University Opens Resource Center for Student Veterans

Space will provide support for student veterans to improve their quality of life on campus

Guests attend the grand opening of the Veteran Resource Center. The center, housed in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center, offers support to student veterans to help with their transition from military to college life. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi hosted a grand opening Wednesday (Feb. 21) of its Veteran Resource Center, which will provide student veterans with variety of benefits to improve their quality of life on campus.

More than 1,300 Ole Miss students are veterans, active military or military dependents. This center serves as a space for them to study, receive support and camaraderie from other veterans and speak with university representatives about veteran issues, such as GI benefits and treatment.

The center is in the basement of the E.F. Yerby Conference Center and will be open to veterans on campus 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

The student veteran population on campus continues to grow, making this facility a much-needed resource to provide the best possible assistance for these students in their transition from the military to college life, said Evan Ciocci, president of the Student Veterans Association.

“We are extremely grateful the university is working to better our quality of life on campus and from here on out, we want to continue to provide resources, advocacy and support for student veterans,” said Ciocci, a sophomore general studies major from Sandwich, Massachusetts, who served in the U.S. Navy.

“SVA and veteran services provided the support to make Mississippi my home, and I love it here.”

Andrew Newby, UM assistant director of veterans and military services, speaks with guests Wednesday (Feb. 21) at the grand opening of the university’s Veteran Resource Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Andrew Newby, assistant director for veterans and military services at the UM Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, has been working on providing a space for student veterans since his arrival at Ole Miss last year.

“We are so pleased to have this space for our student veterans to utilize and hopefully outgrow,” Newby said.

The resource center also will provide student veterans with academic resources and test materials, such as Scantrons and textbooks. The center is seeking donations of any unwanted textbooks to provide more options for its students.

For more information about the center and veteran services at Ole Miss, visit

Ole Miss Students Hope to Break Record at RebelTHON Dance Marathon

Goal is to raise $225,000 for Batson Children's Hospital

UM students dance for 12 hours during RebelTHON to raise money for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students are hoping to once again surpass their previous fundraising efforts for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at the UM Medical Center in Jackson through the sixth annual RebelTHON dance marathon this weekend.

Last year, Ole Miss students danced nonstop during the 12-hour event and raised more than $172,000 for the hospital. This year, the goal is $225,000

The event begins at 3 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 24) at the Turner Center, Each hour, participating students will hear from families about their experiences at Batson. The visiting children and families will join in the dancing and play games with students throughout the marathon.

“I first registered as a last-minute dancer my sophomore year and fell in love with it,” said Hailey Cooper, a senior English major from Madison and RebelTHON president. “It’s always a great time for patients and it’s just fun to treat them like rock stars for the day.”

Registration is open for the event until the end, when the total announced at 3 a.m. The registration fee is $25, and participants are asked to raise $100 to dance the entire time.

Community hours for the event are 6 to 9 p.m., where anyone can pay $5 to experience the event.

Cooper said she hopes the money raised by Ole Miss students will help fund Batson’s $180 million project to provide space for private neonatal intensive care units, pediatric intensive care units, additional operating rooms and imaging services designed to diagnose and treat children.

To register, visit

Overby Center Begins Spring Program Series

First panel discussion Feb. 20 focuses on the integration of churches in Jackson

Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, will speak on several panel discussions this spring. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will host several discussions and lectures this spring, beginning with a discussion Tuesday (Feb. 20) about a campaign 50 years ago to integrate churches in Jackson.

The panel discussion “Integrating God’s House” will feature Carter Dalton Lyon, author of “Sanctuaries of Segregation: The Story of the Jackson Church Visit Campaign,” Ole Miss graduate Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and Warren Black, retired pastor of Oxford-University United Methodist Church.

Lyon explored the topic as a graduate student several years ago while working on his dissertation, which turned into a book last year. His research concentrates on civil rights activists from Tougaloo College and their mission to integrate Methodist churches in the 1960s because they believed the national denomination of the church would not approve of segregation.

Overby was in high school in Jackson during this time and witnessed attempts to integrate his church where many black people were arrested while trying to worship. Black was known as one of community’s progressive leaders during his time at the church in Oxford.

The schedule also includes other programs that reflect on the racial turmoil in the state in the 1960s, marking the 50th anniversary of many historic dates of the civil rights movement.

“It’s hard to believe it has been 50 years since the tumultuous events of 1968,” Overby said. “Our programs this spring will give us an opportunity to look at the politics of the 1960s and compare it to today.”

All Overby Center events begin at 5:30 p.m., with a reception following. The programs are free and open to the public. Parking is available in the lot adjacent to the Overby Center auditorium.

Other events in the series are:

March 6 – “Bill Rose Tells All”: Mississippi journalist Bill Rose is retiring after serving as an Overby fellow and journalism instructor at Ole Miss. He will discuss critical news stories and experiences during his long career.

March 28 – “A Conversation About Race”: Gene Dattel, author of “Reckoning with Race: America’s Failure,” and Otis Sanford, former managing editor of The Commercial Appeal and instructor at the University of Memphis, will discuss the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. as the 50th anniversary of his death approaches.

April 3 – “Delta Epiphany”: Journalism instructor Ellen Meacham will discuss her new book that suggests Robert F. Kennedy’s politics were changed by his 1967 visit to the Mississippi Delta, where witnessed poverty and hunger. That visit led to his 1968 presidential campaign, during which he was assassinated. Overby fellow Curtis Wilkie, who covered Kennedy’s Delta trip for the Clarksdale Press Register, will join Meacham in the discussion.

April 10 – “Why Debates are Vital”: Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates for the past 30 years, will talk about the importance of debates in modern politics. She played a major role in bringing the 2008 presidential debate to the Ole Miss campus. Brown will be joined by Overby and Wilkie, both of whom covered many debates during their journalism careers.

April 17 – “Tales of Outrageous Injustice”: Radley Balko, investigative reporter with The Washington Post, and Tucker Carrington, director of the Mississippi Innocence Project at the UM School of Law, document how questionable testimonies by “expert witnesses” in state courts have sent innocent people to prison in their book “The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist.” They will discuss how institutional racism and inadequate forensic evidence have influenced the judicial system in Mississippi.

Ford Center Hosts ‘Sense and Sensibility’ Tuesday Night

Performance by acclaimed Aquila Theatre begins at 7:30 p.m.

Aquila Theatre performs Jane Austen’s ‘Sense and Sensibility’ at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 13) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Photo by Richard Termine

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host the acclaimed Aquila Theatre company Tuesday (Feb. 13) evening as the troupe bring to life Jane Austen’s “Sense and Sensibility.”

In what is one of Austen’s most popular novels, the characters live in a time when few options exist, particularly for women.

“Sense and Sensibility” tells the story of sisters Elinor, who is level-headed, and Marianne, a hopeless romantic. The two women lose their father and their half-brother inherits the family estate as the first-born male of the family. They are forced to find a profitable marriage for any hope to return to a comfortable life. The classic romantic comedy promises love, heartbreak and surprises for the audience.

Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. performance are available at the UM Box Office, inside the Ford Center. They are $30 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $26 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $22 for the balcony level. A 10 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office. All UM student tickets are $8.

“‘Sense and Sensibility’ is a great story and it presents a culture and a time that is so very different from today, but tells a story of worries about the future and finding love that we can relate to,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “Aquila Theatre always presents a wonderful, professional performance.”

For more information, visit

Special Collections Spring Lecture Series Begins this Week

Programming includes oral histories, the artistic legacy of the Faulkner family and covering civil rights

Alysia Steele (left), assistant professor of journalism, opens the Special Collections lecture series Feb. 9 with a discussion of oral histories. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Archives and Special Collections at the University of Mississippi will host guest speakers on several topics throughout the semester as part of its Spring 2018 Lecture Series.

The semester features partnerships with the University Museum and the Meek School of Journalism and New Media to provide a wide range of programming.

“I am so pleased Special Collections has such a distinguished panel of speakers scheduled for the spring,” said Jennifer Ford, the department’s head. “The presentations address subjects which are both thought-provoking and varied in nature, with something to appeal to everyone.”

The series begins Friday (Feb. 9) and runs through April. Each lecture is at noon in the Faulkner Room of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, on the third floor of the J.D. William Library. All programs are free and open to the public, and guests are welcome to bring lunch to the events.

For more information, contact Ford at or 662-915-7408.

The schedule features:

Feb. 9 – “Cotton Oral Histories and the Lessons Along the Way”: Alysia Steele, author and assistant professor of multiple platform journalism, will discuss her work with oral histories and lessons learned along the way.

Curtis Wilkie will discuss his news reports during the civil rights movement Feb. 15 as part of a special collections lecture for Black History Month. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Feb. 15 – “Covering the Civil Rights Movement: Memories of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”: Curtis Wilkie, UM Cook Chair and associate professor of journalism, will talk about his news reports during the civil rights movement and his memories of Martin Luther King Jr., as part of a special collections program for Black History Month.

March 6 – “The Remarkable Life of Theora Hamblett: Stories of Friendship and Art”: Ed Meek, assistant vice chancellor emeritus for public relations and associate professor emeritus of journalism, will be joined by Marti Funke, collections manager at the University Museum, to discuss the life, legacy and artwork of Mississippi artist Theora Hamblett.

April 5 – “On Tour: Promoting the Book”: Ted Ownby, director of the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture; Kiese Laymon, professor of English and creative writing; and John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, will discuss book publishing and touring.

April 5 – “Art and the Faulkners”: Publisher and author Larry Wells and Rowan Oak curator Bill Griffith will speak about the Faulkner/Falkner family as artists.

UM Press Corps Class Teaches Students About Legislative Reporting

Inaugural course gives participants access to policymakers at the Capitol

The Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class at the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media spent time during the recent Wintersession interviewing legislators and elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, at the Capitol. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. Several University of Mississippi students gained firsthand experience in legislative reporting this month through the Meek School of Journalism and New Media‘s Mississippi Capitol Press Corps reporting class.

The two-week Wintersession course, led by journalism instructor LaReeca Rucker and Fred Anklam, co-editor of Mississippi Today, was designed to give students an overview of state government and how it works, with a specific focus on the Legislature. Each student chose a topic to write about and interviewed legislators and public officials throughout the two weeks about their specific issue.

The course also introduces the students to the reality of covering public policy issues as addressed by state leaders, Anklam said.

“They are developing skills for researching key topics and pursing significant players in those topic areas in our state government leadership,” he said. “As co-editor of Mississippi Today, it has been a pleasure to work with the students to help them gain a better understanding of state government and politics and to give them a taste of what it’s like working at the state Capitol building.”

Besides working at the Capitol, the students spent time learning from government reporters.

“The students have been enthusiastic and fully engaged,” Anklam said. “Several expressed appreciation that they are getting to interact directly with state officials who have not provided such access to the general media.

“I have been delighted to hear the students express their ideas about key policy issues and see them question our state leaders on those topics.”

Rucker credits the idea for the class to Debora Wenger, the school’s assistant dean for partnerships and innovation and associate professor of journalism.

“She is always trying to bring new and innovative things to the journalism school, and she has wanted to add a legislative reporting class for a while,” Rucker said.

Rucker began designing the class by researching what other universities were doing with similar reporting courses. She also wanted to find someone who had a strong background in state government reporting, which led to the partnership with Anklam, an Ole Miss alumnus.

Anklam had covered government for The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson and national politics for USA Today. He is working to help the students have their work published on Mississippi Today’s website.

“It is one of many journalism classes in the Meek School of Journalism that offers an adventure outside of the classroom,” Rucker said. “While some professors take students on trips to the Mississippi Delta, to the civil rights museum in Memphis and even out of the country on reporting trips, this is the latest class that provides students with a hands-on learning experience.”

Logistics were a challenge, with the legislative session being in Jackson, three hours from the Ole Miss campus, Rucker said. But students spent the first part of each week in Oxford learning about the style of reporting and upcoming issues, and the remainder at the Capitol interviewing public officials, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Rep. Philip Gunn and Attorney General Jim Hood.

“They have also asked some really thought-provoking questions, and they are working on stories that I believe will make a difference in Mississippi, bringing attention to important issues that deserve closer examination,” she said.

The Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class learned about legislative reporting during the Wintersession course. Participants are back row, from left) Davis McCool, Mississippi Today co-editor Fred Anklam, Thomas Goris and Terrance Johnson, and (front row, from left) Savannah Smith, Savannah Day, Briana Florez, Kristen Bentley and DeAndria Turner. Submitted photo

Students in the course are: Kristen Bentley, a sophomore journalism major from Richmond, Virginia; Savannah Day, a sophomore double major in public policy leadership and broadcast journalism from Corinth; Briana Florez, junior broadcast journalism major from Burke, Virginia; Thomas Goris, a junior broadcast journalism major from Mequon, Wisconsin; Terrence Johnson, a senior journalism major from Columbus; Davis McCool, a freshman journalism and public policy major from Oxford; Savannah Smith, a senior double major in public policy leadership and print journalism from Corinth; and DeAndria Turner, a sophomore journalism major from St. Martin.

Students will also have their stories posted on Oxford Stories, the student news wire serve at Ole Miss. Rucker said she hopes the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class will be offered regularly.

“We could not have asked for a better group of students or leader for our first Mississippi Capitol Press Corps class, and it’s an added bonus that Fred Anklam is an Ole Miss graduate that they can look to as a mentor,” she said.

“I believe the class was a success because Fred Anklam was our point person in Jackson who was able to arrange interviews with top state leaders. Students said they were impressed they had interview access to these important Mississippians.”

For more information about journalism programs at UM, visit

UM Students to Perform with Malpaso Dance Company

Ford Center performance by Cuba-based troupe will open with a student piece

Ole Miss students rehearse the piece ‘Redefining Carmen’ while studying abroad in Cuba in December. The group will perform Jan. 27 with Malpaso Dance Company at the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Cuba-based Malpaso Dance Company will perform this weekend at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, combining Cuban influence with contemporary dance styles for a unique display of talent at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 27).

Tickets, priced at $30 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $26 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels, and $18 for the balcony level are available at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center and at A 10 percent discount is available for faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office.

Malpaso is a young company, founded in 2012 to foster the development of young Cuban choreographers and to promote their artistic vision. The group has traveled throughout the United States and has grown to international prominence while bringing its unique style and vision with the hopes of piquing interest in Cuban culture.

“Dance and music are the most efficient ways, culturally speaking, that we Cubans have to express ourselves,” said Fernando Sáez, Malpaso founder and executive director. “The role of music and dance in the Cuban culture is the result of the intricate and profound, complex conversations among individuals representing cultures from all over the world.

“We have to pay attention, of course, to the main branches of our culture: the Spanish and the African influences.”

Malpaso has been working with Mississippi: The Dance Company since November to develop a piece for Ole Miss students to perform at the beginning of the show.

Jennifer Mizenko, UM professor of theatre arts, wanted a partnership with a Cuban dance company for this collaboration and sought out Malpaso. Seven students in the company will perform “Redefining Carmen,” choreographed specifically for them by Osnel Delgado, Malpaso’s artistic director, founder and choreographer.

“This is something we really enjoy very much – the opportunity of not only performing, but interacting in a more profound way with the communities and students throughout workshops, classes, lectures,” Sáez said. “It is really worth it, and we enjoy doing this very much.”

Ole Miss students Rachel McKellar and Lydia Myers rehearse during their ‘Dance in Cuba’ course in December in Havana. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Students Madeleine Bradley, a junior exercise science major from Memphis; Madeline Friedman, freshman art history major from Madison, Wisconsin; Mary Lacy Lusk, freshman undeclared major from Troy, Alabama; Rachel McKellar, junior English major from Purvis; Makenzie Menaker, freshman undeclared major from Mobile, Alabama; Lydia Myers, junior musical theatre major from Laurel; and Victoria Penagor, sophomore math major from Boulder, Colorado, have rehearsed with Malpaso.

“The more they’ve come together as a group and as friends, the more they’ve come together in their dance performance,” Mizenko said. “Finding those intimate moments and shared memories is going to come into the dance, and that’s also improving them as a unit and improving them in the performance.

“In this final week of rehearsals, Osnel is working with the students on the nuances of the piece and bringing the spirit of the piece alive in details such as where they are looking, how is the head tilting, exactly where are the arms. They’re really digging into the piece and fine-tuning all aspects.”

The training began during the Office of Global Engagement’s International Education Week in November and continued through a two-week study abroad course last month in Cuba, where the students studied Cuban dance styles and learned about the culture while fine-tuning their piece for the performance.

All the students have a background in dance, but Delgado’s contemporary style challenged each of them to get out of her comfort zone.

“It was definitely interesting working with Osnel because none of us knew what to expect coming into it,” Lusk said.” It was definitely challenging because just the style of dance is completely different than what we’re used to. The way he moves and the movement is just completely different.

“I feel like he hears different parts in the music than we’re used to, so it’s hard to kind of match his musicality. It’s challenging, but in a good way.”

The goal of the piece is to portray the contemporary woman.

“He’s just such a good choreographer and he has this vision,” Friedman said. “I’m trying so hard to make this vision happen. He actually put together the music that we’re using, which is really impressive because it’s a really cool song.”

Delgado created the piece based on the group, and each student was able to incorporate her own original movement into the piece.

“He literally wanted to base a piece off of us seven girls and our personalities and who we are as contemporary women, and so I immediately had respect for him wanting to do that and wanting to bring that out for us,” Myers said. “He’s so creative and he’s so much fun. We all had really great chemistry with him.”

Besides the student work, the company’s 10 young dancers from Cuba’s premier dance schools will perform pieces that display the country’s unique dance culture and traditions.

“Malpaso Dance Company represents some of the best of Cuban contemporary dance,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “We are glad to welcome them to the Ford Center and to be a part of the collaborative project with the company and Ole Miss dancers.”

UM Alumna Returns to Ford Center with ‘The Sound of Music’

Christina Tompkins will perform role of Sister Sophia

Christina Tompkins, a 2009 UM graduate, will perform with ‘The Sound of Music’ national tour Wednesday (Jan. 24) at the Ford Center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi is hosting the national tour of “The Sound of Music” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday (Jan. 24), and a familiar Ole Miss face will be among the cast for the sold-out show.

Christina Tompkins earned her bachelor’s degree in musical theatre from Ole Miss in 2009. The White Plains, New York native is the female swing for “The Sound of Music,” meaning she must be able to perform nearly every female adult role. Tompkins began rehearsal for touring company last summer and the traveling performance opened in Yakima, Washington, in September.

She’s been on a tour bus since.

As the swing, Tompkins must be know about 10 different musical tracks and be ready to fill in at a moment’s notice in case another performer cannot fulfill their duty.

“I sort of call myself the insurance policy,” she said. “I have to be ready sometimes even a couple hours’ notice or just a half-hour before the show.”

Tompkins said she is honored to perform in this production.

“It’s a truly fulfilling experience and it’s the highlight of my career since leaving Ole Miss,” she said. “I think the story of ‘The Sound of Music’ is as extremely relevant today as it was then, and I’m proud to be part of the production.”

Tompkins is slated for Wednesday to perform the part of Sister Sophia, a nun who asks the question, “How do you solve a problem like Maria?” This performance is a homecoming of sorts for Tompkins.

“I haven’t performed on that stage since my senior year of college,” Tompkins said. “It’s a feeling that I can’t really put into words. It’s so great to come full circle and have my former professors there to see me perform.”

When choosing colleges, Tompkins visited UM on a whim with her father and fell in love with the campus. She stayed four years in Oxford and said her peers and professors in the theater department became some of her closest friends.

Alumna Christina Tompkins will portray Sister Sophia in the national tour performance of ‘The Sound of Music.’ Submitted photo

“I’m so excited to see my professors,” she said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without my education from the University of Mississippi.”

Rene Pulliam, associate professor of theatre arts, plans to be in attendance to see her former student perform.

“Christina has deserved this,” Pulliam said. “She works hard and she’s extremely talented. It’s been very exciting to see her progress, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this opportunity.”

The production, which tells the musical story of Maria and the von Trapp family, features music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.

“We are looking forward to bringing this wonderful family show to the Ford Center,” marketing director Kate Meacham said. “It’s a great story of love and family, and the songs are classics. We are also happy to welcome back Ole Miss alumna Christina Tompkins to the Ford Center.”

For more information about upcoming performances at the Ford Center, visit

UM Student Helps Batesville Mounds Open as Public Education Site

Nikki Mattson worked on the park as part of her thesis

UM graduate student Nikki Mattson worked as a consultant on signage to help explain the significance of the Batesville Mounds site to visitors. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The city of Batesville has opened the Batesville Mound Site as a public park, partially thanks to the efforts of Nikki Mattson, a University of Mississippi graduate student in anthropology who has worked to develop signage and content for the site.

The Batesville Mounds are a Native American mound complex consisting of four mounds and two village areas. The park opened Nov. 21 with informational signs, walking trails around the mounds and nature trails through nearby wooded areas. The mound portion of the site is 35 acres, situated within 90 scenic acres that constitute the entire park.

Mattson has been working on the project, which began more than 30 years ago, as part of her master’s thesis. She partnered with the city and the Panola Partnership economic development organization to conduct surveys aimed at gauging previous knowledge of the site and getting ideas about how community members would like to see it utilized for educational opportunities.

“I believe learning about the people who lived on and from the land that is practically right in our own backyards will help raise awareness of the importance of preservation, conservation and stewardship,” Mattson said. “We are a part of this land now, too, and being aware of its full history can and will foster a sense of respect and protection, not only for the past but also as we move into the future and pass the knowledge on to future generations.”

The site dates to the Early to Middle Woodland Period between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. Archaeological surveys and excavations conducted at the mound site indicate that the Batesville Mounds were used by Native Americans approximately 2,000 years ago for ceremonial and feasting activities.

Although it is not possible to directly trace the relationship between the builders of the Batesville Mounds and late Native American groups, the people who built and used the mounds clearly were ancestral to the different groups of native peoples who were living in north Mississippi at the time of European contact, Mattson said.

The site was first recorded in the 1950s by UM professor William Haag, who submitted the site card to the state. Researchers from the university’s Center for Archaeological Research and Ole Miss graduate students have conducted archaeological excavations there since the early 1990s in preparation of opening the site for public use.

“Native Americans were living in what would become Mississippi for over 10,000 years before they were contacted by Europeans, and many people today are not aware of the full diversity of how Native Americans lived prior to contact,” said Tony Boudreaux, the center’s director.

“Making the Batesville Mounds accessible as a park is an opportunity for many people today to learn about this place that was very important to a community of people who lived there and hosted ceremonial gatherings there around 2,000 years ago. It is great to see this important part of Mississippi’s Native American heritage being conserved and celebrated.”

UM graduate student Nikki Mattson celebrates at the grand opening of the Batesville Mounds to the public. Submitted photo

Mattson also has worked as a consultant on signage with the city engineer and architect in addition to attending events and engaging with community members. She is working to inventory and catalog artifacts from the site in the university’s collection to add more information and context to the mounds.

“Ole Miss has been a part of it from beginning to the end,” Mattson said. “I am so excited and honestly beyond humbled to see my words on the first signage designed for the site.”

The city plans to build a museum, a covered pavilion and public restrooms at the site, Mattson said.

The Batesville Mounds, at 515 Highway 35 North, are part of the Mississippi Mound Trail, which consists of more than 30 Native American mound sites throughout the state.

For more information about the Center for Archaeological Research, visit

Theatre Students Make Dresses for Young Girls in Need

Costume design class partnered with St. Peter's Episcopal Church's Little Dresses Ministry

Hannah Bosworth, a freshman theatre arts major from Coronado, California, sews a dress for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church’s Little Dresses Ministry as part of her Introduction to Costumes for the Stage class at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Several University of Mississippi theatre arts students are spending the end of the semester making a difference by sewing dresses that will be distributed to young girls in need.

Donna Buckley, instructional assistant professor of costume technology, has been teaching students the basic techniques of sewing in THEA 272: Introduction to Costumes for the Stage so they learn the process of how to design a costume.

Buckley said she’s always wanted to participate in a sewing outreach program and when she found out about the Little Dresses Ministry at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, she knew she wanted to get her students involved.

“I saw this as a great opportunity for students to participate in a service project,” Buckley said. “Students tend to get so involved in their own little world, so this allows them to see a need and make a difference for others.”

The Little Dresses Ministry is an ongoing effort of the church to provide clothing to less-fortunate children around the world and in the poorest counties of Mississippi. Buckley heard about the opportunity through Leslie Banahan, UM assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and a member of the church.

“I read about and participated in a similar ministry in Tupelo, and as a lifelong collector of fabric, thought I could put my fabric stash to good use,” Banahan said. “Turns out, many women at St. Peter’s had similar fabric stashes, so we got together and began sewing.”

The church has been making dresses for almost five years and has distributed more than 300 pieces of new clothing to young children.

UM theatre arts students in Donna Buckley’s costume design class sew dresses that will be distributed to young girls in need through St. Peter’s Episcopal Church’s Little Dresses Ministry. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The sewn dresses, made of cotton or cotton-blend fabric and adorned with embellishments such as ribbons, buttons and lace, go to the Mississippi Delta and several foreign countries, including Honduras, Haiti and Nigeria. Volunteers also make simple shorts for young boys.

“Some of our volunteers have been fortunate to personally deliver the dresses and shorts to children both in Mississippi and abroad,” Banahan said. “The photos show smiling, proud, happy children twirling in their new clothes. This ministry has been a true joy.”

Buckley picked out several fabrics to allow her students an opportunity to add their own design to the effort, which is part of their final project for the course. The class will donate more than 20 dresses to the ministry.

“I strongly feel that it’s beneficial for students to help people in less-fortunate situations,” she said. “It helps them grow as individuals when they can help others.”

Gabrielle Quintana, a freshman theatre arts major from Marietta, Georgia, has enjoyed learning in this course and using her knowledge to help others.

“I think it’s fun and it’s such a wonderful experience to be able to apply what you learn for a good cause,” Quintana said. “We’ve all gotten to know each other better, and my classmates and I have really bonded over this project.”

Buckley encourages anyone who wants donate a half-yard or more of cotton fabric to contact her at She plans to continue this effort with her costume class every semester.

Anyone who would like to become involved in this project can contact Leslie Banahan at