American Legion Boys State Returns to UM

Some 400 delegates expected for weeklong leadership experience

UM will host the American Legion’s Boys State beginning Sunday (May 28). The event is designed to teach leadership, political skills and understanding of governing and citizenship. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will host the American Legion Boys State beginning May 28, bringing young men from across the state to campus for a week of events designed “to develop tomorrow’s informed, responsible citizens.”

The university was chosen to host Boys State last year and will host it through 2018. As many as 400 delegates will stay on campus and have access to the many resources of UM departments and programs. Here, they will perform the functions of state and local governments to develop their leadership, political skills and understanding of governing and citizenship. 

The university is dedicated to nurturing leaders and the campus community is particularly pleased to host Boys State again this year, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. 

“This outstanding educational and leadership program provides exemplary opportunities for young men to further develop their academic potential and leadership skills, as well as strengthen their dedication to service and community engagement,” Vitter said. “I know this year’s participants will accomplish great things and go on to serve as leaders in our state and nation in the years to come.”

The young men learn how city, county and state governments function through simulating those jobs. They also conduct debates and give speeches ahead of the Boys State elections.

The election results will be announced live at 7:30 p.m. May 31 in Fulton Chapel. 

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, U.S. Reps. Gregg Harper and Trent Kelly, Gov. Phil Bryant, Attorney Gen. Jim Hood, Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith, as well as State Rep. Gray Tollison, of Oxford, State Rep. Shane Aguirre, of Tupelo, and several other officials are among those who will address the delegates. 

The delegates will also participate in a Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. May 29 at the flagpole in the Circle. The public and local officials are invited to attend. 

“The American Legion’s Boys State provides opportunity for young men from across our state to immerse themselves in experiential learning aimed at enhancing their civic engagement and servant leadership,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, who led efforts to bring Boys State to Ole Miss..

“This mission aligns perfectly with opportunities and resources afforded by the University of Mississippi. We are truly looking forward to hosting these young men and helping to facilitate their education and leadership development.” 

The Illinois American Legion created the program in 1934, and Mississippi’s began in 1938. The program was officially adopted by the national organization in 1945. The goal of the program is to show that democracy needs both an intelligent citizenry and also a moral, honest and impartial administration that is responsive to the will of the people.

The nonpartisan program is open to young men who are high school juniors and is conducted each year across the country through each state’s Department of the American Legion. It’s estimated that more than 28,000 young men annually participate in the civic workshops.

The gathering is designed to be a virtual 51st state with a constitution, statutes and ordinances constructed by its citizens to govern themselves. Mississippi’s Boys State is known as the mythical state of Magnolia.

Participants are required to review their knowledge about political workings of state and local government, and they perform the same duties as actual officeholders in the real world. 

The group looks forward to the experiences they will share at Ole Miss, said Cortez Moss, this year’s organizer for Boys State. 

“We are extremely excited to be on the campus of the historic University of Mississippi,” Moss said. “The university has a track record of producing much of Mississippi’s and America’s political and policy leadership, and the political science department and public policy leadership program are second to none.

“Mississippi’s next leaders can only grow from this experience.”

Chucky Mullins Drive Entrance Closed For Roundabout Construction

Roundabout construction where Hill Drive and Hathorn Road meet will run through August

OXFORD, Miss. — The University of Mississippi campus entrance at Chucky Mullins Drive will remain closed through the summer so a roundabout can be built where Hill Drive and Hathorn Road meet.

The work there to install a roundabout will lead to improved traffic flow on the south side of campus, but until the work is complete in August, the entrance will be closed. Drivers will need to use other entrances to campus in the meantime.

“The four-way stop at Chucky Mullins Drive, Hill Drive and Hathorn Road has seen increasing congestion over the past few years,” said Ian Banner, director of facilities planner and university architect. “The new roundabout will allow traffic to flow more freely at this intersection.”

UM police chief Tim Potts encourages carpooling and also advises those attending events near the construction site to use parking on the outskirts of campus, especially along University Place, this summer while the work is ongoing. 

“People should expect delays if they are going to try to utilize Gertrude C. Ford Boulevard or Manning Way,” Potts said. “They should also expect delays if exiting campus using that intersection.

“A left turn from Manning Way onto Gertrude Ford is going to be very difficult, if not dangerous. If that intersection must be used, allow yourself extra time.”  

The best bet for those who need to leave campus and make a left turn onto Gertrude Ford Boulevard is to make a right instead and drive around the roundabout at Old Taylor Road to head back northbound, Potts said. This is a faster, safer alternative, he said.

Foundation Completes $20 Million Pledge for Ford Center

Performing arts facility has transformed cultural environment of the university and region

The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation completed its $20 million commitment Tuesday to funding the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi with the presentation of a check for $1 million. Photo by Jay Ferchaud/UMMC


OXFORD, Miss – The Gertrude C. Ford Foundation completed its $20 million commitment to funding the world-class Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi with the presentation of a check for $1 million at a ceremony Tuesday in Jackson. 

The 88,000-square-foot Ford Center, which opened in 2002, has hosted graduations, plays, concerts and the 2008 presidential debate and many other important events. The center is paid for, thanks to the donation from the Ford Foundation, which has been a major contributor to several Ole Miss improvement projects and research efforts.

“The University of Mississippi treasures our long-standing philanthropic partnership with the Ford Foundation,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We are grateful for their many, thoughtful investments, especially the magnificent Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts – truly one of the gems of the Oxford campus for 15 years now – which enriches the intellectual and cultural environment of the university and beyond.”

Ford, wife the late of former U.S. Rep. Aaron Lane Ford, was raised in a family that greatly valued philanthropy down through its generations. Some 150 years ago, a $25 donation from her family helped the Andrew Female College Building Fund in Randolph County, Georgia.

In 1991, she established the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation in Jackson. She died in 1996, but her legacy lives on through the foundation’s generous giving. 

Besides funding for the Ford Center, the foundation has given gifts to several other UM initiatives. 

It funded the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom in The Inn at Ole Miss, the Daniel W. Jones, M.D. Chair For Faculty Support on the Oxford campus, the Suzan Thames Chair of Pediatrics at the UM Medical Center and land for Gertrude C. Ford Boulevard.

In November 2016, the foundation announced a $10 million gift to the UM Medical Center to establish the Gertrude C. Ford MIND Research Center, which is dedicated to researching Alzheimer’s disease, the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. More than 50,000 Mississippians suffer from Alzheimer’s or similar conditions. 

The Ford Foundation also announced in 2015 a $25 million commitment to the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics center, which is under construction on the Oxford campus. The donation is a testament to belief that the center will improve Mississippi through increasing general science literacy and through preparing a greater number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates as well as K-12 teachers in those subjects. 

Cheryle Sims, who was a longtime friend and confidant of Mrs. Ford and serves on her foundation’s board, said the Ford Center for the Performing Arts and the foundation’s continuing partnership with the university is something her friend would be proud of. 

“It’s wonderful,” Sims said. “We feel like everything there at the Ford Center is beautiful, and they’re having good shows and good turnout for those shows. We’re very proud we invested in that building. Mrs. Ford would be very happy.” 

The foundation has helped realize the vision of both its namesake and the university – to build a performing arts center that is a gem of the region, said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director.

“This premier facility offers a beautiful atmosphere and technical support that enriches lives through the presentation of varied and diverse art forms,” Aubrey said. “The Ford Foundation has given us the opportunity to bring joy, reflection, connectivity, social relevance and entertainment to our audiences.

“We are grateful for their patronage of the arts and forever indebted to these individuals for their contribution to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.”

Mississippi Robotics Champs Earn World Championship

Pearl team wins title as part of a three-team alliance in Texas

A robotics team from Pearl that won the Mississippi’s FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition held in March at the University of Mississippi has gone on to win a world championship. The winners are, left to right, Lilli Stewart, Lauren Blacksher, Noah Gregory, Maisyn Barragan, Jordan Hariel, Logan Hariel and Mathew Blacksher. Submitted photo.

OXFORD, Miss. – A robotics team from Pearl that won the Mississippi’s FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition in March at the University of Mississippi has gone on to win a world championship in Houston, Texas. 

The group of friends from Pearl has worked together for more than five years and was part of a three-team alliance that won the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship. Their team, called Wait For It, worked with RedNek Robotics from Sun River, Montana, and Rise of Hephaestus from San Diego to win a best of three matches at the April 19-22 competition. 

The students had to pilot their robots to victory at the South Super Regional competition in Athens, Georgia, before making it to Houston for the finals. Paul Stewart, the coach and mentor for Wait For It, praised the team’s effort and determination. 

“I am very proud of what the team has accomplished,” Stewart said. “Our goal this season was to simply qualify for the world championship. For this group of young professionals, winning the world championship will be something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The team members, all of whom are homeschooled, are Lilli Stewart, Lauren Blacksher, Noah Gregory, Maisyn Barragan, Jordan Hariel, Logan Hariel and Mathew Blacksher.

Four other Mississippi teams placed at the championship. Techno Warriors Advanced from Brandon placed 16th, Pure Imagination from Grenada placed 63rd, both in the Jemison Division. T.R.O.N. from Flowood placed 46th and Challenge Accepted from Senatobia placed 64th in the Franklin Division.

Mannie Lowe, UM’s FIRST program manager at the university’ Center for Mathematics and Science Education, praised the winning team. 

“We have seen them grow from FIRST LEGO League through the ranks of the FIRST Tech Challenge and excel both on and off the robot playing field,” Lowe said. “This team is truly an embodiment of what FIRST values in a team. Their work with their partners during the championship showed that they know how to complement any kind of team. 

The For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, nonprofit organization was founded 25 years ago by inventor Dean Kaman to build interest in STEM fields.

Teams comprise up to 15 people, and any organization – not just schools – can form a team. Students are guided by teachers, coaches, mentors and community members. Teams must design and build their own robots, keep an engineer’s notebook and do some kind of outreach to promote STEM careers.

During the competition, teams of two face off against each other. This allows participants to learn how to work with other teams and enjoy healthy competition at the same time.

The robots can be built out of virtually any material as long as teams follow regulation rules. In the past, some teams have built their robots out of PVC pipe, wood and aluminum. However, the competition is about more than just robots.

Mississippi FIRST Tech Challenge teams have always proven to be high-quality robot builders, and the program will grow, Lowe said. 

“We look forward to seeing bigger and better things from the team as we continue to grow the FIRST Tech Challenge program throughout the state,” Lowe said. “The program continues to grow with over 50 teams now, from four just five years ago, and we will see bigger growth in the future as others around the world now see that we have a first-class program here in the South.” 

Modern Languages Department Offers New Doctoral Program

Degree will prepare graduates to work in industry or run higher education programs

The University of Mississippi’s Department of Modern Languages will offer a new Ph.D. in second language studies this fall. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Beginning this fall, the University of Mississippi’s Department of Modern Languages will offer a doctorate in second language studies. 

The degree is designed to educate professionals who can provide second language training for firms that conduct business globally and need workers who can speak Spanish and other languages. The program also will train future modern language administrators for universities and other institutions.

“We aim to train language professionals to meet certain needs today in education and in the private sector,” said Daniel O’Sullivan, professor of French and interim chair of modern languages. “There is an increasing need for people to administer language programs. Also, companies with international business require a cadre of language professionals to help them train their workers.”

The degree program has two tracks. One is in applied linguistics, which is geared toward understanding empirical data about languages, the evolution of languages and various dialects in the media and across the nation, among other aspects.

The second track is in Spanish. It focuses on meeting the growing demand for professionals and academics who understand the language and culture of Spanish-speaking communities, O’Sullivan said. 

Many different faculty members from the department, which teaches 11 languages, will be involved in the new classes. The goal is to have a cohort of five people enter the program per year. 

“It’s the first new Ph.D. in the College of Liberal Arts in a very long time, and we’re very proud of that,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s going to highlight the achievements of the faculty, who are very active in research.

“We’re going to build a name for ourselves for developing language programs to train those who run programs at other universities and institutions.”

The degree will prepare students to be leaders locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, said Felice Coles, the program’s graduate coordinator and professor of modern languages.

“The emphases in applied linguistics and Spanish will give students a greater understanding of how to learn, teach and work with speakers of many languages around the world,” Coles said. “Using their valuable and marketable skills, our Ph.D. graduates will happily find jobs in education, government and industry.”

The program represents a big step in the continued growth of modern languages at the university, said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics. 

“With the development of certain areas of research and teaching focus, the Department of Modern Languages has worked for nearly a decade to develop a unique doctoral program in second language studies and applied linguistics, a program which will provide training for future foreign language educators in academic positions at universities throughout the country,” Dyer said.

UM Partnership with TVA, NEMEPA Saves $217,000 Annually

Project improves sustainability and efficiency across campus

North East Mississippi Electric Power Association CEO Keith Hayward speaks during a celebration of a partnership between the Tennessee Valley Authority, NEMEPA and the university that will result in major energy savings and reduce the university’s carbon footprint. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi, Tennessee Valley Authority and North East Mississippi Electric Power Association marked the completion Thursday (May 4) of a project that saves the university more than $217,000 in utility costs each year and reduces its carbon footprint.

The TVA awarded the university a $150,000 grant to improve energy efficiency on campus by installing LED lightning, which lasts about 11 years and is more energy efficient than other bulbs, as well as make other retrofits.

The university also created an Energy Committee, which developed a plan for responsible management of power resources with a holistic approach that integrates the school’s core mission moving forward.

“We must be good stewards of our resources and committed to sustainability,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “This investment by TVA assists with our efforts and has helped us identify and make key energy improvements across campus, maximize resources and reduce overall energy consumption.”

University leaders gathered Thursday with representatives from TVA and NEMEPA to mark the completion of the project, which will save 2.7 million kilowatt hours per year. In electricity use terms, that’s the equivalent of 200 homes’ total energy consumption for a year.

The work also creates a carbon output reduction equal to taking 401 cars off the road each year.

It’s expected the investment in the project will pay for itself in just over two-and-a-half years, based on the savings calculation of $217,000 annually.

TVA has given $450,000 to Ole Miss, Mississippi State University and Mississippi University for Women as part of this grant program, and more than $1 million collectively with other TVA EnergyRight Solutions programs. 

TVA is proud of the strong partnership it has with the university, said David Sparks, TVA’s Mississippi energy utilization and marketing manager.

“The University of Mississippi successfully utilized this award to identify and make key energy improvements across campus, helping maximize resources and reduce overall energy consumption,” Sparks said. “The savings from this program and the partnership will help TVA fulfill its commitment to a lower carbon future.”

About 55 percent of TVA’s energy mix is carbon-free, as a result of sustainability partnerships and projects. In 2016, TVA projects saved enough power to run 24,600 more homes for a year.

About 15 percent of NEMEPA’s electric load comes from Ole Miss, making it one of the power company’s biggest customers, said Keith Hayward, general manager for the utility. This has led to a close relationship with the university over the years.

“The university is a great place to teach sustainability and take on projects like this that we’re doing with TVA’s EnergyRight program,” Hayward said. “We’re trying to do the right thing with power use to be more sustainable and energy efficient and help others with demonstrations like this to teach people how to use energy more wisely. It helps all of us.”

Greenhouse gas emissions at UM will be reduced by an estimated 2,092 tons. That’s equal to preserving 15 acres of forests from conversion to cropland for a year. 

Lenoir Hall, home of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, is one of the buildings retrofitted to increase energy efficiency, and these energy-saving measures are being integrated into the curriculum. When UM students enter food service professions, they will be trained on how to make smart energy decisions in dining facilities. 

The funds also will be used to create an energy dashboard, which will show real-time energy consumption in campus buildings interpreted using terms that are meaningful to people who are not engineers.

The work of the UM Energy Committee is a lasting legacy of the partnership. The group is made up of engineering and planning professionals who come together with academics, athletics, housing and sustainability professionals to consider the big picture of energy use at Ole Miss.

“We are grateful and pleased to form this partnership with TVA and we thank them for their generosity,” said Ian Banner, university architect and chair of the UM Energy Committee. “During the three years the money has been made available, it has helped us push on with our energy savings work across the university.” 

The chancellor noted the importance of the committee’s work in the coming years and thanked TVA for its support. 

“We must always be looking ahead to what we leave for future generations,” Vitter said. “Again, we are extremely grateful to TVA in helping address this goal.”

Counseling Center Has New Home, Same Values of ‘Acceptance and Respect’

Officials plan to expand staff and add more services in coming years

Michael Hirschel, a licensed psychologist at the University of Mississippi Counseling Center, works in the new and improved center in Lester Hall. Photo by Robert Jordan/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Counseling Center, which focuses on treating clients with “acceptance, respect, compassion and support” through a broad range of services, recently celebrated its first anniversary in its new location on the third floor of Lester Hall.

The space is an improvement over the center’s old home, in the old Band Hall near Bishop Hall. Along with the new office, officials plan to expand the counseling staff with four or five new positions in the coming years and offer more outreach services to the Ole Miss community, Director Bud Edwards said.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common issues the Counseling Center handles.

“The way stress manifests itself is really varied,” Edwards said. “Some people get anxious when they’re under stress and some people get depressed when they’re stressed.

“In terms of the diagnostic categories we see clients with, anxiety is the No. 1 issue and depression is No. 2. It has been that way for about eight to 10 years now.”

Counseling is beneficial to anyone struggling with these and other issues. When things just aren’t right, the important thing is to know that it is OK to get help, Edwards said.

“The first thing I suggest is to recognize when something is different,” Edwards said. “The second thing is ask yourself whether it persists.

“If you know yourself well enough to know that occasionally you’re going to have bad days, or you may feel down in the dumps, that’s about as normal as it gets. If you know the extent of that, then you can know whether the situation is something more.”

The center’s staff works to create a warm, welcoming environment that fosters respect for patients. The staff firmly believes in self-determination and growth. Trust and safety are also cornerstones of the Counseling Center’s values.

Personal counseling and therapy, group counseling and therapy, crisis intervention, consultation, employee assistance and campus outreach programs are offered to faculty, staff and students. Anxiety and depression, relationship problems, substance abuse, college adjustment issues, eating disorders, grief and loss issues, and family or work problems are among the issues the staff can handle.

Employees can get four consultations per calendar year through the employee assistance program. The first is free, and the remaining three are $30 apiece, payable through payroll deduction. The short-term service is often used by employees dealing with challenging work or life situations.

Visits are free for students, but a $20 fee is charged for no-shows or late cancellations. There are no session limits on visits for students, and the center makes external referrals at students’ requests.

Several different free group therapy sessions are also available. The topics include “Calm In Chaos,” a four-week educational class designed to help participants bring tranquility to even their most hectic days, and “Understanding Self and Others,” a special group for graduate students to gain insights about themselves, grief and loss, and other topics. Support groups also are available for international students, making peace with food and group meditation, among others.

In response to a recent presidential executive order that limited immigration from several countries, the Counseling Center has opened a support group for anyone affected by the issue.

“We do try to be sensitive to current events going on in the state, as well as globally, and we keep the staff apprised of those things so clients can access appropriate services,” Edwards said.

Services there don’t stop at 5 p.m. The crisis intervention program makes a counselor available 24 hours a day for emergencies. The center asks those who need after-hours help for an emergency situation to call the University Police Department at 662-915-7234 to be connected to a counselor.

Speaking with a counselor after hours doesn’t require any official police action and no police report is filed for those cases.

The Counseling Center also refers clients to the psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in the University Health Center when needed.

The Office of Violence Prevention, which helps students navigate concerns about relationship violence, stalking or other issues, is also located in the Counseling Center. The office also provides prevention programming for students.

Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick, UM assistant director of violence prevention and an attorney, helps students who may have been sexually assaulted, or the victim of a physical assault, stalking or other crimes to navigate their options. She provides information to help them decide whether to file criminal charges or handle the issue through the student conduct process or with the campus Title IX coordinator’s office.

She is also on call after hours to help students work with authorities and seek medical treatment or help with the evidence collection process when requested.

“My office is driven by the students,” Mosvick said. “I never tell them what to do. I give them all the information available so they can make the best decision for them because they’re the ones who have to live their lives.

“I call it an ’empowerment model.’ It’s about empowering the student to make the best decision.”

Mosvick often helps students, and sometimes their friends, work through concerns over a situation to determine the best course of action. She urges anyone with an issue about themselves or a friend to call or email her.

“I can be that person’s advocate throughout the entire process,” she said. “I’m nonjudgmental. If you make a decision, I am going to be supportive of that decision.”

UM Student Aims to Raise $25K to Fight Blood Cancers

Childhood schoolmate's struggle inspired Riley Juenger to make a difference

UM sophomore Riley Juenger, of St. Louis, hopes to raise $25,000 by May 5 to fund research and patient care for people battling blood cancers. She has raised more than $7,000 so far. Submitted photo.

OXFORD, Miss – When University of Mississippi sophomore Riley Juenger was in fourth grade, one of her schoolmates at Visitation Academy in St. Louis was diagnosed with leukemia and courageously battled the disease until it took her life a few months later. 

At the time, Juenger, a banking and finance major, didn’t understand the disease that her schoolmate Molly Gleason, was battling and asked her parents to explain it. The difficult realization that illness and death can strike anyone at any time came to her then.

Knowing Molly and her story instilled a lifelong conviction in Juenger to fight blood cancers and raise money and awareness in hopes of finding a cure. 

Juenger, who has been nominated as a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year candidate, is working to raise $25,000 by May 5 to fund research and patient care for those battling blood cancers. She has created a website for online giving and has raised more than $15,800 so far. 

“Molly’s story had a profound impact on me,” Juenger recalls. “She battled this cancer with courage, dignity and a strong faith. I knew at that moment I needed to be involved and somehow give back to those fighting blood cancers. 

“The LLS gives me the opportunity to feel personally connected to Molly while I raise awareness and money for a cancer that doesn’t care what age you are.”

Juenger is competing against several other LLS Student of the Year candidates in the St. Louis area to raise the most money, which will benefit one boy and one girl there who are battling blood cancers. The donations are tax-deductible and will be used to help in the fight against the most deadly illness for people under age 20.

“Every dollar I raise is a vote for me and a vote to cure cancer,” Juenger said. “I am asking you today to join me in this ambitious campaign.”

This campaign is the latest effort in a commitment that goes back to elementary school for Juenger. She has run 5-Ks and 10-Ks to support the cause and has been involved in other efforts to fight the disease. Her parents, Kevin and Melissa Juenger, of St. Louis, also have supported efforts to help those struggling with the disease. 

The Juengers admire their daughter’s dedication. 

“In addition to being a full-time college student, Riley is devoting her time to help others by raising money to fund research and help find a cure, which we believe is admirable,” Melissa Juenger said. “Her father and I are honored to be her parents and we are very proud of her.”

Michelle Jordan-Berndt, a former LLS Woman of the Year for the St. Louis area, nominated Juenger for the Student of the Year campaign. Jordan-Berndt’s son, Garrett Jordan, is a freshman at Ole Miss. 

“I felt that Riley was the perfect candidate for Student of the Year,” Jordan-Berndt said. “She has a personal connection with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, is a driven and passionate individual, and truly believes in giving back to those affected by blood cancer.”

At Ole Miss, Riley Juenger has been talking to as many campus groups as possible. The reception to what she is doing is always positive, and she’s encountered many people who have been affected by the disease. 

“I have found that so many of the people I talk to about my campaign have a connection to blood cancer and want to support our efforts,” she said. “I feel a personal responsibility to help others diagnosed with cancer in any way I can.”

UM Campus Recreation to Host Third Annual Color My College 5-K

Event benefits Special Olympics Mississippi

The UM Department of Campus Recreation will host the Color My College 5-K run, featuring a run and a UV glow paint party, April 1. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Department of Campus Recreation will host the Color My College 5-K run April 1 as part of a full day of activities.

This year, the event runs day to night with the color run starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by the first-ever UV glow paint party after dark, said Amanda Alpert, assistant director of intramural sports and sport clubs for the Department of Campus Recreation. 

“Each year, we try to add something new to attract new participants,” Alpert said. “We are excited to see how this new addition will enhance our event and hope everyone is as excited as we are.”

Color My College asks the Department of Campus Recreation each year to choose a nonprofit organization for the race to benefit.

“We have a very close partnership with Special Olympics,” Alpert said. “These partnerships not only provide opportunities for Special Olympic athletes, but also (for) Ole Miss students, so that is why we chose them.”

Special Olympics provides year-round sports training for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness and share those experiences with others around them.

Participants can sponsor a Special Olympic athlete this year for $20 and those funds go directly to Special Olympics.

The activities begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Grove with contests, giveaways and a Zumba pump-up exercise led by Elise Jones, a senior marketing major.

“Zumba is one of my passions, and I couldn’t be happier to lead the warmup,” Jones said. “I love seeing everyone’s smiling face before the run.”

All participants are required to register. The fee is $34.99 for individuals and $31.99 apiece for a team of four. Ole Miss students, with a valid student ID, can register for $29.99 or $26.99 each in a team of 4 through March 31.

Onsite registration will be $50 for every participant. For those interested in registering for just the paint party, registration is $15 through March 31 and $20 onsite.

“I love the color run because I love to run and it really brings the Oxford community together,” Jones said. “I would tell people unsure about signing up that they would miss out on a good time and an easy, fun way to be active.”

For more information, visit the Color My College website for the Ole Miss race. 

RebelWell Fitness Classes Continue to Grow, Get UM Moving

Sessions help participants improve health, develop relationships across campus

Deetra Wiley participates in one of RebelWell’s kettlebell classes at the University of Mississippi.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Deetra Wiley never thought of herself as someone who exercises until she discovered a RebelWell kettlebell and total body resistance workout class. 

The University of Mississippi applications analyst and business communication specialist figured she’d try the kettlebell class offered by RebelWell as part of its “New Year New You” program. Wiley swung the cannonball-like object with a handle, which is branded as a modern piece of fitness equipment, and also did squats, lunges and used ropes hanging from the ceiling until she was sore. 

“After my first kettlebell-TRX class, I was extremely sore the next few days, but I knew I had to keep going and stay motivated,” Wiley said. “Within the first week, I could see some toning. My body feels great. I have even more energy, and I sleep better through the night.”

In the kettlebell-TRX class, participants are encouraged to get in groups of four or five and move through various exercise stations using the kettlebell or other techniques. Wiley said this reminds her of the importance of teamwork.

“I love being part of a team to accomplish tasks, goals and, in this case, exercise,” she said. 

The winners of this year’s “New Year New You” challenge are Pam Barefield, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs, and John Berns, assistant professor of management. Both were successful in attending the workouts, weighing in and losing the most weight, percentagewise, over the six-week challenge.

RebelWell sponsors several faculty, staff and student fitness classes to give everyone a chance to work out with peers, led by a certified instructor. The classes are $30 per semester for those without a Turner Center membership and free to members.

The slate includes Zumba and Groovin’ and Movin’, cycling, yoga, aqua aerobics and TRX, which is a body-weight suspension training exercise, and a Kettlebell and TRX fusion class.

The programs started with only four classes a year ago, said Andy Karch, a certified instructor and coordinator of fitness for the Department of Campus Recreation. The number has grown to nine offerings.

This spring, 86 faculty and staff members are signed up, 56 of whom aren’t Turner Center members and otherwise wouldn’t have be able to benefit from training there. 

Each class has about 20 participants. Their enthusiasm is inspiring, Karch said. 

“The group’s consistency, energy and excitement towards the classes is incredible to see,” Karch said. “These classes are highly sought-after by our students due to the commitment, energy and just plain fun that the faculty and staff bring to them.”

The instructors and participants should be commended for helping the classes grow, said Andrea M. Jekabsons, associate director of human resources who works with RebelWell.

The University of Mississippi’s RebelWell program offers kettlebell, Zumba, cardio and many other fitness classes for faculty, staff and students. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“The challenge, ‘New Year, New You!’ really seemed to resonate with our employees, and they continue to be committed to making the classes,” Jekabsons said. “It is rewarding to see how far we have come from no faculty and staff classes, to two held in the Thad Cochran Research Center’s atrium, to a comprehensive schedule of nine options a week at the Turner Center.”

JoAnne Costa, executive assistant to the vice chancellor for finance and administration, has been participating in a variety of classes this semester but finds strength training the most beneficial. 

“Walking or other cardio activities are easy enough to do on my own, but strength training is not,” Costa said. “While I am not looking to bulk up, I understand the importance of maintaining muscle mass, and the guidance provided in these classes have been very helpful toward this goal.”

Costa has attended some of the “Sunrise Strengthening and Training” sessions with Ben Fleming, assistant coordinator of strength and conditioning in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Olympic sports area. All the campus fitness instructors have helped her tremendously, Costa said. 

“Each class offers a unique physical challenge and the instructors are great at adapting the exercises to accommodate different fitness levels,” she said. “We are very fortunate to have such a dedicated group of student instructors, and it has been a pleasure getting to know them and hearing about their classes and activities.”

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and professional development coordinator for the Intensive English Program, first enrolled in the fitness classes in spring 2016. She began with Zumba and yoga and is taking the TRX and kettlebell class and an occasional cardio session. They help her “let loose” and decompress during the day, she said.

Sapp is grateful to the university for supporting the programs, and also thankful for the efforts of the Turner Center staff. 

“These classes are lifesavers,” Sapp said. “I also wanted to keep my exercise routine and to strengthen my body and spirit. I’ve seen a difference in my physical and mental health.”

Wiley said the classes offer opportunities to meet employees from across campus that she may only speak with over the phone. Putting faces with names and building friendships by persevering through tough workouts is fun, she said. 

“The best self-motivation for me was to keep smiling through the hardest activities,” Wiley said. “The participants are awesome and their endurance motivated me as well.”

The biggest obstacle to staying committed is forcing herself to get out of the office and go. Once she enters the gym, she gets excited. 

“It’s so easy to get engrossed in work and tell yourself that you can do it another day,” Wiley said. “However, there have been times when I would push myself to go, even though I’d get there later. The way I see it, some exercise is better than none!”