UMMC Fellowship Opens Door to Prestigious Mayo Clinic Opportunity

Public policy leadership major took new perspectives to summer program

Anna Grace Stout

Anna Grace Stout

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi senior Anna Grace Stout of Carthage used her experience at the University of Mississippi Medical Center Bioethics Fellowship to gain acceptance to a prestigious Mayo Clinic Summer Program.

The Mayo Clinic Summer Undergraduate Program in Biomedical Ethics Research pairs students with a faculty mentor for summer research. Stout was paired this summer with Dr. Megan Allyse, who specializes in reproductive ethics and women’s health, and Dr. Katherine Carroll, a medical sociologist, on two separate projects.

Stout participated in qualitative research in the women’s health field and conducted focus groups while she also helped develop a codebook for Carroll.

Because the Mayo Clinic chooses only five students nationwide for the Summer Undergraduate Program, Stout was in a select group of participants. She credits her experience in summer 2014 as a UM Medical Center fellow as being crucial to being accepted into the Mayo Clinic program.

“My experience at UMMC allowed me to bring a new perspective to the table,” Stout said. “While there, I experienced firsthand the ethical dilemmas our state faces.”

Because she is majoring in public policy leadership with double minors in chemistry and biology, Stout seems like an unorthodox applicant for the medical programs. However, Stout said her studies have given her invaluable experience benefitting both the Mayo Clinic program and the UM Medical Center fellowship.

“I chose public policy leadership because I believe that an understanding of the policy realm and health policies is invaluable for both aspiring and practicing physicians,” Stout said.

Through her participation in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute, Stout said she learned communication and time-management skills that make her a more competitive and well-rounded student.

Now that she has completed both programs, Stout said she is eager to bring her knowledge back to her home state.

“As a Mississippian and an aspiring physician, I hope to help make strides towards improving health care in our state,” Stout said.

She was able to use her experience in both programs to organize the university’s first poverty simulation program. The program’s purpose is to demonstrate poverty’s extensive impact on the community.

“My aim is to apply what I have learned over the years as I continue to work towards a better understanding of the factors that impact our health care system,” Stout said.

Internship Helps Political Science Student Prepare for Graduate School

NSF program provided intensive academic atmosphere and research opportunities

Jacob Smith presents his research on human trafficking at the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science at the University of North Texas.

Jacob Smith presents his research on human trafficking at the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science at the University of North Texas.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi political science major Jacob Smith was accepted to the National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates in Civil Conflict Management and Peace Science this summer at the University of North Texas.

Smith, a senior from Corinth, was recommended to the program by his UM mentor, Matt DiGuseppe, assistant professor of political science. DiGueseppe describes Smith as an ideal candidate for the program that exposes and prepares exceptional undergraduates for graduate programs in conflict management and peace science.

“Jake can often find the core of an argument very quickly and offer his own, often on point, critique,” DiGuseppe said. “In other words, he not only digests class material but has sharp critical thinking skills that are necessary to generate, instead of consume, research. Knowing that Jake had plans to attend graduate school, I thought this program offered the opportunity for him to hone his skills and provide him with a competitive advantage over other graduate school applicants.”

Faculty members in the UM political science department were readily available to answer questions and offer advice on participating in such an intensive academic atmosphere, Smith said.

“The University of Mississippi did an excellent job of preparing me for the rigors of a condensed NSF program that describes itself as the first year of graduate school in an eight-week program,” he said. “I was as prepared as I could possibly be for the amount of work required on a daily basis due to the excellent teaching of the Ole Miss staff.”

The eight-week residence program hosted by UNT’s renowned political science department provides eight undergraduates with opportunities to engage in graduate-level empirical research and present their results at local and national conferences. Participating students receive a $4,000 stipend, free room and board, and paid travel expenses.

Smith’s research focuses on human trafficking, a topic he says is a fairly under-researched area of political science. With plans to pursue his doctorate, he hopes to expand his research to include new variables such as how geographical features effect human trafficking. Smith plans to present his project at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference in April 2016.

After completing the program, Smith took a much-needed vacation to visit a high school friend in Vancouver, Canada. Although it gave him little time to prepare for the upcoming semester, he was able to relax and explore Vancouver.

Smith encourages other students to seek learning experiences outside their comfort zones.

“Don’t be afraid to take opportunities you don’t feel that you are prepared for,” Smith said. “Oftentimes the journey will prepare you better than the classroom ever could.”

Janai Walton Impresses as Intern at Semmes Murphey

UM senior gained practical experience while gaining a passion for health care

unnamed copy

Janai Walton speaking with Ole Miss Alum and CEO, John Lewis.

OXFORD, Miss. – Everybody is familiar with the satisfaction of a job well done. But for many college students, that doesn’t necessarily translate to having high spirits about their prospective careers. Luckily for Janai Walton, her internship this summer provided both the satisfaction of good work and a career path she can be passionate about.

Walton, a 21-year-old chemistry major at the University of Mississippi, interned for the Semmes Murphey Foundation, which specializes in technology and procedures pertaining to neurological and spinal disorders.

“I’ve always wanted to be in the medical field,” said Walton, a senior from Memphis, Tennessee. “At first, I wanted to be a pediatrician, but a family member exposed me to pharmacy, which is now what I want to do.”

A family friend had notified Walton that the foundation would be offering internships for the first time this summer. She was chosen among a dozen summer interns to receive college credit while also gaining valuable experience in the medical field.

“It was a real good experience for me. This basically solidified this as my chosen profession,” Walton said. “Everything was straightforward and hands-on. I never got out of my comfort zone and everyone there made me feel very comfortable.”

Most of Walton’s work revolved around creating spreadsheets for various medications as well as shadowing the doctors and nurses. Surgical procedures are not for the faint of heart, but Walton was calm and collective throughout the summer.

“I was able to look in on surgeries and get real practical experience,” she said. “The opportunity to witness the whole surgical procedure was the biggest takeaway. For us even to be in the room, the patients had to sign off and OK it. It was definitely what I expected. It was crazy.”

Walton already knew that she wanted to a career in the medical field, but still would urge other students to take advantage of internship opportunities while still in school.

“Everyone should take the experience because areas can be so broad,” she said. “You never know until you are put in that situation.”

After such an eventful summer with her internship, Walton said she cannot wait to finish up her remaining courses and be able to apply what she learned.

“I really think this experience will give me more passion in my studies,” she said. “The journey in my studies has been hectic, but now I know it was all for a purpose. I know that journey was worth it.”

Following dreams and being satisfied with the outcomes are becoming less and less likely in this technological business climate, but not for Walton. Her dreams are on the cusp of coinciding with the ultimate satisfaction of finding the career she has wanted all along.

UM Gets Custom Commencement Regalia

New attire to debut at 2016 ceremonies

For the first time in its more than 160 year history, the university has its own custom regalia, which graduates will wear at the 2016 Commencement.

For the first time in its more than 160 year history, the university has its own custom regalia, which graduates will wear at the 2016 Commencement.

OXFORD, Miss. – Starting in May 2016, University of Mississippi graduates will don custom-designed red and blue Commencement caps and gowns bearing the Lyceum logo, the first time in school history that the university has had its own custom regalia.

A university committee led by Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, and Alice Clark, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, studied options. They picked eye-catching navy blue gowns, complete with a Lyceum logo on the chest and double red stripes down the sides.

“They’re absolutely beautiful,” Clark said. “The Lyceum is an iconic symbol. Featured on the robe, it jumps out and brings distinction to the entire regalia.”

While they were waiting in line at Commencement 2014, university officials discussed how some universities have their own impressive custom gowns, caps and tams for graduation and it was time Ole Miss had its own. Then-Provost Morris Stocks charged Hephner LaBanc and Clark to find a custom university cap and gown for Ole Miss graduates. They put together a team to study options.

The committee settled on a design from R.M. Hendrick Graduate Supply House, a Mississippi company that has supplied UM’s regalia for years. 

Stocks said he’s very pleased with the new graduation garb and excited to see it used. 

“I look forward to a landscape of Ole Miss blue at our beautiful Commencement ceremony on May 14, 2016,” the acting chancellor said. “I am also excited that our Ph.D. graduates will proudly represent us wearing distinctive University of Mississippi regalia at commencement ceremonies around the world.” 

The undergraduate cap and gown rental prices will remain the same for the coming year. The doctoral gowns are also available for purchase, and many doctoral students opt to buy their regalia to wear when they participate in future commencement ceremonies. With the university having its own custom regalia, it’s likely many more will opt to own it.

“I just think it builds more pride in our community and in our institution,” Hephner LaBanc said.

One side benefit of the new regalia is that it will also be much more visually appealing than the previous black robes, which the university used for much of its more-than-160-year history.

“I can’t wait until this coming May to look out and see a sea of these new caps and gowns,” Hephner LaBanc said.

Acting Provost Noel Wilkin praised Hephner LaBanc and Clark’s work to find the best option.

“Dr. Hephner LaBanc and Dr. Clark have done an outstanding job of researching and working with the campus community to design the new regalia,” Wilkin said. “We look forward to this enhancement to our Commencement ceremony. Offering our own distinctive regalia will add to the growing academic traditions of the University of Mississippi.”

Q&A with Andrew Hayes, 16-year-old UM Student

Freshman year brought adjustments, fond memories for one of the university's youngest students ever

Andrew Hayes

Andrew Hayes

OXFORD, Miss. – Andrew Hayes had a perfect 4.0 grade-point average for his first two semesters at the University of Mississippi.

For most college students, that accomplishment might typically be met with a polite shrug and congratulations. But, Hayes, of Saltillo, is no ordinary enrollee. He’s one of the youngest students in Ole Miss history, one of four 15-year-olds who were in the 2015 freshman class.

Hayes, who was homeschooled and graduated high school before enrolling at UM, commuted to Ole Miss each day like many students, but his mother drove him because he was too young to have a license.

The 16-year-old, who was classified as a sophomore by the end of his first semester, answered a few questions for the Ole Miss News blog about his experiences during his first year at the university.

Tell me how your first year as a teenage Ole Miss student went. What were some of the challenges of it, but also some of the things you’ll always remember?

Hayes: I am happy to report that my first year went a lot better than I had expected, and against all odds, I maintained a 4.0 GPA through both semesters. I was homeschooled through high school, so it was definitely a big adjustment to go from a single teacher – who knew me very well – to a half-dozen different professors I had never met before, each with different preferences and a dizzying carousel of assignments and deadlines. The other students were used to having several different teachers in a school setting and managing the time spent on each assignment accordingly. I, on the other hand, was used to spending a lot of time on every project to ensure it was just right.

I’ll never forget agonizing over a term paper, working on it for two-and-a-half months, footnoting it extensively, editing the whole thing several times, even to the detriment of other subjects, only to find out that the other students in the class had spent an average of around a week on the same paper and did just as well.

How did you adjust to the grind of student life?

Hayes: I lived off-campus the entire semester, so I actually commuted around 45 minutes to an hour – one way – every day from my home near Tupelo. Needless to say, this put an extra squeeze on my time, so I was unable to really get involved in groups on campus. However, I did join the Model United Nations, which was a lot of fun.

How were you received by your professors and your fellow students?

Hayes: I was first worried that the other students – and even the professors – might look at me like I had two heads all the time. However, after a bit of initial shock and confused curiosity, I was generally accepted to be another (relatively) normal student. I remember, one of my friends was talking to me about a movie that she was going to see, and knowing that I was a movie buff, asked if I would like to go with her and some of her friends. Of course, I had to tell her at the time that I couldn’t drive myself. She looked at me confused for a second and then laughed and said, “Andrew, sometimes I forget how young you are.”

Talk about how the classes you took have shaped your path. A lot of times, college classes spark an interest in people and make them love something they study. Was there a moment where that happened for you?

Hayes: I can’t really say that I’ve had a “lightbulb” moment in any one of my classes. I came into college very interested in public policy and economics, and that hasn’t really changed, and I have really enjoyed the classes that I have taken in those subjects, so I think that those are still good areas for me to study.

What do your high school friends think about you being at Ole Miss?

Hayes: My friends think it’s really neat that I started college so early, but, unfortunately, all the time in Oxford has meant that I haven’t been able to spend much time with my old friends.

Have you made any decisions about continuing college and where you’ll go, what you’ll study?

Hayes: After Ole Miss (even though that’s three long years away), I would like to plow ahead and get a master’s and eventually a doctorate in economics. I haven’t thought much about where, but I’m attracted to Columbia and Princeton because of their strong economics programs. I would eventually like to get a job as a college professor or as an analyst for the government or a corporation.

What can you say about the quality of the education you’ve received here, as well as the experience of being on campus?

Hayes: The quality of education at Ole Miss has been very good. The professors I’ve had have all been encouraging and fair and very willing to help students excel. Even though it’s a big adjustment from homeschooling, I love coming to the campus and getting up every morning, even when the commute seemed long. Every one I’ve met has been really nice, and it’s easy to be comfortable and feel at-home on campus.

Tell me about how your parents have helped you through the process. Were they supportive initially of your idea to go to Ole Miss as a teen?

Hayes: My parents have been really supportive of my early admission. Though they knew it was going to be tough, time-wise and academically, they both supported pursuing what was best for my education, and I’m definitely grateful to them.

Who are some of the professors that have influenced you and helped you learn? Talk about them and some of what they’ve done for you. 

Hayes: Dr. David Gonzalez, my economics professor this past semester, was a great professor and helped me learn a lot in his class. Not only is he an economist, a career I aspire to, but he is also involved with the Croft Institute for International Studies, of which I am a part. He is also really helpful to students and once stayed past his usual office time to see me when I told him I couldn’t make his normal hours; not every professor is so generous with his time.

Dr. Enrique Cotelo was my first-semester Spanish professor and he really helped me, a person with very little Spanish experience, become someone who can go to a Spanish-speaking country confidently. He also made class exciting, challenging and fun, and did so without a trace of insincerity or arrogance. He also nominated me for a Spanish-language award and even met with me outside of the school year to practice Spanish with me and stay refreshed for the next semester. I consider him to not only be one of my favorite professors but a great friend whom I admire.

What is it about Ole Miss that drew you here? Did the experience meet your expectations?

Hayes: Two features were particularly attractive about Ole Miss. The first is that it is only an hour or so from where I live, so the commute was not terribly long. Also, both of my parents are Ole Miss alumni and that definitely helped them prepare me for the transition to college life. I had hoped that the people and instructors at Ole Miss would be friendly and encouraging, and that’s definitely been the case.

Will you continue with your studies at Ole Miss? How many credits have you earned so far?

Hayes: I hope to continue studying at Ole Miss for a couple more years (if they’ll have me) and graduate in three years. Including iStudy courses, CLEP tests and classes, I will start this fall with 55 credit hours logged.

UM Panhellenic Community CARE Walk is Aug. 26

Proceeds from 12th annual event to benefit breast cancer research, patients

NJL_1839-Q copy

This annual walk is an important piece in supporting the cancer center’s mission to promote awareness, research and ultimately eradication of this disease.

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the Greek community at the University of Mississippi are again taking to the streets Aug. 26 to raise funds in the fight against cancer.

The 12th annual UM Panhellenic Council Cancer Awareness Research and Eradication, or CARE, Walk will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Grove. Registration, which includes a T-shirt, is $15. All funds go to the Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi in Oxford.

“Campus and community members come together to enjoy a walk around the beautiful University of Mississippi campus as they raise funds for the Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi,” said Jenell Bukky Lanski, UM coordinator of Greek affairs. “In 2014, with the help of the campus and local community, the Panhellenic community donated over $40,000 to the Baptist Cancer Center for breast cancer research, free mammograms and programs.”

Hospital officials said they are grateful for the Greeks’ generosity.

“With the money donated from the CARE Walk last year, in the past 12 months the donation has funded over 100 free mammograms and almost 50 free diagnostic mammograms and/or breast ultrasounds,” said Jennifer Eastland, coordinator for marketing at BMH-NM. “It is really amazing the difference our Ole Miss students are making in the lives of our Baptist-North Mississippi Cancer Center patients right here in our community.”

Pamela Gordon, a UM staff member in the School of Law, helped an international student who needed a mammogram make contact with the cancer navigator at the Cancer Center. After it was determined that she would need an ultrasound instead, arrangements were made for the student to have the procedure using CARE Walk funds.

“Without the financial assistance afforded by the generosity of the Panhellenic Council, this particular student might never have received the help that she needed,” Gordon said. “It was very fulfilling for me to have played even a small role in helping her make that vital connection.”

This annual walk is an important piece in supporting the cancer center’s mission to promote awareness, research and ultimately eradication of this disease.

CARE Walk flyer 2015

CARE Walk flyer 2015

“We all know someone who has been affected by cancer, and this is a great way to support them,” said Peter Dilatush, director of oncology at BMH-NM. “Participants have the ability to walk in honor of someone dear to them and we also have cancer survivors that walk as well. It’s a great community event that would not be possible without the vision and support of the Ole Miss Panhellenic Council. These funds will go so far in fighting against breast cancer here in Oxford and the surrounding communities and we are honored to be associated with such a great cause.”

To register for CARE Walk, visit

For more about fraternity and sorority life at the UM, call the Office of the Dean of Students at 662-915-7248 or visit

UM Named Among ‘Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces’

Designation honors campus efforts to create a 'culture of wellness'

The University has been named one of the healthiest places to work for in Mississippi.

The university has been named one of the healthiest places to work in Mississippi.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi, which has aggressively implemented many health and wellness initiatives for its nearly 2,900 employees, has been named one of Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces for 2015.

The Mississippi Business Journal, the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi Department of Health hand out the designation each year. The university will be honored at a banquet Friday (July 31) in Jackson along with other recipients of the award. 

“The University of Mississippi is pleased to be recognized for its efforts in improving the health and well-being of our faculty and staff,” Acting Chancellor Morris Stocks said. “This is a great achievement and could not have been done without the joint efforts of many throughout our university who have worked to improve the health and quality of life for all of us.”

The recognition honors the UM community’s hard work on health issues, said Andrea M. Jekabsons, UM assistant director of employment and training and project manager with RebelWell.

“The recognition as one of the ‘Healthiest Workplaces’ is an honor,” she said. “The RebelWell team is working to create a culture of wellness. This includes physical activity opportunities, health screenings, general wellness education and nutrition services, as well as constant visual reminders to encourage healthier habits.”

The university benefits from healthy employees for several reasons, Jekabsons said. 

Healthy employees are likely to be more productive, actively engaged and fully present when at work, and may experience improved job satisfaction and organizational commitment,” she said. “These may seem like benefits to the university, but more importantly, an improved health status is a benefit to the individual.”

Campus health programs have benefited from a $250,000 wellness grant from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. The American Heart Association has also consistently recognized UM as a “Fit Friendly” employer, either at the gold or platinum level since 2009. The university has also made the Chronicle of Higher Education’s “Great Colleges to Work For” list, which measures employee overall satisfaction, seven of the eight years the list has existed.

The university developed the RebelWell program, which provides a range of opportunities for employees to become educated about living a healthy lifestyle and also offers group fitness classes, cooking demonstrations and nutrition counseling, among other services.

Last year, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc joined the RebelWell team, representing the university’s senior leadership. LaBanc is chair of the RebelWell Campus Committee.

“This is such a critical organizational initiative as evidenced by its inclusion in our strategic plan,”LaBanc said. “Efforts like these reinforce the Ole Miss way – we are a place that cares about one another and wants faculty, staff and students to have a positive and rewarding life experience. I believe the work of the RebelWell has contributed to employee wellness and happiness, and in turn, contributes to a more engaging academic environment for students.”

The university has also updated its employee policies to allow more flexibility and time for employees to work on their health.

University leaders created the UM2020 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. UM also set itself as a beacon of leadership on health issues across Mississippi by educating and fostering a community that is committed to healthy and sustainable lifestyles and campus environment. The vision also included developing and integrating industry-leading programs and initiatives that will transform nutrition, health promotion, exercise and employee wellness.

In an effort to enhance the university’s individual health, community well-being and positive work life balance, the university’s leadership has also made changes to two employee policies in 2015 to promote a more healthy work environment.

Department heads are allowed to be flexible with scheduling to let employees participate in physical activity and UM wellness programs. Managers are also allowed to let their employees participate for up to three hours each month in approved wellness-related activities such as university-hosted walks, cooking demonstrations and physical fitness activities on campus. Employees can also be allowed to attend on-campus wellness seminars.

Employees are also allowed breaks twice per day to encourage them to stretch, walk or take short bike rides around campus, which can benefit work performance and individual health.

Each “Healthiest Workplace” honoree will be featured and recognized and will receive their award during the presentation program, said Alan Turner, Mississippi Business Journal publisher. The program is slated for 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Jackson Hilton Hotel. The Mississippi Business Journal will publish a special glossy magazine in August with profiles of all honorees that will be sent to all MBJ print and digital subscribers and will also be available on the website. 

“We’re delighted to see Ole Miss participating in this event and taking the lead in providing a healthy working environment for staff, as well as students,” Turner said. “We’re excited and hope this will translate to many other employers, agencies and institutions, as the importance to our state of improving the physical health and well-being of our citizens can hardly be overstated.”

Second Annual Art-er Limits Fringe Festival Features Unique Blend

OXFORD, Miss. – The second annual Art-er Limits Fringe Festival, set for Aug. 6-8 in Oxford, promises to give festival-goers a unique experience by combining Mississippi’s culture, art, literature and music all in one weekend.

With 70 events in just 72 hours, you’re sure to experience something new about Mississippi.

Events throughout the weekend will be held at the University of Mississippi Museum, the Square, the Powerhouse and several spaces around Oxford.

On Saturday, the University Museum will host workshop tours, a blacksmith and ironworks demonstration and a steamroller printmaking demonstration, where Ole Miss alumnus and artist Frank Estrada will crank out giant prints of art.

“The University Museum is thrilled to be participating in this year’s Fringe Festival,” said Rebecca Phillips, communications coordinator. “I think it’s wonderful for Oxford to have another arts festival that is fun for all ages and gets the community involved with local and regional artists. The town continues to produce new, interesting ideas and events, making all the months of the year busy and exciting!”

The festival works with local and regional artists to expose them to a wider audience, but it works to give students a behind-the-scenes experience as well.

Theater design student Kwasi Buffington will be doing lights and backstage work for two of the productions during the festival.

“The festival is unique in that is connects all the different parts of our community from local artists, the university and regional artists,” Buffington said. “It also helps artist and crew build a network of artist to work with in the region. Working on these events gives me a chance to work with the artists, test my ideas and implement my theater skills.”

For a full schedule of events, click here.

UM Honors College Names Scholarship Recipients

Outstanding students awarded four prestigious awards to fund Ole Miss studies

Photo by Robert Jordan

The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has announced this year’s incoming scholars. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen standout incoming freshmen accepted into the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi have been awarded four of the university’s most prestigious scholarships.

Of the 14, four were awarded the McDonnell-Barksdale Scholarship, six were awarded the Doris Raymond Scholarship, two were awarded the Harold Parker Memorial Scholarship and two were awarded Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships.

Barksdale Scholarship recipients are Dylan Devenny of Pass Christian, John Ross Graham of Hernando, Galina Ostrovsky of Madison and Jessica Tran of Hattiesburg.

Raymond Scholarship recipients are Anna Beavers of Gainsville, Florida, Taylor Bentley of Amarillo, Texas, Kaci Crawford of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Raven Francomano of Bay, Arkansas, Thomas McFann of Arlington, Tennessee and Mikaela Sarkar of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Parker Scholarship recipients are Devna Bose of Philadelphia, Mississippi, and James Long of Olive Branch.

Leaders of Tomorrow Scholarship recipients are Tan Le of Gulfport and Francisco Santos of Southaven.

“We are proud of our Honors scholarship winners! They will teach us by their example of what it means to be both citizen and scholar in today’s challenging world,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean. “I look forward to four great years with each of them.”

Devenny graduated from St. Stanislaus College Preparatory School, where he received the Star Student award and the Character Cup. A member of the band, he received the John Philip Sousa Award, the Patrick S. Gilmore Band Award and the Excellence in Music Award. An Eagle Scout, he has worked on numerous service activities through his Boy Scout troop. He is majoring in computer science.

Graham is a graduate of Hernando High School. The valedictorian of his class, he was voted “Most Likely to Succeed” and inducted into the Hernando High School Hall of Fame. He received the Commercial Appeal Academic All Star in English Award and the Mississippi Economic Council Star Student Award, and served as a National Society of High School Scholars Ambassador. A member of the tennis team, he won the 2013 men’s singles district championship and received the Lindy Callahan Scholar Athlete Award. He co-chaired the program Backpack Angels, providing food relief local elementary schools. He plans to major in English.

Ostrovsky is a graduate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. The winner of the AP Spanish Language and Culture Class Award, she is the co-founder and president of the National Spanish Honor Society and served as the president of the Spanish Club. Her service activities include working as a tutor in various programs and working with adults with disabilities at both the Mustard Seed and St. Catherine’s Nursing home. She is a Guillot Global Studies fellow and received a grant to participate in an exchange program to Hyderabad, India. She plans to major in chemical engineering with a minor in Spanish and pre-med.

Tran, a graduate of Oak Grove High School, was the salutatorian of her class. Voted “Most Intellectual”, she is the Pride of Oak Grove recipient and in the Oak Grove Hall of Fame. In 2013, she was named the 6A state champion in archery. Her service activities include volunteering at the Hub City Animal Shelter and All Animal Clinic, serving as a tutor and working with nursing homes and Operation Christmas Child. She is majoring in chemistry.

Beavers graduated from Lakeview Academy, where she served as senior class president. A recipient of the University of Georgia Certificate of Merit, she also received the Piedmont College Junior Fellows Award, Wesleyan College Award and the Golden Lion Award. She is a member of Key Club and also volunteers with the Helping Hands Foreign Missions Uganda. She plans to major in criminal justice.

Bentley is a graduate of Amarillo High School, where she was the 2015 salutatorian. A National Merit Commended Scholar, she received the calculus departmental award and the hospitality and tourism departmental award. As a member of the varsity track and field team, she was a regional qualifier in 100-meter hurdles and the pole vault. She served as Wesley Community Center and VA Hospital volunteer. Bentley plans to major in mechanical engineering.

Crawford graduated from Hillcrest High School. Recognized as HHS Top Senior and Academic All-Star, she received the Tuscaloosa County Star Senior and Champion of Character Awards. She served as the National Honor Society president, student government vice president and student government historian. Having worked as at Center Ridge Outpost as an autism camp counselor, she organized an autism awareness week wristband fundraiser, raising $1,200. She plans to major in chemical engineering.

Francomano graduated from Bay High School. An Arkansas Scholar, she received the highest academic honors, graduating as Class of 2015 Valedictorian. A member of student council, she also served as a member of student government, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Her community service includes Bay After School Program tutor, Bay United Methodist Community Outreach Committee and March of Dimes Prom Fashion Show model. She is majoring in public policy leadership.

McFann is a graduate from Arlington High School. The valedictorian of his class, he was named Science Olympiad Winner and the AP Scholar with Distinction and received Performing Arts Excellence awards in piano and drums. He served as a student ambassador, class leader and mentor for Bellevue Middle School Youth. The president of National Honors Society, he was a member of Mu Alpha Theta, Key Club and the Science Olympiad Team. He is majoring in computer science.

Sarkar, a homeschooled student, has lived in seven states and two foreign countries. For the past decade, she received her education travelling across the country and abroad with her mother and sister “globeschooling.” She is a National Merit Scholar and the Tennessee 4-H Essay Contest Winner on county, regional and state levels. Founder of the environmental blog, she has volunteered with the Boys and Girls Club of Blount County and Millar Park Afterschool Program. Sarkar is majoring in public policy leadership.

Bose is a graduate of Philadelphia High School. The valedictorian of her class, she received numerous awards in math, Spanish and world history and was named the 2015 STAR student of Philadelphia High School. A member of the PHS band, she received the Band Leadership award. She served as vice president of Leadership Neshoba and Crown Club and was a member of the National Spanish Honor Society and Beta Club. A co-founder of Students Against Destructive Decisions, she also founded the annual PHS Book Drive. Bose is majoring in journalism.

Long, a graduate of Olive Branch High School, received awards in math, debate, chess and computer programming competitions. He served as vice president of Mu Alpha Theta and lettered in soccer and tennis. He is majoring in mathematics and plans to attend medical school to become a surgeon.

Le is a graduate of Harrison Central High School. He led the HCHS marching band as head drum major. Le is a first-generation Asian-American and is the son of Ba Le and Duyen Ngo. He has an older sister who also attends Ole Miss.

Santos graduated from Southaven High School, where he participated in band and drama. He is majoring in computer science and has an interest in studying music. He is the son of military veterans Francisco and Paula Santos.

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit

Stamps Scholar Recognized by Autism Science Foundation

Dylan Ritter completes second summer conducting brain development research at Texas A&M

Scoot Dindot,left and Dylan Ritter, right.

Scott Dindot (left) and Dylan Ritter in Dindot’s lab.

OXFORD, Miss. – Dylan Ritter, a junior majoring in biochemistry at the University of Mississippi, has been recognized by the Autism Science Foundation as one of the top five undergraduates in the nation working on groundbreaking projects in the field of autism.

Ritter, a Stamps Scholar and member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is spending two months at Texas A&M University this summer working on an independent project to study brain development in mice with chromosome 15q11.2-13.1 duplication syndrome, a type of autism commonly known as Dup15q. It’s a condition that hits close to home for Ritter.

When Ritter was just 4, his youngest brother, Travis, was diagnosed with Dup15q. While Ritter had an interest in learning more about the condition, he never really considered the possibility of pursuing autism research. Coming to Ole Miss with his eyes set on medical school, Ritter read an article on research being done to analyze Dup15q syndrome in mice being conducted by Scott Dindot at Texas A&M.

Inspired by what he read, Ritter contacted Dindot and was offered a summer job in Dindot’s lab after his freshman year. After working with Dindot, Ritter consulted with his UM mentors, Nathan Hammer, UM associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry, and Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College, who gave him the assistance and encouragement needed to change his major.

“Dr. Hammer has helped me figure out where I wanted to go, leading me towards the biochemical track of the chemistry degree and offering any help I needed,” Ritter said. “DSG helped me become interested in UM since my first visit on campus and has helped me explore the world outside Ole Miss by encouraging me to pursue opportunities I might usually be hesitant to.”

“Dylan Ritter breaks the mold,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “An incredible problem has gripped his soul and he is pouring his life into its solution. Dylan demonstrates how we should live as citizen scholars in our world today.”

Ritter completes his summer at Texas A&M as one of the top undergraduate researchers in his field. The prestigious honor from the Autism Science Foundation is accompanied by a grant to help fund his research. He received grants from the Honors College to fund his first trip and said they played an important role in his return this summer.

A native of New Jersey, Ritter plans to take a break to go home and visit with friends and family before returning to UM in a few weeks for his junior year.