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Meek School of Journalism to Host Diversity Conference

Fox chief news anchor Shepard Smith among speakers for five-day series

UM public relations students, led by senior lecturer Robin Street (center), have planned It Starts with (Me)ek, five days of campus events celebrating inclusion and rejecting stereotypes. The committee includes (kneeling, from left) Emma Arnold and Brittanee Wallace, and (standing) Kendrick Pittman, Dylan Lewis, Street, Zacchaeus McEwen and Faith Fogarty. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – Just pause. Just pause before you assume you know me. Just pause before you stereotype me.

That’s the message of an upcoming series of events April 19-25 called It Starts with (Me)ek, hosted by the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Shepard Smith, a UM alumnus and chief news anchor and managing editor for Fox News Network’s Breaking News Division, is among the keynote speakers.

The five-day conference open to all students, faculty, staff and community members is designed to encourage inclusion and respect while rejecting stereotypes. It will feature panelists and guest speakers discussing race, gender, sexual orientation, disability and religion. A diversity fashion show and a festival also are included.

“This campaign is particularly important to our Meek School students because as professional journalists, public relations specialists or integrated marketing communications specialists, students will be dealing with and working with many different kinds of people,” said Robin Street, senior lecturer in public relations.

“We all need to learn the value of waiting before we make assumptions about other people. However, we also hope that everyone on campus and in Oxford will consider joining us for the programs.”

The program, designed to remind participants that one single factor does not define a person’s identity, was created by a 31-member student committee under Street’s direction. Through each panel and lecture, Street hopes all attendees will learn to approach individuals with understanding, dignity, respect and inclusion.

Both alumni and students will participate in panels about their personal experiences on race, sexual orientation, mental health, religion and disabilities. Smith will moderate an alumni panel, as well as provide remarks on April 21.

Other guest speakers include Michele Alexandre, UM professor of law; Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement; Mary Beth Duty, owner of Soulshine Counseling and Wellness; Jesse Holland, an Associated Press reporter covering race and ethnicity; Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement; Sarah Moses, assistant professor of religion; Otis Sanford, political commentator and Hardin Chair of Excellence in Economic and Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis; Jennifer Stollman, academic director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; and Ryan Whittington, UM assistant director of public relations for social media strategy.

Duty, Holland, Sanford and Whittington are all Ole Miss journalism alumni.

Student committee members enrolled in a course specifically to design the campaign. The group met weekly to plan events, promotional videos, communications, pre-campaign competitions and social media posts surrounding the five-day conference.

Rachel Anderson, a senior double major in broadcast journalism and Spanish from Chesapeake, Virginia, is co-chair of events and will moderate one of the panels.

“These events give students the opportunity to understand the experiences of people both similar and different from them,” Anderson said. “Understanding the experiences of others can help you learn more about yourself and the world around you.

“I hope attendees understand that we all have our differences, but at the same time, we also share so much in common. There is much more to people than outside appearances. One trait does not limit someone’s entire identity.”

Dylan Lewis, a senior broadcast journalism major from Mooreville, will serve on the LGBTQ student panel.

“The things we say or think about people affect everyone around us,” Lewis said. “Stereotypes hurt specific people or groups being stereotyped, but in reality it hurts all of us because our friends are part of those marginalized groups. When they hurt, we all hurt.

“While this campaign may not end stereotypes completely, it is a way to start the conversation, hence our campaign name ‘It Starts With (Me)ek.’ I hope students come to just see the perspectives of these individuals and realize that just pausing, our key message, can make a difference when trying to understand someone.”

The conference concludes with a festival April 25 on the front lawn of Farley Hall. Students are encouraged to wear purple to show their support, while faculty and staff will wear 1960s-inspired outfits to celebrate the many activist movements of the decade.

Students wearing purple will get a free treat from Chick-fil-A. If students have attended at least two events throughout the week and have their program stamped, they will receive a free T-shirt.

All events take place in Overby auditorium or in the front lawn of Farley Hall. For more information, visit https://www.itstartswithmeek.com/ or follow the campaign on social media at https://www.instagram.com/itstartswithmeek/ or https://twitter.com/StartsWithMeek.

The full schedule for the series features:

Wednesday, April 19

10 a.m. – Opening ceremony

11 a.m. – Lecture: “Other Moments: A Class Photography Exercise in Honoring Difference at Ole Miss,” Mark Dolan, associate professor of journalism

1 p.m. – Lecture: “Making a Difference by Engaging with Difference,” Jennifer Stollman, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.

2 p.m. – Lecture: “Tell Me a Story: Using Personal Narratives to Navigate Cultural Difference,” Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement

Thursday, April 20

9:30 a.m. – Panel Discussion: “From James Meredith to Millennials: Race Relations at Ole Miss,” moderated by Shawnboda Mead, director of CICCE

11 a.m. – Panel Discussion: “Red, Blue and Rainbow: An Inside Look at Being LGBT at UM,” moderated by journalism major Rachel Anderson

1 p.m. – Lecture: “Building Trust Within Professional and Personal Communities: A Workshop,” Jennifer Stollman

2:30 p.m. – Panel Discussion: “Sometimes I Feel Invisible: Living with a Disability,” moderated by Kathleen Wickham, professor of journalism

5:30 p.m. – Spoken Word Performance

Friday, April 21

10 a.m. – Lecture: “Race in America: A Journalist’s Perspective,” Jesse Holland, AP reporter

11 a.m. and 1 p.m. – Panel Discussions: “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” black UM journalism alumni discuss their experiences, moderated by Jesse Holland

2 p.m. – Panel Discussion: “Red, Blue and Rainbow Alumni,” LGBT alumni discuss their experiences, moderated by Shepard Smith

3 p.m. – Lecture: “My Journey from Farley Hall to Major News Events Around the World,” Shepard Smith, Fox News chief news anchor

4 p.m. – Reception for speakers and students

Monday, April 24

9 a.m. – Lecture: “Normal Does Not Exist, Mental Illness Does,” Mary Beth Duty, professional counselor

10 a.m. – Lecture: “From the Bible Belt to Baghdad: What Today’s IMC and Journalism Professionals Need to Know About the World’s Major Religions,” Sarah Moses, assistant professor of religion

11 a.m. – Panel Discussion: “Keeping the Faith,” members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths discuss challenges they face, moderated by Dean Will Norton

1 p.m. – Panel Discussion: “Mental Health and Me,” panelists discuss their experiences with mental health, moderated by Debbie Hall, instructor of integrated marketing communications

2 p.m. – Lecture: “Role of Individual and Institutional Accountability in Doing Diversity and Equity,” Michele Alexandre, professor of law

3 p.m. – Lecture: “Keeping it Real on Social Media: Guidelines for Handling Diversity Issues,” Ryan Whittington, assistant director of public relations for social media strategy

4 p.m. – Fashion Show: “Unity in Diversity,” entertainment on Farley Hall lawn

6 p.m. – Lecture: “Racial Politics in Memphis,” Otis Sanford, University of Memphis

Tuesday, April 25

10:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. – Farley Festival Day

UM Chemistry Department Achieves National Recognition for Diversity

Stanley C. Israel Regional Award recognizes engagement of minorities and women in the field

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has attracted several top female honors students to the program through its biochemistry emphasis. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communication

OXFORD, Miss. – Mixing people, like chemicals, can yield either victorious or violent results. The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Mississippi has done so successfully and recently was nationally recognized for its achievements.

The American Chemical Society presented the department with its Stanley C. Israel Regional Award for Advancing Diversity in the Chemical Sciences for the Southeastern Region. The department received a plaque and $1,000 to continue its efforts.

“We are honored that the department’s long-term and continued commitment to increasing diversity in a central STEM discipline has been recognized with this significant award,” said Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

The nomination package submitted by the UM local section of ACS included a number of accolades, which were the direct result of the department’s longstanding efforts to increase participation of women and underrepresented minorities in chemistry. Of particular note was the hiring of Davita Watkins, the department’s first African-American woman as an assistant professor, in 2014.

Three recent African-American graduates, Margo Montgomery-Richardson, Kari Copeland and Shana Stoddard, were hired as assistant professors at Alcorn State University, Allen University and Rhodes College, respectively.

Also, a former summer program participant, Sharifa T. Love-Rutledge, who at the time was a Tougaloo College undergraduate, made history by becoming the first African-American woman to earn a chemistry degree at the University of Alabama.

Overall, five African-Americans and one Hispanic, three of whom are women, earned their chemistry doctorates from the Ole Miss chemistry department over a one-year period in 2012-13.

Other notable achievements include a graduate population that has maintained a 30 percent to 50 percent female and a 10 percent to 15 percent minority rate over the past five years and an undergraduate forensic chemistry program where 76 percent of the majors are women.

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has produced several African-American doctoral graduates in recent years, including (front row, from left) Shana Stoddard, Kari Copeland, Jeffrey Veal and Margo Montgomery. Also shown (back row, from left) are professors Greg Tschumper, Walter Cleland, Steven Davis and Maurice Eftink. Submitted photo

“The department has vigorously adopted a number of new strategies to recruit underrepresented students into the chemistry program,” said Nathan Hammer, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry.

“There is a new awards celebration, which, in 2015 alone, recognized 32 female undergraduate chemistry students. The department has implemented a ‘welcome to school’ picnic for undergraduate chemistry students, which also has increased the number of women and minority chemistry majors.”

Further, the department recently modified its ACS-accredited Bachelor of Science in Chemistry program to have an optional biochemistry emphasis to attract pre-med students, which resulted in women becoming nearly half those majors.

Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement, commended the department for its efforts and subsequent recognition.

“Congratulations to the department for receiving this honor,” Caldwell said. “Your efforts will contribute greatly to the university’s demonstrated commitment to diversity and equity.”

The Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry has more than 500 undergraduate chemistry majors and nearly 50 graduate students. It offers Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, master’s and doctoral degrees.

The UM local section of the ACS in north Mississippi encompasses 21 counties. The chapter’s goals focus on meaningful social and professional relationships between chemistry-related professionals including high school and college students, teachers at all levels of the chemical sciences and professional chemists.

For more information about the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit http://chemistry.olemiss.edu/.

UM Professors Receive IHL Excellence in Diversity Awards

Sociologist Willa Johnson and health clinician Hamed Benghuzzi lauded at ceremonies in Jackson

Willa Johnson (center), UM associate professor of sociology, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. She is congratulated by (from left) IHL trustee Shane Hooper and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty members at the University of Mississippi and the university’s Medical Center have been honored with diversity awards by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning.

Willa Johnson, associate professor of sociology, and Hamed Benghuzzi, professor and chair of clinical health sciences, were recognized at the IHL’s Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony Feb. 16 in Jackson. Each was presented a plaque by Shane Hooper, IHL trustee and chair of the Diversity Committee.

“Dr. Johnson and Dr. Benghuzzi make a profound difference on the students at the University of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi Medical Center,” Hooper said. “They are committed to ensuring that all students are welcomed and provided every opportunity to succeed. Their dedication creates a better campus climate for all students, faculty and visitors.”

Both Johnson and Benghuzzi said they were humbled by their recognitions.

“I was surprised by the news,” Johnson said. “It is a wonderful honor. None of what has been done would be possible without the stalwart support of my department chair, Dr. Kirsten Dellinger, and my friends and colleagues in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, who are always willing to do whatever they can to further the work of awareness and learning about diversity and inclusion.”

“I was extremely surprised and had no idea who nominated me,” Benghuzzi said. “I am so humbled and thankful to all who nominated me and to the UMMC leadership for allowing me to be part of a team that promotes diversity and inclusion.”

Each IHL member institution, as well as UMMC and Mississippi State University Division of Agricultural, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, submitted one nomination for consideration to the board of trustees Diversity Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on positive contributions to the campus and the state and advancing diversity among their respective institutions.

Johnson serves on the Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Women and in other university capacities. However, she considers her diversity-related work as a natural extension of her research and teaching.

Dr. Hamed Benghuzzi (second from right), professor and chair of clinical health sciences at UMMC, receives the IHL Excellence in Diversity Award. He is congratulated by (from left) Shane Hooper, IHL trustee; Dr. Ralph Didlake, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs; and UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Submitted photo

She teaches courses on Judaism, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism, disability, racism and religion, and also mentors students and faculty on the UM campus and at other universities. She utilizes every opportunity to champion equality and equal rights.

“In other words, this is not a ‘me’ award; it is a campuswide award,” Johnson said. “We live in a space that has a painful racial history, but as folks who have inherited that history we are focused on making a positive difference in the state of Mississippi.

“I simply try to cobble together different groups of campus partners and outside funders to work on issues of mutual concern.”

Benghuzzi’s achievements in diversity include serving as adviser to more than 40 Ph.D. students, a mentor to Jackson-area high school students in UMMC’s Base Pair program and a mentor for Jackson State University’s Bridges to the Baccalaureate program. He also was a mentor for a National Science Foundation-funded biomedical science program for minority high school students.

“I have always believed diversity constitutes strength in the academic setting,” Benghuzzi said. “I have received many national and state awards throughout my career, but this award is most meaningful because I was nominated by people who believe I have demonstrated that all people, regardless of their social status, gender, race or religion, should be treated equally.”

The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name the Community Service Award in memory of trustee Karen Cummins in recognition that Cummins’ life epitomized what the award is all about: helping to improve Mississippi’s communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit. Cummins was appointed to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning in 2012 by Gov. Phil Bryant and served with commitment and dedication until her recent death.

Johnson was nominated by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs. Benghuzzi was nominated by Ralph Didlake, UMMC associate vice chancellor for academic affairs, and LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs.

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts at UM, go to http://diversity.olemiss.edu/. For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at cblanton@mississippi.edu.

 

Q&A: Meet Katrina Caldwell, UM’s New Vice Chancellor for Diversity

Katrina Caldwell

Katrina Caldwell

OXFORD, Miss. – Katrina Caldwell will become the University of Mississippi’s first-ever vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement when she joins the administrative staff Jan. 1. 

Named to her UM post in October, Caldwell is assistant vice president for diversity and equity at Northern Illinois University.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native is widely recognized in the field of diversity and inclusion in higher education. She holds master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College. She was also a Diversifying Faculty in Illinois fellow.

Caldwell served eight years at DePaul University, where she created cultural programs that celebrated the values of the university’s diverse communities. As director of the Center for Intercultural Programs, she also served on the President’s Diversity Council.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, Caldwell served as assistant dean of minority affairs, developing and successfully implementing a strategic plan to increase outreach to prospective students, improve retention and graduation of graduate fellowship students, and expand professional development programs.

She recently answered some questions for Inside Ole Miss about her new role. 

IOM: Tell me about your background and how you got into this kind of work.

Caldwell: I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, in the 1970s and ’80s. I attended Spelman College, a historically black women’s college, which is where I was introduced to diversity and social justice work. I learned later that our curriculum was a lot like any curriculum you would find at other institutions, because they wanted us to be able to compete post-graduation; however, many of the professors and staff had been involved in social movements in the 1960s and ’70s. They were willing to integrate their lived experiences in their teaching, research and service. I learned many of the foundational concepts that I use today in my work.

I became interested in professional diversity work while in graduate school. I had planned to become an English professor, which is why my three degrees are in English literature. During the summer after my first year in graduate school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, I got a job teaching English composition to students in the TRIO/Bridge program. I used the skills that I had been taught at Spelman to make my course relevant to the experiences of these first-generation, low-income entering college students. The course title was “Representations of Race, Gender and Class in American Media.” After this experience, I was hooked. I knew that I wanted to work in multicultural student affairs in some capacity. 

I have had 20 plus years of experience in diversity, equity and inclusion work and I have watched the field evolve and progress in positive ways during that time. The increased demand for chief diversity officers in institutions like the University of Mississippi is a key indicator of the need for strategic diversity leadership and the value of diversity in higher education. 

IOM: Talk about your role as the university’s first vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement and your vision for the job.

Caldwell: The University of Mississippi is in a unique position to serve as a leader in the strategic diversity movement in higher education. The institution’s complicated history is an intriguing backdrop to its current commitment to coordinating and elevating its diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. The university could serve as a campus for innovation where other local, regional and national institutions come to create, develop and test best practices that will move the needle on diversifying higher education.

I plan to continue and expand the bold steps towards repositioning the university as a place that will generate new perspectives and approaches to addressing the individual, structural and institutional inequities that continue to deny access to marginalized groups in the state and region. My vision for the position includes reclaiming the past by acknowledging, in very tangible ways, the harm and pain that was created, restoring confidence in the commitment to move beyond that past and reinforcing UM’s promise of creating sustainable change. 

IOM: Tell us who in the campus community that you serve and who you’ll mainly be working with.

Caldwell: As a member of the university’s executive team, my job will be to serve everyone on campus and all external partners and stakeholders. Diversity, equity and inclusion work is expansion and can cross program, departmental and divisional boundaries. It can also cross local, state, regional and national boundaries. 

IOM: What kinds of services will your office provide to the UM community?

Caldwell: Beyond the general language in the job description, we are still working on these details. Most of the specifics will not become clear until after I have been on campus for at least six months.

IOM: People might wonder about whether they should come to you with an issue. Is there anything you could tell people when they are considering whether they should come see you that might be helpful?

Caldwell: People should feel free to approach me to discuss any issue. I am always willing to listen, offer advice when appropriate, brainstorm solutions, share resources and my story, connect people to the office or program that might help them address the issue more directly and inform the executive leadership when an issue might need to be addressed campuswide.

IOM: What made you decide to come to Ole Miss?

Caldwell: As a native Southerner, I was extremely intrigued by the steps that the University of Mississippi has taken towards reconciliation and healing, which is an important and necessary process to help position the campus to contribute to the contemporary discourse underscoring the strong correlation between educating an increasingly more diverse student body and excellence in local, regional and national leadership.

The vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement position highlights three important criteria that I look for when evaluating a new professional opportunity. First, the demonstrated mission of the institution is extremely important. There must be evidence that the campus values diversity as essential to its success. The University of Mississippi could have continued to thrive and grow without developing a chief diversity officer position, so the commitment to this effort is impressive and signals its readiness to make significant progress.

Second, I look for fit with my experience and interests. I have had a 20-plus-year professional track record of building the type of strong, impactful diversity initiatives and programs that are outlined in the job description.

Thirdly, the decision to elevate diversity to the VC level will ensure that the individual has the visibility, resources, access and symbolic and institutional impact she will need to be successful

IOM: What are some immediate goals you hope to accomplish?

Caldwell: In the short term, I will spend a lot of time listening and learning about the various communities that are represented on the campus, in the city of Oxford, the region and the state. I want to better understand the histories, unique needs, challenges and opportunities for collaboration. In the first few months, I will develop a transitional plan that is transparent, inclusive and adaptable so members of all communities – both internal and external – can follow the progress that we are making as we build a strong diversity portfolio. 

IOM: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the Ole Miss community?

Caldwell: I am extremely excited about this opportunity and I want to thank everyone involved in this process for trusting me to serve the Ole Miss community in this way.

Katrina Caldwell Named Inaugural UM Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement

Experienced administrator brings track record of successful planning and implementation

Katrina Myers Caldwell is the incoming Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. (Submitted photo)

Katrina Myers Caldwell is the incoming vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement at UM. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – After a national search, the University of Mississippi has selected Katrina Caldwell as its first vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“I was both humbled and excited when I learned that I was being offered the job,” said Caldwell, who officially joins the administration Jan. 1, 2017, pending approval from the board of trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

“It’s an opportunity for me to return home and to contribute to the significant legacy of providing a quality education and transformative experience for students at the University of Mississippi.”

The assistant vice president for diversity and equity at Northern Illinois University, Caldwell has a track record of more than 20 years of successful strategic planning and implementation of diversity and engagement programs at Chicago-area higher education institutions.

“We are pleased that Dr. Caldwell is joining our leadership team,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Throughout our talks with her, she demonstrated a strong vision to move our university forward by leveraging our ongoing diversity and community engagement endeavors in a concerted, coordinated approach.

“We are grateful to Dr. Donald Cole, who has served as our chief diversity officer since 2003, and we look forward to Dr. Caldwell filling that role as well as facilitating the university’s expanding activities in community engaged scholarship.”

Caldwell will report directly to Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Morris Stocks. Her responsibilities will be to organize and integrate an infrastructure that facilitates and encourages community engagement, develop partnerships to effectively facilitate transformation, and identify and support target areas to maximize the university’s impact.

“Dr. Caldwell has extensive experience in leading similar divisions at other major universities,” Stocks said. “Through her expertise, commitment and ability to foster goodwill, I am confident that Dr. Caldwell will work to strengthen and promote our university community by encouraging diversity and personal growth and development, and to establish strong community partnerships that will enhance our learning, discovery and engagement mission.”

“As the first person in this position, I will have the opportunity to live out the strategic vision of Chancellor Vitter and Provost Stocks, to build on the important work that has already been done by stalwart leaders like Drs. Donald Cole and Brandi Hephner LaBanc (UM vice chancellor for student affairs) and to implement the ambitious goals in the UM Diversity Plan that were crafted by faculty, staff and students committed to this effort,” Caldwell said.

The Memphis, Tennessee, native is widely recognized in the field of diversity and inclusion in higher education. In 2011, she was recognized as a recipient of Diversity/MBA Magazine’s Top 100 under 50 Emerging and Executive Leaders Award as a result of her leadership and vision in the field.

Other honors and awards include the White House’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring, the Illinois College Personnel Association Award for “Outstanding Contribution to Social Justice” and induction into Who’s Who in Black Chicago.

She holds doctoral and master’s degrees from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Spelman College. She was also a Diversifying Faculty in Illinois fellow.

Caldwell served eight years at DePaul University, where she created cultural programs that celebrated the values of the university’s diverse communities. As director of the Center for Intercultural Programs, she also served on the President’s Diversity Council.

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, Caldwell served as assistant dean of minority affairs developing and successfully implementing a strategic plan to increase outreach to prospective students, improve retention/graduation of graduate fellowship students and expand professional development programs.

Department of Education Officials Praise UM Diversity Efforts

Ole Miss students share their efforts to recruit minority students and promote understanding

UM students meet with U.S. Department of Education officials to talk about how the university is creating a culture of inclusiveness. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

UM students meet with U.S. Department of Education officials to talk about how the university is creating a culture of inclusiveness. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – “Impressed and moved” is how Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell described his reaction to a Thursday (Sept. 15) visit to the University of Mississippi.

Mitchell, a part of the U.S. Department of Education’s seventh annual back-to-school bus tour across the country, spent the morning learning about UM efforts to increase inclusion and identify the challenges universities face in creating opportunities for all students. He made his comment after talking with student leaders on the Ole Miss campus.

He met with Ole Miss administrators before joining the students for a panel discussion, which was moderated by Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“It was a great honor and opportunity for Ole Miss to host the Department of Education and showcase how our administration and students embrace the tenets of the UM Creed in our diversity and inclusion efforts,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

Following the group of students sharing their stories about the work they do on campus, Mitchell said he plans to take lessons from Ole Miss with him to pass on to other universities and also to education leaders in Washington. One particular aspect of the university’s approach stood out to him.

“One of the reasons we are here is we think Ole Miss is a place where really tough issues of race, class and gender and all kinds of identity formation are not ignored, but embraced as part of what one needs to learn as part of the college experience,” Mitchell said.

The university made news in 1962 after a deadly riot ensued following the enrollment of James Meredith, its first black student. A statue of Meredith stands near the Lyceum, where the team met Thursday.

The university’s past and its efforts to deal with issues head-on makes it an example others can follow, Mitchell said.

“We’ve been struck throughout the morning at the intentionality of the institution to be able to have eyes open, humility about the history of the institution and to build on that humility and that acknowledgement of a dark and troubled history of the institution to create an opportunity for frank dialogue,” he said.

Mitchell was joined by Kim Hunter-Reed, who serves as deputy undersecretary of education; Jaye Espy, chief of staff for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and Elyse Jones, confidential assistant for the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

The group heard from Mississippi students from different backgrounds. They talked about working to recruit and mentor minority students, facilitate open dialogue on sensitive topics and promote understanding and tolerance.

Dylan Lewis, a senior journalism major from Tupelo, shared his story of telling family he is gay and being kicked out of his house during high school. During that difficult period, he came to Apex Leadership Summit at Ole Miss, which is for rising high school seniors.

“The love that I received from the other students that were in the program, the admissions counselors and the faculty and staff here was so great,” Lewis said. “Throughout my senior year, dealing with everything back home, they just reached out and gave me so many opportunities to get here and feel loved again. I had kind of lost that.”

Lewis became immediately active on campus once he arrived. He serves as director of student ambassadors and was an orientation leader, among other campus leadership roles. He said he’s worked to remind LGBTQ students and other minority groups that they can be heard and play important roles on campus.

“Throughout those roles, I knew what it felt like to feel unwanted and to not have a voice,” Lewis said. “Serving in those roles, I’ve tried to ensure that incoming students who are minorities know that they have a voice. You have to put yourself out there.”

Clay Wooley, a senior mechanical engineering and general studies major from Jackson, is president of Sigma Chi Fraternity and is involved with Rebels Against Sexual Assault. He talked about his fraternity’s involvement with an incident during its “Derby Day” event last spring where offensive remarks made during the program were directed toward female participants.

The incident made news and prompted public backlash against Sigma Chi.

“Most of us thought, ‘Why didn’t you do something,” Wooley said. “…. If you’re going to be part of a fraternity that has higher ideals and a part of the university that has the creed that we have, we are supposed to be different. We’re supposed to be the ones that do something.

“We failed once and we decided not to fail again.”

The university accepted the fraternity’s offer during its sanctions process to use the event as a tool to educate members, Wooley said. That approach has helped, he said. “We want to empower our men to learn and grow from this.”

The chapter is working to redesign the event and will seek input from sororities and the community.

A continuing theme of the students’ remarks was how they’ve seen campus leaders address tough issues such as the removal of the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle flag, from campus.

They note removing the flag, which they said doesn’t embody the values of diversity and inclusion the university wants to convey, was entirely student-led. The Associated Student Body voted to remove the flag and its recommendation received the support of Faculty Senate and Staff Council before administrators followed their wishes in 2015.

Eloise Tyner, a senior public policy major from Oxford, is also an intern with the university’s William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. One thing the university gets right when about dealing with controversy is making sure those who support the losing side of a decision aren’t marginalized, she said.

“What I love about (WWIRR’s) work is, and this is reflected at Ole Miss as well, they are very concerned with making sure the whole group moves forward, that no one is left behind, that even if you feel like your ideological argument has lost, you’re not excommunicated from the community,” Tyner said.

There’s still room for improvement and new challenges to tackle, the students said.

Aurielle “Sunny” Fowler, a sophomore psychology major from Clinton, talked about her efforts to mentor and recruit students through the university’s Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent program for prospective African-American students. She was joined by her mentee, Arielle Hudson, a freshman English education major from Dundee.

The two talked about the connection they’ve formed through that program and how they believe it is crucial to bringing in the best students to the university.

Clarksdale native Espy, who serves on the Obama administration’s HBCU panel, received her bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree from Ole Miss.

She came away impressed with the university’s climate of continuing dialogue on difficult issues.

“Ole Miss has a very storied history and past, and to share it in an honest way that the faculty, the administration and students have takes courage and a willingness to just be who you are,” Espy said. “That’s amazing to have that willingness to come from your past and create your future.”

UM Opens Search for Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement

Committee established to find qualified candidate

Committee

A committee has been established to find UM’s vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is seeking to fill the new position of vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

This position is one of the key components of UM’s comprehensive action plan designed to foster an inclusive and welcoming environment on all its campuses. The action plan was announced in August 2014, and an earlier search to find a candidate for this position was unsuccessful.

Renewing the effort to hire UM’s first vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement is among Chancellor Jeff Vitter’s top priorities, he said.

“As key components of the UM Creed, the values of diversity and multiculturalism are core to the University of Mississippi community,” said Vitter, who became chancellor on Jan. 1. “I share that strong commitment to diversity.

“For that reason, my first major administrative action is to launch the search for vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. We will recruit an outstanding leader to partner with people and units throughout the university in creating a welcoming and inclusive multicultural environment for all students, faculty and staff.”

Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Morris Stocks has established a search committee to oversee this effort to find the person who will serve as the university’s chief diversity officer.

Once hired, the new vice chancellor will report to Stocks.

Don Cole, assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs, assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics, has served as the university’s chief diversity officer since 2003. Cole joined UM in 1993 and was recognized in 2003 with the Frist Student Service Award.

Vitter and Stocks expressed appreciation to Cole for his leadership and steadfast commitment to enhancing the campus climate for all.

“Don Cole has shown a remarkable talent first for listening carefully to the concerns of a wide array of individuals, and then working cooperatively with many people and programs within the university, our community and the state to effect positive change within our university,” Stocks said.

Vitter also praised Cole for his impact at UM.

“We are deeply grateful to Don Cole for helping our university make important progress in creating an inclusive and welcoming environment for all,” Vitter said.

Among the responsibilities of the new vice chancellor will be to engage in efforts to address issues of race and diversity at UM. This vice chancellor will also work with other existing campus organizations that focus on these issues, Stocks said.

Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, will serve as chair of the search committee.

Other members of the search committee are Tony Ammeter, Michael Barnett, Alice Clark, Don Cole, Derek Cowherd, Sandra Cox-McCarty, Phillis George, Susan Glisson, Maria Gondo, Sue Grayzel, Carl Hill, Andrea Jekabsons, Linda Keena, Shawnboda Mead, Chase Moore, Sathyanarayana Murthy, Albert Nylander, Rachna Prakash, Sujith Ramachandran, Evangeline Robinson, Jocelyn Tipton and Ryan Upshaw.

“I feel privileged to lead the committee that will identify and recommend a strong leader for this critically important campus role,” Hephner LaBanc said. “Numerous committee members from the earlier process have returned to serve during this search process. I know, without any doubt, they will remain highly engaged and work diligently to seek out an individual who will bring immense talent and passion to our great university.”

To assist the search committee, a firm will be hired to recruit qualified candidates.

Once the search is open, information will be available on the Office of the Provost’s Web page.

NCAA Honors Jones, Bjork with New Diversity Awards

Recognition is first of its kind to be awarded by NCAA

Outgoing UM Chancellor Dan Jones, Carver Phillips and family, Coach Billy Brewer and Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork pose with the that will be posted along Chucky Mullins Drive.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Outgoing UM Chancellor Dan Jones, Carver Phillips and family, Coach Billy Brewer and Ole Miss AD Ross Bjork pose with the sign that will be posted along Chucky Mullins Drive. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

A new NCAA initiative recognizing individuals who support diversity and inclusion has selected outgoing UM Chancellor Dan Jones and UM Athletics Director Ross Bjork as its first honorees.

The NCAA announced the awards Wednesday in the following release:

An NCAA committee is introducing a new initiative to spotlight individuals who are working to support the interests of ethnic minorities and other underrepresented populations.

The Champions of Diversity and Inclusion recognition was created by the Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee, comprised of athletics directors, faculty members, college athletes and others affiliated with NCAA member schools. The committee is Association-wide, which means it is not affiliated with an NCAA division but instead deals with issues relevant to the entire NCAA.

The first individuals whose work will be highlighted by the program are both from the University of Mississippi. Both Jones and Bjork worked as part of the university’s efforts to modernize and add historical context to cultural symbols on the Mississippi campus.

Specifically, Jones last year announced a comprehensive action plan for fostering an environment of inclusion on the Mississippi campus. In it, he outlined plans to create a vice chancellor-level position for diversity and inclusion and rename a campus street called Confederate Drive. Bjork, meanwhile, has supported these initiatives from an athletics perspective, including naming a space in an athletics facility after the first two black football players at Mississippi.

China Jude, chair of the committee and athletics director at Queens College in New York, said the committee seeks “athletics administrators of influence, who have provided significant support to underrepresented populations,” including ethnic minorities, the disabled, and the LGBTQ community.

UM AD Ross Bjork, UM Chancellor Dan Jones, Archie Manning, and executive vice president of Market Development and Corporate Communications for FedEx Corp. Mike Glenn at today's press conference announcing Bjork's move to Ole Miss. Photo by UM Photographer Kevin Bain

UM AD Ross Bjork, UM Chancellor Dan Jones, Archie Manning, and executive vice president of Market Development and Corporate Communications for FedEx Corp. Mike Glenn. Photo by UM Photographer Kevin Bain

Those recognized as Champions of Diversity and Inclusion have created opportunities for those in underrepresented populations to advance into senior leadership positions; demonstrated longevity or consistency in their support; or initiated or coordinated cultural change in an athletics department or at an NCAA member school in matters related to college sports.

Jude announced the initiative in conjunction with Bernard Franklin, NCAA chief inclusion officer and executive vice president of education and community engagement.

“We believe that it is important to identify individuals who are making sincere efforts to support underrepresented populations,” Franklin and Jude said in a letter to its first honorees. “Your stance … speaks volumes to the current social climate in which we live. We understand that your process will be long and challenging; however, it is necessary as this country grows more ethnically diverse.”

Danielle Sims Awarded Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship

Recipient hopes to gain new insights for her work in UM student housing

Danielle Sims

Danielle Sims

OXFORD, Miss. – Danielle Sims, area coordinator at the University of Mississippi, is a 2015 recipient of the Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship, which is given by the National Association of College Auxiliary Services.

Sims, who works in the Department of Student Housing, said she’s looking forward to gaining new ideas and learning about resources through the scholarship that will benefit the university.

“I am honored and excited to receive this scholarship and represent the Department of Student Housing here at the University of Mississippi at NACAS,” Sims said. “This scholarship will allow me the opportunity to attend any NACAS conference of my choice, and I will be sure to return to campus with ideas and resources on how we can add to operational quality and use best practices in regards to auxiliary services.” 

The Mereese Ladson Diversity Scholarship was established in 2005 in honor of the late Mereese Ladson, controller at Brooklyn College in Brooklyn, New York. Ladson was a president and longtime leader of NACAS, and the scholarship is intended to further her work to promote the advancement of diverse, career-minded higher education professionals. Sims was honored with the award, along with Gino Galutera, director of auxiliary technology at The Citadel.

NACAS, headquartered in Charlottesville, Virginia, is a nonprofit higher education association serving auxiliary services, student support services and ancillary services professionals at two- and four-year colleges and universities in the United States, Canada and around the world. NACAS provides opportunities for members to share ideas, develop business solutions, enhance programs and revenues, and develop meaningful professional relationships.

Sims is an important part of UM’s Student Housing team and is very deserving of the honor, said Lionel Maten, director of student housing and assistant vice chancellors for student affairs.

“I am proud for Danielle and all the hard work she put into receiving this honor,” Maten said. “It is my person belief that NACAS provides quality educational opportunities to its member institutions and continues to add value in preparing our next generation of senior auxiliary services professionals. I know Danielle will return from NACAS ready to further move students toward their potential.”

Jennifer Kirby-McLemore Named Inaugural Diversity Award Recipient

Honor is presented by UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement

Director of Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement Shawnboda Deanne Mead, Meek School of Journalism Dean Will Norton, Diversity Award Recipient Jennifer Kirby-McLemore and Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LeBanc.

Shawnboda Mead (left), UM journalism Dean Will Norton and Brandi Hephner LaBanc (right) congratulate award recipient Jennifer Kirby-McLemore.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi law student Jennifer Kirby-McLemore has been named the recipient of the inaugural Treadway P. and Mark D. Strickland Diversity Award for her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion on campus and throughout the community.

The award is presented by the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement.

Kirby-McLemore has devoted much of her time to diversity awareness. As a law student, she has interned with the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation; is president of OUTLaw, an organization on campus with the focus of promoting awareness of LGBT legal issues; and has worked as a student lawyer with the Mississippi Innocence Project.

Her community service work has included teaching biology and science at three underprivileged schools in north Mississippi, volunteering with the UM law school’s Pro Bono Initiative with the Family Law Clinic and LGBT Documents clinic, and, before law school, volunteering for the Coldwater Methodist Church Food Pantry.

“I never thought that all the various activities I am involved in would culminate into this,” Kirby-McLemore said. “I just felt compelled to help when and where I can – to give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves or provide an echo for those already advocating for themselves.”

She has earned numerous recognitions for her academic achievements and work to promote diversity.

“It was certainly encouraging to read about the outstanding diversity-related activities that all of the applicants had experienced,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “As the inaugural recipient of the scholarship award, Jennifer Kirby-McLemore stood out among others as she exemplified the characteristics that Mark and Tread Strickland were hoping for. I am beyond grateful to Mark and Tread for their generous gift and the impact they’ll have on students for years to come.

“My hope is that students will be inspired to take advantage of even more opportunities to increase their involvement in diversity and inclusion initiatives.”

The purpose of the award is to assist a deserving undergraduate or graduate student committed to promoting diversity awareness and acceptance in continuing their education at the university.

“The vision of the Strickland Diversity Award is to assist a student who exemplifies a commitment to diversity awareness, inclusiveness and respect and to bettering our university community,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “I am very grateful for Tread and Mark, as they have created a support unit for students on our campus. Their generous scholarship will allow many future students to commit themselves to pursuing a campus atmosphere that encourages dignity and respect.”