Transportation Fair, Bike Share Demo Set for Sept. 12

Event helps Ole Miss community explore alternative ways to travel on campus, in Oxford

Providing safety information to cyclists and motorists is a focus of the 2018 University of Mississippi Transportation Fair as access to bicycles increases through programs like the short-term bike share and the UM Bike Shop’s semester-long rental program. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will highlight modes of transportation, including busing, biking, ride-sharing and car-sharing, Wednesday (Sept. 12) during the 2018 UM Transportation Fair and Ride O’Rama.

The fair will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Galtney Lott Plaza on Business Row.

“As campus continues to grow, so do more sustainable transportation options,” said Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability. “There can be a learning curve when incorporating these modes of transportation into our daily commutes, so this event is meant to be a learning opportunity for students, faculty and staff in a low-pressure, fun setting.”

This year’s fair will include an interactive bike share demonstration, or “Ride O’Rama,” during which students, faculty and staff can try out the Ole Miss Bike Share in a temporary bike lane. Cyclists and Office of Sustainability staff will be on hand with tips for riding safely on the road.

The Bike Share program, which launched in 2017, allows students, faculty and staff the opportunity to ride two hours a day for free.

Fair attendees also can learn how to load their bicycles onto an OUT bus and get more information about Zipcar and Zimride ride-sharing and the UM Bike Shop, among other transportation-related topics.

Mike Harris, UM director of parking and transportation, said he hopes many students, faculty and staff attend the fair to learn more about various options available for getting around campus and Oxford.

“Learning how to navigate bus routes and schedules and experience bike and car share programs helps you to become familiar with these type of transportation options,” Harris said. “(When students graduate), they will most likely be working in a city with these types of mobility options available.”

Participants who complete activities at the fair will be entered to win a “commuter kit,” including a backpack, water bottle and lunch container.

The UM Transportation Fair is hosted by the Department of Parking and Transportation and the Office of Sustainability. To learn more, visit

Famed Actor Stars in Production of ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business’

Gordon Clapp of 'NYPD Blue' performing in one-man show Thursday at Ford Center

Emmy winner Gordon Clapp stars in the one-man show ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business,’ coming Thursday to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Copyright 2017 Robert C Strong II

OXFORD, Miss. – Emmy-winning actor Gordon Clapp, of “NYPD Blue,” stars in the one-man show “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 30) at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Frost, who for nearly 50 years traveled around the country charming audiences with his celebrated verse and rascally sense of humor, was one of America’s most celebrated poets. “This Verse Business” gives audiences insight into what seeing Frost in person was like through Clapp’s acclaimed performance.

The show’s playwright, Andy Dolan, said Frost’s wit and perception of the world around him was on par with that of a celebrated author from Oxford. 

“Both Oxford’s own William Faulkner and Robert Frost hand a unique ability to find the universal by means of an intense focus on their local environments,” Dolan said. “Both writers could hear poetry in the everyday speech of their neighbors.”

Clapp, who is best known for his Emmy-winning role as Detective Greg Medavoy on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” brings uncanny authenticity and joy to his Frost, the American literary “rock star” of his day. Using materials pulled from actual recordings and interviews, Clapp shares the funny and flinty icon’s poems and pointed “wild surmises” on religion, science and politics.

Dolan and Clapp also will host a master class in the Ford Center Studio Theater at 1 p.m. Friday (Aug. 31). The class is free and open to the public.

Tickets are $25 for the orchestra/parterre, $20 for the mezzanine and $15 for balcony seats. Tier 1 box seats are $25, tier 2 box seats are $20. A 20 percent UM faculty/staff/retiree discount is available at the UM Box Office with a UM ID.  Student tickets are $10 for all seats, with an Ole Miss student ID required, also at the UM Box Office.

South Oxford Center Opens, Welcomes New Occupants

Nine tenants set to receive students, faculty, community in former Baptist facility

The University of Mississippi’s South Oxford Center on Lamar Boulevard is open, providing nearly 485,000 square feet of crucial space for growing programs. UM’s Counselor Education Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment is the first of nine tenants to move into the SOC throughout the 2018-19 academic year. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – This month, the first occupant of the University of Mississippi’s South Oxford Center on Lamar Boulevard began moving into the space, which provides nearly 485,000 square feet of crucial space for growing programs.

The site, which is the former location of Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi, was purchased last year and officially turned over to the university March 1.

Besides the Counselor Education Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment, eight more tenants will move into the SOC throughout the 2018-19 academic year:

“The quality and quantity of space available at the South Oxford Center contributes to the university’s ability to efficiently address the allocation of space on our campus,” said Larry Sparks, UM vice chancellor for administration and finance. “We are pleased that this space offers an excellent option for support units, teaching and research activities, and other functions that serve external constituencies.”

The university, which has been planning for additional needed space on campus, purchased the 15-acre site in June 2017. It includes a 485,000-square-foot building, a parking garage, surface parking spaces and underground parking spaces.

The purchase provides almost seven times more space than similar costs for new construction.

“The South Oxford Center will provide the needed space for academic units to expand their research and teaching activities,” Associate Provost Donna West Strum said. “Faculty are currently setting up their labs and clinics, which will provide services to the community in a more convenient place.”

The University of Mississippi’s South Oxford Center on Lamar Boulevard is open. Over the next several years, the center will welcome new tenants, which allows for the expansion of multiple academic, research and service units. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Over the next several years, the South Oxford Center will welcome new tenants, thus allowing for the expansion of multiple academic, research and service units. Faculty, staff, students and South Oxford Center visitors will enjoy a safe, productive workspace as well as a common library area, an exercise room and additional amenities.

Future tenants to relocate to the facility will be selected over the coming months.

The building’s hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. An on-call shuttle service between the South Oxford Center and the main campus will be provided this fall.

Ole Miss staff and students who need transportation from the facility can call 662-915-7235 to set up a time for pickup 30 minutes in advance.

The shuttle will run 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and passengers will be picked up and dropped off at the South Oxford Center’s main entrance and at the Kennon Observatory on campus. 

A continuous bus service may be implemented as demand warrants to connect the South Oxford Center to the main campus.

For more information about the SOC, visit

Meet Laura Vaughn, August’s Staff Member of the Month

Laura Vaughn

Laura Vaughn, coordinator of admissions for the UM Intensive English Program, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for August. 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?

Vaughn: Five years.

IOM: What is your hometown?

Vaughn: Starkville, Mississippi. 

IOM: Talk about your favorite Ole Miss memory.

Vaughn: I will never forget one group of new students a few years ago. It was only their second day on campus, but one of them loved football and did a lot of research about Ole Miss traditions ahead of time. We were heading to an event and he starts teaching the rest of the students the “Hotty Toddy” chant. By the time we got to where we were going, the entire group was chanting “Hotty Toddy” at the top of their lungs and it was pretty amazing to hear.

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

Vaughn: I love getting to meet new students from all over the world every semester. I especially enjoy watching students enter into our program with very little English and then seeing their skills develop over time to complete fluency.

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

Vaughn: I enjoy traveling to new places, whether it’s within the United States or abroad.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Vaughn: I want to learn how to fly a plane.

IOM: What is your favorite movie?

Vaughn: I like “The Lord of the Rings” movie trilogy.

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?

Vaughn: I enjoy how you can be anywhere in the world, but when you see someone wearing Ole Miss gear, you can greet them with “Hotty Toddy” and have an instant camaraderie.

IOM: What is a fun fact about you?

Vaughn: My arms are double-jointed.

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

Vaughn: I’d like to have lunch with Harriet Tubman to see the person behind the legend and get her thoughts on today’s world.

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

Vaughn: Determined, driven and imaginative

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

Vaughn: I wouldn’t visit a time or place in history since I’m honestly fairly happy where I am now. Plus, the past wouldn’t have modern conveniences and I’d be a little too scared to see what the future holds.

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

Vaughn: A cat.

More than 1,400 Volunteers Help UM Students Get Settled

More than 5,000 students voyage back on campus ahead of first day of classes

UM students move into campus housing ahead of the 2018 fall semester, which begins Monday (Aug. 20). More than 1,400 community members, as well as university staff and students, help them get settled each year. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Wide-eyed first-year University of Mississippi students, their proud parents and more than 1,400 volunteers come together each August during Groovin’ at Move In to unload Keurig coffee makers, shelving, bedding, posters and other essentials for making a new home away from home. 

This year’s Groovin’ at Move In ran from Wednesday through Friday, ahead of classes beginning Monday (Aug. 20), with more than 5,000 freshmen, transfer students and upperclassmen moving into on-campus housing.

It’s always an momentous week for the university that brings together the community, UM staff and student volunteers, University Police officers, security, the Department of Student Housing and other campus units to make sure operations go as smoothly as possible, said Jennifer McClure, assistant director for marketing for student housing. 

“It’s so exciting,” McClure said. “Members of our campus and local communities volunteer to help. It’s so heartwarming to see them come together to welcome our new and returning residents.

“Our volunteers are essential in making our move-in fun and full of great memories for our residents and their families.”

At Minor Hall, Residence Hall 3, Stockard and Martin and other residence halls, hundreds of volunteers and parents worked around the housing compounds to help students spirit furnishings into their new homes. Among them were Bill and Cinnamen Fisher, of Eldersburg, Maryland, with their daughter, Breanna Fisher, a freshman biology major. 

Breanna Fisher was excited about beginning her college journey, while still being a little sad about leaving her high school friends behind. She also is going to miss the family’s Chihuahua, Bear, who stayed back in Maryland.

“She wanted to sneak him into the dorms, but he doesn’t like to be left alone,” Cinnamen Fisher said. “He’d whine all the time.”

Breanna Fisher said she plans to FaceTime with Bear while she’s away. 

The Fishers said they were well-prepared for the day because they’d been checking out social media posts related to move-in at Ole Miss that helped them figure out which supplies they would need. They also enjoyed meeting some of the parents who post on those pages while they helped their daughter move Wednesday.

The dolly they brought was a good call, Bill Fisher said. Breanna and her mom piled on bedding, a printer and the ever-essential Keurig coffee maker. 

The day was a culmination of plans the family made when Breanna Fisher first visited Ole Miss. It just blew the other schools away, she said. 

“I’m excited,” Breanna Fisher said. 

University of Mississippi students, their families and more than 1,400 volunteers haul loads of furnishings into the university’s 7 traditional residence halls, 6 contemporary residence halls, 2 residential colleges and 2 apartment communities as part of Groovin’ at Move In. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Shannon Richardson, assistant director of campus recreation, worked with a team of volunteers from her department. Richardson, who has participated in eight move-in weeks, said it’s fun to talk with the new students about recreation opportunities and answer questions about campus while she helps them unload.

“I’m a parent of younger children,” Richardson said. “I think about if they were my child going through their first time on a college campus, I would want to make sure they receive the information that they need, as well as insight into college life.

“I try to let them know those things and just be a friendly face for them.”

Helping out is also particularly useful for university staff members to be able to see just how much the campus means to those who learn here, she said.

“I enjoy seeing the excitement on their faces,” Richardson said. “We wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for the students. They’re whom we’re here for. We are here to serve them.”

Rachael Durham, UM coordinator of first-year experience, worked with 99 student volunteers from the MPower Leadership Program. She’s been helping students move in for five years and always makes it a point to help families move their stuff, hoping to help them feel a little bit better about sending their child off to college. 

“We are an Ole Miss family,” Durham said. “It’s very important that people see that we care about them as a student and not just an ID number.”

She said it’s important for staff members to help out because students and families can meet some of the people who shape their college careers. There’s a comfort in seeing that the university staff cares about the students. 

“I remember my move-in day, with all of the feelings and anxiety that came with it,” Durham said. “There’s a lot going on. I love talking to them about what they are excited about.

“The parents are sometimes almost in tears, but I like to let them know they are going to be OK, and they are leaving their child in good hands.”

UM Museum Named to List of 51 ‘Most Astounding University Museums’

Facility in national spotlight for fourth time in five years

The University of Mississippi Museum has been named one of EdSmart’s ‘51 Most Astounding University Museums.’ Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum and its extensive collection of art, scientific equipment and Greek and Roman antiquities are in the national spotlight once again, this time being named to EDsmart’s list of “51 Most Astounding University Museums.”

The latest recognition is the fourth time in five years the museum has been named to an esteemed ranking of national academic museums. It came in at No. 17 on the EDsmart list, one spot ahead of Princeton University’s facility. Harvard University’s Museum of Natural History ranked No. 1 on the list. 

The museum was the highest ranked Southeastern Conference institution on the list and only one of three SEC schools mentioned. Auburn University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts was listed as No. 22, and the University of Florida’s Museum of Natural History came in at No. 26.

Robert Saarnio, director of the University Museum and Historic Houses, is proud of the recognition, which he said is entirely a credit to the “brilliant professional staff and the ecosystem of support and goodwill” that surrounds the museum on campus and in the community.

“The exceptional strengthening of the museum in recent years is notably a tribute to highly supportive university leadership, to the Friends of the Museum board and all of our members, and of course to our team here for such dedicated commitment to our well-being,” Saarnio said. “Suffice to say, the campus-based museums that appear in these rankings are those whose parent institutions understand the power of arts and culture to enrich and augment a teaching, research and service mission.”

EDsmart said it recognized university museums that provide a gateway to the past and to culture, and choose to house important objects from science, art and more. Each and every object weaves a thread into a tapestry of humankind’s history, EDsmart said. These museums also add research opportunities to the universities they inhabit. 

“The University of Mississippi Museum is located in Oxford and offers a wide variety of collections, which include 19th-century scientific instruments, such as telescopes and models,” EDsmart said. “You can also find a collection of American Art, which includes items from Mark Tobey, John Marin, Arthur G. Dove and many others.

“You will also find several paintings, folk art and more at this museum. One of the highlights this museum offers is William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak.” 

Earlier this year, the UM Museum was named to College Rank’s 50 Most Amazing College Museums in the country, which was then the third time the museum appeared on national rankings lists in five years – a first in the museum’s 78-year history.

The museum provides the campus and Oxford community with unique collections, annually rotating temporary exhibitions and acclaimed educational programs for lifelong learners of all ages. Its programming for children, schools and families reaches 14,000 young north Mississippians each year.

The Seymour Lawrence Collection of American Art includes an exceptionally significant Georgia O’Keeffe painting, as well as work from other 20th century artists including Arthur Dove and Marsden Hartley.

Students learn about Barlow’s Planetarium at the UM Museum. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The museum’s collection of Greek and Roman antiquities contains more than 2,000 sculptures, terra cotta and bronze artworks, decorated pottery and coins, and a variety of artifacts that date from 1500 B.C. to 300 A.D. The majority of this internationally renowned collection was donated to the university by archaeologist and professor David M. Robinson in 1958.

The Millington-Barnard Collection of Scientific Instruments originated with the university in the 19th century. About 500 instruments that were used to teach Ole Miss students from 1848 to 1861 are housed in the museum.

The museum also has a collection of Southern folk art from the late 19th to 20th centuries by artists using a range of nontraditional materials. The permanent collection contains work by Theora Hamblett, Sulton Rogers, James “Son” Thomas and Pecolia Warner, among many others.

Also part of the museum are historic houses, including Rowan Oak, home of Nobel- and Pulitzer Prize-winning author William Faulkner. This iconic site has attracted visitors from all 50 states and 58 different countries in a recent 12-month period.

Besides its collections, the museum also offers many educational opportunities for members of the community through lectures, adult studio workshops, family activity days, children’s art classes and summer programs.

For more information about the museum, its programs and scheduling a visit, go to

UM Sophomore, Cancer Survivor Makes Most of Gift of Life

Allie Allen and her mother bonded through simultaneous battle with disease

Allie Allen, a UM sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications, has been battling a rare form of brain cancer since she was 14. She caries a full courseload and is determined not to let her diagnoses define her. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – In 2013, Allie Allen was the 14-year-old captain of her junior high dance team when she started to feel strange every day around lunch. After the brief, but indescribable sensation passed, she would become exhausted. 

She shrugged it off until a practice at Schilling Middle School in Collierville, Tennessee, when the spell hit so hard she completely stopped dancing. She saw a doctor who first thought it was anxiety, or simple exhaustion from being an active person in a growing body.

But Allen soon found out it was something far worse. She had been suffering focal seizures and was diagnosed with a golf ball-size brain tumor.

She faced the tough decision of having surgery or delaying the procedure to go to nationals with her dance team. She danced, but once the competition was over, she opted for surgery, an eight-hour ordeal that led to the discovery that her tumor was an extremely rare form of brain cancer found almost exclusively in toddlers. The teen was told she wouldn’t live to graduate from high school. But her story didn’t end there.

After two bouts with cancer, she’s a University of Mississippi sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications. She had a 4.0 grade-point average her first semester and finished her freshman year with a 3.6 GPA. 

“I won’t let cancer define me,” she said. “I take 126 pills each week, but I try to live life as much as I can. I just have to work twice as hard as everybody else.”

Her upbeat demeanor belies the struggle her life has been. After treatment stopped the tumor from growing in 2013, it began to grow again in 2015. On top of that, her mother, Debbi Allen, had been neglecting a concerning lump in her breast while her daughter underwent treatment. Once she saw a doctor, Debbi found out she had breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes. 

“We both lost all of our hair,” Allie said. “We were baldies together. It was a unique experience.” 

The two found themselves going through radiation treatments together after Debbi completed her chemotherapy. They moved into an apartment in downtown Memphis to be closer to hospitals for seven months while they underwent treatment.

“It was bonding,” Debbi said. “We spent every second together.”

Allie’s determination to live a normal life despite her long, difficult battle with cancer is inspiring, her mother said. She wrote about her experiences on her blog, dancerwithcancer,” which she wanted to use as a tool to help others going through the same struggles. Her nature definitely had an effect on Debbi, who drew strength from Allie during her own health struggles.

“I’m very, very proud,” Debbi said. “I’m raising a good one.”

Debbi’s cancer is gone. Allie still has a small tumor in her brain. Her kind of cancer has a high rate of recurrence, so she has to get scans at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital about every two months.

“I’m not in remission,” Allie said. “We’re just watching my tumor and praying that it doesn’t grow because they haven’t discovered a cure for me yet.”

UM sophomore Allie Allen (left) has been battling a rare form of brain cancer since she was 14. She and her mother, Debbi Allen, both were treated for cancers at the same time in 2015. Submitted photo

It’s easy to wonder why the two wound up in the incredibly unlikely scenario of a mother and daughter having cancer at the same time. Debbi says her daughter has one theory that makes her sad. 

“She says to me, ‘I heard you praying over me when I was in the hospital,” Debbi said. “I heard you asking God to take cancer from me and give it to you.’ I got my cancer a few months later.”

Despite being dealt such a tough hand, Debbi said her husband, Eric Allen, a pilot for Fed Ex, has been extremely strong and caring as his wife and daughter have gone through their treatments. She credits him and the couple’s son, Zach Allen, for being there for her and her daughter. 

These days, Allie doesn’t dance anymore, not because she can’t. She’s just a busy college student with a full schedule of classes and being active with Tri Delta sorority. She also has a new passion that she learned while being treated at St. Jude. 

Being bald during the awkward teen years was tough, but she found that she loved doing her makeup. 

“When I was bald, makeup was something I loved,” Allie said. “It showed that I am a girl and into girly things.”

She works with a spa, doing makeup for brides and others. She finds that work extremely rewarding. 

“I love making girls feel pretty,” Allie said. 

She also raises money and makes appearances on behalf of St. Jude. She hopes to work full-time for the hospital one day so she can help support its mission to help children with cancer. 

Though she battles side effects from medicines and treatments, Allie doesn’t do any less than a normal college student would, including handling her own laundry and chores. She has parts of the workings of her brain missing, she said, so she has to work harder than most on schoolwork. 

She also lives every day with a reminder of what she’s been through in the form of a spot on the side of her head where her hair won’t grow back. Her mom gives her credit for rocking a pixie haircut that suits her, nonetheless.

The positive vibe her presence gives off doesn’t match up with what someone might expect from a person who has fought cancer twice and lives with a brain tumor. 

Allie’s drive to be “normal” comes partially from a realization that many of the friends she made who also had cancer are no longer alive. She lives for them. 

“I really think about that all of the time,” Allie said. “It’s called survivor’s guilt. I think about my last dance. Then, my tumor was stable and it hadn’t grown. A lot of my friends had gotten re-diagnosed with their brain cancers around then. That should have been me.”

While she works through survivor’s guilt, she also takes comfort in knowing that she has been given a gift: the opportunity to keep on living. 

“They told me I wouldn’t make it to my high school graduation,” Allie said. “Statistics don’t mean anything to me, but only God knows when my time will come. No one really knows what is going to happen. I know that there is a plan for me out there.”

Meet Micah Bowen, July’s Staff Member of the Month

Micah Bowen

Micah Bowen, ID Center coordinator, has been selected as Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for July. 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?

Bowen: I started at the ID Center as a student worker in 2002 and became full time in 2004.

IOM: What is your hometown?

Bowen: Oxford, Mississippi. 

IOM: Talk about your favorite Ole Miss memory.

Bowen: Attending softball games with my daughter, Morgan.

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

Bowen: At the ID Center, we don’t see a specific group of people; we see everyone! Because of this, there’s always something new and interesting to look forward to daily.

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

Bowen: Spend time outdoors, enjoy family life, draw.

IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?

Bowen: I want to take my children to visit Washington, D.C.

IOM: What is your favorite movie?

Bowen: “Dirty Dancing.”

IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?

Bowen: Fireworks at the baseball stadium on Independence Day. 

IOM: What is a fun fact about you? 

Bowen: I collect rare American currency and coins from foreign countries.

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

Bowen: Benjamin Franklin, due to his scientific and political achievements and his status as one of America’s founding fathers.

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

Bowen: Driven, loyal, creative.

IOM: If you could visit one time or place in world history, what would it be?

Bowen: Ancient Egypt.

IOM: If I could be an animal for a day, I would be a(n) ____ .

Bowen: An eagle.

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

UM Ranks Best in Mississippi for Job Placement

OXFORD, Miss. – Data on job placement rates over a decade show University of Mississippi graduates are the best in the state at finding employment and keeping it, according to a new ranking from

The ranking takes into account 10 years’ worth of data on job placement rates as part of Zippia’s rating for the best colleges in each state for finding a job. The data shows that after 10 years, 90.8 percent of UM graduates are still employed with a median income of $52,700.

That’s not only the best percentage of all Mississippi schools, but it also tops a number of institutions in the Southeastern Conference. UM ranked fifth in the SEC, according to the data.

The top university in the nation was Virginia Military Institute, which has a 96.6 percent job placement rate.

Zippia is a career expert site based in San Mateo, California. To see the full ranking, click here

CME Senior Capstone Projects Aid Willie Price

Students design and build solutions to real-word problems at preschool

OXFORD, Miss. – The 3- and 4-year-old children at the University of Mississippi’s Willie Price Lab School find themselves living out the phrase, “little people, big world.” 

Recently, students in the university’s Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence completed two senior capstone projects to design and build products that helped students at the preschool. One called “Step Buddy” gave Willie Price students a solution to a common problem: the children aren’t able to reach the sinks and water fountains in Kinard Hall, which are designed for adults. Another product, Big Cajon, is a smaller-than-normal hand percussion instrument for students to play along with their teachers. 

Edward Lieser, a Chicago native who earned a bachelor’s degree in finance earlier this year, was the CEO of Step Buddy. He said the idea began when a faculty member at Willie Price came to the CME and talked about the issue of sinks being too high for children to reach. 

“Our team felt as if we could effectively remedy the situation with a solid design that met all of the desired customer specifications,” Lieser said. “Very quickly, the project became more than just a ‘capstone project’ as our team was consistently engaged, trying to make the Ole Miss community, specifically Willie Price, a better place.”

The goal of the capstone projects is to engage the senior CME class in a yearlong entrepreneurial, “real-world” experience that involves designing a new product and building a “company” around it. 

In the beginning, students had to utilize a comprehensive engineering design process that was taught in previous CME courses to bring the product to life. From there, each team was to create an organizational structure, develop a concurrent working relationship with a local customer, determine accurate costs and profit projections and ultimately manufacture the product at the center. 

They also had to meet all production timelines. 

Ole Miss seniors Peter Dowling, Chris Sevigney, Kaitlyn Meyers, Kyle Khan and Arthur Smith, all from business, accountancy and engineering, were members of the Step Buddy team. It provided a great work experience, Lieser said. 

“Throughout the project, I think we all got a taste of the real world in not just manufacturing, but business and real life as a whole,” Lieser said. “Critical lessons in effective communication, project management, meeting deadlines and quotas, cross-functional collaboration and more were all taught through experience.”

Evan Turner and Paige Lohman created Big Cajon. Originally, the design called for a full-sized drum, but after meeting with Willie Price staff, they heard concerns about it being too tall for the students. Turner and Lohman made their design about 30 percent shorter, without changing its tone. 

“Our team spent this semester and last semester applying the concepts we learned through the CME curriculum in order to finalize a prototype, design a process layout and complete two one-hour production runs,” said Lohman, of Moline, Illinois, who graduated in May with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Jack McClurg, CME associate professor of practice, praised both groups of students for their work. 

Step Buddy was vitally important, he said. 

“Eddie Lieser and his group did a fine job analyzing the current situation and needs by visiting the school, recognizing the need and working with the students and administrators to make functional, safe products for the children to use,” McClurg said. 

The Big Cajon team was flexible in their production line, which allowed them to easily change their product to best fit the customer, he said. 

“After visiting with the school, there were concerns about the cajon being too tall for the children to use safely,” McClurg said. “This resulted in a redesign of the cajon to be about 30 percent shorter, while not affecting the tonal quality of the drum box too much.

“This team ended up building 10-to-12 small cajons for the children and delivering two full-scale units for teachers.”