Private Giving Offers Students More than Expected

UM scholarships enhance education experience

Abby Bruce stands at 17,060 feet in front of Montaña de Siete Colores in Cusco, Peru. Photo courtesy Abby Bruce

OXFORD, Miss. – Since she was 5 years old, Abby Bruce, of Saltillo, has wanted to be fluent in Spanish. Thanks to an endowment created by a private gift to the University of Mississippi, the senior will graduate with a degree not just in Spanish but also in international studies.

Every day, in classrooms and labs across the UM campus, students are moving closer to earning college degrees. For many, higher education is a critical step toward realizing a lifelong dream, one made easier to attain by the generosity of Ole Miss alumni and friends.

Like Bruce, two other UM students – Miranda Craft of Jackson, Missouri, and Mikayla Johnson of Mooreville – are finding that scholarships have enabled them to have a better-than-expected college experience. And these are just three examples of the more than 2,600 Ole Miss students on scholarship during the fall 2017 semester.

This year, Bruce received the Alfred William Milden Scholarship, which is designated for rising seniors majoring in the fields of ancient or foreign language.

“The scholarship has enabled me to pursue my language study even further and to have the means to travel to study the language intensely,” Bruce said.

Upon receiving the award, Bruce felt compelled to write the Milden family a personal thank-you note, attaching several pictures of her study abroad experience in Peru last semester. Pictures included sights such as Machu Picchu, one of the “New Seven Wonders of the World.”

“Those are experiences that you have to search for and, as always, it’s nice to have a little more financial support,” said Bruce, who wants to return to Latin America soon. “After you’ve immersed yourself once, you crave that adventure again.

“And I now have a good group of Columbian, Mexican, Peruvian and Chilean friends – connections that make me want to return even more.”

Bruce, a member of the Croft Institute for International Studies and Phi Kappa Phi honor society, hopes to have a career in which she can communicate in Spanish.

“Even if the job itself doesn’t use Spanish, I’d like to live somewhere that utilizes that language, whether that’s a different country or a region of the states with a large Hispanic population,” she said. “I want to continue to improve.”

During her time at Ole Miss, Bruce has been a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College as well as an active member of Alpha Omicron Pi Sorority.

Craft is the recipient of the Everett-Williams Memorial, which has enabled her to pursue a pharmacy degree by eliminating the financial burden of tuition.

“This scholarship has given me additional aid toward my dream of becoming a pharmacist and impacting the medical field,” said Craft, a member of the American Pharmacists Association, Phi Mu sorority, Phi Kappa Phi honor society and Kappa Epsilon, a professional pharmacy fraternity.

The scholarship has also given Craft experiences that she believes will be valuable to her career path.

“The highlight of the scholarship was being able to attend the monthly dinners and meet leaders in the context of Oxford and the university while being inspired by their different outlooks on life,” said Craft, adding that she also appreciates her scholarship’s mentorship component.

“It has changed my outlook on life by giving me the opportunity to interact with strong leaders on campus.”

Johnson, recipient of the Mildred H. Center Council Scholarship, said her dream of attending medical school would not be possible without financial support.

The scholarship is granted to students through the Ole Miss Women’s Council and is endowed by the R.H. and Mildred Center Foundation. Johnson applied for the scholarship as a high school senior and has been a recipient since her freshman year. She is also the recipient of the Rural Physicians Scholarship that the University of Mississippi Medical Center awards.

“I hope to practice pediatrics and come back to Pontotoc,” Johnson said. “I didn’t really have the means and Ole Miss wasn’t really in my plan. I just applied to see what would happen.”

As an OMWC scholar, Johnson meets weekly with her mentors to discuss anything from test grades to career plans. She also has developed strong relationships with fellow scholars, for which she is thankful.

“We met before the first day of school our freshman year, so it was nice to see a familiar face because I didn’t know anybody coming here,” Johnson said. “Also, I’ve enjoyed the relationships with Nora Capwell (OMWC program director) and Suzanne Helveston (OMWC career and leadership director) because it’s nice to have someone to talk to.

“I feel like those relationships are definitely going to go past my time at Ole Miss.”

The OMWC recently introduced the Global Leadership Circle, a philanthropy program that provides opportunities for donors to sponsor students hoping to pursue international studies or internships. Johnson plans to use the scholarship to study abroad next summer.

“I’ve been talking with Nora, and there is a chemistry class offered in Paris that would allow me to study the chemistry of food and also the culture,” Johnson said. “I’m a chemistry minor and so if I get to travel for this class, it will definitely be the highlight of my program.”

Johnson is a member of the Honors College, Phi Kappa Phi honor society, American Medical Student Association and American Medical Women’s Association.

For information on endowing a scholarship at UM, contact Sandra Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation, at 662-915-5208, or visit

Gloria Kellum Lauded with New Scholarship Fund

Political science group honors longtime UM administrator

Family members gather around Gloria Kellum (fourth from right) at a recent reception hosted in her honor by the UM Department of Political Science Advisory Board. The board acknowledged Kellum’s long-term service to the university by establishing a scholarship endowment in her name. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – The advisory board for the University of Mississippi’s Department of Political Science has honored longtime administrator Gloria Kellum by establishing a scholarship endowment in her name, recognizing her service to the university.

Board member Rod Taylor of Rosemary Beach, Florida, nominated the former vice chancellor for university relations for the honor due to her supportive role in the board’s formation some 15 years ago. The board has been instrumental in helping secure internships for students, providing scholarships through other named endowments, underwriting various programs for the department and more.

“When I asked who agreed with this nomination, everybody’s hand shot up immediately as if I’d thrown a Twinkie out in front of a bunch of third-graders,” recalled board president Tom Becherer of Alexandria, Virginia. “Dr. Kellum had a hand in just about all of the amazing changes that have happened at this university since my graduation in 1986 and well before I came here.

“We all love this place, but I don’t believe anybody loves it more than she does.”

Taylor agreed: “It’s hard for me to imagine how there could be anybody to whom Ole Miss owes a greater debt of gratitude than Gloria Kellum.”

The Gloria D. Kellum Scholarship Endowment in Political Science will be awarded to eligible students within the department, based on merit.

“I’m very honored and very humbled,” Kellum said. “The scholarship was such a sweet surprise to me. Student scholarships are so very important, so I thank the Political Science Advisory Board for its leadership on behalf of our students because that’s what it’s all about.

“Every time a scholarship is established, the donor is really thinking about our students, which is the focus of what we all do at this university.”

Kellum has worn many hats since she and her then-future husband, Jerry, joined the faculty in 1966 and has been instrumental in helping the university mark a number of milestones.

The Kellums have two daughters, Kate Kellum of Oxford, and Kelly Kellum Weems of New Orleans – both Ole Miss graduates – and three grandchildren, all of whom attended a recent reception in Gloria Kellum’s honor along with many members of her extended family, friends and coworkers past and present.

“When you think about Gloria and all that she’s meant to Ole Miss, many words come to mind: teacher, administrator, incredible fundraiser, organizer, leader and friend,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Energetic, dedicated, smart, loyal, visionary and inspirational – all those words and many more can be used to describe Dr. Gloria Kellum and her decades-long relationship with the University of Mississippi.”

As an administrator, Kellum chaired UM’s sesquicentennial celebration, directed two major capital campaigns and provided leadership to improve race relations. On the academic side, she helped grow a small speech pathology and audiology program into a nationally accredited educational and clinical program, and taught hundreds of students.

“So much of the success and growth of Ole Miss during my years as chancellor can be credited to Gloria,” Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said. “Her impact upon the university is unparalleled. Her legacy is record enrollment, record fundraising, increased academic excellence and so much more.

“All the momentum we have today is built upon the foundation that Gloria helped establish with other leaders at the university.”

Under her direction, the Commitment to Excellence Campaign attracted a stunning $525.9 million in private gifts, followed by the MomentUM campaign, which upped the total raised in private funds during Kellum’s tenure to some $800 million. The campaigns produced one-of-a-kind partnerships such as the 2+2 Scholarship Initiative with Northwest Mississippi Community College, the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy.

“It was a time of great change and a time of true renaissance for us,” Kellum said, crediting the widespread evolution to a number of factors: Khayat’s leadership, vision and strategic planning; the extraordinarily gifted faculty and staff who worked together and were committed to making the university the best it could be; a strong economy; and the devoted involvement of alumni and friends.

“It was a golden time for me to be a part of,” she said. “Now, Chancellor Vitter and his wife, Sharon, have created an extraordinary team of people who are really making a difference. They have joined together our academic campus, athletic department and medical center all into one cohesive force. And it is a force to be reckoned with.

“I’ll tell you this: The future of Ole Miss will be one of great promise.”

Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, praised the board’s initiative in establishing the Kellum Scholarship.

“I applaud the board’s efforts and believe it is incredibly fitting that this scholarship is named in honor of Gloria, which further extends the tremendous impact she has had upon every aspect of our extraordinary flagship university,” he said.

How would Kellum describe her own relationship with Ole Miss?

Vitter knows her hallmark comment: “She would simply say, ‘Life is grand.'”

Individuals and organizations may make gifts to the Gloria D. Kellum Scholarship Endowment in Political Science by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting William Kneip at 662-915-2254 or

Aviation Law Expert to Speak Wednesday at UM

Paul Fitzgerald to discuss landmark trans-Atlantic alliance

Paul Fitzgerald

OXFORD, Miss. – Canadian aviation law expert Paul Fitzgerald visits the University of Mississippi School of Law on Wednesday (Nov. 1) for a discussion of a major trans-Atlantic pact between Air Canada, Lufthansa and United Airlines.

His talk, titled “Introducing A++, A Global Mega Airline You’ve Never Heard Of,” is set for 12:45 p.m. in Room 1115 of the law center. The lecture is free and open to the public, and refreshments will be provided.

A member of the Canadian Transportation Agency and professor at the McGill Institute of Air and Space Law, Fitzgerald has served as an adviser to the government on aviation, rail and marine matters.

“It’s an exciting opportunity for our students to have someone of Dr. Fitzgerald’s international reputation come to Ole Miss to not only speak to our students and faculty, but also to run a workshop in one of our aviation courses,” said Andrea Harrington, associate director of the law school’s LL.M. program in air and space law.

The UM law school has a concentration program in remote sensing, air and space law for J.D. students and an LL.M. program in air and space law for advanced students. Home to the National Center for Remote Sensing, Air and Space Law, it is the country’s only law school to have a program in aviation.

For more information on Fitzgerald, visit For more information on the air and space law program at Ole Miss, visit

Museum Aims to Get Visitors Moving on Bailey’s Woods Trail

Family Activity Day to feature fresh air and fun on the way to Rowan Oak

Bailey’s Woods Trail runs from the UM Museum to Rowan Oak. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum will host a “Let’s Move on the Trail” Family Activity Day on Saturday (Nov. 4).

Oxford residents, Ole Miss students, families and visitors are invited to drop by the museum between 10 a.m. and noon to begin a day of fresh air, exercise and art activities along Bailey’s Woods Trail, which runs from the museum to Rowan Oak.

“‘Let’s Move on the Trail’ is one of the family days we look forward to each year,” said Emily McCauley, the museum’s curator of education. “Bailey’s Woods Trail is a wonderful resource, and we are excited to transform it to a fun, learning experience for families with children of all ages once again.”

The theme is inspired by the Let’s Move campaign launched in 2010 by first lady Michelle Obama to combat childhood obesity. The museum has been participating in the initiative since 2011, using interactive exhibits and outdoor spaces to engage children.

The event is weather-permitting. The activity day, made possible by Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, is free and open to the public, thanks to a successful Ignite Ole Miss fundraising campaign.

All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Transportation back to the museum from Rowan Oak will be provided.

For more information about Let’s Move Family Activity Day, contact McCauley at or 662-915-7073.

University’s EAC Report Cards Available Online

Report cards provide university, system-level data

OXFORD, Miss. – The Education Achievement Council report cards for the University of Mississippi, as well as those of all the state’s other public universities, have been posted online at

The report cards show the progress that has been made toward educational goals for each university and community college.

The reports include information on student enrollment, degrees awarded, college readiness, student progress, research and other university variables. They include university-specific information, along with system-level data. Archived reports from previous years are also available online.

The Education Achievement Council was established by the Mississippi Legislature in 2010 to bring attention to the state’s goal of increasing the educational attainment and skill levels of its working-age population benchmark to the national average by 2025.

The council members are representatives of state government, public K-12 leaders, public, private and proprietary higher education officials, and business community leaders.

Business School Students Visit the ‘Oracle of Omaha’

Group gets rare chance to learn from world-class investor Warren Buffett

UM students and faculty members who met recently with Warren Buffet are (front row, from left) Charles Fillmore, of Fort Worth, Texas; Akilah Showers, of Memphis; Ian Soileau, of Hernando; Buffet; Kyle Cullen, of Houston, Texas; Grant Wiley, of Dallas; Jocelyn Cropper, of Houston, Texas; and Nicole Georgis, of Downers Grove, Illinois; and (back row, from left) Parker Rutherford, of Vicksburg; Stephen Fier, associate professor of finance; Renee Kakadia, of Brookhaven; Travis Box, assistant professor of finance; Aziz Al Maskari, of Oman; Tyler Adams, of Van Alstyne, Texas; Cameron Iadeluca, of North Kingstown, Rhode Island; Sam Sexton, of Perry, Georgia; Christian May, of Memphis; Makail Johannesson, of Red Lake, Ontario; Lamar Norsworthy, of Memphis; Ashley Glennon, of Austin, Texas; Andrew Lynch, assistant professor of finance; Alexis Dibenedetto, of Auburn, Alabama; Bailey Currie, of St. Louis; and Hannah Clark, of Jackson. Photo by Valerie Wham/Berkshire Hathaway

OXFORD, Miss. – A group of University of Mississippi students got career advice and wisdom from Warren Buffett, better known as the “Oracle of Omaha,” during a recent face-to-face conversation at his headquarters in Nebraska.

This was the first time the UM School of Business Administration had participated in such an event, but the experience proved to be invaluable to students, Dean Ken Cyree said.

“We are thrilled to have our students experience the opportunity of a lifetime by meeting with Mr. Buffett,” Cyree said. “His business wisdom and impact on the U.S. and global economy is legendary, and his willingness to share it with our students is amazingly generous.”

Buffett is chief executive officer and chairman of Berkshire Hathaway. As of August, he was recognized as the second-wealthiest person in the United States and the fourth-wealthiest in the world, with a net worth of $81.1 billion.

Andrew Lynch, UM assistant professor of finance, helped arrange the trip through connections made by teaching a Buffett class at the University of Missouri. Cyree and Bonnie Van Ness, chair and professor of finance, helped arrange funding for the trip.

Those efforts allowed faculty to focus on researching and preparing students for the visit instead of fundraising, said Stephen Fier, associate professor of finance.

“We are fortunate to have a dean and department chair who work tirelessly to ensure that the financial and nonfinancial resources necessary to organize this type of trip are available,” he said.

A measure of good luck also was involved, said Travis Box, assistant professor of finance.

“A lot of things had to break our way in order to make this trip work,” Box said. “We were thrilled to find out that we had been selected in late August. We only had a month-and-a-half to prepare, but Dean Cyree gave us the support we needed to get us back and forth from Omaha on short notice.”

It was a rare opportunity, and Buffett delivered on the promise of the event, Lynch said.

“Mr. Buffett is energetic and engaging, repeatedly reminding students that being a good person is an important part of being a good investor,” he said.

Lynch, Box and Fier selected the students for the trip through a competitive application process. The students were required to be involved in the Financiers Club or Gamma Iota Sigma, a risk management and insurance business fraternity.

It was a tremendous honor to represent the business school, said Grant Wiley, a senior from Dallas majoring in managerial finance.

“Buffett was funny,” Wiley said. “He was very personable and stressed how important it is to love what you do and to do it with a group of people you enjoy.”

Throughout the semester, students were given reading assignments on Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway for classroom discussions.

“In the final weeks before our trip, these students identified interesting topic areas and drafted a list of questions to ask during our session,” Box said.

The students derived their two questions from weeks of thorough research, including analysis of financial statements, previous interviews, annual reports and various compositions from Buffett.

Students who participated in the event will remember it the rest of their lives, Cyree said.

“Several have commented to me on the impact that the visit had and marvel at Mr. Buffet’s easy command of intricate business details while engaging the students for over two hours,” he said.

Box said the biggest surprise for him was the sentimentality of Buffett’s comments.

“Despite being the world’s most gifted investor, he weaved into the discussion friends, family, marriage and children into nearly every response.” Box said. “He wanted us to know these relationships and experiences have aided his success.”

Jocelyn Cropper, a senior managerial finance major, and Hannah Clark, a senior majoring in risk management and insurance, said they were inspired that the 87-year-old Buffett takes time to share his wisdom with students.

“Mr. Buffett has an incredible amount of knowledge beyond investing capabilities and he credits this to reading each day,” said Clark, from Jackson. “Mr. Buffett claims that reading has been his talent and hobby, and he enjoys reading business-related material.”

Ashely Glennon, a senior managerial finance major, was surprised to learn that Buffett claims to have had read every book on investments in the public library by the time he was 11.

Besides meeting Buffett, the Ole Miss students toured three Omaha-based businesses owned by Berkshire Hathaway: Nebraska Furniture Mart, Borsheims Fine Jewelry and Oriental Trading Co.

“We were able to see firsthand how efficient they are when it comes to getting orders out in time, and I was able to appreciate the amount of time and effort it takes to receive an online order from a distribution center” said Glennon, of Austin, Texas.

“It was amazing to see how three completely different companies ran and also to see the similarities between the three since they are all owned by Berkshire Hathaway,” said Cropper, of Houston, Texas.

Other business schools participating in the event were: Gonzaga University; Northwestern University; the universities of Arizona, Minnesota, Nebraska at Lincoln, Nebraska at Omaha, Peru and Tennessee; and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Student Callers Earn While They Learn

Call center offers Ole Miss students a form of financial aid

Deandre Kidd (left) and other students in the UM call center reach out to prospective donors while earning money to offset college expenses. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Each week, students in the call center at the University of Mississippi seek support for Ole Miss while also gaining income and valuable experience for themselves.

Five days a week, 40 students reach out to alumni and friends, engaging them in conversations that frequently lead to financial benefits for UM schools and colleges, departments, faculty, programs and scholarships. In fiscal year 2017, callers raised more than $560,000 in pledges and gifts for Ole Miss; the center was recently named Call Center of the Month by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a provider of fundraiser management services and software.

While the university depends on private support to ensure the margin of excellence expected of prominent educational institutions, students such as Deandre Kidd depend on the $8.15 per hour and an opportunity to earn a bonus at the end of the month.

“I can honestly say if it wasn’t for my job at the call center, I wouldn’t be able to have a car or phone on my own,” said Kidd, a senior exercise science major from Hattiesburg who also uses his salary from this and a second job to offset the cost of books and rent.

Kidd works two jobs to relieve his parents’ financial pressure; his father is a restaurant kitchen manager and his mother is a homemaker who takes care of his sister and brother as well as her grandchildren.

“The job is really a form of financial aid, similar to a scholarship because it provides an opportunity for students to earn money while they get an education,” said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “It really gives them a great deal of support.”

Timber Heard, a senior anthropology major from McComb, likes that the call center pays more than minimum wage.

“I needed a higher paying job,” said Heard, who was a fast-food employee when she applied at the call center.

Heard took the job as a steppingstone, hoping to gain experience that will help her grow professionally. A year-and-a-half later, she feels the experience has been invaluable and enjoys talking to potential donors.

“I like getting to know people over the phone, hearing their different stories and learning about where they’re from,” she said. “I like people who have a sense of humor like me; that makes it fun.”

Like Kidd, Heard works a second job while balancing classes. She uses the income from both jobs, as well as student loans, to pay for rent, utilities, food and clothes.

Similarly, Lakia Taylor, of Brandon, depends on the call center job to pay rent. The sophomore marketing major covers other expenses with income from an online personalized jewelry business she founded.

Taylor said the Ole Miss job fits her busy 15-hour class schedule and provides valuable networking experience.

“This past Thursday, I was talking to one of the alumni about his experiences in school, and he recommended that I go meet a professor he knows on campus, so I’m planning to go meet him,” Taylor said. “You never know where opportunities like that could lead.”

For information on making a gift to UM, contact Wendell Weakley at 662-915-3845 or visit

Pharmacy Student Group Named Most Improved Chapter of the Year

Organization honored by National Community Pharmacists Association at annual convention

UM pharmacy Dean David D. Allen (left) and members of the Ole Miss chapter of the National Community Pharmacists Association celebrate being named the Most Improved Chapter of the Year at the 2017 NCPA Convention. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s student chapter of the National Community Pharmacists Association was recognized as the Most Improved Chapter of the Year at the NCPA Convention in Orlando earlier this month.

“Our chapter is devoted to promoting independent pharmacy in Mississippi,” said fourth-year student Lily Van, of Honolulu. “It is an avenue of pharmacy that some people forget about, but it is such a vital part of our communities.”

Ole Miss has an active chapter, often hosting events that allow students to learn more about careers in independent pharmacy. Many of its members participate in business plan competitions while also taking advantage of travel opportunities for conventions and special events.

“We work closely with the Mississippi Independent Pharmacies Association, and over the past few years, we have also participated in the NCPA Congressional Fly-In in Washington, D.C.,” Van said. “It’s a great experience that not many chapters participate in, and sending students to D.C. allows us to actively advocate for our profession on the Hill.”

Some members, including Van, also are active in the national organization as representatives on the Student Leadership Council, a selective group of student leaders from across the nation chosen to represent NCPA.

“It’s great to see our students involved in national organizations like NCPA,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “The firsthand experiences they have speaking with community pharmacists and visiting Capitol Hill will prepare them well for future endeavors, and I’m excited to see what this group will continue to accomplish.”

Even with its award in hand, the chapter’s work is far from done.

“Now that we have won Most Improved Chapter of the Year, I feel like the work is just starting,” Van said. “I would love for us to continue to be more active in advocacy and community outreach, because that is truly what the profession is about: serving the community.

“I hope that we will win Overall Chapter of the Year, but our main priority is to continue to advocate for community pharmacy.”

UM Alumna Finds Creative Inspiration in Hometown Support

Taylor Wilkinson

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna and Oxford-based jewelry designer Taylor Wilkinson teams up with Cicada Boutique this weekend to showcase her jewelry line, Taylor Wilkinson Designs.

Wilkinson’s designs will be on display 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday (Oct. 27-28) and will be available for purchase at the store, at 307 South Lamar Blvd.

“It’s always thrilling to show in your hometown,” Wilkinson said. “There is a tremendous amount of support from not only personal friends, but the entire community. Oxford rallies around their hometown people.”

Wilkinson, who was recently featured in an alumni profile by the Ole Miss Alumni Association, turned personal meaning and her family heritage into inspired pieces of bold, geometric jewelry.

The trunk show will feature rings, bracelets, earrings, charms and necklaces from her latest jewelry collection. Wilkinson uses sterling silver, 18-karat gold vermeil and pave diamonds in her pieces.

Wilkinson’s inspiration comes from within the community not only with her pieces, but with everyday life.

“The underlying creative current in this town has always inspired me,” Wilkinson said “The ‘boost’ Oxford gives me is a personal one. My children attend our public schools. My husband’s own business is here.

“I’ve watched this town grow over the years, and even when I’m traveling, there is always the longing to get home.”

For more information regarding Taylor Wilkinson Designs, visit or follow her on Instagram @taylorwilkinsondesigns.

UM Establishes Center for Graphene Research and Innovation

New center to capitalize on decade of cross-disciplinary graphene and nano materials research

Ahmed Al-Ostaz is director of the UM Nano Infrastructure Laboratory and professor of civil engineering. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has established a new center to advance translational science and engineering of graphene-based technologies. The Center for Graphene Research and Innovation was officially established Oct. 19, with approval from the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

The new center will focus on bridging the gap between university-based science and discovery and industry-led innovations and applications for graphene, a form of carbon made of a single layer of atoms. First isolated and described by scientists in 2004, the material is incredibly strong and flexible, and its conductivity lends it to a broad range of applications ranging from manufacturing to electronics to medicine.

Establishing the center aligns with UM’s status as a Carnegie R1 highest research activity institution and the growth of research in graphene and related nanostructure materials at the university over the last decade, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“The Center for Graphene Research and Innovation will serve as a hub connecting research activities across multiple disciplines and departments and will propel the university forward in this field,” Vitter said.

Graphene is heralded for having significant growth potential across a number of market segments. It is 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than silicon. Another notable property is flexibility, which allows it to be pulled and curved to a certain extent without breaking.

Graphene makes solar cells 50 to 100 times more efficient, semiconductors 50 to 100 times faster, aircraft 70 percent lighter and composites more multifunctional.

“Graphene is one of the strongest materials known,” said Alex Cheng, Dean of the UM School of Engineering. “It also has superior thermal, electric, electromagnetic and even antibacterial properties.

“The wide range of applications will greatly impact technology and spur innovators to develop new products and processes.”

A scanning electron microscope image of graphene nanoplatelets. Photo by the UM Nano Infrastructure Laboratory

During the past few years, graphene-related research conducted at UM has included computational physical chemistry; photovoltaic solar cells; drug, protein and gene delivery; electromagnetic applications, including perfect absorbers, high-impedance surfaces, subwavelength imaging, hyperlenses, plasmonic waveguides, cloaking/invisibility and reduction of interference in antennas; and nanocomposites for defense, homeland security, aerospace and structural application.

While graphene has a number of applications, initial sectors to be targeted by the center include energy, electronics, biomedical, and structural, said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, director of the Nano Infrastructure Laboratory and professor of civil engineering.

“Graphene offers many potential applications, such as reinforcement in composites, energy conversion and storage, thermal conductors, electronics, anticorrosion coatings and paints, and drug and gene delivery to human diseases and medical devices,” Al-Ostaz said.

The center will partner with a number of public and private entities, including the Oxford-based National Graphene Association. The association provides a networking and information platform to expedite the integration of graphene into the commercial arena.

UM plays an active role in the association, including representation on the NGA Advisory Board. Among other national and international thought leaders from industry, government and academia, five members of the advisory board are from UM: Al-Ostaz, Cheng, Vitter, Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Will Norton, dean of journalism and new media.

“We are so excited to establish the Center for Graphene Research and Innovation,” Gladden said. “Graphene as a material shows great promise in a wide variety of applications from structural materials to electronics to biomedical.

“The CGRI will focus on bringing a wide variety of faculty and researchers at UM together to bridge the fundamental science of graphene to applications.”