Engineering Students Enjoy Summer Internships

Prospective employers provide employment, training to four from UM

Professional development is vital to the preparation of future engineers. Students who graduate with some type of internship experience are more likely to gain employment upon graduation than those who do not, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Many students receive employment offers directly from their internship employers.

This past summer, several University of Mississippi engineering students completed internships, gaining skills and experience that will be beneficial as they complete their degrees and seek future employment.

Ben Maples at International Paper. Submitted photo

Benjamin Maples of Lucedale completed an internship with International Paper in Vicksburg. The junior mechanical engineering major learned about this

opportunity by attending the biannual Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology Career Fair, co-sponsored by the School of Engineering and the UM Career Center. As part of Maples’ internship, he worked on a variety of projects in the powerhouse area of the mill and worked closely with a reliability engineer on tracking shipments.

“This experience has been invaluable because I have learned to apply topics that I learn in class to real-world problems and situations,” he said. “I’m also getting exposed to topics that I will soon learn about in class like heat transfer.”

Maples also said that communication is important when working with a team on complex projects. While he considers himself a good communicator, he said the internship helped him develop more effective communication skills.

William Peaster at BASF. Submitted photo

Yazoo City native William Peaster also found that communication was important through his internship with BASF in Mobile, Alabama. The company produces chemical products for customers across the country. Peaster helped with creating new diagrams for all of the process lines in the plant.

He also had the chance to create a mass balance that helped identify some yield issues within the plant, and was exposed to the business side through working with the supply chain management team.

During his time at BASF, the senior chemical engineering student was able to see firsthand the inner workings of a chemical plant, and like Maples, see things that he could not glean from a textbook. It also helped him define his future role as an engineer.

“Part of being an engineer is being able to come up with an answer and a solution when things are gray,” he said. “My internship experience allowed me to see the constant communication between engineers, managers, accountants, operators and other team members.”

Jake Azbell at Dynetics. Submitted photo

Electrical engineering senior Jake Azbell spent his summer interning with Dynetics in Huntsville, Alabama. The Riddleton, Tennessee, native learned of the internship opportunity from Ole Miss graduates who were recruiting on campus. Since working in Huntsville, Azbell has worked on data simulation and real-time processing for a radar prototype and has implemented the simulation using GPU programming.

Like Peaster, he said his experience as an intern has helped him see what the professional world will look like after he graduates this upcoming year.

“Being an intern has given me the chance to see how a postgraduate career will look and how to better prepare for life after school,” Azbell said. “I have had the opportunity to explore different aspects of engineering at the company and develop needed skills for my future career.”

While he found it challenging to learn the software for his projects in such a short time, he said that his course work had provided some basic experience in the area. He would also consider working for Dynetics as a result of his positive experience working with the company.

Catherine Teh (left) at the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Submitted photo

Like Maples, Catherine Teh secured her internship with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality after interviewing with representatives at the on-campus career fair. However, she initially received notice from MDEQ that she had not been selected for a spot. Nevertheless, she received a phone call in mid-May, informing her that the department was interested in offering her a position, and she gladly accepted.

Although the process did not begin how she wanted, Teh, a sophomore chemical engineering major from Brandon found the internship experience to be eye-opening. According to Teh, MDEQ interns spend five days in each of the seven divisions of the Pollution Control office and are given small projects in each division. This way, they are exposed to all areas of the organization. She was also able to shadow an MDEQ mentor and go out into the field as well as take part in some sample collection.

“Even though I learned a great deal of technical skills, I took from the experience that it’s OK to make mistakes and how important interpersonal skills are in the workplace,” she said. “It’s important to seek out challenges and opportunities to grow. I received that from my internship with MDEQ.”

Teh said one of her biggest challenges was rotating between all the different divisions and getting to know so many people. As a rising sophomore, she found it difficult since she didn’t have an opportunity to settle into a routine. She does hope, however, to secure future internship opportunities to continue to develop her skills.



UM Engineering Faculty Collaborates on Deep-Space Communications

Team includes researchers at Jackson State University and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Caption for photo 1: UM researchers, from left, Kenneth S. Andrews, Ramananarayanan Viswanathan, John N. Daigle, Jon Hamkins, Dariush Divsalar and Lei Cao meet in NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in July 2015. Submitted photo

Three University of Mississippi engineering professors are collaborating with colleagues at Jackson State University and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to improve communications with deep-space probes and, perhaps even, manned missions.

Lei Cao, Ramanarayanan Viswanathan and John Daigle, all professors of electrical engineering, are working with researchers at Jackson State University and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a project funded by NASA’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, or EPSCoR.

The project, “A New Paradigm for Efficient Space Communications: Rateless Coding with Unequal Error Control and Data Fusion,” has achieved good results in theory and simulations. The team has proposed a new protocol for deep-space communications that may both improve the reliability and increase the reception rate of images or data received from spacecraft.

The results may provide a basis for improving data transfer rates over wireless systems, such as cellular phones. The project also may help enable the co-existence of different wireless communication systems for sharing the same frequency spectrum.

“Our simulation results demonstrated that the new protocol could improve the telemetry channel throughput by 46 percent over a fixed-rate communication method,” Cao said. “It could also achieve 92 percent of the theoretic upper-bound, while eliminating the need of retransmission.”

The primary challenge in deep-space communications is that as spacecraft travel farther from Earth, the vast distances cause substantial round-trip delays in the signal and high bit error rates in wireless communications.

“For instance, the round-trip time for (a) radio signal is from 8 to 40 minutes between the Earth and Mars,” Cao said. “This feature makes the protocols based on the receiver acknowledgment and transmitter retransmission of lost data packets that are currently deployed in our daily-used, land-based wireless communications networks no longer appropriate for deep-space communications.”

Also, the long distances cause large attenuation (loss in the signal’s strength along the path), various noise and distortion due to the Earth’s atmosphere and the sun’s corona.

“The water vapor, in particular, affects higher-frequency microwave signals, such as 32 gigahertz Ka-band,” said Kenneth Andrews, of the JPL. “If a spacecraft is on the far side of the sun, and the sun-Earth-probe angle is less than about 3 degrees, then the received signal that passes close enough to the sun will also be distorted by the tenuous plasma of the sun’s corona.

“Therefore, the signal-to-noise power ratio at a receiver is often extremely low, which easily raises the bit error rate to higher than 1 percent in many deep-space communication scenarios.”

Solving these difficult problems is critical because the need for higher data-rate communications for various exploration missions continues to grow, said Viswanathan, who also is chair of the UM Department of Electrical Engineering.

“Through this cooperative agreement, the research team at UM has made significant contributions to improve both the quantity and quality of information obtained through deep-space exploration,” he said.

Participants at the NSF I/UCRC Broadband Wireless Access & Application Center workshop, held at UM in 2015. Photo by Kevin Bain Ole Miss Communications

Data in communications are in the form of binary bit sequences. One bit sequence is often segmented into a number of packets, or basic data units. For example, a few thousand bits could be grouped into one packet. Bits in the packet can be coded together to increase their resilience to signal distortion.

To deal with the effects of long round-trip time, instead of transmitting the original data packets, the researchers encode the packets into a large number of new packets for transmission. At the receiver, the original packets are recovered by using sophisticated algorithms to decode a number of new packets.

“The success of recovery will not depend on which new packets are received but on the number of packets received, which is slightly more than the number of original packets,” Daigle said. “As a result, the new protocol eliminates the need of requesting the transmitter to resend any unsuccessfully delivered packets.”

Together with this new protocol, a number of advancements, including effective coding and decoding algorithms, dynamic selection of the code rate of error control codes and channel prediction algorithms, have been made so that substantial improvements in data transmission over space-to-earth channels can be achieved.

In addition, efficient methods of fusing data to improve the quality of information derived from the collected data have also been developed. New strategies have been proposed to determine what kind of information should be sent to the fusion center from different observers and what optimal fusion rule should be used to maximize the detection probability while minimizing the false-alarm probability.

“The theoretic advancements and practical implementation methods made through this project have been documented in more than 20 peer-referred publications and invited talks and conference presentations,” Viswanathan said.

Besides the technical achievement, a research team, which includes three professors and several graduate students in the Department of Electrical Engineering, has been formed to focus on areas of fountain codes, signal detection and wireless communications. This team, working with other faculty within School of Engineering, has been pursuing collaboration and research opportunities with other agencies and companies.

A stand-alone mobile communication network, built by UM undergraduate students using OpenBTS and USRP, was tested in the field last March 2017. Submitted photo

One prominent success is the establishment of the UM site of the Broadband Wireless Access and Applications Center in 2016. BWAC is a multi-university National Science Foundation Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, led by the University of Arizona in partnership with UM, Virginia Tech, University of Notre Dame and Catholic University of America.

With NSF support, the center works to advance wireless technologies and provide cost-effective and practical solutions for next-generation – 5G and beyond – wireless systems, millimeter-wave communications, wireless cybersecurity, shared-spectrum access systems, full-duplex transmissions, massive multiple input, multiple output techniques, and more.

“The mission of BWAC is to collaborate with industry research partners to create flexible, efficient and secure wireless networks that satisfy broadband communication needs in businesses, in the home and in the lives of individuals,” Daigle said.

“Through this UM site, the research team has been collaborating with companies including Intel, Qualcomm, Raytheon and C Spire in various projects in wireless communications, particularly in antenna design, 3-D printing and cognitive radio in 5G wireless systems.”

Some of the work directly links to the technologies and expertise developed through this NASA project.

“To contribute to the higher education in the state of Mississippi, the research team has also actively involved undergraduate U.S. citizen students into the project to gain them hands-on research experience,” Cao said. “Using Universal Software Radio Peripheral and GNU radio, the undergraduate students at UM have built up some interesting projects in wireless communications.”

For example, they have built a small network that can perform the same basic functions as a commercial Global System for Mobile network, including voice, Short Message Service, Multimedia Messaging Service and General Packet Radio Service.

“The advantage of this implementation is that a self-contained cellular network can be created with a single computer,” Viswanathan said. “This simple network can be extended with multiple nodes to ideally use for situations where mobile communications infrastructure is absent or compromised, such as in disaster-struck areas.”

The students presented their work at the 31st National Conference on Undergraduate Research and published a paper in the UM Undergraduate Research Journal.

This project is funded by NASA cooperative agreement No. NNX14AN38A. Any opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the researchers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

UM, Jackson Prep Offer Pre-Engineering Course

Marni Kendricks and Marsha Hobbs co-teach Engineering 100

Marsha Hobbs (in green top) discusses 3-D graphics with students enrolled in Engineering 100 class at Jackson Preparatory School. Submitted photo

Marsha Hobbs had been teaching physics and engineering courses at Jackson Preparatory School for two decades when she decided it was time for a change: not where she taught or what she taught, but how she taught.

“I just thought it was time for a 21st-century approach,” said Hobbs, who holds degrees in physics and electrical engineering from the University of Virginia. “These kids have grown up with the internet and technology. That has changed the way they learn. They like a more hands-on approach.”

So that’s what Hobbs gave her students. She developed a project-based engineering course that emphasized collaboration and kinesthetic learning over traditional text and lecture methods. She set up the “FabLab,” outfitted with everything from a 3-D printer to soldering irons, and “maker spaces” to facilitate individual experimentation.

As she was organizing her new course, Hobbs also wanted to make sure that it would be a gateway to the engineering profession. Toward that goal, she worked with Marni Kendricks, assistant dean of the University of Mississippi School of Engineering, to establish a dual-enrollment program with the university. Once again, she was breaking new ground.

“This was the first dual credit at our school,” Hobbs said. “I made a ‘cold’ call to the (engineering school) and was immediately put in contact with Kendricks. I think they had done this somewhere before, but she and I basically tailored it to the needs of our schools.”

The two women teamed up for the ENGR 100 course and co-taught an engineering graphics course. Witt Lovelace, now a junior mechanical engineering major, was one of the first dual-enrollment students to benefit from Kendricks and Hobbs’ class.

“Both women are very understanding of industry needs,” Lovelace said. “With the help of  programs like AutoCAD and Arduino, their students have been able to further advance their engineering ‘tool boxes.’ They both understand teamwork, communication and the organizational skills that the best engineers utilize every day.”

Lila Burton, another member of the inaugural class, agreed.

Engineering 100 students enjoy discussing technology in class. Submitted photo.

“Mrs. Hobbs was a great teacher that guided me in deciding on my major at the University of Mississippi as a chemical engineer,” she said. “Through the course she taught, I was prepared more than the others here at the university, and already ahead on how to use a variety of software that is utilized in the engineering curriculum, such as AutoCAD. Along with the syllabus and Mrs. Hobbs’ guidance, I highly recommend taking the opportunity of dual enrollment in order to advance with a major in the STEM programs.”

As a former engineer herself, connecting theoretical learning objectives with practical skills is something Hobbs believes will help promote interest in the field of engineering.

“The skills the students learn teach them to think like engineers,” she said. “They just finished the mousetrap catapult. I was fascinated to see them engage with the design process. I know that will improve throughout the year.”

Giving her students a valuable head start might be reward enough for a dedicated teacher, but Hobbs’ work has also been recognized nationally. In 2016, she received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching on behalf of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, administered by the National Science Foundation.


Mathematics Professor Awarded Prestigious Ralph E. Powe Grant

Thái Hoàng Lê will use funds to study prime numbers

Thái Hoàng Lê is the third UM faculty member to receive a Powe Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi faculty member has been selected for a prestigious Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award from Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

Thái Hoàng Lê, assistant professor of mathematics, is the third UM faculty member to win the honor. The awards, which run for one year, provide seed money for research by junior faculty at ORAU member institutions with the goal of enriching the research and professional growth of young faculty and resulting in new funding opportunities.

ORAU provides $5,000 for the award, and the winner’s institution is required to match it with at least an additional $5,000.

“I was excited and felt that I was lucky because the award is very competitive, with applicants from many universities and across multiple disciplines,” Lê said. “I am happy because the award is a recognition for my potential to do interesting work. I will use the award for summer support and travel to attend conferences and visit collaborators.”

Lê’s research involves finding patterns in prime numbers, numbers divisible only by themselves and 1.

“For example, can we find an infinite number of pairs of primes which differ by 2?” he said. “Questions like this have been studied since the ancient Greeks, mostly for aesthetic reasons, but since several decades ago, number theory and prime numbers have found practical applications in computer science, such as in coding theory and cryptography.

“As such, prime numbers are ubiquitous in real life, as in cryptosystems to encode messages sent over the internet.”

Research project must be in one of five disciplines to qualify: engineering and applied science, life sciences, mathematics/computer sciences, physical sciences, and policy, management or education.

Previous UM recipients were Davita Watkins, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry in 2015, and Nathan Jones, assistant professor of math and computer information science, in 2011.

Originally from Vietnam, Lê earned his undergraduate degree at École Polytechnique in France and his doctorate at the University of California at Los Angeles. He received a gold medal in the 40th International Mathematical Olympiad, an event for high school students, in 1999.

An Ole Miss faculty member since 2015, he teaches several courses, including calculus and analytic geometry.

Lê has been a member of the Institute for Advanced Study and has held post-doctoral positions at the University of Texas at Austin and at École Polytechnique. His research on problems in combinatorial number theory is of interest to some of the very best mathematicians in the world.

“While I view myself as a pure mathematician, I also use my expertise to collaborate with computer scientists and work on applications of number theory and combinatorics to computer science,” he said.

“One of our papers is on randomness extractors; that is, how to convert a source of weak randomness into strong randomness. Of course, randomness is ubiquitous in real life, and we desire perfect, or unbiased, randomness.”

Lê deserves his recognition, said James Reid, chair and professor of mathematics.

“Dr. Lê has an impressive research pedigree for a young mathematician,” Reid said. “He has 17 publications in some of the best mathematics journals in the world, such as the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society and the Journal of Number Theory.

“Dr. Lê recently received a prestigious research award from the National Science Foundation. The Department of Mathematics is very proud that Dr. Lê’s cutting edge research in additive number theory has been nationally recognized.”

For more about the Department of Mathematics, visit For more about ORAU, visit

UM Creed Week Highlights Institutional Values

Annual observance focuses on principles of civility and inclusion

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in a series of events next week (Aug. 28-Sept. 1) promoting the UM Creed and the institutional values it embodies.

Presented by the Associated Student Body, the fifth annual Creed Week features activities designed to unite the campus community. Each tenet stated within the creed is highlighted one day during the week.

“The goal of Creed Week is to expose new community members to these shared values, as well as remind the rest of Ole Miss what it means to live by the Creed,” said ASB President Dion Kevin III, a senior public policy and pre-med major from Oxford. “Students, faculty and staff alike should value the events of Creed Week because of the inherent value of its basis.”

All events, unless otherwise specified, meet on Galtney-Lott Plaza near Holman and Conner halls. Daily highlights and the schedule include:

Aug. 28 – Respect for the Dignity of Each Person: Meet Your Senators, 10:30 a.m.-noon; Rebels Against Sexual Assault, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; and Marion Lazan, Holocaust survivor, 7 p.m., Overby Center auditorium.

Aug. 29 – Fairness and Civility: Coffee and Donuts with a Cop, 8-10:30 a.m.; Mississippi Votes table, 9-11 a.m.; Meet Your ASB Exec, 10:30 a.m.-noon; and Ross Bjork, athletics director, 6 p.m., Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Aug. 30 – Personal and Professional Integrity: UM Creed book signing, 10:30-11:30 a.m.; pep rally, 5 p.m., Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Aug. 31 – Good Stewardship of Our Resources: Sno-Biz, 2:30-3:30 p.m., The Inn at Ole Miss; Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill, 4 p.m., The Inn at Ole Miss.

Sept. 1 – Academic Honesty and Academic Freedom: UM Creed book signing, 10:30-11:30 a.m.

Participants can register for daily giveaways, including a restaurant gift card, football sideline pass, JCG Apparel gift card, aluminum water bottles, Scantron sheets, flash drives and pencils.

MDA Entrepreneur Center Presents 2017 Fall Webinar Series

McLean Institute partnering with organization to boost business profiles around the state

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Development Authority’s Entrepreneur Center 2017 Fall Webinar Series kicks off at noon Sept. 12 with “Financing Your New Business,” led by George Broadstreet, Renasant Bank community outreach specialist.

The series is designed to help entrepreneurs boost their business profile in communities around the state. The webinars, presented in partnership with the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, are designed especially for entrepreneurs.

“We are excited to work with MDA and the Entrepreneur Center through the webinar series,” said J.R. Love, project manager for the institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative. “The webinars provide our CEED students and community partners throughout Mississippi relevant information as they seek to start and strengthen their own business.”

Nash Nunnery, project manager for the Entrepreneur Center and host for the webinar series, agreed.

“We are happy to partner with the McLean Institute on our 2017 Fall Webinar Series featuring an outstanding lineup of presenters,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is booming in Mississippi, and these webinars are designed to enlighten and inform both aspiring and existing entrepreneurs in our state.”

UM alumna Mary Blessey said she is looking forward to the webinar series.

“The Entrepreneur Center’s webinar series is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs around the state to connect with each other and learn about new opportunities,” said Blessey, founder of Holley Street Media LLC. “As a graduate of the McLean Institute’s CEED Initiative and a new small business owner myself, I’m excited to follow along with this helpful series.”

To register for Week 1, go to:

The series also includes:

  • Sept. 26: Improving Operational Efficiency – Liz Donovan, MCC Mississippi
  • Oct. 10: An Entrepreneur’s Story – Karen Kurr, No Time 2 Cook CEO
  • Oct. 24: Customer Service That Brings Back Customers – Jeff Good, Mangia Bene
  • Nov. 7: Build Your Personal Brand – Janet Parker, Innovate Mississippi
  • Nov. 21: The Legal Side of Entrepreneurship – Michael Williams, Bradley Law Firm

For more information, contact Nash Nunnery at or 601-359-9241.

Author Bryan Stevenson Challenges UM Freshmen, First-Year Students

Annual Fall Convocation features medallion presentation, Creed and book signings

Author and attorney Bryan Stevenson (right) greets UM students as he signs copies of his bestseller ‘Just Mercy’ following his Fall Convocation keynote address in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communication

OXFORD, Miss. – Sharing moving true stories and stunning statistics, best-selling author and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson challenged University of Mississippi students Tuesday (Aug. 22) to change the world around them.

The author of the prize-winning nonfiction “Just Mercy” delivered the keynote address during the university’s annual Fall Convocation in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending the poor, the wrongly condemned and those trapped in the furthest reaches of the criminal justice system, the celebrated attorney enthusiastically called on incoming freshmen and transfer students to pursue more than college degrees and successful careers.

“I believe that you have the capacity to change the world,” Stevenson said. “I believe it with all of my heart. So as I talk to you tonight, I want to talk about solutions, not just the problems.”

The author shared four keys he believes are essential to becoming world changers.

“First, you have to commit to causes that you really care about,” Stevenson said. “You cannot change the world from a distance. You must get into proximity and get involved in finding solutions to the conditions.”

Highlighting memories of growing up poor in rural Delaware and various legal cases he has handled, Stevenson said the second key is to change some of the narratives that surround us.

“Many people will encourage you to believe false narratives about others, which promote fear and anger, but if you tolerate these then you become complicit to the ills of our society,” he said. “You must be courageous and talk about the things that no one else wants to address. Liberation will come, but only as you change the narratives.”

Third, Stevenson said the students must remain hopeful. “It will give you courage and keep you motivated.”

Lastly, the speaker said that listeners must be willing to do uncomfortable things.

“Change only happens when good people decide to do uncomfortable things,” Stevenson said. “You will receive some bruises and wounds along the path to change. Wear the scars from those as medals of honor.”

Following the address, students received a limited-edition commemorative coin as part of the ceremony.

“I have the privilege of presenting these coins each year, and it is one of the highlights of the year for me,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “The coins signify the importance of their transition into the UM community, but is a physical reminder of their responsibility to work, every day, toward graduation day.”

UM freshmen and transfer students smile as they receive their commemorative medallions during the university’s 2017 Fall Convocation. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Others on the program included Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter; Noel Wilkin, interim provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Melinda Sutton-Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students; and Associated Student Body President Dion Kevin III. Kevin, a senior public policy leadership and pre-med major from Oxford, led the assembly in reading the UM Creed aloud.

“The tenets of the Creed highlight our shared values within the Ole Miss community,” he said. “Students, faculty and staff alike should value the Creed because of the inherent value of its basis.”

Over the summer, incoming students received a copy of “Just Mercy,” which was selected earlier this year as the 2017 Common Reading Experience.

The book tells how Stevenson handled the case of Walter McMillian, a young man sentenced to die for a notorious murder he didn’t commit. The case drew the young lawyer into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination and legal brinkmanship, transforming his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Vitter encouraged the Class of 2021 to keep their eyes and ears open.

“A big part of your college experience will be learning how to listen to and empathize with others,” Vitter said. “I look forward to getting to know many of you personally. Welcome to Ole Miss.”

Student Union Reopening Delayed

Renovated facility to be operational later than anticipated

The Ole Miss Student Union is undergoing a renovation and expansion from 97,000 square feet to 173,000 square feet. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – As University of Mississippi students return to campus for the fall semester, the reopening of the expanded Ole Miss Student Union has been unexpectedly delayed.

The facility will be operational later than its originally scheduled reopening on Monday (Aug. 21), UM administrators said.

“The project team is working diligently to ensure the opening of this building maintains the standard of excellence that our university family expects and deserves,” said Chad Hunter, associate university architect. “We will update everyone as we get closer to the opening date.”

To accommodate food service for faculty and staff, Ole Miss Dining will extend hours of operation in all its dining locations, including the temporary options offered since January.

“I am disappointed about the delay in opening the Student Union,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “It was a hard decision, but the correct one.

“We want to provide students the best experience at Ole Miss, and prematurely opening the building would have disappointed them much more than waiting on a completely finished product.”

The Student Union is being renovated in two phases that will expand the facility from 97,000 square feet to 173,000 square feet. Phase 1, which is opening soon, will include both familiar and new food vendors.

“Previous staples will return, including Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Qdoba, but we are especially excited to welcome Which Wich and McAlister’s Deli,” said Bradley Baker, Student Union director. “McAlister’s will be located on the second floor and will serve as a stand-alone restaurant. The other dining options will be located on the first floor of the building.”

Also, a transit center will open on the lowest level of the Student Union, allowing students to wait for OUT buses in air conditioning and out of the weather.

With the renovation ongoing and all work expected to be complete in 2019, several offices have moved temporarily. They include the:

Students, faculty and staff will not lose the value of their meal plans. Students with Rebel 100 will maintain a block of 100 meals. Students with Rebel 50 Plus 1 and Upperclassmen 50 meal plans will have a block of 50 meals.

Block meals will be available at the Rebel Market, the Marketplace at the Residential College, breakfast or lunch at the Grill at 1810 or an $8 equivalent of menu items at Freshii, Chick-fil-A Mobile and P.O.D. Mobile.

Rebel Unlimited Plus 1, faculty and staff meal plans, Spring Greek Plus 1, Upperclassmen Plus 1 and Upperclassmen Weekday Plus 1 will not be affected.

For a schedule of food services from Aramark, visit

UM Welcome Week Offers Something for Everyone

Annual event features activities for students, faculty and staff

Student Activities staff distribute free ice cream to first-year students in front of the Ole Miss Student Union during 2016 Welcome Month. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Students and other members of the University of Mississippi community have much to anticipate during Welcome Week, Aug. 17-25.

Coordinated by the Ole Miss Student Union and Student Activities Association, the schedule features activities for all, including a picnic, silent disco party, Grove-in movie and sporting events. Welcome Week is part of the university’s “Month of Welcome,” which takes place from Aug. 14 to Sept. 15.

“More programs and events are being offered,” said Bradley Baker, Ole Miss Student Union director. “The Student Union continues to work with departments across campus to provide a diverse and unique experience.”

Partners include the Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, Office of Leadership and Advocacy, Associated Student Body, Campus Recreation, the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, Ole Miss Athletics, University Police Department, Oxford Police Department, Lafayette County Sheriff’s Department, Office of Leadership and Advocacy and Mississippi Blood Services.

“This year we hope to attract and engage more students, faculty and staff than ever before,” said Patrick Ramsay, coordinator for the Ole Miss Student Union. “From first-year students getting acclimated to the university to returning upperclassmen, it’s a really good time. Wherever you go, there’s an event.”

Among the scheduled events:

  • 17: Splash into Ole Miss, 8 p.m., Turner Center
  • 18: Hotty Toddy Hangout, 7 p.m., the Grove
  • 19: New Student Kickoff Picnic, 5:15 p.m., the Grove
  • 20: Campus Recreation Info Session, 3:30 p.m., Turner Center
  • 20: First-Year Experience’s Sunday Search, 4 p.m., across campus
  • 20: History Walk, 7 p.m., the Circle
  • 20: Movie: “Monsters University,” 8 p.m., the Grove
  • 21-25: Ball Pit with Strangers, 10 a.m., the Circle
  • 21: Silent Disco, 9 p.m., the Grove
  • 22: Coffee with a Cop, 7:30 a.m., the Circle
  • 22: Ice Cream Social, 12:15 p.m., the Circle
  • 22: Fall Convocation, 7 p.m., the Pavilion at Ole Miss
  • 22-23: Get Involved Fair, 11 a.m., the Circle
  • 23: Breakfast on the Circle, 7:30 a.m.
  • 23: 2v2 Sand Volleyball Tournament, noon, Intramural Fields
  • 23: Passport to Diversity, 4 p.m., Bryant Hall
  • 23: Laser Tag: 7 p.m., the Grove
  • 24: ASB Day, 9 a.m., throughout campus
  • 24-25: Blood Drive, 10 a.m., the Circle

Other activities include women’s soccer and volleyball games, a rock-climbing wall, Snapchat photo booth and free snow cone giveaway.

The UM Student Activities Association is organized and run by students to promote special events, Homecoming and musical entertainment. For more details, visit


McLean Institute ELC Program Helps Students Improve Communities

Entrepreneurial leadership classes taught in three Mississippi counties

Charleston middle school students got information on starting a business and healthy living, mentoring and even free book bags as part of the Entrepreneurial Learning Center program this summer. The traveling program was sponsored by the UM McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Nearly 60 elementary and middle school students in Mississippi have been exposed to entrepreneurial leadership skills this summer, thanks to a traveling program sponsored by the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi.

The Entrepreneurial Learning Center began meeting in Charleston in late May. It moved to Marks in June and to Vardaman for mid-July and August. Sessions lasted about four hours a day for four weeks in each location.

Rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders in Charleston were introduced to various health care topics at the request of Dr. Catherine Woodyard, executive director of the local James C. Kennedy Wellness Center.

“Dr. Woodyard, who has worked with the McLean Institute for several years, asked us if we would consider coming to Charleston,” said J.R. Love, project manager for McLean’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, program. “We’re touching on everything from exercise to diseases, and what it looks like to get into the health care profession as a doctor or nurse.”

Community partners from local health care-related enterprises, including a pharmacist and business owner, served as guest presenters. The goal is that students are continuously learning, developing healthy habits and participating in experiences that build an entrepreneurial mindset.

“The goals of ELC were to provide a transformative experience for our participants and increase knowledge on the concepts of entrepreneurship,” said Robert Patterson, a CEED Innovation Fellow and graduate student from Como. “I believe that this program did successfully meet its goals in promoting entrepreneurship and establishing community development.”

Allison Ford-Wade, UM professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, described the inaugural ELC as “a wonderful experience.”

The local students said that they learned a lot during the program.

“I learned a lot about health and starting a business, “said Terrance Marco, of Charleston.

Robert Patterson, standing, engages Charleston students in a discussion about the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and community as part of the inaugural Entrepreneurial Learning Center program. Submitted photo

The Mississippi Development Authority assisted Nash Nunnery, project manager at MDA’s Entrepreneur Center, with providing valuable tools for the students in Charleston and Marks. One of the guests, Allen Kurr, vice president of the Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation, shared with students in Vardaman about the importance of building your brand in business.

Danna Johnson, program coordinator of Catholic Charities in Vardaman, said the ELC-Vardaman “Victory Project” is exciting.

“Eric Williams from Orange Theory Fitness in Oxford was invited to the camp and made a presentation to the students about health and wellness,” she said.

CEED students worked in Marks this summer to establish an Entrepreneurial Learning Center and will continue to work this fall with community members and students in Quitman County. There, County Administrator Velma Wilson worked with CEED students on economic development projects, such as the upcoming Amtrak stop in Marks.

The ELC idea and model were created by the CEED initiative. CEED students are funded through a financial gift from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

“We are fortunate to have financial support from the Hearin foundation in allowing UM students to connect their desire to see jobs created in Mississippi at the local and state level,” said Albert Nylander, McLean Institute director and professor of sociology.

“Community development, economic development and education were the guiding principles that each of the ELCs was built upon,” Love said. “All of this connects to the work of George McLean, the late owner of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal who started the CREATE Foundation, and Vaughn Grisham, the founding director of the McLean Institute in 1984.”