Ole Miss Women’s Council to Honor Charles Overby with Legacy Award

Tickets available for dinner featuring award-winning chefs

university of mississippi ole miss charles overby legacy award women's council first amendment free press oxford chancellor philanthropist leader mentor

Charles Overby

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy will honor Charles Overby, a champion of the First Amendment and the free press, with the 2015 Legacy Award this spring at the University of Mississippi.

Overby will receive the Legacy Award, presented by C Spire, at a dinner April 18 at Carrier House, home of Chancellor Dan and Lydia Jones on the Oxford campus.

“We are thrilled to honor Charles Overby with a tribute to the cities he has impacted through his professional, personal and philanthropic endeavors,” said Karen Moore, OMWC chair. “This event will be a sellout, so we are encouraging the Ole Miss family to get their tickets quickly.”

For 22 years, Overby was chief executive officer of the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation that educates people about the press and the First Amendment. His service as CEO of the Newseum spanned 1997 to 2011, during which time he supervised the building of the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. He also served as CEO of the Diversity Institute, a school created in 2001 to teach journalists and aspiring journalists while increasing diversity in newsrooms.

The dinner will be prepared by a culinary team based on locales important to Overby: Oxford; Nashville, Tennessee; and Washington, D.C. The trio of chefs will be led by John Currence, founder of the City Grocery Restaurant Group.

Currence opened his first restaurant, City Grocery, in 1992 in Oxford. Since that time, the City Grocery Restaurant Group has celebrated a number of openings, including Nacho Mama’s, Kalo’s, Ajax Diner, City Grocery’s catering company the Main Event, Bouré, Big Bad Breakfast and Snackbar.

Recipient of 2009 James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: South, Currence was honored as Restaurateur of the Year and Chef of the Year by the Mississippi Restaurant Association in 1998. In 2006, he received the Southern Foodways Alliance’s Guardian of Tradition Award and won the 2008 Great American Seafood Cookoff in New Orleans.

Executive Chef Tyler Brown, recently named one of Esquire magazine’s Four New Chefs to Watch, leads Nashville’s acclaimed Capitol Grille restaurant. A farm-to-table enthusiast, Brown strives to serve cultural sustainability by paying homage to cooking practices of the past. During Brown’s tenure, the Capitol Grille has earned the coveted Forbes Four Star and AAA Four Diamond designations, was voted one of America’s best restaurants by Gourmet magazine, appeared on the Food Network and was recognized at the James Beard House.

Scott Drewno serves as executive chef of The Source, the first Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group restaurant in the nation’s capital. Since opening, the restaurant has been honored with numerous accolades including three-star reviews from both The Washington Post and Washingtonian Magazine. The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington awarded The Source “New Restaurant of the Year” in 2008 and “Fine Dining Restaurant of the Year” in 2011; Drewno received the coveted “Chef of the Year” prize in 2010. In 2012 and in 2013, Drewno was a semi-finalist for the “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” James Beard Award.

The Legacy Award of the Ole Miss Women’s Council recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions as philanthropists, leaders and mentors and brought about definitive, positive changes in the University, state and nation.

“This is a huge honor, and I am grateful to the Women’s Council for its exceptional philanthropic work,” Overby said. “My idea of perfection is sitting down with friends and enjoying a good meal and good conversation. Being at the chancellor’s home with these incredible chefs will provide a memorable evening for all involved.”

Overby earned a bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss and has been presented honorary doctoral degrees from Mississippi University for Women and Millsaps College. He is a member of the Mississippi Press Association Hall of Fame and has been inducted in both the student and alumni halls of fame at UM.

The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics was established at Ole Miss with a $5.4 million gift from the Freedom Forum to honor Overby’s extensive professional contributions. He continues his involvement with Ole Miss students as an adjunct instructor for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

The Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy recognizes that meaningful lives and careers in and beyond college rely on strong relationships and nurturing support. Mentorship, therefore, is the cornerstone of OMWC scholarships, and almost 100 students have blossomed under this program. OMWC’s endowments total nearly $11 million, and each new scholarship is recognized in the Rose Garden near the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

C Spire is the presenting sponsor for the 2015 Legacy Award. FedEx Corp. is the platinum sponsor, and gold sponsors are FNC Inc. and Kimberley Fritts. Sanderson Farms, Two Rivers Ford, RJ Young, the Freedom Forum and the Mississippi Press Association are silver sponsors.

Previous Legacy Award recipients include Netscape president-CEO and education visionaries, Jim and Donna Barksdale; “The Blind Side” mom and co-founder of the Making It Happen Foundation, Leigh Anne Tuohy; the heart and soul of America’s first family of football, Olivia Williams Manning, who has nurtured sons Cooper, Peyton and Eli Manning to be servant-leaders; and Mississippi’s “education governor,” champions for improved race relations and volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, William and Elise Winter.

Tickets are $150 per person and available online at http://olemissalumni.com/events. For more information, call 662-915-2384 or email omwc@olemiss.edu.

NASA Speakers, Rocket Make Big Impression at UM

Space Launch System replica, key officials wow local audiences

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Perhaps the only thing as impressive as having three NASA officials speak Friday (Oct. 31) at the University of Mississippi was the 30-foot inflatable replica of the Space Launch System they brought with them.

During a daylong “show-and-tell” presentation themed “NASA/SLS Day at Ole Miss,” Todd May, who manages the agency’s Space Launch System program, visited campus to share with UM students advancements being made toward deep-space travel. Three other NASA officials, two of whom are UM alumni, accompanied him.

“NASA is building the capability to put humans back into deep space,” said May, who spoke at the Overby Center. “Our road to Mars goes through Mississippi. As the human race, we still want to explore and are working hard to make this thing happen.”

During his presentation, May spoke about how recent achievements are bringing deep-space travel closer than ever.

“The United States has been to Mars with land rovers several times and has left lots of things on its surface,” he said. “We’re learning a lot about Mars and how to live there once we get there.”

A “really big rocket” with next-generation technology is needed to accomplish NASA’s goal of interplanetary human traffic, May said.

“Actually, we already have a lot of the pieces already designed,” he said. “We’re halfway through a 17-point check system that began in 2012 and will, hopefully, culminate in a successful launch by 2017.”

Because Mars is 30 million miles from Earth, scientists predict it will take two to three years to get there and back, Mays said. Returning to the moon would be the necessary first phase.

After last Tuesday’s unmanned supply mission to the International Space Station ended in a much-publicized explosion, May’s timely words are helping restore confidence in the agency’s abilities.

“I love NASA and definitely want to work for them someday,” said Nicole Hughes, a general engineering and accountancy major from Tallahassee, Florida. “When I saw the inflatable rocket on campus, I was drawn to come hear this presentation. I’d love to participate in the space program in the future.”

Dudley Moore, a mechanical engineering major from Goodman, said he was impressed with May’s presentation and demeanor. “He is a very accomplished, but also a very humble individual,” Moore said. “Hearing him made me want to be a part of something big, like NASA’s deep-space program.”

The rocket replica, which was alternately displayed in front of Farley and Brevard Halls, made an even stronger impression.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” said Lila Agner, a mechanical engineering major from Jackson. “It definitely gets people’s attention. Lots of photos have been taken of it while it is here.”

NASA/Space Launch System Day activities were sponsored by the School of Engineering with support from the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Institute for Leadership and Public Policy. Other guest lecturers included David Hitt, senior writer-editor, and Markeeva Morgan, avionics hardware subsystem manager. Both UM alumni spoke at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media and at the engineering school’s Brevard Hall, respectively.

“My talk to the Intro to Mass Communications students outlined how a newspaper journalism education from Ole Miss has served as a foundation for a career both in newspaper and beyond,” said Hitt, who discussed “Ole Miss Journalism: Launching the Write Stuff.” “As someone who has seen substantial change in the journalism industry over the course of my career, I discussed how elements of my journalism education prepared me in unexpected ways for a dynamic job market.”

Morgan, who also serves on the UM Engineering Advisory Board, said he always enjoys returning to campus.

“I’ve learned lessons that I believe could benefit the students if they pay attention to them now,” said Morgan, who spoke about “Real Talk: Life Lessons in Self Leadership.” “Hopefully, I encouraged them to be deliberate in their lives.”

Twila Schneider, NASA communications coordinator, also gave a guest lecture to Oxford Intermediate School students. Her topic focused on NASA’s journey to Mars and how students can be a part of that experience.

All the NASA officials had lunch with Honors College and engineering students in Brevard Hall. They later toured the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

The entire weekend was a huge success, said Ryan Upshaw, assistant engineering dean for student services.

“We were thrilled when Markeeva reached out to the School of Engineering with the opportunity to bring Mr. May to campus,” Upshaw said. “We know that his expertise will have an impact on everyone that has the chance to meet him while he is on campus.”

Ole Miss Announces 2014 Racial Reconciliation Week Activities

Second Annual Events Will Take Place Sept. 22-27

The Chucky Mullins statue stands in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The Chucky Mullins statue stands in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Athletics and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation have announced a slate of activities for the 2014 Racial Reconciliation Week, which runs Monday through Saturday (Sept. 22-27).

Racial Reconciliation Week began in 2013 with a week of events dedicated to promoting racial equity and encouraging dialogue on the topic.

Highlights from the week include the first on-campus screening of the “SEC Storied: It’s Time – Chucky Mullins, ” which details the story of former Ole Miss football player Chucky Mullins, and a campus panel discussion of race and pop culture. Additionally, the Winter Institute will celebrate its 15th anniversary.

The week kicks off Monday with a showing of the movie “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle of Turkey Creek” at 6 p.m. at Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics auditorium. The movie documents the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to coastal Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians, and face Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice.

Several dedications are planned throughout the week, including the Chucky Mullins Drive dedication on Friday. The university is renaming Coliseum Drive as Chucky Mullins Drive in memory of the late Ole Miss football player. The dedication will take place on the School of Law courtyard at 2:30 p.m. All 25 winners of the Chucky Mullins Courage Award have been invited to attend.

“Partnering with the Winter Institute for a week of reconciliation is an honor and privilege for Ole Miss athletics,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “Our commitment to giving back to the community through our core values stands strong each day, and events like this further strengthen our purpose.

“This year has special meaning as we honor the legacy and spirit of Roy Lee ‘Chucky’ Mullins and all that he has contributed to the university and athletics. We are humbled to be a small part of the never-ending crusade of respect and dignity for all humankind.”

The Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement also will have a dedication on Wednesday, and the M-Club Hall of Fame will induct six new members on Friday.

Jennifer Saxon, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development who has played a huge role in helping spearhead the second annual slate of Racial Reconciliation Week events, said she is pleased with the ability to engage in positive conversation regarding the issue of race.

“I am thrilled that for a second year we can continue this week of impactful activities that showcases our relationship with the William Winter Institute,” Saxon said. “The institute’s work, not only locally, but nationally, speaks volumes about the progress we have made as we continue to educate in an effort to heal. We were able to create programming opportunities for the campus and Oxford community that highlight campus resources while engaging positive conversation.”

The observance culminates with the Ole Miss vs. Memphis football game on Saturday. During the game, both Racial Reconciliation Week and the Winter Institute will be recognized on the field, and the Nathaniel Northington Groundbreaker in Athletics Award will be presented to former Ole Miss head football coach Billy Brewer and former Vanderbilt football player Brad Gaines.

Northington, who participated in the inaugural Racial Reconciliation Week in 2013, was the first African-American football player in the SEC. Northington broke the “color barrier” by becoming the first African-American to play any sport in the SEC when Kentucky played Ole Miss in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1967.The author of “Still Running,” Northington received the inaugural Groundbreaker in Athletics award.

“I cannot express what a great symbiosis is being created between athletics and the Winter Institute,” said Susan Glisson, executive director of the institute. “We’re already doing so much good work together, both on campus and off, and we’ve only just begun.

“Ross Bjork had a great idea to launch Racial Reconciliation Week last year and it lifts up our partnership to a level that folks can see. I’m thankful that we’re having a second Racial Reconciliation Week this year and I look forward to many more, symbolizing a long and fruitful partnership. ”

The university’s Winter Institute works in communities and classrooms, in Mississippi and beyond, to support a movement of racial equity and wholeness as a pathway to ending and transcending all discrimination based on difference.

The week’s full schedule includes:

Monday, Sept. 22

  • Movie: Come Hell or High Water: The Battle of Turkey Creek
    • Location: Overby Center Auditorium
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Moderator: Reilly Morse, president and CEO, Mississippi Center for Justice

Tuesday, Sept. 23

  • Campus Panel Discussion: Race and Pop Culture
    • Location: Overby Center Auditorium
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Moderator: Melody Frierson, youth engagement coordinator, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Wednesday, Sept. 24

  • Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement Dedication & Reception
    • Location: Stewart Hall (Center)
    • Time: 2 p.m.
  • Integrated Community Service (Optional)
    • Location: Paris-Yates Chapel
    • Time: 7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 25

  • Redefining the Welcome Table: Inclusion and Exclusion in American Foodways

Southern Foodways Alliance and William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

2014 Graduate Student Conference

  • Location: The Depot
  • Time: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • SEC Storied: It’s Time – Chucky Mullins
    • Location: Weems Auditorium, School of Law
    • Time: 6 p.m.
    • Moderators:
      • Deano Orr, Ole Miss linebacker (1990-1993) and executive director of IP Foundation
      • Micah Ginn, associate athletics director for sports production and creative services, Ole Miss Department of Athletics

Friday, Sept. 26

  • Redefining the Welcome Table: Inclusion and Exclusion in American Foodways

Southern Foodways Alliance and William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

2014 Graduate Student Conference

  • Location: The Depot
  • Time: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
  • Chucky Mullins Drive Dedication
    • Time: 2:30 p.m.
    • Location: School of Law courtyard
  • Winter Institute 15th Anniversary Celebration & Open House
    • Time 4 p.m.
    • Location: Lamar Hall, Third Floor, Suite A
  • M-Club Hall of Fame Induction Reservations Required
    • The Inn at Ole Miss, Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom
    • Time: 6 p.m.

   Saturday, Sept. 27

  • Ole Miss vs. Memphis Football Game
    • Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
    • Time: 6:30 p.m.


Media Contact:

Jessica Poole



UM Enrollment Tops 23,000 Students for Fall Semester

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

Students gather for class outside of Holman and Connor Halls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ole Miss By the Numbers.

Ole Miss by the Numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students travel across campus in between classes.

Students travel across campus between classes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Couple Provides Major Support for Fastest-growing Program

John Thomas family creates endowed faculty position for marketing communications major

John and Mary Thomas with Chancellor Dan Jones.

John and Mary Thomas with Chancellor Dan Jones.

OXFORD, Miss. – A new and forward-looking degree at the University of Mississippi will have an endowed chair, thanks to a forward-looking alumnus and his spouse who want others to experience the same inspired boost to their careers as he did.

“This gift is about helping Ole Miss students by investing in the best and brightest professors, those who will ensure the legacy of this great school is passed on through the generation of our children and their children after that,” said John B. Thomas, who with his wife, Mary, created the John and Mary Thomas Chair in Integrated Marketing Communications in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

The Thomas family gift is part of the Barnard Initiative, a faculty support campaign named for Frederick A.P. Barnard, UM chancellor from 1856 to 1861 and later chancellor at Columbia University. The Thomases’ gift will be partially matched by Abbott Laboratories for a total $1.5 million contribution. Annual income from the endowment will enhance the compensation of a leading IMC faculty member in perpetuity.

A 1985 UM graduate, John Thomas recently retired from Abbott Laboratories, where he was vice president for investor relations and public affairs, as well as president of the Abbott Fund, which provides grants to promote science, expand access to health care and strengthen communities globally. Headquartered in North Chicago, the pharmaceutical and medical supply company had 91,000 employees in 150 nations until early 2013, when Abbott Laboratories split into two separate, publicly traded companies: Abbott and AbbVie. The Thomases live in Glenview, Illinois, with their two daughters and son.

“John was an exceptional student,” said Will Norton, dean of the journalism school. “His integrity and transparency were matched by intellectual depth and rich spiritual insight. To me, this is the reason for his uncommon stewardship. Gratitude, whether based on reality or not, is a quality of a person’s character. John exemplifies character and integrity in everything he does. I am so delighted to have known him as a student and now as an alumnus with a wonderful family.”

UM Chancellor Dan Jones applauds the Thomases for their vision and generosity.

“John Thomas is an Ole Miss graduate who pursued exceptional opportunities and achieved remarkable professional and personal success,” Jones said. “We are deeply grateful that through his journey, he never forgot his alma mater and the generations of students who will follow in his footsteps. John and Mary have chosen to make significant investments in an academic discipline and a university they love. The results will come as outstanding faculty members teach and mentor our students, preparing them to perform in an ever-changing global community.”

Integrated marketing communications, or IMC, takes a holistic approach, recognizing that each contact a consumer has with a product or service, intended or incidental, has an influence in forming consumer opinion. Contacts may be through traditional channels, such as press releases and advertising, but also through an array of other means arising in the digital era. Practitioners focus on research, accuracy, consistency and clarity in messaging.

The degree in the Meek School was approved by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning in late 2010 and was first offered to students in 2011. It has more than 500 undergraduate majors, making it the fastest growing degree program on campus and perhaps in UM history. Scott Fiene, assistant professor of integrated marketing, calls the growth “phenomenal,” reflecting the degree’s value in the marketplace.

“It’s a really solid degree,” he said. “It’s an integrated marketing communications degree, but it also comes with a minor in business administration. The business minor resonates with parents, and there is incredible cooperation with the School of Business Administration. Our students are required to take classes there, and some business students are required to take IMC classes. In the industry, there’s a major need for graduates from an IMC program, but there aren’t a lot of undergraduate programs of this kind, nationally.”

Norton and faculty of the Meek School designed the degree to which the Thomases and other alumni and friends have responded with much enthusiasm.

“The spectacular growth and popularity of the IMC program in the Meek School speaks to the hard work that Dr. Norton and others have put into ensuring that Ole Miss remains one of the premier schools in the country for journalism and communications students,” Thomas said.

The faculty endowment follows two previous initiatives supported by the Thomases. A 2013 gift endowed the Thomas Family Speaker Series to help underwrite the cost of bringing leading specialists for campus visits. In 2011, the couple funded the Thomas Family Scholarship Endowment, which will assist its first student with tuition and expenses during the 2014-15 academic year.

“Mary and I consider our gifts an investment in the future of Ole Miss and the Meek School,” Thomas said. “We both strongly believe in the merits of a rigorous education in journalism – both traditional reporting and writing as well as in-depth studies in the new media that are reshaping the way people communicate.”

Mary Thomas, who also had a career in professional communications, said the whole family is happy about the gift. “It has been great for us to see how important the university is for John,” she said. “He’s a testament to what Ole Miss can do for young people. It makes us feel good to be part of it.”

Gifts of all sizes are strengthening faculty support at Ole Miss. Individuals and organizations interested in providing a gift of any size to support faculty can send a check with the Barnard Initiative and academic area noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677; call the Office of University Development at 662-915-3937; or visit online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

Ole Miss Agency Wins $2,000 Award in AT&T Challenge

Competition provides real-world experience for integrated marketing communications students

Students from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media placed second in a recent AT&T student competition.

Students from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media placed second in a recent AT&T student competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss Agency student marketing group won second place and a $2,000 award in the EdVenture Partner AT&T SEC Campus Brand Challenge.

The University of Mississippi students created and presented an integrated marketing campaign to AT&T to introduce and market the new SEC network on AT&T’s U-Verse services. The campaign is a part of the AT&T Campus Brand Challenge, a program designed to provide students with real-world business experience by designing and implementing an integrated marketing communications plan.

“I didn’t know that I could do so much,” said JJ Townsend, campaign strategy director for the Ole Miss Agency. “I have learned a lot about working on a marketing campaign from start to finish and everything in between. I cannot wait to see the hard work coming to life.”

The campaign was designed to increase awareness and purchase of AT&T U-verse TV and the new SEC Network, which is set to launch in August. The Ole Miss plan features several innovative and engaging tactics to increase awareness of AT&T U-verse by highlighting its features.

The campaign includes the characters Harry and Jerry. Harry has U-verse. Jerry does not. Both characters are avid SEC fans, but only one can win the title of “best SEC fan.” The campaign encourages Twitter users to select whether they are #TeamHarry or #TeamJerry by following @YTYT_OleMiss on Twitter.

Each of the six schools participating in the AT&T Campus Brand Challenge is competing for an opportunity to present its ideas to AT&T executives at the term’s conclusion.

The Ole Miss Agency is a student-run marketing agency composed of students from the UM School of Business Administration and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. The agency branched off of the Ole Miss Marketing Association in 2013.

Members of the agency from the journalism school who worked on the project include Chun Wu, a graduate student in the integrated marketing communications program, and Tiffany Odom, a senior IMC major from Richton. Wu led and presented the research that served as the foundation for the campaign, and Odom created the public relations portion of it.

UM Integrated Marketing Communications Program Grows to 500 Students

Meek School of Journalism and New Media created emphasis just three years ago

The University of Mississippi's Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Photo By Robert Jordan/University Communications

Farley Hall houses the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media’s undergraduate program in integrated marketing communications has swelled to more than 500 students since the course’s first classes were taught in the fall of 2011.

At the start of 2011 fall semester just 80 undergraduate students were majoring in integrated marketing communications, but that number quickly multiplied to reach the 500-student milestone this spring.

Will Norton, dean of the Meek School, said the program has succeeded in part because of the strong industry connections and expertise of program director Scott Fiene and the other members of the faculty.

“Scott Fiene and his faculty colleagues truly know integrated marketing communications, which draws on many fields of study,” Norton said. “They all have a very strong professional network for placement in internships and jobs and the professional opportunities for graduates are broad.

Fiene said the growth has been “phenomenal” and is a testament to the value of the degree.

“It’s a really solid degree,” Fiene said. “It’s an integrated marketing communications degree, but it also comes with a minor in business administration. In the industry, there’s a major need for graduates from a program like this, but there aren’t a lot of undergraduate programs of this kind, nationally.”

Recently, 50 students graduated from the program, which is the largest class yet for the new major.

The undergraduate program puts a strong emphasis on writing, with students taking both integrated marketing communications and journalism courses. Public relations, advertising, market research, account planning, communications law and other similar courses round out the requirements. Accounting, economics, management and business communication are required for the minor in business administration.

“The business minor resonates with parents,” Fiene said. “And there is incredible cooperation with the business school. Our students are required to take their classes, and some business students are required to take our classes.”

Also, a master’s degree track in integrated marketing communications enrolls more than 20 graduate students.

“Integrated marketing communications is a great fit within the Meek School of Journalism and New Media,” Fiene said. “Both majors are about communication, storytelling and content. Stories can be told through the media, and also via brands, customer experiences and many other things. Our approach is very holistic.”

The journalism school’s alumni base has been supportive of the program.

“We hear journalism graduates say they wish there had been something like this when they were in school here,” Fiene said. “It’s marketing communications, but it’s also media/journalism and business. It’s kind of a hybrid of many different things.”

Though the program has grown, it still retains a much smaller feel. Many classes have fewer than 30 students, which makes for an optimal learning environment. Five full-time IMC faculty, several journalism faculty, and a number of instructors and adjuncts teach in the program.

“We’re proud of achieving the milestone of 500 students so quickly, but it’s not about the numbers,” Fiene said. “Both degrees – journalism and integrated marketing communications – are about educating tomorrow’s leaders in the standards of excellence and the pursuit of meaningful careers.”

Journalism Senior Lands Two Final Semester National Fellowships

Bracey Harris gains valuable experience telling compelling stories using multimedia formats

Bracey Harris

Bracey Harris

OXFORD, Miss. – Bracey Harris of Byram is slated to graduate May 10 from the University of Mississippi with an impressive record of achievement, including two recent prestigious national journalism fellowships.

Majoring in broadcast journalism in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, with a minor in business administration, Harris was awarded a CBC-UNC Diversity Fellowship and a fellowship to attend the New York Times Student Journalism Institute.

The former was an intensive weeklong workshop, held in March at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The annual competitive fellowship opportunity, for 12 top students from throughout the nation, is led by UNC journalism faculty and professionals at Capitol Broadcasting Co.’s WRAL in Raleigh. The program is geared toward seniors and graduate students finishing their programs and pursuing careers as producers, reporters, photojournalists and online editors.

The workshop provided valuable hands-on experience, said Harris, who is a student in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a Luckyday Scholar.

“I trained as a producer at WRAL-TV, a CBS affiliate,” she said. “At the end of the week, I produced a newscast that was put on by fellows in the program.”

In late May, Harris travels to Dillard University in New Orleans for the New York Times Institute. The institute selects 24 student journalists from throughout the nation to cover real news for two weeks under the leadership of staff from The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the host university.

“I will be responsible for writing an enterprise story about New Orleans,” Harris said. “By the end of the program, we will produce a newspaper. I have seen copies of past publications and can tell the expectations are high. What’s really exciting is that the paper will contain The New York Times masthead.”

The work is in line with her career aspirations, she said.

“Ultimately, I want to produce in-depth multimedia projects,” she said. “Writing and telling stories is what makes me happy.”

Considering Harris’ impressive student resume, reflecting the skills she has gained over her four years at Ole Miss, there’s no doubt she is ready to compete not only at the institute but also in the job market.

At the S. Gale Denley Student Media Center, manned by journalism students, Harris is multimedia editor of The Daily Mississippian newspaper and a former anchor for the live half-hour television broadcast “NewsWatch.”

In summer 2012, Harris and two other Meek School students, enrolled in a magazine writing class, taught by Dean Will Norton, producing a publication with students at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa. She was named Best Magazine Writer by the Southeast Journalism Conference, and her internships include print and television work in Jackson.

“Bracey is a student with strong journalistic ability and uncommon insight into human behavior,” Norton said. “She is a person of integrity whose work reflects her character.”

Listed on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll, Harris is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the university’s highest academic honor across all disciplines, and she belongs to Omicron Delta Kappa national leadership honor society. She was secretary of the Columns Society, a group of 24 students who serve as official hosts for the university, and she has served on the Judicial Board for Panhellenic and risk chair for her sorority Kappa Alpha Theta.

As Harris looks back on her four years at Ole Miss, she recalls her first attraction to the Oxford campus.

“I came to the campus my sophomore year in high school for the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association and immediately fell in love with it,” she said. “After attending the MOST conference as a senior, my mind was set. I had the opportunity to talk with current students and admission employees and ask important questions. When I left, I knew that Ole Miss was the place where I wanted to spend perhaps the four most important years of my life.”

A graduate of Terry High School, she is the daughter of Rozelia Harris and the late Frederick Harris, both natives of Vicksburg.

Robin Street Receives Top PRAM award

Robin Street, (on right) Meek School of Journalism and New Media lecturer, who coordinates the School’s PR program, was presented the Professional Achievement Award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi by PRAM President Shannon Coker. The award, given to one PR professional yearly, is given for outstanding achievements in the profession of PR.

Robin Street, (on right) Meek School of Journalism and New Media lecturer, who coordinates the School’s PR program, was presented the Professional Achievement Award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi by PRAM President Shannon Coker. The award, given to one PR professional yearly, is given for outstanding achievements in the profession of PR.

OXFORD, Miss. – Robin Street, lecturer in the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media who coordinates the school’s PR emphasis, was presented the Professional Achievement Award by the Public Relations Association of Mississippi.

The award, given to one professional yearly, is the association’s top honor. It was presented to Street April 25 at a ceremony in Hattiesburg by PRAM President Shannon Coker. Recipients “embody the highest degree of professionalism, are committed to advancing the profession and have outstanding achievements in the practice of public relations,” according to PRAM.

Street was previously named PRAM’s Educator of the Year, and it is rare for an educator to be honored in the professional category. However, judges selected Street for her continued involvement in the profession, the multiple awards her work has won, and her commitment to ethics and diversity, according to Tara Burcham, PRAM vice president for awards.

“The judges said she is an inspiration to her students and other professionals,” Burcham said. “They also noted that her commitment to the field of PR is unparalleled.”

Multiple former students who are now PR professionals joined in supporting Street’s nomination.

Former student Alex May-Sealey wrote,”Her career achievements speak for themselves, but it is her enthusiasm, energy and ideas that truly make her shine as an inspiration to all. Robin is an excellent mentor and is consistently a favorite among her students and colleagues.”

Other student statements of support included, “(T)he epitome of a public relations professional.” “Trains the next generation of PR professionals while being one of the best the profession has to offer.” “A woman of integrity, keen intelligence, responsibility, calm confidence and compassion.”

“Although Ms. Street is winning this award for one year, she has practiced quality public relations for decades,” said H. Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the journalism school.

Street’s previous awards include a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence from the Public Relations Society of America, the highest award given for PR work, and more than 30 awards in the PRAM Prism and the Southern Public Relations Lantern competitions. Her work previously won “Best in Show” from in both the Prism and Lantern competitions and twice won “Judges Choice” in the Prisms.

As the PRAM winner, Street now becomes Mississippi’s nominee for the SPRF multi-state competition.

For more information on the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit their website at http://meek.olemiss.edu or email MeekSchool@olemiss.edu.


Women’s Council Legacy Award Salutes Barksdales

April 11 events honor couple for providing opportunities for young people

Donna and Jim Barksdale

Donna and Jim Barksdale

OXFORD, Miss. – Visionary education champions Donna and Jim Barksdale, of Jackson, have been selected for the 2014 Legacy Award given by the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy. The award recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions as philanthropists, leaders and mentors and through these contributions have brought about definitive, positive change in the University of Mississippi, the state and nation.

The Barksdales will be honored April 11 on the Oxford campus. To begin the festivities, they will address students at noon in the Overby Center, followed by a reception with faculty members. The award presentation begins with a 6:30 p.m. reception and 7:30 p.m. dinner at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The couple is being honored because of their extensive and continual efforts to elevate and promote education in Mississippi. They have both initiated and built programs of scholarship and mentoring that have impacted thousands of students. They continue to create new ideas for educational improvement and provide the funds and personal time to see these programs grow and achieve success.

In reflecting on their investments that are changing the future of many Mississippians, Jim Barksdale explained that while working on public education in California, when he was president and CEO of Netscape, he realized his efforts were needed more in Mississippi. He says his home state is a solid investment “because it needs it the most.”

“Donna and I are humbled, proud and delighted to be chosen for the Legacy Award,” Barksdale said. “Happiness comes from knowing we’re doing something worthwhile. We have continued our work because we are inspired by seeing our successes reflected in positive outcomes for thousands of children. We try to make investments in philanthropy efforts where results can be measured.”

Jim Barksdale heads the Barksdale Management Corp., a philanthropic investment company, and Donna Barksdale is president of the Mississippi River Trading Co. Both have served in important leadership roles throughout the state. However, their deep desire to improve education in Mississippi has indeed resulted in effective programs in which they stay closely involved. They both define visionary leadership in education, according to the Ole Miss Women’s Council, or OMWC.

Donna Barksdale initiated and helped establish the Youth Employment Program at Lanier High School in Jackson. The program mentors high school juniors and seniors, placing them in productive summer jobs that help to prepare them for college and/or professional education. Her experiences in helping found and serving as chair of Leadership Jackson, serving as president of the Jackson Junior League and devoting her time to board service such as that for Habitat for Humanity have given her insights into educational needs.

Jim Barksdale led in establishing the Barksdale Reading Institute, which devotes programs, time and energy into discerning ways for all children to read − the basis for success. This program continues to research ways to improve resources and teaching methods that will result in better reading skills for Mississippi’s children. He is also involved with Teach for America and UM’s Principal Corps program, which also positively affects thousands of lives.

The Barksdales continue to support the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, which was key to sheltering a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Ole Miss and is considered among the nation’s top three honors colleges. They have established an extensive scholarship program at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, focusing on minority students. They both serve on the board of America’s Promise Alliance, founded by Colin and Alma Powell, and are also involved in other state and national programs that benefit young people,

Mary Ann Frugé of Oxford, OMWC chair, describes the Barksdales as among the most philanthropic couples in the state and nation.

“While there are extremely generous individuals and couples throughout our society, I don’t believe any surpass Donna and Jim Barksdale,” she said. “Their deep-rooted and sincere personal outreach has made and continues to make powerful impacts in many areas. Donna and Jim have used their personal business and life successes to create programs that allow others to flourish. Their separate and individual endeavors and accomplishments epitomize what the Ole Miss Women’s Council tries to teach and support.”

Jan Farrington, a founding member and past OMWC chair, agreed, saying, “Donna and Jim Barksdale are being honored with the Legacy Award because, individually and collectively, they have focused their lives and their resources on making life better for other people. They challenge themselves and others to find ways to make a difference in Mississippi. Both of them have been and continue to be true visionaries as philanthropists, leaders and mentors. Their work in these three areas touches lives in quiet, personal ways but also brings about monumental change that makes our state a better home for everyone.”

The Legacy Award is a focus of the 14-year-old OMWC, which recognizes that meaningful lives and careers in and beyond college rely on strong relationships and nurturing support. Mentorship, therefore, is the cornerstone of OMWC scholarships, and almost 100 students have blossomed under this program.

Previous Legacy Award recipients have been Leigh Ann Tuohy, Olivia Manning, and Gov. William and Elise Winter.

OMWC’s endowments total $10.9 million, and each new scholarship is recognized in the Rose Garden adjacent to the university’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

C-Spire is the presenting sponsor for this year’s Legacy Award. FedEx Corp. is the platinum sponsor, and gold sponsors are FNC Inc., Butler Snow, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Yates Construction. Newk’s, Sigma Chi Fraternity and Sanderson Farms are silver sponsors.

To purchase an award banquet ticket ($125 per person), visit http://www.olemissalumni.com/events or call 662-915-2384. All proceeds from this event will benefit OMWC mentoring programs and leadership training. To learn more about establishing an OMWC scholarship, contact Sarah Hollis, associate director of University Development, at 662-915-1584 or shollis@olemiss.edu, or visit http://www.umfoundation.com/omwc.