School of Law Introduces Living-Learning Community

Freshmen get a glimpse of legal education through program

UM freshmen (front row, from left) Cassidy Grace Porter, Abigail Avery, Katharine Papp, Carley Sheppard and Nicholas DiConsiglio and (back row) Carson Whitney, Dorrian Reagan, Joseph Shelley, Faith Chatten and Virgil ‘Trey’ Ledbetter are participating in the inaugural School of Law Living Learning Community. Photo by Macey Edmondson

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten freshmen at the University of Mississippi will begin their legal education early through the School of Law Living-Learning Community.

This is the inaugural year of the program, which will take these young students interested in attending law school after graduation and introduce them to the law.

The program will provide opportunities for students to learn about the law and legal education; offer guidance on applying to law school; introduce undergraduates to law students who will serve as mentors throughout their freshman year; and educate students on professionalism and what it takes to be a successful lawyer.

“These students are already interested in law school as high school seniors, and they’re really go-getters,” said Macey Edmondson, assistant dean for student affairs at the law school. “Through the LLC, they will be part of a tight-knit community, and we’re excited to provide them with resources to enhance their future careers.”

This is a relatively new practice among law schools, she said.

Participating students are Abigail Avery, public policy and leadership and psychology major from Lake St. Louis, Missouri; Faith Chatten, business and art, Erie, Colorado; Nicholas DiConsiglio, political science, Clearwater, Florida; Trey Ledbetter, political science, Iuka; Katharine Papp, history, Austin, Texas; Cassidy Grace Porter, paralegal studies, Bakersfield, California; Dorrian Regan, economics, Tucker, Georgia; Joseph Shelley, political science, Flanders, New Jersey; Carley Sheppard, paralegal studies, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Carson Whitney, business, Edwardsville, Illinois.

Edmondson has coordinated programming for the students throughout the year, including a social event with law Dean Susan Duncan, guest speakers including judges and attorneys, and a field trip to Jackson to gain a better understanding of the legal system and how it works.

“We hope the experience of immersing yourself in the legal field will only strengthen the interest of a legal education for these students,” Duncan said. “Our faculty and students at the Ole Miss law school will work closely with these freshmen to introduce them to the law and foster their educational success.”

The School of Law LLC is one of four offered to Ole Miss students. Other LLCs include the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, School of Pharmacy and FASTrack.

The new program became a deciding factor for some students to attend UM.

Chatten researched colleges and universities for months to find one that offered something unique for undergraduate students who wanted to become attorneys.

“My search had been unsuccessful until one day, I was looking at Ole Miss housing and saw that there was a School of Law Living-Learning Community,” she said. “It was the exact thing that I had been searching for all along in the college process, and I felt extremely grateful to be accepted.”

Her interest in law began in high school through a U.S. government and politics course.

“I took the class looking to fulfill a required high school credit, not knowing that I would grow to love it so much that it would end up being my favorite class that I have ever taken,” she said. “I considered myself pretty studious in high school, but I had never read a textbook cover to cover until this class.”

Chatten’s interest in becoming an attorney was solidified when she participated in the Law and Advocacy National Student Leadership Conference at Yale University the following summer. She participated in mock trial at the conference, which prompted her to search for undergraduate programs related to law interests and become part of the LLC.

“I wanted to build a community of people around me with the same aspirations who will be going through the same things as me, like caring about good grades because law school is on the line and studying for the LSAT,” she said. “I was also so excited to see that the LLC pairs students up with law school mentors, which will be so impactful to have someone giving me advice since they were once in my position.”

Members of the LLC live among peers who are also interested in pursuing law school after graduation.

“We’re excited to offer the School of Law Living-Learning Community for the 2018-19 academic year,” said Jennifer McClure, student housing assistant director for marketing. “Living-learning communities enhance students’ residential experiences by connecting activities and events in their homes on campus to their academic lives.”

Faculty members and students from the law school will serve as community leaders and resources for these students.

“Through these partnerships with faculty, the Department of Student Housing supports student success by promoting engaged scholarship and responsible citizenship,” McClure said.

For more information, visit

Assistant Law Dean to Lead National Student Affairs Organization

Macey Edmondson named president-elect of NALSAP for the 2019-20 academic year

Macey Edmondson

OXFORD, Miss. – Macey Edmondson, assistant dean for student affairs at the University of Mississippi School of Law, has been named president-elect of the National Association of Law Student Affairs Professionals.

She will serve as president for the 2019-20 academic year.

NALSAP is an organization for professionals who provide support to law students. The organization was founded in 2016 to serve as a “meeting place” for student affairs professionals to learn best practices, develop ideas, engage in professional growth and discuss issues affecting law students.

Edmondson was a co-founder of the organization, along with Johnny Pryor, assistant dean for student affairs at Indiana University’s Robert H. McKinney School of Law; Rebekah Grodsky, director of academic and student affairs at University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law; and Emily Scivoletto, associate dean for academic and student affairs at UCLA School of Law.

“There were plenty of professional organizations out there for other aspects of legal education, but nothing for student affairs,” she said. “We kept hearing that it was needed greatly.”

The UM School of Law was instrumental in helping Edmondson and her student affairs colleagues found the organization. The school’s Transactional Law Clinic assisted the board of directors in obtaining the organization’s business league status as a 501(c)6 entity, allowing NALSAP to provide professional development opportunities.

“Macey and her colleagues from other law schools throughout the country recognized the need for an organization to support student affairs professionals,” said Marie Cope, law professor and transactional clinic director. “NALSAP is an important resource and network of professionals, and Macey will be an amazing asset to the organization during her tenure as president.”

In just two years, the organization has grown, providing professional opportunities to more than 83 institutional members and 435 individual members representing 104 law schools across the country.

“NALSAP has benefited from Macey’s positivity, collaborative spirit and ability to work well with a broad range of constituents to fulfill our mission,” Pryor said. “Because of Macey’s efforts, in collaboration with the other three co-founders, law school student affair professionals have a professional home for resources, support and professional development.”

Each year, NALSAP hosts a conference that includes informational sessions and presentations that focus on resources for law students. Edmondson served as program chair for the organization’s second conference.

“I’m just so proud of NALSAP,” Edmondson said. “It’s amazing how fast our members have gravitated towards this organization.

“It’s a big resource for student affairs professionals in the law school community, and for our members to feel that I can help guide the organization is a huge honor.”

Edmondson’s goals as president includes developing online resources and programming, creating recurring communication updates among members and finding new ways for professionals to have their works published.

“I want to make sure this organization is solidified and maintains good grounding to serve as a foundation for future student affairs professionals,” she said.

Symposium on Opioid Crisis Brings Law and Pharmacy Together

UM students from both schools learn about interprofessional approach to challenge

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood speaks to law and pharmacy students during the interprofessional symposium regarding the opioid crisis in the state. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 115 people die each day in the United States from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

These statistics constitute a crisis, and the University of Mississippi schools of Law and Pharmacy are working together to combat that crisis in an interdisciplinary manner.

Last week, the schools collaborated for an education symposium on “An Interprofessional Approach to the Opioid Crisis in Mississippi.” More than 300 law and pharmacy students attended the event, which included a mock trial in front of Roy Percy, magistrate judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a keynote speech by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

“A multidisciplinary approach is great and our university here is the first I’ve seen do this, so y’all are on the front end of addressing the crisis,” Hood said. “These epidemics come and go, but we have yet to see an epidemic affect such a broad cross-section of people.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter provided opening comments at the symposium and commended the schools for proactively addressing the opioid epidemic.

“By working together, we are more likely to understand the full breadth of this challenge and to find innovative solutions,” Vitter said.

Symposium panelists discuss the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the opioid crisis. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The afternoon panel featured Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Kenneth Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Board of Licensure; Amanda Criswell, nurse practitioner and instructor of nursing at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and Julie Mitchell, an attorney at Mitchell Day Law Firm in Ridgeland.

Law professor Larry Pittman and pharmacy practice professor Kim Adcock worked over the last year to organize the event to ensure that both professional schools developed an understanding of how different professions are navigating the opioid crisis.

“This interprofessional mock trial and symposium exemplified the importance of interdisciplinary interactions and provided a springboard for our students to begin working together to learn from, about and with each other,” Adcock said.

The goal of the event was to provide students and future practitioners a foundation to make the best professional decisions related to pain management.

“Interprofessional education and collaboration are very important because such efforts are necessary for resolving many of the pressing issues that we as a nation will continue to encounter,” Pittman said.

UM law student Sammy Brown serves as an attorney during the mock trial portion of the interprofessional collaboration between the schools of Law and Pharmacy. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The School of Pharmacy engages in regular interprofessional education with many of the health sciences schools on the UMMC campus, where upper-level pharmacy students receive training, and the School of Law engages in interdisciplinary endeavors with undergraduate programs and other legal entities. However, this is one of the first such events where the two schools collaborated to address a national crisis.

“Law is inextricable from the profession of pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “This is an incredible way to demonstrate to our future pharmacy, nursing and law professionals that together they have the power to make real contributions that can lessen or end the opioid crisis.”

Allen and Susan Duncan, dean of the law school, both expressed hope that the seminar would show students that interprofessional collaboration has potential to create solutions for any number of professional issues.

“We are educating future leaders, and it’s so important that they understand the importance in collaborating with those of other disciplines,” Duncan said. “Students in professional schools work well with each other, but it is vital for them to learn from their peers in other schools who can provide a different perspective.”

UM Law Graduates Pass Mississippi Bar Exam Well Above State Average

More than 73 percent of first-time takers passed the state test

Graduates of the UM School of Law taking the Mississippi Bar Examination for the first time scored 25 percent above the state’s average for people taking the exam for the first time. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Graduates of the University of Mississippi School of Law who were first-time takers of the Mississippi Bar Examination passed at a rate of 73.7 percent for the July 2018 cycle, substantially higher than the state’s average of 58.8 percent for graduates taking the bar exam for the first time.

The overall state average is composed of test takers from the UM law school, Mississippi College School of Law and out-of-state schools.

“Despite recent fluctuations in the number of students applying to law school nationally, the University of Mississippi School of Law has maintained the same high admissions requirements we have applied for decades,” said Susan Duncan, UM law dean.

“As a result of this decision and the implementation of new academic support programs, we continue to produce top-notch graduates who are prepared for the bar examination and the practice of law.”

Susan Duncan

Over the next several weeks, the school will receive bar passage reports from other states, which will be compiled into a comprehensive report to examine the continued improvement of bar passage for Ole Miss law graduates.

“Although we celebrate our alumni that passed, we will continue to consider how to improve our pass rate,” Duncan said. “Our focus has always been and will continue to be preparing our students for life after law school, which includes giving students the skills needed to succeed on the bar exam and in their practice or chosen career paths.”

Some 175 students took the bar exam in July. Thirty-eight of those were first-time takers from UM.

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Law Student to Intern with U.S. Mission to NATO

Anne Karen Tolbert will begin her internship this fall at Belgian headquarters

Anne Karen Tolbert

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi law student is spending the fall semester in Brussels developing her expertise on international law and policy.

Anne Karen Tolbert, a second-year student at the School of Law, has been selected to intern with the U.S. Department of State at the U.S. Mission to NATO. She left for Belgium earlier this month.

“Being selected for this internship is a dream come true for me, but what has meant the most is the tremendous support I have received and the opportunity to represent Ole Miss law on an international level,” Tolbert said.

Tolbert, a native of Rogers, Arkansas, who lives in Oxford, will intern in the political section of the U.S. Mission to NATO. The project areas will cover international security issues such as NATO-European Union cooperation, the alliance’s operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, counterterrorism, crisis management exercises and NATO-Russia relations.

“An internship with the Department of State is a great way to get a foot in the door for civil service, so this is something I wanted and needed to pursue,” she said.

Her interest in the U.S. Mission to NATO stemmed from the vital role it plays in international security. Tolbert is pursuing a law degree with a concentration on air and space law, and this opportunity will allow her to gain international knowledge and experience on defense issues.

“I hope to gain a deeper understanding and broader perspective on how foreign policy and international law work together to address current and emerging geopolitical challenges,” she said. “It’s a very interesting time to be at USNATO, and I look forward to developing subject matter expertise on the various issues I will handle.”

Tolbert credits this opportunity to the support she received from classmates and law faculty.

“For someone who believes in shaking hands with opportunity, I don’t always heed my own advice,” she said. “I almost didn’t apply because I was thinking of all the reasons why I wouldn’t be chosen instead of thinking of all the reasons why I might be a good fit with USNATO.”

A few months after submitting her application, she got an email offering her an interview.

“We are always encouraging our students to explore the multitude of options that a legal education provides,” said Ben Cooper, senior associate dean for academic affairs. “We were happy to support ‘AK’ in pursuing this terrific opportunity, and I really appreciate the initiative that she took in seeking out this position and then following through to obtain it.”

During the selection process, the hiring committee mentioned that her air and space law concentration at UM played a role in her selection.

“I think it’s easy to sell ourselves short sometimes, but in reality, we all have unique backgrounds, skills and gifts that make us competitive with the brightest from across the country,” Tolbert said. “I am incredibly honored for the opportunity to serve and represent my country, Ole Miss law, and to work with our valued NATO allies.”

Tolbert, who earned a degree in communications from Belhaven University in 2013, credits her dad for fostering her lifelong interest in aerospace and defense.

“It was always a dream of mine to serve in the Air Force,” she said. “I had a spinal fusion for scoliosis in high school, which disqualified me for service, but there was always a part of me that wanted to serve my country.”

She worked a few years in the communications field but continued to feel that she wanted to do more.

“My passion for legal and policy-related work led me to apply to law school,” she said. “Ole Miss became my first choice because of the air and space concentration, which I thought would open doors to civil service within the defense realm, and that’s exactly what it did.”

After graduation, Tolbert hopes to become an attorney adviser with the State Department, offering counsel on international legal and policy issues.

Law School to Host Originalism Debate in Constitution Day Observance

Free event is part of the Boyce Holleman Debate Series

UM law professor Chris Green will debate Georgia State law professor Eric Segall on originalism Sept. 17 to commemorate Constitution Day. Photo by Christina Steube/UM School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – On Sept. 17, 231 years ago, delegates who had been meeting in Philadelphia that summer made their work public, signing the U.S. Constitution and proposing it for ratification by “We the People.”

The University of Mississippi School of Law will celebrate that triumphant day by hosting a Constitution Day commemoration Sept. 17 in the Robert C. Khayat Law Center. The 12:30 event in Weems Auditorium is free and open to the public.

This year, the celebration will feature a debate between UM associate professor of law Christopher Green and Georgia State University law professor Eric Segall titled “What is Originalism, and Is It a Good Idea?” They will discuss how the Constitution should be interpreted today.

“We are proud to host the annual commemoration of this foundational moment in our history,” said Michele Alexandre, the school’s associate dean for faculty development and intellectual life. “Professor Green and Segall are two dynamic scholars in the field with divergent views on the constitution.

“Their conversation will provide valuable food for thought and useful information to the audience.”

The event is sponsored by the Boyce Holleman Debate Series.

“It’s not surprising that Congress has told all of the universities in the country to set aside some time thinking about the Constitution every Sept. 17,” Green said. “Developing views about the Constitution, however tentative or incomplete, is an important obligation of everyone in the country.

“Love it or hate it, no matter what you think the Constitution is, no one should just be apathetic about it.”

The Constitution should not be left solely to the experts, Green said, who invites everyone to hear the debate in person.

“Anyone who grows up in places governed by the Constitution really ought to start thinking about it shortly after they learn to read,” he said.

Green joined the Ole Miss faculty in 2006. He is a graduate of Princeton University, Yale Law School and earned his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Notre Dame.

He clerked for UM law school alumnus Judge Rhesa H. Barksdale on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Green also is author “Equal Citizenship, Civil Rights, and the Constitution: The Original Sense of the Privileges or Immunities Clause” (Routledge, 2015).

Segall has taught at Georgia State University since 1991. A graduate of Emory University and the Vanderbilt University Law School, he clerked for U.S. District Court and U.S. Circuit Court judges Charles Moye Jr. and Albert J. Henderson in Georgia.

He also wrote “Supreme Myths: Why the Supreme Court Is Not a Court and Its Justices are Not Judges” (Praeger, 2012).

Green and Segall also have both authored numerous articles and essays on constitutional theory.

“It’s exciting to be able to have a debate with someone like Eric Segall so soon after school begins,” Green said. “Eric and I have been Twitter ‘frenemies’ for several years, so it will be fun to translate our battles in that medium into a more formal debate, even though we disagree about nearly everything.”

For more information about the event, contact Alexandre at or operations assistant Carroll Moore at

Flying Cars to Asteroid Mining: UM Prepares for Future Legal Issues

School of Law hires new directors for acclaimed air and space law program

New faculty members Michelle Hanlon (left) and Charles Stotler will serve as associate directors of the School of Law’s LL.M. program in air and space law. Photo by Christina Steube/UM School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Law has two new faculty members with a wealth of experience to lead its groundbreaking education and research program in air and space law.

Michelle Hanlon and Charles Stotler will serve as associate directors of the Master of Laws program in air and space law.

Hanlon, who has earned degrees from Yale University, Georgetown University and McGill University, comes to Ole Miss after spending more than 25 years as a practicing business attorney. She is co-founder and president of For All Moonkind Inc., the world’s only organization focused on preserving human cultural heritage in outer space, starting with lunar landing sites.

For All Moonkind was named a “Top 10 Innovator in Space” by Fast Company and has been granted observer status at the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

Stotler holds degrees from St. John’s College, Loyola University and McGill University. He brings deep experience in aviation, international and space law to Ole Miss. He has advised corporate clients, international airports, international intergovernmental organizations and trade associations; advocated for the growth of the space law discipline through the American Society of International Law; and focused on the intersection of science and technology with law and policy as a Mirzayan Fellow at the National Academies.

The core of the university’s air and space law program was built in 1965 by Stephen Gorove, one of the earliest jurists to focus on legal aspects of space exploration.

“The School of Law’s long tradition and institutional experience leaves us uniquely poised to help our global society assure the responsible and ethical utilization of opportunities in aviation and space,” Dean Susan Duncan said. “Expanding our air and space law program will open exciting new job opportunities for our students and foster truly cutting-edge legal scholarship.”

The appointment of Hanlon and Stotler emphasizes the school’s enduring commitment to the country’s first space law program and only LL.M. degree program in air and space law.

“The rich history of the air and space law program at the University of Mississippi is truly inspiring,” Stotler said. “In the tradition of Dr. Gorove, it’s important to make sure our air and space laws and regulations keep up with technology. Otherwise we are just crippling important – perhaps vital – innovation.”

Hanlon and Stotler aim to educate the next generation of industry professionals.

“This is an incredibly exciting time to be an air and space lawyer,” Hanlon said. “Every day, someone, some company or some nation is challenging the current legal regime.

“From flying cars to drones to private robots on the moon, we have a lot of gray areas to navigate as humanity moves into the future.”

Hanlon and Stotler both joined the faculty in July are teaching classes this fall.

Professor Uses NSF Grant to Study Interpersonal Communications

Graham Bodie and colleagues study conversations about everyday stressors, levels of support

Graham Bodie

OXFORD, Miss. – Graham Bodie believes that if people can feel that they’re being heard during times of stress, their lives will improve. With that in mind, he is working to find the best way to teach critical listening skills that could enhance lives.

A visiting professor of integrated marketing communications at the University of Mississippi, Bodie is conducting his research through a three year-grant from the National Science Foundation.

UM received the grant from the NSF’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences as part of a collaborative effort to study what happens during conversations about everyday problems. Penn State University and the University of Minnesota also were awarded grants in support of the collaboration, which seeks to clarify how discussing everyday stressors with others conveys support and leads to different emotional outcomes.

Bodie’s work will look at how a listener’s supportive comments influence the way a person talks about their stressful experience.

“My academic background is in how humans process information and how they behave as listeners, particularly within the context of talking about stressful events,” Bodie said. “What do we say that allows others to better understand their unique stressors and ultimately to cope with those events?

“How should we best train people in this capacity? What can listening to others teach us about ourselves, our society and our world?”

Bodie previously conducted research on listening and the social cognitive foundation of human communicative behavior. This project will expand on the nuances of what people do when they offer support to others, a facet that he said has not been thoroughly explored.

“Although there is work on specific features of supportive messages, it tends to be hypothetical, asking participants to imagine they receive support,” Bodie said. “Likewise, although there is work that pairs people together to talk through stressful events, most of this work explores general impressions of the conversation – how supported they felt after the conversation.”

This grant will allow Bodie to work with data from four previous studies, which includes more than 450 videotaped conversations of a person describing a stressor to another, while the listener provides support.

The research conducted with this grant fits in with the university’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation research initiative, where researchers identify factors that impair the well-being of individuals and work to implement programs to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Dr. Bodie and his team’s recent National Science Foundation grant award demonstrates the opportunities we have to increase knowledge and improve practice and policy through cutting-edge research,” said John Green, constellation team leader and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “As an active part of the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation and a committed member of the steering committee, Dr. Bodie is contributing to the University of Mississippi’s leadership in scholarly endeavors that will improve people’s lives.”

The research will examine how variations in these particular types of interactions result in differences in how the distressed person continues to express their thoughts and feelings throughout the interaction.

“What is missing is an understanding of how messages unfold over the course of a conversation to regulate the emotions of a person in distress,” said Denise Solomon, principal investigator and professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State. “Our project will focus on studying the conversation linkages between one person’s supportive messages and the other person’s cognitive and emotional responses in an effort to map those dynamic patterns.”

The investigators will analyze every element of these conversations and develop strategies to show how emotion and cognitive processing are affected during the course of an interaction. The researchers have predicted that distressed individuals who are responsive to high-quality supportive messages during an interaction leave the conversation with an improved emotional state and a new understanding of their issue.

“The main prediction is the interaction between support quality and how disclosers talk about their event,” Bodie said. “I feel like if people can feel heard in times of stress, their lives will improve, and I want to know how we can best teach these skills toward bettering our lives.”

The researchers hope their findings will ultimately be able to assist support providers and counselors, while also leading to additional research to determine why some individuals or relationships show different levels of responsiveness during supportive conversations.

“The novelty in this research is mapping responsiveness within interactions onto important conversational outcomes, which opens the door to new questions about why those patterns differ between people and between relationships,” Solomon said.

“We also envision that the tool kit we develop can be used to illuminate the dynamics of other types of consequential conversations, such as in conflict negotiations or attempts to influence a partner’s health behavior.”

Other investigators on the project include Susanne Jones, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, and Nilam Ram, professor of human development, family studies and psychology at Penn State.

Funding for this research was provided through grant no. 1749474 from the NSF Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences.

Law Professor to Lead National Academic Organization

Ron Rychlak will serve as president of SEALS for the upcoming year

Ron Rychlak

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi law professor will lead an organization representing more than 100 institutions as head of the Southeastern Association of Law Schools for the coming academic year.

Ron Rychlak, professor of law and Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government, will serve as president of SEALS for 2018-19.

“It’s both an honor and a challenge,” Rychlak said. “I believe this type of professional development is important, and it reflects well on the university to have so many of our faculty involved in organizations like this.”

SEALS began in 1947 as a regional association of law schools that came together to host an annual meeting each summer. The meeting features panel discussions, debates and lectures from members of the legal community around the world, giving law faculty an opportunity to present their research, attend workshops and receive feedback from peers and mentors.

The organization has grown beyond the Southeast and includes more than 100 member schools.

Rychlak has been active in the organization for the last 20 years, serving on multiple committees. In 2012, the association honored him with its Distinguished Service Award. He will be installed as president Aug. 11 at the conclusion of this year’s annual conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Also UM’s faculty athletics representative, Rychlak will give presentations at the conference about NCAA legislation, as well as bar exam performance and what can be done to better prepare students.

“I’d like to have a successful academic conference where people feel they have been nourished intellectually, but also maintain the family-oriented feeling that SEALS is known for,” Rychlak said.

His goal as president is to continue to develop the organization, specifically helping young faculty members who are just beginning their careers.

“It’s a great chance for young people to develop their presentation and writing skills while getting feedback from those in legal academia,” Rychlak said. “That’s what really separates us from other groups.”

Ben Cooper, a professor and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Law, also has been actively involved in SEALS, serving as chair of the program formatting committee, where he edits the full conference program and daily schedule. Cooper said he is proud that his colleague will lead the organization for the coming year.

“I think it’s a great honor for him and it’s an appropriate recognition of his contributions to the success of SEALS over the years,” Cooper said.

Throughout the history of SEALS, four other Ole Miss faculty members have served a term as president.

For more information about SEALS, visit

UM Graduate Earns Top Recognition for Editorial Cartoons

Jake Thrasher won first place in SPJ's Mark of Excellence Competition

Jake Thrasher, a 2018 UM graduate and Hall of Fame inductee, won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence competition for his editorial cartoons in The Daily Mississippian. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Many people have diverse interests, but to be highly skilled in several areas is a rarer quality.

Jake Thrasher, of Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from the University of Mississippi in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he recently earned national honors in an entirely different field: editorial cartooning. He won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence competition.

Thrasher has always been interested in art. He attended high school at Shades Valley Visual Arts Academy, which gave students preparation for creative problem-solving in visual art for those interested in pursuing a creative career. He began working for The Daily Mississippian as a freshman at Ole Miss.

“I’d always created what would be considered fine art and I was always interested in making something meaningful,” he said.

While at a social event, an editor approached him to ask that he begin drawing editorial cartoons.

“I had never created cartoons before and I wasn’t big into politics, but I immediately fell in love with it,” he said.

It quickly became more than just art for Thrasher and developed meaning.

“I realized early on as an editorial cartoonist that I’d been given a position that gave me a platform to speak out,” he said. “It would be irresponsible of me to not use that platform to change the state, the nation and our campus for the better.”

Thrasher drew his inspiration from political and social issues. He created two or three originals cartoons each week for The Daily Mississippian during his undergraduate career.

“I tried to stay constantly up to date politically, socially and on current campus issues,” he said.

Each cartoon took Thrasher a minimum of four to five hours to complete for a more simplistic drawing, or up to eight or 10 hours for a detailed drawing that involved the use of watercolor and other elements.

Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, said Thrasher’s work for The Daily Mississippian has been “nothing short of stunning.”

“The quality of his editorial cartoons rivals that from top professionals,” she said. “He has the ability to zone in on important issues and capture the essence of his opinion in artistic ways. His illustrations gracing the DM’s pages were creative, eye-catching and beautifully drawn.”

Thompson said he also went above and beyond his role by hiring and helping develop the skills of younger cartoonists and staying involved with student media.

“He wasn’t required to attend daily news meetings, but he often did so to learn what stories the staff was pursuing so he could make his work more timely and relevant,” she said.

Thrasher submitted three drawings to the competition, and the one featured on the SPJ website is titled “GOP Operation,” which is a satire of the children’s board game that also combines several issues.

“I’d have to say that was one of my favorites,” he said. “I spent a long time on that cartoon and it was one of my last drawings for the DM during my fall semester. I was happy to see it featured.”

Thrasher has a passion for helping others, and he served as president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault during his undergraduate career. He plans to attend Yale University this fall to pursue a doctorate in biology and biological sciences while conducting cancer and HIV research.

This spring, he was among 10 students inducted into the university’s 2017-18 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors afforded Ole Miss students. He was also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Jake exemplifies what it means to be citizen scholar for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Dean Douglas Sullivan-González said. “He took the challenges and the risks to explore both the arts and the sciences during his tenure, and these national awards represent an acknowledgement of his great risks to live the answers to the tough questions of the day. We are proud of Jake.”