. People who come to us as students go on to change the lives of others, so I am thankful that you care so much about education.”

The incoming freshmen are: Claire Alexander of Moorpark, California; Grace Cauley of Cairo, Georgia; Jessica Flach of St. Louis; Dakota Ford of Dawson Springs, Kentucky; Jordan Freeman of Bishop, Georgia; Claire Gershon of Oxford; Caroline Glaze of Hattiesburg; Zachary Goodrow of Southaven; Heather Grayson of Shawnee, Kansas; Arielle Hudson of Dundee; Kendall Kern of Hernando; Kayleigh Keyes of Monroe, Louisiana; Mary King of Brandon; Melissa McCann of Munster, Indiana; Ashley McDaniel of Corinth; Elizabeth McDowell of Ocean Springs; Jessa McEntire of Newton, Alabama; Holly McGinnis of Hernando; Morgan Moak of Clinton; Amanda Moore of Roanoke, Texas; Gregory Parker of Lucedale; Shelby Phillips of Corinth; Emily Rose of Southaven; Kalissa Rydeen of Frisco, Texas; Ashlign Shoemaker of Horn Lake; Kameron Shook of Ridgeland; Christopher Shute of Brandon; Sarah Sproles of Brookhaven; Sara Valentine of Oxford and Christianna Van Hooreweghe of Spring, Texas.

Established in 2012 with nearly $13 million from the Hearin Foundation, the METP scholarship covers up to four years of tuition, housing, living expenses, study abroad and more.

“There is no other program like this in the nation,” UM Dean of the School of Education David Rock told the students. “You are going to be challenged and start gaining experience in the classroom from freshman year.

“You will travel outside Mississippi and beyond the borders of our nation to learn how education is different across the world. We do all of this because we believe you can choose no greater profession than teaching.”

The program previously focused on recruiting top-performing students into teaching at the secondary level. The recent investment in METP will allow a broader mix of top-performing education students to enter the program.

“Our program that has grown rapidly in just a few years,” said Ryan Niemeyer, METP director. “Each year, the admissions process becomes more competitive and we’re seeing applications from as far away as California now.

“These are high-performing students who want to move across the nation, come to Ole Miss and stay in our state as a teacher. We’re very proud of this.”

METP held its first study abroad experience for seniors last June when it took UM students to different places in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. During the trip, METP students and faculty had chances to meet with educators in multiple Canadian schools and at the University of British Columbia.

For the past two years, the program has also taken its rising juniors on a trip to Washington, D.C., to study American education from a policy perspective, as well.

“I was most attracted to METP because of the opportunities it provides,” said Alexander, an English education major. “I never thought I’d be able to find a program that would send me on a study abroad trip, pay for my education and help provide a fulfilling job once I graduate.”

All graduates of the program make a five-year commitment to teach in a Mississippi public school following graduation. However, this service commitment may be deferred for three years if a graduate wants to pursue graduate studies before teaching.

“I was blessed to have multiple teachers in high school who went above and beyond for me,” said Glaze, who is majoring in secondary mathematics education. “I believe that teachers are some of the most influential people in people’s lives and I hope to be able to change students’ lives one day.”

For more information on programs in the UM School of Education, go to

UM Welcomes New Cohort into Hybrid K-12 Leadership Doctoral Program

K-12 education leaders from north, central Mississippi begin doctoral studies

Front row (left to right): Leigh Ann Newton, Amy Sutton, Debra Ware, LaShonda Ivory, Kristen Fondren, and Lindsay Brett. Back row (left to right): Steven Hurdle, Steven Havens, Jason Arledge, Chadrick Spence and Jimmy Weeks. Not pictured: Jacob Gentry and John Michael Tacker. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Front row (left to right): Leigh Ann Newton, Amy Sutton, Debra Ware, LaShonda Ivory, Kristen Fondren, and Lindsay Brett. Back row (left to right): Steven Hurdle, Steven Havens, Jason Arledge, Chadrick Spence and Jimmy Weeks. Not pictured: Jacob Gentry and John Michael Tacker. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Thirteen Mississippi education leaders make up the second cohort of the University of Mississippi’s Hybrid Doctor of Education program in K-12 leadership.

The group, which hails from north and central Mississippi, gathered at the UM School of Education in August for an orientation with UM administrators, faculty and other doctoral students.

“The No. 1 thing that we need to do in Mississippi is to make sure that every teacher has a great leader,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “This program is designed so that education leaders, who are going to stay in their field, can earn an advanced degree that is going to help them lead schools and districts to success.”

A three-year program, UM’s Hybrid Ed.D. combines both online and face-to-face coursework and is designed to enhance the professional practice of school- and district-level administrators, including superintendents, assistant superintendents, principals, assistant principals and district-level professionals.

The group includes: Jason Arledge, assistant principal of Shannon Middle School; Lindsey Brett, assistant principal of Plantersville Middle School; Kristen Fondren, assistant principal of Aberdeen Elementary School; Jacob Gentry, assistant principal of West Point High School; Steven Havens, principal of Guntown Middle School; Steven Hurdle, principal of Oxford Intermediate School; Lashonda Ivory, assistant principal of Leflore County Elementary School; Leigh Newton, chief academic officer of the Lee County School District; Chadrick Spense, assistant superintendent of the South Panola School District; Eric Sumrall, assistant principal of Durant Elementary School; Amy Sutton, assistant principal of Batesville Middle School; Johnmichael Tacker, assistant principal of Okolona High School; Debra Ware, principal of Clarksdale Middle School and Jimmy Weeks, superintendent of the Lee County School District.

“I function best in a collaborative environment,” said Arledge, who is one of three assistant principals at Shannon Middle School and is in his 16th year in education. “The cohort experience creates a perfect environment for collaboration, and I look forward to creating new friendships and bonds with my classmates through this experience.”

At the end of their program, each Ed.D. candidate will complete and defend a “dissertation in practice,” which is a research project that allows students to evaluate a real-world problem in his or her school district. Each student will design a plan to address a select problem, implement the plan, evaluate their work and present their findings.

“What attracted me most was how the dissertation in practice caters to working administrators,” said Fondren, a two-time Ole Miss graduate who is in her seventh year in education. “I will be able to work on a doctorate while also working on solving a problem in my own district. That’s what’s really attractive about this opportunity.”

Throughout the next three years, the students will complete online coursework in addition to meeting face-to-face for weekend classes every three weeks. The class location will rotate from the Oxford campus to other locations around the state to make the program more accessible to working educators.

UM established its model for a Hybrid Ed.D. in 2014. The Ed.D. program in K-12 leadership is one of three offered at UM, with the others focusing on higher education and secondary mathematics education.

‘An Ambush of Tigers’ Claims CELI Read Aloud Book Award

UM literacy center honors top picture book of the year with annual award

CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell reads "An Ambush of Tigers" to children at Willie Price University Lab School.

CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell reads ‘An Ambush of Tigers’ to children at Willie Price University Lab School.

OXFORD. Miss. – “An Ambush of Tigers,” by author Betsy R. Rosenthal and illustrator Jago Silver, is the 2016 winner of the CELI Read Aloud Book Award, which presented annually by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction to recognize outstanding new books to read aloud to young children.

Published in April 2015 by Millbrook Press, “An Ambush of Tigers” conjures a wild gathering of rhyming and collective nouns to pique the interest of young children while educating them on vocabulary referring to groups of animals, such as a prickle of porcupines or a shiver of sharks.

“This book really focuses on enriching children’s vocabulary and engaging them with rich illustrations,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell, who serves on the Read Aloud award selection committee. “We had a great deal of positive comments and it engaged children in asking questions about the book.”

A committee of UM School of Education faculty and staff and working educators field-tested the eligible books with young children in a variety of educational settings, including schools, homes and media centers.

“Our class loved reading ‘An Ambush of Tigers,'” said Sarah Siebert, pre-K teacher at Willie Price University Lab School and a committee member. “It was an awesome way to introduce new vocabulary words to explain the different names of groups of animals.”

Committee members, who are selected based on their experience with children and their knowledge of children’s books, choose the best read-aloud picture book of the year using rubrics that measure children’s reactions to the books.

The book was chosen as the 2016 winner from 25 eligible books and will carry a seal on its cover. All remaining Read Aloud submission books will be donated to needs-based classrooms in north Mississippi.

Established in 2010, the Read Aloud Book Award recognizes honors books created for children from toddlers to 8 years old and promotes a love of reading. The award is partially supported by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson.

CMSE Staffer Receives International Award for Robotics Work

Mannie Lowe honored for growth, impact of FTC Robotics Challenge statewide

Mannie Lowe is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Mannie Lowe (left), pictured with John O’Haver, is recognized as the FIRST Tech Challenge Volunteer of the Year. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Mannie Lowe, a staff member at the University of Mississippi, is the 2016 recipient of the International Volunteer of the Year Award from FIRST, an organization that promotes an interest in STEM fields among students, with programs such as the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition for middle- and high-schoolers.

As this year’s honoree, Lowe, a program manager at UM’s Center for Mathematics & Science Education, was selected from more than 200,000 volunteers in 80 countries worldwide for his more than 12 years of service to the organization. He received an honorary certificate from FIRST at a surprise ceremony in July at Ole Miss.

“I’m touched by this award because I hold other people who have won this honor in such high admiration,” he said. “People who have won this in the past have done some truly amazing work with FIRST and with students. I didn’t realize I was held in such high esteem.”

As the manager for FIRST Tech Challenge robotics, Lowe, who previously ran FTC programs as a volunteer in Georgia, has spent the past five years carving out an infrastructure to allow Mississippi middle and high school students, as well as home-schooled children, the opportunity to design and build their own robots and compete in tournament-style competitions at the local, state, regional and even international level.

The competitions allow students to learn and apply knowledge in such disciplines as engineering, computer science, physics and mathematics. Many students participating in FTC programs go on to earn valuable scholarships to study STEM fields at colleges and universities around the world.

Under Lowe’s leadership, FTC programs in Mississippi have grown from just four robotics teams in 2012 to more than 40. Lowe spends about two days a week on the road, working with students and teachers to help FTC teams with their robot designs, a task that requires countless hours of travel and work after hours.

“First and foremost, Mannie has a passion for what he does,” said John O’Haver, CMSE director. “He loves what he does and is loved for it. He will use his vacation time and weekends to drive across the state to work with students and teachers. He will tell you himself that he feels like he is living the dream.”

Lowe also helps plan other events related to the robotics competitions, such as regional qualifying tournaments in communities across the state. Each February, the CMSE hosts a statewide competition at UM. This year, the event attracted more than 450 students.

Besides his work in Mississippi, he serves on the FIRST game design team, which brings together an international group of robotics mentors and volunteers who design a new challenge for students each year. This year, the FIRST Res-Q challenge required robotics teams to design a robot that can simulate a mountain rescue mission by lighting beacons, clearing debris and climbing an uphill rack made to simulate a mountain ascent.

“One of the things that amazes me is that we will come up with an idea and say, ‘There’s no way the students will be able to do this,'” he said. “But every year they find a way to top our challenge. It really is amazing to see.”

Lowe said he hopes to help FTC robotics programs continue to grow across the state and to see the number of participating teams rise to 50 in 2017.

UM World Class Teaching Program Hosts Summer Workshop

Ole Miss program prepares teachers for changing national board opportunities

worldclassteachingOXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s World Class Teaching Program, an organization that supports teachers seeking to become National Board Certified Teachers, will host a summer workshop July 18-21 in Oxford to raise awareness of recent changes related to earning the credential.

The workshop also will focus on explaining the NBCT certification process, choosing the correct certificate and completing the four components of the application process. In Mississippi, teachers who complete the certification receive a $6,000 annual pay increase funded by the state Legislature.

“I would encourage all Mississippi teachers to consider making national boards part of their career path,” said Tammy Kirkland, the university’s WCTP director. “The rewards that teachers and their students will receive make the journey incredibly worthwhile. Our door is open and ready to help any educator who needs us.”

The NBCT designation, which is issued by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, is a mark of excellence among educators, and the state-funded pay increase is guaranteed for the life of the certificate.

Three major changes concerning national board certification being implemented in the coming year will be of interest to Mississippi teachers:

  • Beginning this fall, the NBCT process can be completed on a one-, two- or three-year track. Previously, the credential was completed in one year.
  • Effective July 1, Mississippi teachers can be reimbursed the cost of individual test components from the Mississippi Department of Education following the completion of each individual component.
  • Also effective July 1, national board teachers in 13 counties will receive a stipend of $10,000 a year, instead of $6,000. These counties are: Adams, Amite, Bolivar, Claiborne, Coahoma, Issaquena, Jefferson, Leflore, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Washington and Wilkinson.

The Ole Miss WCTP program is one of six chapters in the state. Others are housed at Alcorn State University, Delta State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. Ole Miss WCTP candidates have a higher than average first-time passage rate on the exam.

“The WCTP is the best professional development I have ever been through in the past 10 years,” said Temple Hester, a social studies teacher at Tupelo High School. “As teachers, we are constantly having to go through professional development, but this one forces you to think critically about your teaching and practice on a high level.”

Designed for working teachers, the WCTP connects NBCT candidates with experienced mentors, free online and face-to-face support and additional workshops throughout the year.

“There are five other WCTP chapters in Mississippi,” Kirkland said. “What separates the Ole Miss program is our 19 years of experience and success that we have had in supporting teachers. Our program continues to grow and adapt to meet the ever-changing needs of the classroom teacher.”

The university’s WCTP is accepting applications from Mississippi teachers who want to participate in candidate support programs this fall. The 2016-2017 WCTP application can be found online at For more information, contact Kirkland at or 662-507-9869.

UM Principal Corps Admits Eighth Cohort

Program has near-perfect track record of producing school leaders

Members of the Mississippi Principal Corps 2016 cohort work through team-building exercises at he Rebel Challenge Course. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Members of the Mississippi Principal Corps 2016 cohort work through team-building exercises at the Rebel Challenge Course. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Seventeen educators from across the state gathered June 1 at the University of Mississippi to begin orientation for the eighth cohort of the Principal Corps, the university’s elite program for future school leaders.

The transformative, 13-month program prepares Mississippi teachers and school counselors for future roles in P-12 administration, typically as principals or assistant principals. The Principal Corps awards its graduates with a master’s or specialist degree in educational leadership from UM.

All Principal Corps recruits make a five-year commitment to stay employed in Mississippi schools after graduation and receive a $10,000 bonus upon signing a contract as a principal or assistant principal and beginning work.

“The No. 1 impact factor in any school anywhere in this nation is a great leader,” said David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education, during the event. “As school leaders, you have a chance to make great and dramatic change one school at a time, and it’s a huge commitment.”

The group includes Crystal Brown of Republic Charter Schools, Rhonda Carter of Gulfport School District, Donald Clause of Pascagoula-Gautier School District, Aaron Diaz of Stone County School District, Mary Kate Diltz of Meridian Public School District, Jason Frazier of Lincoln County School District, Michelle Harrison of Gulfport School District, Kimberly Herbert of Ocean Springs School District, Lisa Leatherman of Lee County School District, Arias Melvin of Rankin County School District, Wyn Mims of Petal School District, Jamie Parker of Biloxi Public School District, Katherine Patridge of Harrison County School District, Avery Peagler of Mississippi School of the Arts, Milton Ray of Harrison County School District, Nichole Robinson of Rankin County School District and Heather Rowland of Columbus Municipal School District.

Established in 2009, the program has a near-perfect success rate in ushering graduates into leadership opportunities. Close to 99 percent of graduates receive job offers following graduation.

The rigorous program combines graduate coursework with two full-time administrative internships at school districts across the state. During these internships, recruits work closely under veteran principals, often serving as assistant principals. Principal Corps graduates emerge with a year of full-time experience and often receive job offers from their internship sites.

Seventeen educators from across the state make up the eighth cohort of the Principal Corps. Front row: Avery Peagler, Wyn Mims, Katherine Patridge and Nichole Robinson. Middle Row: Jamie Parker, Rhonda Carter, Mary Kate Diltz, Arias Melvin, Crystal Brown, Lisa Leatherman and Michelle Harrison. Back Row: Heather Rowland, Jason Frazier, Aaron Diaz, Kimberly Herbert, Donald Clause and Milton Ray. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Seventeen educators from across the state make up the eighth cohort of the Principal Corps. Front row: Avery Peagler, Wyn Mims, Katherine Patridge and Nichole Robinson. Middle Row: Jamie Parker, Rhonda Carter, Mary Kate Diltz, Arias Melvin, Crystal Brown, Lisa Leatherman and Michelle Harrison. Back Row: Heather Rowland, Jason Frazier, Aaron Diaz, Kimberly Herbert, Donald Clause and Milton Ray. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“When you leave here in June of 2017, you will not be the same person,” said Tom Burnham, interim director of the Principal Corps and two-time state superintendent of education, during the orientation. “You will become true leaders as you go through this program.”

As one of the most valuable educational leadership scholarships in the nation, the program includes full tuition, books and fees, as well as housing and living expenses while completing coursework at the university. The Principal Corps also allows recruits to maintain their regular salaries during the program.

All new recruits must receive an endorsement from his or her district superintendent before being considered for admission.

“I was attracted to this program because of the internship experience,” said Mary Kate Diltz, of the Meridian Public School District. “This internship experience will allow me to practice what we learn in class and see my growth as an educational leader while learning from the some of the best educational minds in the state.”

The Principal Corps was originally funded with $2 million in startup money from the Jim and Donna Barksdale Foundation. In October 2012, the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation awarded the program $1.5 million in new funding to expand placements across the state.

“When a family member asked me what I was most excited about, I explained that if I were going to school to be a surgeon, I’d want to learn from the greatest surgeons in the nation – that is how I feel about the Principal Corps,” said Michelle Harrison, of the Gulfport School District and the 2015 Mississippi Counseling Associations’ Mississippi School Counselor of the Year.

“We are being taught by the best of the best. What an honor it is to listen to Dr. Burnham speak about effective school leadership.”

UM Honors Five at School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame Induction

Honorees lauded for teaching, service and leadership

The 2016 UM School of Education Hall of Fame includes (left to right): Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Suzie Adcock of Jackson; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; Jahnae Barnett of Fulton, Missouri and Cecil C. Brown, Jr. of Jackson.

The 2016 UM School of Education Hall of Fame inductees are (left to right): Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Suzie Adcock of Jackson; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; Jahnae Barnett of Fulton, Missouri; and Cecil C. Brown Jr. of Jackson.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has inducted its second class of alumni into its School of Education Hall of Fame. Collectively, the group has more than 178 years of experience, commitment and public service to education.

The 2016 honorees are Suzie Mills Adcock of Jackson; Jahnae H. Barnett of Fulton, Missouri; Charles Robert Depro of Sikeston, Missouri; Cathy Stewart of Oxford; and Cecil C. Brown Jr. of Jackson. Brown received the School of Education’s first-ever service award for noneducation alumni.

“Our alumni board of directors selected our 2016 alumni award recipients for their distinguished careers as educational leaders and practitioners,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “Each of these five alumni are models for our current university students and graduates to emulate.

“We believe there is no more important or greater area of service in our state and nation than in the practice and advocacy of education.”

The ceremony was May 13 at the Inn at Ole Miss. Honorees were selected after being nominated by their peers and colleagues earlier this year.

Adcock, who graduated from UM in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, has taught in both public and private schools for more than 31 years and is still teaching. She serves as the lower elementary school librarian and media specialist at Jackson Academy.

Her service work includes the direction of “Read for Need” service projects, which have benefited school libraries that have burned and the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children. In addition, she has served on the UM School of Education’s alumni advisory board in various capacities throughout the years, including the presidency.

“I’m so humbled by this honor because I know so many teachers who should be in this spot; I really do,” Adcock said. “I am a teacher because I genuinely love what I do. I do everything that I do for my students. They are my heart. They really are.”

Barnett, who earned a master’s degree in business education from UM in 1967 and a Ph.D. in higher education in 1972, is president of William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, a position the alumna has held for more than 26 years. Before her presidency, Barnett was a vice president and a department chair at William Woods.

When Barnett received her doctorate, she was only 24 years old and was the youngest individual to receive a Ph.D. from Ole Miss at that time. She was also the first female president of William Woods, an institution that has grown from a few hundred students to more than 3,000 during her tenure and grown from college to university status.

“I cannot imagine anything more rewarding that your peers, your colleagues and your academic institution saying that you’ve done exactly what you were supposed to do in your life,” Barnett said. “We just had our own alumni weekend at William Woods where we inducted some alumni into the hall of fame, and I knew exactly what that meant to them because of this honor.”

Depro, who earned a master’s degree in secondary education from UM in 1970, has taught history and social studies for more than 50 consecutive years and has taught more than 10,000 students in his career. From 1966 to 2000, he served as a social studies teacher and departmental chair at Sikeston Senior High School. He still teaches as an instructor in history at Southeast Missouri State University’s Sikeston campus, as part of a dual enrollment program with area high schools.

Among his other professional accomplishments include being named the Missouri Teacher of the Year and a finalist for the National Teacher of the Year in 1988.

“This is an honor that I never even in my wildest dreams thought that I would receive,” Depro said. “There are a lot of really good teacher out there; I teach with some of them every day. I accept this on behalf of all really good teachers.”

Stewart, who is a three-time graduate of UM, earned a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in elementary education in 1978, as well as a master’s degree and doctorate in curriculum and instruction in 1981 and 1995, respectively. Besides serving 20 years as an elementary teacher in the Lafayette County School District, Stewart also served as an adjunct professor at UM and as the founding director of the university’s World Class Teaching Program and director of the UM Writing Project.

She and her husband own and operate Wild Rose Kennels, the much-acclaimed breeder of British and Irish Labradors.

“I knew in first grade that I wanted to be a teacher,” said Stewart. “I never changed my mind and I never wavered. My advice for future teachers is to never quit learning and to always be open to learning a better or different way to do and improve the way you teach.”

Brown, who earned a bachelor’s degree in English and mathematics from UM in 1966, has been a public and private sector leader in Mississippi for more than 25 years. A Certified Public Accountant and the owner of his own accounting firm, Brown’s public service includes a stint at Mississippi State Fiscal Officer and a 16-year tenure as a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives, where he served as the chairman of the House Education Committee for seven years.

More recently, Brown was elected to serve as the state Public Service Commissioner in 2016.

“I’m very thankful for this award,” Brown said. “My hope is that somehow children will continue to benefit from the work that I have been able to contribute in service to education. They are the most important thing.”

The School of Education Alumni Hall of Fame was established in 2015, when UM inducted its charter class of three alumni: Milton Kuykendall of DeSoto County, Judith Reynolds of Clinton and Jerome Smith of Jackson.