Education Professor Named Presidential Leadership Scholar

Hunter Taylor joins public, private sector professionals in national leadership program

Hunter Taylor

OXFORD, Miss. – Hunter Taylor, an assistant professor in the University of Mississippi School of Educationhas been selected into the newest class of the Presidential Leadership Scholars program, a leadership development program jointly run by the presidential centers of four former U.S. presidents.

Taylor coordinates recruitment for the Mississippi Teacher Corps, an alternate-route teaching program that serves critical-needs classrooms in the state. In February, he joined a cohort of 59 individuals from nonprofit, military and other public and private fields as a member of the program’s fourth class.

PLS serves as a catalyst for a diverse network of leaders brought together to collaborate and make a difference in the world as they learn about leadership through the lens of the presidential experiences of George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson.

The latest class joins an active network of 181 scholars who are applying lessons learned through the program to make a difference in their communities in the U.S. and around the world.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to learn and share ideas with people,” Taylor said. “This is the sort of networking opportunity where you can go and speak with people who are doing great things and figure out how you can pick up those ideas and bring it back to where you are.”

In the program, Taylor will acquire a network of new peers and learn about leadership strategy firsthand from former presidents. As a 2018 scholar, he will also have the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., and several other major U.S. cities over the course of several months. While in the program, scholars also learn from top advisers and aides to former presidents and the leading academics who advised their administrations.

As part of the program, Taylor will design and execute a service project that will benefit the Mississippi Teacher Corps. The alternate route teaching program allows its members to earn a master’s degree over two years through weekend classes.

One idea Taylor is considering is to help grow the program in other areas of the state, including the Jackson area.

“It is a great honor for the School of Education to have Dr. Taylor named as a Presidential Leadership Scholar,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “As a scholar, he will have the opportunity to develop essential leadership skills in the areas of vision, communication, decision making, influence and strategic partnerships.

“These skills are crucial skills for effective leaders in higher education. Through this prestigious program, Dr. Taylor will have a unique opportunity to learn from some of our nation’s greatest leaders.”

Before joining Ole Miss, Taylor coached basketball at Arkansas State University. He holds a doctorate in education from Baylor University, a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM and a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Texas.

Presidential Leadership Scholars is a partnership among the presidential centers of George W. Bush, William J. Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Lyndon B. Johnson. To learn more, visit http://www.presidentialleadershipscholars.org. For updates about the Presidential Leadership Scholars, use #PLScholars and follow @PLSprogram on Twitter and Medium.

Nobel Laureate to Present Benefits of Early Childhood Education

James Heckman to explain why investing in early learning is good for state economy at Jackson event

James J. Heckman

OXFORD, Miss. – Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman will present his research on how investments in quality early childhood education can yield exceptionally high economic returns at a free public event at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 25 the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Open to anyone who registers online, the event is the second in a three-part series hosted by the University of Mississippi‘s Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. The speaker series is designed to bring leading experts from across the nation to meet with Mississippi business leaders, educators and policy makers and discuss economic benefits of quality education opportunities for children during early childhood, which spans from birth to age 5.

“High-quality early childhood development plays a crucial role in shaping the capabilities that lead to flourishing lives,” said Heckman, who received a Nobel Prize in economics in 2000. “Investments in early childhood for low-income children from birth to age 5 create opportunity without any trade-offs in equity; quality programs pay for themselves, even after accounting for the costs of investment.”

Heckman will explain how investing in early childhood education as early as infancy is a smart business move for Mississippians and use economic models to show a high yield on dollars invested into quality early childhood programs. The return on investment can exceed 13 percent per year in the form of cost savings.

Heckman’s research has influenced more than $1.5 billion in appropriations, which funded programs such as Every Student Succeeds Act; the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; and more.

He will be available to answer questions from the public and news media following the event.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of Dr. Heckman sharing his expertise with us,” said Cathy Grace, co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. “Our hope is that by sharing his knowledge on the importance of investing in early childhood education as a foundational part of workforce development, we will be called to take action.

“If collectively we take his expert advice, Mississippi’s economy now and in the future will become energized by investing in our young children so that we will be successful in growing our workforce.”

Mississippi does not offer universally funded public early childhood education. State-funded Early Learning Collaboratives – which comprise Head Start agencies, school districts, child care centers and nonprofits and adhere to standards from the National Institute for Early Education Research – provide early childhood education programs at 14 sites statewide, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and a professor of law at the University of Chicago, where he also directs the university’s Economic Research Center, Center for the Economics of Human Development and the Center for Social Program Evaluation. His research focuses on human development with an emphasis on the economics of early childhood development.

The first speaker series event took place Dec. 12 at Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, with Virginia Tech researchers Craig and Sharon Ramey presenting findings from the Abecedarian Project. The groundbreaking study, which the Rameys helped start in the early 1970s in North Carolina, showed significant and positive long-term effects of early childhood education among low-income children.

The study, which has been replicated at multiple sites, showed that children who received quality early childhood education are more likely to have higher IQs, finish high school, attend college, hold steady employment as adults and more. Data from Abecedarian Project participants is still being collected after more than four decades.

The third and final event will take place in Jackson on Feb. 6 when Dr. Pat Levitt, a brain scientist and developmental pediatrician with appointments at Harvard University, the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, will present the latest neuroscience research in early childhood education.

The speaker series is co-sponsored by the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning, W.K. Kellogg FoundationNorth Mississippi Education ConsortiumMississippi Kids Count and the UM School of Education.

Education Alumna Proves She’s ‘Not a Quitter’

Oxonian Bettye Butler receives diploma at 87

Oxford resident Bettye Butler receives her UM diploma at a private ceremony at Guyton Hall with UM education Dean David Rock. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – When Oxford resident Bettye Butler decided she was going to finish her bachelor’s degree after a 38-year hiatus from the University of Mississippi, she picked up the phone one morning to ask about her remaining few credits.

“I’m not a quitter,” she told Billy Crews, development officer for the UM School of Education.

Days later, after a little digging and transcript analysis, Butler learned from Crews that due to shifts in university curricula and degree requirements since her last enrollment in 1979, she no longer was six credits short of qualifying for a bachelor’s degree in education. Education Dean David Rock could authorize her graduation based on her existing credits.

“This is truly an amazing story,” Rock said. “When we decided to take a look at her transcripts, I got a call from our director of academic advising and she said, ‘I think you need to look at this,’ because, it turned out, she actually had more than enough credits for her degree.”

Butler, 87, was presented her Ole Miss diploma by Rock at a private ceremony Dec. 1 in Guyton Hall, with her children and friends by her side. The presentation of Butler’s degree brings the total number of UM degrees in her immediate family to eight; it’s even more if you count her grandchildren, she is quick to point out.

“It’s almost impossible to describe this feeling; I didn’t know it would mean this much to me,” she said at the ceremony. “There was always that little voice in the back of my head saying ‘Go for it,’ but I didn’t ever think this would come true. I can’t help but think that this was supposed to be.”

The Butler family has deep roots in the Oxford and UM community.

Bettye and her husband Jim, former director of the Ole Miss Alumni Association who passed in 2013 at age 86, first came to campus as a couple in 1961, when they moved into temporary housing in Northgate Apartments.

Bettye Butler (second from right) is joined by her family, including children Mitzi, Lance and Carole, for her UM graduation ceremony Dec. 1 in Guyton Hall. UM photo by Bill Dabney

Jim, who played football for the Rebels as a freshman guard in 1944 before serving in the U.S. Army during World War II and returning to UM to finish bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education, was returning to Ole Miss to begin a career in the Alumni Association as the alumni secretary.

Before joining the LOU community as a couple, the Butlers ran a small family restaurant in Pontotoc and later moved to New Albany, where they started a family and Jim worked as a teacher, coach and principal.

In 1962, the Butlers bought a house on Bramlett Boulevard – the only house for sale in Oxford at the time, Bettye said – and there they raised three children: Carole, Mitzi and Lance.

The Butlers were an inseparable pair during their 64 years of marriage. During Jim’s tenure as alumni director, the association grew by more than 7,000 members and the Butlers traveled the nation as a team, visiting almost every state, to promote and grow the organization.

Bettye is the School of Education’s newest alumna and has plans to hang her family’s latest Ole Miss diploma on the wall of her home this holiday season.

“There was something inside of me that morning that said, ‘Make the call,'” Bettye said. “So I called, and it’s still hard to believe, but I am so glad that I did.”

Josh Magruder Named Counselor of the Year

State association honors UM professor for service

Joshua Magruder

OXFORD, Miss. – Joshua Magruder, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Mississippi School of Educationhas been named Counselor of the Year by the Mississippi Licensed Professional Counselor Association, a division of the Mississippi Counseling Association and the American Mental Health Counselors Association.

Magruder, interim clinical coordinator at UM’s Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment, or COPE, will be honored in November at the association’s annual conference in Tupelo.

“Josh is a dedicated counselor who spends much of his professional and personal time working to help students and professional counselors,” said Morgan Bryant, the association’s president. “The skills and qualities that make him a fabulous counselor are also the skills and qualities that make him a fabulous professor.

“Joshua has worked tirelessly in the field of counseling, and this is why we chose him for the honor.”

Magruder was selected for the award for his past service to the association, which includes serving as its president and providing board supervision training for counselors, a service that allows early career counselors to earn their independent licenses.

“For me, this is all about service,” said Magruder, a native of Florence, South Carolina. “I am happy that my service has paid off to the point where I’m being honored, but I am more happy that there are good things happening in the world of counseling, and it’s good to be part of that.”

Magruder’s specialties include trauma, psychosis and play therapy, and he is working toward becoming a Registered Play Therapist. Play therapy is a form of mental health counseling that allows children to express their emotions constructively in a playroom setting.

At COPE, he serves as the clinical and administrative leader for the unit that provides a variety of mental health services for community members and training experience for UM counseling students. The clinic serves hundreds of clients from the Lafayette County-Oxford-University community each month.

“I am fortunate to work with great colleagues.” he said. “I love the day-to-day process of training counselors. That’s why I entered the professorate: to help aspiring counselors learn how to develop their skills.”

Magruder holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education, a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate in counselor education, all from the UM School of Education. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor in Mississippi and is a National Certified Counselor of the National Board for Certified Counselors.

Willie Price Students Plant New Learning Garden at UM

Partnerships, volunteers help shape real food curriculum

Parent and volunteer Tess Johnson helps Willie Price Lab School students sow seeds at the school’s new learning garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The seeds are planted for a new learning garden at the University of Mississippi’s Willie Price Lab School, which will allow the pre-K facility to integrate gardening and an understanding of food sources into its curriculum.

Several 3- and 4-year-olds at Willie Price, part of the UM School of Education, recently planted radishes, lettuce, carrots and garlic with the help of FoodCorps service member and parent Tess Johnson and others.

Sarah Langley, director of Willie Price, also partnered with preschool parents, UM Landscape Services, the Office of Sustainability and the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reinstall the garden, which had previously been part of the school’s curriculum.

“Tess became involved with FoodCorps and she approached us about revitalizing the space and has volunteered to lead a parent committee and organize all of the planting and harvesting events for our Willie Price students,” Langley said. “Before, the garden was an amazing space with tomatoes, blackberries, carrots and herbs everywhere, and the children were out there all the time.

“They were working with two gardeners, but for budget reasons, from what I understand, the space became neglected and we were no longer able to maintain that partnership.”

Johnson said that it was her work with Oxford Elementary School students that inspired her to help bring gardening back to Willie Price.

“I’m always blown away when I ask even fourth- or fifth-graders, ‘What’s your favorite food?’ and, if they say French fries, they think they came from McDonald’s or the grocery store,” Johnson said. “They have no idea that someone grew those potatoes and that’s how their food got there.”

Johnson also helped Willie Price students make a healthy snack of homemade hummus with pita chips and carrots on the day of the planting.

“It’s just so important for kids to be outside with fresh air, green space and to know where their food comes from,” she said.

In addition to enthusiastic parents, Willie Price also received a $500 grant from the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reopen the garden.

“We are interested in reaching out to more early child care programs with our school garden grants because we know that the earlier we can reach kids with good produce, fruits and vegetables, the more likely they will be interested in those foods when they are older,” said Sunny Young Baker, co-director of the Mississippi Farm to School Network.

 Langley said she feels there’s a bright future for Willie Price’s garden.

“We are partnering with landscape services, which is awesome because we have the most beautiful campus in the country,” Langley said. “They’ve been coming over to help us and just do as much as they can to help us protect the space.”

Langley also partnered with the UM Office of Sustainability to obtain compost from the university’s compost program for the garden.

Before the installation of the garden, Willie Price students learned about nutritious food and healthy living in a two-week unit on health that concluded with planting seeds in the reopened garden.

The Willie Price Lab School is a preschool facility on the UM campus. It provides opportunities for Ole Miss students and faculty to provide services and conduct research.

CELI, Local Groups Help Little Free Library Program Grow

Partners add six new book exchanges in Lafayette County

Charline Hubbard (center), director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center, cuts the ribbon on a Little Free Library at the center as Meridith Wulff (left), youth specialist at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, and several students at the center watch. Also on hard are Angela Rutherford (third from right), director of the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction; Suzanne Ryals, head of the LOU Reads Coalition; and Nancy Opalko, the library’s children’s librarian. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

OXFORD, Miss. – The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library has teamed up with the University of Mississippi Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction and the LOU Reads Coalition to install six new Little Free Libraries in Lafayette County.

The small book exchanges, which operate on a “take a book, return a book” basis, are at Lafayette County fire stations in Harmontown and Paris and on Highway 30 East, as well as at Mary Cathey Head Start Center, Gordon Community and Cultural Center in Abbeville and in the Community Green neighborhood.

While three other officially registered Little Free Libraries have been set up in Oxford, including those at Avent Park and the Stone Center, several unofficial libraries exist in town. That’s why the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, CELI and LOU Reads chose to focus their efforts on communities in the county.

“We know that it can be much harder for those who live in the outer reaches of the county to make it to the public library, and Little Free Libraries allow us to take a bit of the library to them,” said Nancy Opalko, children’s librarian and assistant branch manager at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library.

The libraries were built by Oxford resident and Ole Miss student Harriman Abernathy with materials donated by Elliott Lumber Co. Each library is overseen by an individual steward in that community who checks it weekly to ensure it is stocked and in good repair.

“We are so excited to have a Little Free Library here,” says Harmontown resident and First Regional Library staff member Randie Cotton, who serves as steward of the Little Free Library there.

“People can just grab a book for themselves or their kids on their way to and from work or church and bring them back when they’re done. It doesn’t get much easier than that!”

The libraries are stocked with books for both children and adults. Putting books in the hands of children is a priority for the library, CELI and LOU Reads. All three organizations are part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide effort that focuses on grade-level reading by the end of third grade, an important predictor of school success and high school graduation.

One of the community’s newest Little Free Libraries is at Mary Cathey Head Start Center. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

In Mississippi, 74 percent of fourth-graders and 80 percent of eighth-graders scored below proficient in reading on the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress.

“The Little Free Libraries make it easy for parents and caregivers to make reading and early literacy skills a fun part of everyday life starting at birth, which is critical to their children’s early development and how they do in school,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director.

Besides books, the libraries contain information for parents and caregivers about how to use books and other resources to develop children’s early learning skills.

“This library really supplements all we do to promote family literacy every day by putting more books in the hands of our students and their caregivers,” said Charline Hubbard, director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center. “They love having it here so they can just pick up or bring back a book as they come and go every day.”

Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon, with more than 36,000 around the world in 70 countries. The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation and the American Library Association. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries.

To learn more, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/.

State Higher Education Literacy Council Advances Teacher Preparation

Kellogg, Hardin grants fund training for elementary reading educators

Guyton Hall houses the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of Mississippi’s Higher Education Literacy Council, a group of college and university literacy professors, are part of a statewide effort to help new teachers use cognitive and educational research in the classroom.

The project is funded by a $725,450 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle Creek, Michigan, and a $60,000 grant from the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian.

The three-year project, which commences this fall, focuses on improving the quality of pre-service content and instruction at the college and university level. Goals include reducing the cost of retraining teachers after they enter an elementary classroom and of retaining teachers over time.

“The Higher Education Literacy Council’s full involvement in this project places Mississippi ahead of other states by acknowledging the challenges associated with teacher preparation,” said Angela Rutherford, the council’s president and director of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction.

“This grant will enable us to build a replicable model for transforming teacher preparation in early literacy instruction. We are already getting calls from other states about our work here.”

Like all elementary teachers serving in K-3 classrooms, Mississippi elementary education professors also will receive training in Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling. The Kellogg grant complements the LETRS training by providing campus-based coaching and seminars specifically designed for this higher education audience.

The Legislature has taken steps in recent years to improve children’s reading achievement in Mississippi.

“The grants provided by the Kellogg Foundation and the Hardin Foundation will make a tremendous difference in our state by helping to transform teacher preparation and improve literacy,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “There is no doubt that early literacy instruction builds the foundation for all learning as children continue to progress through school.

“This project demonstrates the Higher Education Literacy Council’s commitment to ensuring all children are provided this foundation.”

“We are all very pleased to learn of the grant support provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to undergird the state’s commitment to increase literacy outcomes for Mississippi children,” said Ann Blackwell, recently retired education dean at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Blackwell and Thea Williams Black, of Tougaloo College, co-chaired a Governor’s Task Force Working Group that inspired the idea for professional development for early literacy professors.

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program Admits 29 UM Freshmen

Unique scholarship funding extended for five more years, draws students from nine states

METP’s fifth cohort hails from nine states and has an ACT average of 29.7. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The fifth cohort of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program at the University of Mississippi consists of 29 outstanding freshmen from nine states. With an average ACT score of 29.7, the group sets a high standard for the elite scholarship.

The program, originally designed for secondary education majors, expanded to include special education and elementary education last year following a $28 million investment from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation in Jackson, which agreed to fund the teaching scholarship for five more years.

“METP is one of a kind,” said Ryan Niemeyer, METP director. “There are similar programs, but there’s not really another one in the country that is on this level that receives funding from a private foundation. METP focuses on a broader picture and preparing high-quality students to teach our state.”

The freshman recently attended the program’s orientation in the Lyceum, where they met faculty and administrators. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and David Rock, Ole Miss education dean, provided advice and encouragement during their prepared remarks.

The new class brings the METP scholarship recipients to 104, with the first cohort graduating last May.

The new cohort includes six secondary education math majors, 12 secondary education English majors, three secondary education science majors, five elementary education majors and three special education majors.

The incoming freshmen are: Eleanor Atkinson of Memphis, Tennessee; Ally Blomberg of Belleville, Illinois; Kaylynn Buskirk of Brandon; Brady Cairns of Lake in the Hills, Illinois; Zady Carden of Chickamauga, Georgia; Christian Clark of Collierville, Tennessee; Sa’mya Clayton of Oxford; Lauren Colliau of Austin, Texas; Dylan Dowty of Booneville; Hannah Farnlacher of Birmingham, Alabama; Olivia Flowers of Scottsboro, Alabama; Hunter Hardy of Madison; Hali-Ana Harvey of Waynesboro; Alyssa Hetterich of Hamilton, Ohio; Virgina James of Lexington, Kentucky; Rebecca Junkin of Summit; Mackenzie Ladewig of Horn Lake; Levi Manos of Senatobia; Kennedy Moore of Purvis; Jessie Norris of Grady, Alabama; Willow Olier of Pascagoula; Reann Parker of Gulfport; Madeleine Porter of Jackson; Chyna Quarles of Oxford; Bonnie Smith of Florence, Alabama; Cory Tune of Chester, New Jersey; Mary Frances Ward of Jasper, Alabama; Brianna Whiteside of Senatobia and Hanna Wilson of Laurel.

Established in 2012 with nearly $13 million from the Hearin Foundation, the METP scholarship covers up to four years of tuition, housing and living expenses, study abroad and more.

The program is designed to help stimulate Mississippi’s economy by recruiting top-performing students into Mississippi’s education workforce.

After graduation, METP fellows must teach in a public school in Mississippi for five years immediately after graduation. However, this can be postponed for up to three years if graduates wish to pursue a master’s degree.

The program also includes a study abroad trip. Last summer, students visited Canada to study education outside the United States. Rising juniors also have an opportunity to study American education from a policy perspective in Washington, D.C.

“Not only does METP help me financially, but it also provides me with a unique opportunity during my time in college to learn from the best to become a successful teacher,” said Farnlacher, an elementary education major.

“Knowing that I will be entering the field of teaching with all that knowledge and experience I can possibly receive will really be beneficial and give me the confidence I might not have otherwise.”

For more information on programs in the School of Education, go to http://education.olemiss.edu/.

UM Creates Department of Higher Education

Interim chair Neal Hutchens plans to launch a new minor and increase campus partnerships

Faculty members serving in the new UM Department of Higher Education Faculty are (from left) Phillis George, Whitney Webb, Brandi Hephner LaBanc, John Holleman, Amy Wells Dolan, K.B. Melear, Neal Hutchens and George McClellan. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education is home to a new Department of Higher Education, with legal scholar Neal Hutchens as its interim chair and professor.

The new department, which has eight full-time faculty members, several affiliate faculty throughout the university and more than 200 graduate students, was previously part of the university’s Department of Leadership and Counselor Education. It will function as an independent unit within the School of Education.

“To be part of creating a new department is a rare and unique opportunity,” Hutchens said. “We have built a vibrant and expanding team of higher education faculty and students, and this department allows us to be a visible part of the university community and establish an identity in terms of how we serve the university, the state and beyond.”

The creation of a new department at the School of Education follows the recent growth of new online and hybrid degree programs designed for working higher education practitioners.

The department offers four graduate programs including online and traditional master’s degrees in higher education/student personnel, as well as Ph.D. and a hybrid Ed.D., which is a professional doctorate that combines online and face-to-face learning for higher education professionals.

“We are extremely excited to launch our new Department of Higher Education,” said David Rock, UM education dean. “The growth of our new professional doctorate and master’s degrees for working professionals supports the need for this new organizational unit. 

“We are also creating new possibilities for undergraduate courses in the higher education arena that may even expand into a minor in higher education for the entire campus.”

The department serves as the academic unit overseeing multiple undergraduate courses, including EDHE 105, a course taken by hundreds of Ole Miss undergraduates each year and a collaboration with the university’s Division of Student Affairs.

As interim chair, Hutchens hopes to launch an undergraduate minor in higher education, strengthen and build new partnerships with units throughout campus, and implement an outreach and engagement plan to highlight the accomplishments of faculty, students and alumni.

An expert in first amendment and free speech issues, Hutchens joined UM in 2016 after serving as the professor in charge of higher education at Pennsylvania State University. He also held faculty positions at the University of Kentucky and Barry University.

Hutchens earned a Ph.D. in higher education policy from the University of Maryland, a law degree from the University of Alabama, a master’s degree from Auburn University at Montgomery and a bachelor’s degree from Samford University.

“We have a really strong collection of individuals among our full-time and affiliate faculty,” Hutchens said. “They are strong scholars and just really good people. It is an honor to be part of this team and to serve as our new department’s interim chair going forward.”

Math and Science Center Moves into Renovated Facility

Jackson Avenue Center space will allow CMSE to operate more efficiently

The staff of the CMSE is happy to reclaim its offices in the renovated facility. Left to right: E. Paige Gillentine, Julie James, Amanda Pham, Audra Polk, Mannie Lowe, Meredith Miller, Alice Steimle, Whitney Jackson, Ashley Masinelli, April Kilpatrick and Justin Ragland. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Center for Mathematics and Science Education has moved back into its renovated facility at the Jackson Avenue Center.

The CMSE’s offices were updated over four months after part of the building was damaged in February. The renovated office is upgraded from the original cinder block wall facility and is specially designed for the STEM education center.

“The CMSE has visitors from K-12 schools and universities around the state, nation and occasionally, the world,” said John O’Haver, the center’s director. “At least part of the perception of any organization is its physical appearance.

“The CMSE has grown so much from its origins, adding professional development, robotics and chess outreach and other activities. Having space that can be more efficiently utilized will help the center operate more smoothly.”

The CMSE’s renovations, in addition to improved aesthetics, will provide better sound management with a mix of solid walls and cubicles for individual offices. The new office space also features enhanced lighting with more access to natural light and upgraded heating, cooling and ventilation.

The center, housed within the School of Education, was established in 2006 to improve science and math education in the state but it has grown to be much more. Funded through grants and donations, the CMSE works with schools in the state to promote STEM fields to children through critical thinking activities.

The CMSE also hosts professional development for teachers in STEM fields, offers scholarships for undergraduate and graduate students and hosts camps and competitions for middle and high school students, such as the FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics Competition, MATHCOUNTS, Catapult Competition and more.

During the four months of renovation, the staff occupied a classroom and a conference room in the Jackson Avenue Center.