Classics Professor Receives Humanities Fellowship to Greece

Brad Cook to study origins, meanings of two ancient Greek inscriptions from university's collection

Brad Cook

OXFORD, Miss. – Brad Cook, an associate professor of classics at the University of Mississippi, will spend the spring in Athens, Greece, researching two ancient inscriptions that are part of the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the University Museum.

Cook has received a $21,000 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to fund the research for five months at the American School of Classical Studies. The two Greek inscriptions he will study aren’t made of marble, like others in UM’s collection, but rather made of gold and bronze.

The gold inscription records terms of a treaty made in 202 B.C. between the king of Macedon and the city of Lysimachia, the most strategic location on the Dardanelles. The bronze inscription records the freeing of a slave woman named Philista in northwestern Greece at about the same time.

“If my research in Athens bears out my current interpretations, the gold inscription looks to have been the personal, epitomized copy of this strategic treaty made for Philip V, king of Macedon from 220 to 179 BC, as a memento of his incessant efforts to control as much of the Greek world as possible,” Cook said. “The bronze inscription was very likely the personal copy of Philista’s manumission, her ‘free papers’, a guarantee of her freedom in 111 grams of bronze.”

Several inscriptions in the Robinson collection are stone, and all those have been the subject of published works over the last 80 years. The two inscriptions Cook will study, both about the size of the palm of your hand and only a few millimeters thick, have not been in published papers. Both inscriptions are completely legible, Cook said. 

The two items are part of more than 2,000 artifacts in the Robinson collection, which is considered to be the best of its kind in the South.  Besides the extensive collection of Greek vases of all periods, Greek and Roman sculpture, bronzes, terra cottas, inscriptions, coins, oil lamps and household objects, there are collections of potsherds dating from the Neolithic Age to the Late Roman Empire.

The collection is available to students for research and study. Many of the artifacts in the collection need further study, and students are encouraged to make use of these collections in classwork and research. 

The collection is named for the former Ole Miss professor David Moore Robinson, and it came to the university at the bequests and gifts of him and his widow, Helen Tudor Robinson. The majority of the collection was purchased from the estate of Mrs. Robinson by Mr. and Mrs. Frank S. Peddle Jr., of Oxford, who generously gave it to the university. 

Molly Pasco-Pranger, chair and associate professor of classics, said she and her colleagues are proud of Cook for receiving the fellowship.

“His project will bring a pair of inscriptions in our own University Museum’s collection to international attention and contribute to our understanding of these two very different, but similarly small-scale and personal inscriptions,” Pasco-Pranger said. “This is a much deserved honor for Dr. Cook, and I am excited and proud to see a colleague who demonstrates his excellence as a teacher and scholar regularly here on our campus also receive national recognition and support for his research.”

TEDxUniversityofMississippi Brings ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ to UM Feb. 3

Seven speakers set for this year's program

UM hosts its third TEDxUniversityofMississippi conference Feb. 3 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will host its third TEDxUniversity of Mississippi conference Feb. 3 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts with seven speakers to give brief, thought-provoking lectures on the theme of “MomentUM.”

This year’s lineup includes faculty members, a graduate student, a law student and others who will discuss a variety of topics, including how substance abuse is treated by the criminal justice system, lessening the dependence on foods that come from slaughterhouses and forming your worldview. 

The series is completely organized and designed by Ole Miss students with the original theme ‘MomentUM,’ which celebrates the diversity of people and ideas that are collectively moving our world forward, said Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American studies, who serves as TEDx faculty adviser. 

“We are thrilled to invite the community to what will be the best TEDx event we have hosted here in Oxford since its founding,” King said. “The ‘MomentUM’ talk series is designed to embody the spirit of both the university and of TEDx, so we are excited for a full lineup of great talks that reflect that.”

King said he’s proud of the energy the Student Planning Committee brought to getting the event together. 

“They are selecting the speakers, designing the artwork and stage presence,” King said. “They’re all in. Each year we produce a better event, and this year will be no exception.

“We’re very excited to bring TEDx back to Ole Miss for a third time. We think it’ll be a fun and engaging show, complete with a live music intermission.”

Will Tribble, a junior mechanical engineering major from Charlottesville, Virginia, and one of the event’s coordinators, said that inviting students to speak was important to the committee this year. 

“Our speaker selection process was intended to reflect the nature of our event: showcasing the best of Mississippi while introducing new perspectives as well,” Tribble said. “As a student-run event, we made it our goal this year to showcase students for the first time.

“Due to the overwhelming enthusiasm for this opportunity, we were able to select multiple students to speak.”

TEDx uses the widely popular TED Talks conference format, which brings together lecturers and other participants in a global set of conferences under the slogan “Ideas worth spreading.” TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.

For the first time in the event’s history, students will be among the speakers taking the stage to share their ideas worth spreading. Besides the headlining speakers, the event will also feature a talk from a local middle school student with the Lafayette Middle School TED-Ed club.

The professional speakers headlining this year’s event represent Mississippi, Southern California and Brooklyn, New York. Their talks will highlight topics ranging from the interpretive power of storytelling to the future of global food production.

General admission tickets are $20, and student tickets are $10. Doors will open at noon, and the event begins at 1 p.m. Tickets and more information are available here. 

Speakers for this year’s event are: 

  • Jandel Crutchfield, a UM assistant professor of social work, who will ask the audience, “What is your worldview? And what experiences have helped you develop it? Before engaging in a debate of any kind, what if individuals truly understood their answers to these two questions? Communicating a worldview as one single number compels us to not only look outward, but inward.”
  • Brian Foster, a UM professor of sociology and Southern studies, who will talk about the “interpretive power of missing stories – the absence of an entire demographic group from certain spaces, the desire of an individual to repress or ‘move on from’ certain memories, the quiet pauses of conversation – that teaches us about ourselves, each other and how societies change – or don’t.”
  • Emily Frith, an Ole Miss graduate student, who will talk about the complex process of creative thinking, where the goal is not merely to be creative, but to produce a solution that has value, either on a personal level or on a broad scale. She will explore how society can learn to problem-solve and problem-find using trainable creativity tactics. The implications could be instrumental in this modern age of excellence in education and innovation.
  • Josh Horton, a UM law student, who will talk about his conviction that addiction should not be treated as a stigmatized moral failure, and that society should start re-integrating those who have been pushed to the fringes. From inmate to advocate, Horton’s journey from a substance abuser with a criminal rap sheet to a magna cum laude J.D. influences his passion to advocate for restorative communities and legal processes for recovering addicts nationwide.
  • Janet McCarty, who will talk about how being introduced to simple, instinctual behaviors from an unconventional mentor can transform the human perspective and the way we pursue goals and dreams. She will introduce a few simple behaviors she learned from her mentor and applied to her life. Putting these behaviors into practice gave McCarty a unique perspective on life, allowing her to achieve her dream of becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Leena Patel, who will address “Gamulation,” the practice of using games and simulation to improve teaching and learning, specifically in the workplace. She will answer the question, “Wouldn’t work be a better place for most of us if we were having more fun?”
  • Jacy Reese, who will talk about “clean meat,” which refers to real meat made from animal cells without animal slaughter. He will focus on social solutions informed by breakthroughs and historical successes will eventually allow for an ethical and efficient food system where slaughterhouses are obsolete.

RebelWell’s 2018 Slate Offers Fitness Challenge, Other Opportunities

RebelWell has a full slate of exercise classes and a new, improved fitness challenge, which uses the MoveSpring app, on tap for 2018. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. –  RebelWell hopes to inspire many University of Mississippi employees to take their health seriously in 2018 with a new fitness challenge called “New Year, Stronger You,” as well as having several regular fitness classes and other offerings to improve campus wellness. 

The challenge, which begins Jan. 22, builds on last year’s program, but this year it will use the MoveSpring app (enter the organization code um1848 in the app), to help participants track their activity and sync with teams to encourage one other. The challenges are available in different intensity levels for beginners up to the extremely active.

It also incorporates more workouts available through the Department of Campus Recreation than were part of the challenge last year. 

“Participants are not limited to RebelWell classes offered at the Turner Center and may chose alternative activities, and there are three levels of the step challenge to choose from,” said Andrea Jekabsons, associate director of human resources. “Also, this year, participants may choose to go ‘All In’ and commit to pre- and post-assessments.

“The program always generates a buzz and it’s gratifying to see employees support each other. It’s not too late to join.”

“All In” participants commit to having a pre- and post-challenge health assessment by RebelWell professionals. This also qualifies them for a $30 voucher for a basic fitness tracker, or they can apply the voucher to an upgrade of their existing fitness tracker to link to MoveSpring.

They are also eligible for a RebelWell faculty and staff semester pass for group fitness classes. If employees aren’t able to go “All In,” then the step challenge is available to everyone.

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. 

RebelWell is a wellness program that is designed to support employees, students and the community as they adopt and sustain behaviors that reduce health risks, improve quality of life and increase personal effectiveness. Wellness programs often benefit the organization’s bottom line because the employee’s quality of life is improved.

RebelWell promotes awareness and education, provides motivation for positive behavior changes, and influences campus practices and policy to support a healthy environment. Wellness is a lifestyle that encourages good physical and mental health. It’s a balanced lifestyle that includes an emphasis on the body, mind and spirit, organizers said. 

RebelWell sponsors several faculty, staff and student fitness classes to give everyone a chance to work out with peers. The classes, which are taught by certified instructors, include yoga, strength training, cycle, Zumba, hip hop fitness and TRX. 

The classes are $30 per semester for those without a Turner Center membership and free to members. For the full list of 2018 classes, click here.  

RebelWell is also working to provide hula hoops for employees who are interested in using them for exercise or recreation during breaks. Hooping has become popular again in recent years. 

Besides fitness resources, RebelWell offers nutrition education through counseling sessions, seminars and demonstrations and also executes programs to highlight local wellness role models.

As part of the challenge, those who opt for the “All In” option get to do an assessment with Mariana Anaya Jurss, RebelWell’s registered dietitian. Her services are also free to all employees. If you are interested in making an individual nutrition assessment, contact Health Services to make an appointment.

She said “knowing your numbers,” including blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as height and weight, can be tremendously beneficial. This information can be used to determine health risks, which allows you to take a proactive approach. 

“For example, checking your weight and blood pressure are convenient and simple measurements that you can monitor on your own,” Jurss said. “Once you know your numbers, you can monitor trends and progress, which can help with accountability. It is also rewarding to observe positive changes.”

Three Professors Honored with Research and Creative Achievement Awards

College of Liberal Arts honors faculty members with inaugural distinction

Jaime Harker

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts has presented its first-ever Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement Awards to three outstanding faculty scholars. 

The new award, which will be presented annually to tenured liberal arts faculty members, recognizes “sustained exemplary performance in research, scholarship and/or creative achievement at the national and international level.” The 2017 winners are Emanuele Berti, professor of physics and astronomy, who was recognized for work on gravitational physics; Robbie Ethridge, professor of anthropology, who was recognized for her work on the ethnohistory of Native Americans in the South; and Jaime Harker, professor of English, who was recognized for work on women’s and gender studies.

This year’s winners are some of the university’s strongest scholars, said Charles L. Hussey, professor of chemistry and associate dean for research and graduate education. 

“This is the first instance that the College of Liberal Arts has given such awards to established faculty members,” Hussey said. “The three individuals who were chosen for these awards represent the very best scholars that the college, if not the university, has to offer.

“They have enjoyed distinguished careers at UM and selecting them for this recognition was a simple matter.”

Robbie Ethridge

Chosen from among all categories of liberal arts disciplines, the recipients have achieved scholarly recognition and influence well beyond the Ole Miss campus. Each receives a $2,000 cash prize and a medal presented at the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony in May.

Harker, who also serves as director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, said she feels honored to be among the first awardees. 

“I am delighted to be one of the inaugural recipients of the 2017 Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement Award,” Harker said. “Valuing humanities research is important, and so is recognition of interdisciplinary scholarship like gender studies.

“The College of Liberal Arts is filled with brilliant scholars, and I look forward to their achievements in the future.”

The creation of the award reflects the university’s renewed emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education, Berti said. 

Emanuele Berti

“I am happy and grateful for this award,” Berti said. “For me, it is particularly meaningful because it recognizes the growth of the gravity group, of the physics department and of the university as a whole as one of the leading research institutions at the national and international level.

“The creation of this award and other institutional initiatives, like the Flagship Constellation program and the construction of the STEM building, are promising signs that this growth will continue in the future.”

Ethridge said she is honored to be included among this group of esteemed scholars. 

“I’m honored to have won this award, and I am especially humbled to be in the company of Jaime and Emanuele, both of whom have made impressive contributions to knowledge,” Ethridge said. “Such recognition is relatively rare in this game and I much appreciate the university’s efforts to highlight research, scholarship and creative achievement among its faculty. It is indeed very special.”

Department chairs and tenured faculty members with the rank of professor are invited to submit nominations. Each nominee’s unique contributions to research, scholarship and/or creative achievement, as well as the candidate’s CV, are evaluated by a select committee.

The dean’s office will solicit nominations from all college departments by March 1 of each year. More information on the nomination process can be found here.

UM Graduate, Football Great Tutan Reyes Fell in Love with SEC via TV

His son, Ty Reyes, carries on the family tradition as a freshman at Ole Miss

Tutan Reyes played left tackle for Ole Miss in the late 1990s.

As a teenager in the early 1990s, Tutan Reyes spent Saturdays watching SEC football on TV. He liked the powerhouse programs: Alabama, Georgia and Ole Miss in particular.

He still clearly remembers watching speedy Ole Miss wide receiver Roell Preston dive into the end zone for the Rebs on one of the old Jefferson-Pilot broadcasts. 

The then-aspiring football player, who had grown up in Queens, New York, but spent time in Georgia, was getting offers to play college football. Ole Miss was the right fit for him. It was the family atmosphere he felt while visiting with a high school teammate that convinced him to come to campus, he said.

He earned a degree in business management and minored in marketing. Coming to the South to a large university that attracts students from around the world was beneficial for him, he said.

“To go from being a kid from New York and also being from the inner city, going down to Oxford taught me how to deal with different demographics and how to understand people who were culturally different from me,” Reyes said. “It taught me a lot. I just love Ole Miss for what it did for me, and my connection with the school is still very strong.”

After being converted from a tight end to a left tackle, Reyes started 25 games at Ole Miss and was named second team All SEC his senior season. He was a major reason the Rebels had the SEC’s second-best rushing attack, as he helped clear running lanes for legendary Ole Miss running back Deuce McAllister each Saturday. 

Tutan Reyes

The New Orleans Saints selected Reyes in the fifth round of the 2000 NFL draft, and he spent 10 seasons in the league including time with the Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Carolina Panthers, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants and Houston Texans.

Today, Reyes lives in Kennesaw, Georgia, where he is a broadcaster for the Kennesaw State University football team and works in business development for the Atlanta Havoc arena football team. He is also founder and president of “Beyond the Boroughs,” which helps students across the country with their college tuition costs. 

Reyes still comes to Ole Miss football games and visits with his former teammates, who include Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke and former Ole Miss and NFL players Todd Wade, Terrence Metcalf and Derrick Burgess, who still live in Oxford. He said he feels a strong bond with the former players and those he met on campus. 

“It’s just the family vibe and the atmosphere there,” Reyes said. “There is that brotherhood because we took a shot at Ole Miss when Ole Miss was on probation, and we won games. That brotherhood is something I can’t help but appreciate.”

Ty Reyes. Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

His love for Ole Miss rubbed off on his son, Ty Reyes, who is playing football for Ole Miss now and just completed his freshman year. Taking his son to college 20 years after he came to Ole Miss was special for Tutan Reyes.

“It’s just amazing being in the stadium and seeing that Reyes name out there on a jersey,” Reyes said.

Ty Reyes knew on his visit in 2014 that Ole Miss would be the right place for him. He and D.K. Metcalf, a wide receiver on the team, whose father, Terrence Metcalf, played with Tutan Reyes, grew up being close friends. 

He is enjoying the life of a college football player but is also very excited about learning the tools that will help him break into broadcasting like his father one day. At the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, he is learning to work both in front of and behind the camera. He is also minoring in Spanish. 

“I love it here,” Ty Reyes said. “I like the fan base and all of the culture around Ole Miss like walking through the Grove. It’s just a great place to learn broadcasting. Education is first, and having the tools here to succeed is one of the main things I love about being at Ole Miss.”


RebelWell Offers 10 Steps to a Healthier You in 2018

RebelWell is here to help you reach your health goals in 2018. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new year is here, which means new goals are being made! Here are some tips from RebelWell to help with goals that will lead to a healthier you!

  1. Make you goals smart.This means that they are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Instead of “I will work out every week,” say, “I will walk or jog for 30 minutes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for the next month.”
  2. Make basic alterations.Making a drastic goal of losing 30 pounds by March is unrealistic and can lead you to becoming discouraged and giving up. Making small changes will add up! These all do not have to be made at once, but changes in what you eat, when you eat and how much you move will ultimately help you lose weight. This is not a temporary change or a quick fix; this is a lifestyle change.
  3. Have someone to hold you accountable.Focus on one or two goals/areas and team up with a friend, relative or personal trainer who will make sure you stick to your plan. It’s much easier to go for a walk at 6 a.m. every day if you know a friend is waiting for you.
  4. Make your goals known!Telling others, especially those you encounter daily, about your goals not only will help keep you accountable, but can even help avoid temptation. If you tell your co-workers that you are limiting high-sodium foods to lower your blood pressure, instead of ordering pizza for the department lunch, they might choose a healthier option.
  5. Keep a diary.Writing down everything you eat or drink – even that little piece of candy – and logging all your exercise will help keep you accountable of the foods you eat. Studies show that people who keep a food diary end up eating 15 percent less than those who don’t keep a food diary.
  6. Make peace with trigger foods.Banning your favorite treat – whether it’s chocolate, soda, Frappuccinos, chips or French fries – is bound to backfire. Instead, remove the temptation from your home or work environment and allow yourself to indulge only once or twice per week.
  7. Find a physical activity you enjoy.Finding a gym you really like is a good start but remember that signing up does not mean you are on your way to losing weight. Instead, first figure out what type of physical activity you enjoy and then work on your specific goals.
  8. Measure you progress wisely.It’s important to check your progress to see how far you’ve come. For example, if you are working on managing your weight, weigh yourself once a week to keep track of your progress. If it’s difficult to measure your goal without proper equipment, use benchmarks to track progress until you have access to the equipment again. For example, to track improved cardiovascular health, you can monitor how far you can walk or how many stairs you can climb.
  9. Ditch the “all-or-nothing” thinking.The idea that you have to either do everything correctly or do nothing at all can set you up for failure. It’s important to know that if you do have a day that you missed your workout or ate more unhealthy foods than you had planned, it doesn’t make you unsuccessful. Instead, recognize your capabilities and move forward to reach your goals.
  10. Be prepared.As stated before, having setbacks does not make you a failure. But having a plan in case of setbacks and obstacles will help you overcome them. This is not an excuse to cut corners, but will help keep you prepared for events that are beyond your control. If you are unable to go for a walk outside due to weather or construction, have a backup place to walk that shield you from these things.

Mariana A. Jurss is RebelWell’s registered dietician. 

Professor Sheds Light on Overlooked Artistic Side of Vikings

Nancy Wicker is completing a book about the art and culture of ancient Norsemen

Nancy Wicker, UM professor of art history, is working to shed light on the artwork Vikings made, including pieces like the replica jewelry she is wearing. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Vikings are often portrayed as brutish, violent Norse conquerors, but a University of Mississippi professor wants to shed light on the often-misunderstood peoples’ artistic side that led them to make intricate golden jewelry and impressive wooden carvings on the prows of their ships.

Nancy Wicker, a professor of art history, is involved in projects that aim to broaden what the world knows about the early Scandinavians, who continue to capture the public imagination through TV shows such as “Vikings.” She hopes to shift some of the focus from stereotypical characteristics to the art they made, as well as how they traveled like no group before them.

“I ask people who are interested in Vikings, ‘Do you know about Viking art?'” Wicker said. “They say, ‘Did they have art? They were a bunch of barbarians. Would they have had art?’ Of course they had art. All cultures produce art.”

Her goal is ambitious, given that the public’s basic understanding about the group is often oversimplified or just plain inaccurate. Even the iconic “Viking helmet” with horns protruding from the sides isn’t historically correct. They didn’t wear them. But, misperceptions aside, the public has a longstanding fascination with the Norse warriors and explorers.

“People are fascinated,” Wicker said. “We art historians and museum curators laugh about it. Everyone is interested in Vikings, mummies and dinosaurs. If museums have any of those three, they’re golden.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Wicker was on sabbatical to write a book about art of the Viking Age. She was a fellow-in-residence at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The experience provided her with access to some of the world’s best library collections and also gave her a work site very conducive to writing, she said.

She gave a public lecture there in April about Viking art, but the room full of scholars quickly shifted the discussions back to the darker aspects of folklore.

“The first question I got was, ‘What about the moral compass of the Vikings?'” Wicker said.

She’s committed to broadening understanding of the misunderstood group. Many people have a simplistic view of them that is mostly portrayed as violent.

Yet Vikings even produced art on their ships, which featured impressive carvings in their own distinctive style. They also made metal objects, most of them very small, featuring likenesses of various animals and people.

“You may have seen the Viking ship woodcarvings,” Wicker said. “They made the jewelry they wore. They had arm rings, neck rings and pendants. … You will see lots of animals, very, very abstracted animals on brooches and pendants that hold clothing together.”

 Metal detecting is very popular and legal in Denmark and the United Kingdom. 

There’s a TV show in the UK called “Detectorists” about hobbyists who hope to find treasure. The show may have boosted the popularity of the avocation.

Metal detecting also has led to new discoveries of Viking art that differs somewhat from what’s traditionally been uncovered in graves.

“In addition to animal art, small figurines are now being found,” Wicker said. “My argument is that the newest discoveries of human figures are changing our view of Viking art. We can’t say it’s all just animal art.”

This small silver pendant, which is around an inch high, found in Sweden, is interpreted as a Valkyrie offering a cup of mead to welcome a fallen warrior to Valhalla, the hall of the slain, according to Norse mythology. Submitted photo by Creative Commons

Besides their artistic endeavors, the great distances Vikings traveled for trade and exploration are worth scholarly treatment. They traveled from Scandinavia to Spain, North Africa and Italy, and in the other direction to Russia, the Black Sea, Istanbul, Greece and Baghdad, among other places, Wicker said.

“There are many theories about why they expanded,” she said. “They were already traveling before the Viking Age – not as far, not to Spain, not to Russia, but certainly across the Baltic and to England.

“They were already on the move, and there was a population boom. What do the second and third sons do when the first son inherits the farm?”

Around the eighth century, just before the beginning of the Viking Age, Scandinavians developed ships that were faster than the vessels that came before them due to use of sails, but they still had a shallow draw. The innovation enabled them to conquer both the seas and rivers with relative ease.

“The new ships were very adaptable, which really allowed them to be on the move and go all around the coast of France and Spain, and across the Atlantic to Greenland, North America and Newfoundland, as well as down the rivers of Russia,” Wicker said. “The development of ships is very important in the eighth century, just on the cusp of the Viking Age.”

Despite their creativity and nautical ingenuity, Vikings suffer from perceptions based on inaccuracies.

Many people who are most fascinated by the idea of pagan Nordic Vikings don’t realize that their world was multicultural. Vikings – both Christian and pagan – were in contact with Christians in Western Europe, Muslims and Jews in Spain, Slavs in Russia and Eastern Europe, and Byzantine leaders in Constantinople, as well as Turkic and Jewish groups in Central Asia.

These people also traveled to Scandinavia to trade and sometimes stay, as indicated by grave finds where Wicker excavated at Birka, in Sweden, for instance, she noted.

“The art of the Viking world fascinates me because it reflects these wide-ranging interactions,” Wicker said. “With my research, I want to show others how these diverse peoples influenced each other’s cultures.”

Wicker is also studying how pre-Viking gold jewelry reveals wear and breakage. She’s lending her expertise in this area to collaborate with Dr. Jason Griggs, associate dean for research in the School of Dentistry and professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Materials Science at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Gold is an important metal in dental work because it is sturdy, malleable and noncorrosive.

She made impressions of jewelry breakage at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, and Griggs will analyze the fractal geometry of her impressions as part of his analysis of material fatigue and failure.

The department is fortunate to have Wicker, who has achieved national and international recognition, said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and professor of art.

“To say that Dr. Wicker is actively engaged in scholarly activity would be an understatement,” Chavis said. “Dr. Wicker is not only interested in her own scholarship, but in the advancement of her field as a whole.

“She is well-connected across the globe with other members at the top of her field. She has been an essential collaborator on various projects and is one of the most rigorous of colleagues I have known. She is a truly devoted scholar, and it is an honor to have her as a member of our faculty.”

Insight Park Tenant Health Check Audit Grows into a Powerhouse Firm

Company has hired numerous UM graduates since relocating to campus

Jon Scala, a University of Mississippi graduate, is president and principal of Health Check Audit, a tenant of the university’s Insight Park that has grown into a major health care auditing firm. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Health Check Audit, with offices at the University of Mississippi’s Insight Park, has become one of the nation’s leading health care revenue recovery firms since adding office space on campus in 2014. The company recently went through mergers to position itself for even more growth. 

Health Check, founded in 1995, provides revenue cycle services to hospitals throughout the country. Its main job is to conduct audit and recovery services for commercial insurance payments to hospitals. In 2014, Health Check invested in new equipment, leased office space and hired new staff at Insight Park.

The company represents more than 1,400 hospitals in some of the nation’s largest health care systems. 

Health Check merged with Revint Solutions Oct. 31, then New Mountain Capital bought Revint and IMA Consulting and rolled them into one large company, which will continue to be called Revint Solutions.  Ole Miss graduate Jon Scala, Health Check’s president and principal, and business partner Mark Koppel, the firm’s CEO, will keep shares in the much larger company.

The deal means that Health Check has gone from 40 employees to nearly 300 employees in the last three years. The changes position the company for a bright future with more resources for its clients and room to hire more employees, Scala said.

“Health Check is in a bigger, stronger position,” Scala said. “With the additional service offerings, subject matter experts and thought leadership, we are now able to provide additional value and critical lost revenue for our clients.

“Revint Solutions is the visionary firm the industry has been demanding for years. I am humbled to have the opportunity to continue to be a part of such a dynamic revenue integrity team.” 

Health Check found a niche for itself in the complex world of health care reimbursement, tapping into a great need for cash-strapped hospitals. The company audits payments from insurance companies against the hospital’s bill in conjunction with the contractual obligations the payer has made with the hospital.

After an auditor finds an underpayment, other team members begin working on the lost revenue recovery process on behalf of the hospital. Health Check has identified nearly $100 million this year for hospitals across the country, including in the state of Mississippi.

“We put the money back into the hospital system that they never knew about, didn’t plan on and didn’t collect,” Scala said. “Every dollar is a blessing for them.”

William Nicholas, Insight Park’s assistant director, has watched the company grow since moving to campus and is impressed. 

“I am delighted for Jon and the entire Health Check family,” Nicholas said. “I watched as Jon and Mark boldly purchased the company and immediately went to work hiring some of the university’s best and brightest graduates to help him achieve his vision for Health Check. I am so pleased that his courage and hard work has been rewarded.”

Scala, 34, who earned a Bachelor of Accountancy in 2005 and a Master of Accountancy in 2006, began working with Health Check in 2013. As part of his hiring agreement, he had the option to purchase the company and became its CFO. He decided Oxford would be an ideal spot for new company team members. 

When it moved to Insight Park, Health Check quickly hired 10 graudates of the Patterson School of Accountancy to start. The company also has had interns from Ole Miss and has maintained a close relationship with the university to place students in jobs post-graduation in a fast-paced entrepreneurial environment. 

“Insight Park is the ideal location for Health Check,” Scala said. “The amenities available to tenants, combined with the proximity to top university talent, allowed us to take advantage of the intersection of talent, place and innovation.” 

The company has become more tech-focused of late, and Scala wants to find more ways to partner with the UM Department of Computer Science

Revint Solutions has about 300 employees nationwide and 15 times the revenue it had when it moved to Oxford. Health Check has hired nearly 20 Ole Miss graduates. Three of them, who are all 25 years old, hold key positions in the company, and two manage national health systems ranked among the top 10, Scala said.

One of the company’s young stars, Blake Pruett, may be familiar to Ole Miss fans. While a UM student, Pruett was a member of the rap group King Kobraz, which scored a major hit in 2013 with Ole Miss fans dubbed “Feed Moncrief,” a tribute to then-Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief.

Pruett, who began working as an auditor with Health Check during the final semester of his MBA classes, is the client services manager for Optum360, which provides end-to-end revenue cycle services for some of the largest health systems in California.

He manages the company’s product lines, client expectations and communication. His work experience has been very different and much more dynamic than others in his age group, he said, crediting Ole Miss for having connections to companies like Health Check. 

“I have been extremely fortunate with the merit-based performance growth and additional responsibility at my age to never have to look outside to find work that suits me better,” Pruett said. “I believe this to be super-unique and really speaks to the power of the networking our school provides.”

IMA Consulting is a full service health care consulting firm that provides revenue management, operations management and interim management services to hospitals and health systems nationwide. Tony Scarcelli, co-managing partner of IMA Consulting, said the company works with more than 1,100 hospitals to solve complex problems, but he’s most proud the company is consistently being named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Modern Healthcare.

The merger creates a new market-leading company offering a full suite of technology-enabled revenue integrity and recovery solutions in addition to consulting and interim management solutions for health care providers, Scarcelli said.

Company officials look forward to the future of its relationship with the university, he said. 

“We are extremely excited to be able to drive more value for our clients, drive innovation and provide new opportunities for our current and future team members,” Scarcelli said. “Revint Solutions will continue to add top talent to our organization to further enhance our market leader position.

“Accordingly, we are very excited to have access to a pipeline of highly qualified and talented students from Ole Miss.”

Pigford Recalls BSU’s Proud Tradition of Uniting Student Groups

Former president uses leadership lessons learned at UM to help others

Kezia Pigford

OXFORD, Miss. – Being part of the “Turn Your Back on Hate” campaign at the University of Mississippi was a defining moment for Kezia Pigford.

Pigford, a native of Hattiesburg who graduated from UM in 2005 with a marketing communications degree, served as president of the Black Student Union during the 2003-04 school year. She was part of the “Turn Your Back on Hate” movement, which was an approach to confronting controversial speakers on campus.

This tactic involved students lining up to protest hateful speakers, but instead of yelling at them or holding signs, students peacefully turned their backs. 

“This was the turning point for me,” Pigford said. “I decided BSU was the organization I wanted to be part of. They really were interested in equality and coming together with all members of the Ole Miss student body to make things better.

“Watching how they handled adversity and handled it professionally was inspiring.” 

The university’s BSU, founded in 1968, celebrates its 50th anniversary with events throughout the 2017-18 academic year. The group’s golden birthday will culminate with a gala in February 2018. 

Throughout the period of celebration, past presidents, former members and current students will be profiled on the BSU website and on the UM website. Special anniversary content on social media can also be found using the hashtag #UMBSU50.

Pigford got involved with the group her sophomore year, and going into her junior year, she was encouraged to run for BSU president. As the group’s leader, she focused on the BSU mission of making sure that everyone always felt welcome. 

“The BSU made it known that we were all welcome here and that yes, this present is for you to make it what you want it to be,” Pigford said. “BSU is a place of acceptance and comfort.

“It also pushed me to step out into campus and let me know I didn’t just have to be in BSU and be withdrawn. BSU is the vehicle to show all the possibilities at Ole Miss.” 

While serving as president, she found herself thrust into a more active leadership role than most BSU presidents have because that year, the Associated Student Body president was removed from office, leaving a large leadership void on campus. Taking on these roles gave her valuable leadership experience, including becoming better at public speaking, she said. 

Jacqueline Certion, coordinator of enrollment and advising for UM’s Foundations for Academic Success Track, worked at the university when Pigford was in school. Pigford considers her a mentor, along with Val Ross, director of the UM Office of Leadership and Advocacy

Certion, who also served as Pigford’s Sigma Gamma Rho adviser, draws from a Douglas MacArthur quote when remembering her.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions and the compassion to listen to the needs of others,” MacArthur said. “He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

Pigford epitomizes this quote, Certion said. 

“Kezia was a passionate leader,” Certion said. “Her ability to connect with diverse populations made her a wonderful asset to every organization in which she served. She led by example, therefore making it easy for those who followed.”

Pigford teaches elementary math and science in Bossier City, Louisiana, which she said she enjoys because she gets to affect the lives of her students, just like she was able to affect the lives of Ole Miss students. She said some of the lessons she learned at UM find their way into her classroom these days. 

“It does matter what has happened, but you can’t let it define you,” Pigford said. “You have to channel it and use it. The question is, what are you going to do with what you have now and the opportunities that are there for you in the future.

“I want to help those who are younger than me move forward in a positive direction and know they can overcome any adversity.”

‘Sorts-Giving’ Volunteers Do Dirty, but Important, Work

Sorts-Giving volunteers Michael Newsom (from left) and Mariana Anaya sort through recycling items to collect cans and plastic. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

There were cans. So many cans. There were plastic bottles, paper plates and a “Fins Up” button. There were the bones of so many fried chickens, Mississippi’s unofficial state bird.

Among the refuse piles of Ole Miss game days past, there have been high heels, a Brooks Brothers umbrella and even a discarded DVD about fixing a broken marriage, report volunteers with the University of Mississippi Office of Sustainability’s “Sorts-Giving.” The volunteers, who sort game day recycling every year during the university’s Thanksgiving break, have seen just about everything slide down the conveyor belt.

When Ole Miss football fans pack the Grove to tailgate among the oaks, the good times there lead to tons of trash. The Office of Sustainability collects the green bags, which are found throughout the Grove, and sort the cans and plastic from the garbage at the Oxford Recycling Center with the help of volunteers.

I decided to participate in Sorts-Giving this year to help with the leftovers from the Ole Miss-Texas A&M game festivities. It wasn’t my first time. It won’t be my last. I might never eat fried chicken again, though, after seeing what it looks like after being rained on and sitting in a bag outdoors for two days. This is probably a good thing for me. I’ve turned over a new leaf. 

Other than changing some of my eating habits, there’s the rewarding sense of doing something important with my time that I get from it. It’s also kind of fun to get out of the office and spend an afternoon with people who believe in a common goal and work together to accomplish it. As we stood out there ripping bags open so we could pull out the treasures, we took turns inventing little stories about how the items got there. I still can’t come up with a good reason why someone would leave her shoes. If you can think of an explanation for this, please let me know. 

Besides being a fun, but kind of dirty, diversion, Sorts-Giving makes you think long and hard about what you throw away. Recycling is important work. There’s no federal law that establishes it; city or state governments handle any legislation related to it. There’s the U.S. law, called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which creates a framework for management of hazardous and nonhazardous solid wastes, but other than that, it’s basically left up to us.

IT IS UP TO US – the citizens and our local governments – to do something about the strain on our landfills excess waste causes each day. We make lots of garbage as a nation. That’s why I help out with Sorts-Giving. It’s why others do it, too. People like us have made a difference throughout the country, but we still have too much trash that isn’t being repurposed. 

“Despite the high quantity of waste being discarded in over 1,900 landfills across the United States, the country’s recycling rates have been increasing since the 1960s,” the Environmental Protection Agency reports. “In 2014, about the country generated roughly 259 million tons of municipal solid waste.”

The Mississippi Recycling Coalition reports Mississippians annually spend approximately $70 million to dispose of recyclables, which are worth $200 million. 

Sortsgiving volunteers work at the Oxford Recycling Center to collect items to be recycled from Ole Miss game day rubbish.Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

And there’s room to grow when it comes to making this a priority. A PEW Charitable Trusts survey on environmental issues found perceptions about the issue can vary widely among communities. Only three in 10 Americans said their community strongly encourages recycling and reuse. One-fifth said most people in their area don’t really encourage recycling and the remaining half said they live in places where norms around recycling are in the middle of the survey range. So in short, it’s still not really a big deal to most people.

But, we’ve made strides at Ole Miss. Sorting is part of the university’s Green Grove game-day recycling program, which is usually done by students, many of whom are out of town on Thanksgiving break. The Green Grove program was established in 2008, in collaboration with Landscape Services and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Four student interns in the Office of Sustainability, a team of Green Grove ambassadors and hundreds of volunteers manage it annually. 

Last year, more than 400 student volunteers helped out with the Green Grove program, both through engaging tailgaters on game day and by helping sort the collected recyclables, said Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of sustainability and Sorts-Giving maestro.

“Green Grove has grown to be one of our most popular sustainability programs among students,” Abernathy said. “We’ve still got a lot of room to grow, however.

“Our diversion rate is about 3 percent, so there’s a lot of opportunity to increase that number. We try our best to make it easy, convenient and fun to recycle on game day through Green Grove.”

In 2015, when Sorts-Giving last took place, UM employees diverted 1,400 pounds of recyclables from the landfill. As of this writing, the numbers for the 2017 event were still being tallied, but you can bet the total was likely just as much, maybe more.

Ian Banner, university architect and director of sustainability and facilities planning, sums the importance of Sorts-Giving up well. 

“A primary focus of the Green Grove program is to provide an engaging and educational volunteer experience to continue to build the recycling program on campus,” he said. “This is an opportunity to have a direct impact on the university’s waste reduction efforts and to learn more about the recycling process in Oxford.” 

I heard that, Ian.