Natchez Native Joins University’s CEED Program

Janae Owens hopes to use her experiences to help create opportunities across the state

Janae Owens (left) and Albert Nylander

Janae Owens (left) and Albert Nylander

OXFORD, Miss. – Growing up on the banks of the Mississippi River in Natchez can be an adventure that immerses residents in the heart of a rich, vibrant history that is complemented by Southern cultural celebrations and events.

However, accompanying that atmosphere is a state of wealth that serves as a jarring contrast to the poverty, crime and economic stagnation seen by LaKyre’a Janae Owens, who was born into a family that resided in Natchez for generations. A graduate of Natchez High School and Mississippi State University, she lives in Oxford, where she is pursuing a master’s degree at the University of Mississippi.

While leaving her hometown was bittersweet for Owens, it also paved the way for her to step back and see what the city has to offer and what resources are needed to provide growth.

“I believe the unique history and live culture of Natchez can be seen by anyone,” Owens said. “That down-home Southern atmosphere can be used as a valuable resource, when envisioning the city in unity, to help overcome the health disparities, social inequalities and illiteracy that exist throughout the city.”

Owens said she believes it is crucial that the community find ways to create economic growth and develop opportunities for all the people of Natchez. That’s why Owens joined the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at UM as a graduate innovation fellow.

Vaughn Grisham, a leader in the field of community development, founded the McLean Institute at Ole Miss in 1984. From that foundation, the McLean Institute is being dramatically expanded as part of UM 2020, the university’s strategic plan that calls for an increase in service to benefit Mississippi.

The McLean Institute seeks to make community engagement a distinctive part of the university’s educational culture by promoting engaged scholarship and reflective community action.

Owens has been named a McLean Institute Innovation Fellow within the institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, known as CEED. Throughout the year, she will be working alongside some 30 other UM students to establish partnerships throughout rural communities in Mississippi.

CEED organizers hope that these partnerships will help boost economic development and entrepreneurship throughout these communities.

“Janae’s role as an innovation fellow at the McLean Institute provides her the opportunity to engage her background from Natchez and her health education/promotion major to advance the mission of the McLean Institute,” said. J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The goal of each innovation fellow is to develop a specific sustainable solution within a community. The scholars attain the solutions by making connections with communities and by developing a method of research that includes participating in a summerlong internship in their chosen community. Each fellow presents some sort of business plan or research paper at the end of two years.

Although she has many paths left to explore before selecting an area to address, Owens said she is considering focusing her efforts on improving the health, wellness and overall quality of life throughout Mississippi.

She said she hopes her service to the state will play a part in nurturing the growth and development of future generations of Mississippians and, as a result, having a healthier and better-prepared workforce will contribute to sustaining economic development in all corners of the Magnolia State.

UM Student Organization Seeks Funds to Fight Hunger Locally

Ignite Ole Miss campaign facilitates effort to raise support for campus food bank

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

Donating to crowd-funding campaign will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has launched a crowd-funding campaign in an effort to raise $10,000 to support the Ole Miss Food Bank, a student-run organization that makes nutritious foods available to those in need.

Contributions to the campaign via will help the Kinard Hall-based Food Bank stock its shelves with frozen meals and fresh produce. Additionally, funding will support the bank’s supply of canned goods and personal hygiene items, all of which are made available free to qualified members of the campus community.

“Students’ health and nutrition is important to us here at the Food Bank,” said Toni Cruse, UM Food Bank chair. “We believe every student deserves to feel nourished and satisfied when they go to bed at night.”

The food bank was created in 2012 to foster a healthy college community by working to alleviate hunger on the UM campus. With support from volunteers and donors, the Food Bank has grown ever since.

“It is a grim reality that nutritious meals are not an option for some of our students due to the expense,” Interim Chancellor Morris Stocks said. “Through the Ole Miss Food Bank, we have been able to alleviate hunger in our campus community and make nutritious meals more accessible.”

For more information on the Ole Miss Food Bank, visit, and for information on the Ignite OleMiss campaign, go to or contact Maura Wakefield at

Facebook, LinkedIn Representatives Featured at ‘Data Day’

Students to learn how data can impact businesses, careers

Ole Miss Data Day to be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Overby Auditorium.

Ole Miss Data Day to be held on Thursday, Nov. 5 at Overby Auditorium.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi presents the first Ole Miss New Media Data Day on Thursday (Nov. 5) in the Overby Center auditorium.

Data Day will bring in representatives of two of the world’s most recognized social networking entities, Facebook and LinkedIn, to discuss the importance of data and how it is used to build and retain customer relationships.­­­­­

Guest speakers will be Sean Callahan, senior manager of content marketing at LinkedIn, and Eric Schnabel, North America director of Facebook Creative Shop. Callahan and Schnabel will share their expertise and provide insights into trends and opportunities within the industry, and what these mean for those in the marketing and communications professions.

The speakers will conduct identical 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. sessions, with an optional workshop at 11 a.m. The free event will benefit both professionals and students and is open to the public.

The workshop is offered by the UM Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning to give journalists and others valuable insight into Ole Miss campus data.

Scott Fiene, director of the undergraduate integrated marketing communications program at UM, said students who know the importance of data and how to use it will have a big advantage in finding jobs after graduation. Data Day will examine some of the careers related to data and ways data can benefit businesses.

“Good communications involves creativity, but it also requires an understanding of targeting, segmenting and using data to make decisions” Fiene said. “Most companies use data, but we thought since so many entry-level jobs today are in the social media arena that it would be good to bring in experts from a couple of the largest social media brands to explain what they’re doing.”

For more information, visit or contact Fiene at

Board of Trustees Names Preferred Candidate for UM Chancellor

Campus listening sessions were held on the campuses in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee

Campus listening sessions were conducted in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee

OXFORD, Miss. – The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning has selected Jeffrey S. Vitter as the preferred candidate for the chancellorship of the University of Mississippi. A renowned computer scientist and academic leader, Vitter is provost and executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas.

Vitter was recommended by the Board Search Committee, chaired by Alan Perry, the IHL president, with input from the Campus Search Advisory Committee and the Interview Search Advisory Committee following careful review of all applications and interviews.

“The Board of Trustees is beyond pleased to announce Dr. Vitter as the preferred candidate,” Perry said. “His credentials and experience are stellar. He has demonstrated tremendous leadership at a number of exceptional institutions and has been recognized as a leading researcher in the field of computer science.”

Vitter serves as provost and executive vice chancellor and the Roy A. Roberts Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas. His academic home is the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and he is a member of the Information and Telecommunication Technology Center. KU includes the main campus in Lawrence, with 10 colleges and schools, the Edwards Campus in Overland Park and the Medical Center campuses in Kansas City, Wichita and Salina, Kansas. As provost, Vitter is the chief academic and operations officer for the Lawrence and Edwards campuses.

Vitter initiated and co-led the campuswide development of KU’s strategic plan, “Bold Aspirations: The Strategic Plan for the University of Kansas, 2012-2017.” The plan is the university’s transformative road map toward its vision of excellence as a top-tier public international research university.

While at KU, he created the first-ever universitywide KU core curriculum; oversaw major facilities improvements and expansion; and led the expansion of the schools of Engineering, Business and Pharmacy.

He also enhanced multidisciplinary research and funding around four strategic initiatives:

  • Alumni outreach and furthering the goals of the capital campaign
  • Major growth of technology commercialization and corporate partnerships
  • Incentivizing innovation
  • Administrative reorganization and efficiency

Previously, Vitter was on the faculty of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University. At Texas A&M, he served as provost and executive vice president for academics and oversaw the academic mission of the university in Galveston, Texas, and Doha, Qatar.

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter

Dr. Jeffrey S. Vitter

Before joining Texas A&M, Vitter served as the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science and professor of computer science at Purdue University. As dean, he was the chief academic officer and administrator of the College of Science, responsible for overseeing the discovery, learning, engagement and diversity activities of the college’s seven academic departments.

At Duke University, Vitter held a distinguished professorship as the Gilbert, Louis and Edward Lehrman Professor. He also served as chair of the Department of Computer Science in the College of Arts and Sciences and as co-director and a founding member of Duke’s Center for Geometric and Biological Computing.

Before joining Duke, Vitter progressed through the faculty ranks and served in various leadership roles in the Department of Computer Science at Brown University.

A native of New Orleans, Vitter graduated with highest honors from the University of Notre Dame in 1977 and earned a Ph.D. under Don Knuth in computer science at Stanford University in 1980. He also holds an MBA from Duke University.

Vitter and his wife, Sharon, have three adult children.

Campus listening sessions were conducted on the campuses in Oxford and Jackson in July and August with constituency groups for the members of the Board Search Committee and the Campus Search Advisory Committee to hear what qualities and qualifications stakeholders believed the next institutional executive officer should possess. After careful review of all applicants, the Campus Search Advisory Committee submitted the names of several candidates unranked to the Board Search Committee and nominated fellow members to serve on the Interview Search Advisory Committee.

“I would like to thank the members of the Campus Search Advisory Committee, under the leadership of Dr. Alice Clark, for devoting their time and expertise to this process,” Perry said. “Each one understood the weight of the decision and took the responsibility as the voice of the campus community very seriously. Their input was vital throughout the search.”

The members of the UM Campus Search Advisory Committee were Alice Clark, Michele Alexandre, Claiborne Barksdale, Michael Barnett, Ross Bjork, Rod Bridges, Jimmy Brown, Robert Brown, Claude Brunson, Ralph Didlake, Jack Dunbar, Jan Farrington, Rose Flenorl, Mike Glenn, Charles Hussey, Trentice Imbler, Andrea Jekabsons, Jesse Mitchell III, Charles O’Mara, Pat Patterson, Lisa Percy, Rachna Prakash, David Rock, Charles Ross, Mary Sharp Rayner, Larry Sparks, Sovent Taylor, Melinda Valliant, Alex Vasios-Sivopoulous, Wendell Weakley, Clarence Webster III, Noel E. Wilkin, Roy C. Williams and Ethel Young-Scurlock.

“The Campus Search Advisory Committee and I appreciate the feedback that we received from the campus community during the listening sessions,” said Clark, who chaired the Campus Search Advisory Committee. “Dr. Vitter is an exceptional academician, educator, researcher and leader. He understands what it means to be a top-tier public research university and has a vision for leading the University of Mississippi to even greater success.”

Vitter will meet with campus constituency groups Oct. 29 in Oxford. A detailed schedule will be announced soon.

Updates on the search progress will be posted to the Chancellor Search website,, and on Twitter @UM_Search.

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi: Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University, including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi, including the UM Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Ole Miss Law Wins World Championship in Space Law

Team of three students triumphs over groups from India and Greece en route to victory

UM School of Law wins world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem

A team from the UM School of Law wins the world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem.

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi School of Law has won the world championship at the 2015 Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition in Jerusalem. The team beat India’s Nalsar University of Law in the semifinals and triumphed over National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece, today (Oct. 15) in the final round.

UM is one of three law schools in the world to offer a Master of Laws in Air and Space Law, but the only school to offer a certificate in remote sensing, air and space law at the Juris Doctor level, a distinction that contributed to the team’s success.

“The law school congratulates our team on their truly outstanding accomplishment – the University of Mississippi School of Law’s first international moot court championship,” said Debbie Bell, UM law dean.

“Success like this only further highlights the strength of our advocacy programs and space law program in general.”

The championship team includes Olivia Hoff of Gulfport and C.J. Robison from Lubbock, Texas, both third-year law students in the space law certificate program. Joining them is Ian Perry of Ellis County, Texas, a 2013 J.D. recipient who is working on his space law LL.M., and Michael Dodge, an adjunct assistant UM professor who graduated from the school’s space law program in 2008.

Competing at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the teams each argued a hypothetical case involving an asteroid mining dispute and liability for a failed attempt to divert an asteroid from colliding with the Earth. Three members of the International Court of Justice served as judges for the competition.

In its 24th year, the competition takes place under the guidance of the International Institute of Space Law, headquartered in Paris, and attracts more than 60 law schools from around the globe. Three members of the International Court of Justice served as judges for the competition.

The team won the national championship March 21 at the Manfred Lachs Space Law Moot Court Competition at Georgetown University Law Center, which qualified them to compete in the world finals.

“I am so proud of our students,” said Jacquie Serrao, director of the university’s LL.M. program in air and space law. “Their hard work, determination, substantive knowledge and oral and written advocacy skills really set them apart from others in the competition. That, combined with the amazing professors at the law school who contributed so much of their time in mooting our students, really made the difference.”

This victory builds on a string of successes for the Ole Miss law school’s advocacy programs, which include winning the nation’s pre-eminent environmental law moot court competition in February for the fourth time in five years, winning four national championships in 2014 alone, earning a top 18 national ranking for the school’s moot court board in 2014, receiving second place at the National Sports Law Negotiation Competition last fall, and achieving a top-eight finish at the moot court National Championship hosted by the University of Houston Law Center in January.

FBI, UM Student Affairs Honor UPD Officers

Three presented awards, praised for contributing to statue noose investigation

UPD Chief Tim Potts speaks at a ceremony where representatives of the FBI recognized the members of UPD who helped with the James Meredith Statue case. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

UPD Chief Tim Potts speaks at a ceremony where FBI representatives recognized the UPD officers who helped with the James Meredith statue vandalism case. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi police officers were honored Wednesday (Oct. 14) for their involvement in the investigation of vandalism to the James Meredith statue on campus last year.

During a brief ceremony on the back porch of the Lyceum, just feet from the statue, Bryan McCloskey, senior supervisory resident agent from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Jackson division, presented UPD Capt. Jane Tutor, Lt. Jeremy Cook and Sgt. Shayla McGuire with personalized certificates from FBI Director James B. Comey, commending them for their cooperation and diligence in the probe.

Brandi Hephner Labanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs, also presented the three with 1848 employee lapel pins and bookends made from wood reclaimed from the Grove. About 70 UM administrators, faculty, staff and students attended the afternoon event.

UPD’s combined detective skills helped federal law enforcement officials arrest three former UM students as suspects in the February 2014 incident.

“This was a major investigation for us and nothing less than a hate crime,” McCloskey said. “The FBI wouldn’t have successfully solved the case and been able to bring prosecution without UPD’s collaborative efforts. Hopefully, because of this stance, reprehensible incidents like this won’t happen here again.”

Each of the UPD officers expressed humility and appreciation at the recognition.

“We spent countless hours staying abreast of this case,” said Tutor, a Toccopola native who became UPD’s first female detective in July 2003. “I hope that all UM students realize that we always put their safety first.”

Cook, an Oxford native and 2008 UM graduate who joined the force a year later, agreed.

“Being rewarded for the hard work we do every day is something special,” he said. “We care about everybody.”

“Our team takes great pride in having helped solve this particular case, but all cases, whether misdemeanors or felonies, are equally important to us,” said McGuire, also an Oxford native. “Still, I think it’s pretty cool to be recognized, even though we don’t do it for that reason at all.”

UPD Chief Tim Potts, who oversaw the program, said it is fitting that campus law enforcement officials be honored for contributing to the investigation.

“Under the leadership of former UPD Chief Calvin Sellers, our department was involved in the investigation of this reprehensible incident from beginning to end,” Potts said. “They each did their jobs and did them well. They deserve this recognition and I’m proud of them.”

The incident’s horrible message of hatred, rejection and fear was countered positively by UPD’s efforts to solve the case and ensure the campus remains a safe place for all members of its community, Hephner Labanc said.

“Justice has been served, members of our minority community have been supported and civil rights have been validated,” she said. “This is community. This is Ole Miss.”

Former UM student Graeme Phillip Harris of Alphraetta, Georgia, admitted to helping two others place a noose and a former version of the Georgia state flag on the statue sometime before dawn on Feb. 16, 2014. U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills sentenced Harris in September to six months in prison beginning Jan. 4, followed by 12 months of supervised release.

Harris pleaded guilty in June to a misdemeanor charge of using a threat of force to intimidate African-American students and employees, and prosecutors agreed to drop a felony charge. Harris admitted to undertaking the plan after a night of drinking in the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity house. The then-freshmen were fraternity members at the time.

The fraternity voted to remove the men from the organization. The chapter was subsequently removed from campus after an investigation sparked by the incident revealed it was involved in hazing.

Austin Reed Edenfield of Georgia, who also allegedly took part in the vandalism, had been scheduled to plead guilty to an unspecified crime last month, but that hearing was postponed without explanation in court papers.

A third unnamed former UM student alleged to have participated in the act has not been charged. Prosecutors said the investigation is ongoing.

Meredith integrated Ole Miss amid rioting that was suppressed by federal troops in 1962.

ATO Chapter Honored with True Merit Award

UM fraternity receives award for eighth straight year

William Fisher, chapter president, accepted the True Merit award.

William Fisher, chapter president, accepts the True Merit award.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Delta Psi chapter of Alpha Tau Omega at the University of Mississippi received the True Merit award at the ATO national convention for its outstanding accomplishments for the 2014-15 academic year.

This is the eighth year in a row for the UM fraternity.

“Because of Mississippi’s proven success as a chapter, individual members enjoy a strong ATO experience that enhances their college education and makes them more valuable as citizens, currently on their campus, but very soon, as members of their respective communities,” said Wynn Smiley, chief executive officer of the national fraternity.

The True Merit award is recognition of the chapter’s overall excellence, including community and campus involvement.

“Receiving a true merit bowl is a significant honor for our chapter,” said William Fisher, chapter president, of Greenwood. “It makes me proud to know that we are continuing a legacy that has been set by many of the Ole Miss ATOs that came before us.”

The men of the Delta Psi chapter raised more than $40,000 for Delta Streets Academy, recruited pledge classes of more than 80 men and continually excel in campus involvement.

“The fact that the men have won this award eight straight years shows in incredible level of consistency,” said Dylan Farrell, leadership consultant for the Mississippi chapter.

All chapters are required to submit an annual report detailing each area of their performance throughout the year. The reports are presented to a panel of judges not affiliated with ATO.

“Even though we are the largest chapter in the country, we still excel in almost every category on campus and nationally. We are constantly striving to be the best that we can be,” Fisher said.

UM Graduates to Compete at SEC Symposium

Entrepreneurs hope to connect job-seekers with companies that fit their personalities

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn careers claiming first place at innovate Mississippi competition.

Alexander Ray (center) of Zyn Careers claims first place at Innovate Mississippi competition.

OXFORD, Miss. – Two 2015 University of Mississippi graduates will introduce their business venture, a Web-based services that helps connect job-seekers with employers that match their personality profile, Sept. 20-22 at a pitch competition during this year’s SEC Symposium in Atlanta.

Jackson native Alex Ray, who earned a bachelor’s degree in economics, and Madison native Caleb Robinson, who earned his bachelor’s in computer science, will present their business plan for The entrepreneurs, both 22, will make their presentation before 14 judges, all alumni of SEC schools.

“Their idea is a cross between eHarmony and,” said Richard Gentry, assistant professor of management and director of the UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “There is a clear definition of a problem when hiring potential employees. Through research and management of this idea, it can help connect people with a style to an organization similar to their own personality.”

Ray began working on the idea last December after he grew frustrated in his own job search. He approached Robinson because of his background in computer science.

“When I started looking for a job, I was frustrated that I couldn’t find an exciting enough place to work,” Ray said. “I went to Caleb with the idea, and then in February we started researching traits that made people happy in their jobs.”

“Alex approached me at the entrance of the Turner Center talking about an exciting idea that he had,” Robinson said. “Usually I would be pretty cautious if someone approached me with a tech-based idea, but I know Alex is the kind of person to follow through on something that he starts, so I was really excited to start on it.”

Ray and Robinson spent countless hours researching factors that affect cultural fit between a prospective employee and employer, such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment and tenure. They also worked closely with a professor in organizational psychology to develop their algorithm.

“We have put in a lot of work over several iterations of the algorithm,” Robinson said. “I was familiar with algorithms before this venture because of my computer science background. The difference about this project was that the problem – matching people to jobs – is very broad compared to some of the problems that we might solve in class.”

The algorithm examines up to 60 factors to produce “Zyn” scores associated with levels of happiness at a job, Ray said. Zyn scores range from 1 to 100, with 100 being rated extremely happy.

So far, has amassed 150 corporate profiles to match with prospective users, with businesses such as Facebook, FNC Inc., Coca-Cola and C Spire.

Ray and Robinson started to introduce their idea last spring in competitions and to students at UM. In April, they entered the university’s Gillespie Business Plan and finished in the top three. Faculty members encouraged Ray to enter the business into the Rebel Venture Capital Fund, and he received $4,000 to help get the business running.

In a trial run, 100 Ole Miss students signed up for initial assessment and gave the site reviews, Ray said. In May, Ray and Robinson received a boost when placed first in the Innovate Mississippi New Venture Challenge.

“It’s been really exciting, and something that I’ve dreamt about since the creation of the idea,” Ray said. “At the beginning, I just focused on how I could use this to find a job. Once I talked to others and noticed this was a widespread problem, I realized that this could be a business.”

The summer got even hotter for Ray and Robinson. They did a major site redesign while getting prepared for their biggest competition, the SEC Symposium.

“To categorize, the SEC Symposium is like ‘Shark Tank’ without formal investments,” said Clay Dibrell, associate professor of management and executive director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “If you win the competition, you win a cash prize for your start-up.”

Dibrell and Gentry have worked with Ray and Robinson to help structure the business plan. Both faculty members agree that the site has many practical applications in the business world, and Ray and Robinson have been doing well with initial pitches to investors.

“It’s very rare to find people who are willing to invest in a company,” Dibrell said. “Pitching to other venture capitalists by taking meetings and making presentations are positive indicators of future success.”

“The site can make a big impact,” Gentry said. “It’s a huge problem that has not been well-solved. It could reduce selection costs significantly for big data businesses.”

Recently, Robinson encountered a student from Georgia Tech who was having difficulty finding a job. That instance just added more fuel to the Zyn Careers engine.

“(The student) said he only wanted to be accepted by a single company so he didn’t have to choose between companies because he had no idea where he would be happiest and didn’t want to make the wrong decision,” Robinson said. “He was extremely surprised when I told him that I had been working on that exact problem for the past several months.”

The SEC Symposium will pit Ray and Robinson against teams from other SEC schools. The competition promises to be their hardest yet, but it also could produce the biggest reward.

“I’m excited to see the ideas other groups will bring to the symposium,” Ray said. “But I believe Zyn Careers can make the world a happier place, so that motivates me to work harder and keep tweaking the website.”

New Parking App Available for UM and Oxford Drivers

The Passport parking app will be available both on campus and in the city of Oxford.

The Passport parking app is available both on campus and throughout Oxford.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and the city of Oxford are launching the PassportParking app this month, giving drivers the luxury of paying for parking from their smartphone. Passport will be available at all metered spaces on campus and throughout the city.

The app is designed to make driving around the Oxford area more convenient by allowing drivers to use a smartphone or tablet to pay for a parking session, rather than pulling out change or a credit card after parking.

“The city of Oxford has been working toward improvements in our parking program, so the addition of a mobile payment option was a natural progression for us,” said Matt Davis, Oxford parking director. “We found Passport to be the best solution for our parking environment, and with the launch at Ole Miss, it makes this transition seamless.”

The app also sends reminder notifications to drivers before the end of their parking sessions so they have a chance to extend the session and avoid parking tickets. It also keeps track of all user parking history.

“Having the city introduce the same Passport mobile technology as our campus was important to us,” said Mike Harris, UM director of parking and transportation. “Once we decided that we wanted to offer this option for our meters on campus, it made sense to provide the same service citywide from the leader in mobile payments.”

Users can download the free PassportParking app from the iPhone App Store or Android GooglePlay. Following the sign-up process, drivers can type in the zone number found on a parking meter. The zone for campus is 401. Accounts can be managed at

“When we can bring a solution across a city as well as its university’s campus, it’s very exciting,” said Nathan Berry, vice president of sales at Passport. “We’re looking forward to introducing this parking solution to the city of Oxford and the University of Mississippi.”

UM Student Housing Day of Service Benefits L-O-U Community

Assistants-in-training visit, help local organizations in annual event

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM Student Housing Day of Service volunteer Giovanni Lavermicocca Ciccone examines a large earthworm he unearthed while weeding in the Oxford Boys and Girls Club garden. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Unfazed by severe thunderstorms that moved through the area much of the day, 138 University of Mississippi students visited several local organizations Friday afternoon (Aug. 7) to help beautify facilities and assist staff members with their duties.

The UM Student Housing Day of Service involved all community assistants-in-training in volunteer efforts around the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. Organizations participating in the annual event included the Oxford Police Department, Oxford Park Commission, Lake Stephens United Methodist Camp, North Mississippi Regional Center, U.S. Corps of Engineers at Sardis Lake, Veterans Administration Home, Oxford Boys and Girls Club, Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Hermitage Gardens Assisted Living Facility, Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network and the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.

“This is our third year that we will have done a day of service as a community assistant team,” said Scott Oliver, UM assistant director of student housing-residential learning. “We started it the year that we instituted the residential curriculum because service is one of the common strategies that we believe supports engaged scholarship and responsible citizenship. We ask out our community assistants to both know the way and also to show the way.”

This is the second year that UM has partnered with Volunteer Oxford to coordinate events and activities. Ten teams, led by two student leaders each, participated in such scheduled activities as posting signs, picking up trash, planting flowers, weeding gardens, playing Bingo, dancing, stuffing envelopes and painting both fences and fingernails.

Some of the CAs said that the Day of Service is more than just a welcome departure from their summer leisure.

“This program has really shown me the importance of community service,” said Jalen Neal, a senior political science major from Shaw. “The Day of Service impacts the people in the community, and it also shows us as students just what a positive difference we can make in the world surrounding us while we’re yet in school.”

Christian Robinson, a pharmacy student in his first year of the professional program, agreed.

“Last year was amazing,” said Robinson, of Atlanta. “As we CAs went to a local nursing home, we really bonded. Seeing how much it meant to the residents for us to spend time with them was a truly great experience. I anticipate this year’s will be even better.”

Emily Schneider, a junior from Memphis, Tennessee, majoring in integrated marketing communications, said the event is another way for her to connect with the close-knit student housing community.

“We’re really like a family,” said Schneider, who moved to Memphis from her native New Jersey. “Volunteering in the community is nice because it allows me to give back to the town that has embraced and welcomed me.”

A Boys and Girls Club representative said the presence and work of UM student volunteers definitely contributes to the program’s success.

“We’re very fortunate to have UM students to voluntarily work with us,” said Amy Goodin, unit director. “Because the university and Oxford are so integrated, it really means a lot. We’re very thankful for the help.”