Eight Exceptional UM Students Named 2017 Croft Scholars

Honorees get $4,000 per semester to fund studies, travel

The 2017 UM Croft Scholars are (front, from left) Swetha Manivannan, Susanna Cassisa, Lucy Herron, Lea Dudte and Eli Landes, and (back, from left) Colin Isaacs, Isabel Spafford and Andrew Osman. Submitted photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Croft Institute for International Studies has announced this year’s winners of eight Croft Scholarships, which pay up to $32,000 over four years, making them among the most valuable and most prestigious on campus.

The Croft Institute selects outstanding incoming freshmen as Croft Scholars each year. Winners receive $4,000 per semester for four years, and the funds can be combined with other scholarships. Croft Scholars retain the funds as long as they stay in the international studies major and maintain a 3.4 GPA both in the major and overall.

“We are proud to welcome these exceptionally talented students as our newest cohort of Croft Scholars,” said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute. “It is a wonderfully diverse group, both in terms of their background and in terms of the foreign languages and regions of the world that they are studying.”

Of the more than 270 applicants to the Croft Institute this year, 110 were admitted, and from that pool the admissions committee selected 25 prospective students to be interviewed for the scholarship. They answered follow-up questions about their application essays and questions about current affairs, their intellectual interests and their motivations for wanting to earn a B.A. in international studies.

The 2017 Croft Scholars are: Susanna Cassisa, Lea Dudte, Lucy Herron, Colin Isaacs, Eli Landes, Swetha Manivannan, Andrew Osman and Isabel Spafford. 

Like all students in the international studies major, they have chosen a foreign language to study throughout their four years in Croft, as well as one of four regions: East Asia, Europe, the Middle East, or Latin America. All eight Croft Scholars are also members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Oxford native Cassisa is a graduate of Oxford High School. Her regional focus is Europe, and she is studying German as her Croft language. 

“It is truly humbling to be chosen as a Croft Scholar from the many accomplished students in my cohort,” Cassisa said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity to continue my education at such a distinguished institution that is allowing me to combine my passion for the German language with my interest in foreign cultures and politics.”

Osman, from Ocean Springs, graduated from Ocean Springs High School. His language is Arabic and he is focusing on the Middle East.

“I was honored to be named a Croft Scholar because I am passionate about international studies, and the Croft Institute has given me the ability to study what I find interesting,” Osman said. “I am surrounded by an incredible group of peers, all of which share the same passion I hold, and I am proud to say I am a member of the Croft Institute for International Studies.”

Also from Ocean Springs, Dudte graduated from Ocean Spring High School. She is focusing on Latin America as her region and has chosen Spanish as her foreign language.

“It was such an honor to simply be accepted into the Croft Institute, so when I received a scholarship from this highly-regarded program, I was very humbled,” Dudte said. “I am so grateful for the opportunities and connections that this institute provides its students with.

“The Croft scholarship is just one example of this. Through this scholarship I am able to further pursue my studies and travels.”

Herron, from Long Beach, graduated from Pass Christian High School. She has chosen East Asia as her region, studying Chinese in the university’s prestigious Chinese Flagship program.

Isaacs is from Dyersburg, Tennessee. A graduate of Dyersburg High School, he also focuses on East Asia, and his language is Korean, which is rather popular this year as a Croft language.

Manivannan is from Collierville, Tennessee, where she graduated from Collierville High School. She is studying Spanish and is deciding between Latin America and Europe for her focus.

From El Dorado, Arkansas, Landes graduated from El Dorado High School. He is learning French and focusing on Europe as his region.

Spafford is from Albuquerque, and is a graduate of Sandia High School. She is studying Arabic and focusing on the Middle East.

UM to Debut Flagship Constellations Nov. 17 at Ford Center

Community invited to learn about research initiatives seeking to solve pressing issues

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will unveil a new initiative, Flagship Constellations, at 4 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Multidisciplinary teams, consisting of faculty, staff and students, are being created to search for meaningful solutions to complicated issues through collaborative thinking in four areas: big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

The idea for the Flagship Constellations was first announced during Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter’s investiture in November 2016.

“This initiative brings creative people and ideas together in fresh and unique ways to tackle grand challenges,” Vitter said. “The atmosphere of innovation at UM is exceptional and aligns perfectly with the Flagship Constellations’ focus on high-impact multidisciplinary research and creative achievement.

“We recognize that our goals are lofty, but as a great public international research university and the state’s flagship, we have a duty and leadership responsibility to tackle the pressing issues of our time. I am eager to see the innovations and societal contributions that will result from the success of our Flagship Constellations.”

Provost Noel Wilkin will introduce representatives from each constellation, who will discuss details about their teams and goals.

In each of the four constellations, researchers and creative-minded faculty, staff, students, alumni and university partners will focus on a specific area to develop different points of view and practical responses.

“Many of our current challenges are very complex and require a multidisciplinary approach that draws on a broad range of expertise,” said Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research and professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“The Flagship Constellations provide a natural gravitational platform for the collaboration of a diverse group of experts across the entirety of our academic enterprise that can focus on solving a central salient problem.”

These Flagship Constellations will energize the research collaborations that will be occurring across all UM campuses, Wilkin predicted.

“This will take our institution and the research that we do to new levels and bring our intellectual creativity to bear in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges,” Wilkin said. “Our researchers have been creating knowledge and making discoveries that have benefitted society for a long time.

“This initiative will focus those efforts on solving some of the most pressing issues of today.”

The event is free and open to all staff, students, faculty and alumni, as well as the general public. For those interested in attending the event, register at http://flagshipconstellations.olemiss.edu/.

Pharmacy Students Partner with McLean Institute to Make a Difference

CEED initiative allows participants to broaden their education while helping communities

Anna Katherine Burress

OXFORD, Miss. – Many pharmacy students are attracted to the profession because of a desire to help people and to build healthier communities. At the University of Mississippi, several pharmacy students have partnered with the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement over the last three years to get a head start on their goals.

Brittany Byrd, a third-professional-year student from Minneapolis, Minnesota; Kate Sackett, another PY3 from Canadian Lakes, Michigan; and Anna Katherine Burress, a sophomore in the early-entry pharmacy program from Water Valley, have participated in the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, initiative.

“We have been able to recruit outstanding UM students, like this group from the School of Pharmacy, who desire to participate with other university students and community partners in critically thinking about solutions to some of the state’s challenges,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and a UM professor of sociology.

With financial support from the McLean Institute’s Hearin grant, students work to build community partnerships to promote entrepreneurship and economic development.

“I decided to attend Ole Miss specifically for the great early-entry pharmacy program that it offers,” said Sackett, who chose pharmacy as her career path because of her passion for patient care and improving communities’ overall health. “The CEED program gave me the opportunity to meet with local Mississippi community leaders to collaborate and develop ideas to help improve their communities’ knowledge of health care, chronic diseases and medication management.”

Sackett was the first CEED student to work directly with the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston. Through a summer internship under the direction of Dr. Catherine Woodyard Moring, Sackett was part of the assessment and planning team for the opening of the state-of-the-art health center.

Brittany Byrd

She completed her CEED work in 2016, but it has been carried on by a team of CEED students, including Audrey Dayan, a 2017 Ole Miss graduate with a degree in psychology, of Oxford. Dayan is a CEED innovation scholar who worked closely with Moring and the Charleston K-12 schools to help collect data on school health councils. The data were collected in partnership with the Mississippi Department of Education.

Sackett plans to complete her pharmacy education and specialize in pediatric care to help improve the health of future generations.

Byrd was part of the CEED planning team that conducted the inaugural Entrepreneurial Learning Center in Charleston this summer. However, instead of working this summer in Charleston, Byrd, a member of the Mississippi National Guard, was deployed to South Carolina for three months during a training exercise.

Two fellow students, Austin Carroll, a senior biochemistry major from Madison and a CEED innovation scholar, and Robert Patterson, a graduate student in health promotion from Como and a CEED innovation fellow, picked up the project and worked with nearly 20 youth at the Charleston Day Club, which is a part of the National Charleston Day Organization.

J.R. Love, McLean Institute project manager of CEED, and other students in the program supported Carroll and Patterson on a rotating system.

“I chose to attend Ole Miss because of my interest in having a career in pharmacy and knowing I will have the support of my family living in Mississippi,” Byrd said. “I knew always wanted to help others, and I thought that a career in pharmacy would offer the ability to have direct access to the community while achieving this goal.”

The CEED program has proven indispensable to Byrd’s academic success, she said.

“I have been fortunate as a CEED innovation fellow to interact with many business owners and community leaders across the state,” she said. “One skill I have learned while in CEED is the ability to establish networks to attain common goals.

“My intent is to continue working with community partners as I finish my education in pharmacy, and be able to use those skills to further assist the public in many ways.”

Burress plans to continue the work set forth by her peers in the CEED program. Health care is a major factor in economic development in Mississippi and around the United States.

“Being a part of CEED has been an eye-opening experience for me,” Burress said. “CEED has allowed me to see real-world issues and how we, as students, can positively impact local markets now and into the future in Mississippi.

Kate Sackett of Canadian Lakes, Michigan. Submitted photo

“CEED has helped me meet other students from other fields of study. I am grateful to be working closely with them because I believe it will help me grow personally and prepare me for my future career.”

Burress said she hopes to complete her Doctor of Pharmacy and be making a difference in a community within 10 years.

“I would like to be working in a hospital setting somewhere in Mississippi,” she said. “In my spare time, I hope to be an active member of my community, and I would like to be a part of the mission trips, as a pharmacist, that my church offers so that I can serve others.”

Goals of the CEED initiative provide valuable experience and opportunities for pharmacy students, said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

“Many of the pharmacy school’s community health initiatives involve supporting underserved regions like the Mississippi Delta, so these collaborations with the city of Charleston are incredibly exciting,” Allen said. “It’s gratifying to see our students carrying out our mission of improving the lives of others.”

For more information on CEED, contact the McLean Institute at mclean@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2052.

Homecoming Week to Feature Variety of Fun Events

Activities begin Monday on campus

Homecoming week will feature a variety of fun activities for UM students, faculty, staff and alumni. Many events this fall will be staged on the Galtney-Lott Plaza. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s that time of year again when University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff and the LOU community will unite to celebrate the Ole Miss Rebels.

A week of fun-filled events will lead up to the annual Homecoming game at 2:30 p.m. Oct. 14, when the Rebels will go head-to-head with the Vanderbilt Commodores.

Here is a list of events to look forward to during this year’s Homecoming Week:

Monday (Oct. 9)

Mechanical Shark – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. The Galtney-Lott Plaza will have a mechanical shark that daring people can ride. Be honest, how long have you been waiting to ride a Landshark?

Free Popcorn – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Another event sponsored by the Student Activities Association on the Galtney-Lott Plaza. I don’t know about you, but I can smell the butter already.

Presentation: Frank King – 7 p.m. King, a comedian, writer and suicide prevention expert, is set to speak at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. He will touch on his lifelong battle with depression and thoughts of suicide, as well as the importance of fighting stigmas, in an engaging, clever and thoughtful dialogue with his audience.

Tuesday (Oct. 10)

Sno-Biz – 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Stop by the Galtney-Lott Plaza to get a snow cone.

Silent Disco – 9-11 p.m. This dance party is one the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced. So come by the Grove Tuesday night to dance like no one’s listening. In case of rain, the Silent Disco will be held in the Tad Pad.

Wednesday (Oct. 11)

Games in the Circle – 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Come by the Circle to play a number of games that are sure to make lasting memories, and no, we’re not just talking about a neverending game of Trust Fall.

Wheel of Wow – 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Come one, come all and spin the wheel at the Galtney-Lott Plaza for a chance to win various giveaways for students. This event is sponsored by the Student Activities Association.

Trivia and Pizza Night – 6:30-7:30 p.m. This event will be held in the Grove, and to avoid any cheesy pizza puns, it’s a great chance to meet new people over some trivia. 

Thursday (Oct. 12)

Free Waffles – 8 a.m. They’ll be serving free, yes free, waffles Thursday morning on the Galtney-Lott Plaza. So get up and at ’em because the early bird gets the waffles.

Meet ‘n’ Greet the Homecoming Court – Noon-1 p.m. Come to the Circle to meet the ladies and gentlemen on the Homecoming court.

Rebels Got Talent – 7 p.m. The Grove Stage will be graced by students of many talents Thursday night. So come and cheer on your friends! It’ll be like “America’s Got Talent” except better because Domino’s Pizza will be providing free pizza. I wonder what Simon thinks about that?

Friday (Oct. 13)

Coffee with a Cop – 8 a.m. Come enjoy hot, fresh coffee with Oxford police officers on the Galtney-Lott Plaza. Ask them questions about their jobs, lives and/or experiences, because what’s less scary than seeing a cop at 8 a.m.? Sipping coffee with a cop at 8 a.m.

Homecoming Parade and Pep Rally – 5:30 p.m. Get ready to rally folks, the parade will begin at the Circle and continues to the Square Friday evening.

Everybody’s Formal – 8:30-11:30 p.m. The Jefferson will host this year’s Everybody’s Formal where – get this – everybody’s invited. Dress in a semiformal attire and get ready to dance the night away.

Distinguished Alumni Awards Reception – 6 p.m. The Inn at Ole Miss will host a reception honoring the winners of the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards.

Distinguished Alumni Awards Ceremony and Dinner – 7 p.m. Following the reception is the ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom followed by dinner. Please note that this is a ticketed event.

Saturday (Oct. 14)

Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association – 9:30 a.m. Come to mingle at the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss with the Alumni Association.

Tailgates – Join alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends for a pre-game tailgate.

Black Alumni Reunion Kickoff Tailgate – 11:30 a.m., along the Student Union construction site in the Grove.

English Department Alumni Tailgate – 11:30 a.m., location to be announced.

Meek School of Journalism & New Media Tailgate – 11:30 a.m., Farley Hall lawn

School of Education Tailgate – 11:30 a.m., north lawn of the Triplett Alumni Center

School of Engineering Tailgate – 12:20 p.m., Brevard Hall lawn

Homecoming Game – 2:30 p.m., Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt

Halftime – Introduction of the Alumni Awards Day recipients and Alumni Association President Hal Moore. Crowning of Homecoming Queen Christina Lawler by Alumni Association President Hal Moore. Performance by the Pride of the South Marching Band

Sunday (Oct. 15)

Miss University Pageant – 5:30 p.m. Come to the Ford Center to celebrate the end of Homecoming Week and to practice your best pageant wave as you cheer on participants in this year’s pageant.

North Mississippi VISTA Project Receives Seventh Year of Funding

Grant renewal brings $595,000 to region for programming and resources

Volunteers with the North Mississippi VISTA Project work with nonprofit organizations throughout the region to help improve the quality of life for residents. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Corporation for National and Community Service has approved a $595,000 grant to fund the North Mississippi VISTA Project, housed in the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, for the 2017-18 year.

The Volunteers in Service to America project, commonly known as VISTA, officially moved to the McLean Institute in fall 2016. The program was previously administered by the College of Liberal Arts.

NMVP sponsors 17 organizations and has the capacity to recruit 25 full-year VISTA members to serve throughout north Mississippi and the Delta.

“The North Mississippi VISTA Project continues to establish and foster beneficial partnerships and programs that advance education in underserved communities across the state,” said Albert Nylander, McLean Institute director and UM professor of sociology. “The work that our VISTAs do has the singular purpose of fighting poverty through education.”

The project’s volunteers help provide a wide range of educational enrichment activities, said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute.

“From writing grants that sustain programming to recruiting and training volunteers, North Mississippi VISTAs help to connect our flagship university’s capacity with nonprofits and school systems all over our state,” she said.

VISTA members commit to one year of service where they focus on building sustainable capacity within local organizations and delivering a measurable impact on the populations they serve. VISTAs work to manage and recruit volunteers, create opportunities for low-income youth, foster social entrepreneurship, write grants, increase access to higher education and more.

“Service is a vital and impactful experience for many of us,” said VISTA leader Shannon Curtis. “The opportunity to serve as a VISTA, as well as a VISTA leader, has allowed me to develop the skills to ensure that our campus and community partners create sustainable systems to further their missions to alleviate poverty through education.”

NMVP service members are serving with several organizations based on campus and in Oxford. This includes United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County, Horizons at UM, Doors of Hope Transition Ministries, the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, and Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

Partners outside Lafayette County include the Sunflower County Freedom Project in Sunflower, Quitman County School District in Marks, Rosedale Freedom Project in Rosedale and the Rust College Community Development Corp. in Holly Springs.

In the next year and beyond, the NVMP will continue to develop host sites around north Mississippi, cultivating projects and placing VISTAs with community partners that fight poverty through education. Examples of VISTA projects include the creation of College Corps, the Mississippi Presenters Network, programmatic and fundraising collaborations for LOU Excel By 5 and many other nonprofits around the community, the Travelling Trunks program at the University Museum, and the College Aspiration Initiative, which supports high school juniors and seniors in three different school districts who wish to go to college.

Many VISTAs are recent graduates of Ole Miss programs, such as the Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Croft Institute for International Studies and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Sara Baker, who graduated from UM in 2015 and served as the Student Opportunities VISTA before becoming a North Mississippi VISTA leader, is the cross service year programming coordinator for NYC Service, an initiative of the city of New York.

“Service has long been a part of my life,” Baker said. “The most fulfilling aspect of being able to serve as a VISTA, VISTA leader and through UM College Corps was getting to know different communities around Mississippi and seeing the hard work that not only organizations and programs, but also community members and volunteers put into fighting poverty.

“I feel truly privileged to have had the opportunity to work with the VISTAs, students and Mississippians who were engaged in the struggle to alleviate poverty. I gained and honed many skills needed to make my professional aspirations a reality while being able to dedicate years of my life to making my home state better.”

Many other VISTAs have continued their education after their year of service. NMVP alumni have gone into graduate programs at Brandeis University, Princeton University, Stanford University, the University of Georgia and Vanderbilt University.

Nylander said he is inspired about the prospect of expanding the program and continuing to strengthen connections between the NMVP and the McLean Institute’s other initiatives.

“The goals and mission of NMVP and the McLean Institute align perfectly, and we look forward to NMVP’s future growth and continued success,” he said.

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact VISTA leaders Shannon Curtis and Edy Dingus at VISTA@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2397.

North Mississippi VISTA Project Hosts Donation Drive for Veterans

OXFORD, Miss. – In honor of the Sept. 11 Day of Service, the North Mississippi VISTA project is hosting a communitywide donation drive for the veterans in residence at the State Veterans Home in Lafayette County.

The Volunteers in Service to America project encourages community members to donate items requested by the State Veterans Home, including wheelchair bags, headphones, acrylic paint and art supplies, black ink pens and stationery supplies, Kleenex, and candy. Donations will be accepted during normal business hours at the Chamber of Commerce, Volunteer Oxford and the United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County.

The drive is ongoing through Sept. 22.

The North Mississippi VISTA Project sponsors 18 organizations throughout north Mississippi and the Delta. VISTA members commit to one year of indirect service where they focus on building sustainable capacity within community-based organizations.

“The Days of Service allow our VISTAs several chances to join direct service efforts throughout the year,” says VISTA leader Edy Dingus. “We hoped that this drive would highlight the importance of impactful service by connecting our community to our VISTAs and our veterans.”

The VISTA Donation Drive for Veterans is just one of the scheduled activities offered through Volunteer Oxford and community partners in honor of the Sept. 11 Day of Remembrance.

For more information about the drive or the North Mississippi VISTA Project, contact VISTA leaders Shannon Curtis and Edy Dingus at VISTA@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2397.

Barbour to Receive Geographic Visionary Award

UM's Mississippi Geographic Alliance to honor former governor Sept. 7

Haley Barbour

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi will honor former Gov. Haley Barbour with its MGA Geographic Visionary Award at the fifth annual awards ceremony Sept. 7.

News analyst, White House correspondent and author Ellen Ratner will be the keynote speaker. The event is set for 6 p.m. at the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson.

“Knowing geography is essential to understanding history,” Barbour said. “If you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it.” 

Barbour will join Ambassador John Palmer (2013), George Schloegel (2014), U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran (2015), and William Winter and Leland Speed (2016) as Geographic Visionary award recipients. The award honors a Mississippi business or civic leader who recognizes the importance of global understanding and awareness for Mississippians and/or promotes understanding about Mississippi in other parts of the world.

The Jess McKee Award for Distinguished Service to Geography Education also will be presented at the event to Steven White, a teacher at Pearl High School.

“I am very pleased to congratulate Gov. Barbour on this well-deserved recognition of his leadership,” said UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who plans to attend the event. “From economic development to disaster preparedness and recovery, Gov. Barbour has had a tremendous impact upon the state of Mississippi.

“He understands that success in the modern world depends upon being able to work globally. His leadership has enhanced Mississippi’s global stature and positioned our state to compete for and win important economic development projects.”

As governor, Barbour helped connect Mississippi to the world through his work in recruiting major international companies, including Toyota, and by investing in manufacturing. He was nationally recognized for his swift response during Hurricane Katrina, and he received the Thomas Jefferson Freedom Award and the Gulf Guardian Award for his work in helping to rebuild Gulf of Mexico ecosystems.

“His national and international reach along with his long history of supporting education, make him an excellent fit for the Geographic Visionary award,” said Carley Lovorn, assistant director of the Mississippi Geographic Alliance.

“Exports support tens of thousands of jobs in Mississippi. As foreign investment continues to increase in our state, it is more important than ever that we recognize Mississippi leaders who help connect us with the global economy. The MGA Geographic Visionary Award does just that.”

White, a National Geographic Certified Educator and MGA teacher consultant, has held numerous education leadership positions in the state, including officer positions in the Mississippi Council for the Social Studies and the Mississippi Geographic Alliance. He was Rosa Scott High School’s Teacher of the Year 2012-13, the Mississippi Council for the Social Studies Teacher of the Year 2003-04 and winner of the Jesse Palmer Award for Mississippi Social Studies Educator of the Year in 2015.

In recent years, he has served on staff for the Pre-Service Geography Conference, a geography education conference for education students around the state. He has also served as a judge and scorekeeper for the state-level National Geographic Bee and is a three-time winner of educational and technology grants for enhancing classroom geography education.

He is past president and assistant director of the Mississippi Council for the Social Studies and team leader for public policy for the Mississippi Geographic Alliance. In 2013 he was one of eight in the nation to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award for K-12 educators at the National Conference on Geographic Education.

Mississippians interact with people, companies and governments around the world. The state exports billions of dollars in products to more than 100 countries each year.

The Mississippi Geographic Alliance, part of National Geographic Society’s Alliance Network, helps prepare Mississippians to interact with the world by increasing geographic literacy through geography education services including outreach to civic leaders and policymakers, awareness raising among the general public, and professional development for K-12 educators.

All proceeds from the MGA Geographic Visionary Awards will go directly toward funding MGA programs in the state, including giant map programs for students and professional development for K-12 teachers.

Sponsorships at multiple levels are available. For more information on sponsorships and registration, go to http://mga.olemiss.edu/events/ or call the MGA office at 662-915-3776.

About the Mississippi Geographic Alliance: The Mississippi Geographic Alliance at the University of Mississippi works to strengthen geographic literacy in the state of Mississippi. A member of the nationwide network of state alliances sponsored by the National Geographic Society, MGA uses workshops, online resources and other programs to help educators prepare students to embrace a diverse world, succeed in the global economy and steward the planet’s resources. For more information, visit http://mga.olemiss.edu/, or contact Carley Lovorn at mclovorn@olemiss.edu or 662-915-3776.

Dedication of New Medical School Bodes Well for Health Care’s Future

Building will allow UMMC to increase class sizes, help fill state's need for new doctors

Johnny Lippincott, a fourth-year student in the UM School of Medicine, addresses a
crowd of dignitaries, students and faculty during dedication ceremonies for the new medical school.

JACKSON, Miss. – Elected officials and other dignitaries attending Friday’s (Aug. 4) dedication of the University of Mississippi’s new, $74 million School of Medicine building celebrated a new era in medical education and health care for the state.

The breadth of the 151,000-square-foot facility on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus means more space for students, more students for each class and, consequently, more doctors for Mississippi.

“This remarkable building will be filled with students endowed with the seeds of greatness,” said Gov. Phil Bryant, who addressed a gathering of an estimated 200 officials, students, faculty members and other guests in the ground-level entrance lobby, before the formal ribbon-cutting.

The facility presents these students with “the greatest opportunity for success,” Bryant said.

Featuring the institution’s familiar, yellow-brick facade, the building’s five stories offer its students something they haven’t had for many years: a single, purpose-built facility, a home of their own.

Dr. Ford Dye, a member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, said, that as a graduate of the medical school in the 1990s, “I look around at this building and I realize my timing was bad.”

The medical students’ new home replaces a disjointed collection of accommodations and services, including classrooms, labs, lecture halls and training centers – a dispersal resulting from six decades of expansion.

“A glorious chapter is beginning in the history of education in Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“History is all around us and is part of this day. It reminds me that we are doing something important. … Something that future stories will be made of.”

The new School of Medicine stands five floors high and has square footage of about 151,000 feet.

For many of those who worked for and supported the construction of the building, this is part of the story that resonates the most: The dimensions allow for a boost in the size of each entering class, and larger classes mean more physicians will be trained each year in Mississippi, a fact noted by Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor.

Adding physicians to the state’s workforce, he said today, will “improve access to quality health care for the citizens of Mississippi.”

Mississippi ranks last, at roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, as reported in 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The only other medical school in the state is at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, which opened in fall 2009 and awards the Doctor of Osteopathy degree, while the university’s offers the Doctor of Medicine, or M.D.

The hope is that many of the school’s graduates will stay in the state, which U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper encouraged them to do in his address: “I say this to the medical students, ‘There’s no place like Mississippi. … There’s no place better.'”

With the new school building, plans are to expand entering class sizes from around 145 students to 155, and to eventually top off at approximately 165 – the total considered necessary to meet the state’s goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

“This is a project that had unanimous support in the Mississippi Legislature,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “Everyone in the Legislature recognized the need.”

Located on the north side of the campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the site is the educational core of the Medical Center. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and the Health Related Professions, along with the emerging School of Population Health housed in the new Translational Research Center.

The two other schools represented on campus are nursing and graduate studies in the health sciences.

Financing of the new medical school included state funds and a $10 million Community Development Block Grant awarded through the Mississippi Development Authority and administered through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District for site and infrastructure work.

Construction was the job of general contractor Roy Anderson Corp., headquartered in Gulfport. Two architectural firms worked in tandem: Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers P.A. in Jackson, and Eley Guild Hardy Architects P.A., which has offices in Jackson and Biloxi and designed the Robert C. Khayat Law Center in Oxford.

In Jackson, the task was to build and design the replacement for a school housed in the original Medical Center complex, which opened in July 1955 and, at 490,000 square feet, was considered one of the biggest, and most modern, buildings, in the state.

Over the years, demands for space grew, and, as the Medical Center spread out, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

 On top of that, by the early 2000s, the AAMC had predicted a nationwide doctor shortage and asked medical schools across the country to pump up class sizes by about 30 percent. Accreditation standards were also changing, and in order to meet them, the School of Medicine would need more room, an increase and upgrade in simulation facilities, additional classrooms that accommodate interactive group learning, and more.

It was clear to Medical Center officials that a new, state-of-the-art facility was more likely to meet the future needs of medical students. A succession of vice chancellors, including Woodward, guided the venture, starting with Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. James Keeton.

Promoted by administrators as a potential economic development boon, the project gained the support of lawmakers and Bryant, who was lieutenant governor at the time.

After years of planning, UMMC officials staged a ceremonial groundbreaking Jan. 7, 2013 in the parking lot that has been transformed into a new medical school.

“Who would think you would have an emotion about a building?” said Keeton, a 1965 medical school alumnus who retired with emeritus status this year. One of those emotions is “joy,” he said today.

As for the new crop of medical students arriving next week, he said, recalling his own first days as a first-year medical student, “Let me tell you what their emotion is right now: fear.”

Students were among the members of a steering committee that brought back ideas from other medical schools when this one was being planned. For instance, the twin amphitheaters, which function as lecture halls, are modeled after Emory University’s and offer advanced AV equipment, integrated sound systems and sound-dampening features.

Overall, in the words of architect Rob Farr, the design is “student-focused.” The building’s southern face overlooks a courtyard and brings in natural light to student work and study areas.

The second level is organized for “student movement,” while the upper floors are focused on teaching stations and support areas that frame a space-organizing central atrium.

Some architectural details are homages to tradition, as well as to the medical profession: Certain areas are appointed with glass etched with rolling lines simulating an EKG; on the floor of the lobby where the dedication was held is a representation of the great seal of the university: a human eye surrounded by the sun; a wall of the student lounge is decorated with medical terms.

The cutting-edge simulation training area has a dedicated floor and was made possible in great part by nearly $5 million in grants from the Hearin Foundation. It is equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Foundation – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

“Over the course of the next 50 years, we’re going to deliberately wear it out,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education, referring to the building as a whole.

Fourth-year medical student Johnny Lippincott, president of the class of 2018, said he’s particularly proud of the way the building’s technological components are designed to be able to adapt to future updates.

In his remarks today, he also praised the facility’s spaciousness and homage to “natural light.”

Ultimately, though, he said, “This is all about what we do for our future patients.”

The upshot, from the ground up:

Ground floor: Office space, student lounge, cafe, storage lockers

First floor: Classrooms, group studies, twin amphitheaters, Legacy Wall (bearing the names of donors and relating the history of UMMC)

Second floor: Classrooms and group studies (mostly repeats first-floor layout)

Third floor: Basic and Advanced Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training Center, wet and dry labs, training and group study rooms, expandable conference rooms

Fourth floor: Office of Interprofessional Simulation Training Assessment Research and Safety, exam and simulation rooms, Standardized Patient training (with actors who portray patients)

The public is invited to explore the building, 9 a.m.-noon Saturday during an open house with self-guided tours and hosts on each floor.

Volunteers Sought to Fight Poverty in Mississippi

North Mississippi VISTA Project accepting applications for terms of service beginning in August

Jeffrey Peavey, a former VISTA with Delta State University, and Shannon Curtis, co-leader of the North Mississippi VISTA Project, visit while working on a community project. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The North Mississippi VISTA Project is recruiting members to begin a yearlong term of service in August. The Volunteers in Service to America Project sponsors 14 organizations and can recruit up to 25 full-year VISTA members to serve throughout north Mississippi and the Delta.

The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, directed by Albert Nylander, professor of sociology, works with the Corporation for National and Community Service and to lead the North Mississippi VISTA Project.

VISTA members commit to one year of service, where they focus on building sustainable capacity within community-based organizations and delivering a measurable impact on the impoverished populations they serve.

“My years serving with VISTA have been two of the most enriching and fulfilling professionally and personally of my life,” VISTA leader Shannon Curtis said. “My time in service with the North Mississippi VISTA Project has allowed me to hone skills and knowledge that allows me to build capacity for my sites, as well as my own resume, while working toward eradicating poverty in Mississippi.”

The North Mississippi VISTA Project is recruiting for several organizations based on campus and in Lafayette County, including sites such as the University Museum and the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County. Positions outside the county include Title I school districts and nonprofit organizations such as the North Panola School District and Sunflower County Freedom Project.

Prospective applicants must be motivated, reliable team players who are 18 years or older and have earned at least a high school diploma or GED. Interested individuals are invited to visit http://vista.olemiss.edu/ for application instructions. The priority deadline for applications is May 1.

Project leaders plan to continue to develop host sites around north Mississippi, cultivate projects and place VISTAs with community partners that fight poverty through education. In the 2016-17 program year, the VISTA project contributed more than $650,000 to the region.

Alumna Lauryn DuValle, who served as a VISTA with at the UM School of Education before becoming a North Mississippi VISTA leader, is an Eli J. Segal Policy Fellow at the Service Year Alliance in Washington, D.C.

“My experience with the North Mississippi VISTA Project helped me garner the resilience necessary to succeed in life,” DuValle said. “The supportive collaboration of university students, faculty, staff, Mississippi’s many communities and the passion led by my fellow VISTAs helped in solidifying the theory of serving your fellow man as a means of us all succeeding. We are only as great as the least of us.”

Many North Mississippi VISTA alumni have gone to graduate programs at Harvard University, New York University, Princeton University and Stanford University, as well as to find work in the public, nonprofit and private sectors.

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact VISTA leaders Sara Baker and Shannon Curtis at VISTA@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2397.

Marty Stuart to Headline Concert at Mississippi Bicentennial North

June 24 event also features Mac McAnally, Steve Azar and salute to state's musical heritage

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant join country singer Steve Azar, Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson and Craig Ray, director of Visit Mississippi, at Rowan Oak to announce plans for the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration North, set for June 24 in Oxford. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Country and Americana music legend Marty Stuart will headline the Governor’s Concert at the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration North, set for June 24 in Oxford. The free event is part of celebrations around the state during 2017.

“In a state known for master storytellers, Oxford is a literary capital,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “There is no better backdrop for a celebration featuring some of Mississippi’s greatest songwriters than the land of William Faulkner, where our literary tradition thrives.”

Stuart will lead the Governor’s Concert lineup at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi. The Philadelphia native began his career as a sideman for country legends Lester Flatt and Johnny Cash before striking gold and platinum in his solo career, which spans more than three decades.

The Governor’s Concert also will feature singer-songwriter Mac McAnally, a hitmaker for Kenny Chesney and Alabama and a longtime member of Jimmy Buffett’s backing band, plus Mississippi’s Music and Culture Ambassador, Steve Azar, and Shannon McNally.

“We Are Mississippi,” a salute to the state’s musical heritage conducted by Jay Dean, executive director of the Arts Institute of Mississippi, will kick off the concert. Additional acts in the showcase include Vasti Jackson, the Roots Gospel Voices of Mississippi, 2015 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Contest winner David Lee, the Mississippi Bicentennial Symphony Orchestra, the Mississippi Bicentennial Singers and the 200-voice Mississippi Bicentennial Chorus.

“As shown by our more than 200 Blues Trail and Country Music Trail markers, Mississippi is very fortunate to have generations of talented musicians to lead us in celebration during the bicentennial year,” said Glenn McCullough Jr., executive director of the Mississippi Development Authority.

The Bicentennial Celebration North officially begins from 5 to 6:30 p.m. June 23 with the “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” exhibit in the Faulkner Room at university’s J.D. Williams Library. A live taping of Thacker Mountain Radio in the Grove will follow at 7 p.m.

“The state’s bicentennial celebration is a great opportunity to showcase the wonderful Lafayette-Oxford-University community and all of the north region,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We appreciate all the hard work by the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration Commission and partner organizations to mark the 200th anniversary of Mississippi’s statehood.”

All events during the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration are free and open to the public. Due to limited seating, the Governor’s Concert is free with ticketed admission. Attendees must reserve tickets online at http://www.visitmississippi.org/200. Visitors are limited to two tickets each.

“By hosting these bicentennial events in three major regions of the state, we are able to celebrate with our towns and communities and showcase what makes Mississippi truly great,” said Craig Ray, Visit Mississippi director.

Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration events are also planned for Dec. 9 in Jackson during the grand opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. For more information on the Mississippi Bicentennial Celebration, visit http//www.visitmississippi.org/200.