MICHAEL NEWSOM: Green Grove Volunteers Grab Tons of Recyclables Each Year

Volunteers with the UM Green Grove program sort through game day trash to pull out recyclable items at the Oxford Recycling Center. This year, volunteers salvaged more than 4,780 pounds of recyclable materials. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

This semester, the University of Mississippi’s Green Grove volunteers pulled 4,780 pounds of recyclable cans and plastics from Ole Miss football game-day trash – the equivalent weight of a Ford F-150 pickup truck.

Most people don’t think much about the things they throw away, but the 186 volunteers who participated in the program did the dirty work for everyone’s benefit. They put on plastic gloves and ripped open green bags that had been placed around the Grove on game days. They sifted through the garbage and pulled out recyclables in an effort to unlock the potential of those items to become something else. 

Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the UM Office of Sustainability, which oversees the program, notes the importance of volunteers.

“Each year, tailgating generates hundreds of tons of trash, much of which is likely recyclable,” Abernathy said. “Through Green Grove, we aim to make it as easy as possible to recycle on game day.

Office of Sustainability

“We also see Green Grove as a valuable, hands-on learning experience for our volunteers. We are grateful to everyone who helped reduce our waste this year.”

The Green Grove program was established in 2008, in collaboration with the departments of Landscape Services and Intercollegiate Athletics. Four student interns in the Office of Sustainability, a group of team leaders and hundreds of volunteers manage it annually. 

Each year, hundreds of student volunteers help out with the Green Grove program, both through engaging tailgaters on game day and by helping sort the collected recyclables. The students are out of town around the Thanksgiving holiday, when the last home game falls, so Sorts-Giving was created to get Ole Miss staff and community members involved in the efforts. 

I decided to participate in Sorts-Giving this year. It wasn’t my first time, and it won’t be the last. Originally I volunteered because my friend, Abernathy, who wasn’t yet the sustainability associate chief, rounded up some volunteers to help out.

I’m supportive of my friends and what they are passionate about, so I was there more to help out a pal instead of being motivated to help the planet. That has changed. My eyes have been opened to the importance of reusing as many things as we can. 

Being involved with Sorts-Giving for just a few hours each fall makes me think long and hard about what I trash. It also makes me appreciate the efforts of those who spend time removing items from what we throw away to be recycled. Something good can come from something that otherwise was just going to go into a landfill, lost among the mounds of eyesores on a formerly pristine hill somewhere. 

The aluminum cans we recycle become more cans, but also bicycles, airplane parts and even building facades. The ever-so-common water bottles lead me to believe Ole Miss fans are hydrating, which is good. The other positive is that we’re recycling those bottles, which can be turned into more bottles, but also fashioned into fleece jackets, backpacks, carpet and sleeping bags, among other items. 

The ever-present red plastic cup, an essential part of Ole Miss tailgating since 1848 – probably; I didn’t Google it – are also recycled through Green Grove by a company called Terracycle. Green Grove recycled 5,668 of them this year. 

Not everyone shares my enthusiasm for my recycling, which is concerning.

Perceptions about it can vary widely among communities, according to a survey by the PEW Charitable Trusts. 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.

There’s no federal law that establishes it; city or state governments handle any legislation related to it. There’s the U.S. law, 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 to do the right thing. 

The upshot of these data points is that it is left up to us, so let’s all work together to reduce what we put into landfills for the good of our planet.

Meet Theda Russell, November’s Staff Member of the Month

Theda Russell

Theda Russell, a teller in the Office of the Bursar, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for November. To help us get to know her better, she answered a few questions for Inside Ole Miss.

IOM: How long have you worked at Ole Miss? 

Russell: 21 years and counting.

IOM: What is your hometown?

Russell: Oxford, Miss., but I grew up in New Mexico!

IOM: Talk about your favorite Ole Miss memory.

Russell: I remember the excitement leading up to the presidential debate here in 2008. I wish we could have another debate here someday!

IOM: What do you enjoy most about your position or the department in which you work?

Russell: The people I work with and getting to work with students. This is a great office and the students are always interesting.

IOM: What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Russell: Travel, read, spend time with family.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Russell: To travel to many more states in the U.S. I would especially like to go to New York and Rhode Island.

IOM: What is your favorite movie or book?

Russell: “Apollo 13.” I love anything about space travel and exploration.

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?

Russell: The Grove on game day! I love the excitement, and I like to see all the different people.

IOM: What is a fun fact about you?

Russell: I love to go to estate sales. I never know what I might find!

IOM: If you could have lunch with anyone alive or dead/fictional or real, who would it be and why?

Russell: My parents, to be able to see and talk to them again, and to tell them what has been happening all these years.

IOM: What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Russell: Calm, compassionate, inquisitive.

IOM: If you could visit one time or place in world history (past, present or future), what would it be?

Russell: The future in 50 years to see the medical and technological advances.

IOM: If I could be an animal for a day I would be _____.

Russell: A bird.

To nominate a colleague for Staff Member of the Month, email staffcouncil@olemiss.edu with the name of the individual you’d like to nominate as well as why you feel he or she should be recognized.

UM Senior Completes Coveted Internship with Tesla Motors

CME prepped Jarrett Simmons with innovative practices for work at groundbreaking company

Jarrett Simmons, a University of Mississippi senior majoring in mechanical engineering, has completed two internships with Tesla Motors at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, California. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Jarrett Simmons was obsessed with cars from an early age, and as a University of Mississippi sophomore, he found himself working at Tesla Motors, which has shaken up the automotive world with its luxury electric vehicles that boast ludicrously quick acceleration times.

Simmons, a senior mechanical engineering major with an emphasis in manufacturing, is a student at the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. He was among the less-than-1 percent of applicants who received an internship with Tesla, not once, but twice. He aggressively pursued opportunities, which he credits for landing the sought-after gig at Tesla.

“It’s very cliche, but anything really is possible,” said Simmons, of San Diego. “Going to one of the harder companies to get into for an internship and being able to thrive in it is a very rewarding thing.

“I’m much more confident after learning to apply everywhere for different positions. Getting told ‘no’ is a lot better than not applying at all. A lot of doors open when you do that.”

Tesla, which builds electric cars and “infinitely scalable clean energy generation and storage products,” is headquartered in Fremont, California.

“It’s kind of like Disneyland, in a way,” Simmons said. “It’s so clean. It’s so big. It’s unlike any manufacturing center that I’ve ever been to with the CME.

“There’s also a lot of security, so it’s kind of cool that you get to see it and a lot of people don’t.”

Elon Musk, a South African-born entrepreneur and businessman who has been called “tech’s most enigmatic CEO,” started online bank X.com in 1999, which later became PayPal. He founded SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003.

At the Fremont facility, Simmons bumped into Musk a few times. The maverick was very visible, but always busy working on ideas about private space exploration, Mars colonization, electric and self-driving cars, solar energy and artificial intelligence.

“He was working on higher-level problems than I was,” Simmons said with a laugh.

Simmons has a relative who is a car collector, which allowed him to go to many car shows, and once, he met Lincoln’s design director. He learned about how the company builds all its prototypes, and that ignited an excitement about automotive engineering and production in Simmons. 

Years later, he found himself as an Ole Miss sophomore working in Tesla’s powertrain group with the rotor team during his first internship with the company. He worked on the main engine drive unit in the Tesla Model S.

Jarrett Simmons checks out an electric truck developed by Tesla Motors, where the UM senior has interned twice. Submitted photo

During his most recent internship, he worked in the new product unit on everything from the control screens in the cars to the battery packs that power the Model 3. 

His time in the “real world” came with many lessons, beyond organizing his time and finding his meals. He learned the importance of social skills in the workplace. 

“Something I thought going in was that I needed to have a lot of technical knowledge,” Simmons said. “But the most important part was the social aspect of work. That surprised me quite a bit.

“You need to be able to communicate quite a bit with others. Reaching out to the right people can help you go a long way.”

Getting an opportunity to work for such a groundbreaking company as an undergraduate was special, Simmons said. 

“Tesla has a very different approach,” he said. “The cars work. They’re fast. They’re efficient. They are better than most gas cars that you can buy.

“Beyond that, just as a company, it is just so untraditional. It doesn’t really have a marketing team; there’s no advertising, plus they’re manufacturing in the Bay area. It just has a lot of elements that make it different.”

Simmons credits much of his success to the skills he’s learned at the CME, which was one of the reasons the California kid came to Ole Miss, besides the strong sense of school spirit at the university. The CME is something other universities he considered didn’t have going for them.

The CME teaches its students fundamental and innovative practices that are crucial in modern manufacturing. Its mission is to cultivate future leaders by immersing students in unique experiences that are instrumental in a variety of different career paths.

The center serves as a professional resource to aid the state’s economic growth.

Students have secured some impressive internships in addition to the one Simmons landed at Tesla, said Scott Kilpatrick, associate director of internal operations at the CME. They’ve worked for Ingalls Shipbuilding, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Lockheed Martin, Exxon and others.

The internship concept is central to the CME’s mission of training students, he said. 

“We don’t require them to do an internship, but the expectation is certainly laid out that we want them to do this,” Kilpatrick said. “We try to provide as many resources as we can either to connect with partners we have, or be prepared to go out and search on your own.”

Simmons has excelled partially because of his determination to find opportunities, Kilpatrick said. 

“We’re very proud of what he’s done, but we’re also really excited to see what he’s going to do in the future,” he said

Ole Miss Army ROTC Turns 100

Storied program continues to teach vital lessons, prepare future leaders

University of Mississippi Army ROTC cadets ruck march down the university’s South Campus Trails . The UM Army ROTC program reached its 100th year in 2018. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – This year marks the 100th anniversary of the University of Mississippi‘s Student Army Training Corps, which was formed while the nation was preparing future officers who would become part of the more than 2 million U.S. soldiers who fought in World War I. 

Today, the group is called the Ole Miss Army ROTC, and its alumni have fought and died in every U.S. war since it was founded. They’ve trained for every scenario of every era of modern warfare. Time with the program shaped its members in both their careers in uniform and in civilian life.

Sarah Gunnells, a senior paralegal studies major from Tupelo, is a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard. In December, she’ll receive her Army commission as a medical service aviation officer, and after she graduates in June she will enter flight school to fly Blackhawk and Lakota helicopters.

The draw to serve her country and get involved in Ole Miss ROTC was powerful, she said.

“I just wanted to do something that would challenge myself and be a part of something that is bigger than myself,” Gunnells said. “I consider it to be one of the highest honors.”

She minors in military studies, as do all members of the ROTC, and is also minoring in music. She’s a violinist with the LOU Symphony Orchestra.

Gunnells said she believes her experience at the university is very well-rounded, largely because ROTC exposes her to many situations and many different personalities. 

“We have a lot of opportunities to train with different kinds of cadre members because we are expected to do a lot of different jobs within the Army,” she said. “There’s also the camaraderie of being a student and also in the Army that is so beneficial to morale.

“Having a battle buddy in the same branch and in the same major as you is important.” 

UM Army ROTC cadets participate in the university’s annual Pass in Review, which is held each year in front of the Lyceum. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Training for the ROTC has evolved a lot over the last century to meet the demands of each era of warfare, said U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Douglas, UM program coordinator for military science and leadership.

Most recently, cadets were being trained to interact with key leaders of villages in the Middle East until about two years ago. The approach since has shifted to be focused on ground operations in wide-open areas, such as the terrain of Afghanistan.

The cadets utilize Mississippi National Guard installations for training exercise, including Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg and Camp McCain near Grenada. Once per semester, they attend joint exercises with other universities in Mississippi and neighboring states.

Though the mission often changes, the end goal hasn’t changed much over the last 100 years, Douglas said. It comes down to how the future officers can lead troops when they do lab exercises each Thursday afternoon.

“At the end of the lab when people get hot, tired and not wanting to be there, that’s when the leadership really comes out,” Douglas said. “It’s not so much the competency part, but leading and getting people to do what you need them to do, keeping them engaged and learning to deal with that frustration from subordinates. That part has never changed.”

The Ole Miss ROTC has a long, proud history.

Retired Mississippi Army National Guard Maj. Gen. Buddy Chain was a member of the Ole Miss Army ROTC in the early 1950s. The 83-year-old did two years on active duty with the Army before entering a 32-year career with the guard. He retired in 1998. 

Chain, of Oxford, looks back on his time with the ROTC fondly. In fact, he still carries on one skill he learned in ROTC. 

“One of the things that everybody that knows about me is that I can shine the hell out of shoes,” Chain said with a big laugh. 

Chain was a high school principal in New Albany and a director of personnel at UM, and has held many leadership positions. His sense of duty and lessons about being in charge that he learned in Ole Miss ROTC were instrumental in his success, he said.

ROTC remains important for young men and women, he said. 

“One of the things that’s important about it is the pride in wearing the uniform and being of service to the country that it instills in people,” Chain said. “My service in the ROTC also helped a great deal in developing my leadership skills.” 

He’s a member of the Ole Miss Army ROTC Hall Of Fame and helped start the group’s alumni club in the early 1990s. The chapter remains active and tailgates in the Grove on football Saturdays in the fall.

They stay connected with recent graduates and current ROTC programs, offering their services as mentors and giving networking opportunities to those students. Chain said this is rewarding. 

“The units are a whole lot better now,” Chain said. “Most of us who served a little while have a strong feeling for the military. Just being involved and seeing the patriotism in the bright young men and women coming through the program kind of keeps you young.”

Retired Col. Bobby Towery, who was a member of the Ole Miss ROTC during the early 1980s, embarked on a successful career in the military that spanned 30 years after being commissioned into the Army in 1983.

Towery was a professor of military science at Ole Miss in the early 1990s, and was among the group that helped start the alumni chapter. 

The Pass in Review ceremony has been an annual event for the university’s Army ROTC program since its creation 100 years ago. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

He also served as deputy commandant at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania. He retired from the Army in 2013 after a decorated career that included the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal for Valor. 

Towery, who is also a member of the UM Army ROTC Hall of Fame, remembers Ole Miss at it was in the 1980s. He recalls spending time at the rifle range, which was near Guyton Hall, and exercises on the large parade field, now site of the National Center for Physical Acoustics, where 500-600 ROTC cadets trained.

Cadets also spent a lot of time on the rappelling tower near Tad Smith Coliseum, where they honed their skills, Towery recalled.

Mississippi Army National Guard helicopter rides also helped students prepare for life in uniform. 

“Ole Miss Army ROTC especially prepared me, both academically and tactically, to be successful as a young Army officer,” Towery said. “And not all ROTC programs are created equal. They don’t all offer the availability for the expansion of your tactical knowledge.”

He credits the university’s proximity to many public use lands, including Holly Springs National Forest, Sardis Reservoir and now, the South Campus Trails and the expansive wilderness around them, as being a great asset to training that many other universities may not have at their disposal. These lands have been used over the years, including in the 1960s when military science professor Max Waldrop was training students to go to war in jungles of Vietnam. 

Many also entered the Korean War, World War II and conflicts in the Middle East. 

Retired Brig. Gen. David Smith, an Ole Miss ROTC alumnus from Madison who graduated in 1985, spent 38 years in boots. Also a member of the UM Army ROTC Hall of Fame, Smith remembers his time era of Ole Miss ROTC fondly.

It was transitional for the Army, having withdrawn from Vietnam in the mid-1970s and shifting its focus to the Cold War in the ’80s. President Ronald Reagan had initiated an arms race in hopes of crushing the will of the Soviet Union by growing the U.S. military at a rate at which the Russians couldn’t compete. 

“It was a great experience,” Smith said. “I made lifelong friendships in that program, which had a great mix of people. The National Guard was getting very much involved in that point, and we were raising a lot of officers in those days. The Army was expanding.

“The focus of the ROTC program them and now is teaching leadership. We are building entry-level managers.”

As it marks its 100th anniversary, Ole Miss Army ROTC can boast an impressive list of officers who have come through its ranks, Douglas said. 

“We have produced some really excellent officers,” Douglas said. “Of the Mississippi National Guard adjutant generals, who are the highest ranking officers in the state, many have come from the Ole Miss Army ROTC.”

University Hosting Faculty-Staff ‘Sorts-Giving’ Event

Volunteers needed Nov. 26 to help sort recycling materials

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Office of Sustainability is seeking faculty, staff and community member volunteers to help sort recyclables collected from this year’s Egg Bowl as part of the Green Grove Gameday Recycling Program.

“Sorts-Giving” will take place at the Oxford Recycling Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 26. To sign up to volunteer, click here.

“Sorting recycling is a direct way to impact sustainability on campus,” said Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability. “Student interns and volunteers work incredibly hard throughout the football season to enable tailgaters to recycle, so this is an opportunity to give those students a break before finals week and also show our support of the recycling program.”

Sorting game day recyclables is a component of the university’s Green Grove Gameday Recycling Program, which is operated by student interns in the Office of Sustainability with the help of student volunteers each semester. Besides passing out recycling bags and speaking with tailgaters on game day, volunteers gather each Monday after home football games to sort materials by hand.

All “Sorts-Giving” volunteers earn a free Green Grove T-shirt made from recycled plastic bottles and recycled cotton. Participants in recycling trivia also have opportunities to win other sustainability-related prizes such as reusable bags, water bottles and fork-and-spoon sets.

So far this semester, 175 student volunteers have recycled more than 2.5 tons of materials that would otherwise be sent to landfill.

The Green Grove program was established in 2008 as a partnership among the Office of Sustainability, Department of Landscape Services and the city of Oxford’s recycling department. Through Green Grove, tailgaters can recycle plastic bottles, aluminum cans and Solo cups on game days.

The Office of Sustainability ships Solo cups to TerraCycle for recycling, while the other items are processed through the Oxford Recycling Center.

For more information on “Sorts-Giving” or the Office of Sustainability, email green@olemiss.edu or visit https://sustain.olemiss.edu/.

History Makers: Three UM Students, 1 alumna among Rhodes Scholarship Finalists

Jarvis Benson, Jaz Brisack, John Chappell, Chinelo Ibekwe set to compete for coveted award

Jarvis Benson

OXFORD, Miss. – For the first time ever, the University of Mississippi boasts four 2019 finalists for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships, which draw students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. 

Jarvis Benson, Jaz Brisack and John Chappell will compete for Rhodes Scholarships in meetings Nov. 16-17 in Birmingham, Alabama. In addition to those current UM students, Chinelo Ibekwe, a 2018 Ole Miss chemical engineering graduate from Lagos, Nigeria, was named a finalist in the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa program. She will interview Dec. 1 in her category.

UM has had 25 Rhodes Scholars and many Rhodes finalists in its history, but never four finalists in one year.

Having four finalists is a testament not only to the students, but also to the university’s faculty, said Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where Benson, Brisack and Chappell are students. 

“Our pride and joy are immeasurable,” Sullivan-González said. “That our university has produced four finalists for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship means that our faculty and staff have worked with some incredible scholars who have stood up to the questions of the day, and the world has taken notice.

“Once again, our flagship university produces an intellectual nexus to challenge and provoke, and our students engage this moment with verve. What a great time to be working at the University of Mississippi.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, which were created in 1902, bring outstanding students from many countries to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Besides “intellectual distinction,” the selection committee seeks excellence in qualities of mind and of person, which combined offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead.

Rhodes Scholars receive tuition, travel, room and board, and a stipend for two years of study at Oxford University, with the possibility of being renewed for a third year.

Benson, a senior Croft international studies and Spanish major from Grenada, serves as president of the UM Black Student Union. He has worked on civil rights, voting rights, immigration and education and was a 2018 Truman Scholarship finalist for Mississippi. He’s looking forward to representing the university. 

“To be selected as a Rhodes finalist is surreal,” Benson said. “I am so blessed to have the chance to represent the university. While I am very excited for the opportunity to further my education at Oxford, I am more excited to show that people who look like me are able to attend and thrive in academic environments.

“To be selected as a finalist, I hope, is to show that it is possible.” 

Jaz Brisack

Brisack, a senior general studies and journalism major from Oxford, is the 2018 Truman Scholar for Mississippi and has a long history as a champion for human, civil and labor rights in Mississippi. She is president of the College Democrats, a frequent contributor to The Daily Mississippian and was a teacher-adviser for the Sunflower Freedom Project in 2016. 

“The U.K.’s historical dominance on the world stage, and Oxford’s position as that empire’s center of intellectual thought, make this school and this degree program the perfect place to deepen my understanding of how power structures emerge, evolve and can best be influenced or fundamentally altered,” Brisack said. “Interacting with professors and other students who are engaging with these issues from myriad global perspectives will give me the opportunity to critically challenge my own ideas and learn from others’ ranges of experience.”

Chappell, a senior international studies and Arabic major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, co-founded Mississippi Votes and works on international human and civil rights. He is a 2017 Barksdale Scholar.

John Chappell

He said he’s thrilled to be in the competition with Brisack and Benson, both of whom he said are friends and partners in community organizing and coalition building at Ole Miss. Being selected is a testament to the people and communities who have made him who he is today, Chappell said.

“I absolutely could not have come this far without the support of the Croft Institute, Honors College and broader university community, as well as the people who have helped me create homes away from home in Mississippi and abroad,” Chappell said. “My family and hometown community of Albuquerque also make me who I am, and I hope to make them proud in my future career.”

Last year, Ibekwe was a semifinalist for the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa program , which was unveiled in 2017 to support innovative young leaders in West Africa. Ibekwe was a SMBHC student.

Chinelo Ibekwe

Her long-term goal is to serve as Nigeria’s minister of health. She is particularly passionate about introducing advanced technology into the country’s health sector, as well as reforming maternal and child health care policies.

“As Africa is viewed as the last frontier in development, it is important that the next generation of leaders and policy makers – Rhodes Scholars – understands Africa’s cultural and political landscape,” Ibekwe said. “I look forward to tapping into the diverse perspectives in the Rhodes Scholar community to prepare myself for the challenges that I may experience on the journey to prosperity for Africa.”

American Politics Focus of New Center Named for Haley Barbour

First classes of Center for the Study of American Politics to be taught in upcoming term

UM soon will be home to the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics. Celebrating the creation of the center are (from left) John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science; Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi; Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter; and Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi soon will be home to a bipartisan center named after alumnus Haley Barbour, a major architect of national politics who served two terms as governor of Mississippi.

On Thursday (Oct. 18), the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approved the creation of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics, which will be part of the Department of Political Science. The center will focus on the study of American campaigns and elections, and its first class will be taught in the upcoming winter term.

Barbour, who holds a Juris Doctor from the university, said he is honored to have a second center at his alma mater named after him, in addition to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The Center for the Study of American Politics will be designed to attract students who will enter many fields and will provide opportunities to learn about American politics and civic responsibility through classes, work with advocacy groups and internships, he said.

“We don’t think that everyone who comes out of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics will become a congressman, or even an alderman,” Barbour said. “There will be campaign managers, but also a lot of physicians, lawyers, nurses and accountants who will understand the importance of government and become hard and effective workers for good government.”

The Barbour Center will draw from the faculty of the Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and the rest of the university, as well as connections to those working in politics. The goal is to eventually have a dedicated space on campus, and the IHL board has also approved the university’s plan to create a department chair for the center. 

“The Haley Barbour Center will broaden and deepen our strengths in political science and deliver new opportunities for our students that reflect our commitment to academic excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “We’re honored the center will be named for Gov. Barbour, whose leadership and contributions to the state of Mississippi and American politics are lasting and so highly respected.”

Students will participate in a range of topics and experiences to prepare them for engagement in the American electoral process as citizens or as political party activists, paid campaign advisers or electoral process managers.

The university soon will be home to the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics, which is named after the former governor (third from right). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The Barbour Center’s mission will be two-pronged. The first focus will be academic, including an endowed chair and a series of courses to advance students’ knowledge and interest in campaigns and elections. A second focus will be on outreach, including bringing high-profile speakers to campus as well as hosting national conferences and summer outreach programming. The center will also provide some funding for graduate students.

“The center and others involved will find out about students who want to be involved in elections and help them find a job with a campaign, their state party, a national party, or a trade association or an advocacy group,” Barbour said. “Students will decide which kinds of groups they want to work for; we won’t assign them to one. This is very bipartisan.” 

The Department of Political Science has seen an increase in majors, which is counter to national trends where majors in this field are on the decline, said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He believes the addition of this center will lead to even more interest.

“The current climate of American politics suggests the need for young people to engage in the election process and be prepared for the reasoned, respectful political debate that supports a healthy democracy,” Cohen said.

“The University of Mississippi is already producing these kinds of engaged, knowledgeable citizens, and the addition of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics will provide more unique, focused experiences and courses of study to take this training to the next level.”

John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science, said there is not a more fitting namesake for the center at the university to study elections than Barbour, whom he said has had “a long arc in American politics.”

“He started working in national politics his last year as an undergraduate, and has pretty much never left,” Bruce said. “His two most prominent roles have been as chair of the Republican National Committee, and as a two-term governor of the state of Mississippi. In both of those roles, he is credited with successful records. 

“A thread running through most of his career is activity in campaigns and elections, and it is this aspect of his career that we hope the Barbour Center will reflect.” 

Barbour began his life in politics in 1968, when he went to work as a field organizer on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. From 1973 to 1976, he was executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour (left center) and UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter celebrate the announcement of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were among the many Republican candidates who received his advice. He also served as political director of the Reagan White House and cofounded BGR Group, a prominent Washington government affairs firm. 

From 1993 to ’97, Barbour served as chairman of the Republican National Committee and managed the “Republican wave” in 1994, which led to Republican control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

In 2004, Barbour took office as Mississippi’s 63rd governor. The following year, after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, he earned national recognition for his quick and decisive response to the disaster.

In 2015, Barbour’s memoir was published. “America’s Great Storm: Leading through Hurricane Katrina” gave his perspective on leadership lessons that came from the storm.

The department’s alumni advisory board first raised the idea of creating an endowed faculty chair named after Barbour. The board and the former governor came together to design the center in a way that benefits students, faculty and the university. 

The center will be funded by private donors and external funding grants. So far, the Governor Haley Barbour Endowment for the Study of American Politics has raised almost $1.5 million. Plans are in place to pursue additional funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, as well as state and federal grants.

“The timing and exact shape of all the programming will be determined by the timing and scope of available funds, but this is a large endeavor and will ramp up over the course of years,” Bruce said. “We will have some programming in the very near future, and expand with time.”

Barbour said one great long-term benefit of the center is that it will promote a more engaged citizenry and inspire students to take an active role in their government for generations to come. 

“This is something we believe will be attractive to Ole Miss students,” Barbour said. “We think they’ll enjoy it and be better citizens because of their time here.” 

Meet Margaret F. Walden, October’s Staff Member of the Month

Margaret F. Walden

Margaret F. Walden, associate director for institutional research in the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for October. To help us get to know her better, she answered a few questions for Inside Ole Miss.

IOM: How long have you worked at Ole Miss? 

Walden: 11 years. 

IOM: What is your hometown?

Walden: Pensacola, Florida. 

IOM: Talk about your favorite Ole Miss memory.

Walden: It was the day I attended Freshmen Orientation with my son. All of the orientation events were wonderful, but the most exciting part was the realization that I was now officially an Ole Miss parent.

IOM: What do you enjoy most about your position or the department in which you work?

Walden: The best thing about working in IREP is the people. I enjoy working through technical issues with the staff and finding creative ways to support our internal and external stakeholders.

IOM: What do you like to do when you are not at work?

Walden: I love to spend time with my family, go on walks and to read.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Walden: To go hiking and watching the sunset in the Grand Canyon.

IOM: What is your favorite movie or book?

Walden: My preference would be to read rather than watch movies. My favorite books are Christian fictions, especially the “Left Behind” series.

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?

Walden: My favorite Ole Miss tradition is the annual Staff Appreciation Week. The university is only as great as its people. I think we should always take time to let those around us know how much we appreciate the outstanding contributions they make to their individual departments, to the university and to the community.

IOM: What is a fun fact about you?

Walden: I am a foster parent. Having reared my own three children, I am enjoying the challenges of partnering with my church, Child Protective Services and the community in providing a safe and nurturing environment for children in foster care as they transition through a very stressful and sometimes unpredictable time in their lives.

IOM: If you could have lunch with anyone alive or dead/fictional or real, who would it be and why?

Walden: While there are several great people in history I would love to meet, if I could have lunch with any one person, it would be my father – Howard Freeman Sr. He passed away almost nine years ago. I think about him every day, and I would love to have just one more opportunity to see him face-to-face and listen to the great wisdom he possessed.

IOM: What are three words you would use to describe yourself?

Walden: Encouraging, analytical and faithful.

IOM: If you could visit one time or place in world history (past, present or future), what would it be?

Walden: I would like to have witnessed Dr. Martin King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. I believe this was a pivotal moment in America’s history.

IOM: If I could be an animal for a day I would be _____ .

Walden: An eagle, because I taught my children that they should always soar high and reach for the stars.

To nominate a colleague for Staff Member of the Month, email staffcouncil@olemiss.edu with the name of the individual you’d like to nominate as well as why you feel he or she should be recognized.

M Partner Deploying Volunteers Across Mississippi

Charleston, Lexington, New Albany focus of ambitious initiative

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter speaks at the M Partner announcement in March 2018. The university will send 150 M Partner volunteers to work Saturday (Oct. 13) in Lexington, Charleston and New Albany. Photo by Photo by Thomas Graning/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 150 volunteers will work Saturday in Charleston, Lexington and New Albany during M Partner Community Day to tackle some of each city’s major priorities. M Partner is the University of Mississippi’s hands-on new approach to addressing community needs in the state.

M Partner, which was unveiled in March, was outlined in the university’s comprehensive strategic plan, Flagship Forward. It is the result of a meeting of leaders from all UM campuses to create an ambitious new approach to the university’s longstanding commitment to improving quality of life in Mississippi.

M Partner Community Day engages students in the three partner cities through volunteer projects.

“This Community Day of Service embodies the tenets of M Partner and gets to the core of our university’s commitment to building healthy and vibrant communities,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “It is extremely rewarding to see our students so overwhelmingly and enthusiastically embrace this tremendous opportunity.

“I am excited about this community collaboration and the experiences our students will gain as well as the measurable impact this M Partner event will have upon our partner communities.”

Besides the day of service on Saturday, business development forums are set for Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 16 and 17) in New Albany and Charleston. These forums are hosted in partnership with the Entrepreneur Center at the Mississippi Development Authority, as well as the university’s Insight Park and McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Transportation and lunch will be provided at the business forums. To register, email mclean@olemiss.edu or mlcoope4@olemiss.edu.

Vitter laid out the vision for M Partner in his November 2016 inaugural address, noting the considerable potential in channeling the talents of the university to support towns and cities as they work together to improve community life. Service efforts such as M Partner Community Day will be complemented by faculty members teaching academic courses that align with priority projects identified by community members.

The work to this point is only the beginning. M Partner will act as a pilot program for up to two years. The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has a lead role in M Partner, and administrators have been working to find community goals for the program through ongoing discussions in each of the three cities.

M Partner programs began over the summer, when students in the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative worked with youth from each M Partner city to help them understand how the entrepreneurial mindset can be used to address challenges. Faculty members from the Ole Miss departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Management; the School of Law; and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College worked with those students.

Community partners including the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center, Mississippi Development Authority – The Entrepreneur Center and the Mississippi Main Street Association have pitched in as well.

Locals have spoken passionately about what they love about their cities, as well as their economic development, education, community well-being and beautification ideas in meetings the institute has conducted with partner cities over the last few months, said Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director of the McLean Institute.

“We are thrilled that M Partner Community Day will be an opportunity to contribute to the beautification projects identified by each community,” Martin said. “And we are excited for our student volunteers to see how their efforts in this day of service are connected to a much larger community-university initiative.”

Volunteers will be sent to each community to help with beautification and landscaping, and they will even work Charleston’s Gateway to the Delta Festival, said Michaela Cooper, the AmeriCorps VISTA supporting M Partner.

Some Ole Miss students from these towns will talk with volunteers and leaders about life in their towns and the importance of this day to them personally to provide perspective to the helpers, Cooper said.

“On days of service, it is vital that we constantly think about how to maintain the sustainability of these partnerships and how to bring lessons learned from our partner communities back to our campus,” Cooper said. “We plan to accomplish this by making this not just a day of community service, but also a day of reflection and a call to action.”

More information about the M Partner program is available at http://mpartner.olemiss.edu/.

Anchorage to Oxford: Student Travels 4,500 Miles for Graduate School

Son, father drive eight days to begin Ole Miss IMC program

Chris Lawrence saw stunning scenery, such as Destruction Bay, Yukon, during his drive to Oxford. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Chris Lawrence and his father spent eight days on the road from Anchorage, Alaska, to Oxford, going through a CD case full of classic rock, telling stories and taking in diverse landscapes on a 4,500-mile adventure to start a new journey as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

At the end of the voyage, Chris Lawrence enrolled this fall as an integrated marketing communications graduate student at Ole Miss. Jay Lawrence got to see the town before heading back to Alaska by plane.

“I was able to show him Oxford and Ole Miss a little bit, and that meant a whole lot,” Chris said.

After Chris earned his undergraduate degree in journalism and public communications at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, he decided he would go to graduate school and continue his education in Mississippi. His mother, Kelly Lawrence, lives in Amory, and growing up, he spent summers in the Magnolia State with her.

“I thought, well, why not see what Mississippi has to offer so I could be close to my mom while continuing my education,” he said. “I did a little research and discovered Ole Miss had a great IMC program, and decided it was for me.”

Once the decision was made to enroll at Ole Miss, the daunting 600-mile-a-day, eight-day trip lay ahead of the father-and-son team. They stuffed Chris’ Dodge Caliber full of moving essentials and mementos and drove in five-hour shifts each day.

Jay enjoyed the long trip with his son and the ability to spend so much bonding time with him.

“We had a good time,” Jay said. “It was an opportunity to spend more time with him.”

The many different types of landscapes and wildlife between Anchorage and Oxford served as the main source of entertainment for the pair.

“We unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time at places, but we definitely took in the sights and wonders of nature,” Chris said. “Just to be able to have a piece of a place and kind of know a little about what it’s like was nice.”

Some of the places the two stayed were the Canadian cities of Destruction Bay, Yukon; Fort Nelson, British Columbia; and Edmonton, Alberta. Cities in the United States included Bozeman, Montana; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; and Forrest City, Arkansas.

Lethbridge, Alberta, was a particular favorite.

Kelly, Chris and Jay Lawrence take a picture with the statue of William Faulkner upon their arrival to Oxford. Submitted photo

“We drove through there and saw a 100-year-old steel viaduct and rolling hills all around town,” Chris said. “Lethbridge seemed runner- and biker-friendly, too. It was really, really cool.”

Bozeman, Montana, on the other hand, was bustling with tourists there to take in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the traffic and crowds there, Montana was lovely.

“We went over a bunch of rivers,” he said. “There was also a lot of open areas where you could see nothing but the sky. You could see for miles and miles.”

He enjoyed Montana and British Columbia for the scenery that the two places offered.

“British Columbia had a lot of open views,” he said. “You could see the gorgeous trees, rivers and lakes, so that was really awesome and majestic. We saw six black bears on the side of the road alone through B.C., and about 10 wild horses in Montana.”

To pass the time during the trip to Ole Miss, Chris and his father had conversations about past times and what lies ahead, while jamming out to rock bands such as Pearl Jam and Tom Petty.

Luck was also on their side. The two encountered few problems that slowed them down along the journey. They even said they were always ahead of bad weather.

“Surprisingly, we only saw two or three accidents the entire way so that was good traffic didn’t hold us up,” he said. “I’d say we drove through only 60 minutes of rain combined along the way.”

Once they reached Forrest City, they knew they were close to their final destination. The food was a dead giveaway.

“I had catfish with the bone-in, slaw and baked beans,” Chris said. “So I definitely knew I was home in the South.”

Chris Lawrence stands at mile 0 of the Alaska Highway (ALCAN Highway) in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Submitted photo

The father-son team was relieved to get to Oxford after that. Before Jay flew back to Anchorage, Chris and his mom showed Jay around Oxford and Ole Miss, which was special to all of them.

Chris is familiar with Oxford because he used to visit the town with his mom during summers.

“I always really liked it,” he said. “I thought it was a beautiful place.”

His mom was relieved the trip went well, and she was elated to see her son.

“When he got here, I was so happy to see him and am so excited knowing he’s at Ole Miss now,” she said.

The Lawrences made unforgettable memories over those 4,500 miles.

“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences saying you could do a cross-country trek like that,” Chris said. “It was the end of my Alaska chapter and the beginning of my chapter here in Mississippi.”