Seven Receive UM Outstanding EEO Awards

Employees recognized for excellence in service categories

Kathy Tidwell (right), contractual services manager and director of university licensing, receives a standing ovation during annual Staff Appreciation Awards on Friday. Tidwell, who has worked at UM for 49 years, is recognized by Johnny Price (left) Staff Council president. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

A custodial worker in the Facilities Management Department is the University of Mississippi’s 2018 Overall Outstanding Staff Member.

Nettie Tyson of Oxford, who has been employed at the university since 2010, was recognized during the annual Staff Appreciation Awards program Friday (May 18) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. She will receive a $1,000 stipend and two season tickets to Ole Miss football games.

“The people in this room know more than anyone else the depth and breadth of what we do here at the University of Mississippi,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs who presented all the EEO Service Awards. “Each one of you plays an amazing role in making our university the wonderful place that it is.”

Six other employees were presented Service Awards, including a $500 stipend, in their respective EEO categories. Winners included Laura D. Brown, director of the Office of Financial Aid, for EEO1; Joseph Baumbaugh, systems analyst III in the Office of Alumni Affairs, for EEO 3; Kathy McCluskey, senior human resources assistant, for EEO 4; Lynn Reece, distance learning coordinator at the Desoto regional campus, for EEO 5; Hunter Snow, power line specialist III, for EEO 6; and Michael Lewis, trucking worker in the Facilities Management Department, for EEO 7.

The Office of Student Disability Services was honored with the Dan Jones Award for Team Service.

Long-standing employees were presented either a certificate, lapel pin, plaque or keepsake in recognition of each person’s 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 30-plus years of service to the institution.

Staff in the Office of Student Disability Services accept the third annual Daniel W. Jones, M.D. Outstanding Team Service Award during the UM Staff Appreciation Awards program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“The outstanding staff awards were created in 1990 as a way to honor staff members for their contributions to the university,” said Johnny Price, classroom technology specialist and outgoing president of the UM Staff Council. “The person with the most votes in their respective EEO category is recognized at our awards day ceremony.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter was unable to attend, but filmed a video, which played during the ceremony.

“It’s the people of Ole Miss – all of you at today’s ceremony – that make it great,” Vitter said. “You’re outstanding people with a rich diversity of talents and backgrounds. As my Chief of Staff Sue Keiser describes, ‘Staff keep this place running like a spinning top, for themselves and all others.'”

Congratulations to all this year’s winners!

UM Partners with Vietnamese University for Teaching and Research

Agreement facilitates student, faculty exchange and collaborations between institutions

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (right) and Pham Duy Hoa, rector at the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam, sign a memorandum of agreement between the two institutions. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has entered into a new international partnership with the National University of Civil Engineering in Vietnam for student and faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

A formal memorandum of agreement between the two institutions was signed Thursday (May 10) in the chancellor’s office in the Lyceum. This partnership is NUCE’s first with an institution of higher learning in the United States.

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to collaborate with other universities and external partners to foster academic opportunities and enhance excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We expect outstanding outcomes from this agreement with NUCE, including new curriculum, faculty exchanges and research synergies.

“This partnership also contributes to our universitywide strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.”

The university’s global reputation for rigorous academics, innovative research and increasing diversity all influenced NUCE officials’ decision to partner with UM.

“I understood that the University of Mississippi is widely respected and very well known in the United States and beyond,” said NUCE Rector Pham Duy Hoa. “As we seek to expand our global collaborations, we found that the goals and activities of this institution were very compatible with ours.”

Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs; Blair McElroy, senior international officer; and Kurt Smith, global engagement project coordinator, also were on hand for the signing.

Other NUCE delegates included Pham Quang Dung, vice rector; Nguyen Binh Ha, dean of the graduate school; Nguyen Hoang Giang, director of the International Cooperation Department; Ta Quynh Hoa, dean of faculty of international education; Cao Tuan Anh, director of the Office of Investment Management; and Tran Hong Hai, lecturer of building and industrial engineering.

Following the memorandum signing, NUCE officials interacted with Ole Miss faculty, discussed programming and toured various facilities.

NUCE proposes to establish a 2+2 transfer agreement in which students in an engineering bachelor’s degree program complete two years at one institution and transfer to finish it at the other. Other points of the agreement allow for faculty exchange, research collaborations, English as a Second Language instruction and continued development of the partnership.

“I am pleased with the interest that international institutions have in our outstanding academic programs,” Wilkin said. “Our School of Engineering faculty have worked hard to ensure that students who spend their first two years at fine international universities can have a seamless transition to our programs.

“Further, this will open the door for research collaborations that have international significance.”

The agreement will further enhance goals in the Department of Civil Engineering to increase internationalization, diversity and inclusion, said Yacoub “Jacob” Najjar, professor and chair of the department.

“We are happy to see that our curriculum will be emulated by similar program in Vietnam,” he said. “We are looking forward to such collaborations.”

Joining with NUCE provides opportunities for Ole Miss computer and information science majors to gain experience interacting with international students, said Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of the department. “It will expose them to new working relationships and potentially lifelong friendships.”

Negotiations leading to the agreement began unofficially in January 2017. Smith and Tracy Koslowski, associate director of the UM Intensive English Program, traveled to Vietnam and Thailand to establish new international partnerships for academic exchange and collaborations.

Through the university’s Vietnamese Student Association, a connection was made with Pham Quan, second son of Pham Duy Hoa. Pham received his Bachelor of Business Administration in banking and finance from UM during Saturday’s (May 12) Commencement ceremonies.

“My son told me that he has had a wonderful educational experience at the University of Mississippi,” Hoa said. “It is certainly my desire that many more Vietnamese students have the opportunity to come to the University of Mississippi and have experiences similar to his.”

Established in 1966 as Ha Noi University of Civil Engineering, NUCE is one of Vietnam’s leading universities. With the main campus in Hai Ba Trung District of Hanoi, the institution is accredited by the Ministry of Education and Training in Vietnam. NUCE admits more than 3,000 undergraduate students and 150 graduate students annually.

Graduates work in research institutions, engineering firms, construction companies and management agencies across Southeast Asia and worldwide.

For more information about NUCE, visit

Three Liberal Arts Professors Honored for Excellence in Teaching

Award recipients come from fields of classics, public policy leadership and modern languages

Dean Lee Cohen (right), congratulates College of Liberal Arts faculty (from left), Nidhi Vij Mali, Irene Kaufmann and Molly Prasco-Pranger for their outstanding teacher awards. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi professors were honored Friday (May 11) by the College of Liberal Arts for their excellence in teaching.

Nidhi Vij Mali, assistant professor of public policy leadership, received the Howell Family Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Named after alumni donors Dr. Norris Howell and Lynne Thomas Howell, both of Ripley, the endowment provides funds to recognize the outstanding teacher of the year within the college.

The other two honorees are Irene Kaufmann, lecturer of Spanish, who received the Outstanding Instructor of the Year Award; and Molly Pasco-Pranger, chair and associate professor of classics, who was presented the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen.

“We commend Ms. Kaufmann, Dr. Pasco-Pranger and Dr. Mali for their outstanding dedication to teaching and service to our students,” said Lee Cohen, UM liberal arts dean. “These awards symbolize the importance of teaching excellence to our college’s mission. It is an honor and a privilege to recognize this year’s recipients.”

All three honorees will be recognized during Commencement exercises Saturday (May 12) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Donald L. Dyer, associate dean of faculty and academic affairs for the College of Liberal Arts, praised the exceptional teaching provided by the faculty members.

“Excellence in teaching is at the heart of what we do as an institution of higher learning, something we value and hold in the highest regard,” he said. “The faculty, who receive these annual awards, represent the best the college has to offer in this regard.”

Each of the recipients expressed gratitude for their recognition.

“The award is fuel for encouragement, appreciation and gratitude,” said Mali, who joined the university’s public policy leadership faculty in 2016. “It gives me confidence in what I do every day and grateful that the students appreciate it.

“To have received the award within the second year of my teaching, it has been a very humbling experience.”

Pasco-Pranger said she is “deeply touched and humbled” to have been singled out for this award among the college’s excellent teaching faculty.

“I am flattered and honored to receive this award,” Kaufmann said. “It warms my heart to learn that there were students and/or colleagues who took the time and initiative to nominate me.”

Recipients also shared their philosophies of teaching.

“My students and their words of appreciation for the efforts that we put in as teachers are what are most rewarding for me,” said Mali, who also received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the Syracuse University Graduate School in 2016 while earning her doctorate.

“Teaching a language is my instrument to help students open their minds to a wider world,” Kaufmann said. “Through learning a new language, students become more curious and respectful of other cultures.

“There is no better feeling than seeing my students at the end of each semester sharing experiences and having conversations in a new language, something many of them had never thought they would be able to do.”

Pasco-Pranger said she loves helping students in their own process of discovery, whether it’s finding a new body of knowledge, or their own interests and talents, or new ways to think about the world around them.

“I am always glad to introduce new students to classics,” she said. “But even more broadly, I think teaching first-year students, being among their first introductions to the life of the university, helping them negotiation the sometimes rocky transition between high school and college, can make a huge difference in their success.”

Nomination letters noted why each recipient deserved her award.

One writer who nominated Mali wrote, “She does more than just go above and beyond. Besides her amazing teaching abilities, Dr. Mali’s personality inspires me and other students to be the best version of ourselves.”

Another of Mali’s nomination letters said, “she made herself available to me 24/7 to get help. She learned more about me as a person and my home life than anyone else at the university.”

“(Ms. Kaufmann) cares about your education, and that shows in how she responds to questions,” wrote an anonymous student. “The professor is amazing and she will help you with whatever you need.”

Another nomination letter praised Pasco-Pranger as “one of the most approachable professors I have had who has had a major impact on my career as a student as well as my development as an individual.”

One of Pasco-Pranger’s former students wrote, “She held me to the highest standards while also providing the support I needed to meet those standards. Now that I’m an alumna, she regularly reaches out to me: to check on my professional progress, to invite me back to events hosted by the classics department and to meet up with me when I’m visiting Oxford.”

Awards Ceremony Highlights UM Staff Appreciation Week

Annual celebration recognizes employees for years, excellence in service

Field day competitions are always an exciting part of Staff Appreciation Week at Ole Miss. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

As University of Mississippi employees, we anticipate the arrival of annual Staff Appreciation Week. It’s somewhat like an extended break period from the regular routines we all engage in daily.

Starting Monday (May 14), staff members are offered a variety of events to enjoy at their leisure. Of all the activities scheduled, perhaps the awards ceremony on Friday (May 18) is what those honored find most gratifying.

The program begins at 9 a.m. in the Ford Center. Following a welcome, those hired within the past year will be announced in the assembly. Afterwards, long-standing employees will be presented either a certificate, lapel pin, plaque or keepsake in recognition of their 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 and 30-plus years of service to the institution.

Before the program ends, Provost Noel Wilkin will present a select few employees with Outstanding Staff Awards. Johnny Price, Staff Council president, will also present Service Awards and give closing remarks.

Other activities scheduled during the week are:

  • Monday (May 14): a RebelWell wellness fair at 10 a.m. in the Circle and a hip-hop fitness class at noon in the Turner Center, Room 305.
  • Tuesday (May 15): an 8 a.m. RebelWell 1-mile walk-run on the Ole Miss Track, a 9 a.m. blood drive in the Grove and aqua aerobics at 5:15 p.m. in the Turner Center swimming pool.
  • Wednesday (May 16): the blood drive continues at 9 a.m., a 10 a.m. music and meditation service in Paris-Yates Chapel, a cardio dance fitness class at noon in the TurnerCenter, Room 305, a noon hands-only CPR class at noon in Turner Center, Room 113, and RebelWell desk yoga and yogurt in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence at 1 p.m.
  • Thursday (May 17): a 10 a.m. plant swap in the Grove, an 11 a.m. intro to the new fitness areas – the Tank and Vault – in the Turner Center, a noon workout in the Vault and RebelWell Movin’ and Groovin’ at 4 p.m. on the patio of The Pavilion.
  • Friday (May 18): the awards ceremony at 9 a.m., an 11 a.m. staff lunch at Rebel Market and fun time beginning at 1 p.m.

I urge everyone who can do so to attend Friday’s awards ceremony. Whether you’re being honored or not, showing support for your fellow employees will make both you and them feel great! Don’t miss all the other great events either.

Army ROTC Cadet, Engineering Senior Receives National Recognition

UM student Donald Lorbecke selected for Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit

Army ROTC Cadet Donald Lorbecke (right), receives the Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit presented by Lt. Com. Joshua Taylor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Most military personnel are honored after having engaged in active combat, but one University of Mississippi Army ROTC cadet is being nationally recognized before even being commissioned.

CDT Donald Lorbecke, a fifth-year senior majoring in mechanical engineering with a minor in military science from Madison, Alabama, has been selected to receive the Society of American Military Engineers ROTC Award of Merit.

Awardees must be in the top 25 percent of their engineering class and in the top 25 percent of their Reserve Officers’ Training Corps class. Recipients are selected through a central military service board for the Army, Navy and Air Force ROTC programs.

“It is a fairly select award that is competitive among all service branches commissioning programs,” said Lt. Commander Joshua Taylor, chair of the university’s Army ROTC and professor of military science. “With over 5,000 cadets per cohort nationwide in Army ROTC alone, it is quite an honor for him.”

Lorbecke, who receives his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering Saturday at Commencement, will be commissioned in the Mississippi Army National Guard as a 2nd Lieutenant Engineer Officer. He said he is humbled by his recognition.

“I was very honored to learn the selection process for this award,” he said. “Sometimes, I forget that I am doing more than people expect. I think it is because I am doing what I love: military and engineering.”

Taylor said Lorbecke is “unmatched by his peers in terms of his character, competence and commitment to duty.”

“I have watched Cadet Lorbecke grow as a leader and embrace a sense of stewardship for the profession,” he said. “He is completely selfless in all actions and commits more time toward giving back to our program.

“He is a genuine leader and will excel in all that he does. It was a privilege to have him in our program.”

Lorbecke and his sister, Margo Lorbecke, were raised by their aunt and uncle, Jean and Jeff Downs of Madison. The Downs, both Ole Miss alumni, influenced Lorbecke’s decision to attend the university.

“My aunt did 20 years in the Army and my uncle is a mechanical engineer,” he said. “One cousin is also a mechanical engineer. Another one is a geological engineer and served in the Army as well.”

Lorbecke said he is grateful for professors in both the mechanical engineering department and Army ROTC program.

Donald Lorbecke speaks during the recent Cadet ‘Change of Command’ ceremony. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“Dr. (Erik) Hurlen (instructional assistant professor of mechanical engineering) and Dr. Raj (Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering) are very smart and supportive professors,” he said. “Both these men should never leave this university because of the impact they make here.”

As for his ROTC instructors, Lorbecke lists Capt. Joseph Gooch, operations officer and MS III instructor, and Maj. Ronald Rogers, MSARNG recruiting BN, Program XO and MS I instructor, as having been his most influential.

“They showed you how a great leader should act and take care of soldiers,” he said. “Capt. Gooch prepared us for our advanced camp summer evaluations last year. Without him, I would not have received the Distinguished Military Graduate Award.

“Maj. Rogers was the assistant professor of military science and the National Guard Simultaneous Membership Program instructor. His presence would give you this feeling that he truly did care for the development in others and the program.”

Rajendran commended Lorbecke upon his recognition.

“I’ve always admired Don’s attitude and demeanor towards all activities during throughout his undergraduate education here at the Ole Miss,” he said.

Army ROTC Lt. Com. Joshua Taylor (left) and Marni Kendricks, assistant dean of engineering, congratulate Donald Lorbecke for winning the Society of American Military Engineers Award of Merit. Submitted photo

Rajendran interacted with Lorbecke during the 2018 American Society of Mechanical Engineers robot design competition. Lorbecke was a member on one of the two teams that participated in the competitions at Pennsylvania State University at State College, Pennsylvania.

“Don and his team designed the robot with enormous passion and hard work,” Rajendran said. “He has been a rising star as an ROTC cadet. Winning the SAME award further confirms Dons’ well-rounded accomplishments.”

Engineering school Dean Alex Cheng agreed.

“Donald is a remarkable young man with excellent leadership, strong determination and true integrity,” Cheng said. “He is well-deserving of this award and I believe he will soon distinguish himself in his very promising military and engineering career. We are proud to claim him as an Ole Miss engineering alum.”

The SAME Award of Merit, a bronze medal with bronze key replica, was authorized in 1948 to be awarded annually to outstanding junior and senior engineering students in the ROTC program. A central military service board selects outstanding students for the awards from nominations submitted by the professors of military science and technology, naval science and aerospace studies.

Walk of a Champion: Stricken Student Gets Second Chance, Earns Degree

An aneurysm almost ended his life, but Seth Dickinson graduates Saturday at UM

Seth Dickinson (left), a graduating senior in public policy leadership, and Ryan Upshaw, an assistant dean in the UM School of Engineering, plan to remain friends after Commencement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three years ago, Seth Dickinson was just another University of Mississippi freshman enjoying time off for spring break. That is, until an unexpected hemorrhagic stroke left him comatose on his bedroom floor.

When Dickinson awoke from his coma nine days later, the Mantachie native was paralyzed and mute. Gone were his ability to read, write, speak and walk. Worst of all was being told that he would no longer be able to pursue his education at the university.

Fortunately, Dickinson’s story has a happy ending.

Through his own determination and with strong encouragement from a supportive university staff member, he recovered, returned to school and will be walking across the platform Saturday (May 12) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss to receive his degree in public policy leadership.

“I knew I was going to get back,” said Dickinson, who also will deliver the address at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College commissioning ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday (May 11) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. After Dickinson was nominated by his peers, all four Honors College deans agreed he is the best person to deliver the address.

“I’m differently abled in a way that I am recovering still, but for the rest of my life I will never take the moniker of ‘disabled,'” Dickinson said.

Dickinson is the first person in his immediate family to attend and graduate from a four-year college or university. His decision to attend the university was a direct result of his initial meeting with Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean of student services in the School of Engineering.

As a high school senior, Dickinson participated in a Lott Leadership Institute summer program, and Upshaw traveled to Washington, D.C., with the group.

“I knew he was the type of student we needed here at the university,” said Upshaw, one of two staff recipients of this year’s Thomas A. Frist Award, which recognizes faculty and staff members for outstanding service to Ole Miss students.

“I was instantly drawn to Ryan,” Dickinson said. “He was the biggest salesman for the university I chose to call home.”

The transition from small high school to university life was difficult, Dickinson said.

“I remember one night in particular where I sat, crying, in my dorm because I thought I would never adjust,” he said. “Then it hit me: Ryan cares. So, I sent a text that just said, ‘Help Me.'”

Within minutes, Upshaw responded with a phone call that resulted in what seemed to be Dickinson’s clear path to student success.

“Thanks to Ryan Upshaw, I became heavily involved in applying for clubs and organizations,” he said. “With his help and encouragement, I became a member of ASB, Freshman Council, Ambassadors, the Honors Senate, Delta Psi fraternity and, eventually, the Columns Society,” Dickinson said. “It was a whirlwind of joy and happiness. Life was beautiful.”

Dickinson said Upshaw was his “ray of sunlight and hope” after the storm of his affliction.

“I’ll never forget what it was like to wake up from a coma in a hospital bed, surrounded by my parents, doctors and nurses, and none other than Ryan Upshaw,” he said. “Seeing him, a peace fell over me instantly.”

“While he is a student, I consider him a friend,” Upshaw said. “Two of my proudest moments with Seth were watching him be recognized with Who’s Who honors and seeing him be named ‘Greek Man of the Year.'”

Upshaw had been to the hospital numerous times, had painted signs for Dickinson with his friends and family, and consoled his distraught mother as she regretfully had to have her son de-enrolled.

“Ryan knew the pain it caused her and cared enough to be a part of the comforting process,” Dickinson said. “He also became part of my healing process.”

Upshaw continued to visit Dickinson in the hospital numerous times, bringing him well-wishes and reminders that his home was in Oxford.

“It was this encouragement that led me to fight so hard to recover,” Dickinson said. “Ryan was the first person I called to cry to after I was told that I would never walk again. He said, ‘It’s gonna be hard to get across the Grove if you aren’t walking. I know you can do it.'”

Upshaw’s words lit a fire within Dickinson. He entered physical therapy and gradually fought his way back to mobility.

“Ryan was the first person I requested my family send a video of me taking my first steps,” Dickinson said. “Because of him, I decided not to give up.”

The combined experiences of the past three years have reshaped Dickinson’s original life plans. Before the tragedy, he aspired to become “future governor of Mississippi.” While he still plans to go to law school, Dickinson’s goal has changed to become a “health care administrator in Mississippi.”

Before the stroke, he did not consider himself a champion of disability rights.

“I always had friends who were disabled, and I would think to myself, ‘Oh, poor them,” without thinking of the perspective, ‘What if that were me?'”

Now, Dickinson thinks of himself as someone who is, if not a champion of disability rights, someone “who is giving his damnedest.”

“Diversity to me, in this regard, is not just making sure everyone gathers at the same table, but everyone has a way to get to the same table,” Dickinson said. “That’s my mantra moving forward: giving everyone equal opportunity to have a voice.”

Upshaw said Dickinson is an inspiration to him and to many others.

“He set a goal of returning to this university after his stroke, and he came back stronger than ever,” Upshaw said. “He distinguished himself as a student leader through involvement in ASB, the Honors College, the McLean Institute and other groups.

“Anyone who knows him can sense the pride he has in the University of Mississippi. I am glad that he plans to stick around to attend law school here.”

Dickinson is the youngest son of Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson and Teresa Dickinson of Mantachie. His older brother is Chris Dickinson Jr., also of Mantachie.

Prominent Higher Ed Theorist to Deliver Keynote at UM Conference

Vincent Tinto is featured speaker for Monday professional development event

OXFORD, Miss. – A noted theorist in higher education is the keynote speaker for a professional development conference Monday (May 14) at the University of Mississippi.

Vincent Tinto, a distinguished university professor emeritus at Syracuse University, is set to speak at the event, which begins at 7:45 a.m. at the Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 West Jackson Ave.

“Dr. Tinto is a prominent figure in higher education, with a special focus on retention and persistence,” said Hope Tulchinsky, UM assistant director of admissions. “Staff in the Division of Student Affairs, Department of Higher Education faculty and higher education graduate students will attend.”

Tinto earned his doctorate in education and sociology from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in physics and philosophy from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a bachelor’s degree in physics and mathematics from Fordham University. He also is a senior scholar at the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education in Washington, D.C.

He previously was a visiting scholar at Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Stanford, California, an assistant professor of education at Columbia University and a visiting lecturer at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.

Tinto’s awards include the Academic Leadership Award from the Council of Independent Colleges, the NISOD International Leadership Award from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development and the Distinguished Fellow of the Council of Learning Assistance and Developmental Education Association. He has received grants from the National Postsecondary Education Cooperation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Lumina Foundation for Education.

Sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs, the conference is co-sponsored by the Department of Student Housing, Office of University and Public Events, Department of Campus Recreation, Student Union, FASTrack, Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning, Department of Higher Education, Office of Diversity and Community Engagement, and the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

Honors College Student Awarded Fulbright UK Summer Institute Grant

Freshman Ainsley Ash is first from UM to receive competitive honor

Ainsley Ash

OXFORD, Miss – Ainsley Ash has never been to Ireland, but the University of Mississippi freshman soon will be on her way there, thanks to a 2018 Fulbright Summer Institute grant to the U.K.

While dozens of Ole Miss students and faculty have received Fulbright Scholarships and Fellowships over the years, Ash, a psychology and public policy leadership major from Meridian, is the first from UM to receive this type of Fulbright grant. The highly selective program chooses college freshmen or sophomores from the U.S. to study for a summer at select colleges in the United Kingdom.

In a monthlong seminar called “Education for Transformation at Queen’s College in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Ash will engage in lectures, seminars and study visits to examine methods of driving educational change.

“Ainsley invested many hours writing and revising her application,” said Tim Dolan, director of the university’s Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “She chose a seminar that will provide her with useful tools that will allow her to do comparative studies of education in Ireland to help her better understand the needs of students in Mississippi.

“I’m happy that the Fulbright commission recognized her as the dynamic student leader and change-agent that she is.”

Students in this Summer Institute will learn about Northern Ireland in terms of its political, economic and cultural relationships within the U.K., and with the Irish Republic and the world. UNESCO leaders facilitate sessions on curriculum in divided and conflict-affected societies, engaging participants with controversial political issues, models for promoting intercultural education and maximizing intergroup contact through schools in divided societies.

Ash vividly recalls how she received notification of her award.

“A few days after my interview, I checked my emails in bed after waking up,” she said. “The first email I clicked on was from Fulbright saying I had been selected to participate in a Fulbright Summer Institute.

“That woke me up. I was not expecting to find out so soon! I couldn’t believe it.”

Ash serves as an ambassador to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and is involved with the Wise Women of Oxford, College Democrats and the International American Student Alliance. In March, she helped organize a student-led trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives.

This summer, she will also be attending the N.E.W. Leadership program with politically diverse young women across the state at Mississippi University for Women.

“Just as Mississippi continues to recover from its painful history of race relations, Northern Ireland works to mend the divisions that arose from The Troubles,” Ash said. “By studying this parallel, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the role that equitable education can play in the peace-building process. This exposure will be incredibly beneficial to conversations in and outside of the classroom.”

Ash plans on a career working on education policy in Mississippi.

“As an honor student in a foreign language class, Ainsley has demonstrated a true passion and curiosity towards foreign cultures,” said Irene Kaufmann, UM Spanish instructor. “She brought to the class a high level of talent, creativity and dedication.”

Ash’s mother is Michelle Ash of Meridian.

“We are extremely happy for Ainsley,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “We know that the Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute grant will open her to some incredible experiences in the U.K.”

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Studying abroad is one way the university honors its commitment to educating and engaging global citizens and supporting experiential learning, two core established in the university’s new strategic plan, Flagship Forward.

Students interested in applying for Fulbright and other competitive awards that fund study abroad are encouraged to contact Tim Dolan in the Office of National Scholarship Advancement at

Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement Set for May 9

Inaugural event to recognize 32 UM staff for earning degrees while working

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi staff who earned degrees while working will be recognized for their accomplishments Wednesday (May 9) at the inaugural Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement.

Thirty-two employees who are receiving either a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree during doctoral hooding on Friday (May 11) and at Commencement on Saturday (May 12) will be honored. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, begins at noon in Auditorium A of the Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 West Jackson Ave.

Co-sponsors include the Office of the Provost, Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, Office of University and Public Events, and the UM Staff Council.

“This is an opportunity for the university community to come together and honor staff members who have successfully navigated the college experience while simultaneously working as an employee at the university,” said Anne Klingen, who co-organized the event. “During the ceremony, we will honor graduating seniors and graduate students with red-and-blue cords and a reception.”

The event was conceived after orientation for new Staff Council members in April 2017. Klingen and Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator in the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, began discussing ideas about how to recognize staff member achievements.

“As someone who has earned more than one degree while working full time for the university, I understand the unique challenges that staff members face while on the path to a degree,” Cozart said. “I thought that it was time for graduating staff members to receive special recognition of their efforts.

“The Red and Blue Celebration and the red-and-navy honors cords are just a small way of achieving this goal.”

The cords will be presented by Donna West-Strum, chair and professor of pharmacy administration. Other program participants are Gazel Giles, immediate past president of the Staff Council; Je’Lisa McGee, Staff Council treasurer; Premalatha Balachandran, Staff Council scholarship coordinator; Deetra Wiley, Staff Council marketing coordinator; and Cozart, a Staff Council member.

Departments with graduating employees who have registered to participate are Applied Sciences/ Outreach, Athletics, Campus Recreation, Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ford Center, Health Professions Advising Office, Marketing and Fan Experience, Office of Admissions, Office of the Chancellor, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, Office of Information Technology, Sports Production, Student Disability Services, Technology and Interactive Video, Graduate School, The Inn at Ole Miss, UMMC-Office of Academic Affairs, University Communications and University Police Department.

Several of the graduating employees shared their stories.

“It was very challenging trying to work, go to school and be a full-time single mom with two boys,” said Sirena Morgan, senior secretary for the chemistry department who will receive her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. “You have to find a balance in it all.

“I was so determined to get my degree, so I made it work. I would work eight hours a day, and after work, I would take care of my other responsibilities. It took a lot of discipline, but I did it.”

Learning to balance work, school, family and outside activities also was a challenge for Rebecca Lauck Cleary, a senior staff assistant at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture who will be receiving a Master of Arts in Southern Studies.

“I tried to focus on projects one week at a time so I never felt overwhelmed with anything,” she said. “Luckily, everyone I work with has been extremely supportive, which is nice.”

Completing a terminal degree, career advancement opportunities and a desire to make their families proud were all motivations for Sovent Taylor and Peter Tulchinsky, who receive their Ed.D. in Higher Education.

“My job isn’t always just 8 to 5,” said Taylor, assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office. “I have student organizations that meet at night and recruitment events on the weekend. My children are involved in travel sports, so my time after work was spoken for as well.”

To overcome his challenges, Taylor worked during lunch, often late at night and during holiday breaks writing his dissertation.

“I am blessed to have a wife that helped pick up the slack while I was writing,” Taylor said. “She also had to deal with an exhausted husband quite often.”

Tulchinsky, director of campus recreation, agrees.

“I wanted to set an example for my kids,” he said. “I encourage them to do their personal best academically, and I felt that I could role model that expectation by going back to school and acquiring my terminal degree.

“It means a lot that they can call me ‘Dr. Dad’ and that I’ve been able to show them that you can accomplish your goals through effort and commitment.”

Having a great support system at home and at work is what helped Shayla Love McGuire complete requirements for her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“A big motivation for me to complete my degree was for my children to see me being successful,” the UPD patrol sergeant said. “This degree will help me achieve promotions at work, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to finally graduate.”

For Jennifer Phillips, who receives her Ph.D. degree in higher education, writing her dissertation was her biggest challenge.

“Much of the Ph.D. is on your own after written comps,” said Phillips, assistant director for retention in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “It was incredibly difficult to find the personal motivation to continue, especially when I also had trouble nailing down a topic.”

Phillips said she went to her adviser, Amy Wells Dolan, to quit last year after almost nine years of work.

“She inspired me to keep going by simply telling me she would not let me quit,” Phillips said. “Two weeks later, I had 25 pages written.”

Wiley, an applications analyst and business communications specialist who will be hooded and receive her Ed.D. degree, said the opportunity to earn her terminal degree at no cost while working full time was worth the hard work, determination and commitment.

“This is probably the most rewarding policy/program that any institution or place of work can provide to its employees,” Wiley said. “To God, I give the glory and honor. I give great thanks to the University of Mississippi for its further education policy.”

Two UM Chinese Language Students Named Boren Scholars

Wesley Hale and Shamessia Lee selected for prestigious awards

Shamessia Lee

OXFORD, Miss. – Two accomplished seniors in the University of Mississippi’s Chinese Language Flagship Program are the university’s 20th and 21st recipients of the prestigious David L. Boren Scholarship from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Wesley Hale, of Oxford, and Shamessia Lee, of Olive Branch, are both accepted into 2018 Fall Chinese Language Flagship Capstone Programs in China. Both will use their Boren scholarships to complete their Capstone programs. Lee is going to Nanjing University, while Hale will be headed for Beijing Union University.

Each student will intern in a Tier 1 city in China next spring. The award covers up to $10,000 per semester to help cover expenses.

Lee’s initial reaction to the announcement was “shock.”

“I knew how competitive Boren was, so I was really honored that they chose me among other applicants,” said Lee, who has a double major in Chinese and marketing. “Now, I am humbled and even more determined to expand my linguistic and cultural knowledge of China while using Boren Scholarship.”

A Chinese and liberal studies double major and Air Force ROTC cadet, Hale said he is “relieved” for the support from Boren.

“Completion of my capstone year and achievement of the ‘superior’ language proficiency level is essential for earning my Flagship certification and staying in good standing with the UM Chinese Flagship Program,” he said. “This, in turn, is essential to retaining my ROTC Flagship Scholarship and status as an ROTC cadet, and therefore, important for me commissioning as an intelligence officer at all.”

Previously, Lee studied at the Harbin (China) Institute of Technology through CET Academic Programs and at Shanghai University. She has been involved in the Big Event; orientation; Operation Life Vision, a mentoring program for area boys and girls; and the Love Packs feeding program.

Co-director of the UM Ambassador Program, Lee is also a chief emissary officer for the School of Business Administration and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She recently received the Black Student Union Essence Award, given to a member who has made a positive impact on campus.

“I will be taking courses alongside native Chinese students,” Lee said. “In the spring, I get to independently choose an internship anywhere in the country that challenges me to expand my linguistic and cultural knowledge in a professional environment. I will be using the scholarship funds to pay for tuition and living expenses.”

Wesley Hale

A Provost Scholar, Hale has completed three study abroad trips to Shanghai, CET Harbin and Princeton in Beijing. He has worked in the university’s IT department, as a class teaching assistant for Flagship classes and as a tutor-counselor the Chinese StarTalk program.

The Boren Scholarship will allow Hale to combine his major and minor in the workplace and give him more work experience.

“My ultimate goal is to use my knowledge of Chinese and computer science to serve my country in an interesting and meaningful way,” said Hale, who expects to be commissioned as a second lieutenant in 2020. “This capstone year is key to me achieving that goal.

“Everything about the Beijing Overseas Flagship Program is tailored to providing U.S. citizens with the skills for safeguarding national security.”

Upon her return to the U.S. in July 2019, Lee hopes to enter an MBA program. Her career goal is to work in the public sector in a government agency “for the benefit of economic security.”

“Shamessia and Wesley participated in our Chinese Language Flagship pre-freshman Summer Program in 2014, one of our signature programs,” said Henrietta Yang, associate professor of Chinese and linguistics and co-director of the UM Chinese Language Flagship Program. “They both did extremely well in the UM Flagship Program; the UM Shanghai Program, another UM Flagship signature program; and other overseas programs. I cannot be more proud of these two students.”

Daniel O’Sullivan, chair and professor of modern languages, agreed with Yang.

“The Department of Modern Languages takes pride in teaching students like Shamessia and Wesley, and they are most deserving of the Boren,” he said. “If we are going to arrive at peaceful solutions to today’s security problems, we need to be able to communicate with others across the globe.

“That’s where our programs in modern languages can make significant contributions to these efforts.”

The university’s success with the Boren Scholarship is a testament to the quality of language and culture instruction happening on campus through the Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Croft Institute said Tim Dolan, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement.

Boren Scholarships allow participating units at Ole Miss to deliver on the university’s commitment to educating and engaging global citizens and supporting experiential learning, two core goals established in the university’s new strategic plan, Flagship Forward.

“In 2017, we had seven Boren Scholarship applicants from UM and we had two recipients and one alternate,” he said. “This year, we had five applicants and two recipients.”

Lee is the daughter of Sandrell and Antonio Lee of Olive Branch. Hale is the son of Helen and Jason Hale of Oxford.

For more about the Boren Scholarships, contact Dolan at or call 662-915-1798.