Two Grandmothers Receive University’s Highest Academic Honor

From 'I can't go back to school' to earning Taylor Medals, new graduates aim to make a difference

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Lori Fain. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Lori Fain, of Sherman, and Brenda Raper, of Nettleton, are both busy mothers and grandmothers who not only spend time investing in their families but are beginning careers that also will allow them to invest in the lives of others in their community.

As students at the University of Mississippi at Tupelo, both ladies’ efforts are being honored this spring as recipients of 2018-19 Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medals.

Only the top 1 percent of all students enrolled at the university receives this award each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average to be considered and receive nominations from UM faculty.

“Brenda is truly one of those students I will never forget,” said Svjetlana Curcic UM associate professor of education. “We tend to assign a label of a ‘nontraditional student’ to those who enroll in college at a later day.

“In Brenda’s case, she has been a teacher of not only her own children, but other children in our community for years and by going back to school later in life, she has proven that she wants to become the best teacher she can be.”

Upon graduating from Itawamba Agricultural High School in 1980, Raper married and started working as a clerk at the Lee County Tax Collector’s office in Tupelo. She and her husband, Danny Samuel Raper, started a family and soon added three children to their home.

While raising children, she taught everything from 4-year old pre-K through fifth-grade classes in the private school housed at the Tupelo Children’s Mansion for 11 years. At the end of the 2012 academic year, the school program had to lay off employees, and Raper found herself at a crossroads.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Brenda Raper. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“My husband encouraged me to go back to school and get my degree,” Raper said. “I told him that I didn’t think I could do that, but he was very supportive and encouraged me until I finally decided to try.”

So, in 2014 at age 52, she enrolled at Itawamba Community College and started her college career.

“I was very nervous, but on the first day everyone treated me kindly and like one of the other students,” she said. “I really enjoyed my classes and realized more and more that I was doing the right thing by going back to school.”

After excelling at ICC, Raper transferred to start her junior year of classes on the UM-Tupelo campus. During her time there, she stayed involved in student organizations and worked to maintain her 4.0 GPA.

This spring she served as a student teacher in a third-grade classroom at Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo.

“I just love seeing the students learn and grow,” Raper said. “It’s a special job that I feel I was made for.”

Fain attended East Union High School before getting married and moving to Washington in 1990. A few years later, she returned home to Sherman and earned her GED at ICC in 1993.

Her family soon began expanding with the addition of her four children. Throughout this time, she worked as a phlebotomist with United Blood Services and later as an office manager with a local dentist.

After a divorce and unexpected job loss, Fain began to experience financial issues.

Lori Fain celebrates winning a Taylor Medal, the highest academic honor at UM, with sons Adrian and Carson Hester. Submitted photo

“I lost everything,” she said. “I lost my house, my car, and had to move home with my mother. I had my pity party for about a year, until I decided I had to do something so I might as well get ahead.”

That’s when she decided to work toward earning her bachelor’s degree in social work.

Fain said she decided to major in social work because she wanted to help people who might find themselves in the same situations she had struggled with.

“People can get lost,” Fain said. “I want to help other people who may be going through some hard times just like I did.

“If I had known about some of the resources that were available to me, I might could have stayed in my house. I want to help people when they need it the most.”

During her senior year, Fain helped to organize a “Kids Fest” event at Ballard Park in Tupelo. The event had free games and prizes for children while raising awareness for child abuse prevention.

“Not only did Lori excel academically, she was a leader with peers,” said Shane Robbins, a social work instructor at the regional campus. “Her passion to help others and be a leader in this field has been evident throughout her time at UM.”

Brenda Raper (center, seated) celebrates winning a Taylor Medal, the highest academic honor at UM, with her family. Submitted photo

Because of Fain’s life experiences, she demonstrated a unique ability to problem-solve in real-world scenarios, said Jandel Crutchfield, an assistant professor of social work at UM-Tupelo.

“We need more social workers like Lori, who can use critical thinking to create the most effective interventions possible for their clients,” Crutchfield said. “I believe she will make an important impact in this field.”

Fain said she has learned so much about herself throughout her time at Ole Miss.

“Even though when I started college I knew I wanted to help people, through my studies and my internship experiences, I have learned a better way to look at myself and how to empathize with other people,” she said. “I’ve learned how to step out of my place and into someone else’s situation to work toward the best solution to meet their needs.”

Booneville Student Earns University’s Highest Academic Honor

Tishomingo's Hannah Day awarded UM Taylor Medal

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Hannah Day of Tishomingo on being named a Taylor medalist for the 2017-18 academic year. The Taylor Medal is the university’s highest academic award and recognizes fewer than 1 percent of the student body. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Hannah Day, a senior education major from Tishomingo at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, recently was selected to receive the university’s top academic honor as a Taylor medalist for the 2017-18 academic year.

Day was presented her award during the annual Honors Convocation on the Oxford campus.

“I was blown away when I heard that I had received the award,” Day said. “It validates all my hard work and long nights of studying. It was definitely worth it.”

Only the top 1 percent of University of Mississippi students can be awarded the Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medal each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average and recommendations from faculty members in their field.

Janie Conway, an adjunct instructor in the School of Education, was one of the faculty members who recommended Day for the honor.

“I was happy we had the opportunity to recognize Hannah’s hard work as well as her servant’s heart,” Conway said.

Day graduated from Belmont High School in 2014. She attended Northeast Community College, where she was involved in several organizations before transferring to UM-Booneville.

As a student teacher in a first-grade classroom at Hills Chapel School this spring, Day has worked to form relationships with students to find out more about their learning styles and how to help them be the best students that they can be, she said.

“I have always enjoyed math, and I want to help my students understand and enjoy it as much as I do,” Day said. “Math doesn’t have to be scary if you are given the tools to understand it.”

Conway recalled that Day showed such a passion for helping others grasp the concepts discussed in class that she often was mentoring and encouraging fellow classmates.

“Hannah was an active class participant who also supported the learning of her students and her peers,” Conway said. “I believe her high expectations for herself as an educator will help her future students become successful as well.”

Along with her own classes, Day serves as a youth coordinator and Sunday school teacher at Belmont United Methodist and as a volunteer with the local food bank, Angel Tree Christmas Drive, American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

“I would hire Hannah without reservation as a teacher in my school,” Conway said. “I am so thankful that we have young people like Hannah to become future teachers and community leaders who truly care about their students.”

Crutchfield Presented UM Online Teaching Award

Social work faculty member recognized for excellence in distance instruction

Tony Ammeter (left), UM associate provost for outreach and continuing education, presents Jandel Crutchfield, assistant professor of social work, with this year’s Paragon Award for Excellence in Online Instruction. UM photo by Pamela Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Jan Crutchfield, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Mississippi, has been honored with the Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Teaching, which rewards online instructors who have exhibited good practice in course design and innovative use of technology.

Each year, the Office of Academic Outreach within the UM Division of Outreach seeks to encourage and highlight faculty members’ contributions to online instruction with the award, which is in its eighth year. Nominees’ efforts are acknowledged for engaging students, as well as for their commitment to providing students with a quality education.

Crutchfield was honored April 13 at a ceremony on the Oxford campus.

“Dr. Crutchfield’s online courses stood out to the award selection committee for student-centered teaching, diversified student learning experiences and strong instructor presence,” said Mary Lea Moore, UM assistant director of academic outreach.

“The award selection committee felt that her course assignments promoted critical thinking, were relevant and encouraged students to make a connection between the materials and their personal experience.”

Andrea Hannaford, a senior social work major from Senatobia, said that as a participant in Crutchfield’s online Social Work Research course last fall, she felt connected to the class and material.

“Her style of online teaching was so different,” Hannaford said. “I felt like I was really learning how to do research and not just doing work to keep busy. I loved that she videoed her lectures so that it felt like we were in a classroom atmosphere.”

Crutchfield said two of the staples of her online courses incorporate the use of Zoom recorded video lectures that include computer screen sharing and subsequent creation of YouTube links for students to view.

“I feel that integrating these two platforms in a way that brings my presence to the online classroom helps to make students feel more engaged in the courses and as if they had more guidance than in a strictly written online course,” Crutchfield said.

“I think video lectures can even aid those busy students who may need to listen to a lecture in the car while commuting to work or school. It’s all about flexibility.”

Crutchfield understands the need of flexibility when it comes to education. She herself was employed and caring for her family while completing her doctorate at Louisiana State University.

“From my own online course experiences, I wanted to help take some of the anxiety of online classes away and show students how to stay on track and stay engaged throughout the flexible environment of online courses,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield said her teaching philosophy is based on the social work concept of meeting clients where they are.

“I like the challenge of engaging students in a way that has to be more dynamic,” Crutchfield said. “I’ve tried to be creative in my online courses and work to be just as accessible to online students as I would be for those in a live class.”

At the presentation ceremony, Daphne Cain, chair of the Department of Social Work, said that Crutchfield continues to prove herself to be a dedicated student mentor, advanced researcher and collaborative colleague.

“Dr. Crutchfield’s innovative spirit in online education is inspirational to those around her,” Cain said. “I’ve enjoyed watching her move social work online education forward.”

Foundation Funds Research into UM Student Internship Practices

Ole Miss doctoral students exploring pathways for high-impact learning experiences

Jennifer Saxon (left) and Kristina Philips (right), both of Oxford, received a $3,000 grant from the B.A. Rudolph Foundation to fund their doctorate degree dissertation study into the factors that discourage or enhance internship participation by UM students from low socioeconomic groups. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn,” is a Chinese proverb that University of Mississippi doctoral students Kristina Phillips and Jennifer Saxon have explored over the past few months as they study ways to increase access to high-impact and experiential learning opportunities for more UM students.

Their research went so far as to recently catch the attention of the Washington, D.C.-based B.A. Rudolph Foundation.

“The foundation was very interested in funding this dissertation study since it is central to our mission and interests in breaking barriers related to internship participation,” said Kristen Hecht, the foundation’s program director.

Established in 2011, the B.A. Rudolph Foundation works to provide a progressive source of funding to advance and enrich the lives of women, girls and underserved populations through educational and general support that includes those seeking unpaid internships in public service and the sciences, as well as a mentorship program and networking opportunities.

“This research is an important contribution to the field, exploring these disparities and proposing meaningful solutions that will benefit the University of Mississippi and, ultimately, interns nationwide,” said Mary Bruce, the foundation’s executive director.

Phillips serves as the assistant director of college programs in the UM Division of Outreach, where she oversees the Internship Experience program for students.

The Atlanta, New York and Washington Internship Experience Program offers degree-seeking Ole Miss juniors and seniors an opportunity to gain practical work experience while earning academic credit in their fields of study. Students work, with the assistance of UM staff, to secure an internship that will give them useful professional experience to enhance career prospects upon graduation.

Phillips has worked for the department for four years. During that time, she became interested in examining the program’s enrollment patterns and determining how to increase participation for students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I wanted to explore the various factors that are holding students back from these amazing learning opportunities in the hopes to strategize solutions,” Phillips said.

“One of our objectives with this study is to examine student perspectives of the quality and nature of internships currently administered or overseen at UM and then inform administrators on how to clarify internship participation.”

Saxon, assistant athletics director for student-athlete development in the UM Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, is Phillips’ co-author and researcher.

Her primary job responsibility is to provide student-athletes with programming to prepare for life after collegiate athletic involvement and to enhance their access to gainful employment upon graduation.

“We are finding an interesting relationship between first-generation college students and their accessibility to internship experiences,” Saxon said. “Providing experiential learning opportunities for students is a component of UM’s new Flagship Forward strategic plan.

“We hope that this study can be useful as both of our campus departments work to move forward toward this goal.”

The funds awarded for the study are being used to incentivize participation from UM students into one of their various focus group discussions and pay for transcribing services for these research sessions.

So far, the research is leading Phillips and Saxon to believe that students who may need to participate in high-impact practices such as internship experiences do not do so for reasons related to socioeconomic status, race and socialization.

“The problem faced at the University of Mississippi is how to enhance internship participation for all students,” Phillips said. “The overarching goal of this study is to reduce barriers for these students and enhance participation.”

Upon completion of and compilation of their research this spring, Phillips and Saxon will complete the requirements for their Doctor of Education in Higher Education degrees and will then have an opportunity to present their findings to the board of the B.A. Rudolph Foundation in June.

For more information about the Internship Experience Program offered to students through the UM Division of Outreach, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/internships.

‘Black Panther’ Writer to Headline Annual Scholastic Press Convention

UM to host more than 500 budding journalists for state convention this month

Jesse Holland Jr.

OXFORD, Miss. – The author of Marvel Comics’ graphic novel reboot “Black Panther” will encourage high school students from around the state as the keynote speaker for the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association’s 2018 spring convention and awards ceremony.

University of Mississippi alumnus Jesse Holland Jr. returns to his alma mater to headline the March 27 event, which also includes educational sessions and an awards ceremony.

“Jesse is a guy who not too long ago was sitting right where these students are, and now he’s a part of something big,” said R.J. Morgan, MSPA director and a faculty member in the university’s Meek School of  Journalism and New Media. “He’s someone with a broad range of skills who has honed his craft and found a sweet spot.”

A Holly Springs native, Holland is an award-winning journalist who earned his bachelor’s degree from Ole Miss in 1992 before going on to write for The Associated Press. His nonfiction book “The Invisibles: The Untold Story of African American Slavery in the White House” (Lyons Press, 2017) won the silver medal in U.S. history at the Independent Publisher Book Awards.

“It’s exciting to give high school journalists access to someone who’s so in demand in his career right now,” Morgan said.

In its 71st year, the annual MSPA convention is the largest gathering of high school journalists in the state. The association works to equip area high school students to research, write and share true stories through journalism.

Professional journalists, photographers, videographers and educators from across the Southeast will be training students in a variety of skill and roundtable sessions slated for the day’s event. Students also find out who the coveted “Best of Mississippi” award winners will be for 2018.

The Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, which holds its annual spring conference March 27 at UM, works to equip area high school students to research, write and share true stories through journalism. Photo courtesy Nathan Towery

“Attending MSPA as a sophomore confirmed my decision to pursue a career in graphic design,” said Sawyer Tucker, a senior at Tupelo High School. “The classes offer a variety of learning opportunities for me and my classmates to better ourselves and our publication.

“The competition aspect provides an environment that makes us strive to do our best work all year long.”

Braden Bishop, Tupelo High School sports information director and student media adviser, said that since most of his students love social media, taking those skills and honing them into a journalistic approach is something students are finding both exciting and challenging.

“The MSPA classes are hands-on and interactive,” Bishop said. “As an adviser, I enjoy talking to my staff in the days following the event. They bring back great new ideas that we can implement.”

Participation in student media gives students an edge in both college and career preparation, said Terry Cassreino, director of communications at St. Joseph Catholic School in Madison.

“Regardless of what mediums students ultimately study in college, they will leave a strong high school media program with the skills they need to be successful college students and productive adults,” Cassreino said.

Research conducted by Jack Dvork, a professor at Indiana University’s School of Journalism, compared academic achievements and scores on the ACT college entrance exams of students who were on the staffs of high school newspapers and yearbooks with those who did not have those journalism experiences.

His research found that almost 20 percent of students involved in student media achieved higher grade-point averages in high school, scored better on the ACT, and demonstrated better writing and grammar skills in college than students who did not have those journalism experiences.

“The skills learned through student journalism are essential tools that are transferrable to any career,” Morgan said. “Learning how to organize your thoughts, meet deadlines and communicate effectively in verbal and written communication is key, no matter what field a student may pursue.”

For more information on the 2018 Mississippi Scholastic Press Association spring convention at UM please visit http://outreach.olemiss.edu/mspa2018.

University Expands Summer Programs for K-12 Students

More than 40 one-week camps available, open house set for Feb. 27

Middle school students learn about vegetables and other culinary plants during a UM summer camp activity in the University Garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Families looking to avoid the inevitable “I’m bored” comments coming from children this summer are invited to come check out the 2018 academic summer camp opportunities available through the University of Mississippi’s Office of Pre-College Programs.

Interested parents and students in kindergarten through 12th grade can speak with camp faculty and participate in demonstrations during a special open house event Feb. 27 at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center. Visitors can stop by anytime from 4 to 6 p.m.

“These programs really open up the world to students,” said Ellen Shelton, director of pre-college programs. “It’s a great way to help them explore their passions, potential and even future careers options. They can enjoy some out-of-the-box experiences and learn something new.”

Students who will be in first through sixth grades this fall can participate in the popular Rebel Quest day camps offered in seven weekly sessions on the Oxford campus beginning the week of June 4.

“Rebel Quest works well for families because you can pick and choose the weeks your child attends and pay only for that week,” said Amy Goodin, UM project coordinator for elementary and middle school programs.

Last summer, Brian Hopkins, the university’s deputy CIO for academic technology, and his wife enrolled their daughter Lynnleigh Kate in Rebel Quest day camps to help prevent summer “brain drain.”

“We wanted her to stay engaged with learning over the summer months, but still have some fun,” Hopkins said. “She had the opportunity to enjoy campus and interact with peers while enjoying interesting activities.”

A few of Rebel Quest’s special weekly themes happening during summer 2018 are “Time Travelers,” “Space is the Place,” “Mad Scientist” and “All About Art.”

Middle school students have several new camps to choose from this summer that will open their eyes to new fields and tap into their creative side.

“It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: An Exploration of Game Design” will be a weeklong experience July 22-27 for rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Participants will learn to develop storylines and characters, different art styles, gaming platforms and more.

Budding writers and bloggers can hone their skills during “Creative Writing Camp: An Exploration of Literary Genres,” slated for July 8-13 for rising seventh- and eighth-graders. Students will gain confidence in their writing as they experiment with various writing styles such as short stories, plays, reviews, speeches and editorials.

Rising seventh- and eighth-grade artists can create their own worlds, characters and stories during the new class, “Imaginative Realism in Art: Drawing and Painting for Life,” taking place June 10-15. Participants will learn skills to improve their drawing and painting and also have opportunities to visit various art galleries on campus and in Oxford.

The new “Orchestra String Workshop” is designed to help musicians in grades 7-12 improve their individual and group playing in a relaxed and creative environment.

High school students also can take part in several new camps designed to prepare them for college and careers or explore areas that are of interest.

“This is a chance for students to really dive deep into a field, subject or activity that they are interested in that might not be highlighted as much in their school,” Shelton said.

“Backstage Magic” is an intensive stagecraft camp for rising 10th- to 12th-graders interested in the techniques used by professionals to create scenery and props, as well as lighting design, rigging and special effects. This camp takes place June 17-22.

Participants conduct a gunshot residue test as part of the CSI Summer Camp offered last summer through the UM Office of Pre-College Programs. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The “Eco Footprint” workshop taking place June 10-15 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders will guide students in investigating water quality, food production, energy usage and waste production through hands-on lab investigations and field trips.

Students can study the significance of William Faulkner’s artistic vision during the “Art of the Story: Faulkner” workshop taking place July 23-27 for rising 11th- and 12th-graders.

The new “Shakespeare at the Movies” workshop takes on two Shakespeare plays, “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Macbeth,” to examine strategies of adapting Shakespeare’s plays to film and the problems and innovations that came out of that process. The camp is set for June 10-15 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders.

Also new this summer is the “Young Women’s Empowerment Workshop,” set for July 8-13 in partnership with the UM Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Women leaders from the university and community will spend time mentoring and sharing advice while students have an opportunity to shadow them in their careers.

Wordsmiths will discover the heart of the poem and ways for poetry to capture a range of emotions during the “Creative Writing-Poetry Workshop” offered June 3-8 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders.

High school students can choose from several creative writing workshops this summer, including “Creative Writing-Prose,” happening June 10-15; “Writing for College Success,” offered July 15-20; and “Writing for Change” on June 3-8.

For more information on these and the numerous other academic summer camp options set for the Oxford campus this summer, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/summercamps.

University Offers Variety of Test Prep Opportunities

Prepare for the Praxis, college entrance exams, HR certification and more

The UM Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning offers numerous live and online exam preparatory classes to help students and residents prepare for college admissions, graduate school admissions and professional exams. Praxis coach Thomas Herrington (standing) works with students preparing for the mathematics section of the Praxis exam for teacher licensure. Photo by Larry Agostinelli/UM Outreach

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The University of Mississippi’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning is offering numerous test preparation options this spring for students and community members who may be interested in applying for college, graduate school or professional programs, or looking to gain a professional certification.

“These classes are filling the need for convenient and affordable test prep options in our area,” said Mary Leach, director of professional development and lifelong learning. “These short workshops and courses are ideal for those who want to do well on their college and graduate school entry exams and for community members who are looking to advance in their careers with professional training and certification.”

Those who are interested in certification as a K-12 teacher can take advantage of a two-part Praxis exam preparation workshop, set for consecutive Saturdays, Feb.3 and 10, in Lamar Hall.

The Feb. 3 class runs 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and will focus on mastering the reading and writing portion of the exam. The Feb. 10 class is slated for 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and it will help participants prepare for the mathematics section.

“A lot of people are rusty when it comes to math,” Praxis core instructor Thomas Herrington said. “This course helps them to get the wheels turning again. We give them another way to look at the math problems and help them understand these concepts.”

Participants will get an in-depth review of materials included on the exam and learn test-taking strategies to help with mastery of exam content. The cost for the reading and writing prep session will be $65, and the math session costs $85. Participants who sign up for both sections receive a $10 discount.

New this spring is an increased partnership with Cambridge Educational Services to offer online test preparation courses.

“We know that scholarship funds for college and graduate school tend to be tied into a student’s score on these standardized tests,” Leach said. “These programs are affordable and convenient for students to learn the material and prepare strategies that will help them to perform at their highest level.”

High school students hoping to demonstrate college readiness can prepare for the PSAT, ACT and SAT exams through the online courses, as can college graduates looking to apply to graduate or law school.

Each course offers 30 units of self-directed study, practice tests and quizzes where students are provided instruction for best strategies and guided practice in applying those strategies. The cost for five months of access to a specific online course is $189.

Local human resource professionals can work toward advanced certification or obtain professional development with the Society of Human Resources certification course offered on Tuesday evenings, Feb. 6 through May 1, in Lamar Hall, Room 208.

The course not only prepares human resource professionals to take the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exams, but it also helps participants strengthen their understanding of core behavior and technical competencies to increase productivity in the workplace. Christopher Byrd, a human resource manager and SHRM-certified instructor, will share new ideas to drive success and contribute to the strategic direction of an organization.

The registration fee is $999 for SHRM members and $1,099 for others.

For more information or to register for any of these programs, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/prepare or contact Mary Leach at 662-915-7847.

Treat Your Valentine to Dance Lessons through UM Communiversity

Spring class lineup also includes personal safety, gardening, resume writing and Mother's Day treats

Try something new this spring with the UM Communiversity courses. Latin dance instructor Arman Sahakyan will host the popular ballroom and Latin dancing courses just in time for Valentine’s Day. UM photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The start of a new year is always a good prompt to reflect on how you can try something different, form new habits or make time for enriching experiences. The University of Mississippi Communiversity program has a spring schedule full of noncredit courses sure to inspire.

“There is a little something for everyone,” said Gazel Giles, Communiversity coordinator. “There are no grades or homework, but there are many opportunities to learn about things you may be interested in.”

Residents are invited to the free “UPD’s Personal Safety” class at noon Jan. 31 at the Oxford-University Depot. Find out how to protect yourself and develop an awareness of threatening situations. There is no cost for this hourlong course, but participants are encouraged to register online.

Treat your Valentine to ballroom and Latin dance classes with professional instructor Arman Sahakyan. This step-by-step class takes place Monday evenings Feb. 19-April 30 in Residence Hall 2, on the former site of Guess Hall.

The ballroom sessions are set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. while the Latin dancing course will follow from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per session.

Gardeners and anyone wanting to spruce up their yard this spring can enjoy Communiversity’s popular lunch and learn classes. The first in the series will be “Pruning Like a Pro” with Jeff McManus, ISA-certified arborist and director of UM Landscape Services, on Feb. 21.

The “How to Create a Hummingbird Garden” class with Mitch Robinson from Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is set for March 28. Each class costs just $10 and will be conducted from noon to 1p.m. at the Depot.

Residents looking for resources to enhance their employability and work performance can check out “Landing Your Next Job” with career training coach Leslie Kendrick.

“The main goal of this class is to help people feel more comfortable with applying for jobs and interviewing for positions,” Kendrick said. “The class is not meant to overwhelm participants. I want people to feel confident that they can do this.”

Kendrick will share tips for interviewing as well as writing resumes and cover letters from 5:30 to 7:30 March 20 and 27 at UM’s Insight Park on Hawthorn Road.

Another course to help with enhancing job skills and work performance in 2018 is “Advanced Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint: Going Beyond the Basics,” taking place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and 7 at Weir Hall. The cost is $85.

Focusing on improving personal health is a popular goal for many in the new year. The “Advanced Essential Oils” class provides ideas for living a healthier lifestyle through blending oils for wellness applications and replacing toxic home and personal care products with more natural materials.

The class will meet 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, April 3, 10 and 17, at the Depot. The cost is $75.

“CPR and First-Aid Training” will help participants make a plan for emergencies and develop the skills necessary to help an adult, child, or infant who is not breathing. The class is slated for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. March 31 at Insight Park. The class also meets requirements for foster care, adoption and child care workers.

Preparing for emergencies is a topic that also will be discussed during the “Safe Sitter Essentials” class for youth ages 11 to 14. Participants will learn lifesaving skills so they can be safe when home alone or watching younger children. Set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 5 at Insight Park, the course costs $65.

Fishtail, Milkmaid, Crown, Upside Down – these are some of the latest on-trend hairstyles that Melanie Armstrong will teach participants how to craft during the “Introduction to Professional Braiding” class taking place 9 a.m.-noon March 3 at the Depot.

Armstrong, who operates the Armstrong Braiding Academy in Tupelo, will share her best techniques and hair care secrets with class members who can practice on and keep their own hair mannequin. The cost, including materials, is $99.

Aretha Nabors of Tupelo will share her best tips and practices for saving money during the “Beginning Couponing Course,” from 9 a.m. to noon April 21 at the Depot. The course fee is $35.

Nabors perfected her couponing skills a few years ago when the first two of her five sons were enrolled in college at the same time.

“Couponing has saved me thousands of dollars each year,” Nabors said. “I needed to supply necessities not just for my own household, but also for two student residences.

“Now I buy enough at deeply-discounted prices throughout the year to stock them with food and supplies that they need without breaking the bank.”

Nabors said that she doesn’t extreme coupon but does get the maximum savings on products and even restaurant visits.

“I’m so excited to show others how to save money and time,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense to pay full price.”

People looking to take their photography skills to the next level can learn the best digital camera and image editing techniques from Robert Jordan, who recently retired as director of university photography. His “Advanced Digital Photography” class will address control techniques, various format cameras and photographic lighting techniques.

The class meets 8 a.m.-noon April 14 at Insight Park. The cost is $85.

Food Network regulars Jeff and Kathleen Taylor of Oxford’s Sweet T’s Bakery will share their creative techniques during the “Sweet Treats for Mother’s Day” class, slated for 6-8 p.m. May 3 at the Depot. Enjoy the class with family members or surprise mom with a delicious and beautiful cake, cupcakes or cookies. The cost is $69.

On May 5, enjoy a covered-wagon ride while learning the history of native plants and landscapes in north Mississippi during a guided excursion at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. The cost is $30 and includes group transportation from Oxford.

Senior citizens 55 and older get a 10 percent discount for courses costing $30 or more. For more information or to register, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/spring2018.

Academic Traveler Program Offering Sicilian Culinary Adventure

UM faculty member will lead Sicily culture and cuisine excursion this spring

Participants in the UM Academic Traveler culinary tour of Sicily will explore many fascinating locales, including the picturesque main square of Noto. Registration for the trip is open through Feb. 1. Photo by Getty Images

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Academic Traveler program is offering a unique gift idea this holiday season that will send participants off to bask in the Mediterranean sun while enjoying delightful cuisine and historic beauty.

Candis Varnell, a lecturer in hospitality management, will lead the “Sicilian Culture and Cuisine” tour, set for May 14-21, 2018 in and around Syracuse, Sicily. The Academic Traveler program is a unique way to travel and discover with a seasoned Ole Miss instructor.

“Sicily is under the radar,” Varnell said. “Many people travel throughout Italy, but the arts, culture, food, wine – everything can be found right there on this historic island.”

The trip will feature cuisine teeming with the fruits of local gardens and vineyards. From private vineyard tours and behind-the-scenes chocolate-making demonstrations, the program aims to relate the history, beauty and culture of the Sicilian island to participants.

“Travel changes everything,” Varnell said. “It’s an eye-opening experience that lets you see how other cultures live life.”

Varnell, a world traveler herself, has lived in Jordan and journeyed extensively throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region. She teaches service and event management courses and serves as the internship director in the Ole Miss hospitality management department.

Founded by ancient Greeks, Syracuse was often described as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” The 2,700-year-old seaside city sits on the southeastern coast of Sicily.

Ancient Greek structures and ruins are found throughout the city and the surrounding regions.

“It’s almost frozen in time,” Varnell said. “There is so much to see with historical significance. It truly transports you to another world.”

The group will arrive in Syracuse on May 14, a Monday, and enjoy a guided tour through the historic city center and Ortygia Island before enjoying a welcome dinner with their fellow guests.

The next day, the group heads to the Syracuse Market to take in local flavor while sampling homegrown vegetables, nuts, fruits and cheeses.

“Italians take pride in local produce,” Varnell said. “They cook with only what is in season. They love their olive oil, wines and cheeses.

“Americans usually get these super-fresh ingredients when we go to a fine-dining restaurant, but this is how the Sicilian people eat every day.”

After the market tour, the group will continue to the Syracuse archeological museum and the Greek Theatre that was originally constructed in the fifth century B.C.

The group will travel to the pink villages lining the sea on Wednesday, with excursions to Noto and Marzamemi. They will enjoy lunch by the sea in one of Marzamemi’s open-air restaurants.

On Thursday, participants will get their turn in the kitchen for a special Sicilian cuisine cooking class taught by area chefs. The group will cook and enjoy a light lunch with local flavor.

That afternoon, the tour continues around the city with a local instructor from Syracuse Academy. The discussion will touch on the origins of the Mafia and how the “Cosa Nostra” began out of Sicily’s farming communities in the early 1800s and later traveled to America, and the declining state of the crime organization today.

Participants will take in the beautiful architecture dripping from the baroque towns of Ragusa and Modica on Friday. Participants will have opportunities to see the world-renowned jutting cornices, gargoyles, scrolls and any number of decorative embellishments that have given Sicily a unique identity.

The tour continues as group members experience the secrets of making Modica’s world-famous chocolate delicacies.

On Saturday, an excursion to Italy’s largest volcano, Mount Etna, will include a vineyard tour and group lunch while learning about the mountain that has shaped the history of Sicily.

The final day in Italy, May 20, includes an olive oil tasting tour around the city. The evening farewell dinner will be hosted during a boat tour around Syracuse Bay.

Group members will depart from Sicily on May 21.

“If you are looking for an exceptional Christmas or graduation gift, this is it,” said Mary Leach, director of noncredit programs and Academic Traveler organizer. “This will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The deadline to register for the trip is Feb. 1, 2018, but participants who sign up by Dec. 20 will get a special gift certificate that would be great for placing under the tree.

For more information on the trip and to see the full itinerary, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/toursicily.

 

New Program Engages Students in Environmental Issues Close to Home

Students learning scientific process for observing health of local resources

Participants and faculty in the ‘Green Is the New Pink’ program spent a recent Saturday working and learning at the UM Field Station. On hand for the session were (front, from left) faculty members Angela Whaley, Ellen Shelton, Martha Tallent and Katie Szabo, students Mary Porter Fountain of Oxford; Michaela Anderson of Saltillo; and Alex Nagle, Claire Cizdziel, Srujana Murthy, Andreel Ward, Emory Elzie, Grace Wolff and Zoe Jones, all of Oxford, and (rear) Scott Knight, Field Station director. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Students involved in the University of Mississippi’s “Green Is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action” program recently spent a Saturday testing and observing water sources and trying their hand at electrofishing at the UM Field Station in northeastern Lafayette County.

“I like nature,” said Mary Porter Fountain, a ninth-grader at Oxford High School. “I think it’s interesting getting to learn about what plants and different species need to survive.”

This fall is the inaugural year for the new environmental program for girls in eighth through 12th grades. It is sponsored by grants from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s “Show Me” Campaign, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift.

Martha Tallent, an eighth-grade science teacher at Oxford Middle School, serves as a faculty member for the program.

“I feel like something happens between eighth and 10th grades where many students seem to lose interest in science,” Tallent said. “I want to teach our students to be risk-takers in science and to engage in several different scientific fields to see what interests them.

“There are so many disciplines and jobs in the various fields, and we want to expose them to the different options.”

A collaboration among the Office of Pre-College Programs, the UM Writing Project, the UM Field Station and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, the program is introducing students to real-world research strategies and generating curiosity about the natural environment.

The cross-disciplinary partnership between English and science is allowing students in the program to conduct their own research, create a project and deliver a presentation. They are guided through four field experiences of data collection, data exploration, analysis and interpretation of data, and drawing conclusions.

“I’m thinking about trying some of the water quality experiments on the ponds in my neighborhood,” Fountain said.

Oxford High ninth-grader Srujana Murthy said she is interested in looking at some invasive species growing around a local pond and possibly reintroducing native plants to bring native birds back to the area.

“That’s what happened at Strawberry Plains,” Murthy said. “The former owner planted several non-native plants around the home, and the hummingbirds stopped coming. Once they removed those and replanted with native species, they saw many hummingbirds return to the area.”

Srujana Murthy (left) and Claire Cizdziel try their hand at electrofishing under the guidance of Scott Knight, director of the UM Field Station, as part of the ‘Green is the New Pink’ environmental program. UM photo by Pam Starling

So far this fall, students have spent one Saturday in September at Strawberry Plains Environmental Center in Holly Springs. This month, they spent a Saturday studying the ecosystem at the Field Station.

In February, they will return to Strawberry Plains to examine the winter landscape and wildlife. Their final Saturday field experience will be at the Field Station in April to participate in environmental-awareness activities surrounding Earth Day.

The activities this month at the Field Station included testing the water quality of local streams and sampling the fish content through a process called electrofishing. This scientific tool involves sending a small electrical current into the stream that attracts the fish and makes them easier to catch. The different types of fish are recorded and then released.

“Comparing ecosystem integrity from one stream to another is just one tiny piece of what ecology is about,” said Scott Knight, Field Station director. “In our experiments, we were trying to test the integrity and sample the diversity to measure the health of the environment.”

Throughout the year, participants stay connected in their research and writing through an online Google classroom, where they will be reflecting on their field experiences and refining the writing component of their scientific findings.

“There are so many interesting paths in studying ecology,” Knight said. “There are also many job opportunities in this field that we hope to open participants’ eyes to.”

For more information about the “Green Is the New Pink” program, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/environment.