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Taylor Cook Named 2012 Udall Scholar

UM student Taylor Cook has been named a 2012 Udall Scholar. Video by Mary Stanton.


UM Students Receive Taylor Medals

OXFORD, Miss. – Sixty-four University of Mississippi undergraduates were recognized as recipients of Taylor Medals April 12 during the 69th annual Honors Convocation at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Taylor Medals, the university’s highest academic award, recognize no more than 0.45 percent of undergraduates for meritorious scholarship and deportment. Recipients of the award must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average. The award was established at UM in 1904 by Dr. William A. Taylor of Booneville in memory of his son, an honored 1871 alumnus of the university. Following is a list of the spring 2012 Taylor Medalists: Caitlin Elizabeth Adams, Meek School of Journalism and New Media Brian Davis Barnes, College of Liberal Arts Caitlin Marie Brock, College of Liberal Arts Chany Fehr Buchanan, College of Liberal Arts Norma Katharine Butts, College of Liberal Arts Casey Allan Chinn, College of Liberal Arts Katherine Suzanne Conely, School of Pharmacy Hallie Virginia Cook, School of Pharmacy Burleigh Wyatt Dabney, College of Liberal Arts Joanna Leigh David, School of Engineering Vihara Anjalee Dharmaratne, College of Liberal Arts Corrine Anna Doornberg, School of Engineering Emily Elaine Duke, School of Applied Sciences Ryan Keith Ezelle, College of Liberal Arts Logan Dwayne Fair, College of Liberal Arts Sarah Joangela Farris, School of Engineering Apral Patrice Foreman, College of Liberal Arts Kerri Leann Franks, School of Education Elizabeth Ramsey Frey, College of Liberal Arts Megan Elise Gargiulo, College of Liberal Arts Joseph Wellington Golden, College of Liberal Arts Jill Elaina Haley, College of Liberal Arts Kimberly Rebekah Harris, College of Liberal Arts Molly Hunter Harris, College of Liberal Arts Sara Stevens Hazard, School of Accountancy Matthew Powers Herring, School of Engineering Hillary Michelle Howell, College of Liberal Arts Amanda Kathryn Hutcheson, School of Applied Sciences Ellen Marie Karp, School of Business Administration Cody Paul LeBlanc, College of Liberal Arts Carroll Darlene Lee, School of Education Camille Lyn Lesseig, College of Liberal Arts Patrick Kin-Wing Lo, School of Accountancy Rebecca Lane MacNeill, School of Applied Sciences Kely Jo Markley, School of Engineering Taylor Michael McGraw, College of Liberal Arts Matthew Brannon Miller, College of Liberal Arts John Abraham Montgomery II, College of Liberal Arts Mary Margaret Myers, School of Accountancy Hunter Owen Nicholson, College of Liberal Arts Mariel Aubra Kittredge Parman, College of Liberal Arts Matthew Craig Pharr, School of Education Gabriela Rangel, College of Liberal Arts Timothy Sean Ray, College of Liberal Arts Ianthony Marie Reiner, School of Applied Sciences Daniel Safley Reynolds, School of Accountancy Daniel Windham Robbins, College of Liberal Arts Sarah Kathryn Sams, School of Engineering James Corbett Senter, School of Engineering Jessica Elaine Sewell, College of Liberal Arts Tracey Erin Sisco, School of Engineering Alyssa Rae Smith, School of Engineering Katharine Elizabeth Smith, College of Liberal Arts Brian Michael Spurlock, College of Liberal Arts Thomas Daniel Strini, School of Applied Sciences Cody Ryan Swindle, School of Pharmacy Kira Jordan Thomas, College of Liberal Arts David Ford Thompson, School of Accountancy Kathryn Eileen Trabue, College of Liberal Arts Derek Anthony VanDunse, School of Accountancy Anna Lee Whitley, School of Engineering Emily Erin Wicks, School of Business Administration Meredith Leigh Wilson, College of Liberal Arts Steven Brian Worley, School of Engineering

Sustainability Enthusiasm Wins UM Student Udall Scholarship

Grace Sullivan is the university's third award recipient since 2008

Grace Sullivan is congratulated by her parents, Claire and Dr. David Sullivan (left) and UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Grace Sullivan is congratulated by her parents, Claire and Dr. David Sullivan (left) and UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Every leap year since 2008, a University of Mississippi student has been surprised with a Morris K. Udall Scholarship. This year is no exception, as Grace Sullivan became the university’s third recipient of the prestigious academic award.

The junior social work major from Madison got the news recently when she was summoned to Chancellor Jeffery Vitter’s office in the Lyceum. Led to believe that the chancellor was meeting with all institutional nominees for national fellowships, Sullivan had no idea she had actually won the Udall.

“I was just overwhelmed by the support that I have been given in my years at Ole Miss,” she said. “So many people have come alongside me and provided me with opportunities to serve and develop my ambitions in sustainability. I know that I would not be a Udall Scholar without the support of all of them.”

As the chancellor announced the good news, he extended thanks to her professors, staff members who have assisted her and family supporters.

“I love to see effective passion, and Grace has taken a lot of good advice and channeled it in healthy and constructive ways,” Vitter said. “Part of what education is about is helping people find what they love and then use it to make the world a better place. Our students are making a difference, and we are pleased when their efforts are recognized on a national scale. We look forward to following Grace’s career and seeing what she will accomplish.”

The Udall Scholarship provides $7,000 for one year of study. Previous UM students to be awarded Udall Scholarships are Alecia Waite in 2008 and Taylor Cook in 2012.

Sullivan is among 60 national winners of the scholarships, given annually to college sophomores and juniors who are committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American health care.

“I will be putting the monetary scholarship from the Udall toward my graduate studies,” Sullivan said. “I plan to attain a master’s in social work and a law degree, so I am thankful to have this assistance as it seems I have a lot of education left to go. More importantly, I think that the Udall will help me in my further studies by providing a network of support through the other scholars.”

Sullivan is a graduate of Madison Central High School. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Phi Kappa Phi and Order of Omega, she is actively involved in the Associate Student Body, Green Fund Committee, Delta Gamma fraternity, Active Transportation Advisory Committee and Gamma Beta Phi community service honors society.

She is also a member of the Ole Miss Cycling Club and UM Garden Club.

As a sophomore, she led her sorority’s team in the Green Cup competition, an annual event among Greek houses to be named the most sustainable, culminating in Green Week. Intent on being interactive with members and on encouraging involvement, the team developed a project to reduce transportation waste.

“I had everyone sign a pledge to carpool, take a bus or ride a bike to campus at least once a week,” she said. “When I gave a presentation about easy sustainable choices on campus, I asked to see the hands of those who had used our recycling receptacles or who had noticed them and chosen the nearby trashcans instead.”

As a second project, Sullivan took groups to local recreation trails to pick up litter.

“After that year, I think that a significant difference will be made,” Sullivan said. “I see this experience as a microcosm for culture around sustainability in Mississippi and the potential for progress. For anything to change, individuals have to be engaged and understand their impact.”

“I have known Grace Sullivan since her freshman year, and I have worked with her extensively both formally through internships and informally through collaborative partnerships and committee service, which speaks to the kind of dedication and commitment she has,” said Anne McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability. “She is passionate, driven, smart and yet humble. I am thrilled to see her being recognized and know that she certainly deserves this honor.”

Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-González said he was pleased, but not really surprised.

“Grace Sullivan leads by example,” Sullivan-González said. “She makes her academic pilgrimage come alive with her commitment to our university community as both citizen and scholar, and Udall distinguished that record with this extraordinary award.”

Sullivan credits the university with developing her leadership skills.

“Social work and law are not the typical avenues through which people expect environmental activism to grow, but I think that the Udall Foundation appreciates that change has to come from every direction,” she said. “Getting to know the diverse group of students that will become the generation that fights with me will likely help direct and support me in my future studies even more than funds can.”

Besides her work in the world of environmentalism, Sullivan fosters education and activism for local birds, volunteers at an Oxford nursing home and is a member of the Student Gardening Club, all while maintaining a 3.76 GPA.

In her Udall application, she wrote that she hoped “to go into public service in Mississippi, eventually transitioning into a community planning position in which I will encourage sustainable practices as a way to combat social ills.” This scholarship is a sign of Sullivan’s dedication and potential, and will offer unique opportunities as well.

One of Sullivan’s mentors is Tess Lefmann, assistant professor of social work.

“Grace is a wonderful student whose passion for sustainability is evident in her work and presence in the classroom,” Lefmann said. “Her united interest in social welfare and the environment has sparked new dialogue among social work students, which has been a joy to witness.”

Lefmann said she has no doubt that Sullivan will continue to make valuable contributions to the country’s policies on energy use and environmental sustainability.

Sullivan’s parents are Dr. David and Claire Sullivan of Madison, both UM alumni.

Congress established the Udall Foundation as an independent executive branch agency in 1992 to honor Morris K. Udall’s 30 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives. Students interested in pursuing a Udall Scholarship can contact Tim Dolan, the university’s Udall representative, at

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement conducts workshops each semester to introduce students to major national scholarships. Go to for more information.

UM Student Receives Udall Scholarship Honorable Mention

Kendall McDonald, a junior public policy major from Diamondhead, is among 50 national honorees

Kendall McDonald

Kendall McDonald

OXFORD, Miss. – Kendall McDonald , a public policy leadership major at the University of Mississippi who has worked on campus environmental issues while maintaining a 3.96 grade point average, recently was awarded a prestigious Udall Scholarship honorable mention.

McDonald, of Diamondhead, is a junior enrolled in the university’s Sally McDonell Barksdale Honors College and works as an intern in the Office of Campus Sustainability. She has helped operate the UM football game day recycling program, which involved establishing a new partnership with an international recycling company. She also oversaw the production of UM’s Green Week, including the construction of an 8-foot cube of waste educational exhibit.

She studies environmental issues, including participating in an experimental class about the lower Mississippi River. A member of Delta Gamma sorority, she is also active in campus environmental campaigns and “green” student groups.

“Being named an honorable mention to the Udall scholarship, which signifies the top 20 percent of applicants nationally, is very encouraging to me,” McDonald said. “It affirms that I am on the right path in pursuing environmental advocacy and it also places me within the larger network of Udall scholars and honorable mentions. I am so grateful for the support this network provides, and for the opportunity and assistance provided by the Office of National Scholarship Advisement.”

McDonald is the daughter of James Steven McDonald, of Lexington, Kentucky, and Shellye McDonald, of Diamondhead. She is the university’s third student to be recognized by the Udall Foundation. Taylor Cook was named a Udall Scholar in 2012 and Alecia Waite was named a Udall Scholar in 2008.

This year, the Udall Foundation’s 14-member independent review committee picked 50 students from 47 colleges out of more 489 candidates nominated to make up the 2014 scholars class. The foundation, which was established by Congress in 1992, makes its selections based on the students’ commitment to careers in the environment, American Indian health care or tribal public policy, leadership potential, academic achievement and record of public service. Scholars received up to $5,000 for tuition, room and board or other educational expenses. The committee also awarded 50 honorable mentions and those students receive access to the Udall Alumni Network.

McDonald’s application for the Udall Scholarship was supported by UM faculty members and employees, who wrote letters endorsing McDonald’s achievements.

Anne McCauley, UM assistant director of the Office of Sustainability, said McDonald is deserving of the recognition.

“Kendall McDonald is a talented individual who I have truly enjoyed working with and getting to know,” McCauley said. “Though she is intelligent, creative and a natural leader, she is humble and service-oriented. I trust her to represent the Office of Sustainability when she meets with student groups as well as staff members on campus. She has proven herself as capable as a professional colleague, which is exactly how I regard her.”

Joseph “Jody” Holland, UM assistant professor of public policy, said that as one of his students, McDonald completed an extensive research project that examined the barriers and opportunities for building recycling plants in Mississippi. But McDonald is also a well-rounded student who does more than just focus on work in the classroom, Holland said.

“She exemplifies a well-rounded student, who participates in multiple areas of service work on campus and in the community,” he said. “While being a full-time student, Kendall has volunteered for nine service projects over the years at Ole Miss and around the community. Her efforts are constantly focused around environmental policy and contemporary policies issues. As a student worker, she has work closely with the Office of Sustainability in many capacities. Even with that, she still maintains her academic performance as a top scholar.”

David Rutherford, UM associate professor of public policy and geography and executive director of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance, said McDonald is “an outstanding student but is also committed to work that improves the planet’s environment at local to global scales.”

“One of my classes in which Kendall enrolled is titled ‘Global Environmental Issues,’ and she demonstrated a strong desire to understand these issues and earned an A for the course,” Rutherford said. “Her performance in the course not only demonstrated high-level skills in reading, understanding and writing but also showed her insightful thinking about contemporary issues and her discerning identification of action steps needed to develop solutions.”

Leaders in Sustainability Honored During Green Week 2012

 TVA’s David Sparks, UM Vice Chancellor for Research and Sponsored Programs Alice Clark, Taylor Cook, Trey McCain and Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson at the Sustainability Leadership Awards during Green Week.

Members of the University of Mississippi and Oxford community who have shown outstanding leadership in sustainability were honored at the third annual Sustainability Leadership Awards at the Powerhouse Community Arts Center on April 18. During the event, which was part of Green Week, Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Oxford Mayor George “Pat” Patterson delivered keynote addresses, citing efforts by the university and city communities to advance sustainable practices and awareness.

“Progress appears in small steps,” said Jim Morrison, director of the UM Office of Campus Sustainability. “I believe we can agree that a healthy and thriving community arises from an engaged and knowledgeable population. Oftentimes, solutions to a community’s issue come from the community itself. It’s exciting to be part of a partnership between the university and city with individuals who have a passion for making a difference.”

The 2012 SLA recipients are Taylor Cook, a public policy leadership and Spanish major from Memphis and recipient of the prestigious Morris K. Udall Scholarship for her environmental work; Trey McCain, a graduate student in modern languages who has been actively involved in the Oxford Community Garden and is a founding leader of the North Central chapter of the Gaining Ground Sustainability Institute of Mississippi; and Missy Hopkins, owner of the Green Door Co. in Oxford, who launched the Be Green with the Green Door Co. campaign. The campaign included the Earth Day Technology Initiative, which encouraged local residents to stop by the business and drop off their old computers and other unwanted technology items to be recycled or refurbished and donated to local school districts.

Also during the ceremony, the UM chapter of the Tri-Delta sorority was awarded the Green Cup for incorporating eco-friendly practices within campus groups. Tri-Delta eliminated Styrofoam to-go plates and introduced reusable water bottles in its house, presented an eco-project on waste reduction, replaced paper forms with online sign-in sheets and order forms, and created a recycling program within the sorority.

“I hope that these nominees and winners inspire us to the goal of promoting sustainability,” Patterson said. “The beauty of this community is that even a small initiative can be felt.”

Patterson and Clark spoke about sustainability strides in the community, including the Oxford University Transit buses and UM’s newly opened Insight Park, a research park that has been designed to earn silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. David Sparks, TVA Mississippi manager for energy efficiency, also addressed the audience during the event.

Green Week, created in 2009, is a collaboration between UM and Oxford to promote sustainability awareness through activities for all ages. Recipients of the SLAs are nominated by community members and reviewed by a board of the previous year’s winners.

For more information on Green Week, visit

Environmental Passion Earns UM Student a Udall Scholarship

Taylor Cook (third from left) was shocked at the announcement she has received the Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Cook is the second University of Mississippi student to earn the honor. UM photo by Robert Jordan

Taylor Cook (third from left) was shocked at the announcement she has received the Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Cook is the second University of Mississippi student to earn the honor. UM photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – When Taylor Cook walked into the chancellor’s office at the University of Mississippi, she was not expecting to see a roomful of smiling faces.

But that is what she got at a surprise reception to congratulate her on winning the 2012 Morris K. Udall Scholarship, which provides $5,000 for one year of study. She is the second UM student to achieve this honor.Read the story …

Environmental Passion Earns UM Student a Udall Scholarship

Taylor Cook (third from left) was shocked at the announcement she has received the Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Cook is the second University of Mississippi student to earn the honor. UM photo by Robert Jordan

Taylor Cook (third from left) was shocked at the announcement she has received the Morris K. Udall Scholarship. Cook is the second University of Mississippi student to earn the honor. UM photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – When Taylor Cook walked into the chancellor’s office at the University of Mississippi, she was not expecting to see a roomful of smiling faces.

But that is what she got at a surprise reception to congratulate her on winning the 2012 Morris K. Udall Scholarship, which provides $5,000 for one year of study. She is the second UM student to achieve this honor.

Cook is among 80 national winners of the scholarships, given annually to college sophomores and juniors who are committed to careers related to the environment, tribal public policy or Native American health care.

“This wouldn’t have been possible without the honors college and, of course, the honors college is part of the bigger university that has provided me all of these opportunities for leadership,” Cook said.

Born in Memphis, Tenn., Cook moved to Southaven when she was 14 and attended Horn Lake High School. She is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barkdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute, majoring in public policy and Spanish, with minors in environmental studies and sociology.

“I love to see effective passion, and you have taken a lot of good advice and you have channeled it in healthy and constructive ways,” Chancellor Dan Jones said. “Part of what our education is about is having people channel their passions. We are proud of you, and it is a proud moment for the university as well.”

Cook serves as an intern in the Office of Campus Sustainability and is the leadership behind the establishment of a Green Fund at UM. She was instrumental in hosting the Mississippi Alumni & Students for Sustainability Spring 2012 Environmental Leadership Summit, an event that brought together more than 50 Mississippi students from universities and colleges around the state. Cook has also served as the Mississippi Fellow for the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, which allowed her to participate in PowerShift 2011, a national meeting of sustainability leaders in Washington, D.C.

“Taylor is not only very intelligent, which is evident in her academic accomplishments and recognition as a Udall Scholar, but she has exceptional leadership skills and a remarkable ability to inspire others with her passion,” said Jim Morrison, director of strategic planning and campus sustainability. “I am confident that Taylor is one of those special leaders who will make our world a better place in the future. We are fortunate to have her as an intern in our office of sustainability and as a student leader at our university.”

It was Cook’s first visit to the chancellor’s office, and she was elated to be there.

“I am so happy; this is not what I expected and I am shocked,” she said. “One of the best parts of being a Udall scholar is being part of the Udall network. Plus, the scholarship money will pay for my fifth year of school here, giving me more time to work on my academic goals as well as sustainability projects on campus.”

Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-González said he was pleased, but not really surprised.

“Taylor is unique in that she not only has that contagious passion to advocate for environmental and sustainability issues but also the ability and drive to empower her peers to do the same,” Sullivan-González said. “And those peers are at the state, regional and national level.”

Cook credited the university with developing her leadership skills.

“There have been so many opportunities that I hope students take advantage of because that’s how things like this happen, just by putting yourself out there,” she said. “I feel lucky to have had all the opportunities this university provides. I never would have thought back in high school that it would have been such a wealth of opportunity here, but it really has been.”

Representing the university and the Udall program is a tremendous honor, Cook said.

“Part of my outreach is to wear my campaign on my sleeve,” she said. “I hope by telling others what I am doing, I can inspire sustainability leadership in them.”

Besides her work in the world of environmentalism, Cook fosters cats with Nine Lives Cat Rescue, serves as a Global Ambassador and is a member of the Student Vegetarian Organization, all while maintaining a 3.76 GPA.

In her Udall application, she wrote that she hoped “to be a vehicle of change for environmental and social justice both in the United States and abroad.” This scholarship is a sign of Cook’s dedication and potential, and will offer her unique opportunities as well.

One of Cook’s mentors is Eric Weber, assistant professor of public policy leadership, who first taught her in Honors 102.

“I’ve watched many students explore interests and struggle to find what they want to do,” Weber said. “Taylor’s studies clearly struck a chord and motivated her to become a leader on campus. For her, issues of sustainability and environmental consideration quickly rose to the top of her interests. She has made a difference not only in particular efforts in the community, but also in shaping the campus culture.”

Weber said he has no doubt that Cook will continue to make valuable contributions to the country’s policies on energy use and environmental sustainability.

Congress established the Udall Foundation as an independent executive branch agency in 1992 to honor Morris K. Udall’s 30 years of service in the U.S. House of Representatives Students interested in pursuing the Udall Scholarship can contact Andrus Ashoo (, who serves as the university’s Udall representative.

The Office of National Scholarship Advisement conducts workshops each semester to introduce students to major national scholarships. Go to for more information.

Oxford Conference for the Book Celebrates Milestone Year

Event’s 25th edition features readings, panel discussions and lectures

Frank Walker

OXFORD, Miss. – For a quarter of a century, poets, novelists, journalists and scholars have gathered at the University of Mississippi to celebrate the written word. This year’s milestone event again brings people together from far and wide to celebrate the 25th annual Oxford Conference for the Book.

The three-day event, hosted March 21-23 by the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Oxford business Square Books, is free and open to the public with readings, panel discussions and lectures by notable writers, first-time novelists and celebrated academics.

Events will take place across the Ole Miss campus and at various sites in Oxford, with daily sessions slated for the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics and at Southside Gallery. The closing day’s panels, including a discussion of Affrilachian poets by authors Derrick Harriell, Frank X Walker, Kelly Norman Ellis and Ricardo Nazario y Colon, take place in the historic Lafayette County Courthouse.

“The fact that this is the 25th year for the Oxford Conference for the Book proves its longevity and shows how much people really support authors,” said James G. Thomas Jr., conference director. “I’m also excited to include a number of local writers this year, which I think showcases the talent we have at our back door.”

This year, the conference will begin with a pre-conference reading and book signing by Mississippi novelist Michael Farris Smith. His newest book, “The Fighter,” will launch the day before the conference begins, and conferees are encouraged to attend this event at Off Square Books at 5 p.m. March 20.

After 25 years, the conference has become a small gem in Mississippi’s great literary crown, said Richard Howorth, owner of Square Books.

“The conference has a unique and colorful history, having brought so many notable American novelists, poets, editors, publishers, scholars, booksellers, literary agents and children’s authors to a public audience here in the Oxford-University of Mississippi community,” Howorth said. “I’m grateful to have had the pleasure and distinction of working with (conference founder) Ann Abadie and many other active supporters, both on campus and in town.”

Beth Ann Fennelly

Beginning the conference at 11 a.m. March 21, Wayne A. Wiegand and Shirley Wiegand, authors of “The Desegregation of Public Libraries in the Jim Crow South: Civil Rights and Local Activism,” will give the keynote lecture on their book after a free luncheon sponsored by the Friends of the Library in the Faulkner Room in the Department of Archives and Special Collections in the J.D. Williams Library. The lunch is free, but reservations are appreciated.

Besides novelists and library historians, this year’s participants include political historians, historians, sociologists and anthropologists, literary critics and cultural studies scholars, poets, essayists and memoirists, literature scholars, editors and publishers, and a wildlife biologist. Conference panels, sessions and readings will explore a wide range of topics, such as political history, the Latino experience in the South, the Bohemian South, the fight in Tennessee to ratify the constitutional amendment that granted women voting rights, radical foodways, and Affrilachian poets and their legacy.

On Wednesday (March 21) and Friday (March 23), book signings for that day’s authors are at Off Square Books, with Thursday’s (March 22) signing after “Thacker Mountain Radio” at Square Books.

“I’m eager to hear Ann Beattie talk about Memphian Peter Taylor and his short stories because it will be one master of the short story discussing another master of the short story,” Thomas said. “Additionally, world-renowned British writer Martin Amis, who will be on ‘Thacker Mountain Radio’ and at a Friday session at 1:15 p.m., will showcase his talents.”

The conference also hosts a number of special events. Besides the keynote luncheon, Wednesday features Cathy Shropshire, past director of the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, in a biographical performance as Fannye Cook, Mississippi’s pioneering conservationist. The session is at 1:30 p.m. at the Overby Center.

On Thursday, the University Press of Mississippi will engage students in a session on “Could Publishing Be in My Future? Publishing as a Career” at noon in Barnard Observatory. And poets/flash memoirists Beth Ann Fennelly, Marcus Wicker, Jenny Browne and Jennifer Tseng will give a reading at 4:30 p.m. at Southside Gallery.

Fennelly, UM professor of English and Mississippi’s poet laureate, said she is proud to be part of the conference’s 25th year because it adds so much to the literary community of Oxford and provides opportunities for students to interact with our country’s most vital writers.

Martin Amis

“I love that the book conference is truly a ‘town and gown’ event and even nudges students off campus to events in our community,” Fennelly said. “For example, this year I’m bringing my grad class in hybrid literature to see Jennifer Tseng read her hybrid flash pieces at the poetry panel at Southside Gallery and to the library to hear Jenny Browne’s lecture.

“I’m bringing my undergrads in my Contemporary American Poetry class to several events, including an informational session the University Press of Mississippi is hosting for students who might choose publishing as a career. Also, the poet Marcus Wicker, a professor at Rhodes, will visit my classroom for a Q-and-A.”

The Book Conference Authors Party, held Wednesday evening at the historic Barksdale-Isom House and cohosted this year by the Friends of the J.D. Williams Library, is a lively fundraiser with food, drinks, music and conversation between fellow conference attendees and guest writers. Tickets are $50, and all reservations can be made online on the conference website or by calling 662-915-3374.

As in years past, “Thacker Mountain Radio” will host a special Oxford Conference for the Book show at Off Square Books. The show, with conference authors and visiting musicians, begins at 6 p.m. Thursday.

At noon Friday, the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library will host a poetry talk and lunch with poet Jenny Browne. Both the lunch and talk are free, but reservations are required. Reservations can be made at the conference website.

The 2018 Children’s Book Festival, held in conjunction with the Oxford Conference for the Book, is set for March 22 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for Performing Arts, with more than 1,200 first- and fifth-graders from the Oxford and Lafayette County schools in attendance. Matt De La Pena will talk to the first-graders about his book “Last Stop on Market Street” at 9 a.m., and with the fifth-graders about his book “A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis” at 10:30 a.m.

Ann Beattie

The Lafayette County Literacy Council sponsors the first-grade program and the Junior Auxiliary of Oxford sponsors the fifth-grade program. All 1,200 children get their own copy of each book.

The Oxford Conference for the Book is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Square Books, the Lafayette County Literacy Council, J.D. Williams Library, Friends of the J.D. Williams Library, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics, the John and Renée Grisham Visiting Writers Fund, Junior Auxiliary of Oxford and the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library.

The conference is partially funded by the university, a contribution from the R&B Feder Foundation for the Beaux Arts, a grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council and promotional support from Visit Oxford.

To learn more about the guest authors, visit and the conference’s Facebook page. Register for special events on the conference website or by contacting conference director James G. Thomas Jr. at 662-915-3374 or by email at

Ole Miss Outdoors’ Dog Sledding Trip a Howling Good Time

Excursion to Ely, Minnesota, also includes visit to International Wolf Center

Dog sledding in Ely, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Logan Vaughan

It’s my first time dog sledding, and I’m standing on a platform, bundled up like a polar explorer and holding onto a bar behind a sled while five Canadian Inuit dogs eagerly wait to hear “Ready, hike!”

Most people think of “Mush” as the command for dog sledding. But “Ready, hike!” is better. “Ready” gets the dogs’ attention. Whether they’re chewing on a paw or socializing with one other or peeing on a bush, they stand at attention as soon as they hear that word.

The dogs react to “Hike” like racers when the starting pistol is fired. They take off and pull the sled up and down trails in snowy woods of pine and spruce. I’m just along for the ride.

A dog-sledding trip to Ely, Minnesota, was organized by Ole Miss Outdoors, a program of the Department of Campus Recreation. The nine-day trip, Jan. 12-20, cost only $600 per person, thanks to the planning of trip leaders-graduate students-intrepid adventurers Francis Liaw and Alison Walker.

Twelve of us, mostly Ole Miss undergraduate and graduate students, went on this adventure. And it was an adventure. To get to Ely, which is 1,148 miles and almost a 22-hour drive from Oxford – you’re practically in Ontario, Canada – we traveled in two Ole Miss SUVs and stayed in unique Airbnbs along the way.

People in Wisconsin and Minnesota seemed both baffled and tickled that a group from Mississippi traveled so far up north in the winter, and everyone we met was friendly and hospitable. One morning, we stopped for breakfast at the Milk Jug Cafe in Ontario, Wisconsin. There, a local named Tor Edess told us that he lived in the town because he had run out of money during vacation and never left. He handed out a business card that read “Tor Edess Music Co.: Live Country Music, ‘for weddings & funerals & most other events in between.'”

When we reached Ely, snow was falling heavily and covering the roads. One student from a Mississippi town commented that he had never seen this much snow. The cabin we stayed in, part of Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge, was comfortable and cozy. Besides several bedrooms, it had one big dining table that seated all 12 of us, a great room with a gas fireplace, and modern kitchen and bathrooms.

We met our main guides, Isaak Ridge and Joe Gleiter, who were not only there for the dog sledding but also checked to make sure we had appropriate clothes, brought and made breakfast and dinner for us (including special meals for the vegetarian among us), as well as shared the meals with us each day.

Isaak loves to talk about everything and anything, and Joe is a mellow surfer-type dude from Illinois who loves salsa at every meal. He also enjoyed snow cream for the first time, which some of our group prepared one night, and we all wondered if snow cream is a Southern specialty since those among us from outside the South had never heard of it. We also met an unexpected guest, Kayuk, one of the sledding dogs, who enjoyed being petted and exploring the cabin.

Before leaving the cabin on the first day of dog sledding, we went over the “Do’s” and “Don’ts” of driving a dog team, such as “DO stand firmly on the brake when stopped or your team may take off without you” and “DON’T panic if you lose the sled – yell “LOOSE SLED” and the guides will get it.” Besides “Ready, hike,” we also learned the all-important “Whoa,” as well as “Gee” (go right) and “Haw” (go left).

We then dressed for the -4 degrees Fahrenheit weather (we were lucky since the temperature had dropped to -30 the week before) and went to the dog kennel. I carried my phone to take photos, but I guess it wasn’t made to function in subzero temperatures. It immediately froze and turned off.

Front row: Wintergreen guides Joe Gleiter (left) and Isaak Ridge, and Ole Miss dog sledders Alison Walker, Rachel Whitehorn, Benita Whitehorn, Logan Vaughan, Pete Dawkins and Sarah Pringle; back row: Noah Allen, Lilli Gordon, Johnathan Taylor, Ashleen Williams, Francis Liaw and Tyler Tyree

At the kennel, we were asked to set up six dog sleds (two drivers each), harness our dogs and then hook them up on a line in front of the sled. For me, this was the hardest part! All these dogs love people, but they didn’t necessarily love one another. Sometimes, we had to pull at the dogs to keep them from fighting each other. It took about an hour, but my sled partner and I were ready with lead dogs Gabe and Millie, swing dog Inuk and wheel dogs Mudro and Okra, as were the other members of the group with their sled-dog teams, and our guides, who were traveling on cross-country skis.

(Note: While Siberian Huskies are known as the fastest sled dogs and are the breed of choice for racers, these handsome, thick-furred Canadian Inuit dogs are known as hardworking. Also, we were told to pair male and female dogs on the line since the males tend to fight and the same goes for the females.)

What a scenic and crazy ride. We rode through miles of wooded trails. Sometimes it was peaceful, and I could just enjoy the beauty of the surrounding northern woods, part of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness*, made up of more than a million acres of wilderness and waterways. Other times, I felt like I was in a Space Mountain-type bumper car without a seatbelt when the sled would careen off a tree and/or the sled would tilt, and I’d have to lean the other way or go flying off – that was scary.

When going up steep hills, my sled partner or I would lessen the load for the dogs by jumping off the sled. Whenever it was my turn, I’d usually fall, and it was hard to stand back up and keep up with the sled while wearing heavy clothes and boots in powdery, foot-deep snow. Sometimes we went downhill, including one time when we had to duck to avoid an overhanging tree branch (and a major concussion).

More often than not, when we stopped, our dogs literally HOWLED with impatience. We would then pet and praise them to calm them down. They all have endearing personalities and habits. Inuk was steadfast and calm, for instance, while Mudro likes to bury his face in the snow any chance he gets.

We stopped for a campfire lunch, which also gave the dogs a chance to rest. We gathered twigs for the fire, and the guides cooked sugar-cinnamon bagels in a skillet and handed out cups of cocoa, frozen cheese sticks, meat sticks and Snickers bars. It was hard, if not impossible, to unwrap the snacks while wearing thick woolen mittens and outer mitts, but my hands instantly became red and frozen when I took the mittens off. That was the coldest part of the trip, just sitting still.

Toward the end of the day, we rode on the vast, frozen White Iron Lake. At one point I jumped off the sled and tried to walk a while and realized it would be frightening to have to walk across this lake alone, battered by snow, wind and cold, trundling along in my heavy boots and clothes. It wasn’t like a walk in the park. It was more like a walk in a frozen desert. Dog sledding is truly useful for those who live in harsh winter climates.

Just past sunset, we finally unharnessed the dogs and leashed them at a wooded spot down the hill from our cabins in the dark. We put out hay for them to lie on and gave them food and water. 

Back at the toasty warm cabin, I don’t think I ever appreciated warmth, food and sleep as much as I did that night.

The next day, after breakfast, we went out on our second dog-sledding adventure. Unlike the previous cloudy day, this day was sunny and several degrees warmer. In fact, it got up to 14 degrees, the same temperature as Oxford that day.

Video by Lilli Gordon

During another campfire lunch, the dogs lay down in the snow and napped peacefully. We went on a different, even more challenging but fun trail that included a long downhill run. I was getting the hang of this dog sledding thing. It was only when all the dogs were back at the kennel that I realized that I’d only known them for such a short time and I’d miss them.

The day didn’t end there, though. The end of a dog sledding trip at Wintergreen includes an “optional” activity. We put on our bathing suits and socks and went into a very hot sauna, six at a time. Then when we felt like we might faint, we ran down a hill and jumped in icy water, cut out with a chainsaw. It sounds crazy, but all 12 of us did it, and it truly did feel exhilarating.

The next day, we all received diplomas for completing our dog-sledding adventure. Then we packed up and left for the International Wolf Center, also in Ely, where we stayed overnight and were able to watch a pack of “ambassador” wolves in a wooded enclosure though an observation window, as well as learn all about wolves through the center’s educational program.

The following day, we headed home, staying at two Airbnb houses along the way in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, and St. Louis, and we made it back to Oxford’s balmy 40-degree weather. On a trip like this, we all got to learn a bit about one another, had a lot of laughs and shared an unforgettable trip. We even learned a secret handshake, but I can’t tell you what it is because it’s secret.

More about Ole Miss Outdoors

Past weeklong Ole Miss Outdoors trips have including backpacking in the Grand Canyon, skiing and snowboarding in the Colorado Rockies, kayaking and snorkeling in the Florida Keys, and another dog sledding trip in Canada. OMOD also schedules daylong and weekend hiking, caving, rock climbing and whitewater rafting trips as well as other types of trips.

For a spring 2018 schedule and more information about Ole Miss Outdoors, go to

*On our first night in Ely, some of us attended an environmental lecture about efforts to save the Boundary Waters from being poisoned by sulfide-ore copper mining. For more information about that effort, go to

Benita Whitehorn is an assistant director/editor in University Communications.

Treat Your Valentine to Dance Lessons through UM Communiversity

Spring class lineup also includes personal safety, gardening, resume writing and Mother's Day treats

Try something new this spring with the UM Communiversity courses. Latin dance instructor Arman Sahakyan will host the popular ballroom and Latin dancing courses just in time for Valentine’s Day. UM photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The start of a new year is always a good prompt to reflect on how you can try something different, form new habits or make time for enriching experiences. The University of Mississippi Communiversity program has a spring schedule full of noncredit courses sure to inspire.

“There is a little something for everyone,” said Gazel Giles, Communiversity coordinator. “There are no grades or homework, but there are many opportunities to learn about things you may be interested in.”

Residents are invited to the free “UPD’s Personal Safety” class at noon Jan. 31 at the Oxford-University Depot. Find out how to protect yourself and develop an awareness of threatening situations. There is no cost for this hourlong course, but participants are encouraged to register online.

Treat your Valentine to ballroom and Latin dance classes with professional instructor Arman Sahakyan. This step-by-step class takes place Monday evenings Feb. 19-April 30 in Residence Hall 2, on the former site of Guess Hall.

The ballroom sessions are set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. while the Latin dancing course will follow from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per session.

Gardeners and anyone wanting to spruce up their yard this spring can enjoy Communiversity’s popular lunch and learn classes. The first in the series will be “Pruning Like a Pro” with Jeff McManus, ISA-certified arborist and director of UM Landscape Services, on Feb. 21.

The “How to Create a Hummingbird Garden” class with Mitch Robinson from Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is set for March 28. Each class costs just $10 and will be conducted from noon to 1p.m. at the Depot.

Residents looking for resources to enhance their employability and work performance can check out “Landing Your Next Job” with career training coach Leslie Kendrick.

“The main goal of this class is to help people feel more comfortable with applying for jobs and interviewing for positions,” Kendrick said. “The class is not meant to overwhelm participants. I want people to feel confident that they can do this.”

Kendrick will share tips for interviewing as well as writing resumes and cover letters from 5:30 to 7:30 March 20 and 27 at UM’s Insight Park on Hawthorn Road.

Another course to help with enhancing job skills and work performance in 2018 is “Advanced Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint: Going Beyond the Basics,” taking place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and 7 at Weir Hall. The cost is $85.

Focusing on improving personal health is a popular goal for many in the new year. The “Advanced Essential Oils” class provides ideas for living a healthier lifestyle through blending oils for wellness applications and replacing toxic home and personal care products with more natural materials.

The class will meet 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, April 3, 10 and 17, at the Depot. The cost is $75.

“CPR and First-Aid Training” will help participants make a plan for emergencies and develop the skills necessary to help an adult, child, or infant who is not breathing. The class is slated for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. March 31 at Insight Park. The class also meets requirements for foster care, adoption and child care workers.

Preparing for emergencies is a topic that also will be discussed during the “Safe Sitter Essentials” class for youth ages 11 to 14. Participants will learn lifesaving skills so they can be safe when home alone or watching younger children. Set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 5 at Insight Park, the course costs $65.

Fishtail, Milkmaid, Crown, Upside Down – these are some of the latest on-trend hairstyles that Melanie Armstrong will teach participants how to craft during the “Introduction to Professional Braiding” class taking place 9 a.m.-noon March 3 at the Depot.

Armstrong, who operates the Armstrong Braiding Academy in Tupelo, will share her best techniques and hair care secrets with class members who can practice on and keep their own hair mannequin. The cost, including materials, is $99.

Aretha Nabors of Tupelo will share her best tips and practices for saving money during the “Beginning Couponing Course,” from 9 a.m. to noon April 21 at the Depot. The course fee is $35.

Nabors perfected her couponing skills a few years ago when the first two of her five sons were enrolled in college at the same time.

“Couponing has saved me thousands of dollars each year,” Nabors said. “I needed to supply necessities not just for my own household, but also for two student residences.

“Now I buy enough at deeply-discounted prices throughout the year to stock them with food and supplies that they need without breaking the bank.”

Nabors said that she doesn’t extreme coupon but does get the maximum savings on products and even restaurant visits.

“I’m so excited to show others how to save money and time,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense to pay full price.”

People looking to take their photography skills to the next level can learn the best digital camera and image editing techniques from Robert Jordan, who recently retired as director of university photography. His “Advanced Digital Photography” class will address control techniques, various format cameras and photographic lighting techniques.

The class meets 8 a.m.-noon April 14 at Insight Park. The cost is $85.

Food Network regulars Jeff and Kathleen Taylor of Oxford’s Sweet T’s Bakery will share their creative techniques during the “Sweet Treats for Mother’s Day” class, slated for 6-8 p.m. May 3 at the Depot. Enjoy the class with family members or surprise mom with a delicious and beautiful cake, cupcakes or cookies. The cost is $69.

On May 5, enjoy a covered-wagon ride while learning the history of native plants and landscapes in north Mississippi during a guided excursion at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. The cost is $30 and includes group transportation from Oxford.

Senior citizens 55 and older get a 10 percent discount for courses costing $30 or more. For more information or to register, visit