Faulkner’s Short Stories Focus of 2018 UM Common Reading Experience

Selection fulfills original goal of committee to showcase author's work

Nobel Prize-winning author and UM alumnus William Faulkner’s short stories will be the focus of UM’s 2018 Common Reading Experience. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Selected short stories of a University of Mississippi alumnus and one of the most acclaimed American authors of the 20th century will be the focus of the university’s 2018 Common Reading Experience. 

The Common Reading Experience will showcase Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner’s short stories, many of which are set in the fictional Yoknapatawpha County. 

All incoming freshmen and transfer students will be provided the collection of short stories with instructions to read selections before the fall semester begins. Instructors will utilize the texts in their classes, and faculty and staff are also encouraged to read the works.

Having an entire class, the university and the community revisit Faulkner’s work together will be a special experience, said Kirk A. Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African American studies and co-chair of the Common Reading Experience selection subcommittee. 

“Many of our students – even Mississippians – get only a passing nod to Faulkner in high school English classes,” Johnson said. “This will be the first time that an entire cohort will have full-on exposure to the work of the man who made Oxford a worldwide literary destination.”

Faulkner studied at the university and wrote many literary classics at his home, Rowan Oak, which sits on 32 acres off Old Taylor Road. He lived and worked there from 1930 until his death in 1962. In 1972, his daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, sold the house to the university to secure it as a place for people to learn about her father and his work.

When the Common Reading Experience was created in 2012, the founders had envisioned focusing on a Faulkner work one year. This year, the committee worked with Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies, to choose several short stories from the “Collected Stories of William Faulkner.” The subcommittee will determine a list of stories, which will comprise the 2018 Common Reading Experience selection.

Once the selections are made, the committee will provide more details about university and community events and discussions planned to augment the Common Reading Experience throughout 2018. 

The program aspires for an enriched sense of academic community through a communal reading of a text, said Bob Cummings, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric and of the CRE committee.

“By providing students the same text to read before arriving on campus, and then engaging that text in several common classes, followed by numerous programming events outside of the classroom, the Common Reading Experience helps students explore and develop their own thoughts and intellectual identities in the context of their peer groups.” Cummings said.

Bryan Stevenson’s “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” was the 2017 CRE selection. Previous selections include “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot, “Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter” by UM professor Tom Franklin, “The Girls of Atomic City” by Denise Kiernan and “The Education of a Lifetime,” a memoir by Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat.

More information on the Common Reading Experience can be found here

UM Hosts Former Wikipedia Executive, Journalist and Internet Activist

Sue Gardner to deliver insights on social media and technology Nov. 13 on campus

Sue Gardner, a journalist, executive and internet activist, speaks at 7 p.m. Monday (Nov. 13) in the Overby Center for Politics and Southern Journalism. Photo by Victoria Will

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will host journalist, executive and internet activist Sue Gardner on Monday (Nov. 13) for a discussion of “How the Internet Broke Democracy, and What We Can Do About It Now.” 

Gardner’s lecture is set for at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the Overby Center for Politics and Southern Journalism. The university’s digital media studies interdisciplinary minor and Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies  are sponsoring the event, which is free and open to the public.

Gardner is a former director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a role she held from 2007 to 2014, and former director of the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.’s website and online news outlets. She advises the Tor Project and First Look Media. 

“Our world has never been more dependent on access to accurate information, and it has never been harder to find amid the ‘noise’ created by a glut of content that often seems designed to mislead,” said Debora Wenger, assistant dean and associate professor at the UM Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “Sue Gardner’s focus on ensuring that we, as citizens, get the information we need to be free and self-governing should matter to everyone, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.”

Robert Cummings, chair of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric, said he invited Gardner to campus because of her experience managing a global community-based technology, including Wikipedia, through the Wikimedia Foundation.

“She understands and has wrestled with many of the issues, which define the role of technology in our culture,” Cummings said. 

Judging by her work at the Wiki Education Foundation, Gardner remains committed to education, personal development, diversity, equity and inclusion, said Cummings, who has served with her on that foundation’s board for several years.

“She helped Wikimedia Foundation speak out on the Stop Online Piracy Act in 2011,” he said. “It led to the first ever ‘blackout’ of Wikipedia, and it took a lot of leadership from her to make it happen.

“Since then, she has continued to work within Silicon Valley to advance the agenda of personal freedom on the internet and within tech communities. She has also advocated for gender rights within the tech community, which is no easy task.”

Her topic is an important one, given the large role social media and technology play in people’s understanding of the world around them, Cummings said. 

“I think that she is an important person to speak to students at the University of Mississippi because she can provide insights on how the worlds of technology and social media have affected the health of our democracy,” he said. “In addition, at times we can be very removed from the realities of Silicon Valley, and I think that she can bring insight to our students about those communities.”

For more information on Gardner and her work, go to https://suegardner.org/.

Marc Lerner is UM’s 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year

Honoree will discuss research into Swiss folk hero William Tell

Marc Lerner, associate professor of history, will deliver the UM 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year lecture on Swiss folk hero William Tell at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Bondurant Hall auditorium. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Marc Lerner, associate professor of history at the University of Mississippi, will give the 2017 Humanities Teacher of the Year Lecture on a popular figure in folklore at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 in the Bondurant Hall auditorium. 

Lerner will discuss “The International William Tell: Highlighting Popular Culture in a Transatlantic World,” focusing on his research about the Swiss folk hero. The lecture is free and open to the public.

This year’s Humanities Teacher of the Year said he was shocked when he heard that he won the award, which is sponsored by the UM College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council

“I am deeply touched that the committee thought I was worthy of the honor,” Lerner said. “I know that there are many instructors who work very hard for their students and who deserve the recognition for doing a great job in the classroom.

“It is gratifying to be around such hard-working and supportive colleagues, who are great teachers and conduct such stimulating research. We are all fortunate to be inspired by the bright and enthusiastic students at this university.”

Lerner, who has been teaching at Ole Miss since 2005, holds a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in history from Columbia University.

He regularly teaches courses on the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Age of Revolution and on nationalism. His research interests are focused on revolutionary Europe in a comparative perspective, republicanism and the shift to a modern political world, as well as Tell, among other topics. 

Lerner has been a star teacher for many years, said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts. 

“He is very deserving of the recognition and the opportunity to give the 2017 lecture,” Dyer said. “His colleagues and his students agree that he is a compassionate, caring and engaging teacher of history and other topics. He has been teaching classes in the Honors College for several years as well.

“The college is proud of his skills and his teaching acumen, and he is highly deserving of the Mississippi Humanities Council Award.”

The William Tell story came to European prominence in the late 15th century as a foundational legend that sought to explain the origins of Swiss liberty. The different versions of the story agreed on some fundamental elements: Tell was a virtuous citizen of Canton Uri who was oppressed by the tyrannical Gessler after refusing to bow down before the symbols of Gessler’s authority. 

Gessler then capriciously forced Tell to shoot an apple off his own son’s head.

“Ultimately, Gessler paid the price for his tyranny as Tell’s shot led to the independence of the Swiss Cantons and Gessler’s death,” Lerner said. “There was no agreement, however, on some other important elements of the story: Did Tell lead the revolt? Did he take part in the foundational oath? Was Gessler local or imposed by an outside power?”

Most often, the Tell story broke down into one of two categories, either supporting the elite leadership of the Swiss republics or arguing for more popular input into politics. Either message was easily extended beyond the Alps: Tell acted in defense of his family against the foreign tyrant and continued to respect the authority of the local elite, or he was a popular revolutionary who planned an insurrection to overthrow aristocratic rule. 

During this period of revolutionary transformation, the figure of Tell evolved into a proxy in an ongoing battle between those who saw true liberty as self-rule, free from the intervention of foreigners, and those who saw liberty as an egalitarian principle.

Lerner’s lecture is an extension of his ongoing research about the international forms of Tell’s story to better understand a global Age of Revolutions from 1750 to 1850 through studying cultural productions. The story was used and manipulated by a variety of participants and he can track this story of liberty into all corners of the Revolutionary world, Lerner said. 

“The development of a wider international perspective allows us to look more deeply at the Revolutionary period itself and the globalized world it created,” Lerner said. “Too often, historians observe fundamental revolutionary processes only in a single country.

“The Age of Revolution did not start and stop in Paris or Philadelphia; rather it was a transnational phenomenon. Revolutionary and counterrevolutionary ideals, principles and problems were not bound by national borders.”

Each October, the Mississippi Humanities Council honors outstanding humanities instructors at state institutions for higher learning as part of National Arts and Humanities Month. College presidents or academic deans nominate professors for consideration, based on the excellence of their humanities work in the classroom.

Each nominee receives a cash award from the Mississippi Humanities Council and is asked to prepare and deliver a public lecture on a humanities subject during October or November.

UM, General Atomics to Collaborate on Unmanned Submarine Technology

Company moving into Insight Park offices and labs Nov. 1

The University of Mississippi and General Atomics are working together to develop new technology for unmanned underwater vehicles. The joint effort is based at UM’s Insight Park. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and General Atomics are beginning an on-campus collaborative effort focusing on acoustic sensing and navigation technologies for unmanned underwater vehicles to aid Department of Defense operations in deep-sea areas.

GA Electromagnetic Systems Group will occupy offices on the UM campus at Insight Park beginning Nov. 1. The Insight Park facility will help GA-EMS strengthen the relationship established with UM and its National Center for Physical Acoustics to facilitate the investigation of acoustic-based techniques for navigation and control of unmanned underwater systems.

The collaboration ultimately will likely involve not just the NCPA, but other campus groups as well, said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“We are so pleased to have General Atomics plug into the university community through Insight Park,” Gladden said. “Over the course of the past year, we have identified multiple research groups on campus that could partner with GA-EMS to help find solutions for modern needs of the Department of Defense.

“I’m sure as our partnership continues to strengthen, both GA and UM will find this a mutually beneficial relationship.”

GA-EMS has a history of collaboration with universities to advance acoustic and infrasound technologies. This partnership is a natural one, said William Nicholas, Insight Park’s assistant director.

“Our location provides GA-EMS with close proximity to the National Center for Physical Acoustics and other key schools, colleges and centers at the University of Mississippi,” Nicholas said. “We are especially excited to provide our students with opportunities to intern with such an innovative company.”

Officials with the company look forward to being on-site at UM to continue researching and developing critical technologies designed for real-world applications, said Hank Rinehart, business lead for surveillance and sensor systems at GA-EMS.

“The broad spectrum of talent at Ole Miss and the focus on engineering disciplines is a great match for GA-EMS,” Rinehart said. “We are excited to work with students and faculty in an environment that not only advances game-changing technologies, but also fosters community growth and entrepreneurship.”

GA-EMS will initially occupy approximately 1,800 square feet of office space and laboratory for general electronic and mechanical systems and subsystems development, testing and prototyping. It is expected to expand operations to 3,500 square feet within the first half of 2018.

The company also has extensive manufacturing facilities in Tupelo and Iuka.

About General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group is a global leader in the research, design and manufacture of first-of-a-kind electromagnetic and electric power generation systems. GA-EMS’ history of research, development and technology innovation has led to an expanding portfolio of specialized products and integrated system solutions supporting aviation, space systems and satellites, missile defense, power and energy, and processing and monitoring applications for critical defense, industrial and commercial customers worldwide.

Khayat to Receive Winter-Reed Partnership Award

Former chancellor to be honored Tuesday in Jackson

UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat will receive the 2017 Mississippi Association of Partners in Education Winter-Reed Partnership Award Tuesday in Jackson. The award is named in honor of former Gov. William Winter and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Sr. for their lifelong contributions to education. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat will be honored Tuesday (Oct. 17) in Jackson for his tireless lifelong commitment to improving education.

Khayat will receive the 2017 Mississippi Association of Partners in Education Winter-Reed Partnership Award during a tribute luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton of Jackson. MAPE established the award in 2007 to honor former Gov. William Winter and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Sr. for their lifelong contributions to public education and to provide continuing recognition for Mississippi’s outstanding education leaders. 

The former chancellor said the honor is special to him because he greatly admires the award’s namesakes. 

“When a chancellor or any other university employee receives recognition, it is being received really on behalf of the entire university because of contributions the university makes to the lives of our students and to the public,” Khayat said. “Knowing Mr. Reed through the years and knowing Gov. Winter all these years, I know what remarkably generous men they were to continue giving so much of their lives to public service. This is a tremendous honor.”

Khayat’s vision took the university to previously unimagined heights of excellence, said Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who plans to attend the awards luncheon.

“Robert’s exceptional leadership laid the foundation for where we are today and our continued focus on excellence across all aspects of the university,” Vitter said. “We are all indebted to him, and I am especially appreciative that, since my arrival, he has been a true friend and mentor to me.”

MAPE was designated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1994 and is committed solely to providing training and resources to help build local support for the success of all students.

Winter, a UM alumnus, and the late Reed, a state business and community service leader from Tupelo, were lifelong friends. Reed chaired then-Gov. Winter’s 1982 Blue Ribbon Committee on Education. 

A friend of both men, Khayat said he always respected them because Winter, a Democrat, and Reed, a Republican, worked together to make improvements to the state. They were lifelong partners for public education, and the chancellor admired their steadfast conviction to improve Mississippi’s schools.

“From the beginning, they supported education and did it dramatically,” Khayat said. “When things were difficult, they didn’t waver from their belief that public education was the key to Mississippi’s future and that if we were going to be prosperous as a state, and have a higher quality of life, we would have to have an educated populace. 

“We will forever be indebted to them for their efforts.”

Khayat served as UM chancellor from 1995 until his retirement in 2009 and has established a legacy of leadership in numerous fields throughout his distinguished career, including academics, law, sports and higher education. 

He is credited with leading efforts to increasing UM’s enrollment by 43 percent and bringing more than $100 million in research and development grants to the university. He arranged for a $5.4 million gift from Jim and Sally Barksdale to establish an honors college as one of his first acts as chancellor.

He also secured a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society at Ole Miss. In 2008, he helped bring a presidential debate to the campus.

His book “The Education of a Lifetime” won a Silver IPPY award in 2013 for best memoir in the nation.

The 1956 Moss Point High School graduate excelled as an undergraduate history major at Ole Miss, where he was an Academic All-American football player and All-SEC catcher for the 1959 and 1960 SEC Champion baseball teams.

He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the university. He joined the law faculty in 1969, and a Sterling Fellowship enabled him to pursue a degree from the Yale Law School in 1980.

He holds an honorary membership from Phi Beta Kappa and was selected as Law Alumnus of the Year in 2014.

He is a member of the Ole Miss Football Team of the Century, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Student Hall of Fame at Ole Miss. He also is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NFL, the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation, and the 2017 Dick Enberg Award presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

MAPE President Phil Hardwick said one of the attributes of a real leader is the courage to change things that need to be changed, especially in the world of education. Khayat embodies these attributes, he said.

“Robert Khayat showed genuine transformational leadership as chancellor of Ole Miss at a time when others would have preferred the status quo,” Hardwick said. “His memoir, ‘The Education of a Lifetime,’ should be required reading not only for educators but for anyone in a leadership position. He truly exhibits the spirit of the Winter-Reed Award.”

Sponsorship opportunities for the Winter-Reed Partnership Award are available by contacting MAPE at 601-573-0896 or visiting http://www.mapie.org. Individual tickets for the awards banquet are $75 and may be purchased online at http://www.mapie.org or from MAPE, P.O. Box 2803, Madison, MS 39130.

Campus Police Detective Completes FBI National Academy

Lt. Jeremy Cook graduates after 10 weeks of intensive training

UM Police Det. Lt. Jeremy Cook has graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy program. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Police Det. Lt. Jeremy Cook was among some of law enforcement’s “best and brightest” in the world who graduated recently from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy program in Quantico, Virginia. 

He was among 224 officers from 48 states, 22 countries, five military organizations and six federal civilian organizations. Cook said he enjoyed getting to know law enforcement officers from around the world, and he learned from them daily.

In addition to the classroom training, he learned from other officers through sometimes uncomfortable, but needed, discussions about race, politics, gender and other issues, Cook said. 

“I learned a lot about being a leader in law enforcement and how we are portrayed in the media and how we, as law enforcement, can make that relationship better,” he said. “I also learned a lot about myself as far as what my personality type is and how I can be lead.

“Everyone at the academy, from instructors to officers, were respectful and always showed that they cared about you.” 

The National Academy program, held at the FBI Academy, offers 10 weeks of advanced communication, leadership and fitness training for selected officers having proven records as professionals within their agencies. These officers have 21 years of law enforcement experience and usually return to their agencies to serve in executive level positions.

The FBI Academy instructional staff, special agents and other staff members holding advanced degrees, many of who are recognized internationally in their fields, provide the training at the academy. Since 1972, National Academy students have been able to earn undergraduate and graduate credits from the University of Virginia due to accreditation by the university of the many courses offered.

Some 50,365 graduates represent the alumni of the FBI National Academy, which began in 1935.

Cook, who earned a degree in exercise science from Ole Miss in 2008, has been a member of UPD for eight years. Completing the academy has been one of his goals for a few years, and Cook hopes to use some of the tools he learned there to be a better leader, coworker and communicator.

He also wants to foster relationships across campus with students, faculty and staff through events and gatherings. 

“I was fortunate to get the opportunity to go and I am forever indebted to the University of Mississippi Police Department for trusting in me to be a representative of the department,” Cook said. “It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I hope a lot of my colleagues get the same experience I received.” 

UPD Chief Tim Potts said it’s an honor to be selected for the academy with some of law enforcement’s “best and brightest” from around the world. 

“The National Academy is responsible for training the future leaders in our profession, and we are excited and thrilled that Lt. Cook represented the University of Mississippi and UPD so well at the academy,” Potts said. “We are looking forward to Jeremy being able to share his experiences with his fellow officers and the university community.”

Ray Hawkins, UPD assistant police chief, added, “I am extremely proud of Jeremy for distinguishing himself as a law enforcement professional and making the sacrifice of time and effort that will make him a better leader and UPD a better organization.”

Beth Ann Fennelly’s Micro-Memoirs Set for Oct. 10 Release

'Heating and Cooling' is latest collection by UM professor, Mississippi's poet laureate

English professor and Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly’s sixth book, ‘Heating & Cooling,’ will be released Oct. 10. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The sixth book by University of Mississippi English professor and Mississippi Poet Laureate Beth Ann Fennelly will be released Oct. 10, giving readers a combination of the extreme abbreviation of poetry, narrative tension of fiction and truth-telling of creative nonfiction.

A book launch event at 5 p.m. Oct. 15 at Square Books will celebrate the release of “Heating and Cooling” (W.W. Norton and Co.). Other events are slated to follow, as listed on Fennelly’s website

The collection includes 52 different “micro-memoirs.” 

“Some of my pieces in ‘Heating & Cooling’ are simply memories that seemed to hold more than themselves,” Fennelly said.

“Some are quirky observations. Some are tiny scenes, bits of overheard conversations that, with the surrounding noise edited out, seemed to reverberate. The shortest is one sentence; the longest is a few pages.”

Though each piece is short, like a vignette, they combine to tell a complete tale, Fennelly said. 

“I call mine ‘micro-memoirs’ to indicate that they are little stories taken from my life, but they’re not fragments; they don’t depend on each other to make sense,” Fennelly said. “Hitting on the term helped me move forward, helped me relax into the joys of writing pieces that know the shape of their own thinking.”

To learn more about Fennelly’s inspirations for the book, go to https://vimeo.com/178934822/0bb1396997 for a video interview with the author.

Her first poetry collection, “Open House” (Zoo Press) was published in 2001. It was a Book Sense Top Ten Poetry Pick and won a Kenyon Review Prize, a Zoo Press Poetry Prize and a Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award.

W.W. Norton published her second and third collections of poetry, “Tender Hooks” (2004) and “Unmentionables” (2008), as well as her book of nonfiction, “Great with Child: Letters to a Young Mother” (2006).

In 2013, HarperCollins published “The Tilted World,” a novel that Fennelly co-wrote with her husband, author Tom Franklin, who is also a member of the Ole Miss English faculty. It was named an IndieNext Great Read, became a finalist for the 2014 SIBA Book Award and has been published in six foreign editions.

Fennelly’s poem “The Kudzu Chronicles,” from “Unmentionables,” is grounded in her experience in Mississippi and references William Faulkner, the Neshoba County Fair and her home in Oxford. Its closing stanzas were used as lyrics for Jackson musician Claire Holley’s song “Kudzu.”

She was named UM Humanities Teacher of the Year and College of Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year in 2011.

Born in New Jersey and reared in the Chicago area, Fennelly has written and taught around the United States and world before settling in Mississippi in 2001. She received a bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude, from the University of Notre Dame, then taught English for a year in a coal mining village on the Czech-Polish border.

She returned to the U.S. to earn her Master of Fine Arts from the University of Arkansas. She then completed a Diane Middlebrook Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin and went on to teach at Knox College in Illinois. 

She has completed residencies at the University of Arizona and MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, fellowships at Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference and Sewanee, and a 2009 Fulbright grant studying poetry in Brazil.

Fennelly has received a number of national awards, including a 2001 Pushcart Prize and a 2002 National Endowment of the Arts grant in poetry. She received a United States Artist Grant in 2006 and the Subiaco Award for Literary Merit in 2012.

The Mississippi Arts Commission awarded Fennelly grants for nonfiction in 2005 and 2015, and for poetry in 2010. In 2015, the A Room of Her Own Foundation presented her with the Orlando Award in Nonfiction, and in 2016, she received the Lamar York Prize in Creative Nonfiction from The Chattahoochee Review.

In 2016, Gov. Phil Bryant named her Mississippi’s poet laureate, which comes with a four-year term she is using to make poetry more accessible to Mississippians.

Ivo Kamps, UM professor and chair of English, noted that while Fennelly is a celebrated poet and accomplished novelist, he’s excited to see what she does in the essay format.

“No doubt the essays will be incisive, arresting and beautifully written,” Kamps said. “In fact, one of the essays included in the volume already won the prestigious Lamar York Prize, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the book as a whole received a great deal of critical attention and garnered official recognition.”

The university is fortunate to have her in its classrooms, Kamps said. 

“Our students who enroll in Professor Fennelly’s creative nonfiction classes are very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from someone this talented and accomplished,” Kamps said. 

Kimbrely Dandridge Credits BSU Experience with Enabling Her Success

UM alumna cites organization's 50-year legacy on campus

Kimbrely Dandridge. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – As she painted the walls at an underfunded inner city school in Chicago on a Black Student Union service trip, then-University of Mississippi sophomore Kimbrely Dandridge experienced a powerful feeling of community with her fellow UM students.

The trip, which was part of BSU’s observance of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service, compelled the Como native to become more involved with the organization.

“We were visiting schools that were underfunded and heavily populated with minority students,” Dandridge said. “Quite a few of the BSU members had come from high schools across Mississippi, where society fed us statistics that a high school student from Mississippi could only go so far.

“We wanted to show the students at these inner city schools that opportunities were endless, and they could break ceilings and impact society. It was a great time to be able to share with the young students. BSU has always been about serving other students on campus or going out in the community to serve others.”

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.

By her junior year, Dandridge, who graduated in 2013, had been elected BSU president after previously serving as the organization’s secretary.

The group worked hard to be a support network for students, she said. They set up committees to host events to let students know about career opportunities, helped them with job interview preparation and offered other resources for succeeding before and after graduation.

The organization also served as a “safe space” for Dandridge and other students where issues of race and race-related incidents could be discussed openly and freely, she said.

“Organizations like BSU are vital in the success of minority students,” Dandridge said. “It was a safe space for me because I knew I had a group of people behind me and they were going to be supporting me. BSU has provided that kind of support for many students.”

After serving as BSU president, Dandridge was elected Associated Student Body president her senior year. She credits BSU with showing her how to be someone others look up to.

“BSU really taught me how to be a leader,” she said. “It taught me the importance of discipline and integrity.

“I learned those core values within the BSU and how to grow as an individual in a community with people who do not look like me. It also taught me not to combat hate with hate.”

Dandridge’s leadership with BSU had a positive effect on both herself and the organization, said Val Ross, former BSU adviser and director of the UM Office of Leadership and Advocacy who mentored Dandridge. 

Her time as president served as a time for self-exploration and provided situational experiences from which Dandridge was able to glean deeply about the unique experience of her African-American peers, Ross said. 

“Kim is committed to improve access in higher education and to increase resources and opportunities for African-Americans,” Ross said. “This life goal and the understanding of the complexities and development of strategies by which to feed her commitment provided a stronger foundation and building tools through her leadership with the Black Student Union.”

Dandridge credits Ross as a major influence in her life. 

“She instilled in me the importance of professionalism and discipline,” Dandridge said. “I would not have been the student leader I was without her constant push and support.” 

Dandridge graduated from UM with a journalism degree. She earned a law degree from Texas Southern University and is a business attorney at Butler Snow in Memphis. 

The BSU’s 50-year legacy of ensuring minority students succeed on campus is impressive, she said, predicting that legacy will continue to grow.

“The BSU vision has expanded to help us realize we are not in this alone,” Dandridge said. “Its purpose is to see minority students succeed and be a part of something bigger than themselves.”

UM to Host Communitywide Rosh Hashanah Services

Observances Wednesday and Thursday open to all

The UM Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Oxford will host Rosh Hashanah observances of the Jewish New Year in two services at Paris-Yates Chapel at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday and at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Hillel and the Jewish Federation of Oxford will host the first local Rosh Hashanah observances of the Jewish New Year in a long time, if not the first ever, this week.

The holiday, which celebrates the Jewish New Year, is the beginning of a 10-day period of reflection culminating in Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Maya Glasser, a student rabbi from New York’s Hebrew Union College, will lead two services at Paris-Yates Chapel at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday (Sept. 20) and 9:30 a.m. Thursday (Sept. 21).

“Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are considered the holiest days on the Jewish calendar,” said Richard Gershon, UM law professor and spokesman for the Jewish Federation of Oxford. “The new year brings us the opportunity for a fresh start through repentance, prayer and charity.”

The holiday is observed as the birthday of universe, the day God created Adam and Eve, which is celebrated as the Jewish New Year. 

The first two days of Rosh Hashanah are called Tishrei 1, which begins Wednesday at sundown, and Tishrei 2, which is Thursday. Members of the Jewish faith observe Rosh Hashanah with services and candle lighting. A ram’s horn, called a shofar, is sounded at prayer services. 

In prayer, God is asked for peace, prosperity and blessings, and those who practice the faith also acknowledge God as the ruler of the universe.

Historically, many locals who practice the Jewish faith have traveled out of town for Rosh Hashanah services. It’s likely Rosh Hashanah services haven’t been held locally before, organizers said. 

“Synagogues in Memphis and Tupelo have always welcomed UM students to services for the high holidays and for sabbath services, for that matter,” said Jason Solinger, UM associate professor of English and faculty adviser for the university’s Hillel. “But we are fortunate to have such a beautiful chapel on campus, where students can gather closer to home.”

The on-campus event is open to everyone, not just those who practice Judaism.

“We would welcome members of the university and the broader Oxford community who wish to attend,” Gershon said. 

Parking is open for the Wednesday night event, and parking passes will be available for those attending the Thursday service. For more information about the services or parking, email the Jewish Federation of Oxford at oxfordfederation@gmail.com.

Third Annual Hispanic Heritage Film Series Begins Sept. 21

UM screenings part of Hispanic Heritage Month observance

OXFORD, Miss. – “Hard-to-see films from unexpected countries” are on tap as part of the Third Annual Hispanic Heritage Film Series, hosted by the University of Mississippi Department of Modern Languages. It begins Sept. 21 with a screening of “The Return.”

The film series is part of Hispanic Heritage Month, which will be observed at Ole Miss from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. All five films have English subtitles and will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursdays in Lamar Hall, Room 131. The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library also will host a showing of one of the films in the series, “Truman,” at 3 p.m. Sept. 30.

The series consists of five contemporary films from Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain this time, said Diane Marting, associate professor of modern languages and one of the organizers. 

“This year has several special features: a community showing, hard-to-see films from unexpected countries and a nice, new location,” Marting said.

The films to be screened at 7 p.m. Thursdays in Lamar Hall are:

  • Sept. 21 – “The Return.” This Costa Rican movie is based on a life-changing journey back to Costa Rica.
  • Sept. 28 – “Truman.” Argentinean actor Ricardo Darín stars in a beautiful nostalgic movie about a dog named Truman. The movie was awarded Spain’s Goya Prize for the best film of 2015. The Oxford Public Library also will screen “Truman” on Sept. 30.
  • Oct. 5 – “The Companion.” Cuba’s official entry to the Academy Awards covers the period in the 1980s when HIV patients were sent to AIDS centers under military rule.
  • Oct. 12 – “The Tenth Man.” This comedy explores identity, faith and father-son relationships in Once, which is Buenos Aires’ bustling Jewish district.
  • Oct. 19 – “Seven Boxes.” This Paraguayan crime thriller chronicles a few days in the life of Victor, a daydreaming 17-year-old pushcart porter in Mercado 4 who is asked to keep seven boxes with unknown content away from the police.

The trailers for the films can be seen here.

The Hispanic Heritage Series is made possible with the support of Pragda, the Spanish Film Club.com, SPAIN Arts & Culture, and the Secretary of State for the Culture of Spain. Local major sponsors are the Department of Modern Languages, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. Other sponsors include the College of Liberal Arts; the cinema studies minor program; the departments of English, history, political science and sociology and anthropology; Croft Institute for International Studies; the Oxford Film Festival; and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.

“This series promotes cultural understanding of the Hispanic community,” said Carmen Sánchez, a UM modern languages instructor and another of the organizers.

Irene Kaufmann, UM lecturer of Spanish and another co-organizer, added, “Being exposed to international cinema is one way of opening our minds to the world, something we all need very much in these times.”