UM Welcomes Most Accomplished Freshmen Class Ever

State's flagship university celebrates record enrollment as it builds for future

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Students head to class at the University of Mississippi, which has experienced record enrollment again this year. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has recorded its 22nd consecutive year of rising enrollment, registering its largest and most academically qualified freshman class ever.

Enrollment at the state’s flagship university hit 24,250 across all campuses, largest in the state, according to preliminary data. The freshman class of 3,982 students posted an average ACT score of 25.2, surpassing the UM record of 24.7, set last year.

“Students and families across the state and nation are noticing that great things are happening here at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “They recognize the academic excellence and outstanding college experience we offer and continue to join us in record numbers.

“Our faculty and staff work very hard to deliver the very best academic programs at a competitive price, providing all qualified Mississippi students the educational opportunities to transform their lives and our communities. It’s gratifying to see those efforts acknowledged by a growing Ole Miss family.”

Total enrollment is up 412 students, or 1.7 percent, from last fall.

This year’s first-time students include 87 class valedictorians, 54 salutatorians, 94 student body presidents, 92 Eagle Scouts and 13 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the organization’s highest youth honor.

“Our university has a long history of attracting and developing student leaders,” Vitter said. “We offer them valuable experiences and help them hone their talents.

“I look forward to seeing what this talented group of freshmen can accomplish. I fully expect them to have a tremendous impact on our local and global communities during their time here and beyond.”

The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 last year to 3.57, another university record.

The group bucked declines in average ACT scores both nationally and on the state level. Among new freshmen from Mississippi, this year’s average was 24.8, up from last fall’s 24.4.

The progress in freshman ACT scores actually has been maintained over the past nine years, growing 2.5 points over that span. Several factors have contributed to that success, Provost Morris Stocks said.

“We offer more and more outstanding programs for excellent students,” Stocks said. “For example, the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program is now admitting 30 students per year. These are honors-quality students planning to be teachers, and they have committed to teach in Mississippi upon graduation.

“Then there’s the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, which brings in 60 top-level freshmen each year who are interested in the intersection of engineering, business and accounting. And over at the School of Accountancy, we’re admitting more students with ACT scores over 30 than we’ve ever had, and a lot of that stems from the school being ranked in the Top 10 for several years in a row now.”

Stocks also cited the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies, Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Arabic language and Provost’s Scholars programs for helping attract more high-achieving students. The university also offers more top-level scholarships, such as the Stamps Leadership Scholarships, than in the past, he said.

“We’re now competing against the best universities in the country for the best students in the country,” Stocks said. “At the same time, we remain committed to educating the people of Mississippi and giving all qualified Mississippi students a chance to succeed and make better lives for themselves and their families.”

The university’s efforts to help new students adjust to college life and be successful – including FASTrack and the Freshman Year Experience program – also continue to pay dividends. Student retention remained near record levels, with 85.3 percent of last year’s freshmen returning to campus to continue their studies this fall.

The majority, 59.4 percent, of Ole Miss students are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties. The university also attracts students from around the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state, the District of Columbia and 90 foreign countries.

Minority enrollment totaled 5,548 students, or 22.9 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,166 students, or 13.0 percent of overall enrollment.

With a newly expanded building, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College continues to grow, enrolling 1,420 students this fall, more than doubling over the past 10 years. It received 1,484 applications for this fall, up 15 percent from last year’s 1,293 submissions. The Honors College has a record 474 incoming freshmen, with 59 percent being Mississippi residents.

Once it settles into its new space and completes renovations on the existing facility, the Honors College has a target enrollment around 1,500 students. The new space allows faculty to broaden the challenges and opportunities for its students, Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“It gives us the physical capacity to go deep into conversation in public space,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “At a time when civil discourse is so lacking in America, we want to create a space where we can model civil debate on ideas, even ones that appear threatening.”

While many of the university’s schools and programs experienced growth, its accounting and journalism schools enjoyed the largest increases.

Enrollment in the Patterson School of Accountancy grew 9 percent, to 1,380 students this fall, compared to 1,261 last year. The school has been a mainstay in the Top 10 rankings for several years, and all three of its programs are again in the top eight this fall.

In the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, undergraduate enrollment increased 8 percent, growing from 1,375 students in fall 2015 to 1,486 this year. Founded in 2009, the school has benefited from being on a beautiful campus, with economical tuition, excellence in athletics and an exceptionally effective Office of Admissions, Dean Will Norton said.

“We have a program that focuses on preparing graduates for media careers in the modern world, not for 20 years ago, and we have a faculty who held significant positions in the media, many just within the last few years,” Norton said. “Because of this, many of them also are well-versed in social media, and they can help students master those areas.”

The school offers opportunities for students that are rare among journalism programs, he said.

“Not many places offer students a chance to do documentaries or depth reporting courses, or campaigns for companies throughout the region, but we offer all that here,” Norton said. “Our international projects also have been exceptional.”

Fall enrollment at the university’s Medical Center remained nearly level, largely because of space constraints.

“We are near or at capacity in all of our programs, with the exception of some of our online offerings,” said Dr. Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Areas enjoying growth include the School of Medicine, from 563 students to 577; the Medical Center’s residency and fellowship programs, from 626 to 640; and the School of Dentistry, from 143 to 148.

The increase should accelerate with a new 151,000-square-foot, $74 million School of Medicine building set to open in fall 2017, Didlake said. The new building “is not only going to allow the School of Medicine enrollment to increase, but it will decrease pressure on other teaching space, allowing our other programs to grow.”

Enrollment should rise dramatically in the future, including the addition of a new School of Population Health, the seventh school on the medical campus. It opens to students in fall 2017.

To help accommodate the growing student population in Oxford, the university has opened two new five-story residence halls on the former site of Guess Hall, adding housing space for 603 students.

The university has launched a three-year project to expand and modernize the Student Union and is working on a new recreation center and transportation hub, a $32 million project on the south end of campus. Work also has begun on a $20 million renovation to Garland, Hedleston and Mayes halls, providing space for the School of Applied Sciences.

The university’s new STEM building, which will add 200,000 square feet of education and research space in the Science District for an estimated $135 million, will boost the university’s capacity to address workforce needs and enhance UM’s status as a Carnegie R-1 Highest Research Activity institution.

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

Ruth Cummins of the UM Medical Center contributed to this report.

Ole Miss and Hopscotch Launch New Mobile App

Technology offers new fan-engagement capabilities

athleticsappsOXFORD, Miss. — Just in time for the college football season, Ole Miss and Hopscotch, a mobile-technology leader for sports and live events, launched a new mobile app. The Ole Miss Athletics app is free and available for immediate download on the App Store and Google Play.

“The new Ole Miss Athletics app gives Rebel fans more than just a gameday app. It gives students, alumni and fans a 24/7/365 connection to the action, the student-athletes and the school they love,” said Michael Thompson, Ole Miss Senior Associate Athletics Director, Communications & Marketing. “Hopscotch has been awesome to work with, and their technology and service is best in class.”

With the new app, Rebel fans receive:

  • All-team access: The school’s app is a one-stop shop for all men’s and women’s varsity teams. Fans can select their favorite student-athletes and teams to personalize app content.
  • Scores: Fans can access live-game scoreboards, box scores and stats via an integration with Stats.com.
  • Schedules: Fans can buy tickets to upcoming home games on their mobile devices via a Spectra integration.
  • Fan Zone: Fans can listen live on game day via a TuneIn integration and join in on trivia, polls and contests via a Lodestone Social integration.
  • Breaking news: Fans get exclusive videos, articles and photos, plus social streams.

“When it comes to the intersection of fan engagement and technology, Ole Miss is a leader in college athletics,” said Laurence Sotsky, Hopscotch Founder and CEO. “It has been a privilege to bring their vision of a best-in-class mobile experience to life.”

Hopscotch also integrated its mobile platform with DoubleClick by Google for ad serving and SSB for data warehousing and business intelligence. This gives Ole Miss new capabilities to provide each fan a more personalized experience, based on geolocation, app preferences and app behaviors.

As the multimedia rights partner of Ole Miss Athletics, IMG helped to facilitate the relationship.

“We are excited to work together with Ole Miss to develop a great technology solution that will help Rebel fans engage with the school and its athletic programs,” said Stewart Marlborough, Senior Vice President, Head of Digital, IMG College. “Hopscotch offers fans unique content that improves the viewing and game day experiences and, in turn, helps brands connect more directly to the university’s core audience.”

Hopscotch (GoHopscotch.com) is a leader in mobile-platform technology that makes it easy for colleges, sports teams and event organizers to build scalable, affordable mobile apps. The Hopscotch platform combines a feature-rich content-management system with an open-API architecture, aggregating a variety of mobile technologies into a single fan-engagement destination. Hopscotch customers include Auburn, Ole Miss, University of Central Florida and more than 35 sports teams.

IMG is a global leader in sports, events, media and fashion, operating in more than 30 countries. The company represents and manages some of the world’s greatest sports figures and fashion icons; stages hundreds of live events and branded entertainment experiences annually; and is one of the largest independent producers and distributors of sports media. IMG also specializes in sports training; league development; and marketing, media and licensing for brands, sports organizations and collegiate institutions. In 2014, IMG was acquired by WME, a leading global entertainment agency.

UM Accountancy Programs Maintain Top 10 Standing

Undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs continue string of elite rankings

Conner Hall Photo by:UM Brand Photography

Conner Hall, home of the Patterson School of Accountancy

OXFORD, Miss. – All three degree programs at the University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy are among the top 10 in the 2016 annual national rankings of accounting programs published by the journal Public Accounting Report.

The undergraduate program is ranked No. 7, the master’s program is No. 8 and the doctoral program is No. 7. The master’s and doctoral programs lead the Southeastern Conference in the rankings and the undergraduate program is second in the SEC. Each of the three degree programs has ranked first in the SEC for three of the past four years.

The Patterson School has become a mainstay on the national scene, with its programs ranked in the top 10 nationally for six consecutive years, and among the top 20 in the nation for nine straight years. The PAR has been ranking accounting programs for 35 years.

The rankings are based on a survey of accounting professors in the United States. Other undergraduate SEC programs ranked in the top 25 are Texas A&M, at No. 5; Alabama, 8; Florida, 10; Georgia, 11; Missouri, 14; and Tennessee, 23.

Among the highly ranked master’s programs are Alabama, at No. 9; Georgia, 10; Texas A&M, 11; Florida, 13; Missouri, 15; and Tennessee, 21. The doctoral rankings include Alabama, No. 8; Texas A&M, 9; Georgia, 12; Florida, 16; and Missouri, 20.

In other results, a new ranking category was established this year, which was a ranking by region.

“In the South region, we ranked No. 1 for both undergraduate and master’s programs, and would have also ranked No. 1 for doctoral programs had they been included,” Dean Mark Wilder said. “The South region, which constitutes 30 percent of the approximately 1,000 PAR votes in 2016, includes 10 states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina.”

Undergraduate and master’s program rankings for 2016 were also compiled based only on votes by professors who did not vote their own schools No. 1 in the survey. Ole Miss fared extremely well in these rankings, coming in at No. 3 nationally for both the undergraduate and master’s program. The top schools in these rankings are Texas and Brigham Young.

More than 1,000 schools in the United States offer accounting programs, and around 500 of those, including UM, are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business as being among the best accountancy and business programs in the world, said Dale Flesher, associate dean and holder of the Burns Chair of Accountancy. PAR voters who determine the rankings are influenced by several other factors that set the Patterson School apart.

“Many voters, some of whom may not know much about Ole Miss, know that the university houses the AICPA Library, the largest accountancy library in the world,” he said. “Also, a recent study showed that we are the only university of our size in the country that has every accounting class taught by a professor with CPA designation.

“The main criterion for the undergraduate and master’s rankings is success of graduates in public accounting. Therefore, having every class taught by a CPA makes it easier for students to identify with the needs of the profession.”

UM also has hosted a number of faculty from other schools in recent years, whether to visit the AICPA Library or to present their research to Ole Miss faculty and doctoral students, Wilder said.

“For example, these faculty come from places like the universities of Texas, Illinois, North Carolina and also from Ohio State and Duke,” he said. “Invariably, they all leave impressed with the quality of our faculty, students and program. They are also impressed with the collegiality of our faculty and the beauty of our campus.”

Wilder credits the school’s faculty, students and alumni for having a positive impact on its reputation.

“We have an outstanding faculty of top teachers and researchers that are also very much focused on serving and mentoring students,” he said. “Our faculty all work together toward our common goal of having one of the top accounting programs in the nation.

“The Patterson School is also fortunate to have outstanding students who go on to have phenomenal careers. The academic profile of our accountancy student body gets stronger every year, a fact that is certainly being recognized in the marketplace.”

Wilder also noted the importance of private support in the school’s successful equation.

“The successes we are enjoying are directly attributable to the loyalty and generosity of our alumni and friends,” he said. “Their support helps us to offer scholarships to attract outstanding students, to reward our faculty and to strengthen our program.

“We are grateful for their loyalty and willingness to give back to the school. It is absolutely a difference-maker for us and allows our successes to be built upon and perpetuated.”

For more information about the Patterson School of Accountancy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/accountancy/.

Dios, UM’s New K-9 Cop, to be Sworn in Sept. 6

Dog's value to UPD goes far beyond his ability to detect narcotics and other contraband

Rosa Salas pets University Police K9 Dios during Coffee with a Cop on the Union plaza. The University Police Department's new K-9 officer, Dios, will be sworn in Sept. 6. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Rosa Salas pets University Police K9 Dios during Coffee with a Cop on the Union plaza. The University Police Department’s new K-9 officer will be sworn in Sept. 6. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Police Department is getting a well-trained, sociable new officer, but this one isn’t typical. He has four feet, is covered in fur and is only a year old.

Dios, the university’s new K-9 officer, will be sworn in at a campus ceremony at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 6 in the Lyceum. The Belgian Malinois from Vohne Liche Kennels in Denver, Indiana, was certified Aug. 12 and is already working on campus.

He can handle tight spaces and large crowds, is sociable and has expert detection skills. The dog will spend about 80 percent of its time working with the community with his designated handler, Officer Justin Watson, UPD Chief Tim Potts said. Only about 20 percent of Dios’ time will be spent on training and response to police calls.

“As far as our department, we are excited for the K-9 team to return to campus,” Potts said. “While Dios will certainly provide the ability to detect narcotics where humans fail, Dios and Officer Watson will do so much more for the university.

“They will provide demonstrations and programming to our community and help to further develop the bond between our department and our community.”

The team plans presentations for the Ole Miss Department of Student Housing, as well as any other campus groups that want to learn more about the team and what it offers campus.

Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Dios and his handler will work Tuesday-Friday from 3 p.m. to midnight or 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., which is a different shift than any other UPD officer, and will also work some weekends.

The university developed a new policy on how the K-9 team will be used in residence halls, which includes collaboration with the Department of Student Housing and the university’s general counsel. The team also works with fraternities and sororities when requested.

Dios answers all drug complaints while on duty, and will be used to help assist the Oxford Police Department and the Lafayette County Sheriff’s Office. Routine patrols though the housing wings where students live are not planned at this time.

If a complaint is received, the K-9 unit will proceed to that specific location, but if Dios detects something on the property in another location, it will be noted and he will return after an initial investigation is complete.

The dog will visit residence hall lobbies on a frequent basis, Potts said.

The new K-9 officer will also be used during athletics events, but not for crowd control. Rather, he will be used only for detecting contraband.

Dios was purchased and trained with $17,285 from Ole Miss Family Leadership Council funds. He should be a valuable educational ambassador to students on behalf of UPD, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“Students will be drawn to him, then, in the process of interacting with him they will have the opportunity to learn about our campus polices related to drugs,” Hephner LaBanc said. “The core of UPD’s mission is to enhance safety – that begins with knowledge.

“Dios will provide a unique opportunity for his handler and other officers to talk with students about the dangers of drug use.”

For more information about scheduling a presentation with Dios, contact UPD at 662-915-7234.

Alumni, Friends Provide Record $194.3 Million to Support UM

Private support sustains university and propels academics, research, athletics across campuses

OXFORD, Miss. – Strong private support, primarily directed to specific programs, enables the University of Mississippi to strengthen its faculty, increase student scholarships, contribute to research discoveries and help improve health care for all ages.

Incoming freshmen assemble DNA models during Biology Bootcamp, a five-day intensive program to prepare them for BISC 160: Biological Sciences. Private giving supports academic programs such as these, as well as scholarships, faculty, outreach and more. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Incoming freshmen assemble DNA models during Biology Bootcamp, a five-day intensive program to prepare them for BISC 160: Biological Sciences. Private giving supports academic programs such as these, as well as scholarships, faculty, outreach and more. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

In the UM Foundation’s fiscal year ending June 30, private donors and foundations committed a record $194.3 million to support programs, facilities and students across all campuses.

The contributions supported academics on the Oxford campus, the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and on UM’s regional campuses throughout the state. Additionally, private giving supports Ole Miss athletics programs, facilities and student-athletes.

“The University of Mississippi has a unique role in advancing society through the discovery, creation and dissemination of knowledge,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We are so grateful for the generous donations of our loyal alumni and friends. Their support is helping us transform lives through education and elevate the quality of life for all our citizens.”

Fiscal year 2016 was bolstered by a number of major gifts: a $25 million gift to the Forward Together Campaign for athletics from Jerry “Doc” Hollingsworth of Niceville, Florida; a $20 million pledge to Batson Children’s Hospital from the Friends of Children’s; a $10 million pledge from Joe and Kathy Sanderson, of Laurel, to kick off a $100 million campaign for Children’s of Mississippi at UMMC; and a $2 million gift from the Brockman Foundation to establish a chair within the Patterson School of Accountancy in honor of the late Don Jones of Oxford.

Administrators acknowledge it’s unlikely that single gifts of this magnitude will be repeated in the 2017 fiscal year, but university development staff will be reaching out to alumni, friends, corporations and foundations to continue the fundraising success. Private support for UM has exceeded $100 million in each of the last five years.

“Private giving is vital to recruiting and retaining the nation’s best educators to teach and mentor our students,” said Alice Clark, interim vice chancellor for university relations. “Less than 15 percent of our operating revenue comes from state appropriations, so the resources provided by our generous donors are absolutely essential to reach our goals in bolstering faculty support, as well as attracting funds for student scholarships, construction, library resources and more.”

The state’s flagship university boasts the largest student body among Mississippi’s public universities, necessitating the addition of more than 200 faculty members over the next three years.

Cash gifts of all sizes combined for $118.8 million, with new pledges (as yet unrealized) adding up to more than $61 million. Donors committed more than $14 million in planned and deferred gifts to Ole Miss.

“Our fiscal 2016 private support totals are truly outstanding,” said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation, which had a five-year endowment investment return of 5.2 percent as of June 30. “However, we must continue to push even harder to meet the growing cash needs of the university.”

Donor participation on the Oxford campus increased by more than 16 percent as the number of gifts rose from 52,500 in 2015 to 55,000 in fiscal year 2016. These generous contributions from alumni, private foundations and corporations, friends, parents and others have built an endowment of more than $600 million.

Donor impact reaches every area of the university, including its Medical Center campus.

“Every gift is a stepping stone toward our goal of a healthier Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “Our generous donors took us closer to that goal this year, giving the record amount of $60 million.

“We are especially grateful to Joe and Kathy Sanderson’s capable leadership of our $100 million Children’s of Mississippi campaign and their financial gift that pushes us a long way toward our goal. Year after year, the people of Mississippi rise to the challenge in terms of giving.”

The Ole Miss Athletics Foundation also had a record year, generating $45.6 million in cash donations, breaking the previous record of $35.2 million set in 2015. With the highest-ever membership at 17,773 and counting, OMAF donors anticipate the soon-to-be-unveiled improvements to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Swayze Field and other sports facilities made possible by their contributions.

“On behalf of Ole Miss athletics, including our coaches and our talented student-athletes, I would like to thank Rebel Nation for their generous contributions over the past year that set a new standard in fundraising,” Athletics Director Ross Bjork said. “The Ole Miss family continues to grow, and the support allows us to continue giving Rebels the highest quality student-athlete experience.”

The Forward Together campaign has topped $167.5 million in commitments with $30 million in new pledges for the fiscal year. The foundation reached the original goal of $150 million for the Forward Together campaign during 2016 and raised the goal to $200 million. With $32.5 million remaining, the new mark is anticipated to be met by June 2017.

“Alumni and friends who give back play an integral role in helping the university improve,” Weakley said. “We could not be more appreciative of those who’ve shared their hard-earned resources with the university and our students.”

For information on providing financial support to the University of Mississippi, visit http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift.

$19.9 Million NIH Obesity Research Award Largest Ever for UMMC

Funding will allow Medical Center to tackle one of state's biggest health care issues

The Translational Research Center, scheduled for completion in 2017, is just one new resource that will serve UMMC scientists across disciplines.

The Translational Research Center, scheduled for completion in 2017, is just one new resource that will serve UMMC scientists across disciplines.

JACKSON, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Medical Center has received its largest single award ever to confront one of the state’s largest health issues.

The five-year, $19.9 million award from the National Institutes of Health will fund the Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research. Supported by the NIH’s Institutional Development Award, or IDeA, program, the CCTR’s mission will be the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of obesity and related health conditions.

“Mississippi has the highest rate of obesity in the United States,” said Dr. James Wilson, professor of physiology and biophysics and the project’s lead investigator. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 35 percent of Mississippi adults are obese.

“High blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease are all associated with this one preventable cause,” Wilson said. Obesity also increases a person’s risk of multiple cancers, neurological disorders and stroke. The CDC estimates that obesity-related illnesses cost the United States $150 billion annually.

To address the problem, UMMC scientists and health care professionals need an approach that brings their research from the laboratory bench to the greater population.

“Translational research takes basic science findings and uses them to develop interventions that will affect treatment options and public health,” Wilson said. Example interventions could be community engagement programs or pharmaceutical drugs.

The new award, announced by the office of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, enhances UMMC’s capability to conduct clinical and translational research. The CCTR’s task is to invest in people who will make those solutions a reality.

“A significant mission of the program will be to train junior faculty into established investigators,” Wilson said.

That training will come through CCTR’s Professional Development Core, whose members will mentor junior faculty conducting obesity-related research. In addition, the Pilot Projects Program will fund promising projects while the researchers seek additional outside funding to sustain their activities.

Dr. James Wilson

Dr. James Wilson

Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC associate vice chancellor for research, emphasized the importance of developing new talent to spur obesity-related clinical research – a theme present throughout UMMC’s history.

“When the Medical Center was built in 1955, most of the faculty who formed our early clinical research programs were young investigators,” Summers said. Organ transplant pioneer Dr. James Hardy was 37 in 1955; cardiovascular physiologist Dr. Arthur Guyton was 36.

“With the CCTR, our goal is to build a pipeline of investigators and clinical research for years to come,” Summers said.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter thanked Cochran for championing health sciences research and extended his congratulations to the research team at the Medical Center.

“We are honored by this NIH investment to substantially enhance our capacity and success in translating research discoveries and innovations to better health outcomes,” Vitter said.

UMMC has a reputation for strong basic research on cardiovascular function and disease, Wilson said. This will provide a starting point for creating clinical applications.

In recent years, UMMC has built the infrastructure needed to advance its clinical and translational research capabilities. The Center for Bioinformatics and Biostatistics, Enterprise Data Warehouse and Clinical Research Support Program are three important parts, Wilson and Summers said.

When two campus construction projects – one nearly complete and the other in the planning stages – wrap up, UMMC will have a full set of physical tools needed to achieve these goals.

“The timing of this magnificent grant couldn’t be better as it coincides with the development of our Translational Research Center and Clinical Research Unit in the University Hospital, facilities that will be crucial to our success in clinical and translational research,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs.

“We look forward to putting these assets to work in the cause of discovering tomorrow’s treatments and cures.”

“All of these pieces brought together give UMMC the infrastructure to enhance clinical research,” Summers said.

However, UMMC cannot solve the obesity epidemic in Mississippi on its own. Tougaloo College and the University of Southern Mississippi will also collaborate in the CCTR.

“Those institutions will be key in community outreach efforts,” Wilson said.

The CCTR will also pursue extensive collaborations with two NIH-funded clinical and translational research centers. Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has expertise in nutrition and metabolic disease, valuable to UMMC’s obesity efforts, Wilson said.

The other center is based at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. UMMC and Mayo entered into a collaborative agreement in 2014 that allows the institutions to share data tools and trial participants. Close ties have already developed around cancer research.

The National Institute of General Medical Sciences funds IDeA awards, which support biomedical research programs in states with limited history of federal funding. The Clinical and Translational Research program enhances research on health issues impacting medically underserved populations and health concerns specific to those states.

Wilson said that after five years, “We hope to have 10 or more junior investigators successfully funded as a direct result of this grant” and on a trajectory to independent obesity research programs. In addition, other CCTR core infrastructure such as regulatory, logistics, epidemiological and evaluation support will be operating.

“As an additional result, we hope to recruit senior-level population and clinical investigators with the ability to collaborate with each other.”

Summers said he is “very proud of Wilson and his efforts so far” and that he looks forward to the future.

“This award has the potential to be transformational for us,” Summers said.

Brittney Reese Claims Silver in Olympic Long Jump

Former Rebel medals in second straight games

Brittney Reese (USA) during the women's long jump final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Brittney Reese (USA) during the women’s long jump final in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – Former University of Mississippi great Brittney Reese (BA English ’11) added another shiny medal to her collection with a world-class long jump performance en route to silver Wednesday night at Rio’s Olympic Stadium.

The world’s premier female long jumper since she turned pro after her 2008 junior year at Ole Miss, Reese came out to defend her gold medal from the 2012 Games in London. But despite an impressive leap of 7.15 meters (23-5.5), she was edged out by fellow American Tianna Bartoletta who claimed gold by 2 centimeters with a mark of 7.17 m. Serbia’s Ivana Spanovic earned bronze at 7.08 m, a national record.

Reese, a Gulfport native who lives and trains in San Diego, had only one fair attempt (6.79 m) out of her first four, before a pair of huge distances in her final two – 7.09 m and then 7.15 m. Bartoletta won the competition on her fifth attempt with a personal-best 7.17 m in a dramatic final two rounds of jumping.

“I’ve been through a lot these past two years emotionally, and physically battling back from surgery,” Reese said. “Today, I kind of got off to a slow start and it cost me at the end, but I am really pleased to be on the stand again and represent the United States.”

It was part of a big night for the Team USA women on the track, who are coached by Ole Miss head coach Connie Price-Smith. The Americans went 1-2-3 in the 100-meter hurdles (first ever gold, silver and bronze for the U.S. women in any track and field event), while Mississippi native Tori Bowie earned bronze in the 200 meters.

Reese earns the fourth Olympic medal all-time among Ole Miss track and field representatives and is the first Rebel to boast two Olympic medals.

With Sam Kendricks’ bronze in the men’s pole vault on Monday combined with Reese’s runner-up effort, it’s the first Olympics for Ole Miss representatives to win multiple medals.

Tony Dees won the other Olympic medal by a former track and field Rebel with his silver in the 110-meter hurdles in Barcelona in 1992.

That concludes Olympics competition for the program-best track and field contingent in 2016. Below are the complete results of the one current Rebel (Raven Saunders), one current volunteer assistant coach (Gwen Berry) and four former Rebels.

 

Brittney Reese (USA) – silver medal – women’s long jump – 7.15 m/23-5.5

Sam Kendricks (USA) – bronze medal – men’s pole vault – 5.85 m/19-2.25

Raven Saunders (USA) – 5th – women’s shot put – 19.35 m/63-6

Gwen Berry (USA) – 14th – women’s hammer throw – 69.90 m/229-4

Ricky Robertson (USA) – 17th – men’s high jump – 2.26 m/7-5

Antwon Hicks (Nigeria) – 23rd – men’s 110 m hurdles – 14.26

 

For complete coverage of Ole Miss in the Olympics, visit http://www.RebsInRio.com.

 

For more information on Ole Miss Track and Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.

 

Former Rebel Kendricks Claims Pole Vault Bronze at Rio Olympics

Third Ole Miss track athlete to medal at Olympic Games

Aug 15, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sam Kendricks (USA) in the men's pole vault final during track and field competition in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 15, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Sam Kendricks (USA) in the men’s pole vault final during track and field competition in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – It was a special Monday night in Brazil for University of Mississippi alumnus Sam Kendricks, who captured a bronze medal in the men’s pole vault at the 2016 Olympic Games.

In a dramatic competition that came down to three final vaulters, Kendricks rose to the occasion by clearing 5.85 meters (19-2.25) on his first try. He had three very close attempts at 5.93 m/19-5.5, while Brazil’s Thiago Braz da Silva claimed gold with an Olympic record mark of 6.03 m and defending champion Renaud Lavillenie of France won silver with a clearance at 5.98 m.

Kendricks is the first American man to win an Olympic medal in the pole vault since 2004, and he’s the third Ole Miss track and field representative to medal at the Olympics. Brittney Reese, who will compete Tuesday, was the women’s long jump gold medalist in 2012. Tony Dees was the silver medalist in the 110-meter hurdles in 1992.

Before Monday’s competition began, Kendricks dedicated his performance to the six Oxford citizens who died in a plane crash over the weekend, and the children and families they left behind. By many accounts, his performance in Rio was a healing balm the town of Oxford needed after such a tragic occurrence.

The hundreds of fans that watched him from the Square in his hometown of Oxford cheered him on with fervor as each bar was raised a bit higher. He is the first Olympian from the small town in which he grew up, graduated from both high school and college, and still lives and trains.

Kendricks was lauded by NBC commentators and across the social media landscape for his great sportsmanship and class, as he was seen congratulating his opponents and cheering for each competitor throughout the night.

“I know that the Olympics is like a high tide, it raises all boats and it brings the best out of all of us,” Kendricks said. “I was so happy to watch my friend Thiago (Braz) set his personal best in his home country in front of his home crowd, and I think that I thrived off of that as well.

“I did not set a personal best but I attempted it. I missed it very close three times, so I cannot be ashamed of my effort. I’m very proud of my bronze medal, what me and my coach (father and Ole Miss alumnus Scott Kendricks) and my family have achieved. This particular competition was a lot of fun for me – I knew all of the competitors by name, they’re all good friends of mine. We’ve traveled together and have competed together many times. We even trade victories very often.”

It’s been an impressive rise to international prominence for Kendricks, who was a two-time NCAA champion and two-time SEC champion in three seasons at Ole Miss. Since turning pro, he has won five U.S. pole vault titles, set a U.S. Olympic Trials record earlier this summer, was ninth at last year’s IAAF World Championships and runner-up at this year’s IAAF World Indoor Championships in March.

Another former Rebel also competed and advanced on Monday. Nigeria’s Antwon Hicks ran a 13.70 in his heat of the 110-meter hurdles to move on to Tuesday’s semifinals.

Hicks and Reese will both compete Tuesday, as Reese will begin her gold medal defense with the women’s long jump qualifying round.

On Sunday night, one of Kendricks’ former Ole Miss teammates, Ricky Robertson, represented Team USA in the men’s high jump qualifying and placed 17th with a clearance at 2.26 m/7-5. The top 15 qualifiers advanced to the final.

For complete coverage of Ole Miss in the 2016 Olympics, visit http://www.RebsInRio.com.

For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.

 

 

Ole Miss’ Saunders Places Fifth in Olympic Shot Put in Rio

Rising Junior Tosses Big PR of 19.35m/63-6

Aug 12, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Raven Saunders (USA) competes in the women's shot put event at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 12, 2016; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Raven Saunders (USA) competes in the women’s shot put event at Estadio Olimpico Joao Havelange in the Rio 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – Raven Saunders trained and competed all year to get to the Olympics, and her first appearance on the world’s biggest stage did not disappoint.

The Ole Miss rising junior used a personal-best heave of 19.35 meters (63-6) on her last throw of Friday night’s shot put final to earn fifth place. Her U.S. teammate Michelle Carter won gold also on her last attempt, an American record 20.63m/67-8.25. She edged out silver medalist Valerie Adams of New Zealand (20.42m), while Hungary’s Anita Marton (19.87m) won bronze and China’s Lijao Gong (19.39m) placed fourth.

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Raven,” said her Ole Miss head coach and U.S. women’s track & field head coach Connie Price-Smith. “She competed like a champ. She was throwing with her role model, who is now an Olympic champion. I told Raven that she couldn’t ask for anything more, because to come in here as a baby and walk out with a PB and fifth place the first time through an Olympic Games is priceless.”

It was a somewhat awkward series for Saunders before her massive final throw that bettered her own collegiate record of 19.33m/63-5. She came out with a strong first attempt of 18.88m and then fouled four straight times. As she has done throughout her young career, she came through at the end when the pressure mounted the most.

Saunders, the youngest shot putter among the 36 women in Rio, made a big statement on her second qualifying attempt at the Olympics, heaving the shot 18.83 meters (61-9.5) to easily surpass the 18.40-meter line needed to automatically advance to the 12-woman final. The 20-year-old who just finished her sophomore year of college also reached the automatic qualifying line on her first attempt, a foot foul.

A track season that started all the way back in December finally came to a close for Saunders after some sensational sophomore achievements. She won the NCAA outdoor shot put title with a collegiate record of 19.33m/63-5, and then she captured silver at the U.S. Olympic Trials to punch her ticket to Rio. She also broke the all-time collegiate indoor shot put record with a mark of 19.23m/63-1.25 back in February.

Ole Miss volunteer assistant coach Gwen Berry also suited up for Team USA on the first day of track & field competition at Rio’s Olympic Stadium. The Southern Illinois alum finished 14th in the hammer throw qualifying to just miss the 12-woman final. Her mark of 69.90m/229-4 was four-tenths of a meter out of 12th.

Four former Rebel athletes will compete in Rio throughout the next week, including U.S. pole vault champion Sam Kendricks who will compete in the qualifying round Saturday. The others are Brittney Reese (USA, defending long jump champion), Ricky Robertson (USA, high jump) and Antwon Hicks (Nigeria, 110-meter hurdles).

Follow all the Ole Miss contingent in Rio at www.RebsInRio.com.

For more information on Ole Miss Track & Field, follow the Rebels on Twitter (@OleMissTrack), Facebook and Instagram.

Friends of Children’s Hospital Pledges $20 Million to Capital Campaign

Friends of Children's Hospital board chair Sara Ray, left, is thanked by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, for the nonprofit group's $20 million pledge to the Children's of Mississippi capital campaign.

Friends of Children’s Hospital board chair Sara Ray, left, is thanked by Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, for the nonprofit group’s $20 million pledge to the Children’s of Mississippi capital campaign.

JACKSON, Miss. – Friends of Children’s Hospital, a nonprofit group dedicated to raising funds for Batson Children’s Hospital, has committed to raising $20 million over the next 10 years to go toward the $100 million Children’s of Mississippi capital campaign.

“Friends of Children’s Hospital is extremely proud of the $17 million we’ve raised since 1989 and the impact that it’s had on improving health care for Mississippi’s children,” said Sara Ray, board chairman of the group. “We were among the first on board when the Medical Center needed support to build Batson Children’s Hospital in 1997 and have contributed annually ever since to enhance the patient and family experience.”

Children’s of Mississippi is the umbrella organization that includes Batson Children’s Hospital and all UMMC pediatric care, including clinics offering specialty care around the state.

The funds raised in the campaign will help the Medical Center expand and update its space dedicated for pediatric care including an expanded and renovated neonatal intensive care unit, more rooms for the pediatric intensive care unit, more operating rooms and the creation of an imaging clinic especially for pediatric patients. A new pediatric clinic will make care for outpatients more convenient and comfortable for families.

Expansion of the Children’s Heart Center is also on the drawing board. Batson Children’s Hospital is the only hospital dedicated exclusively to the needs of children in Mississippi.

“Batson Children’s Hospital provides state-of-the-art health care,” said Ray, “but the increase in patients needing this care means we now have a critical need to expand this facility.”

The campaign, chaired by Joe and Kathy Sanderson, was started in April with a personal $10 million pledge from the Sanderson Farms chairman and CEO and his wife.

Said Joe Sanderson: “We believe that the hospital is at maximum capacity and needs updated infrastructure in several vital areas. The hospital is beyond capacity in the neonatal intensive care unit and is badly in need of additional space. Children are transported long distances to the adult hospital for vital diagnostic imaging procedures, often requiring sedation. And further, there needs to be additional facilities for pediatric surgeries, particularly cardiac surgery.”

This newest Friends of Children’s Hospital pledge is a strong renewal of commitment to the group’s mission, Ray said. “Only 20 years after Friends of Children’s Hospital helped make Batson Children’s Hospital a reality, we are once again committing to make a dream come true for our little ones. We’re dreaming bigger this time and have committed to raise $20 million over the next 10 years to expand our beloved children’s hospital. Our state’s children deserve the best health care available, and we invite you to help us make it happen.”

“We cannot thank Friends of Children’s Hospital enough for all they’ve done for the health of Mississippi’s children,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the University of Mississippi School of Medicine. “This incredible group of dedicated volunteers has, for more than 25 years now, been an integral part of not only the growth of Batson Children’s Hospital but its very existence.”

University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said the commitment to excellence shown by Friends of Children’s Hospital volunteers and leaders is a testament to their long-time support of the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s pediatric care.

“Part of the University of Mississippi’s mission is improving the lives of Mississippians, and central to that worthy goal is helping our children lead healthy lives through excellent pediatric care at Children’s of Mississippi,” Vitter said. “We thank Friends of Children’s Hospital for their generosity and vision for the future of health care.”

The first $3,000 in the building fund of what would become Batson Children’s Hospital came from Friends of Children’s Hospital. By 1994, when plans for a new children’s hospital were drawn, Friends of Children’s Hospital pledged $175,000 to make the first five floors a reality. Later, when the sixth and seventh floors were added, Friends of Children’s Hospital, which had experienced tremendous growth, pledged $1.7 million to the project.

Later, in 2009, the Eli Manning Children’s Clinics at Batson Children’s Hospital opened, thanks to a partnership between the nonprofit and Eli Manning, which raised $3 million over five years through an annual gala event, An Evening with the Mannings Presented by BankPlus. Friends donated another $1.7 million to the expansion and renovation of the children’s emergency room.

Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi, said the generosity of Friends of Children’s Hospital is a lifeline for children who need specialized medical care. “This gift will help provide vitally needed space and equipment for our smallest babies in the neonatal intensive care unit and more room and equipment for our pediatric intensive care unit. It will aid in shortening imaging wait times due to additions of space and equipment and will provide additional equipment for the Children’s Heart Center and expand the number of children we care for. This will absolutely result in improved care for the children of Mississippi.”