Search Results for: diversity

Kirsten Dellinger Named Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

New role will serve College of Liberal Arts students, faculty, staff

Kirsten Dellinger is the new associate dean for diversity and inclusion for the College of Liberal Arts. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole MIss Digital Imagaing Services

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi faculty member Kirsten Dellinger will be continuing her passion and dedication to making UM a more diverse and inclusive place in a new role, beginning Aug. 15.

Dellinger has been named associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the College of Liberal Arts. She joined the faculty as a professor of sociology in 1998 and has served as the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for 11 years.

“In this role, I will be dedicated to making the University of Mississippi a place where students, faculty and staff feel safe and supported in their work,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working closely with the many other individuals and offices on campus who are dedicated to this goal.”

She hopes to work closely with other department heads and faculty members to identify need across campus related to diversity and inclusion and help determine creative solutions.

“My own research focuses on how workplace culture plays a role in creating and challenging workplace inequalities,” she said. “The chance to work on these issues at a collegewide level is very exciting to me.”

Over the last 20 years, Dellinger has served on several college and university committees to address challenges related to these issues.

“Dr. Dellinger brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our office after successfully serving 11 years as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology,” said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. 

“In addition to leading the college’s efforts to ensure a welcoming and productive environment for all of our faculty, staff and students, she can also help us with virtually everything that comes into our office. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to add Dr. Dellinger to our administrative team.”

Dellinger earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Texas. In her graduate studies, she began researching gender and sexual inequality in organizations and places of work.

These subject areas have continued to be the focus of her research and teaching. Her findings have been published in dozens of academic journals and publications.

Inaugural Summit Succeeds in Making Case for Diversity

Guest speakers join UM campus community in enlightening discussions about equity, inclusion

University of Michigan professor Scott Page (right) responds to a question from the audience during a panel discussion Friday (March 9) at the University of Mississippi’s first Diversity Summit. Other panelists are (from left) Kevin McDonald, vice chancellor at the University of Missouri, and Shawnboda Mead, director of UM’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With multidisciplinary scientific data and successful case studies, guest speakers at the University of Mississippi enlightened faculty, staff and students Thursday (March 8) about the benefits to be gained by increasing campus diversity and inclusion.

A professor from the University of Michigan and an administrator from the University of Missouri spoke to about 200 people who attended the university’s inaugural Diversity Summit at The Inn at Ole Miss. Themed “Making the Case for Diversity,” the event was sponsored by the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement.

“The purpose of this summit is to provide an open discussion addressing the benefits of diversity and inclusion for organizations,” said Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement and moderator of the proceedings. “Our guest speakers are here to address contemporary issues in higher education, while Mrs. (Shawnboda) Mead (director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement) is facilitating a community conversation about our campus climate.”

Following a welcome from Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and opening remarks by Donald Cole, assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics, the first guest speaker delivered his keynote address on “Diversity Bonuses.”

“We need diversity,” said Scott E. Page, Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan. “There is no trade-off between excellence and diversity.

“Scientific data shows that if you combine people who think in different ways about the world, you get more bonuses than you would by combining people who all share the same global perspectives.”

Citing numerous scientific studies during his presentation, Page said that while diversity has proven to make institutions better, it doesn’t happen naturally or without intentional effort.

“Not every approach will work at every place,” he said. “Stakeholders must determine what the environment of their organization is and what unique changes need to take place where they are.”

Diverse groups of random individuals tend to be more creative than homogenous ones with selected individuals, Page said.

“The measure of individual creativity is how many different ideas can you come up with,” he said. “The measure of group creativity is how many ideas do you have that no one else does.”

Kevin McDonald, vice chancellor of inclusion, diversity and equity at Missouri, shared successful diversity case studies from his own experiences and others.

“There is a business case for diversity,” McDonald said. “To achieve goals, you must have a strategy and follow a process.

“Depending upon how engaged the stakeholders are, the process will either yield deep change at the infrastructural level or superficial results that amount to little, if any, progress.”

McDonald noted that recruitment and retention practices are interdependent upon one another.

“Community engagement is needed, so meet with leaders from all sectors and allow them to get involved,” McDonald said. “Be collaborative. Share resources. Work together.”

Page, McDonald and Mead then engaged in a panel discussion, answering questions asked by members of the audience. Mead conducted a closing session on the cultural climate of the Ole Miss campus.

“Diversity is all of us,” she said. “While race has been and remains a central part of our efforts toward inclusion, we must broaden our definition of diversity in order to have more meaningful and productive conversations.”

The university has made progress in diversity, but still has a ways to go before it will be a truly multicultural/inclusive organization, Mead said.

“The challenge is for each of us to use our expertise, caring and professionalism to support campus faculty, staff and students who might need it,” Mead said. “We’re all capable and we’re all responsible for it. Our first instinct must always be, ‘I can do this.’

“We’re all able to make a positive difference for those whose identities at times feel marginalized and isolated from the rest of the university community.”

University Schedules Summit to Examine Benefits of Diversity

March 8 session is inaugural event of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s new Division of Diversity and Community Engagement invites the university community to its first public discussion March 8.

The division’s inaugural event, the “Diversity Summit: Making the Case for Diversity” begins at 8 a.m. at The Inn at Ole Miss. To register for the event, visit

“This summit is an open discussion with guest speakers addressing the benefits of diversity and inclusion for organizations,” said Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. “We will also address contemporary issues in higher education and have a facilitated community conversation about campus climate.”

Scott E. Page, the Leonid Hurwicz Collegiate Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science and Economics at the University of Michigan, will deliver the keynote address. His topic will cover the importance of diversity and inclusion for organizations.

Kevin McDonald, vice chancellor for inclusion, diversity and equity at the University of Missouri, will talk about contemporary issues in higher education. Specifically, he will discuss how his university has addressed issues related to diversity, inclusion and campus climate, and share lessons learned and future directions for higher education.

McDonald and Page will participate in a panel discussion, moderated by Caldwell. Shawnboda Mead, director of the UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, will facilitate a closing dialogue about the campus climate.

Page also has been director of the Center for the Study of Complex Systems at the University of Michigan and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.

He is the author of three books, including “The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off in the Knowledge Economy” (Princeton University Press, 2017) and “The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies” (Princeton University Press, 2008). He also has written several journal articles and filmed a video course on “Understanding Complexity.”

McDonald is also the Missouri System’s first-ever chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer. He previously held similar positions at the Rochester Institute of Technology, Virginia Tech, John Hopkins University and the University of Maryland in College Park.

Hired as UM’s inaugural vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement in 2017, Caldwell’s responsibilities include leading the university’s efforts to create and maintain a diverse, inclusive and welcoming environment for all members of the community. She is working to create a structure that encourages community engagement, develops partnerships to assist transformation, and identifies and supports target areas to maximize the university’s influence.

For more information, contact Tanya Nichols, project manager for the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, at

UM Professors Receive IHL Excellence in Diversity Awards

RoSusan Bartee, Dr. Leandro Mena and Dr. Helen B. Barnes lauded at ceremonies in Jackson

Dr. Leandro Mena (center), UMMC professor and chair of population health science, receives an IHL Excellence in Diversity Award from trustee Shane Hooper (left) as Charles S. O’Mara, UMMC associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs, congratulates him. Photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

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

RoSusan Bartee, professor of leadership and counselor education, and Dr. Leandro Mena, professor and chair of population health science, were recognized at the IHL’s Excellence in Diversity Awards ceremony Feb. 15 in Jackson. Dr. Helen Beatrice Barnes, a retired UMMC physician and administrator, also was awarded the Karen Cummins Community Service Award.

Each was presented a plaque by Shane Hooper, IHL trustee and chair of the Diversity Committee.

“Dr. Bartee and Dr. Mena 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.”

Bartee said she is humbled by her recognition.

“The IHL Excellence in Diversity Award is particularly meaningful because narrow pathways of access and opportunity continue to plague the institution of higher education and the constituencies served,” Bartee said. “I believe my contributions have been experienced in the manner they were purposed whenever, wherever and however my contributions generate either broadened access or more opportunity for those served and subsequent public recognition – or not – occurs as a result of impact.”

Mena echoed similar thoughts.

“I recognize that I am just one member of a much larger community of very passionate people in our health center who collectively are doing an amazing work promoting inclusiveness and equity not only in our health center but throughout our state,” he said.

“I have seen how UMMC has become a leader in the promotion of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness in our state and our region, so it felt very special and meaningful to receive this recognition from my own institution where so much work is being done by others promoting diversity.”

Barnes, professor emerita of the UM School of Medicine and co-founder of the Primary Care Clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall Thad Cochran Center, was honored for her longtime commitment to improving the health and lives of Mississippi women.

After joining the UMMC faculty as an assistant professor of medicine in 1969, Barnes served as professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology until her retirement in 2003. After that, her vision and passion to provide comprehensive health care for women led to the founding of the Primary Care Clinic for Women at the Medical Mall, which became the primary clinical site for the National Center for Excellence in Women’s Health at UMMC.

Doug Rouse, IHL trustee, presents Dr. Helen Barnes, UMMC professor emerita, with the Karen Cummins Community Service Award. Submitted photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

The board voted last year to name the community service award in memory of trustee Karen Cummins in recognition that her life epitomized what the award is all about, helping to improve Mississippi’s communities with a welcoming and inclusive spirit.

The IHL honors enhance the university’s ongoing efforts to promote diversity, said Katrina Caldwell, UM vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“The IHL Excellence in Diversity Award is special because it celebrates the often-invisible labor of faculty and staff in our community who are deeply dedicated to helping us honor our stated commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on our campuses,” she said.

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’s Diversity Committee. Nominees were evaluated based on positive contributions to the campus and the state and advancing diversity among their respective institutions.

Bartee became the first African-American to receive tenure and promotion to professor in the Department of Leadership and Counselor Education at Ole Miss. She is listed in Top 40/Under 40 in Mississippi, Who’s Who in Black Mississippi, Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals and Who’s Who in America.

A School of Education researcher of the year, Bartee previously served as program coordinator for the master’s, specialist and doctoral programs in educational leadership. She utilizes every opportunity to champion equality and equal rights.

RoSusan Bartee (center), UM professor of leadership and counselor education, receives an IHL Excellence in Diversity Award from trustee Shane Hooper (left) and congratulations from Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. Photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC

“My commitment to diversity simply mirrors my commitment to humankind,” Bartee said. “Human beings are our greatest resource, yet most underutilized asset.

“To the extent that our intellectual, interrogative and inspirational capacities are used to advance all humankind is the extent to which campuses and society alike will fulfill the potential with-in and with-out.”

Associate professor of medicine with the Division of Infectious Diseases, Mena graduated from the Universidad Nacional Pedro Henriquez Urena in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, and from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans. He is director of the Center for HIV/AIDS Research, Education and Policy for the Myrlie Evers-Williams Institute for the Elimination of Health Disparities.

Mena served 14 years as the medical director of Crossroads Clinic, the only publicly funded exclusive STD/HIV clinic in the state, and co-founded Open Arms Healthcare Center, a community-based clinic that offers primary care services with an emphasis in health care needs for LGBT populations in Jackson.

He has more than 26 years of experience in clinical and epidemiological research in the area of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, with special interest in the dynamics of transmission and the role that social determinants of health play in perpetuating these epidemics in sexual and gender minority populations.

“My commitment to diversity comes from the firm believe that we all deserve to be welcomed and valued for the contributions that we make,” Mena said. “I applaud IHL for recognizing efforts in the public institutions of higher education in our state to promote diversity and inclusiveness. Such recognition elevate the conversation and, hopefully, encourage others to get involved.”

For more information on diversity and inclusion efforts at UM, go to For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at

Social Work to Host Diversity Conference

Sessions to focus on developing skills and experiences for working with varied populations

OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Social Work at the University of Mississippi will host its 2018 Diversity Conference on Thursday (Feb. 1) at the Jackson Avenue Center, Room H02. Community members and students from any major are welcome to attend the sessions, set for 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

“The comprehensive elements of diversity encompass more than culture alone,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of applied sciences. “This event will focus closely on diversity’s role in effective social work practice.”

Desiree Stepteau-Watson, associate professor of social work, and Amy Fisher, assistant professor of social work, serve as co-chairs for the event.

“The goal of this conference is to further develop the knowledge, skills and experiences that students need and that are required for social work practice with diverse populations,” Stepteau-Watson said.

Jennifer Stollman, the university’s academic director for the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, will serve as keynote speaker for the event, presenting “Using truth, bravery and compassion to heal the world.”

Stollman is responsible for campus professional development, anti-oppression training, curricular and co-curricular development, and crisis management and is a consultant for detecting and eliminating institutional and interpersonal bias.

She spent 18 years in graduate and undergraduate classrooms as a professor of history and gender and women’s studies. She specializes in issues related to the construction, projections and deployment of individual and collective identities. Stollman is committed to equity work taking place across college campuses.

“Dr. Stollman has long been a good friend to the social work department,” Fisher said. “Her insight into matters of racial equity and diversity is invaluable to our students. In addition, her dynamic speaking style really engages students and staff.”

Reginald Virgil, a social work student at the University of Southern Mississippi, is slated to kick off the day’s events with his presentation, “Keep Calm and Discuss Racism.” Na Youn Lee, UM assistant professor of social work, will discuss cultural humility. The conference will conclude with a group presentation by the Rust College Department of Social Work.

Students who want to practice in the field must have a respect for cultural differences, said Daphne Cain, UM chair of social work.

“Being culturally competent is essential to social work practice,” Cain said. “Paying attention to environmental forces, including race, class and gender, among others, that create, contribute to and can exasperate difficulties for individuals to thrive and cope is fundamental to social work.”

Interested participants should RSVP by emailing Lunch will be provided during the event, and social work students are strongly encouraged to attend.

For more information, contact the Department of Social Work at 662-915-7336.

Computer Science Student Wins Quip Diversity Technology Scholarship

Blake Lewis visited organization's San Francisco offices in August

Blake Lewis of Ocean Springs, a senior computer and information science major, has received a Quip Diversity in Technology Scholarship. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw.

A University of Mississippi engineering student has been awarded the Quip Diversity Tech Scholarship.

Blake Lewis, a senior computer science major with minors in mathematics and sociology, visited software company Quip’s office in San Francisco in August. The scholarship supports students who are underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly computer science, and includes but is not limited to women, African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians, LGBTQ+, first generation, and/or people with disabilities.

The Ocean Springs native heard about the scholarship opportunity via an intradepartmental email.

“Carrie Long, the administrative secretary for our department, sent the email from the Career Center about this program to all the computer science students, and she encouraged any of us eligible to apply,” Lewis said. “So I decided it couldn’t hurt.”

Lewis said visiting Quip was a wonderful experience. The team members not only talked about different topics in computer science with the scholarship recipients, such as design, product engineering and site reliability, but also provided professional advice about career growth and job searching. Lewis had the chance to meet with the CEOs of Quip, Kevin Gibbs and Bret Taylor.

“We learned about some things that Bret and Kevin created while working for other companies like Google Map, Google Suggest and Facebook,” Lewis said. “My favorite part of the day, though, was the panel discussion about diversity in tech.”

He said the biggest takeaway of this panel was that companies must ensure those who are creating the products accurately represent the market they wish to reach in order to create innovative products that are accessible to everyone.

“One of the panelists, Erica Baker, talked a lot about Project Include, which is a company that encourages tech startups to think about diversity and inclusion from the start,” Lewis said. “I think it is important for CS and other engineering students who wish to have a tech startup in the future to know about Project Include and the important work they are doing.”

Lewis has developed a passion for diversity and inclusion since he started at the university. Especially being a community assistant for the Department of Student Housing since his sophomore year of college, he has a more profound understanding about diversity.

“As a CA, I have made it my goal to make freshman residents feel welcome, no matter who they are, and help them get connected to the community,” he said. “On the flip side, I’ve also had to have some tough conversations with residents about diversity and inclusion and how things they say and do can affect people and their access to education.”

Lewis has been serving his second year as vice president of community assistant development for the UM Community Assistant Association and president of the National Residence Hall Honorary. He is also an active member of the UM Pride Network.

Outside the classroom, he has served as an ACUHO-I (Association of College and University Housing Officers International) intern at Montana State University Billings, and been an intern at the same institution’s Diversity Center.

He plans to do his senior project for the housing department this year. Deeply influenced by his experience as a CA, Lewis also would like to pursue a master’s degree in higher education/student affairs and hopes to get a graduate assistantship as a hall director for a residence hall while he is getting his master’s.

“Quip’s staff was very diverse, and it was amazing to meet successful queer computer scientists,” he said. “I would definitely encourage other people at Ole Miss to apply.”






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 or follow the campaign on social media at or

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

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 For more information about the IHL, contact Caron Blanton at


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.