UM Makes Phi Theta Kappa Transfer Honor Roll for Third Year

University among 112 institutions nationally recognized for excellent service to transfer students

The University of Mississippi has made the Phi Theta Kappa’s Excellence in Community College Transfer Honor Roll for the third consecutive year. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For a third straight year, the University of Mississippi has been recognized by Phi Theta Kappa honor society for creating ways to support community college transfer students.

UM is among 112 top colleges and universities nationally in PTK’s annual Excellence in Community College Transfer Honor Roll. Four other Mississippi universities also made the list, but Ole Miss is the only one to make the ranking every year since its inception.

“The transfer process allows the University of Mississippi to increase access to higher education,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “The students who transfer are important and highly valued members of our university community. They contribute to our ever-increasing academic excellence, stellar learning environment and outstanding college experience.

“We are so pleased to once again be recognized by Phi Theta Kappa for our extensive opportunities and strong programs in support of transfer students.”

Other UM administrators concurred.

“Being named to the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Roll for a third consecutive year is a testament to our continued commitment to attracting, retaining and supporting transfer students,” said Jody Lowe, associate director of admissions.

“The Honor Roll recognizes the campuswide investment that we have made in transfer student success and illustrates our national standing as a transfer student-friendly institution. This honor will assist us in attracting more transfer students from across the country.”

Staff members have worked hard to make the transfer experience at UM a priority, and this recognition validates those efforts, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“Transfer students are an important part of the Ole Miss family – their prior campus experiences equip them with unique perspectives and capabilities that help us to enrich our community,” she said. “We will continue to focus on the recruitment, retention and success of this critical student community.

Applications were judged based on engagement, collaboration, impact and achievements related to the transfer of community college students as well as partnerships, support, admissions outreach, scholarships/financial aid, student engagement, opportunities and institutional priorities.

The Honor Roll institutions will be featured in the 2018 Phi Theta Kappa “Partners in Excellence” publication, which goes to higher education leaders nationally. They also will be recognized on the honorary’s website and at the PTK Catalyst annual convention, set for April 19-20 in Kansas City, Missouri

The recognition program reflects the growing importance of transfers in helping the country achieve its college completion goals and promotes further study and sharing of best practices, said Lynn Tincher-Ladner, CEO and president of the honor society.

“Increasingly, students of all ages and achievement levels are choosing the community college, not only as their first step, but also their first choice, in the pursuit of a quality, affordable bachelor’s degree,” she said. “With this designation, we hope to connect community college students with institutions who value their unique transfer experience and prioritize their success.”

Phi Theta Kappa is the oldest and largest honor society recognizing students pursuing two-year degrees. It has more than 3 million members and nearly 1,300 chapters in nine countries.

Conservator Completes Work on Three Marble Busts at UM Museum

Amy Jones Abbe's weeklong residency also included lectures and public presentations

Conservator Amy Jones Abbe gives the Bust of an Unknown Roman a careful cleaning as part of her residency at University Museum. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Amy Jones Abbe, one of the country’s most respected conservators of Greek and Roman sculpture, enjoyed a brief residency at the University of Mississippi Museum last week.

The Athens, Georgia, resident divided her time between restoring three busts in the museum’s David M. Robinson Greek and Roman Antiquities Collection and speaking about her work to inquisitive Ole Miss and local elementary school students.

“This has been a real pleasure for me,” Abbe said, taking a brief break from cleaning the Bust of an Unknown Roman, a marble head dating to 90-120 A.D. in Tivoli, Italy. “I love working on ancient antiquities, and was thrilled when I was extended the invitation to come here.

“The Robinson Collection has a lot of great pieces. I don’t find many such collections in the South, so this makes me very happy.”

With a lighted magnifying glass mounted to her own head and small vials containing various cleaning solutions nearby, Abbe gave painstakingly slow and meticulous care to the bust as it laid on a gurney in the museum’s Mary Buie Gallery. She explained the conservation treatment process.

“I begin with a surface cleaning, followed by testing a range of cleaning options, choosing the mildest and most effective one,” Abbe said. “I vacuum, dust and use a water-based solution that is slightly alkaline. If the conservation merits something stronger, I use an ammonium nitrate solution.”

Depending on a variety of factors, such as the quality of the stone, contaminants and their combinations, she may use soft vinyl erasers at some point in the process.

“It’s rare for anything to be uniformly soiled,” she said. “Environmental pollution is often acidic and can etch the marble over time. These pieces are not too dirty at all.”

Once the sculpture was clean, Abbe addressed areas that needed retouching.

“The trick is to maintain the piece after it has been treated,” she said. “The more regularly conservation is done, the less likely there will be preservation issues.”

Besides working on the busts, Abbe made several presentations to Ole Miss faculty and students, as well as Oxford elementary school students. She spoke to UM Roman archaeology and art history classes and the Vasari Society, a campus art history club, and ended her time in Oxford with a public talk about her work Friday afternoon at the museum.

UM faculty members who attended Abbe’s presentations gave rave reviews for them and her work.

Several marble busts are among the more than 2,000 items in the Robinson Greek and Roman Antiquities Collection in the University Museum. Submitted photo

“I’m thrilled that my students got a chance to see this work in action because conservators are always behind what people see when they go to museums,” said Jacqueline Dibiase, assistant professor of classics. “Hopefully, this experience has given them a deeper appreciation for the antiquities collection here at the University Museum. Perhaps some of them might even consider becoming conservators themselves one day.”

Aileen Ajootian, professor of classics and art, said Abbe’s work has been “remarkable and inspiring.”

“The role of a conservator is critical to any museum,” she said. “The university has a lot of wonderful antiquities that have not seen attention for a long time.

“What Ms. Abbe has done already has been remarkable. And for the students to see a conservator in action has been really inspiring.”

Students seemed likewise impressed with Abbe and her work.

“I thought she was really great,” said Hunter Myers, a senior classics major from Mountain Home, Arkansas. “Until today, I wasn’t aware of how many important pieces, particularly the Head of Aeschines, the museum had.

“Being a classics major, seeing these sculptures and hearing about how they are preserved has definitely made me think differently about a lot of things.”

Oxford resident Virginia Parson said Abbe’s talk was “really cool.”

“What she discussed matched perfectly with what I’ve been studying,” said the junior anthropology and biology major, who also is pursuing a minor in classics. “Seeing the intersection of art history, fine art and chemistry involved in being a conservator has made me consider it as a career possibility after I finish graduate school.”

Abbe was particularly enthusiastic about speaking to students, both young and older.

“I want the children to discover that conservation exists and how important it is to keeping the statues they see in good condition,” she said. “I’m glad to be a part of broadening their perspectives and letting them see the enormous varieties of experiences the world has to offer.”

As for the university students, Abbe remembered her own undergraduate exposure, which eventually led to her present occupation.

“I really discovered my love of sculpture in college while taking a classics course as an elective,” Abbe said. “I was a pre-med major at the time, but after taking that course, I switched to classics. I participated in an actual excavation and really loved it.”

By the time she finished her degree at New York University, Abbe knew she wanted a career in classical antiquities, but not as an academic.

“I moved to Washington, D.C., and began working in museums,” she recalled. “That led to me earning my graduate degree at the University of North Carolina (at) Chapel Hill and becoming a conservator.”

This is the first conservation work performed on the museum’s collection in more than 20 years, said Melanie Munns, antiquities collections manager. Hopefully, it will not be the last.

“The University Museum is only able to conserve objects as funding permits,” Munns said. “We started a conservation fund dedicated to the Robinson Collection five years ago with an initial donation gifted by the Daughters of Penelope, Memphis chapter.

“It is with their accrued donations, funds from the Robinson Reinstallation Project and the Friends of the Museum that we are able to conduct this conservation work.”

The Friends of the Museum has pledged further funding for conservation that should allow work to be performed on another piece, possibly more, in coming months, Munns said.

“We hope to perform annual conservation work,” she said. “With over 2,000 objects in the Robinson Collection, we foresee this type of programming could continue for many years to come.”

Abbe is also cleaning two Greek vases from the UM collection at her Georgia studio. If the conservation efforts continue, she would gladly return to campus.

“Oxford is a lovely place,” she said. “Coming back here to do more of what I love doing would be a dream come true.”

For more information, call University Museum at 662-915-7028.

UM Engineers Without Borders Adopting Village in Ecuador

Launching crowdfunding campaign, team advances infrastructure project

Engineers Without Borders-Ole Miss members, from left, Dillon Hall, Vera Gardener, Cris Surbeck, Paul Scovazzo, Paige Lohman, Robert Holt, Timothy Steenwyk and Zach Lepchitz take a break from working with Togo, West Africa, residents. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Entering its seventh year of helping people in developing nations build sound infrastructures, members of the University of Mississippi chapter of Engineers Without Borders are adopting a small village in South America.

After working on two primary projects in Togo, West Africa, as well as several minor projects, the UM chapter has begun the process of adopting 25 de Diciembre in Ecuador. The community is named after a battle fought on the day commonly known as Christmas.

“We decided in May of 2017 that we would be able to take on a new project for the upcoming school year,” said David Thomas, EWB-Ole Miss chapter president. “During the fall semester, we filtered through all of the unassigned projects on the EWB-USA database and found several projects that could benefit from our previous experience that we’ve gained during our Togo projects. These final project prospects were put up to a chapter vote, and the Ecuador project was chosen.”

As with their Togo project, the group will use EWB-USA’s quality project process, which includes project initiation, project adoption, assessment, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and closeout. EWB-USA makes a special point to mandate the use of locally sourced materials and labor. It also requires that the community contributes 10 percent of the project cost. These two criteria result in longer staying power of installed projects due to the community’s established hands-on role, which carries over to infrastructure maintenance.

“We have just wrapped up the project-adoption phase, having been given the official go-ahead from EWB-USA,” Thomas said. “Now we begin the exciting work of organizing an assessment trip.”

The people of 25 de Diciembre are in dire need of a clean water source as well as a sufficient irrigation system. In the assessment phase of the project, EWB will send members of the chapter to the community to speak with governing officials about their specific needs and how best to execute the endeavor.

The total cost for this project will be around $50,000 spent over the five-year duration. These funds will cover travel and food for the members and advisers, local labor and project material expenses. Engineers in Action will be EWB’s contact in Ecuador once the project is approved.

EWB launched a crowdfunding campaign through Ignite Ole Miss in December. With help from donors, the goal is to raise $20,000. Money received will enable members of EWB and School of Engineering faculty members to spend seven days there, planning how to provide clean water to the village.

“We are planning on sending our first team over for an assessment trip this May,” Thomas said. “The travel team will be selected based on specific skill sets needed including Spanish speakers, civil or geological engineers and those who have committed effort to the chapter and to fundraise for the project and advance it forward.

“We also consider class year and graduation dates. We want to incorporate a mix of ages so the project does not get stranded when upperclassmen graduate. Certain faculty advisers with prior experience drilling wells and working on international projects will also be a part of the travel team.”

While the population of 25 de Diciembre is concerned about clean drinking water, it also depends heavily on clean water for a variety of other crucial reasons, said Paul Scovazzo, professor of civil engineering and faculty adviser of EWB-Ole Miss.

“The community is very driven by agriculture, meaning that without clean water and a proper irrigation system, men and women struggle to feed themselves and their children,” Scovazzo said. “In addition to this, a lack of clean water creates troubling sanitation hazards for citizens who struggle to remain healthy and uncontaminated as they bathe.”

For more information about EWB-Ole Miss, visit To make donations through the Ignite Ole Miss website, go to .

Black History Month Opening Ceremony Inspires, Challenges

Sociology professor Brian Foster delivered keynote address on resilience of black culture

The UM Gospel Choir performs furing the university’s Black History Month opening ceremony Feb. 1 in Fulton Chapel. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s opening ceremony for Black History Month included several speakers, riveting performances by the UM Gospel Choir and the presentation of the 2018 Lift Every Voice Awards.

The Thursday (Feb. 1) celebration in Fulton Chapel featured key messages about the university’s progress in fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment, as well as the need to continue the focus and commitment to diversity.

Brian Foster, UM assistant professor of Southern studies and sociology, delivered the keynote address on “Some Things Never Change, and I’m Glad About It.” Foster was introduced by Nekkita Beans, president of the university’s Black Student Union.

“There’s beauty in the shared and timeless culture of black folks – the ways that contemporary musicians, singers and rappers sample music from the ’80s, ’70s and ’50s,” Foster said. “There are things that my parents said to me that their parents said to them that are recognizable by black folks from Mississippi to Miami to Chicago to Philadelphia.”

Foster called upon the audience – especially black students in attendance – to remember that “the challenges that have seemingly always confronted black American livelihood are no match for our will to endure, create and overcome.”

“Black folks have always been a people of seekers, makers and doers,” he said. “That is the legacy that we have blazed through this campus, state and nation, and I want black UM students to know it is up to them to keep that legacy bright.”

The program began with a welcome from Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter.

Southern studies and sociology professor Brian Foster delivers the keynote address for the UM Black History Month opening ceremony. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“Black History Month is important throughout the nation, but perhaps especially important at the University of Mississippi,” Vitter said. “We have a unique responsibility to learn from our history. We have taken many positive steps to recognize our past, embrace progressive attitudes and support inclusion and diversity.

“While Black History month is only one month long, it is my sincere hope that all members of our community will keep the values of diversity and inclusion at the forefront throughout the year.”

Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, extended greetings before presentation of a historical perspective on the importance of this monthlong celebration by Terrence Johnson, president of the Men of Excellence, a student group for African-American males.

Donald Cole, assistant provost and professor of mathematics, presented the “Lift Every Voice” awards, created by the UM Black Faculty and Staff Organization to recognize individuals, groups or entities that have contributed to the betterment of human relationships on campus. Emphasis is given to the areas of diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion.

Recipients of this year’s awards were Charles Hussey, associate dean for research and graduate education in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Jan Murray, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of art and art history; James Thomas, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology; and the School of Law Diversity Committee.

For a full list of Black History Month sponsors and calendar of events, visit

UM Students Make Contributions to Oxford Film Festival

Five have entered films for the Feb. 7-11 event; two are helping create Hoka award statues

Blake Horner, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, explains how he makes 3-D prints of the Hoka statue to be be presented at this year’s Oxford Film Festival. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Whether it’s on the screen or behind the scenes, University of Mississippi students are making significant contributions to 2018 Oxford Film Festival.

Celebrating its 15th anniversary, the event runs from Feb. 7 to 11. Opening night is at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, the festival’s inaugural site. Other screenings and event locations include the Malco Oxford Commons, Powerhouse Community Arts Center and the Oxford Conference Center.

“We are excited about this year and thrilled we’ve made it this far,” said Melanie Addington, executive director of the festival. “The university supports us in various ways and has been accommodating since the first film festival 15 years ago. The festival originated at the Ford Center, so it’s really special to be returning to it 15 years later.”

A highlight of the weekend is the Saturday night awards ceremony, where winners receive The Spirit of the Hoka Award statues. Originally made by retired Ole Miss art instructor Bill Beckwith, the awards are manufactured at the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence using a 3-D printer.

“This project has been a really great learning experience for two of our students, Blake Horner and Lauren Kiel,” said Tyler Biggs, CME admissions counselor. “They have been the driving force behind the project.”

Kiel is a junior mechanical engineering and business administration major from Bloomingdale, Illinois. Horner is a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Frankfort, Illinois.

The biggest challenge for the project was getting the Hoka into a usable file for the 3-D printer. The students did this by scanning the statue with one of CME’s 3-D scanners.

“This turned the Hoka into a 3-D digital image that was then converted to a file for the printers,” Biggs said. “Once scanned and uploaded, the 3-D printer superheats, then went layer-by-layer creating a replica of the Hoka statue with a high-grade plastic material.”

Each print could take upwards of 12 hours because of the size and detail of the statue, he added.

The university is a sponsor of the festival and several students and staff members have short film entries.

Christina Huff, of Oxford, a filmmaker and Ole Miss alumnus, has two films in this year’s festival. The first is a short film that commemorates the 20th anniversary of “Thacker Mountain Radio Hour,” and the second is titled “Birthing Video,” a study on color.

“Filmmaking has always been a passion of mine and it’s important to me to express myself through my work and to share it with others,” Huff said. “There’s so much support and community in OFF that I feel really lucky to be a part of, and I’m so glad other people around the world get to experience it, too.”

Other UM entrants include “Johnny’s Greek and Three,” directed by Ava Lowery, and “Randy Weeks: Mississippi Songwriter,” directed by Keerthi Chandrashekar, Je’Monda Roy and Jimmy Thomas.

The film festival’s schedule is inclusive of all ages and social groups. Film categories include animated short, documentary feature and short, experimental short, Mississippi narrative and documentary, and narrative feature and short.

The festival will open at the Ford Center with Adam Rifkin’s “The Last Movie Star,” formerly named “Dog Years.” Rifkin is best known for his work on the television series “Look,” as well as the movies “Detroit Rock City” and “Chase,” starring Charlie Sheen. “The Last Movie Star” has a star-studded cast, including Burt Reynolds and Ariel Winter.

The Oxford Film Festival was created in 2003 to bring exciting, new and unusual films, and the people who create them, to north Mississippi. The five-day film festival continues to attract quality films and highlight the talents of young filmmakers from all over the world.

It screens short and feature-length films in both showcase and competition settings, hosts panel discussions on issues in contemporary filmmaking and invites filmmakers to interact with audiences at a number of social events.

The festival is also bringing in members of the Oxford community, with more than 300 volunteers and several local filmmakers. Eighteen Oxford filmmakers are represented with 19 local films.

Besides the array of films, OFF includes several new panels, including a Seed and Spark workshop on crowdfunding films and discussions that educate attendees about the filmmaking process. The festival also will host a screening of the 1998 David Zucker film, “Baseketball,” as well as a “Baseketball” tournament.

For the younger crowd, OFF is adding a complete children’s festival at the Powerhouse, after last year’s trial run was deemed successful. Besides kid-friendly films, workshops for children will teach the basics of filmmaking, editing, costuming, writing and more.

Some 204 films – 35 features, 169 shorts and music videos – including 29 world premieres and six U.S. premieres, were selected for OFF’s 15th anniversary edition, marking an increase of more than 30 films from last year’s lineup.

Tickets are available online and student rates are available on day passes, multiday passes and single-film tickets. To purchase tickets and for a complete schedule, visit

Conservator Visiting UM Museum to Examine Marble Sculpture Collection

Amy Jones Abbe to assess selected pieces and advise staff on their preservation

Several marble busts are among the more than 2,000 items in the Robinson Greek and Roman Antiquities Collection in the University Museum. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – One of the country’s most respected conservators of Greek and Roman sculpture is visiting the University of Mississippi Museum this week to review its collection and share her expertise.

Amy Jones Abbe of Athens, Georgia, will be on campus through Friday (Jan. 30-Feb. 2) to work on ancient marble sculptures from the David M. Robinson Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities. This is the first conservation work done on the museum collection in more than 20 years.

“Amy Abbe will begin with the three sculptures we have installed in the first gallery of the Mary Buie building,” said Melanie Munns, the museum’s antiquities collections manager. “She will first examine these sculptures to determine where past repairs were made and how by performing tests in small areas.

“It’s possible that two of these sculptures will just need cleanings and touch ups with paint. The third, the Head of Aeschines, may need further assessment to determine the approach to its added coarse plaster nose.”

During the week, Abbe also is scheduled to speak to UM students enrolled in anthropology, classics and Roman archaeology classes, as well as to groups of local elementary school students in the Museum Art Zone program.

Abbe will give a brief talk in the Museum’s Speakers Gallery at 4:30 p.m. Friday (Feb. 2). The free, public event will be followed by light refreshments.

Amy Jones Abbe

“The University Museum is only able to conserve objects as funding permits,” Munns said. “We started a conservation fund dedicated to the Robinson Collection five years ago with an initial donation gifted by the Daughters of Penelope, Memphis chapter.

“It is with their accrued donations, funds from the Robinson Reinstallation Project and the Friends of the Museum that we are able to conduct this conservation work.”

The Friends of the Museum have pledged further funding for conservation that should allow work to be performed on another piece, possibly more, in coming months, Munns said.

“We hope to perform annual conservation work,” she said. “With over 2,000 objects in the Robinson Collection, we foresee this type of programming could continue for many years to come.”

Before launching her own art conservation studio in 2011, Abbe was a conservator at museums in Florence, Italy; New York City; Washington, D.C.; Cambridge, Massachusetts; and Baltimore. She earned her degrees from New York University and the University of North Carolina.

For more information, call University Museum at 662-915-7028.

UM Sets Annual Black History Month Observances

Award-winning writer and teacher Clint Smith's address highlights events

Clint Smith, National Poetry Slam champion and Individual Poetry Slam finalist, is to speak Feb. 26 at UM as keynote speaker for Black History Month. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Clint Smith, National Poetry Slam champion and Individual World Poetry Slam finalist, is the keynote speaker for Black History Month observances Feb. 26 at the University of Mississippi.

Smith’s address begins at 6 p.m. in Fulton Chapel. Admission is free, but tickets must be obtained from the Ole Miss Box Office in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts beginning Feb. 1.

“Over the years, notable African-Americans such as Cornel West, Marian Wright Edelman, Michael Eric Dyson, Myrlie Evers-Williams and Eunique Jones Gibson have been invited to provide the Black History Month keynote address,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “We believe Mr. Smith will be equally as dynamic and that he will provide a very memorable experience for everyone in attendance.”

Mead said she hopes that all members of the university community will take advantage of this opportunity to hear from Smith at the signature event of Black History Month 2018.

“He has spoken at the U.S. Department of Education, the IB Conference of the Americas, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and has been featured on, Upworthy and TVOne’s ‘Verses and Flow,'” Mead said. “His TED Talk ‘The Danger of Silence’ has been viewed more than 2 million times and was named one of the top 20 TED Talks of 2014.

“As our university strives to be a leader in racial reconciliation and inclusivity, this year’s keynote address is a continuation of our educational efforts. Therefore, we look forward to engaging with Mr. Smith and learning more about critical pedagogy, mass incarceration, the intersection of art and activism, how literacy shapes the formation of adolescent identity, and youth civic education.”

Smith is a writer, teacher and doctoral candidate at Harvard University studying education, incarceration and inequality. He has taught high school English in Prince George’s County, Maryland, where he was named the Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year in 2013 by the Maryland Humanities Council.

The BHM Opening Celebration is scheduled for 4-5:30 p.m. Feb. 1 in Fulton Chapel. Program participants include the UM Gospel Choir, Chancellor Jeffery Vitter and Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. It also will feature the presentation of the annual “Lift Every Voice” Awards.

The Black Student Union’s fifth annual Black History Month Gala is 6 p.m. Feb. 9 in The Inn at Ole Miss. Admission is free for UM students, faculty and staff. Tickets will be available from Jan. 22 through the Ole Miss Box Office.

Other scheduled activities include:

Feb. 7 – Panel Discussion: Speaking for the Culture, 7 p.m., Bryant Hall

Feb. 8 – Lecture:Because of Her We Can” by Constance Slaughter-Harvey, 5 p.m., Weems Auditorium

Feb. 8 and 11 – BHM Film Series: “Marshall,” 8 p.m., the Grove (rain location: Turner Center, Room 205)

Feb. 9 – Black Student Union Fifth Annual Black History Month Gala and 50th Anniversary Celebration, 6 p.m., The Inn at Ole Miss

Feb. 10 – Oxford Film Festival “Circles” screening, 4:15 p.m., Malco Oxford Commons

Feb. 10 – Oxford Film Festival: “The Long Shadow” and “Here I’ll Stay” screening, 5 p.m., Oxford Conference Center

Feb. 13 – Soul Food Luncheon, noon-1:30 p.m., Luckyday Residential College cafeteria

Feb. 15 – Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement Goes to Memphis: “The Color Purple” performance, depart Oxford 4 p.m., curtain time 7:30 p.m., Orpheum Theatre

Feb. 19 – “Teach Us All” screening and discussion, 6 p.m., Turner Center, Room 205

Feb. 20 – The Conversation Continues: K-12 Educators Discuss the State of Education for African-American Students in Mississippi, 6 p.m., Guyton Hall, Room 215

Feb. 21 – BarberShop Talk, 5 pm, CIECC, Stewart Hall, Room 129.

Feb. 21 – Discovering Black History though UM Libraries Databases, open house, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., intensive sessions, 4-6 p.m., J.D. Williams Library

Feb. 22 – Lecture: “The History of the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” by Paul Kwami, 1 p.m., Nutt Auditorium

Feb. 22 – BHM Concert: Fisk Jubilee Singers, 7:30 p.m., Ford Center

Feb. 26 – Southern Music Symposium, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics

Co-sponsors for the university’s BHM observances include University Lecture Series, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, School of Education, Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of African American Studies, National Pan-Hellenic Council and Black Student Union.

For a full list of sponsors and calendar of events, visit

Two UM Professors to Receive Mississippi Humanities Council Honors

Patrick Alexander and Marc Lerner will be lauded in Jackson for teaching, service

Patrick Alexander talks about his new book ‘From Slave Ship to Supermax’ during a panel discussion at the Overby Center for Journalism and Southern Politics. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi professors are among those being honored Feb. 16 in Jackson by the Mississippi Humanities Council.

Patrick Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American studies, will receive the Humanities Educator Award and Marc Lerner, an associate professor of history, will be recognized as a Humanities Teacher of the Year during the council’s 2018 Public Humanities Awards program.

The agency recognizes outstanding contributions by Mississippians to the study and understanding of the humanities.

“I was both surprised and deeply moved upon receiving notification that the Prison-To-College Pipeline Program was the recipient of the MHC Humanities Educator award,” said Alexander, who will accept the award with Otis Pickett, assistant professor of history at Mississippi College. The two men are the co-founders and co-directors of the PTCPP.

“That a college-in-prison program we designed to address the need expressed by an often-overlooked group of learners to have access to higher education opportunities and meaningful human community has been honored by the MHC reflects, to me, a genuine commitment to expand our state and world’s vision of what the gift of humanity is, and what the work of the humanities is all about.”

The PTCPP is a credit-granting college-in-prison program based at two state prisons. It is in its fourth full year of operation for men imprisoned at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, where six PTCPP courses have been offered, and in its second year of operation for women at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility, where four PTCPP courses have been taught.

“I was deeply moved because I know how much Otis and I both value every opportunity that we have to share our love of learning with any and every learning community we can find,” Alexander said. “I was surprised because I am aware of how relatively young the PTCPP is.”

Lerner expressed similar surprise at his award.

“I am deeply touched that the committee thought I was worthy of the honor,” Lerner said. “Teachers rarely get recognized, so I am very appreciative of the rare honor. I am especially honored to be recognized alongside the incredibly important work that Patrick Alexander and Otis Pickett are doing with the prison-to-college pipeline.”

He regularly teaches courses on the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Age of Revolution and on nationalism. His research focuses on revolutionary Europe in a comparative perspective, republicanism and the shift to a modern political world.

Lerner is working on a book titled “The International William Tell: A republican symbol in the age of revolution.

“My idea is that I am using the cultural productions of the William Tell story to write a transnational, cultural history of the age of revolution, 1750-1850,” he said.

UM administrators congratulated Alexander and Lerner upon their honors.

“The College of Liberal Arts is fortunate to have excellent faculty who make a difference by inspiring the students they have the privilege to work with,” said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “I am so pleased that the Mississippi Humanities Council is recognizing Drs. Alexander and Lerner for their significant efforts to transform lives through education.”

Lerner has been a star teacher for many years, said Donald Dyer, the college’s associate dean for faculty and academic affairs.

Marc Lerner was selected MHC Humanities Teacher of the Year in 2017. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

“He is very deserving of the recognition,” Dyer said. “His colleagues and his students agree that he is a compassionate, caring and engaging teacher of history and other topics. He has been teaching classes in the Honors College for several years as well.

“The college is proud of his skills and his teaching acumen, and he is highly deserving of the Mississippi Humanities Council Award.”

Alexander joined the faculty in 2012. A native of Youngstown, Ohio, he earned his bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from Miami University and a doctorate in English from Duke University.

Alexander previously received the Lafayette-Oxford-University Volunteer Award in 2016 for co-founding the PTCPP, serving as its founding Ole Miss instructor and serving as co-organizer of two national Rethinking Mass Incarceration in the South conferences hosted at UM.

Lerner has taught at Ole Miss since 2005. A native of New York City, he received his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in history from Columbia University. He was selected as the university’s 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year for his compassionate, caring and engaging teaching of history and other topics.

Other MHC honorees and their awards are Leslie-Burl McLemore of Jackson, Cora Norman Award; Visit Mississippi of Jackson, Preserver of Mississippi Culture Award; Rethink Mississippi of Jackson, Humanities Partner Award; and Marc Galen Francis of Jackson, Humanities Scholar Award.

Twenty-eight other recipients of the 2017 Humanities Teacher Awards will also be honored at the event. A ceremony and reception is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Old Capitol Museum in Jackson.

Tickets for the MHC Public Humanities Awards ceremony are $50 each and may be purchased by sending a check to the Mississippi Humanities Council, 3825 Ridgewood Road, Room 317, Jackson, MS 39211, or online at

For more information about the UM Department of African American Studies, visit For more about the Department of English, visit For more about the Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, go to

UM Researchers Working on Acoustic Detection for Undersea Oil Leaks

Grant totaling $591,000 awarded to Zhiqu Lu, Likun Zhang and Lei Cao

Zhiqu Lu, senior research scientist at the UM National Center for Physical Acoustics, is leading a team working to develop technology to detect leaks in offshore deep-water oil and gas lines and production equipment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

(The following Ole Miss News article also appeared in USA Today and the Clarion-Ledger on Dec. 27.)

OXFORD, Miss. – Snaking beneath the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are thousands of miles of pipelines carrying oil and natural gas from offshore wells. They carry the fuel that keeps the American economy rolling, with Gulf production accounting for 17 percent of total U.S. crude oil production and 5 percent of total U.S. … Continue reading



Second Law of Thermodynamics Topic for January Science Cafe

UM researchers Randy Wadkins and Nathan Hammer to discuss mysteries of entropy

UM chemistry and biochemistry professors Randy Wadkins and Nathan Hammer will share ‘Harrowing Tales of Entropy’ at the monthly Science Cafe Jan. 30. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The second law of thermodynamics is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The spring semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Jan. 30 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. Randy Wadkins and Nathan Hammer, UM professors of chemistry and biochemistry, will discuss “Harrowing Tales of Entropy.” Admission is free.

The second law of thermodynamics holds that entropy, basically heat lost during a chemical or mechanical transformation, can never decrease in an isolated system, such as the universe. The second law puts a limit on the transformation of heat into work.

“Entropy is a mysterious phenomenon that has puzzled scientists since its discovery by Rudolph Clausius in the 1850s,” Wadkins said. “Did it drive Clausius mad? Perhaps. But it led to his development of the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

“Nearly 200 years of scientists have struggled with this mind-blowing, senses-shattering physical phenomenon.”

Wadkins and Hammer’s 45-minute presentation will address several questions about the nature of entropy and how it affects everything.

“Found in refrigerators, automobiles and even our bodies, entropy will eventually destroy the universe,” Hammer said. “We can promise you one thing from this evening of thrills and sensations: you will never look at a snowflake the same way again.”

Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy and the forum’s organizer, said he expects a most interesting discussion.

“I’m eagerly waiting their presentation,” Cavaglia said. “Entropy has fascinated researchers for generations, so I’m sure the general public will be fascinated as well.”

Wadkins received his bachelor’s and doctoral degree froms UM in 1986 and 1990, respectively. He held a postdoctoral fellowship with the National Institutes of Health, a Gesellschaft Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Goettingen, Germany, and a postdoctoral fellowship at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

He also has been a science and technology policy fellow with the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2015-16, sponsored by the Biophysical Society.

A member of the Ole Miss faculty since 1990, Wadkins’ research interests are biophysical chemistry, molecular dynamics, fluorescence microscopy and imaging, DNA structure and structural transitions, and biosensors.

Hammer received an honors bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in physical chemistry and chemical physics from the University of Tennessee in 1998 and 2003, respectively. He was a postdoctoral researcher at Yale University and an Intelligence Community Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Massachusetts.

He joined the UM faculty in 2007 and received tenure in 2013. He was honored as an Ole Miss Faculty Research Fellow in 2008 and received a Faculty Early Career Development Award from the National Science Foundation in 2010 to spectroscopically track the evolution of noncovalent interactions from the single molecule level to the condensed phases.

Hammer also directs the NSF-funded Ole Miss Physical Chemistry Summer Research Program for Undergraduates.

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.