Search Results for: graduate school

Anchorage to Oxford: Student Travels 4,500 Miles for Graduate School

Son, father drive eight days to begin Ole Miss IMC program

Chris Lawrence saw stunning scenery, such as Destruction Bay, Yukon, during his drive to Oxford. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Chris Lawrence and his father spent eight days on the road from Anchorage, Alaska, to Oxford, going through a CD case full of classic rock, telling stories and taking in diverse landscapes on a 4,500-mile adventure to start a new journey as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

At the end of the voyage, Chris Lawrence enrolled this fall as an integrated marketing communications graduate student at Ole Miss. Jay Lawrence got to see the town before heading back to Alaska by plane.

“I was able to show him Oxford and Ole Miss a little bit, and that meant a whole lot,” Chris said.

After Chris earned his undergraduate degree in journalism and public communications at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, he decided he would go to graduate school and continue his education in Mississippi. His mother, Kelly Lawrence, lives in Amory, and growing up, he spent summers in the Magnolia State with her.

“I thought, well, why not see what Mississippi has to offer so I could be close to my mom while continuing my education,” he said. “I did a little research and discovered Ole Miss had a great IMC program, and decided it was for me.”

Once the decision was made to enroll at Ole Miss, the daunting 600-mile-a-day, eight-day trip lay ahead of the father-and-son team. They stuffed Chris’ Dodge Caliber full of moving essentials and mementos and drove in five-hour shifts each day.

Jay enjoyed the long trip with his son and the ability to spend so much bonding time with him.

“We had a good time,” Jay said. “It was an opportunity to spend more time with him.”

The many different types of landscapes and wildlife between Anchorage and Oxford served as the main source of entertainment for the pair.

“We unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time at places, but we definitely took in the sights and wonders of nature,” Chris said. “Just to be able to have a piece of a place and kind of know a little about what it’s like was nice.”

Some of the places the two stayed were the Canadian cities of Destruction Bay, Yukon; Fort Nelson, British Columbia; and Edmonton, Alberta. Cities in the United States included Bozeman, Montana; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; and Forrest City, Arkansas.

Lethbridge, Alberta, was a particular favorite.

Kelly, Chris and Jay Lawrence take a picture with the statue of William Faulkner upon their arrival to Oxford. Submitted photo

“We drove through there and saw a 100-year-old steel viaduct and rolling hills all around town,” Chris said. “Lethbridge seemed runner- and biker-friendly, too. It was really, really cool.”

Bozeman, Montana, on the other hand, was bustling with tourists there to take in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the traffic and crowds there, Montana was lovely.

“We went over a bunch of rivers,” he said. “There was also a lot of open areas where you could see nothing but the sky. You could see for miles and miles.”

He enjoyed Montana and British Columbia for the scenery that the two places offered.

“British Columbia had a lot of open views,” he said. “You could see the gorgeous trees, rivers and lakes, so that was really awesome and majestic. We saw six black bears on the side of the road alone through B.C., and about 10 wild horses in Montana.”

To pass the time during the trip to Ole Miss, Chris and his father had conversations about past times and what lies ahead, while jamming out to rock bands such as Pearl Jam and Tom Petty.

Luck was also on their side. The two encountered few problems that slowed them down along the journey. They even said they were always ahead of bad weather.

“Surprisingly, we only saw two or three accidents the entire way so that was good traffic didn’t hold us up,” he said. “I’d say we drove through only 60 minutes of rain combined along the way.”

Once they reached Forrest City, they knew they were close to their final destination. The food was a dead giveaway.

“I had catfish with the bone-in, slaw and baked beans,” Chris said. “So I definitely knew I was home in the South.”

Chris Lawrence stands at mile 0 of the Alaska Highway (ALCAN Highway) in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Submitted photo

The father-son team was relieved to get to Oxford after that. Before Jay flew back to Anchorage, Chris and his mom showed Jay around Oxford and Ole Miss, which was special to all of them.

Chris is familiar with Oxford because he used to visit the town with his mom during summers.

“I always really liked it,” he said. “I thought it was a beautiful place.”

His mom was relieved the trip went well, and she was elated to see her son.

“When he got here, I was so happy to see him and am so excited knowing he’s at Ole Miss now,” she said.

The Lawrences made unforgettable memories over those 4,500 miles.

“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences saying you could do a cross-country trek like that,” Chris said. “It was the end of my Alaska chapter and the beginning of my chapter here in Mississippi.”

Pharmacy Professor Becomes Graduate School Associate Dean

Robert Doerksen is former director of medicinal chemistry graduate program

Robert Doerksen

OXFORD, Miss – Robert Doerksen, associate professor of medicinal chemistry, is the new associate dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School. As of Monday (Dec. 11), he will manage the Office of the Graduate School and assist with expanding graduate education initiatives.

A faculty member in the School of Pharmacy since 2004, Doerksen has mentored graduate students for many years. He spent the last year as the director of the graduate program of the medicinal chemistry division within the school’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences.

Doerksen said he has long been interested in graduate studies, even spending time as an undergraduate reading about the history of higher education in Western society.

“Since then, I have loved the idea of how important and valuable it is to educate students to the highest level in a wide range of subjects,” Doerksen said.

As part of his new responsibilities, Doerksen also will supervise key staff members in the Graduate School, coordinate the Graduate Council and help ensure all aspects of graduate education run smoothly, including recruitment, admissions, finances and records.

“We must focus on improvements in quality, quantity and diversity of graduate students and of graduate degree programs, while also enhancing the sense of community and commitment across campus for administrators, faculty, students and staff,” he said.

In addition to his work at Ole Miss, Doerksen has experience with graduate education at various institutions, including Regent College, University of New Brunswick, University of California at Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania and National Pingtung University of Science and Technology in Taiwan.

During his time at the pharmacy school, Doerksen has twice won the school’s Faculty Service Award, as well as the Faculty Instructional Innovation Award. In July, he was recognized as one of the school’s four Distinguished Teaching Scholars.

“I expect that Robert’s extensive experience as a graduate student mentor will be transformed into fresh ideas and programs coming out of the Graduate School,” said Kristie Willett, chair of the biomolecular sciences department. “The Graduate School and its initiatives to recruit, support and reward our graduate students are essential to the success of an R1 university like the University of Mississippi.”

Although Doerksen said he has “very much enjoyed” teaching professional and graduate courses, he will greatly reduce his teaching responsibilities to focus on the new position.

“I will always be involved in the informal teaching that goes with being an adviser to members of my research group, including postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students,” Doerksen said. “This is the kind of teaching that I think is at the heart of a great university.”

Doerksen was selected based on his experience teaching and mentoring graduate students, as well as the “breadth and depth of his vision for graduate education” at UM, said Christy Wyandt, interim Graduate School dean.

“Robert has been a key member of our faculty for many years, as can be seen by his record of service, teaching and research success,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He has a clear commitment to graduate education that will serve the university well.”

Doerksen aims to continue the success of the Graduate School and seek out ways it can contribute to the university and to society.

“I don’t want to overlook the importance of maintaining a well-functioning graduate school with its many moving parts,” Doerksen said. “At the same time, I dream of ways that we can improve graduate education at the University of Mississippi.”

UM Graduate School to Host Expo

Event to showcase more than 100 programs of study

Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Graduate School is preparing for its first-ever expo showcasing the possibilities for graduate education spanning a wide range of programs and UM campuses.

The expo is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday (Feb. 15) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Designed to showcase more than 100 graduate programs of study, the event will be structured similar to a career fair. Representatives from more than 60 master’s programs, 40 doctoral programs and five specialist programs will be on hand to answer questions about areas of study, admissions and funding.

“We encourage all students to attend this event to get answers to any questions they may have concerning graduate school,” said Brenteria Travis, manager of graduate admissions. “We hope that this event will ignite an interest and erase any apprehension students may have about graduate education.”

Representatives from the School of Law and UM Medical Center also will be in attendance to talk to students about their programs. Other attendees include faculty and staff members from Ole Miss organizations with information regarding funding and research opportunities.

“We are excited to be hosting this event that aims at encouraging our current students and alumni to consider attending graduate school here in one of our esteemed programs at the University of Mississippi,” said Christy Wyandt, professor of pharmaceutics and interim dean of the Graduate School.

All undergraduate, graduate and former students are invited to attend.

Internship Helps Political Science Student Prepare for Graduate School

NSF program provided intensive academic atmosphere and research opportunities

Jacob Smith presents his research on human trafficking at the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science at the University of North Texas.

Jacob Smith presents his research on human trafficking at the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science at the University of North Texas.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi political science major Jacob Smith was accepted to the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science this summer at the University of North Texas.

Smith, a senior from Corinth, was recommended to the program by his UM mentor, Matt DiGuseppe, assistant professor of political science. DiGueseppe describes Smith as an ideal candidate for the program that exposes and prepares exceptional undergraduates for graduate programs in conflict management and peace science.

“Jake can often find the core of an argument very quickly and offer his own, often on point, critique,” DiGuseppe said. “In other words, he not only digests class material but has sharp critical thinking skills that are necessary to generate, instead of consume, research. Knowing that Jake had plans to attend graduate school, I thought this program offered the opportunity for him to hone his skills and provide him with a competitive advantage over other graduate school applicants.”

Faculty members in the UM political science department were readily available to answer questions and offer advice on participating in such an intensive academic atmosphere, Smith said.

“The University of Mississippi did an excellent job of preparing me for the rigors of a condensed NSF program that describes itself as the first year of graduate school in an eight-week program,” he said. “I was as prepared as I could possibly be for the amount of work required on a daily basis due to the excellent teaching of the Ole Miss staff.”

The eight-week residence program hosted by UNT’s renowned political science department provides eight undergraduates with opportunities to engage in graduate-level empirical research and present their results at local and national conferences. Participating students receive a $4,000 stipend, free room and board, and paid travel expenses.

Smith’s research focuses on human trafficking, a topic he says is a fairly under-researched area of political science. With plans to pursue his doctorate, he hopes to expand his research to include new variables such as how geographical features effect human trafficking. Smith plans to present his project at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in April 2016.

After completing the program, Smith took a much-needed vacation to visit a high school friend in Vancouver, Canada. Although it gave him little time to prepare for the upcoming semester, he was able to relax and explore Vancouver.

Smith encourages other students to seek learning experiences outside their comfort zones.

“Don’t be afraid to take opportunities you don’t feel that you are prepared for,” Smith said. “Oftentimes the journey will prepare you better than the classroom ever could.”

UM Graduate School Dean Receives NASA Honor

John Z. Kiss to be awarded Outstanding Public Leadership Medal

From left: Ariel Dauzart, Kathy Millar, Dr. John Kiss, Logan Williams, Neel Patel.

From left: Ariel Dauzart, Kathy Millar, John Kiss, Logan Williams and Neel Patel.

OXFORD, Miss. – The dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School is the recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Public Leadership Medal.

John Z. Kiss is being awarded the prestigious honor, which recognizes nongovernment employees for notable leadership accomplishments that have significantly influenced the NASA mission. The renowned scientist has worked with NASA for nearly three decades, having served as vice chair of the International Committee on Space Research.

As TROPI (an experiment to investigate the growth and development of plant seedlings under various gravity and lighting combinations) spaceflight project director from 2004 to 2010, Kiss supervised 36 scientists and engineers at four NASA centers and two centers of the European Space Agency. These efforts resulted in two successful projects on the International Space Station.

“I have worked with NASA for 27 years and feel humbled and honored to receive this medal,” Kiss said. “We have had seven spaceflight projects, which have been on the space shuttle and now the International Space Station. Thus, this award is shared by the numerous colleagues, co-workers, undergraduates and graduate students who have been part of these exciting projects.”

Kiss’ Seedling Growth-1 experiment was aboard SpaceX-2, which brought the payload to the ISS last year. A professor of biology, he is principal investigator on “Novel Explorations into the Interactions between Light and Gravity Sensing in Plants.” Part of the Fundamental Space Biology program at NASA, the program is designed to study light and gravity signaling in plants, and their effects on cell growth and proliferation. It also has potential for improving crop species on Earth to obtain increased production and sustainability.

“I feel very privileged to contribute, in a small way, to the excitement of space research and to be part of NASA’s broader mission to educate and inspire the next generation,” Kiss said.

The OPLM award honors sustained leadership and exceptionally high-impact leadership achievement in advancing the agency’s goals and image in present and future terms.

Two NASA officials said Kiss is most worthy of the award.

“I’ve had the pleasure of knowing John for about 10 years and all during those years, I’ve been impressed with John as a leader,” said Sidney Sun, chief of NASA’s Space Biosciences Division. “He’s been a leader in plant physiology, identifying how plants respond to different lighting and gravitational conditions.”

Kiss is a pioneer in studying plants in fractional (or reduced) gravity, research that is impossible to do on Earth, Sun said.

“His leadership of the American Society for Gravitational and Space Biology was critical during a time when scientific funding became precariously low,” he said. “I’ve also seen him be a tremendous mentor and professor to young scientists, helping them grow in their career paths.”

Marianne Steele, project manager at Lockheed Martin, said Kiss is an excellent researcher in plant biology, well known internationally and nationally for his critical questions and results in exploring and understanding the fundamental behaviors and underlying mechanisms of plants.

“Dr. Kiss is a people person of great integrity who steps-up to challenges, follows through and is accountable,” Steele said. “It has been and continues to be a very positive personal and professional experience for me to work with him.”

Kiss and his colleagues are continuing to work with NASA-Ames on the Seedling Growth-2 project, which is scheduled to launch Sept. 19 on the SpaceX-4 mission to the ISS.

“Since plants will be a necessary part of bioregenerative life support needed to send humans to Mars and beyond, the knowledge obtained from our spaceflight experiments will be critical for developing ways to effectively use plants in these life-support systems,” Kiss said.

Kiss collaborated with F. Javier Medina of Centro de Investigaciones Biológicas in Madrid. UM post-doctoral researchers Kathy Millar and Josh Vandenbrink, and undergraduates Neel Patel of Water Valley, Logan Williams of Collinsville, Tennessee, and Alison Neel of Hattiesburg, assisted Kiss. Private contractor SpaceX is responsible for launching the experiments.

The hypothesis of their research is that positive red-light sensing, which was known in older plant lineages, is masked by normal 1-g conditions in more recently evolved lineages. Through the experiment, the scientists aim to confirm and characterize the red-light-dependent phototropic response (how the seedlings germinate under the deep-space illumination) in flowering plants.

The experiment was conducted with different genotypes of the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana in experimental containers placed in the European Modular Cultivation System, a large incubator that provides control over the atmosphere, lighting and humidity of growth chambers to study plant growth on the ISS. The experiment containers contained white, blue and red lights that can be controlled from the ground to expose the plants to different kinds of light.

“By using the two centrifuges in the EMCS, it was possible to carry out the experiment in microgravity and fractional gravity, along with the 1-g control, within the same space environment,” Kiss said. “Following a six-day time course in the EMCS, the samples were either frozen or chemically fixed and returned to us. Additionally, images were taken throughout the whole experiment and downloaded real time.”

For information, on the latest mission, go to

Engineering: Three Seniors Accepted into Top Graduate Schools

Johns Hopkins, MIT, Texas welcome UM graduates

Many graduating seniors across the country are eagerly awaiting word from graduate schools regarding admission to their competitive programs, but for three outstanding University of Mississippi School of Engineering students, the wait is over.

Charles “CJ” Jenkins and Frances Sullivan-Gonzalez, both of Oxford; and John Stefancik of Pace, Florida, have each been accepted into some of the nation’s strongest graduate programs for engineering. Jenkins is bound for Johns Hopkins University, Sullivan-Gonzalez is headed for the University of Texas and Stefancik is going to Massachusetts Institute of Technology.







“Our program and faculty prepare students well for job placement and graduate education,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the UM engineering school. “While some of our best students are choosing to stay to pursue their graduate education at the university, I am so pleased to see that some have the opportunity to study at the nation’s best engineering schools.”

A civil engineering and public policy leadership double major, Jenkins was also accepted at the Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. At Johns Hopkins, he will pursue a Ph.D. in civil engineering on a research fellowship. His emphasis area will be either cold-formed steel or structural-topology optimization.

“The School of Engineering’s setting in a liberal arts university has exposed me to a wide range of people from all majors,” Jenkins said. “Also, the networking opportunities provided by a small engineering school have been excellent and unique.”

Jenkins’ short-term goals include completing his master’s degree and his engineer-in-training period, allowing him to begin tenure as a licensed structural engineer. He can also see himself completing his doctorate and securing a position with a boutique structural-design firm. Long term, Jenkins hopes to continue work as a structural engineer, designing high-rise buildings.

While at Ole Miss, Jenkins was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. He served as president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society and credits Elizabeth Ervin, associate professor of civil engineering, as being critical to his success as an undergraduate student.

A mechanical engineering and accountancy double major, Stefancik plans to pursue a master’s degree in technology and policy as part of the Engineering Systems Division. Recipient of a research assistantship, he also was admitted to Texas A&M University and Georgia Tech. Stefancik plans to pursue a Ph.D. or potential consulting work after completing his master’s. Long-term, he hopes to pursue an opportunity in upper-level management in a technology or engineering-based company.

“The School of Engineering provided me one-on-one interaction and access to educational resources that helped me realize the best means to pursue and achieve my career goals,” said Stefancik, a Taylor medalist. “I had the chance to complete an internship with C Spire as well as classroom projects through Viking Range and Parker Hannifin in my manufacturing coursework.”

During his tenure, Stefancik was a member of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Phi Kappa Phi and Delta Psi fraternity. He credits Ellen Lackey, professor of mechanical engineering; James Vaughan, CME director and professor of mechanical engineering; and Jim Chambers, senior scientist at the National Center for Physical Acoustics and associate professor of mechanical engineering, as being outstanding instructors and personal resources throughout his graduate school application process. He also acknowledged Mark Wilder, dean of the School of Accountancy, and Dave Nichols, associate professor of accountancy, as instrumental to his success as a student.

A chemical engineering and mathematics double major, Sullivan-Gonzalez will attend the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT, where she plans to study environmental and water resources engineering. Sullivan-Gonzalez received an Environmental and Water Resources Engineering assistantship, Graduate School Diversity Mentoring Fellowship, UT-Austin Graduate School Fellowship and a Cockrell School of Engineering Fellowship. She was also offered admission to University of Colorado and Tufts University.

Her research was part of completing her thesis for the Honors College.

“I worked with Dr. Paul Scovazzo (associate professor of chemical engineering) for two years, working on the dehumidification of methane using room-temperature ionic liquid membranes,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “I do believe my work in the lab was beneficial to my grad school applications since the grad programs are all research-based. Previous research experience is always beneficial because it demonstrates a student’s ability to think and work beyond the theoretical education we receive in the classroom.”

She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, the American Institute for Chemical Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers. Sullivan-Gonzalez was also an active member of the Ole Miss Ultimate Frisbee team. She hopes to work for an environmental consulting firm upon completion of graduate school. She credits John O’Haver, professor of chemical engineering; Debra Young, associate dean of the Honors College; and Paul Scovazzo as being outstanding mentors and advisers.

Kiss Selected Head of Conference of Southern Graduate Schools

UM dean will lead organization focused on promoting programs, monitoring standards

John Z. Kiss.  Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

John Z. Kiss. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss – John Z. Kiss, dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School, has been elected president of the Conference of Southern Graduate Schools for 2015. He is the 2014 vice president of the organization.

“CSGS is an excellent organization providing opportunity for graduate school deans to discuss common problems and solutions of their schools,” Kiss said. “I also hope my election will give a bit more prominence to the University of Mississippi.”

One of the main purposes of CSGS, which includes more than 200 graduate schools in 15 Southern states including Alabama, Florida and Mississippi, is to develop topics for the annual meeting that are relevant to graduate studies and research. CSGS was founded in 1971.

Kiss said his new role is important to him because it will complement his position as dean and add to his portfolio. He said he sees his new job and his deanship working in a synergistic manner.

Kiss assumed his deanship at UM on Sept. 1, 2012, and has been a member of CSGS for a year-and-a-half. The recent past-president of the conference, Edelma Huntley, dean of research and graduate studies at Appalachian State University, was optimistic about Kiss’ election.

“I believe that Dr. Kiss will be a good leader for CSGS when he takes the reins in February 2015,” Huntley said. “He was a good choice for the organization, and when he takes over, I know that he will continue the positive momentum into the future that has been started by his predecessors.”

Kiss is the second from UM to be president of the conference after Michael R. Dingerson, who served as UM associate vice chancellor for research and dean of the graduate school, in 1993-1994.

As a distinguished professor of biology and research professor in the UM Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kiss has worked on national and international scientific research focusing on plant space biology. Kiss was a faculty member at Miami University for almost two decades. He has mentored 45 undergraduate research projects and served as major professor for 12 master’s students, seven doctoral students and five post-doctoral scholars.

Kiss will take over from Paul Gemperline, CSGS president and dean of research and graduate studies at East Carolina University, in 2015.

Kiss’ new job comes in three phases: vice president to the current president, president himself in 2015 and then past-president, where he will serve as chair of the organization’s nomination committee. Kiss’ major role in these three phases is to work with the elected executive committee to find locations for future meetings, and to work on regional and national levels to find topics for graduate studies and research.

The university benefits because Kiss’ new position will bring visibility to the school, he said.

“It can inform prospective students that University of Mississippi has a strong graduate school, and this can help to increase enrollment,” Kiss said.

At home, Kiss is working on increasing enrollment in the Graduate School. As part of these efforts, last year, he increased the number of research awards given to exceptional graduate students from 10 to 20.

Kiss will attend the CSGS executive meeting in June in New Orleans, where the conference’s annual program for 2015 will be drawn.

WHLT: Kiss named dean of UM graduate school

Read the story

John Z. Kiss Hired as New Dean of UM Graduate School

John Kiss

John Kiss

… Assumes duties Sept. 1; sets goal for school to continue progress.

OXFORD, Miss. – John Z. Kiss, distinguished professor and chair of botany at Miami University in Ohio, is the new dean of the University of Mississippi Graduate School.

His appointment begins Sept. 1, pending approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Kiss served 19 years as a faculty member at MU and is internationally known for his research in botany and space technology, particularly for his studies of gravity and light perception mechanisms in plants. His prolific research activity has garnered $5 million in funding from more than a dozen agencies in the sciences, including NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

Morris Stocks, UM provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, said he’s pleased that Kiss is coming to the university.Read the story …

Graduate Student Leads State’s Largest High School Chinese Program

Linfei Yi teaches two classes at Holly Springs High School

Victoria Nabors (left), T’khya Williams, Kelvisha Conner, Fredrekia Campbell and Kennytra Martin, all Chinese 1 students at Holly Spring High School, show off their Asian-themed paper cuttings at the school. UM photo by Linfei Yi

OXFORD, Miss. – When Linfei Yi began teaching Chinese at Holly Springs High School two years ago, the University of Mississippi graduate student had no idea it would quickly become the largest such program in Mississippi.

Besides Holly Springs, three Mississippi schools – Oxford High School and Lafayette High School in Oxford and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Ridgeland – have Chinese language programs. The UM Department of Modern Languages is involved with the Lafayette and Holly Springs programs through its partnership with Alliance for Language Learning and Educational Exchange Foundation.

The alliance works mostly to set up Chinese and Japanese programs within universities, but it also helps recruit graduate students into the university’s Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages programs. Native Chinese speakers are required to teach in one of the high schools while they pursue their degrees.

“It’s a wonderfully innovative way for the university to bring new academic programs to area high schools,” said Daniel O’Sullivan, UM chair and professor of modern languages. “Yi has been a model graduate student in our program and has made a positive impact at Holly Springs.

“She was a finalist last year in the graduate school’s 3MT (Three-Minute Thesis) Competition, and everyone in the department was very proud of her.”

Yi’s students also have traveled to Oxford to participate in the Moon Festival and to watch the Chinese Speech Contest, which was held on Chinese New Year. These events and others are observed through the university’s Chinese Language Flagship Program.

“I have seen just how big of an impact Yi has had on her students,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s really inspiring.”

Yi has taught 62 students in two classes at the north Mississippi high school. Since its inception, two graduates have continued their Chinese studies.

Tiffany Nichols, a student in the Chinese language program at Holly Springs High School, writes her first ‘good luck’ poster with the Chinese brush. UM photo by Linfei Yi

“The most rewarding aspect of my teaching experience is always to see my students can speak more and more in Chinese and become more and more interested and curious about the language and the culture,” said Yi, a native of Guilin, China, who earned her bachelor’s degree from Guilin University of Technology and her master’s degree from Guangxi Normal University.

Yi said students in her Chinese Level 2 class are the best example of this progress. She recalled how some of them initially wanted to take Spanish rather than Chinese, but couldn’t transfer out of the class.

“The first day of my Chinese 1 class, they were not happy at all,” she said. “But through the first year of learning the language, doing group projects and presentations on Chinese culture and attending events held by the Ole Miss Flagship Chinese program, the students took the initiatives to learn more.

“Now, I don’t have to worry about if they (as Chinese 2 students) will misbehave in the classroom, if they will delay their assignments or if some of them will fail a test because their performance in the class has shown their achievements day by day.”

Yi said she entered the modern languages and liguistics program because she wanted to continue to teach Chinese as a second language to English speakers.

“I wish to continue to work either as a language teacher or to promote cultural exchange between China and the U.S.,” she said.

Several of Yi’s Holly Springs students praised her efforts on their behalf.

“Ms. Yi is a very inspirational person,” said Kuelteria Crane, a senior. “She never gives up on teaching new things and opening our minds to new ideas. She is the greatest teacher and deserves to be recognized greatly.”