Computer Science Student Wins Quip Diversity Technology Scholarship

Blake Lewis visited organization's San Francisco offices in August

Blake Lewis of Ocean Springs, a senior computer and information science major, has received a Quip Diversity in Technology Scholarship. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw.

A University of Mississippi engineering student has been awarded the Quip Diversity Tech Scholarship.

Blake Lewis, a senior computer science major with minors in mathematics and sociology, visited software company Quip’s office in San Francisco in August. The scholarship supports students who are underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly computer science, and includes but is not limited to women, African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians, LGBTQ+, first generation, and/or people with disabilities.

The Ocean Springs native heard about the scholarship opportunity via an intradepartmental email.

“Carrie Long, the administrative secretary for our department, sent the email from the Career Center about this program to all the computer science students, and she encouraged any of us eligible to apply,” Lewis said. “So I decided it couldn’t hurt.”

Lewis said visiting Quip was a wonderful experience. The team members not only talked about different topics in computer science with the scholarship recipients, such as design, product engineering and site reliability, but also provided professional advice about career growth and job searching. Lewis had the chance to meet with the CEOs of Quip, Kevin Gibbs and Bret Taylor.

“We learned about some things that Bret and Kevin created while working for other companies like Google Map, Google Suggest and Facebook,” Lewis said. “My favorite part of the day, though, was the panel discussion about diversity in tech.”

He said the biggest takeaway of this panel was that companies must ensure those who are creating the products accurately represent the market they wish to reach in order to create innovative products that are accessible to everyone.

“One of the panelists, Erica Baker, talked a lot about Project Include, which is a company that encourages tech startups to think about diversity and inclusion from the start,” Lewis said. “I think it is important for CS and other engineering students who wish to have a tech startup in the future to know about Project Include and the important work they are doing.”

Lewis has developed a passion for diversity and inclusion since he started at the university. Especially being a community assistant for the Department of Student Housing since his sophomore year of college, he has a more profound understanding about diversity.

“As a CA, I have made it my goal to make freshman residents feel welcome, no matter who they are, and help them get connected to the community,” he said. “On the flip side, I’ve also had to have some tough conversations with residents about diversity and inclusion and how things they say and do can affect people and their access to education.”

Lewis has been serving his second year as vice president of community assistant development for the UM Community Assistant Association and president of the National Residence Hall Honorary. He is also an active member of the UM Pride Network.

Outside the classroom, he has served as an ACUHO-I (Association of College and University Housing Officers International) intern at Montana State University Billings, and been an intern at the same institution’s Diversity Center.

He plans to do his senior project for the housing department this year. Deeply influenced by his experience as a CA, Lewis also would like to pursue a master’s degree in higher education/student affairs and hopes to get a graduate assistantship as a hall director for a residence hall while he is getting his master’s.

“Quip’s staff was very diverse, and it was amazing to meet successful queer computer scientists,” he said. “I would definitely encourage other people at Ole Miss to apply.”






Engineering Fall Enrollment Includes Inaugural Biomedical Engineering Class

New admission standard expected to ensure higher quality of students, help underprepared students succeed

New School of Engineering students attend the Engineering Freshmen Convocation. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw

The Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Mississippi is off to a successful start. Approved last November by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the inaugural class consists of 37 new freshmen and 17 internal transfers.

“The new freshmen have an average ACT score of almost 31 (30.9) and GPA of 3.92,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “Seventy-three percent of them have at least a 30 on the ACT. We anticipate a great success for the program.”

This fall also marks the first time the engineering school raised its admission requirements to reorganize the student body and better develop underprepared students. Incoming freshmen in every UM engineering degree program except general engineering are required to have an ACT math score of 25 and high school GPA of 3.00 to be admitted. Students with an ACT of 22-24 and a GPA of 2.80-3.00 are admitted to the general engineering program.

“These students are in Math 125, EDHE 105 and three sections of Introduction to Engineering classes,” Cheng said. “Once they finish Math 125 with a B to qualify for calculus, and have a 2.50 GPA, they will be moved to the department of their choice.”

This new policy has caused a small decline in new freshmen enrollment (337 versus last year’s 349), but the overall quality continues to improve, Cheng said.

“The whole new freshman class has (an average) 27.7 ACT (+0.4), 3.73 GPA, and 35 percent have at least a 30 on the ACT,” he said. “As the underprepared students (start in) general engineering, each department also sees improvement in student quality. We hope that this new admission policy can help us to continue our path to an elite program, (and) at the same time to take a firm control of less-prepared students to make them successful.”





Matthew Morrison Wins Excellence in Academic Advising Award

Assistant professor of electrical engineering recognized for support of students

Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, received the 2017 Excellence in Academic Advising Award during the fall faculty meeting in August. Submitted photo

Over the past three years, Matthew Morrison has advised, encouraged and lent a compassionate ear to hundreds of students at the University of Mississippi. Now they’re putting him up for awards – and he’s winning.

Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been honored with one of UM’s 2017 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising awards. The awards are presented each year to one staff academic adviser and one faculty academic adviser. Sovent Taylor, instructor and assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office, is the staff recipient.

Advisers are nominated by students, peers and administrators. The award is coordinated through the Academic Advising Network steering committee. The network comprises faculty and staff who have an active role in academic advising on campus.

“I was surprised,” said Morrison, an award-winning teacher and researcher who oversees the department’s emphasis in computer engineering science. “I wasn’t even aware I was nominated. I’m grateful that my efforts were acknowledged by the students and my fellow faculty members.”

Winners of the award were recognized at the fall faculty meeting. They received a stipend from the Office of the Provost, had their names placed on a plaque in Martindale Student Services Center and will represent the University of Mississippi for the National Academic Advising Association regional and national awards. The Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience assists them with the completion of their NACADA nomination packet in late fall.

Morrison said that building on students’ capability and potential goes beyond improving their proficiency in the classroom.

“I work with my students on professionalism, communication skills and developing life plans,” he said.

A University of South Florida alumnus, Morrison started with the Department of Electrical Engineering in 2014. He won the Junior Faculty Research Award from the School of Engineering this year. Advising became a natural career path as he worked with students.

“I made serving as an adviser a priority when I started here at Ole Miss,” he said. “Everything I do in terms of teaching and research – whether it’s how I give homework and exams to how I instruct the Senior Design course – also has a component of developing the student(s) into outstanding engineers beyond just the classroom and their grades.”

In the engineering school, Morrison is known for guiding aspiring engineers through degree paths and toward obtaining a professional engineer license. He’s also known for giving students either the compassion or motivational push needed when the pressures of college become overwhelming.

“From helping you with job applications and giving advice on how to navigate through life’s problems from his experience, he is the definition of an all-complete adviser for any student,” said Demba Komma, the student who nominated Morrison for the award. “He cares about his students and is a very relatable person. He has earned the trust of his students by being readily available to offer help when needed.”

This award marks the second time Morrison has been honored for his work with students. At USF, he won the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant. There he implemented many of the teaching methods developed at the Naval Nuclear Power School, which he found engendered greater creativity in students.

Morrison won the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award in U.S. Navy Recruit Training. The award is presented to the graduating recruit who best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military appearance and behavior, self-discipline and teamwork.

“I am proud of this award because I realized during boot camp that I have the potential to lead, give to my community and achieve excellence through hard work and dedication,” Morrison said. “Receiving this award marked a significant milestone in my life, and every achievement since has been the result of the same enthusiasm and discipline that I developed in boot camp.”


Electrical Engineering Alumnus Helps Entrepreneurs Succeed

David Aune serves on engineering school's advisory board

David Aune (BSEE 77) is a MOBI Plus instructor in the My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. Submitted photo

David Aune (BSEE 77) has accumulated more than 25 years of management experience. He has led customer-service and marketing operations at large companies, but he said he especially enjoys mentoring startups.

“The hardest and also most gratifying achievements have been working in several startup businesses,” said Aune, an instructor in the Leavey School of Business’ My Own Business Institute, or MOBI, at Santa Clara University. “I am now on a personal mission to give back by helping entrepreneurs succeed. I enjoy sharing lessons about what worked for me and what mistakes I made so entrepreneurs can get started on the right path.”

Reared in Water Valley, Aune went to the University of Mississippi because his mother was an alumna and the university had a strong academic reputation. As a student, his favorite engineering professors included the late Charles E. Smith Sr., chair and professor of electrical engineering, and Roy T. Arnold, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy.

“Dr. Smith listened to me, explained things in a way that I could understand and gave me good advice,” Aune said. “I stay in touch with Dr. Arnold, and we still discuss challenging, unsolved questions.”

Aune is working on a “How to Start a Business” course in partnership with the Center for Employment Training in San Jose, California. In addition to classroom instruction and facilitation, his duties include reviewing applications for the program, designing course syllabi, recruiting relevant guest speakers, reviewing and giving feedback on business plans, and monitoring and helping students progress successfully.

He has been an executive in tech industries, such as Software as a Service, for such companies as AlephCloud, Kaleidescape, ViewCade Solutions, Five Across and Brandsoft. He has served as vice president of marketing and customer support at FileMaker Inc. (formerly Claris Inc.), a software subsidiary of Apple Computer. He has also held technical management positions at Ungermann-Bass and Hewlett-Packard.

Aune and his wife, Glenda (BA 75), reside in Saratoga, California. The couple has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since he graduated from Ole Miss. His leisure activities include culinary arts.

“My last avocado toast attempt tasted great,” he said. “However, I have not yet perfected a photo of the dish that is ‘Instagram worthy.’”

Administrators in the School of Engineering said they appreciate Aune’s contributions as an alumnus and advisory board member.

“From day one, David showed great interest in our curriculum and the latest tools and laboratories made available to our students,” said Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering. “In his deliberations with our faculty, he brought forth many years of his work experience and provided valuable guidance to the department. He also gave an inspiring talk to (the) dean’s leadership class. It is indeed our fortune that we established contact with one of our early graduates.”

Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of computer and information science, concurred.

“I’m very excited that David has joined the Engineering Advisory Board,” she said. “Many of our computer science students have aspirations to become entrepreneurs, and David has the passion to encourage them and the knowledge to assist the faculty in guiding the students to be successful entrepreneurs.”

Aune said he credits his Ole Miss engineering education for his career success.

“I developed problem-solving skills, the ability to analyze, diagnose, experiment, test and prove a solution,” he said. “I also learned discipline, to be accurate, pay attention to detail, get the focus right and do the complete job. Finally, I found persistence, being able to make progress one step at a time and don’t give up, especially when you are stuck.”






Two UM Faculty Win Inaugural National Science Foundation Fellowships

Ryan Garrick and Saša Kocić among 30 nationwide selected for competitive research program

Ryan Garrick, UM assistant professor of biology, examines insects as part of his research on the effects of environmental change. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi professors have been honored for innovative research in their respective fields by being selected for fellowships in a competitive new National Science Foundation program.

Ryan Garrick, assistant professor of biology, and Saša Kocić, assistant professor of mathematics, have been chosen for funding under NSF’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. The Research Infrastructure Improvement Track 4 program is designed to help junior investigators in EPSCoR-eligible states develop career-spanning collaborations through extended visits to other premiere research institutions around the nation.

Garrick will conduct his fellowship at Ohio State University, while Kocić will visit the University of California at Irvine.

Of 136 proposals considered by NSF in this competition, only 30 awards were made across 27 universities, for a funding rate of 22 percent. UM was among only three institutions receiving two fellowship awards in the competition.

Both recipients said they were pleasantly surprised by their selection.

“After many attempts to secure federal funding to support research and career development, during a time that appears to be a particularly difficult period for faculty doing basic research, finally having some success was a relief,” Garrick said.

“This award is certainly very special to me,” Kocić said. “Many people at University of Mississippi and beyond have helped me in that process. I am extremely grateful to all of them and glad that all that effort was not in vain.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulated Garrick and Kocić for their achievements.

“We are so pleased to see the success of our researchers in this highly competitive program,” Vitter said. “Their tremendous achievements help drive discovery and creativity on our campus and enhance our undergraduate and graduate education.

“I congratulate Drs. Garrick and Kocić for how their innovation, collaboration and research bolster UM’s role as a Carnegie R1 highest research activity institution.”

The awards reflect the promise shown by both researchers’ work, said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“That the university received not just one, but two awards in this crowded competition is especially gratifying and shows that the National Science Foundation sees the same great potential that we do in the research careers of both Dr. Garrick and Dr. Kocić,” Gladden said.

“NSF EPSCoR funding has helped to launch the careers of many successful researchers at Ole Miss and across the state, with more than $80 million in research infrastructure investments in Mississippi over the last 25 years.”

Each institution was allowed to submit only three applications. Garrick and Kocić each discussed the scope and goals of his particular research project.

Saša Kocić, UM assistant professor of mathematics, is continuing his study of dynamic systems and mathematical physics, which promises to help scientists better understand such diverse phenomena as heart function and stock market fluctuations. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

“Biodiversity, or the variety of species in an ecosystem, is declining in many areas of the world due to environmental change,” said Garrick, principal investigator on a project examining “Enhancement of technical and analytical skills for the application of genomics to research in molecular ecology and comparative phylogeography.”

With $110,413 over the next two years, he will collaborate with colleagues at Ohio State to understand how the numbers and genetic variability of four invertebrate species found in southern Appalachian forests change as their environment changes.

“This fellowship will enable research using genetic techniques to study how organisms have responded to past and present environmental change,” he said. “It will also generate new opportunities for sustained collaboration with the host institution.

“Findings will advance understanding of whether whole communities have the ability to respond to environmental change together, or as individual species. This information will aid in conservation and management of U.S. forest fauna.”

Kocić is the principal investigator on a project focusing on “Sharp arithmetic transitions and universality in one-frequency quasiperiodic systems.”

With his $161,681 two-year grant, he and a graduate student will initiate a new collaboration between the university and UC-Irvine, in particular with Svetlana Jitomirskaya, one of the top experts in dynamical systems and mathematical physics. The project will develop and apply state-of-the-art tools for studying dynamical systems, which will allow mathematicians to obtain new results by looking at systems at different spatial and time scales, revealing shared properties.

“Dynamical systems is a large area of mathematics that concerns the evolution of different systems and phenomena, ranging from the motion of celestial bodies to heart function to fluctuations in the stock market,” Kocić said. “The project is centered around a powerful tool called renormalization that acts as a ‘microscope’ and allows one to look at systems at different spatial and time scales, revealing properties of the systems that are universal, that is, shared by a large class of systems.”

There is a broad range of phenomena where these tools have led to an explanation. The transition between the liquid and gas phases – boiling and evaporation – is one familiar example.

A particular focus of this project will be on sharp transitions and universality in two types of systems: relatively simple systems that underlie more complicated systems, and systems arising from quantum physics, Kocić said.

“This project will lead to advancement of both areas, strengthen the research program in dynamical systems and mathematical physics at UM, and enhance its undergraduate and graduate education,” he said.

“This collaboration will be very important not only for my career and the field of research, but also for my current and future students, our dynamical systems group, the mathematics department and the whole of the University of Mississippi.”

Garrick’s fellowship is funded by NSF grant 1738817; Kocic’s by NSF grant 1738834.

The mission of EPSCoR is to enhance research competitiveness of targeted jurisdictions – states, territories or commonwealths – by strengthening STEM capacity and capability. EPSCoR envisions its targeted jurisdictions as being recognized as strong contributors to the national and global STEM research enterprise.

Nishanth Rodrigues Joins UM as Chief Information Officer

Administrator to lead efforts to enhance campus technological infrastructure and capabilities

Nishanth Rodrigues

OXFORD, Miss. – Nishanth Rodrigues, an award-winning leader in information technology, has been named the University of Mississippi’s new chief information officer.

With more than 24 years of IT experience in academia, manufacturing and professional health care, Rodrigues assumed duties at the university Sept. 5. As CIO, his responsibilities are to provide leadership, management and strategic direction to the Office of Information Technology and provide strategic leadership to the university and other state agencies on all matters related to information technology.

He will work with internal and external stakeholders to provide technology tools, infrastructure and services to support and enhance student services, traditional and online education, research, student recruitment and enrollment, business and administrative processes, and outreach and community service.

“We are truly pleased that Nishanth Rodrigues has joined our leadership team in academic affairs,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost. “Information technology is critical to everything that we do. His breadth of experience will be a valuable asset as we continue to innovate and enhance our campus infrastructure and technological capabilities.”

Rodrigues said he is “ecstatic and honored” to become a part of the Ole Miss community.

“The mission of the University of Mississippi aligns very well with my objectives, and the Creed of UM articulates the spirit of the institution, which goes along with my belief system,” Rodrigues said. “Today, technology plays a central role in everything we do, and my challenge is to leverage the best technologies and information systems to enhance the student experience and ensure the continued success of the university, a flagship institution and a powerhouse in the state of Mississippi.

“It’s a true privilege and honor to join the University of Mississippi, an institution with a rich history of academic and research excellence. I’m proud to be a part of such a talented and dedicated team of administrators and educators and look forward to helping the University of Mississippi to grow and succeed.”

Acknowledging that he is still on the “learn and understand” trajectory, Rodrigues shared his short- and long-term goals in the position.

“My short-term goals are to help the Information Technology department continue to create efficiencies in daily operations and refine our processes to benefit our stakeholders and the larger organizational community,” he said. “My long-term goals include, among others, developing standards and policies for expectations and accountability, maintaining a secure IT infrastructure and working with key stakeholders on a go-forward strategy for the institution’s ERP system.”

Formerly assistant vice president and chief technology officer at Michigan State University, Rodrigues led a team responsible for all aspects related to infrastructure: Data Center, Electronic Medical Record, Service Management and Operations.

Before that, Rodrigues was director of IT technology/interoperability at Bronson Healthcare in Kalmazoo, Michigan. For his service, he was awarded the Bronson President’s Leadership Award and earned the highest employee opinion survey results in 2013.

“The President’s Leadership Award is an honor bestowed on only one individual in the company per year in recognition of their contributions to the hospital system,” Rodrigues said. “To me, this was a hallmark following years of hard work and effort to gets teams and departments to work together to seamlessly roll out an ERP for Bronson Healthcare.

“To me, strong leadership is about building consensus and bringing people together to benefit a common objective, and the award qualified the achievement as a valued outcome acknowledged by the top leaders in the organization.”

Other positions Rodrigues has held include global systems engineering manager at Perrigo Inc. in Allegan, Michigan, and director of operations and infrastructure/site service delivery director and clinical systems team manager at Borgess Health in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Rodrigues earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Michigan State University and his bachelor’s degree in network engineering from Davenport University. His professional memberships include the Intel Corp. Mobility Advisory Board, Michigan Healthcare Cybersecurity Council, Big Ten Academic Alliance and several committees at MSU.

Rodrigues and his wife, Mary, have one daughter, Celestina.

MFA Student Wins Prestigious Cave Canem Award in Poetry

Julian Randall gets $1,000 and will have collection of poems published

Julian Randall of Chicago is the recipient of a 2017 Cave Canem Award in Poetry. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi graduate student is the latest recipient of a prestigious award cultivating the artistic and professional growth of African-American poets.

Julian David Randall, a second-year student in the university’s critically acclaimed Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, has won the 2017 Cave Canem Award in Poetry.

The Chicago native gets a $1,000 cash prize and publication contract, and his first full-length collection of poetry will be published and marketed nationwide. “Refuse” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2018) was selected for publication by Vievee Francis, who is considered one of the greatest minds in modern poetry.

“I know that it’s stereotypical to say, ‘I was pinching myself,’ but my genuine reaction was that I had to still be asleep,” Randall recalled. “The Cave Canem Prize is literally my dream prize and my favorite book prize, the only prize for which I own every single book that has ever won it.

“For this to happen, to have my name alongside books I have wept over, aspired towards, that have launched careers that have made so much of my poetics possible, it’s beyond surreal.”

UM administrators and faculty said Randall is most deserving is his honor.

“Julian is one of our brightest and most promising MFA students,” said Ivo Kamps, chair and professor of English. “That he won the Cave Canem Award before even starting his second year in the program is nothing short of astonishing. It’s literally unprecedented.

“We couldn’t be prouder of Julian, his mentor Dr. Derrick Harriell and our entire MFA faculty.”

Randall is among the most dedicated graduate students with whom he’s had the privilege to work, said Harriell, assistant professor of English and MFA program director.

“His attention to detail and powerful subject matter is illustrated in this very prestigious honor,” he said. “The Cave Canem book prize is amongst our most celebrated, and to have one of our own MFA students be this year’s recipient is gratifying on so many levels.

“I know that Julian will continue to do great things in the future. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Randall earned his bachelor’s degree in English-black studies and education from Swarthmore College. He was drawn to the Ole Miss MFA program after hearing it praised by podcast co-hostess and alumna Aziza Barnes.

“The way Aziza spoke of Ole Miss and why come to Oxford aligned really well with what I saw as the trajectory of ‘Refuse’ at that time,” he said. “I can honestly say the day Derrick called to tell me that I got in was one of the best days of my entire life, and we’ve been rolling strong ever since.

“I’ve had a really great experience at Ole Miss thus far and I’ve never studied anywhere that the faculty have been more open to suggestions and requests.”

Randall said he plans to promote his book in New York this fall.

“I’m not sure where this will take me,” Randall said. “I just know I’m going to keep working as hard as I can to be worthy of the life I’ve been gifted thus far.”

A nonprofit literary service organization with administrative and programming headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, the Cave Canem Foundation has grown from a gathering of 26 poets to become an influential movement with a renowned faculty, high-achieving national fellowship of over 400 and a workshop community of 900.

For more about the university’s MFA program in creative writing, visit For more about the Cave Canem Foundation, go to

Biomimetic Acoustic Sensors Topic of Sept. 19 Science Cafe

Renowned researcher Ronald N. Miles is first lecturer for fall semester

A fly sits atop a cricket listening to sounds inaudible to the human ear. A new nanochip inside a hearing aid is capable of mimicking the fly’s acoustic sensors. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The acoustical organs of insects and their potential to revolutionize human hearing aids is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. on Oxford. Ronald N. Miles, chair and distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at the State University of New York at Binghamton, will discuss “Biomimetic Acoustic Sensors for Hearing Aids.” Admission is free.

“We have studied the hearing in mosquitoes, flies, crickets, midges, caterpillars and spiders to explore remarkable ways these insects sense sound,” Miles said. “In this presentation, I will describe our discovery of the amazing directional ears of a special fly, Ormia ochracea, which is able to localize sound better than humans can, even though its ears fit in a space only 1 millimeter across.”

Mile’s 40-minute presentation also will include discussion about the development of biomimetic microphones based on this discovery, which show better performance than existing hearing aid microphones.

“We have also recently discovered new ways to sense sound based on the use of nanoscale fibers, such as insect hairs or spider silk,” he said. “This has resulted in a directional microphone that has ideal flat frequency response from 1 hertz to 50 kilohertz, far beyond the range of human hearing.

“There remains much more to learn from nature to create technology to improve hearing.”

Miles also will present a talk in the colloquium series of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 4 p.m. that day in Lewis Hall, Room 101, on “The Naonphone: Sensing sound with nanoscale spider silk.”

Miles’ appearance should be interesting for everybody, said Marco Cavaglia, organizer of the Science Cafe series.                                                                                                                                                          

“Dr. Miles is an expert in acoustic engineering, electronic engineering and optical engineering,” said Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “His presentations are sure to be fascinating and enlightening.”

Miles received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkley, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington at Seattle. He holds memberships in the Acoustical Society of America, American Society of Engineering Education, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the International Society for Neuroethology.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

FedEx Founder Fred Smith Issues Challenge at Honors Convocation

Annual fall event also featured Silicon Valley icon Jim Barksdale

Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, delivers the keynote address Tuesday evening during the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation in the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Legendary FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith challenged University of Mississippi honors students Tuesday (Sept. 12) to continue having academic conversations with the aim of developing workable solutions to national and global problems.

Smith was the keynote speaker for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s Fall Convocation at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Celebrating the college’s 20th anniversary, the program also featured Silicon Valley icon and Ole Miss alumnus Jim Barksdale, who introduced Smith.

“If this country is to continue being recognized as the leading nation on the global scene, then we must use rational thinking and political compromise to fix our problems,” Smith said. “I think that the answers are going from young minds such as those found in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Even as students, when you search for good ideas, it can lead to big things.”

Considered one of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs, Smith founded FedEx more than 46 years ago. He recounted how his global corporation began with a paper he wrote as a student at Yale University. Smith’s idea went on to revolutionize the transportation industry and beyond.

“We singlehandedly created the overnight delivery system,” Smith said. “We also invented the ability to track and trace shipments while in transit, pioneered the unique wireless technology to keep in touch with all our service people and spearheaded transportation deregulation, which made it easier for growing companies to get goods and services to market.”

While citing the company’s assets and achievements, Smith maintained that its people are the real key to FedEx’s success.

“The FedEx culture is that people plus service equals prosperity,” Smith said. “The Purple Promise of every employee is ‘I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.'”

Barksdale credited Smith with changing traditional business operations from the industrial model into a technological society.

“FedEx has such a stellar reputation because it was led by this man of such great integrity and incredible executive leadership acumen,” he said.

Smith, in turn, praised Barksdale as “one of the great resources of American history.”

“This Honors College is named for one of the greatest philanthropists and advocates for education that I have ever known,” Smith said. “She was a true American hero who lived her life for the betterment of others.”

Smith’s visit represented an extraordinary moment for UM students, Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“Mr. Smith is one this country’s most important and innovative corporate leaders,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “I am thrilled that our students had the opportunity to hear and interact with such an impactful figure in his field.”

Sullivan-Gonzalez also praised Barksdale and his family for their contributions to the Honors College.

“Jim is a pioneer and leader in the technology world and a great friend of education and the University of Mississippi,” he said. “A noted alum of our business school, Jim’s career achievements and the commitment of his time, energy, passion and resources to elevating the quality of life in his home state are truly remarkable.”

With an annual income exceeding $60 billion, FedEx employs more than 400,000 workers in 220 countries. With a fleet of 650 cargo aircraft and thousands of delivery trucks, the company delivers more than 13 million shipments daily.

Visiting Professor to Discuss Foods of Slave Trade Thursday at UM

Judith Carney featured speaker of the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program

Judith Carney

OXFORD, Miss. – A geographer from the University of California at Los Angeles will discuss foods grown by African slaves Thursday (Sept. 14) at the University of Mississippi.

Judith Carney begins her lecture, “Seeds of Memory: Food Legacies of the Transatlantic Slave Trade,” at 5:30 p.m. in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory. Her appearance, part of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society’s Visiting Scholar Program, is free and open to the public.

The event is co-sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and its departments of History and Modern Languages, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“Professor Carney’s lecture on the contribution of the transatlantic slave trade to the foodways of the Americas, including the southeastern United States, will give people a new perspective on something very familiar: the food on their plates,” said William Schenck, associate director of UM’s Croft Institute for International Studies and president of the UM chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

“It will also highlight the agency of enslaved African people, who, using their knowledge about the cultivation of African plants to feed themselves, created a new food culture, with important consequences for what – and how – we eat today.”

Carney’s research centers on African ecology and development, food security and agrarian change and African contributions to New World environmental history. She is the author of “Black Rice: The African Origins of Rice Cultivation in the Americas” (Harvard University Press, 2001) and “In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World” (University of California Press, 2010).

“This talk shifts our usual historical focus from the export crops slaves produced to the foods they planted for their own sustenance,” Carney said. “The lecture emphasizes the role of African foods in provisioning the transatlantic slave trade, the slave ship as a medium for their circulation and the slave food plots where these foods initially appeared.

“In doing so, it underscores the significance of the transatlantic slave trade for the circulation of African plants, animals and natural knowledge in the Atlantic world.”

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious undergraduate honors organization in the liberal arts. Chartered in 2001, the UM chapter is the second of two in Mississippi and the only one sheltered at a public university in the state.

“An event such as this is the epitome of cultural opportunity available to those living in a college town,” said Sandra Spiroff, associate professor of mathematics and vice president of the chapter.

“The Visiting Scholar Program provides the community free access to presentations by national researchers on a variety of topics and potentially challenges the listener to consider viewpoints other than his or her own. For students of all ages, this is a particular aim of a liberal education.”