UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

The business (including accounting) and engineering programs were also ranked nationally.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by CollegeMagazine.com)
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among both public and private colleges in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

University Launches LiveSafe Mobile App

Resource available for free download for all students, faculty and staff

The LiveSafe mobile app is now available for the Ole Miss community. Photo by Mary Knight University Communcaitions

The LiveSafe mobile app is available for the Ole Miss community. Photo by Mary Knight/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has partnered with the mobile safety communications platform LiveSafe to offer Ole Miss students, faculty and staff a tool for real-time security communication.

The app, available for free download for iOS in the App Store and for Android on Google Play, will allow the campus community to report nonemergency tips including threats, disturbances, assaults, theft, stalking, suspicious activity, drug and alcohol abuse and traffic and parking issues, among others.

Users of the app can include a picture, video or audio clip when submitting their tip, which can be anonymous. Once someone reports a tip through the app, the appropriate department will respond based on the tip type. A chat option is also available through the app to allow direct and immediate communication with on-campus resource officers. Full instructions for the app are available at olemiss.edu/livesafe.

“We want everyone to download the app immediately and begin using it as a personal safety tool,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Additionally, community members are always encouraged to report concerns to the police or other appropriate authorities so swift action can be taken.”

Another feature of the app is called SafeWalk, which allows users to virtually walk their families and friends home using GPS-enabled location technology.

Ole Miss students tested the app last week, noting the safety benefits of the various aspects of the app.

“I used to live on campus and walk long distances at night by myself, so it’s really nice to know that I can have friends keep an eye on me and they can call someone if I can’t,” said Elizabeth Romary, a senior international studies and Spanish major from Hillsborough, North Carolina.

LiveSafe was founded nearly five years ago by a survivor of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech with the intent of fostering safe and secure campus environments. The app is used by more than 130 colleges and universities.

“LiveSafe is excited to partner with Ole Miss to take the important step of providing a groundbreaking safety and prevention tool for all students, faculty and staff,” LiveSafe CEO Carolyn Parent said. “Utilizing LiveSafe demonstrates Ole Miss’s commitment to safety and makes them a leader in the education market providing higher duty of care for their community.”

The university will use the app to send RebAlerts and safety information to the campus community.

UM also has launched a website called UMatter, which serves as a support site for students, faculty and staff to provide assistance to peers and colleagues who may be in distress. Through the website, individuals can report concerns or gain access to support for problems ranging from physical and mental health issues to financial hardships, and concerning behavioral issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

To view all available resources, visit http://umatter.olemiss.edu/.

UM Creative Writing Program Ranked Among Nation’s Top 10

Award-winning authors, talented students, unique opportunities key elements in latest recognition

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has just been ranked in the "Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers" by CollegeMagazine.com. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has been ranked among the 10 vest programs for aspiring writers by CollegeMagazine.com. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a decade ago, the University of Mississippi was ranked as one of five “Up-and-Coming” Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs by The Atlantic magazine.

Apparently, the program is reaching its full potential, with UM recently being named a “Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers” by CollegeMagazine.com.

“I am extremely happy for our English department, MFA program and our current and former students,” said Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and MFA program director. “A lot of this foundation was laid well before I arrived here four years ago in Barry Hannah’s vision for the program, Beth Ann Fennelly’s dedication as our long-standing director and the full support of Ivo Kamps, our extremely supportive chair.”

At No. 6, the university is ahead of such prestigious rival institutions as the University of Virginia, Emory University, the University of Chicago and New York University. Ranked ahead of UM are Wesleyan University, the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University and the University of Iowa.

“Ole Miss boasts of notable alumni John Grisham and William Faulkner and tries to re-create the literary geniuses their programs housed in the past,” wrote CollegeMagazine.com author Isabella Senzamici. “The Creative Writing program admits only a small amount of students so each student receives optimal attention. Their student publication, The Yalobusha Review, an online journal that breaks the traditional norms of mainstream media, is considered one of the best student publications in the nation.”

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing Program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM students transform their passion for writing into a catalyst for social change, Senzamici wrote.

They teach community writing workshops, read at retirement homes and judge writing contests to help budding writers understand the value and impact of their words. Ole Miss equips students with the Oxford Conference for the Book, a program that puts writers and students in contact with an author they admire or helps market their writing collections.”

Kamps said he was excited to read the College Magazine piece because it confirms the upward trajectory of the university’s writing program.

“We have an extraordinary group of creative writers on the faculty, and our students know it,” he said. “Our entire faculty is dedicated to the success of the students. The recent addition of Kiese Laymon and Melissa Ginsburg only confirms that.”

While numbers and rankings aren’t everything, it does mean a lot for UM as a fairly young program, Hariell said.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as long-established programs is something we can hang our hat on,” he said. “Additionally, we can share this information with prospective students in hopes to continue improving our recruitment efforts.”

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

The latest news comes as verification that UM’s program is doing everything right, Fennelly said.

“For many years, we’ve believed that what has been happening in our classrooms, with our students, is very, very special,” said the award-winning poet, professor of English and Mississippi poet laureate. “But of course, it’s nice to have the confirmation! All I know is, our mojo is working. And this year, I’m happy knowing in his (Harriell’s) hands, our program will grow even stronger.”

Poets and fiction writing students in the MFA program were also ecstatic to learn about the ranking.

“I’m not at all surprised to find Mississippi ranked so highly, but I’m absolutely thrilled by it, mostly because it’s a recognition of how hard our faculty and staff work to make this an incredible place to be educated as a writer, and of all the remarkable and exciting work my colleagues are doing,” said Molly Brown, a third-year poet from Amherst, Virginia.

“From the moment I arrived in Oxford, this place, and these people, have been on my team in every conceivable way. My colleagues and my teachers have made me want to be better and do better work every day.”

Fellow student Matt Kessler agreed.

“I knew I would receive a great writing education, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d also learn about literature and about how to teach,” said Kessler, a third-year fiction writer from Chicago. “That’s what I’m excited about: the quality of the writing that my classmates and teachers have shared with me.”

Since the Ole Miss program was launched in 2000, it has stayed small and selective, attracted outstanding students, retained its exceptional faculty and been supported financially by generous benefactors such as John and Renee Grisham.

For several years, students in the program have garnered inclusion in “Best New American Voices,” an anthology of the best of fiction workshops across the country. Other student recognition includes the Association of Writing Programs Intro Award for Non-Fiction, the Iron Horse Discovery Award for Poetry, the Best American Poetry award and publication in a number of national magazines.

Locally, the MFA program was also awarded a Graduate Schools Diversity Award a couple of years ago.

For more information about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit http://mfaenglish.olemiss.edu/.

Campus Event to Help Community Prepare for Disaster

Students urged to check out first-ever UM ReadyCampus on Wednesday

Mississippi's tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

Mississippi’s tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

OXFORD, Miss. – As November approaches, the beginning of another tornado season threatens the South. On Wednesday (Oct. 19), an interactive campus disaster preparedness event will help University of Mississippi students and employees prepare for the worst.

ReadyCampus, a Federal Emergency Management Agencysponsored event, is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Ole Miss Student Union plaza. The event is designed to educate students, faculty and staff through interactive and informational booths as well as a disaster response vehicle.

“This is a campuswide preparedness event, and ReadyCampus is a keystone program for FEMA,” said Barbra Russo, the university’s emergency management coordinator. “They are excited we are hosting it for the first time at Ole Miss.”

Booth sponsors include the American Red Cross, National Weather Service Memphis, Oxford Police Department, Oxford Emergency Management, University of Mississippi Medical Center Emergency Management, Mississippi Department of Homeland Security, and the UM Emergency Management Services and Clinical-Disaster Research Center.

Stefan E. Schulenberg, UM professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center, conducted the most recent disaster preparedness survey this past spring.

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“It is through this kind of preparation that we can help people and communities to be empowered when adversity occurs on a large scale,” Schulenberg said. “We know from the data we’ve collected that many students at UM are not prepared for the wide range of disasters that may occur.”

Unknown to many UM students, Oxford is near the New Madrid earthquake fault. To promote earthquake awareness, the Great American ShakeOut Drill will occur the following day (Oct. 20) at 10:20 a.m.

The drill, occurring at universities, businesses and schools across the nation that day, will prepare students how to protect themselves and others, survive and recover rapidly.

“We are hoping to change the awareness by educating, motivating, and inspiring our students, as well as our faculty and staff,” Schulenberg said. “Disaster preparedness is something that we can do together as a means of building a stronger, more resilient community.”

For more information follow #ReadyRebs on social media or visit https://www.ready.gov/campus.

Sixteen UM Students Awarded Engineering Scholarships

Scholars are recipients of prestigious Brevard, John G. Adler and Harper Johnson awards

Sixteen UM freshmen have been awarded engineering scholarships this fall. They are (front row, from left: Katelyn Franklin, Olivia Lanum, Jordan Wescovich, Taylor Bush, Katie McLain, Maria Zamora, Sarah Berry, Lane Colquett, (back row, from left) Chris Zhao, James Spalding, Donald Hopper, John Owen Upshaw, Irwin Nelson, Brennan Canton, Alexander King and Cole Borek.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Sixteen UM freshmen have been awarded engineering scholarships this fall. They are (front row, from left: Katelyn Franklin, Olivia Lanum, Jordan Wescovich, Taylor Bush, Katie McLain, Maria Zamora, Sarah Berry, Lane Colquett, (back row, from left) Chris Zhao, James Spalding, Donald Hopper, John Owen Upshaw, Irwin Nelson, Brennan Canton, Alexander King and Cole Borek.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Sixteen University of Mississippi students have been named as recipients of major scholarships this fall in the School of Engineering.

Representing Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, they are this year’s Brevard, John G. Adler and Harper Johnson scholars. This exceptional group of students posted an average ACT score of 32.3 and an average 3.92 high school grade-point average.

“Each year, our incoming classes increase in quality and quantity,” Dean Alex Cheng said. “These students are just a sample of the outstanding students choosing to enroll at the university and pursue a degree within the School of Engineering.”

“Receiving the Brevard scholarship is really what sealed the deal for me,” said Jordan Wescovich, a chemical engineering major from Ocean Springs. “I realized that Ole Miss engineering really wanted me in Oxford, and that the flagship university is where I truly belonged.

“I knew that engineering at Ole Miss would give me the attention and tight-knit community that I would need to succeed. The uniqueness of Ole Miss’s engineering program appealed to me much more than being just another number in a huge engineering program.”

A National Merit Finalist, Wescovich was named salutatorian and STAR student at St. Martin High School. She was junior class president, captain of the quiz bowl team and member of the golf team. She is also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Additional recipients of the Brevard Engineering Scholarship are Sarah Kathryn Berry of Brandon, Brennan Canton of Jackson, Katelyn Franklin of Ocean Springs, Alexander King of Booneville, Olivia Lanum of Brandon, James Spalding of Gulfport, John Owen Upshaw of Vicksburg and Yucheng “Chris” Zhao of Oxford.

Berry participated in the 2015 Lott Leadership Institute from Northwest Rankin High School, where she was named to the Hall of Fame. She was captain of the swim team and vice president of the National Honor Society. She is pursuing a degree in general engineering as a member of the Honors College.

Canton was a member of the National Honor Society at Jackson Academy as well as the JA football, soccer and cross country teams. He was also a participant in the 2015 Heads in the Game summer research program at Ole Miss. He plans to pursue a degree in general engineering.

Franklin was home-schooled and participated in the 2016 National SeaPerch Challenge underwater robotics competition and the 2016 Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program at the Stennis Space Center. She will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering as part of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence program.

Named STAR student at New Site High School, King was a member of the Technology Student Association and attended Mississippi Governor’s School. He plans to study computer science as part of the Honors College.

Lanum was home-schooled and earned membership in Eta Sigma Alpha honor society and the National Society of High School Scholars. Active in the FIRST Robotics Competition, she received the Robot Design Award and has volunteered in various roles with the organization. She is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering in the CME and is a Provost Scholar.

Spalding ranked sixth in his class at Gulfport High School, where he received the AP Scholar Award. He was also a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and the golf team. He plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College and the CME.

Upshaw, a graduate of St. Aloysius High School, served as treasurer of the National Honor Society, secretary of the Key Club and captain of the football and basketball teams. He also received the St. Aloysius Service Award. He is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Commended Scholar and AP Scholar, Zhao was co-captain of the Science Olympaid team at Oxford High School. He was also a member of the Math and Science Club and debate team. He plans to pursue a degree in computer science as part of the Honors College.

Recipients of the Adler Engineering Scholarship are Donald Hopper of Oxford, Alabama; Katie McLain of Alexandria, Louisiana; Irwin Nelson of Hattiesburg; and Maria Zamora of Clinton.

Salutatorian of his class at Oxford High School, Hopper attended Alabama Boys State and participated in Youth Leadership Calhoun County. He was a member of the varsity baseball team. He is pursuing a degree in general engineering as part of the Honors College.

An AP Scholar, McLain graduated in the top 10 percent of her class at Alexandria Senior High School. She was a member of the student council and the cheerleading squad. She plans to pursue a degree in geological engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Commended Scholar, Nelson served as president of the Latin Honor Society and was a member of the cross country, track and soccer teams. He is pursuing a degree in general engineering.

Zamora ranked fourth in her class and served as vice president of the National Honor Society at Clinton High School and participated in the Mississippi Math and Science Tournament. She is planning to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Recipients of the Harper Johnson Engineering Scholarship are Brandon Cole Borek of Senatobia, and Taylor Bush and Virginia Lane Colquett, both of Greenwood.

A graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Borek served as an MSMS emissary and an SGA senator for two years. He also received the Spirit of MSMS Award. He plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Bush graduated from Pillow Academy, where she was valedictorian and STAR student. She was a member of Young Emerging Leaders of Leflore and also named to the Hall of Fame. She plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as a Provost Scholar.

Ranked in the top 10 percent of her class, Colquett graduated from Pillow Academy as a member of MAIS National Honor Society and the Hall of Fame. She served as president of Mu Alpha Theta and the Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists Club. She is pursuing a degree in general engineering as a Provost Scholar.

Campaign Honors Chancellor through Academic Support

'Invest in Ole Miss' celebrates a new era under Vitter's leadership

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A new fundraising campaign – Invest in Ole Miss – is celebrating a University of Mississippi milestone while building support for academics.

Campaign administrators say Invest in Ole Miss honors the Nov. 10 investiture of Jeffrey S. Vitter, the university’s 17th chancellor, by increasing resources in the Ole Miss Fund, the reserve of unrestricted financial contributions that supports the university’s schools and colleges at the deans’ discretion.

The campaign welcomes Vitter in this new chapter in the life of the university, recognizing the growth and progress taking place, said Barbara Daush, regional development officer at the UM Foundation.

“The Invest in Ole Miss campaign capitalizes on Chancellor Vitter’s first year,” she said. “We wanted to use the themes of his investiture to commemorate the new, exciting opportunities that it brings.

“Annual giving is the foundation of all giving for the university, a way to engage all donors to invest in the needs of the institution. This year, we decided to utilize the crowdfunding platform Ignite Ole Miss to attract support for the Ole Miss Fund.”

Specifically, contributions will help increase educational opportunities, employ new faculty and form on-campus programs.

“Private giving, especially in the form of unrestricted support, is critical to the day-to-day operation and progress of our university,” said Noel Wilkin, senior associate provost. “This new era in the history of Ole Miss provides the perfect opportunity to engage our ever-generous alumni and friends.”

Addi McNutt, a junior mechanical engineering major from Decatur, Alabama, said she chose to attend Ole Miss after being offered a scholarship funded by a private gift from UM benefactors.

“It speaks volumes to have such a nationally recognized academic leader like Chancellor Vitter invested in the well-being of Ole Miss students,” McNutt said. “His time at our university will be a milestone for us in terms of continued growth and greater unity on the Oxford campus.”

Ignite’s crowdfunding platform enables donors to support the university by offering support to specific needs on campus.

“By contributing to the Invest in Ole Miss campaign through Ignite, alumni and friends can take an active role in the future of the university and celebrate our new leader and his family,” said Angie Avery, project director.

“This is an exciting time at the university, and there is unlimited potential when we come together with our gifts to bolster programs. We encourage everyone to participate and we thank those who already have.”

Thirteen giving levels were designated to reflect points of interest about the chancellor and the university, Avery said. For example, donors could contribute $17 in honor of Vitter becoming the university’s 17th chancellor, $500 to commemorate his 500+ connections on LinkedIn or $1029 to mark the day (Oct. 29, 2015) Vitter was named chancellor.

For more information on Invest in Ole Miss, visit Ignite Ole Miss or contact Avery at aavery@olemiss.edu.

The public investiture formally marking Chancellor Vitter’s leadership of the university is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 10 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. To find out more, visit http://inauguration.olemiss.edu.

Students Gain Valuable Experience During Summer in Bolivia

Croft Institute, sociology and anthropology faculty start field school as study abroad opportunity

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between the University of Mississippi and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between UM and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

OXFORD, Miss. – Eight University of Mississippi students immersed themselves in the culture and history of Bolivia this summer as they explored ethnography, the study of the customs of people groups and cultures, and social scientific methods, all against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

Victoria Burrow, a junior from Pascagoula; Allie Gersdorf, a senior from Grossenaspe, Germany; Andrew Hayes, a senior from Saltillo; Caroline Malatesta, of Lyon, who graduated in August; Sarah Meeks, a junior from Madison; Thomas Moorman, a senior from Madison; Lizzy Pitts, a senior from Indianola;  and Alexis Smith, a junior from Picayune, spent four weeks in the South American nation.

Their time there included intensive hands-on training in the social scientific and ethnographic fields under the supervision of Kate M. Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies, and Miguel Centellas, Croft instructional assistant professor of sociology.

“Bolivia is a fascinating place, very dynamic and diverse, so there are plenty of opportunities for a range of interests,” Kate Centellas said. “We also strongly value service learning and international experience, and we were particularly happy that a partner NGO, Fundación Suyana, took us to visit some of the families in the rural Altiplano that had benefited from their health promotion projects.

“This visit was powerful for our students and made the importance of social science research real for them in terms of how it can be applied to impact peoples’ lives for the better.”

The Bolivia Field School allows students to travel to La Paz, conduct individual research and study the politics, history and culture of the Andes through active and experimental learning.

The UM students used the Bolivia culture as a case study. Specifically, they studied the impact and implications Spanish colonization had on the culture and languages of South America.

The experience was particularly fulfilling for Pitts, who is majoring in Spanish and liberal studies with minors in society and population health, biology, and chemistry. Because Pitts is from the “flatlands of the Mississippi Delta,” she always found mountains appealing, and that is what initially drew her to the Bolivia program, she said.

The campus culture at Ole Miss prepared her well for studying abroad, Pitts said.

“It taught me to love strangers more than I thought was possible; to embrace others for who they are despite our differences in political views, race, gender identification, sexual orientation or religion,” she said. “It taught me how to find joy in the difficult times when we blew big football games; it taught me to listen when others are speaking; it taught me to deal with adversity and move forward confidently.

“All of my experiences helped prepare me because Ole Miss prepares you for life outside of school and our quaint bubble of Oxford.”

Kate and Miguel Centellas founded the Bolivia Field School, which they co-run, in 2010. The school is in partnership with UM and the Universidad Católica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz, where Miguel Centellas serves as the co-director of the joint program.

“The field school in La Paz, Bolivia, is an excellent study abroad opportunity for students who wish to gain hands-on research training in a range of social scientific research methods,” said Kirsten Dellinger, UM chair and professor of sociology and anthropology. “This program reflects our dedication to in-depth methodological training, engaged learning and global citizenship.”

The program’s goal is to provide students with firsthand experiences with archives, nongovernmental organizations and research institutions while developing a research project, Kate Centellas said.

The work “is a shining example of the role faculty should be playing in university efforts to internationalize our curriculum,” Dellinger said.

The Croft Institute for International Studies, where both professors work, is a rigorous undergraduate program geared for students majoring in international studies and who are interested in developing an understanding extending beyond the borders of the United States.

Students choose a foreign language to specialize in, then a corresponding region and finally a focus, such as economics, politics or culture. Students in Croft are required to study abroad in their country of study for a semester.

Both Kate and Miguel Centellas are working to return to Bolivia in summer 2017 and include new opportunities for students, such as working in a rural health clinic.

Any undergraduates interested in the Bolivia Field School should contact Kate or Miguel Centellas at kmcentel@olemiss.edu or mcentell@olemiss.edu. Information can also be found at the Study Abroard office in Martindale Hall.

UM Engineering Senior Named Top 10 Army ROTC Cadet

Dustin Dykes follows award-winning path established 30 years ago by his father

UM Army ROTC senior Dustin Dykes (left) shares a moment with Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, Commander of the Army’s Cadet Command during the recent luncheon. (Submitted photo)

UM Army ROTC senior Dustin Dykes (left) shares a moment with Maj. Gen. Christopher Hughes, Commander of the Army’s Cadet Command during the recent luncheon. (Submitted photo)

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi engineering student is among the U.S. Army Cadet Command’s Top 10 graduates for 2017.

Dustin Dykes, a senior mechanical engineering major from Madison, Alabama, placed No. 9 on the list, outranking more than 5,000 other military seniors nationwide. Criteria included academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities.

Dykes also has been awarded the Association of United States Army’s Army ROTC Cadet of the Year Award for 2016. He flew to Washington, D.C., recently to receive the $4,000 scholarship.

“I was overjoyed and very surprised upon learning I had been selected as the winner of the AUSA Army ROTC scholarship,” said Dykes, who after commissioning in May will begin active duty with the long-term goal of selection to the Army Aviation Corps. “I was surprised again a couple weeks later when I was informed I was among the top 10 cadets in the country.”

As Dykes called and texted his family to share the news, he was bombarded by congratulatory texts and social media posts from friends.

“It is a great feeling, having that kind of support from my family, church, ROTC and engineering friends,” he said.

It is an enormous honor for Ole Miss Army ROTC, which also had three other seniors in the top 10 percent of the graduating class, that U.S. Army Cadet Command recognized Dykes, said Lt. Col. Scott Walton, UM professor of military science and chair of Army ROTC.

“His outstanding performance in academics, physical fitness, leadership, and military and civilian extracurricular activities has been noticed and has served as an example for other cadets to emulate,” Walton said. “It has been an honor to mentor Dustin these last four years, and he will have a profound impact on others as an Army officer on active duty.”

A four-year Army ROTC National Scholarship recipient, Dykes maintains a perfect 4.0 grade-point average and is ranked No. 1 both in his engineering class of 88 students and among the 22 senior Army ROTC cadets.

Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo

Dustin Dykes (left) shares a proud moment with his dad, David. Submitted photo

“Army ROTC is something I knew I wanted to do fairly early in my childhood,” Dykes said. “Growing up as the son of an Army officer who flew helicopters, I easily had a role model to look up to. The great thing was my parents never pressured me into ROTC, and it was a decision I was allowed to pursue on my own.

“ROTC has taught me leadership, time management, and has provided me with a sense of belonging the past three-and-a-half years.”

Dykes’ academic achievements include being a member of the Phi Kappa Phi and Tau Beta Pi honor societies, and he made the Chancellor’s List all seven semesters he has attended UM.

“I actually started at Ole Miss majoring in forensic chemistry, but early in my freshman year, I had this nagging feeling that it wasn’t my true calling and I wasn’t enjoying my classes as much as I knew I could,” he said.

“The one class I was incredibly passionate about was calculus. Combining that passion for calculus with my interest in aviation, I soon switched my major to mechanical engineering. It was easily the most important and positive decision I made in college.”

Dykes is shining example of leadership, patriotism and scholarship, agreed faculty members and administrators in the School of Engineering.

“Dustin Dykes has always been a model student and a model student leader,” said Arunachalum “Raj” Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “It is not surprising to see him as a model cadet also. As a former U.S. Army scientist, I absolutely believe Dustin will continue to be a distinguished member of the military in a fabulous career.”

Coincidentally, Dykes is not the first person is his family to attend UM and be nationally recognized for exceptional leadership in ROTC. David Dykes, a 1986 chemical engineering graduate and Dustin’s father, won the 1986 Hughes Trophy Award as the top Army ROTC cadet in the nation.

“Pat, a 1983 UM alum with a B.S. in accounting, and I feel blessed and are both very proud of Dustin receiving this recognition,” said David Dykes, program manager within Army Operations and Modernization at Science Applications International Corp. in Huntsville, Alabama. “He has put forth a tremendous amount of mental and physical effort to get to this point.

“In addition to his academic accomplishments, over the last three years, he has also trained with the German Army, graduated from the U.S. Army’s Air Assault School as the honor graduate and interned with an aviation battalion in Korea.”

Dustin’s older sister, Danielle Dykes, earned her bachelor’s degree in forensic chemistry from UM in 2013. The younger Dykes admitted to being a bit nervous joining Army ROTC at Ole Miss.

“I knew how much I had to live up to given my father’s achievements when he was at Ole Miss, especially as he is the only Ole Miss ROTC alumni to have won the Hughes Trophy,” Dustin Dykes said. “As a freshman walking onto campus, I immediately set the bar high and set goals I knew would be difficult to achieve, but that I would hold myself to.”

During his undergraduate tenure, Dykes said he achieved many of his goals.

“To be able to extend my father’s legacy, as well as that of Army ROTC and the Ole Miss School of Engineering, is an amazing feeling,” he said. “More importantly, I have proven to myself what I am capable of and what I have to strive for the rest of my time at Ole Miss.”

The elder Dykes said he understands his son’s initial mixed feelings.

“Much of my decision to pursue engineering and ROTC was based on my desire to follow my father and mother into an engineering career, and my father into the military,” David Dykes said. “I felt that an engineering degree would best prepare me to serve my country in a technical field such as Army Aviation or the Corps of Engineers.”

For more about the UM School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/. For more information on UM Army ROTC, visit http://arotc.olemiss.edu/.

Nominations Sought for 2017 Common Reading Experience

Community invited to suggest books for next year's freshman class

2016 Orientation leaders pass out copies of this year’s Common Reading Experience selection, ‘Ten Little Indians.' Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

2016 Orientation leaders pass out copies of this year’s Common Reading Experience selection, ‘Ten Little Indians.’ Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Read any good books lately that you think others would enjoy? If so, now is the time to share your recommendations, as nominations are being accepted for the 2017 Common Reading Experience at the University of Mississippi.

Faculty, staff and students, as well as alumni and anyone in the greater Oxford community, are invited to take part in the selection process by nominating a suggested title.

This will be the seventh year for the project, which provides all incoming freshmen and transfer students with the selected book, with the requirement that it be read before the fall semester begins. The text is then used during classes across the curriculum for discussion, enriching a sense of community among classmates.

The larger university family, including faculty and staff, are also encouraged to read the book.

“There are a thousand ways for students to learn, from downloads to blogs,” said Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African-American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee.

“But books will always be the cornerstone of their college experience. And by assembling a diverse group of interested parties from across the campus, we’re guaranteed to select a memorable book with broad appeal.”

The selection committee meets weekly from mid-October through January to discuss all suggestions and finalize a recommendation. Nominations can be made via the online form at http://umreads.olemiss.edu/suggest-a-book/ until Nov. 11.

Variety is important, so recommendations from diverse people are encouraged. A few key qualities of desirable books are that they are less than 400 pages, available in paperback, written by a living author, published within the last five years and accessible to both students and community readers.

The 2016 Common Reading Experience selection is “Ten Little Indians,” written by Sherman Alexie. Previous selections include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” by Rebecca Skloot (2011), “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter,” by UM professor Tom Franklin (2012), “The Unforgiving Minute: A Soldier’s Education” by Craig Mullaney (2013), “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan (2014) and “The Education of a Lifetime” (2015), a memoir by UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat.

“Reading and the exchange of ideas are at the heart of learning, especially in higher education,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and committee co-chair. “The Common Reading Experience provides opportunities for students, faculty and staff to engage in discussions about one book and one author.

“The experience strengthens the overall academic atmosphere of the university, connects students to peers and instructors, and provides a variety of programs and events that are linked to the selected book. It’s one of many efforts to enrich new students’ first year at the University of Mississippi.”

Anthropology Class Digs for Evidence of Slave Life

Public invited to see progress on Rowan Oak excavations Oct. 15

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The public is invited to see archaeological work going on at Rowan Oak on Oct. 15. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi research group and the Center for Archaeological Research are conducting an archaeological investigation on the grounds of Rowan Oak in a search for evidence of slave life.

The public is invited to see the progress at the site Saturday (Oct. 15) during Public Archaeology Day.

The UM Slavery Research Group is interested in the pre-Faulkner era of the property, which was built in the late 1840s by Oxford settler and slaveholder Robert Sheegog. A census in 1850 showed nine slaves lived on the Sheegog Estate, yet there is no evidence of how they lived.

The archaeological excavation is being conducted this semester by UM students under the direction of Tony Boudreaux, associate professor of anthropology and director of the center, and Maureen Meyers, assistant professor of anthropology. It examines seven acres of cleared land surrounding the house at Rowan Oak.

“We want to build a context of the university during the 19th century,” Boudreaux said. “We know a little about the big stuff, but the day-to-day aspects of living falls away. My hope is this adds more information to Rowan Oak’s story during the period of time before the Civil War.”

Students began their research by surveying the land and performing shovel tests, digging shallow holes to find intact deposits before further excavations, every 10 meters. These tests have resulted in several findings, including pieces of glass, ceramic, coal and brick.

In the coming weeks, areas of artifact concentrations will be excavated intensively to try to identify remains of structures. Students will then sort, identify and analyze their findings, which also includes archival research at the Lafayette County Courthouse of land deeds and Sheegog’s will.

“You get a different level of education across the board,” said Allie Smith, a UM graduate student from Fort Payne, Alabama. “All the students are getting a taste of the different aspects of archaeology.”

The public can learn more about the excavation and the search for slave quarters from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday on the Rowan Oak grounds. The admission fee to the house will be waived for visitors that day, but donations will still be accepted.

“This project is an opportunity to better understand the role of slavery in Oxford and beyond, and it is the first systematic attempt to archaeologically identify the remains of slavery on university grounds in the Deep South,” said Chuck Ross, the group co-chair, director of African-American studies and professor of history.

“UM has the potential to be the first school in the Deep South to take on this important work.”

In conjunction with the archaeology event, the University Museum will host a Let’s Move Family Activity Day, where children of all ages can explore art and nature by making their way through the museum and to Rowan Oak by way of the Bailey Woods Trail. The free activity runs from 10 a.m. to noon, and no pre-registration is needed.

Parking at Rowan Oak is limited. To accommodate overflow, shuttle transportation will be available from the Old Taylor Lot. Restrooms will also be available onsite.

For more information about the excavation, visit http://car.olemiss.edu. To keep up with the latest information from the UM Slavery Research Group, follow it on Facebook and Twitter.