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Celebrating Great UM Women

Inspiring stories reflect observance of Women's History Month

In conclusion of Women’s History Month, celebrate with accomplishments made by great UM women. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

In celebration of Women’s History Month, this selection of stories highlights achievements by great UM women. These are just  few of the wonderful stories about faculty, staff, students and alumni:

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Students to Give Back to L-O-U Community through the Big Event

Annual day of service expected to draw nearly 2,000 participants

UM students work on landscaping as part of The Big Event, a day students dedicate to community service and building relationships with the citizens of Oxford. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Hundreds of University of Mississippi students are expected for this year’s installment of The Big Event, the largest day of community service in the state of Mississippi, to say “thank you” to the Oxford and Lafayette County communities.

Set for March 25, The Big Event begins at 8 a.m. at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Students will volunteer for various projects throughout the community, including painting homes, organizing garages, helping with yard work and cleaning up highways.

“The Big Event is about service and gratitude to the community for everything they do for us,” said Alex Martin, a senior from Madison who is one of this year’s co-directors of the initiative. “I think this is a really cool way to let students meet the community. I love getting to hear them talk about who they met and what they did.”

The Big Event began in 2011 with about 1,000 students volunteering. Martin, who is majoring in mathematics and international studies with minors in Arabic and economics, and co-director Miller Richmond began planning this year’s event soon after last year’s event in the hopes to make it the most successful yet.

Some 1,700 students have registered for this year’s day of service, and organizers hope to reach at least 2,000 volunteers.

Martin and Richmond look forward to seeing the impact not only upon the community, but also their fellow students. They said they hope the Big Event will lead to students continuing to volunteer their time to other projects in the future.

“We always work closely with the city, county, local nonprofits and residents,” said Richmond, a senior from Madison who is majoring in international studies with minors in Arabic and chemistry. “A lot of students get that first taste of community service and then they realize they want to come back again.”

Ole Miss students interested in volunteering for the event should sign up through the myOleMiss portal. Once signed in, they should select the “Get Involved” tab, click on “Big Event Volunteer Registration” and complete the form. The deadline to register is Friday (March 3), but walk-ins are welcome on the day of the event.

Volunteers get breakfast and a free T-shirt before heading out to work on a variety of projects.

Community members interested in registering a project should visit and click “Register Projects” to fill out the form. The deadline is March 3.

Major corporate sponsors for The Big Event include The Hub, C Spire and Heritage Properties. Many other businesses and campus organizations have contributed to the effort, organizers said.

For more information on the Big Event, visit To view a video from the 2016 Big Event, visit

Blog: ‘Why I move more’

Andrea Jekabsons holds up a photo of her parents, who inspired her to ‘move more.’ Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Those who know me or meet me sometimes refer to me as the “RebelWell Lady.” The “HR Lady” is a close second. So, not being an exercise or nutrition professional, how did “RebelWell Lady” come to be?

A few weeks after relocating to Oxford, my father passed away. My father was a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel who went on to work in Human Resources (Personnel in those days) for Xerox and Ford. Then, finally hitting his harmonic gait, he recruited minority engineering students for NASA programs.

Dad described himself as “a peaceable man,” and everyone he met was a friend. He appreciated a hotdog, root beer float and my mother’s cooking. Long gone were his collegiate baseball seasons and military exercise drills. The lack of exercise and a love of food led to obesity and diabetes, the demise of many Americans. My mother, who spent most of her years raising nine children, found herself caring for my father.

After his death, I walked and I walked often. I had always enjoyed walking, but these were “grief” walks, not power walks.

In 2009, a colleague asked me to join her to meet with a personal trainer. So sure, this mom of two, with a full-time job, who had gained a little weight, agreed to go. That night proved to be my rock bottom. The sit-ups were challenging. The push-ups (on my knees) were nearly impossible. And who ever thought that high knee runs were a good idea for cardio never considered what might possibly jiggle on a 41-year-old. Sore and stiff the next morning, I thought of my parents (my mom was also suffering from diabetes), and I decided that I didn’t want to wake up at 45, 50, 55 feeling old, sick and tired. I didn’t want that for my children. The journey began.

My schedule didn’t allow for me to continue working out with that personal trainer, and the fitness classes were mostly attended by young flexi-bendy students. I began jogging and riding my stationary bike again. I ate out less. I also tried different home workout DVDs and programs that included Oxford Adventure Boot Camp.

Jekabsons and colleague Jessica Hughes jog on the South Campus Rail Trail. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

As the story goes, I began to feel better. I have more energy, feel happier, and think more creatively and clearly with much more confidence. I recently shared with a colleague that since I began practicing energy management, the world seems brighter, problems seem smaller, and my patience continues to grow.

I recognized how my improved wellness was benefiting my work and have been fortunate enough, with the support of our university leaders, to be in a position to enhance our work-site wellness programs and policies. The benefits of a healthy workforce include increased productivity and lower absenteeism. Healthier employees also tend to be happier – and their co-workers appreciate that! Our RebelWell campus partners offer support, infrastructure, enthusiasm and programming.

Why I move more? I move because of my family history. I move more for my family. And along the way, I have found my harmonic gait.

More on RebelWell:

More on harmonic gait:

Recommended Reads:

The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

Andrea M. Jekabsons is associate director of Human Resources at the University of Mississippi.

Employee Self-Service helps staff take care of business online

Photo by Nathan Latil/University Communications

Employee Self-Service, or ESS, allows you to view and change some of your employee information via myOleMiss.

From ESS you may:

  • Update your payroll direct deposit information
  • Update your employee address and communication preferences
  • View your semimonthly pay stubs
  • Elect to receive and view your Form W-2 online
  • Record time worked and leave taken
  • View current benefit selections via the Benefits Confirmation Statement

Addresses & Communication Preferences

You may use the Employee Self-Service application and Addresses & Communication Preferences to update your home address, office address and emergency contact information. Additionally, you can provide your cell phone information, which allows you to receive emergency text message notifications from the university. You may also set your preferences to receive optional text messages or emails about campus news and events.

To access Employee Self-Service, log in to myOleMiss =>  choose the Employee tab => Self Service => then, select Address/Communication Preferences from the “Detailed Navigation” menu located on the left.

Record Time

Eligible employees are required to use the Employee Self‐Service interface in myOleMiss to record time worked and leave taken for the payroll pay period. In general, permanent employees who do not record their time against Facilities Management or Telecommunications work orders are required to log into the myOleMiss portal to record their time. Employees who currently use approved time clock systems, student employees and Rebel Reserve employees may not use the online time sheet and should continue to use Form UM4/HR12.

Open Enrollment

Since October 2011, Employee Self-Service has been available for employees to make changes to their benefit plans during the entire month of October.

“The university is excited about using SAP’s Employee Self-Service module for the implementation of Online Open Enrollment,” said Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits.

Administratively, the online system streamlined the enrollment process, enabled the university to extend the Open Enrollment period and hold employees accountable for benefit elections. The system is easy to navigate and meets the university’s Open Enrollment needs.

All employees are encouraged to become familiar with the myOleMiss portal and enjoy the benefit and ease of using the features.


411 on supplemental retirement programs

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Retirement is the goal of all employees. Whether this event will happen soon or several years down the road, financial stability is a common concern. 

Questions you may be asking yourself are will I be able to retire on my scheduled date, have enough money to support the retirement lifestyle I want, or have sufficient funds to last throughout retirement?

If these thoughts have crossed your mind and you are looking for opportunities to increase future assets, consider taking advantage of the university’s supplemental retirement programs.

The university offers two voluntary, supplemental retirement programs, 403(b) and Deferred Compensation. Participation is available to all employees (faculty and staff), student workers and re-employed retirees. If you receive compensation via the university payroll system, then you may participate. These individual retirement accounts are funded by employee contribution only. The university does not match contributions. The amount you contribute is at your discretion.

Both programs offer a diversified set of investment options to include but not limited to global/international, small cap, large cap and bonds. For calendar year 2017, the contribution limit is $18,000. Employees age 50 or older may contribute an additional $6,000, which increases their contribution limit to $24,000.

With the 403(b) program, there are three authorized providers with which you may invest (TIAA, Voya and VALIC). To participate is a two-step process. First, you must select the provider(s) in which you will invest and establish an investment account. Second, you must complete and submit to 108 Howry Hall a Salary Reduction Agreement, or SRA, to set up payroll deduction. Contributions may be pre- and/or post-tax. Please ensure you provide the pay period contribution amount in the appropriate box designating pre-tax versus post-tax on the SRA.

Financial consultants from TIAA, Voya and VALIC are available to discuss this program and assist in setting up an investment account, selecting investment options and completing the SRA. The SRA and contact information for financial consultants can be accessed at

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Deferred Compensation is administered by the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi with investment accounts managed by Empower Retirement. 

To participate, complete the Participant Enrollment Form, and fax or mail it to Empower Retirement. The form is available at via the Resource Center tab. This step must occur one month in advance of when the payroll contributions will begin. Deferred Compensation is a pre-tax contribution.

Questions about these programs should be directed to Pamela Johnson, assistant director of benefits, at or 662-915-5432.

Further reading:

It’s OK to ‘disconnect’

Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

That notification ping from a new email on your phone while you lie in bed isn’t just another work matter you feel obligated to respond to after hours.

It’s also a contributing factor to increased “anticipatory stress,” which is causing burnout and harming productivity and work-life balance for employees around the country, new research has shown.

A federal labor law that was scheduled to take effect in November but is on hold reclassified many university employees as hourly, which gives those employees the right to “disconnect” when not on duty.

Salaried workers are also encouraged by the Human Resources department to take steps to unplug when possible. Many supervisors and employees on campus are reaping the benefits of time to disconnect.

“I try not to use email after hours and on weekends, and I encourage those who report to me to do the same,” said Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student success and wellness. “If there is an emergency or an issue that needs immediate attention or response, we call or text. After-hours emails do not require immediate responses and can wait until the next workday.”

Banahan has worked for decades in higher education, including the time before email existed. She said this helped her understand that the strain on workers caused by 24/7 connectivity can actually be worse for productivity than some periods of unresponsiveness.

A study titled “Exhausted but Unable to Disconnect” found that it’s not simply the amount of time spent on work emails, but anticipatory stress and being expected to answer emails at all times also drains employees. The study by researchers at Lehigh University, Virginia Tech and Colorado State University was presented in August at the annual meeting of the Academy of Management.

Information from 297 workers was sampled, focusing on the role of their employer’s expectation for after-hours emailing. They concluded employees’ emotional states are negatively affected, which can lead to “burnout” and harm to work-family balance.

“Email is notoriously known to be the impediment of the recovery process,” the study’s authors wrote. “Its accessibility contributes to experience of work overload since it allows employees to engage in work as if they never left the workspace and, at the same time, inhibits their ability to psychologically detach from work-related issues via continuous connectivity.”

The proposed federal labor law is in part designed to improve work-life balance for employees.

Hourly employees should completely disengage from work outside business hours. Some exceptions apply, however. A supervisor may require workers to be on call or participate in activities that require the need for response. However, without prior approval from the supervisor, employees who are paid hourly should not respond to email or text messages outside the normal workday.

Employees’ time spent responding to work emails after the workday should be documented because employees may receive compensation for that time. New university time sheet protocols say hourly workers’ time should be recorded in quarter-hour increments, and, for example, eight minutes or less is rounded down and eight minutes or more is rounded up.

The university has also taken steps to improve work life on campus.

UM leaders created the UM 2020 strategic plan with specific wellness objectives. They included developing and implementing a multiyear plan for promoting and advancing health, nutrition, exercise and individual wellness among all workers.

The university’s leadership has also made changes to two employee policies in 2015 to promote a healthier work environment. Department heads are allowed to be flexible with scheduling to let employees participate in physical activity and UM wellness programs.

With the department heads’ approval, employees are also allowed to take two breaks, up to 20 minutes each day. These breaks are designed to encourage workers to stretch, walk or take short bike rides around campus, which can benefit work performance and individual health. These breaks are crucial for “disconnecting” and recharging, employees said.

But, completely unplugging isn’t always easy to do, said Jessica Hughes, a UM human resources generalist. She admits she loves her iPhone and enjoys the diversion of social media when not working.

“I think it’s something everyone in today’s society struggles with – finding the right balance between social media and disconnecting,” Hughes said. “The idea of always being available has made unplugging that much more difficult.”

Hughes said taking a workout session led by an instructor forces her to unplug, and she tries to use the “do not disturb” feature on her phone when she needs some time to herself.

“Going to a workout class led by an instructor forces you to be 100 percent in the moment with your workout, so you really zone out for an hour and have 60 or so minutes of ‘no screen’ time,” Hughes said.

Jill Layne, a senior accountant at the university, has two young children, which leaves her with very little personal time, except daily lunch breaks. She either runs or takes group fitness classes at the Turner Center to de-stress and unplug.

“I have learned that by taking this break during the middle of the day, it has allowed me to recharge,” Layne said. “I may have a crazy morning where I can’t seem to get anything done. If I step away and leave it for a while and clear my head, I can usually come back and turn the day into a productive one.”

She said she’s in the best shape of her life and doesn’t get sick very often, partly because of her wellness efforts. She has also become friends with employees from many different campus departments whom she might not have ever met without the classes.

Judy Hopper, UM’s manager of compensation and classification in HR, said salaried employees should consider taking their lunch away from their work space, which can help remove the temptation to answer the phone or an email.

“It’s OK,” Hopper said. “Give yourself permission for periods of complete disengagement.”