International Strongman Competitor Trains at Turner Center

Criminal justice major continues competing after life-changing accident

Ole Miss student John Stitt lost the lower part of his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped his from training for and competing in strongman competitions.

UM student John Stitt lost the lower part of his leg in a motorcycle accident in 2013, but that hasn’t stopped him from training for and competing in strongman competitions.

Following his accident, John Stitt had just two questions for his doctors: “When can I walk again?” and “When can I lift weights again?”

Stitt, a criminal justice major at the University of Mississippi, began training for strongman competitions in 2012. A year later, he competed in his first event and came in dead last. But he still loved it.

In November 2013, his training came to an abrupt halt. Just two days after his 23rd birthday, Stitt was in a life-changing motorcycle accident. He broke his left femur and left arm, fractured his pelvis, and his left leg was amputated immediately below the knee.

Even while lying in a hospital bed, all Stitt could think about was training again. In spring 2014, he received a prosthetic foot and began standing. A month later, he started weightlifting again.

“Originally, they said I’d never be able to lift weights again,” Stitt said. “Now, it’s a year-and-a-half later, and I’ve done two strongman competitions as a disabled athlete.”

Earlier this month, Stitt traveled to Iceland to compete in the World’s Strongest Disabled Man Competition. He left with two first place event finishes in the Hercules Hold and Arm over Arm Car Pull, and finished fourth in the world overall. By the end of the competition, he earned the nickname “John Vice Grip.”

A native of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, Stitt has lived in Oxford for the past six years while pursuing his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

He does most of his training for competitions at the Turner Center, where he has become an inspiration for many others.

“When people see him work out, they are compelled to ask him about his training and to comment on how impressive his accomplishments are,” said Charles Allen, coordinator of fitness for campus recreation. “In turn, this allows John the opportunity to share his story and training expertise with lots of people. His pursuit of fitness is a compelling example to us all that there really is no reason or obstacle that should prevent us from pursuing our own fitness, health and wellness-related goals.”

Stitt said his passion for the sport is what kept him pushing through his recovery.

“If I can inspire people doing this, it’s great,” he said. “But for me, I just love the sport so much, and I didn’t want anything to stop me from getting back to it.”

Stitt plans to compete in another competition this August in the United Kingdom.

 

‘Pig and Small’ Wins CELI Read Aloud Book Award

UM literacy center honors South African author for tale of unlikely friends

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Morgan reads Pig and Small to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM.

CELI literacy specialist Olivia Morgan reads ‘Pig and Small’ to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM.

OXFORD, Miss. – A children’s tale about an unlikely friendship between a pig and an insect unfolds in the pages of “Pig and Small,” winner of the 2015 Read Aloud Book Award, presented by the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer created “Pig and Small” in 2013 and the book was released in the U.S. in 2014 by Peachtree Publishers. A committee of UM graduate students, north Mississippi teachers and CELI faculty and staff selected Latimer’s book for the award in May. The book will feature the CELI Read Aloud Seal on its cover.

“Each year we look to honor a book that, when read aloud, provides a positive and enjoyable learning experience for students,” said CELI literacy specialist Angie Caldwell, a member of the committee. “CELI’s Read Aloud seal marks a book that is funny and engaging, while also providing students with important lessons that they can carry with them for years to come.”

Established in 2007, CELI is part of the UM School of Education and provides professional development, research and service to reading teachers throughout Mississippi. The institute has awarded the Read Aloud Book Award since 2010 with financial support from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson. The goal of the award is to promote reading aloud to young children to cultivate a love of reading and a deep appreciation of storytelling.

A children's tale about an unlikely friendship by South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer.

A children’s tale about an unlikely friendship by South African author and illustrator Alex Latimer.

“This was a great book to teach diversity,” said Kim Homan, a committee member and teacher who shared the book with 22 of her first-graders at Pontotoc Elementary School. “We don’t have to be the same to get along and be friends. The students were quick to pick up on this theme.”

In the text, main characters Pig and Bug constantly run into the same dilemma: they can never quite figure out how to play together. With Pig being too large and Bug being too small, the pair cannot ride a tandem bike or play catch. However, by the tale’s end they do find several activities to enjoy together.

“This has been a favorite in our classroom,” said committee member Sarah Siebert, a preschool teacher at Willie Price Lab School. “We’ve even had parents asking for the title.”

Thirty-four books from seven publishers were submitted for the 2015 award. Latimer’s book received the highest praise from teachers and more than 200 children in north Mississippi. All Read Aloud submission books were later donated to teachers in critical-needs schools throughout north Mississippi.

UVA President Challenges UM Graduates to Become Problem-Solvers

Teresa A. Sullivan shares trials and triumphs during university's 162nd Commencement

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Acknowledging national and global crises, University of Virginia president Teresa A. Sullivan challenged University of Mississippi graduating seniors Saturday (May 9) to remain engaged, improve themselves and their communities and shoulder responsibilities.

“In a world full of problems, this University of Mississippi Class of 2015 is a well-educated, highly-trained team of problem-solvers,” Sullivan said during her address at the university’s 162nd Commencement ceremony in C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum. “In fact, we expect spectacular, groundbreaking, earth-shattering things from you. We expect you to solve the difficult problems that have confounded us in our time.”

Since taking office in 2010, Sullivan has led UVA through a period of significant progress. In fall 2012, she launched an effort that produced a new strategic plan for the university, the Cornerstone Plan. Sullivan also oversaw completion of a $3 billion capital campaign that will help ensure the institution’s stability and spur innovation in a period of significant financial pressure in higher education.

“Dr. Sullivan is perhaps best known nationally for her leadership on two key issues in higher education,” said Chancellor Dan Jones, who introduced the speaker. “First, the relationship between the publicly appointed boards of public universities and the institutional academic leadership and, second, the merging issues of sexual assault, alcohol use and Greek life on university campuses.”

After Rolling Stone published an account of an alleged sexual assault at a UVA fraternity house last year, sparking a national scandal, Sullivan demonstrated remarkable leadership in her measured, but firm, response and her dedication to providing a safe environment for all students, Jones said.

“Though Rolling Stone has since withdrawn the story and apologized publicly for misreporting, Dr. Sullivan did not dodge the opportunity to evaluate campus policies and practices to assure student well-being,” he said.

Sullivan, in turn, praised Jones as one of the strongest models of values in action.

“Through his ethical leadership, through his personal integrity, through his commitment to pursue the best interests of the University of Mississippi – even at considerable cost – Chancellor Jones has provided a living lesson for all of you,” Sullivan said. “I hope that you will remember his model of exemplary leadership and exceptional humanity as you prepare to assume positions of leadership in your own careers and communities across the nation and around the world.”

Showers forced university officials to move Commencement from its planned location in the Grove. Individual school ceremonies were also shuffled to the coliseum and other rain locations across campus. This is the last graduation for the coliseum, which will be replaced late this year by the new Pavilion at Ole Miss, under construction nearby.

Before Sullivan’s speech, Grady Lee Nutt II of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the 2015 senior class, announced the creation of the Chancellor Dan Jones Endowed Service Scholarship. Following a lengthy standing ovation, Jones, visibly moved by the many supportive remarks, said serving as UM chancellor for the past six years has been the highest era of his professional career. His tenure ends in mid-September per a decision by the State Institutions of Higher Learning board of trustees not to renew his contract.

Referencing humanitarians such as Robert F. Kennedy, Walt Whitman and Martin Luther King Jr., Sullivan acknowledged the progress that has been made in human equality and envisioned future evolution in societal attitudes.

“We have come a long way from the days of segregation and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, but we still have a long way to go, as recent crises in cities across the nation have shown us,” Sullivan said. “I hope you will apply the knowledge and training you have acquired here to continue bending the arc of history toward justice, and equality and harmony among people of all races.

“As you leave here, remember to carry with you the values that you have learned – values of honor, hard work, respect for others, civility and reconciliation. In those moments when you are put to the test, you may be tempted to compromise your values. Resist that temptation.”

This year’s graduating class included nearly 2,800 spring candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees, plus more than 1,200 August graduates.

Among the attendees, William and Angela Dykeman of Forest came to watch their son, Matthew, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

“This is a great experience for us,” William Dykeman said. “Thirty years ago, I earned my degree in electrical engineering from here. Our daughter, who is graduating from high school later this month, is planning to enroll here this fall.”

Kenny Lindsay of Cape Girardeau, Missouri said he and his wife, Roxie, were excited to watch their granddaughter, Megan Lynn, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English.

“We’re as proud as we can be that she’s graduating from Ole Miss,” said Kenny Lindsay, who was in Oxford with other family members. “Neither one of us ever had more than a high school education, so this is a huge achievement within our family.”

Louis Shivers of Natchez came to see his friend, Lewis Bridges of Grenada, receive his specialist degree in curriculum and instruction.

“I’m so proud of him for his diligence which led to this accomplishment,” Shivers said. “As an older student, he had to financially support himself. Even through his illness, he really did wonderfully.”

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus’ eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master’s, Doctor of Pharmacy and law diplomas. Sports talk broadcaster Paul Finebaum was the speaker for the Khayat School of Law, Federal Express executive Rose Jackson Flenorl addressed the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and entrepreneur Edith Kelly-Green spoke at ceremonies for the Patterson School of Accountancy.

Recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Friday evening in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, where three awards were presented by the Graduate School. The Group Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education went to the Department of Civil Engineering. Chancellor Jones received the Individual Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education. John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, was presented the Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Robert Brown, professor of political science, was honored as the recipient of the 2015 Elise M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, presented annually to the campuswide outstanding teacher.

Charles L. Hussey, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was named the recipient of the university’s eighth Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Anne McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability, and Luca Bombelli, associate professor of physics and astronomy.

UM Economics Student Wins Prestigious Prize

Doctoral candidate honored for research on relationship between homeownership and unemployment

George Akpandjar

George Akpandjar

OXFORD, Miss. – George Akpandjar, a doctoral student in the University of Mississippi Department of Economics, is the winner of the 2015 Barry M. Moriarty Graduate Paper Competition sponsored by the Southern Regional Science Association.

Akpandjar, of New Castle, Deleware, was recognized for his paper titled “The Effect of Homeownership on Unemployment: Outcomes and Implications,” based on his dissertation. Akpandjar investigated the relationship between homeownership and unemployment using a job search framework. He discovered that the increased search costs associated with homeownership do not weaken employment opportunities for homeowners.

“Results from the paper are very important for federal and state governments’ policy on homeownership,” Akpandjar said. “Going by the result from the paper, homeownership should be encouraged by federal and state government as higher homeownership rates across the country will lead to lower unemployment rates since homeowners are less likely to be unemployed.”

He competed nationally for the $1,000 prize. Previous winners have come from major universities such as Duke University, Ohio State, Texas A&M and the universities of North Carolina, Southern California and Texas.

“It feels great to win this award,” he said. “It makes me believe I can contribute something meaningful to society. I am really gratified that all the efforts that I put into my research have been recognized.”

Akpandjar entered the Ph.D. program in 2010. He has also been a graduate instructor of economic principles and statistics for several semesters.

“George has been an outstanding student and is highly regarded by the undergraduates he teaches, his fellow graduate students and faculty alike,” said Walt Mayer, UM professor of economics.

After graduation, Akpandjar plans to begin a career with Bank of America as a quantitative operations associate.

Memorial Scholarship Created by Papa John’s CEO and Archie Manning

Fund memorializes late UM student Fenton Kottkamp

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

Fenton (left), Harrison, Rush, Jane and Stephen Kottkamp gather in one of their favorite spots, the Grove at the University of Mississippi. Fenton Kottkamp’s spirit will live on at Ole Miss, where a scholarship has been created in his memory. His parents will accept his diploma at the May 9 Commencement. Courtesy photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – “In honor of Fenton, please love one another,” read the last line of the obituary for University of Mississippi senior John Fenton Kottkamp, a request added by his dad, Stephen Kottkamp of Louisville, Kentucky.

“Fenton would want everyone to love one another, and he would want all of us to go forward with our lives,” said the dad, describing his son as having a “huge heart with great love for his family and friends.”

And people likewise loved Fenton, as evidenced from the outpouring from around the country when he lost his life in a tragic Feb. 25 accident in Oxford. He and his identical twin brother, Rush, were slated to graduate May 9, both from UM’s Patterson School of Accountancy. Fenton’s parents will accept his diploma during Commencement exercises.

Fenton’s influence will continue on campus for generations to come through the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment, created by John Schnatter, president and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, and Archie Manning, businessman and Mississippi football icon.

The Kottkamp brothers chose Ole Miss because of its nationally recognized accountancy program and well-rounded college experience, along with the university’s size and tightknit community.

“Ole Miss gave us the best four years anyone could have wanted,” Rush Kottkamp said. “Fenton loved everything about Ole Miss and Oxford. He loved every single sporting event. No matter what time the football game started, Fenton was in the Grove as early as possible.”

Stephen Kottkamp recalls spending Thanksgiving 2014 in Oxford with wife Jane and youngest son Harrison, preparing dinner for the twins’ friends who lived too far from campus to go home for the holiday.

“We love Ole Miss for Ole Miss,” Stephen Kottkamp said. “Ole Miss became our happy place. As Rush said to Jane on the way home from Fenton’s visitation, ‘Fenton and I caught lightning in a bottle when we chose Ole Miss.’ Fenton and Rush hit their stride in the Ole Miss environment; they blossomed and excelled. Our family will strive to make Ole Miss our happy place again.”

Schnatter encourages others to honor Fenton by supporting the scholarship fund.

“My family and I have been deeply impacted by the tragic passing of Fenton Kottkamp, not only because of the fine young man that Fenton was, but also because of the relationship between the Kottkamp family and my family,” he said. “Over the years, my wife, Annette, and I have become close to Fenton’s mother and father, Jane and Steve. Fenton’s youngest brother, Harrison, can often be found at our home hanging out with our son, Beau.”

Fenton’s Ole Miss experience was not lost on his four-year journey in Mississippi, Schnatter said. “Fenton and his brother Rush both served as interns at Papa John’s headquarters not far from our Anchorage, Kentucky, homes. Ole Miss clearly had an impact on Fenton; he was bright and ambitious and welcomed the experience. He embodied all of the qualities we want from a young professional looking to make his place in the world.

“Working with Ole Miss alumnus Archie Manning to create the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment was a way for my family and other donors to honor Fenton’s memory and highlight for the Kottkamp family how much affection and respect we hold for their son.”

Manning agreed, adding, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Fenton, a beloved member of our Ole Miss family. Our hearts continue to be with the Kottkamp family during this difficult time. We hope others will join us in remembering this extraordinary young man by helping build this scholarship endowment to help others experience Ole Miss in Fenton’s name.”

The Kottkamps agree that Fenton would be pleased to have his name on a scholarship. “He probably would have been a little embarrassed, too, for all the attention – but very proud,” Jane Kottkamp said.

In addition to his great love of people, among other descriptions family and friends offer include “excellent student,” “fun and funny,” “welcoming and kind,” “compassionate” and “adventuresome.”

The scholarship committee will look for recipients who embody Fenton’s spirit, character and integrity. Those eligible for consideration are students in the Patterson School of Accountancy and the School of Business Administration. Recipients must maintain a minimum 3.0 grade-point average.

The scholarship is an appropriate means of remembering Fenton, said Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School.

“His life had such a positive impact on the faculty and students in our school, as well as other members of the Ole Miss family. Fenton was always friendly, cheerful, smiling and never in a bad mood. He was instantly likeable because of his good nature. Fenton worked very hard in school, and his determination showed. It was obvious that his parents had raised him right.”

Jane Kottkamp said she feels Fenton’s deep enjoyment of the university stemmed from his devotion to family, something she also sees in Ole Miss.

“Fenton was always happy and excited to come home and be close to his family and cousins in Kentucky, and then he would be eager to get back to his college home,” she said. “Ole Miss is the place where you develop lifelong friends – friends who are like family – and not just among students but also parents of students. We hope Fenton’s scholarship will make it possible for other young people to go to Ole Miss and also for them to be a part of this great tradition of developing great lasting relationships.”

Laura Johnson of Atlanta, a senior education major and close friend of Fenton, graduates in May and intends to carry forward his impact.

“Fenton was an all-around great guy,” Johnson said. “He was so inspirational in that he lived every day to the fullest. He was always down for a night out with friends and taking new adventures. I met Fenton at the freshman welcome picnic the day before classes started, and we had an instant friendship. He’s been my best friend for the past four years at Ole Miss.

“I want the individuals who receive this scholarship to know that Fenton always had a smile on his face and made any situation positive. To recipients, I encourage you to aspire to live your lives in a similar way – to live life to the fullest and to take chances. Fenton always took the extra step to make others happy and include everyone before even thinking about himself. I aspire to live my life like him and to be welcoming to everyone.”

A graduate of Anchorage Public School and DuPont Manual High School, Fenton planned to pursue a master’s degree in accountancy at Ole Miss beginning this fall.

His goal was a career in public accounting, but he recognized that his degree provided many career options. He was a member of St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church and Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, and an avid Rebels and Louisville Cardinals supporter.

In addition to his parents and brothers, Fenton is survived by his grandparents, Dr. Wayne and Eileen Kotcamp; and a large number of aunts, uncles and cousins. He also leaves his loyal dog, Biggs.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Fenton Kottkamp Memorial Scholarship Endowment by sending a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. For more information, contact Brett Barefoot, director of development for Parents Leadership, at 662-915-2711 or bmbarefo@olemiss.edu.

Celebration of Achievement Honors Minorities, People of Color

Annual event begins at 5:30 p.m. May 8 in Tad Smith Coliseum

Students are honored with medals at the 2014 Celebration of Achievement

Students are honored with medals at the 2014 Celebration of Achievement

OXFORD, Miss. – As part of University of Mississippi’s Commencement activities, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement is honoring more than 230 minority graduates who have excelled during their tenure as students.

The annual Celebration of Achievement is set for 5:30 p.m. May 8 in Tad Smith Coliseum. The free event is open to the public.

“This event is an opportunity for family, friends and the university community to come together and honor graduating students of color and other underrepresented populations,” said Courtney Pearson, a graduate assistant and program co-coordinator. “Each honoree is invited to have an escort who will have the privilege of presenting them with a medal that honors their achievements here. We would like to increase the number of attendees that come out and support these graduates that are being honored.”

Program participants include Brandi Hephner Labanc, vice-chancellor for student affairs; Valeria Ross, associate dean of students; Charles Ross, chair and professor of African-American studies; Donald Cole, special assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs; and Julia Bussade, instructor in Spanish and Portuguese.

Chase Moore, former director of the UM Gospel Choir and associate director of the Student Activities Association, will sing the university alma mater. Student reflections will be given by Camila Versaquez, president of the Latin American Student Organization, and Briana O’Neil, president of the Black Student Union.

Begun by Valeria Ross years ago, the Celebration of Achievement program has become very meaningful to students who have been honored.

“To a first-generation college student coming from a family who thought they would never be able to afford to put their child through college, the Celebration of Achievement ceremony means everything,” said Cedric Garron of Winona, a 2014 recipient. “As a minority student, my decision to attend the University of Mississippi was questioned by my community, my classmates and sometimes by my friends. For an extended period of time I began to doubt my own choice, but I entered in the fall of 2009 with very high hopes.”

Garron said his tenure at UM was never a perfect, stress-free journey.

“I struggled academically and socially during my freshman and sophomore year, but with the help of the amazing faculty and staff members I was able to eventually fill out the first of hopefully many degree applications,” he said.

As graduation approached, Garron found himself thinking of how he wasn’t going to be recognized as an honor graduate or be the person wearing multiple cords from those prestigious honor societies so many of his classmates had joined. What he did have to look forward to was the Celebration of Achievement ceremony.

“Seeing how proud my mother was to escort me to the front of hundreds of my fellow minority graduates and place a medal of achievement around my neck created an indescribable amount of emotion,” he said. “We as a family were able to take a minute to reflect on just how large of an accomplishment my graduation was. Celebration of Achievement was not only a chance to celebrate my success, but the success of hundreds of my brothers and sisters in the Ole Miss family. That is a memory I will cherish forever.”

For more information, contact the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement at 662-915-1689 or inclusion@olemiss.edu.

UM to Hold Annual Memorial Ceremony Thursday

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Each spring, the University of Mississippi conducts a memorial ceremony to commemorate the lives of students, faculty, staff and emeriti who died during this academic year.

This year’s ceremony is scheduled for 4 p.m. Thursday (April 30) at Paris-Yates Chapel. The community is invited and encouraged to attend.

Honoring the lives of the loved ones lost over the last year provides an opportunity to bring the Ole Miss family together in unity, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The most difficult aspect of our job is dealing with death,” Hephner LaBanc said. “Every year, we lose many individuals who have had an important and lasting impact on our community. Whether they have been here one semester or numerous years, they were an important part of the Ole Miss family. The memorial ceremony is our opportunity to remember their contribution and celebrate their lives.”

This year’s ceremony honors these 14 members of the Ole Miss family:

Students

John Fenton Kottkamp

Grant Womack

Luke Phillips

Tanner Chapmon

James McCastlain

 

Faculty and Staff

Andrew Stefani

Kerby Ladner

Burl Hunt

Charles Treas

Esther Sparks Sprague

Larry Taylor

Roy Sheffield

Russell Stokes

Robert Marlon Bates

UM Students Dig For Clues about Slaves’ Daily Lives

Work at Hugh Craft House yielding insights into diet and culture of antebellum Holly Springs residents

Stephanie Orsini, an anthropology graduate student from Libertyville, Illinois, left, works with UM Assistant Professor of Anthropology Carolyn Freiwald, right, beside the former slave quarters at the Hugh Craft House in Holly Springs.

Anthropology graduate student Stephanie Orsini, left, works with Carolyn Freiwald beside the former slave quarters at the Hugh Craft House in Holly Springs.

HOLLY SPRINGS, Miss. – University of Mississippi anthropology students are digging at a historical home in Holly Springs to get a glimpse into the daily habits and foodways of the slaves who lived there from the 1840s until the Civil War.

Two UM assistant professors of anthropology, Jodi Skipper and Carolyn Freiwald, took their students to dig for artifacts that give clues about life at the Hugh Craft House. The house had slave quarters, with a detached kitchen area, that was built circa 1843. The 1860 Marshall County Slave Census shows nine slaves lived there. About 20 other properties in and around the town also have similar well-preserved slave dwellings.

“Holly Springs probably has more intact slave dwellings in a small area than I’ve probably ever seen in this country,” Skipper said. “This is very unique.”

But identifying those important historical houses isn’t easy to the untrained eye.

“They’re hidden in plain sight,” Skipper said. “They look like sheds, pool houses and lots of other things, but unless you know what you’re looking for, you wouldn’t be able to detect that these were slave dwellings. When I say slave dwellings, they were built for that, but these structures were occupied into the 1930s and 1940s or so by folks working as nannies, or doing other jobs, for the families who owned the properties.”

Freiwald and Skipper have students from a seminar on biological anthropology, a course on ancient foods, a Southern heritage tourism graduate class and a class on African diaspora, among others, working at the site. There’s lots of information about the daily lives of slaves that is revealed through what’s found around the home site, Freiwald said.

“The ground is telling us stories,” Freiwald said. “We just want to tie the pieces of the story together.”

Chelius Carter, an architectural historian and head of the Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., owns the Hugh Craft House, which was occupied by Union soldiers during the Civil War. Its slaves quarters and kitchen are heavy timber frame with batten-board siding. The home is in a well-preserved state and was part of the recent “Behind the Big House” tour of historical homes in Marshall County. The tour gives local students and the public chances to explore the homes and it coincides with the annual Holly Springs Pilgrimage, which is a tour of antebellum mansions there.

The main purpose of Behind the Big House is to tell the story of the slave structures and the people who worked and lived in them. The tour has been going on for four years and has been very successful with help from UM student volunteers, Skipper said. 

Grace Myers, a senior anthropology major from Austin, Texas, gives a presentation to a school group attending Behind the Big House tour at the Hugh Craft House in Holly Springs.

UM senior Grace Myers, left, gives a presentation to a school group at a Behind the Big House tour at the Hugh Craft House in Holly Springs.

Grace Myers, a senior anthropology major from Austin, Texas, gave a presentation to each school group attending Behind the Big House about some of the bones that have been found there. Working in Holly Springs has been extremely valuable because the unusually large number of preserved sites from the antebellum years gives students insights they can’t find in most other towns, she said.

“It’s in the backyard of Ole Miss,” Myers said. “It’s cool because Holly Springs wasn’t burned down during the Civil War, whereas Oxford was. So this is a preservation of time. We’re not going to be able to find this in Oxford, but because it’s still part of north Mississippi, we can find out about the habits and the foodways and that kind of information about people who lived in this area. That’s really cool.”

While Holly Springs students walked around and listened to presentations at different spots on the site, UM students dug around and underneath the old slave quarters, looking for bones and ceramics that might have been used for eating.

In the backyard, Stephanie Orsini, an anthropology graduate student from Libertyville, Illinois, dug a small area behind the house. Each house that is excavated seems to have a different makeup of animal bones in the ground around it, she said.

“It’s very different,” Orsini said. “A lot of articles I’ve read say it depends on the nationality of the people in the house. One house that they looked at had people living there who were French. In France, people might consider pig’s head a delicacy, whereas others might not consider that as good of a cut of meat. What the slaves got depended on what people in the big house wanted.”

Freiwald, who is interested in the diets of different groups, said she’s already been able to determine a great deal about what was eaten at the home, but the work there will continue throughout the semester.

“I can tell they were eating sheep,” Freiwald said. “We can tell how they were butchering cows and maybe they were using the bones for soup. I can see they had ribs and some pigs and a number of different domestic animals, and a lot of birds. We’re hoping maybe we can tell at some point if the household ate together. Did they separate their food at all? We don’t know if we’ll be able to answer those questions, but we’ll try to find out.”

Efforts to understand the cuisine there are only part of why the work at the Hugh Craft House is important, Skipper said.

“The dig can tell us about foodways, but it’s also one of the few records that we have of the enslaved community here,” Skipper said. “These are not folks who were writing narratives and leaving them behind. This work is very important for that reason.”

For more information on education and research programs in the UM Department of Sociology and Anthropology, go to http://socanth.olemiss.edu/.

Spring Concert to Feature Iron and Wine, Love and Theft, Thomas Rhett

Free show set for 4 p.m. Sunday in the Grove

Love and Theft

Love and Theft

OXFORD, Miss. – The Student Activities Association and the Ole Miss Student Union will welcome Thomas Rhett, along with solo act Iron and Wine and the duo Love and Theft, to the Grove on Sunday (April 26) for an afternoon of country music.

The 4 p.m. concert, which is free and open to the public, will wrap up Oxford’s Double Decker Festival weekend and follow the Ole Miss baseball game against the University of Alabama.

“The goal of the SAA spring concert is to host a fun and exciting event on campus,” said Nathan Darce, coordinator of student activities. “SAA has a long history of hosting many well-known musical acts on campus. Students should use this concert as an opportunity to support musical acts that come to campus. It is a great opportunity to spend time with the extended University of Mississippi and Oxford communities.”

All the performers have been recognized at the Country Music Awards.

Thomas Rhett

Thomas Rhett

Headliner Thomas Rhett, son of country star Rhett Atkins, began playing drums as a child and by junior high school was part of a punk rock band called the High Heeled Flip Flops. He began playing at fraternity parties while a student at David Lipscomb University, but it wasn’t until he played a one-time gig with his dad that he attracted industry attention, as a songwriter.

After Jason Aldean recorded Rhett’s “I Ain’t Ready to Quit,” Rhett landed a deal with Big Machine Record Group and cut his debut album, “It Goes Like This,” which includes the chart singles “Get Me Some of That,” “Beer with Jesus,” “Would Ya,” “Something to Do with My Hands” and the title track. His next single, “Crash and Burn,” is set to be released Monday (April 27).

Sam Beam, better known as Iron and Wine, is no stranger to Oxford, having performed here several times, including the 2012 Double Decker Arts Festival. He recently released “Archive Series Volume One,” a compilation of unreleased tunes recorded over several years. His five studio albums include “The Creek Drank the Cradle” (2002), “Our Endless Numbered Days” (2004), and “The Shepherd’s Dog (2007), all on the Sub Pop label.

Iron and Wine

Iron and Wine

The acclaimed duo Love and Theft includes Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson, both of whom sing lead vocals and play guitar. They have established themselves as one of country’s hottest young acts with such memorable hits as the No. 1 country smash “Angel Eyes” and the Top 10 hit “Runaway.” They were nominated for Vocal Duo of The Year for the third consecutive year at the 2014 CMA awards, and last month, they released their boundary-pushing new album, “Whiskey on My Breath.”

Spaces in the Grove are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, call 662-915-1044 or email union@olemiss.edu.

UM Journalism Students Sweep Public Relations Competition

Faculty member, graduates and university's professional staff also honored

Public relations students in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media won every one of the awards presented in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition at the PRAM state conference April 10.  Award winners pictured here, standing, from left to right, are Cody Fullinwider, an integrated marketing communications major from Denver, Colorado; Courtney Richards, a journalism major from Austin, Texas; Nancy Hogan, a journalism major from Atlanta, Georgia; Alex Kohl, an IMC major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Bridge Leigh, an IMC major from Hernando; Mara Joffe, a journalism graduate from Biloxi; Robin Street, lecturer in journalism who taught the students and also won a professional award; Lauren Raphael, an IMC major from Madison; and Clancy Smith, a journalism major from Saltillo.  Kneeling: Lindsay Langston, a journalism major from Dallas, Texas; Lauren Walker, an IMC major from Madison; Sydney Hembree, a double major in journalism and marketing and corporate relations from Kennesaw, Georgia; and MarKeicha Dickens, a journalism major from Olive Branch. Not pictured: Journalism graduate Melody Skinner of San Diego, California; and Mary Frances Tanner, an English major with a journalism minor from Mobile, Alabama. Photo credit: Stan O’Dell

UM public relations students who won awards in the Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition include (standing, from left) Cody Fullinwider, Courtney Richards, Nancy Hogan, Alex Kohl, Bridge Leigh, Mara Joffe, Robin Street, UM lecturer in journalism, Lauren Raphael and Clancy Smith. Kneeling (from left) are Lindsay Langston, Lauren Walker, Sydney Hembree and MarKeicha Dickens. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – Public relations students in the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media won every award presented in the recent Public Relations Association of Mississippi student competition, including the prestigious Student Best in Show honor.

In addition, in the professional competition, faculty member Robin Street won the top award in her category, and Meek School graduates working in University Communications brought home four awards. All awards were presented during the PRAM state conference April 9-10 in Tupelo.

“We set two records in this competition,” said Street, a lecturer in journalism and public relations. “First, our students were the only university students in the state to be honored. Second, the sheer number of awards we won surpassed all previous years. That is a real tribute to the preparation they received from all the faculty members at the Meek School.”

Journalism student Clancy Smith of Saltillo won both Student Best in Show and the top award in her category, called a Prism.

“Winning the Prism awards more than reassured me that my classes and projects have helped me develop the skills I will need for a career in public relations,” Smith said. “I am so grateful for the instruction I’ve received from all the Meek School faculty members.”

The students, all seniors except for two recent graduates, entered public relations campaigns they created as a final project in the advanced public relations class taught by Street. Each campaign required multimedia journalism skills including writing news articles, creating photos and video, and developing online and social media.

Five other students won Prisms in their categories: Nancy Hogan, a journalism major from Atlanta; MarKeicha Dickens, a journalism major from Olive Branch; Mara Joffe, a journalism graduate from Biloxi; Lauren Raphael, an integrated marketing communications major from Madison; and Lindsay Langston, a journalism major from Dallas.

Pictured at the PRAM Prism awards banquet are Oxford/Ole Miss chapter members, all University of Mississippi employees: (from left) Danny Blanton, director of public relations; Ryan Whittington, assistant director of public relations for social media strategy; Will Hamilton, public relations assistant; Erin Parsons Garret, communications specialist, UM School of Pharmacy; and Robin Street, lecturer in journalism and public relations.  Whittington, Hamilton and Street all won awards in the competition.

Pictured at the PRAM Prism awards banquet are Oxford/Ole Miss chapter members, all UM employees (from left) Danny Blanton, Ryan Whittington, Will Hamilton, Erin Parsons Garret and Robin Street.

A step below the Prism is the Excellence Award, followed by the Merit Award. The seven students winning Excellence Awards included Alex Kohl, an IMC major from Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Cody Fullinwider, an IMC major from Denver; and Melody Skipper, a marketing and corporate relations graduate living in San Diego.

Also winning Excellence were Sydney Hembree, a double major in journalism and marketing and corporate relations from Kennesaw, Georgia; Mary Frances Tanner, an English major with a journalism minor from Mobile, Alabama; Bridge Leigh, an IMC major from Hernando; and Lauren Walker, an IMC major from Madison. Journalism major Courtney Richards of Austin, Texas, won a Merit Award.

In the professional categories, University Communications staff members won five awards.

A Prism award went to Ryan Whittington, assistant director of public relations for social media strategy, and producer/director Win Graham. An Excellence Award went to PR assistant Will Hamilton and communications specialist Dennis Irwin. Merit awards went to communication specialists Michael Newsom and Edwin Smith. Whittington, Newsom and Smith are all Meek School graduates.

“Our staff is a talented and hard-working team that always strives for excellence,” said Danny Blanton, UM director of public relations. “I’m very proud of the work they do and how it helps the university achieve its mission goals. These awards say a lot about the quality of the materials this group produces.”

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