UM Recognizes Three Employees with Frist Service Awards

Honorees are modern languages and political science professors and admissions director

Robert Brown, who teaches in the Department of Political Science and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, shares this year’s Frist Award for UM faculty. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Following glowing letters of recommendation from students, fellow faculty members and parents, three University of Mississippi employees have been chosen to receive prestigious honors for their exceptional service.

The Thomas Frist Student Service Awards are presented annually to Ole Miss faculty and staff members who have “gone the extra mile” in unwavering dedication and service to students.

Two faculty recipients share this year’s honor: Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics, and Robert Brown, professor of political science. Whitman Smith, director of admissions, is the staff award recipient.

“The Ole Miss family is fortunate to have so many outstanding individuals who go above and beyond to serve our students,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “All three of this year’s Frist Award recipients exemplify this core value.

“We applaud their unwavering commitment to student engagement and exceptional level of personal attention to student success. These three are very deserving of this special honor.”

Examples of exemplary service include student guidance and mentorship above and beyond those expected of faculty and staff as part of their job responsibilities. Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque. The winners also are acknowledged during the university’s overall Commencement ceremony.

Each recipient said he was surprised to receive news of his honor.

“I was also humbled and a little bit embarrassed by it,” Smith said. “I am honored to be recognized as someone who serves students. I have nothing I can compare it to.”

Both Dyer and Brown expressed similar feelings.

“When he (Vitter) gave me the news about the Frist Award, I felt incredibly honored … and humbled,” Dyer said. “This (honor) means that my interaction over the years with students has positively influenced someone.

“The success of the students I have been privileged to teach and to advise has always been as important to me or more important than anything else I have achieved as a professor.”

Brown said he is grateful to know students who have made him want to be a better teacher and better person.

Whitman Smith, UM director of admissions, is this year’s staff honoree for the Frist Award. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“This award is a reminder of how lucky I am to be a teacher, and to work with and care about the students I teach,” Brown said. “They have given me so much, and I am glad to be able to give back to them if I can.”

The decision to choose a faculty recipient was difficult due to the stellar praises expressed for each in the nomination letters, said Luca Bombelli and Anne McCauley, both previous Frist winners and co-chairs of the selection committee.

“Reviewing nomination letters for the Frist Award is an inspiring and uplifting task because all the letters express heartfelt gratitude for faculty and staff members who have really made a difference in a student’s life,” said McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability.

“Both were so equally deserving that selecting one over the other would have involved a degree of arbitrariness that most did not feel comfortable with,” said Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy. “Therefore, we made the unusual move to recognize both of them.”

Brown, who has been nominated for the award in previous years, teaches in both the Department of Political Science and at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

In a nomination letter for him, one student wrote, “He has gone above and beyond as a professor, his dedication to his students shining every step of the way. Dr. Brown has visited sick students in their hometowns, gifted books to other students just because he thought they would enjoy, and has become a faithful campus voice outspoken against sexual assault.”

Don Dyer, professor of Russian and linguistics, is a faculty recipient of a 2017 Frist Award. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

When the student had doubts about her career path, “He sat with me and compiled a list of possible majors, helped me schedule appointments with deans and professors in each department, showing up to introduce me to each of them.”

Dyer, who had multiple nomination letters written by both students and faculty, was commended by a colleague for “having taken the language and linguistics programs to exceptional heights.

“He has always been supportive of new ideas and innovations in teaching languages, including less commonly taught languages, such as Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. Thanks to his hard work, professional and personal skills, the Department of Modern Languages has achieved great success, national and international recognition and respect.”

A student wrote that Dyer’s service has included funding graduate students’ trips to conferences in Idaho and New Mexico, teaching more than his required number of courses when necessary and even teaching a much-needed summer course for free as a gesture of good will.

“Dr. Dyer leads by example; he is ready to do what is best for the students and the university,” the student wrote.

In a nomination letter for Smith, written by the parents of a UM student, he was praised for having “rewritten the playbook” for the role of admissions director.

“Whitman went well beyond introducing students to the university and helping them acclimate to the college environment,” they wrote. “He built a relationship with (our son). Had it not been for Whitman and his ceaseless encouragement and open door, he may not be graduating in May.

“Whitman’s voice of reason and understanding encouraged him when it seemed nobody else could.”

The parents noted Smith has “a deep passion” for working with Ole Miss students.

“More than once, we have phoned Whitman at home and on his cell number after office hours. Whitman consistently goes beyond the role of a director of admissions, providing guidance and mentorship that serve students like our son every single day.”

All three recipients said they plan to give their stipends back to the university.

“I will donate half to the Larry Ridgeway scholarship fund and half to the Max Miller scholarship fund,” Smith said.

“I plan to give it to the Department of Modern Languages to help students in need of financial support to study abroad,” Dyer said.

“Half will go to the Department of Political Science and half will go to the Honors College to use for student projects and development,” Brown said.

The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate. Past winners of the Frist Award include faculty members Brett Cantrell, Denis Goulet, Aileen Ajootian, Don Cole, Charles Eagles, Ellen Meacham, Terry Panhorst, Ken Sufka and Eric Weber, and staff members Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick, Carol Forsythe, Thelma Curry, Dewey Knight, Valeria Ross, Marc Showalter and Linda Spargo.

Shan Jiang Joins Mechanical Engineering Faculty

Postdoctoral fellow brings research expertise to department, students

Assistant professor Shan Jiang is a new addition to the UM Department of Mechanical Engineering faculty. Submitted photo

When it comes to athletics, the University of Mississippi and the University of Missouri are rivals. But when Shan Jiang decided it was time to begin his professional teaching and research career at an R1 institution, he didn’t find it too difficult to forsake the Tigers for the Rebels.

“I was a ‘Mizzou Tiger,’ but Ole Miss also had a long history and great reputation,” said the newest assistant professor in UM’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “I learned of this position from my previous Ph.D. adviser, who is also actively conducting research in the area of computational solid mechanics. I accepted because I believe that I fit this position very well based on my background and research interests.”

Jiang teaches courses in statics, engineering graphics fundamentals, and numerical engineering design and analysis. His research interests include mechanics of materials and structures; multiscale modeling and simulations, and strength of advanced materials; atomic/molecular-level simulations; thermo-mechanical response of nano-/mesoscale structures to extreme loading conditions; blast-resistant structures and materials, energetic materials, shock simulations; and high-performance computation for simulation-based engineering science.

“My short-term career goals are publishing high-quality research papers (in) international, top-ranked, peer-review journals, successfully securing some external research grants, developing my own special style of teaching to realize effectively and efficiently learning for both undergraduate and graduate courses,” Jiang said.

“Long-term, I want to form a well-known research group focused on simulation-based engineering science at Ole Miss and to develop more advanced courses to meet the requirements of the fast-increasing student enrollments in the ME department.”

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of the mechanical engineering department, said Jiang is an asset to the program and its students.

“Dr. Jiang brings exceptional talents in multidisciplinary research areas, including chemistry,” he said. “I am positive that Shan’s outgoing and easily approachable personality would lead to effective student interactions and synergism in the department. I am sure our students would love his teaching and perhaps performing undergraduate research under (him).”

Jiang said that receiving the Outstanding Ph.D. Student Award in the College of Engineering at Mizzou is his most fulfilling achievement to date.

“I’ve been working so hard during my time there, maintaining a 4.0 GPA and writing 12 journal publications,” he said. “I think this award is a good reflection of my hard work.”

Formerly a postdoctoral research fellow in the Sewell and Thompson Theoretical Chemistry Research groups at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Jiang holds Ph.D. degrees in civil engineering from there and in computational mechanics from Dalian University of Technology. He also earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Dalian. His research involves multiscale modeling and simulation of advanced materials, engineering structures under extreme conditions and shock simulations of energetic materials and blast-resistant structures.

“I have participated in several research projects that have been funded by several agencies, such as the U.S. Defense (Threat) Reduction Agency, the U.S. Army Research Office and the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research,” he said. “Under these projects, I have co-authored 20 peer-reviewed papers and two book chapters.”

Jiang and his wife, Cindy, have two sons: Aiden and Ethan. The couple enjoys playing games and watching funny kids’ movies with their boys.

“Sometimes, we go hiking and fishing outside to enjoy the nice weather,” he said.

And as for his SEC university loyalty?

“Joining the ME department is my honor,” Jiang said, “and Ole Miss is a great place for me to start my academic career. Hotty Toddy!”

For more about UM’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/mechanical/

 

 

 

 

Alumnus William H. Baker Jr. Presented McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award

Honor recognizes contributions to Association for Manufacturing Excellence

William H. ‘Bill’ Baker Jr. is the 2016 Mac McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. Submitted photo

Adding to many accolades during his career, William H. “Bill” Baker Jr. (ME 63) received the 2016 Mac McCulloch Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Manufacturing Excellence.

Established in 2004, the McCulloch Award not only recognizes service to the association but also honors an individual’s character, integrity and leadership. Recipients are nominated and selected by the AME Awards Council and presented the prize at the annual AME International Conference, which took place in Dallas, Texas, last year.

“After being a volunteer for 27 years, I am humbled to be given this recognition for my service,” said Baker, a Jackson native. “I’ve had many career highs over the years, but this one definitely tops the list.”

Baker retired in 2004 from Raytheon Co. and Texas Instruments Defense Systems (which Raytheon acquired in 1997). He is president and CEO of Speed to Excellence, a consulting company based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is also a prolific writer who has contributed articles to the National Productivity Review, Quality Progress and AME’s Target Magazine (of which he is now chairman of its editorial board).

He has co-authored best-sellers that include “Winning the Knowledge Transfer Race” with Michael English (McGraw-Hill, 2006) and “Lean for the Long Term” with Ken Rolfes (Productivity Press, 2015).

“Never dreamed I would be a writer and editor,” he said.

Baker’s other AME volunteer activities include serving as chairman of the 2005 international conference in Boston, where he had the opportunity to introduce the keynote speaker, Gov. Mitt Romney.

George Saiz, AME president and CEO, described Baker as “a tireless continuous improvement practitioner in his professional career (who) has brought that same spirit of improvement to his work at the organization.

“By adding his expertise to everything from AME publications all the way up to the most prestigious level of recognition through the AME Excellence Award, Bill has enabled thousands of continuous improvement practitioners to come together to share, learn and grow,” Saiz said.

Baker entered the University of Mississippi as a student-athlete and was on the freshman tennis team. He recalls Mechanics and Thermodynamics as a favorite engineering course.

“I liked the theories that I could visualize and enjoy,” Baker said.

As a mechanical engineering student, Baker also went through Air Force ROTC, where he was wing operations manager. He was also president of the student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and was selected for the Arnold Air Society and Scabbard and Blade honorary ROTC groups.

“This helped me be one of the first USAF rocket-propulsion engineers, who helped launch satellites from 1963 to 1967 and evaluating contractors’ performance,” Baker said.

Following graduation, Baker began a career in manufacturing engineering at Texas Instruments Defense Systems with responsibility for delivering missiles, night vision equipment and geophysical exploration equipment. He later spent two years as manufacturing manager at the University of Texas at Dallas, building mass spectrometers for Apollo 15, 16 and 17.

“The last one of moon exploration, Apollo 17, I physically helped build,” he said. “It is still on the moon.”

A frequent speaker on benchmarking, performance measurement, knowledge management, Raytheon Six Sigma and the Lean Enterprise, Baker has been instrumental in assisting several companies and organizations in pursuit of their strategic objectives. A senior Shingo Prize examiner and AME Excellence Award examiner, he was a key design contributor to the Lean Certification process developed by AME-Shingo-SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) and launched in 2006.

Baker, who also earned an MBA from Southern Methodist University in 1973, was responsible for knowledge management and benchmarking at both Texas Instruments and Raytheon from 1990 to 2004. Earlier in his career, he was the manufacturing manager on several high-profile missile/electronic systems, including Shrike, Paveway, Harpoon seeker, TOW Night Sight, HARM and Tacit Rainbow. Baker was the U.S. Air Force engineering chief, responsible for evaluating satellite launches at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Baker and his wife, Martha Rea, who attended Ole Miss for three years, have three sons: William, Mark and David.

“I assist Martha, who is an accomplished artist,” Baker said. “And I love to spend time with our four grandchildren: Cas, Ruby, Bodhi and Charan.”

Baker also enjoys playing competitive tennis in Santa Fe.

For more about Speed to Excellence, visit https://billbakerste.com/ For more about the UM Department of Mechanical Engineering, go to https://engineering.olemiss.edu/mechanical/. For additional information about the Association for Manufacturing Excellence, see www.ame.org.

 

 

Colbert Lehr Reflects upon Time as Engineering Student Body President

With experience, planning, electrical engineering senior accomplishes a lot during his time in office

Colbert Lehr served as Engineering Student Body president in 2016-17. (Submitted photo)

Colbert Lehr, an electrical engineering major from Brandon, said that his time serving on the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council since his freshman year helped him decide to run for the position of ESB president. He was elected ESB president by his peers last spring and has spent the past 12 months working to better things for students in the School of Engineering.

“When I chose to run for ESB president, I had previously served on the ESB Leadership Council for two years,” he said. “I had experience planning, promoting and conducting different social events for engineering students.”

Lehr said he believes that it was his experience with events such as National Engineers Week (E-Week), the School of Engineering tailgate and Engineering Formal that helped make him the best candidate for the position.

“The ESB is not just an organization that hosts social events to help students engage and meet each other,” Lehr said. “The group is also responsible for helping to develop programs that promote career and professional development as well as representing the needs of engineering students to the engineering faculty and administration.”

Lehr organized the council into an academic committee and a social committee to help make sure all council members were involved and had a role in coordinating activities during the course of the year.

ESB Leadership Council member Jake Azbell said he appreciated Lehr’s leadership.

“Colbert is very professional when it comes to his work, which is needed to manage a group of people with varying perspectives and ideas,” he said. “He was also very detail oriented and helped make serving in the ESB an enjoyable experience.”

Since the ESB is the umbrella student organization for the School of Engineering, one of Lehr’s goals was to develop stronger relationships between the ESB and other engineering student organizations.

“Often, organizations operate independently since they are based within a specific engineering department,” Lehr said. “I attempted to remedy this by bringing leaders of student organizations together and addressing everything from collaboration on events to funding and support for schoolwide events.”

Lehr said he saw more communication between engineering organizations over the course of the year. Another goal for Lehr was to increase involvement among first-year students in the engineering school. He spoke to incoming freshmen at the annual Engineering Freshman Convocation about the opportunities to get involved in ESB and other organizations to help them acclimate to campus and meet people within the school.

Lehr also encouraged them to begin thinking about their professional career and to use resources such as visiting the School of Engineering’s career planning specialist Megan Miller.

As with many student government organizations, Lehr found it a challenge to make sure students understood the role of ESB.

“Our greatest challenge has been visibility and exposure,” he said. “Even though we host Bowling Nights, events for E-Week and the Engineering Formal, there are many students that do not readily recognize ESB or know what the group does for students.”

One success that Lehr noted was increased student attendance for events hosted by the organization. This year, the annual formal had over 300 students in attendance, surpassing previous events. He is also proud of the friendships formed within the Leadership Council since all of the students come from different engineering majors and are at different stages in their academic career from freshmen to seniors.

Lehr’s advice for future ESB presidential hopefuls is to make sure they truly want to work with a diverse group of people. He would also encourage them to listen to the quietest voice in the room when making decisions to ensure that all voices, thoughts and opinions are heard and taken into consideration. Lastly, he would advise future ESB presidents to lead by example and never require anything of anyone that they would not be willing to do themselves.

Lehr said he appreciates the generous support of Dean Alexander Cheng as well as the help and advice of ESB adviser Ryan Upshaw. He also thanks his fellow officers, Holly Pitts and Andrew Huff, for their work as well as the rest of the ESB Leadership Council.

In addition to his role as ESB president, Lehr has served on the executive committee of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was selected to attend the UM PULSE Leadership Conference in 2016. He has volunteered with the FIRST Robotics Competition, Engineers Without Borders and the Leap Frog program. Additionally, he has been selected for membership in Lambda Sigma, Golden Key, Tau Beta Pi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Mortar Board honor societies.

Last summer, he interned with Raytheon in Forest and plans to return as an intern for summer 2017. He said he hopes to pursue further education in electrical engineering or in business administration.

 

 

 

In Memoriam: Mark David Harrison

Electrical engineering alumnus lent expertise to defense agencies, companies in Huntsville

One of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering’s electrical engineering alumni, Mark David Harrison (BBA 83, BSEE 85) of Huntsville, Alabama, died April 1, 2017 at age 57.

Harrison was born to Louie Vardaman Harrison Jr. and Mary Ann (Pegues) Harrison in Winona, Mississippi, on Oct. 12, 1959. He grew up in Winona and graduated from Winona High School, where he played both offensive and defensive positions on the football team. As a young boy he played baseball, which he continued through junior high, high school and Holmes Junior College in Goodman, Mississippi.

Besides graduating from Ole Miss, Harrison also attended classes at the University of California, Los Angeles. He started the publication of Ole Miss Engineer and was recognized for accomplishments within the Department of Engineering. His expertise in the field of electromagnetic propagation theory within zinc compounds led him to achieve his first of many positions at Nichols Research in 1985 and positions at Coleman Research, both in Huntsville.

Harrison was the seeker subject matter expert for the Theater High Altitude Area Defense system, which continues today to be a system within our nation’s defense for the Missile Defense Agency. He contributed to efforts within missile defense, which included engineering expertise support within the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, various Program Executive offices and throughout the Department of Defense.

He extended his career knowledge by joining Miltec Corp., and while contributing to many programs and proposals, helped to lead a team to form and support the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon program. Within the last decade, he was employed by two companies, including one in 2009, which was started in collaboration with a group of colleagues, Harrison Research Corp., a system engineering company; and OTG/OPS Inc. (Over-the-Garage Operations), a software security company to support enterprise technology advanced security and operations/maintenance.

Harrison also supported and was a member of many defense and commercial organizations within the Huntsville area, such as the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, National Defense Industrial Association and Information Systems Security Association.

He enjoyed many activities outside of work including playing golf and shooting pool in the American Poolplayers Association league, and composing and playing music. He is survived by his wife, Elizabeth Anne (Cooley) Harrison; his sisters and brothers, Pam Hoover and her husband, Steve, of Mississippi; Kitty Stallings and her husband, Neil, of California; Dr. Louie Vardaman Harrison III and his wife, Sonya, of Mississippi; and Lee Harrison and his wife, Patty, of Texas, and many nieces and nephews.

Harrison had many friends and colleagues who remember his passion for his work, compassion and love of animals, as well as his intellect, ability to tell a great joke and dedication to the Ole Miss Rebels.

The family extends thanks to the dedicated medical staff at Crestwood Medical Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville and to Harrison’s personal physicians. Harrison was memorialized April 3, 2017 with a visitation at Laughlin Service Funeral Home in Huntsville. In his honor and remembering his love for animals, donations can be made to A New Leash on Life at anewleash.org or Tender Loving Care at TLCPaws.org.

Information for this article came from The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times.

UM School of Engineering Honors Alumni, Faculty and Students

Annual awards recognize recipients' achievements, service

UM Engineering Dean Alex Cheng presents 2017 Engineer of Service Awards to brothers Chuck (center) and Steve Smith during the annual awards banquet. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Successful University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni, faculty and students received their due Thursday (April 20) during the school’s 2017 Honors Banquet.

The annual awards were presented by Dean Alex Cheng and others at the Inn at Ole Miss. Alumni recipients are Karen Comer Matthews (BSCE 85), president and CEO of Delta Health Alliance, and Charles E. Smith Jr. (BSEE 83) and Steven A. Smith (BSEE 93), co-founders of Guardian Manufacturing Inc. Matthews received the Engineer of Distinction Award, while the Smith brothers were given Engineer of Service Awards.

“We’re enjoying a warm and wonderful evening celebrating the accomplishments and service of our students, faculty and alumni,” Cheng said. “We are proud of them and are honored to join them to celebrate together.”

Each honoree expressed gratitude for the recognitions.

“You have honored me today with this recognition, one in which I accept with both humility and gratitude,” Matthews said. “I truly hope that I have been true to my quest, that I have created some positive forward motion in Mississippi – however slight it may be in the grand scheme of life – and, most importantly, lived a life that validates the love and respect of my family, my divine guidance and the desire to return the respect that we all have for this institution.”

A nonprofit organization that funds and operates more than 20 health care and education initiatives throughout the Mississippi Delta, the alliance works to overcome health and education disparities in rural communities. It has been a leader in using information technologies to improve delivery of services, nurturing collaborations among professional disciplines and community organizations, and applying quantitative assessment and evaluation to guide development and improvement of programs.

“Engineers, regardless of discipline, are people who contrive and derive from cleverness, and we are this little secret group of problem solvers that the rest of the world sees as nerds, but we know better,” said Matthews, a Fulton native who also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Memphis and her doctorate in health science administration from the University of Tennessee.

Before joining Delta Health Alliance, she served as vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where she was responsible for promoting, establishing and supporting interdisciplinary and inter-organizational collaborations in research, education and patient care.

Karen Comer Matthews accepts the 2017 Distinguished Engineer of the Year Award during the annual UM School of Engineering awards banquet. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Under her direction, Tennessee Health Science Center was an early leader in establishing telemedicine networks as a way of bringing health care specialists to underserved communities. The Tennessee system ultimately grew to more than 110 sites throughout the Mid-South and was named the third largest network in the country in 2005.

Matthews has served as principal investigator on numerous state and federal contracts, authored more than 50 articles for academic journals and written successful grant applications for more than $250 million in research support.

Chuck and Steve Smith are the oldest and middle of three sons of the late Charles E. Smith Sr., who from 1975 to 2004 devoted his life to the advancement of the UM electrical engineering program as chair and professor. Years later, his legacy is being maintained by the benevolence of his two sons.

The Smith brothers have served as members of the Engineering Advisory Board since 2007. Steve served as an executive committee member since 2010 and as chair for 2014 and 2015.

“Receiving an award that was previously given to our father many years ago is very special,” Chuck Smith said. “His dedication and service to Ole Miss and the School of Engineering meant everything to him and to be honored in a similar way is a humbling experience.”

Both served in the Engineering School’s Vision Council in 2010-12 for strategic planning. They have spoken to students on multiple occasions and generously donated to rename the former Engineering Science Building to Charles E. Smith Sr. Hall in 2004.

“Ole Miss and Oxford represent a very special place for our family,” Chuck Smith said. “We have so many friends and fond memories of family and growing up here. Although we live in Florida, our roots are and will always be in Oxford.”

Steve Smith echoed his brother’s sentiment.

“Being recognized from my Ole Miss home is humbling, yet brings a deeper purpose to strive even harder,” he said. “Raised in the halls of engineering, I was fortunate to have many mentors, many who grace the walls today.

“I always remember walking by plaques that adorn the walls, many whom I knew, thinking one day I would join them. Little did I know, I would join with my father and brother – a family affair.”

Both are both involved in Shema Ministry of Merit Island, Florida, serving as board members. This is a group of business leaders committed to helping meet financial needs of individuals in the community.

Steve Smith and his wife, Karen, have served as ministry leaders to other couples through Calvary Chapel Viera. He is also a board member of My Community Cares Inc., served as a Lafayette County volunteer firefighter during the years he lived in Oxford and Yocona communities and donated airline miles a year ago for UM’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders travel to the West African nation of Togo.

Chuck and Steve support the Veteran’s Airlift Command and other charitable causes, where they donate time on their corporate aircraft to provide transportation to veterans and others in tough situations at no charge. Chuck also serves on the Luis Palau President’s Council.

Employees who received awards included Ramanarayanan (“Dr. Vish”) Vishwanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year Award; Wei-Yin Chen, professor of chemical engineering, Senior Faculty Research Award; Matt Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Junior Faculty Research Award; Alexander Yakovlev, professor of electrical engineering, Faculty Teaching Award; Dwight Waddell, associate professor of electrical engineering, Faculty Service Award; and Paul Matthew Lowe, machine shop supervisor, Outstanding Staff Award.

Students recognized as Outstanding Senior Leaders during the ceremonies included Dustin Dykes, a mechanical engineering major from Madison, Alabama; Holly Pitts, a civil engineering major from Indianola; and Adam Schildhammer, a geological engineering major from Alpharetta, Georgia. Frances Miramon, a civil engineering major from Shreveport, Louisiana, received the David Arnold Engineering Award. Graduate students Bradley Goodwiller, a civil engineering major, and Matthew Nelms, a mechanical engineering major, both from Oxford, received Graduate Achievement Awards.

For more about the UM School of Engineering, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/.

 

UM Honors Two Employees with Access Awards

Excellence in disability awareness recognized in annual ceremony

UM graduate assistant Meghan Edwards, left, receives the Faculty Access Award from Stacey Reycraft, the university’s director of student disability services. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi employees have been recognized for their outstanding service to assist students with disabilities.

Meghan Edwards, a graduate assistant in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, and Heather Duncan, administrative coordinator in the Patterson School of Accountancy, were presented Access Awards in the faculty and staff categories, respectively, Wednesday (April 19).

The annual awards are sponsored by the university’s Office of Student Disability Services as part of its open house activities in Martindale Hall.

“The recipients are nominated each year by students registered with the office for demonstrating exceptional support for inclusion of students with disabilities,” said Stacey Reycraft, SDS director. “This year, we had more nominations than ever before.

“All of the students’ comments we received were incredible, which made selecting our award recipients truly a challenge.”

Both honorees expressed surprise and gratitude for the honor.

“I am humbled and honored to have been chosen to receive this award,” said Duncan, who began working at the university Sept. 11, 2001 as a senior clerk typist. “I try to treat all of our students as if they were my very own kids because that’s the way I would want someone to treat my child while in school.”

The Oxford native was a senior administrative secretary before assuming her current duties.

Heather Duncan, right, a senior administrative coordinator in the Patterson School of Accountancy, is presented the Staff Access Award by Stacey Reycraft, the university’s director of student disability services. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Employed at the university for three years, Edwards teaches classroom courses and several activity courses for the department. Receiving the award has additional meaning to Edwards, who herself had experiences with trying to learn while coping with a sleeping disorder.

“During my undergraduate years, I was registered with my university’s disability services,” the Plymouth, Minnesota, native said. “Despite having a diagnosed sleeping condition, I still had instructors that seemed to not understand what I was going through.

“I would always tell professors that my condition causes me to fall asleep unexpectedly, and that it is no personal disrespect to them or their class. Yet, sometimes I still felt like professors thought I was a lazy or disrespectful student.”

However, Edwards said she also had some professors who really empathized and worked with her to accommodate in any way they could to ensure her academic success.

“Feeling like your professor is on your side and genuinely wants to see you succeed is quite powerful,” she said. “I am just thankful that I was able to serve in this capacity for a student.”

Excerpts from students’ nomination letters praised the two recipients for their exemplary efforts.

Edwards is described as “an incredible, patient, kind, charismatic teacher, and now, a friend.” Duncan is cited as being “absolutely outstanding” when it comes to arranging for students to take tests with their accommodations.

“Meg has gone out of her way to help me achieve my greatest potential, taken the time to even email me whenever I have told her that I am having a hard time and reminded me that she is always there to help,” one student wrote.

“She always makes sure that my test accommodations are comfortable, is extremely easy to talk to and responds to me, usually within minutes, if I need to catch up on something or just vent about what is going on. Meg is what Ole Miss should strive to always be about.”

Those words are all the acknowledgement needed to continue working with students, Edwards said.

“Her words have served as a wonderful reminder of the importance of my continued efforts to do this for all of my students,” she said.

The Patterson School of Accountancy has many students whom need accommodations, and Duncan goes above and beyond to make sure their needs are met, the student wrote.

“She always goes out of her way to ensure each student is comfortable and has everything they need for exams in order to help the student remain calm during the test. When you arrive, she always greets you with a smile and a kind word.

“If a student needed something, from a pencil to a hug, Ms. Duncan would go out of her way to make sure each student was accommodated appropriately. She always makes sure you have a clock and a quiet testing environment. We are so lucky to have Ms. Duncan, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Previous Access Award recipients include Natcha Knight-Evans, from the Office of the Registrar; Denis Goulet, Department of Biology; Julie Anderson, Department of Mathematics; Sue Hodge, School of Business Administration; Sam Thomas, Department of Accounting; Linda Colley, Department of Psychology; Carl Jensen, Center for Intelligence and Security Studies; Barbara Leeton, College of Liberal Arts; Jennifer Buford, Department of Social Work; Kerry Scott, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Gayle Wicker, UM at Tupelo regional campus; Micah Everett, Department of Music; Michael Howland, Veteran and Military Services; and Violetta Davydenko, Department of Finance.

For more information about the Office oif Student Disability Services, visit http://sds.olemiss.edu/.

March for Science Set for Weekend

UM, Oxford community to participate in national event

OXFORD, Miss. – In celebration of scientific investigation and its benefits, and in support for publicly-funded science, the Oxford community is invited to a March for Science this weekend.

Co-sponsored by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Physics Graduate Students Association, the nonpartisan event begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday (April 22) on the steps of the Lyceum.

Walkers will begin a 1-mile route through the Grove, head east on University Avenue, then north on South Lamar Boulevard. The march ends with a gathering on the Square.

“We value inclusion, diversity, equity and access to everybody,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy and one of the event’s organizers. “We aim for a diverse group of participants, including first-time marchers. Families with young children are welcome.”

This weekend’s event is one of many Marches for Science in cities and towns around the world. Each seeks to reaffirm core values of science.

“Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations,” said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy at Ole Miss.

“Science is a tool of discovery that allows us to constantly expand and revise our knowledge of the universe. In doing so, science serves the interests of all humans.”

March for Science supporters contend that science education teaches children and adults to think critically, ask questions and evaluate truth based on the weight of evidence.

“Science promotes diversity and inclusion and builds robust and resilient communities for the benefit of all people,” Bombelli said. “Science makes our democracy stronger.

“Please show your support for science as a vital feature of a working democracy, spurring innovation, critical thinking, increased understanding and better, healthier lives for all people.”

Follow the Oxford March for Science on Twitter @ScienceoxfordMS and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/1699867663373864/. For assistance related to a disability, contact Marco Cavaglia at 662-915-7642 or cavaglia@olemiss.edu.

UM Research Day Ignites Discussions, Collaborations

Third annual event unites campuses, interests

SUNY neuroscientist Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde delivers the morning keynote during the third annual UM-UMMC Research Day. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – If public peer acknowledgement of genius is every researcher’s dream, then the third annual University of Mississippi-University of Mississippi Medical Center Research Day was a scientist’s dream come true.

More than 200 participants were on hand to present their work and explore collaborations through a series of lectures and posters Thursday (April 13) in the Inn at Ole Miss Ballroom. Alternating each year between the Oxford and Jackson campuses, Research Day is meant to facilitate communication and collaboration between the campuses through a series of lectures, breakout sessions, and posters.

The theme of this year’s event was “Nurturing Collaboration.”

“Research Day provides a great opportunity to bring our researchers together to increase awareness and build synergies,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in opening remarks. “Collaboration across the university helps us build upon our R1 Carnegie ‘highest research activity’ designation by accelerating and inspiring solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges.”

Research Day has been a successful tool for fostering increased interactions between the Oxford and Medical Center campuses, said Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research at UMMC.

“It has allowed our investigators to learn more about each other’s work and find areas for potential collaboration,” Summers said. “By strengthening this connection, we increase the potential for scientific discoveries and advancements that improve human health and society.”

During the morning session, Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde, professor of neuroscience at the State University of New York’s Downstate Medical Center, presented a keynote lecture on “Keeping an Eye Out for Collaboration.” Her discussion combined her main research on eye movements with her research into the neural bases of magic.

In her primary research, Martinez-Conde and her team use a combination of techniques, including functional magnetic resonance imaging, electrophysiological recording from single neurons, psychophysical measurements and computational models of visual function.

“Our research focuses on understanding the neural bases of our visual experience,” Martinez-Conde said.

Research such as Martinez-Conde’s contributes to the “cycle of innovation” that Vitter describes as important to attracting the best and brightest faculty and students to Mississippi.

Research Day is “a great event for UM researchers to explore connections that will help solve some of society’s grand challenges,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. New elements were introduced this year to foster more individual and small interest group conversations such as speed networking, breakout sessions and extended breaks.

Another focus of Research Day were the Flagship Constellation Talks, which emanate from the Flagship Constellations Initiative that Vitter announced during his investiture speech in November.

The purpose of the initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to some of the world’s most complex challenges where no one discipline has all the answers and collaboration is key. It will involve the formation of innovative, multidisciplinary research and creative achievement clusters of faculty, staff, students, alumni and external partners.

Afternoon breakout sessions focused on resilience, sustainability, ecology, health and diseases, “STEM and Big Data” and “The South: History and Future.”

Exemplifying the spirit of collaboration, the afternoon keynote was co-delivered by Walt Chambliss, UM director of technology management; Soumyajit Majumdar, associate professor of pharmacology; and Daniel Riche, associate professor of pharmacy practice. The trio addressed “Beside to Bench: An Accelerated Pharmaceutical Development Program.”

The entire event was a tremendous success, Gladden said.

“We’ve had a lot of energy in the room throughout the day,” he said in his closing remarks. “There were 200 registrants and even more people dropping by to view posters and listen to presentations.

“Our keynote speakers inspired everyone with their great messages about the importance of sharing and teamwork. I believe that we expect even greater collaborations between the researchers on all our campuses following this.”

C Spire Tech Experience to Bring Immersive Demonstrations to UM

Mini-SXSW event April 27 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss features immersive demonstrations

Lee Eason (left), Ethan Luckett and McKennon McMillan experiment with virtual reality eyewear in Adam Jones’ laboratory. Submitted Photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A major technology event featuring nationally acclaimed speakers and cutting-edge demonstrations is scheduled for April 27 at the University of Mississippi.

CTX – the C Spire Tech Experience – begins at 2 p.m. in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. The mini-SXSW expo features Brian Uzzi, a Northwestern University professor and artificial intelligence expert; Michelle McKenna-Doyle, chief information officer for the National Football League; and Randi Zuckerberg, founder of Zuckerberg Media and former chief marketing officer of Facebook.

Demonstrations for some of the leading technology innovations in the U.S., including virtual reality and artificial intelligence, and a “sneak peek” of C Spire’s forthcoming streaming digital television product are also planned. The VR demonstrations will feature advanced work by faculty and students in the UM School of Engineering and the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

Brian Uzzi

Partners for the event include the UM schools of Business Administration and Engineering, Associated Student Body, the CME and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“We’re excited to partner with an industry leader in hosting a major high-tech event on campus,” Chancellor Jeffery Vitter said. “It will help spur ideas and innovation that will enable our students and faculty to more fully participate in the new digital economy.”

C Spire CEO Hu Meena said the Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology services company is likewise pleased to be coming to the university.

“As the region’s technology leader, we’re uniquely positioned to bring to life an event at the intersection of music and technology,” Meena said. “In the new digital economy, these are some of the leading innovations that hold promise for greatly improving the quality of our lives.”

Besides providing the venue and additional support for CTX, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics will have two demonstrations set up in the vendor area.

Randi Zuckerberg

“One is our virtual reality kiosk, which allows viewers to put on a headset and go on the Walk of Champions, inside the locker room and other Rebels’ sports-related scenarios,” said Michael Thompson, senior associate athletics director of communications and marketing. “The second one is our Rebel Rewards app, which gives faithful patrons and users several discounts on Ole Miss Athletics merchandise.”

A group of nearly 40 students in UM’s virtual reality class is working on demonstrations for CTX.

“These students are from all across the state, nation and world,” said Adam Jones, assistant professor of computer and information science. “This class is the first of its kind at Ole Miss and is the only regular class in the state dedicated to developing virtual reality systems.”

Jones’ Hi5 Virtual Reality Lab students, his research group, also will show some of their projects.

“These students will be demonstrating novel mixed reality and augmented reality experiences that bring elements of the real world into VR with you,” he said.

CME students’ demos include a table that showcases the NASA Student Launch rocket project in which they participated.

Michelle McKenna-Doyle

“Our research project was devoted to designing, constructing and launching a high-powered rocket to a target altitude of 1 mile,” said Dillon Hall, a senior mechanical engineering major from Saltillo and leader of the 12-member team. “Our rocket also had to carry an experimental payload apparatus designed to protect a fragile cargo installed into the launch vehicle throughout an entire flight.”

In addition, CTX 2017 includes a music concert that evening at The Lyric Oxford, near the Square. Featured performers include Passion Pit, a highly-regarded alternative indietronic band from Cambridge, Massachusetts; the Weeks and the Lonely Biscuits, both from Nashville, Tennessee.

CTX’s technology focus will help kick-off the 22nd annual Double Decker Festival, set for April 28-29. The two-day event attracts thousands of visitors and features nearly 200 arts, crafts and food vendors, along with live music and other entertainment.

For discounted student tickets, see https://twitter.com/CSpire/status/850355745833050112. For ticket availability, pricing and more information about CTX 2017, visit http://cspire.com/ctx or follow C Spire on Twitter.