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

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 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

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


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

Division of Outreach Sets Open House to Show Off New Space

Community invited to tour new facility Nov. 9 at Jackson Avenue Center

The new Division of Outreach and Continuing Education space at the Jackson Avenue Center houses 10 departments and includes space for conferences and other events. The division will host an open house on Thursday (Nov. 9) so community members can view the new space and learn more about its various services for students, faculty and the community. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Demand for educational opportunities delivered in new and innovative ways continues to grow. Earlier this fall, the University of Mississippi Division of Outreach and Continuing Education set events in motion that will help the university keep up with these evolving needs.

Just before the fall semester began, the division’s faculty and staff members moved files, boxes, computers and years of experience to the university’s Jackson Avenue Center, at 1111 West Jackson Ave., next to the Ole Miss Barnes & Noble bookstore and Malco’s Oxford Studio Cinema. The 41,500-square-foot area includes conference spaces, two testing centers and offices for 10 departments.

The division will open its doors for an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 9). Everyone is invited to come view the space, locate colleagues in their new offices and preview the conference spaces available for events.

“This move is helping the division expand offerings and services for UM students, faculty, staff and the community,” said Tony Ammeter, UM associate provost for outreach and dean of general studies. “Relocating to the Jackson Avenue Center made sense for the university and the division.

“We were able to free up prime real estate in the heart of campus and at the same time gain space to advance the mission of our unit.”

The Division of Outreach vacated nearly 22,000 square feet at the E.F. Yerby Conference Center. Also included in the move were department offices on the second floor of Kinard Hall.

“We hope the newly renovated space provides opportunities for our staff to continue creating and implementing innovative educational opportunities that serve the university community, our city, state and nation,” Ammeter said.

The new Division of Outreach and Continuing Education space at the Jackson Avenue Center includes the Linda Chitwood Testing Center wing and three large conference auditoriums. The division will host an open house on Thursday (Nov. 9) so community members can view the new space and learn more about its various services for students, faculty and the community. Submitted photo

With construction beginning in March 2016, the university’s Jackson Avenue Phase II renovation encompasses previously unused space in the former Oxford Wal-Mart and mall area. The space includes three new 150- to 250-seat conference room auditoriums that are available for event rental by university and community constituents.

“We are thrilled to see how this former Wal-Mart space has been transformed into a state-of-the-art office facility,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “It will be a wonderful home for our outreach staff. They do tremendous work, and I am pleased that they have nice facilities within which to continue their support of the academic and outreach efforts of our institution.”

The division houses several departments that offer nontraditional learning opportunities for students.

“This move has given our office the opportunity to increase our instructional designer and training specialist teams for UM’s online programs,” said April Thompson, director of academic outreach. “We are excited to have the ability to provide more in-person and virtual workshops with more space for faculty training.”

The Department of College Programs, headed by Laura Antonow, is among the departments getting new space in the renovation. It includes iStudy, Study USA, the Internship Experiences Programs and the UM Testing Centers.

The Educational Testing Services center and the Distance Education Testing Lab are housed in the Linda Chitwood Testing Center, on the west side of the JAC.

Named for the former dean of the School of Applied Sciences and associate provost for outreach, this new space doubles the seating for UM students who need to take proctored exams as well as students and community members who are looking to take professional exams, such as the Praxis exam for teaching licensure and the Graduate Record Exam for those looking to pursue graduate studies.

The ETS testing center has seen a 20 percent increase in test-takers utilizing testing services in the past two years. The new testing center space more than doubles the number of seats available for those taking any of the 10-plus different types of proctored exams administered through the office.

During mid-term and final exam timeframes, the Distance Education Testing Lab can have up to 450 students who need test proctoring space each day, said Catherine Hultman, DETL testing coordinator. The new testing lab includes 32 testing modules as well as auditorium space reserved for use during mid-terms and finals.

Also found in the newly renovated areas is the Office of General Studies that provides administration and advising for more than 500 undergraduate majors. Ammeter, Assistant to the Dean Terry Blackmarr, and the BGS advisers and staff are housed on the east side of the building.

The Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning’s move to the JAC will help staff further expand upon their work within the community, state and nation to ensure educational opportunities are available to people of all ages and walks of life, said Mary Leach, the department’s director.

The Office of Pre-College programs, under the direction of Ellen Shelton, offers programming throughout the year for kindergarten through 12th-graders. From academic competitions to numerous summer learning opportunities, the varied activities organized through this office encourage students to strengthen skills and grow academically and personally.

Also included in the JAC are administrative offices for the university’s regional campuses overseen by Rick Gregory and the academic outreach office that encompasses UM’s online, winter and summer sessions.

Further space allotments were made for the division’s service units, including its business and accounting office overseen by Beth Sanders; operations and conference services office; and the Department of Creative Services and Marketing, under the direction of Janey Ginn.

The provost’s office also aided the addition of a Technology-Enabled Active Learning training room,  located off the atrium of the new space. This room will be available to UM faculty and staff.

“From training teachers and law enforcement to organizing university conferences and events, we are excited that these new conference facility areas will make more space available for these learning opportunities,” said Justin Murphree, director of outreach operations.

To RSVP for the Nov. 9 open house, visit

UM Students, Faculty Take Learning on the Road

Study USA program gearing up for hands-on Wintersession courses in four exciting locales

UM geological engineering faculty members Bob Holt, Dennis Powers and Doug Granger visit the Clinton P. Anderson overlook outside Santa Fe, New Mexico, with students during the ‘Geological Engineering Design Field Camp’ course offered through UM’s Study USA program in August. During Wintersession 2018, students will again have opportunities to travel with UM faculty members as they study biology, education, English, gender studies, hospitality management, philosophy, political science and more. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Whether students are capturing biological field samples in nature or capturing the essence of a culture, the eye-opening experience of experiential learning will be on full display through the University of Mississippi’s Study USA Wintersession 2018 classes.

This year’s offerings are: “Writing Gender and Sexuality in the Crescent City” in New Orleans; “Californian STEAM: Microbial Science, Conservation and Society” in Riverside, Monterey Bay and San Francisco, California; “Las Vegas Resort Course” in Las Vegas; and an honors course in “Biomedical Ethics” in Washington, D.C.

New Orleans native Jaime Cantrell is among the UM faculty members leading a Study USA learning adventure in January. A visiting professor of English and faculty affiliate for the university’s Sarah Isom Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, she said she wants to share her knowledge of the community and culture with students.

“Like its gumbo, New Orleans is richly diverse,” Cantrell said. “It’s our plan for this course to highlight those transnational, multicultural and indigenous legacies.”

The dual-listed course can be taken for Writing 398 or Gender Studies 395 course credit. Participants will travel to New Orleans Jan. 4-9 and conduct a virtual presentation on Jan. 12.

Cantrell said she hopes the course will prepare students to understand how their university educational experience parallels communities, publics and subcultures outside their learning walls.

“This can be seen where people work together in meaningful, creative and unexpected ways to transform lives and preserve historical and cultural memory,” she said.

Students who are interested in the teaching and exploration of the scientific process have an opportunity to get their hands dirty during the “Californian STEAM” course set Jan. 4-14 in various Californian coastal areas.

“California is a hotbed for both microbial sciences, conservation research and STEM education,” said Erik Hom, UM assistant professor of biology. “This course is looking at how microbes are everywhere and affect all areas of life.”

Hom, along with Renee Cunningham, assistant professor of education, will lead the class in conducting field samples and exploring conservation issues at various Pacific coast locations, including Monterey Bay and Joshua Tree National Park.

Students interested in education, environmental science, biology, premedicine, pharmacy, chemistry, biochemistry, geoscience, ocean sciences and engineering are all encouraged to take part in this course.

Hospitality management and business majors have a chance to learn more about the business of managing resorts and tourism while interacting with industry leaders during the Las Vegas resorts course set for Jan. 3-8.

Led by Jim Taylor, associate professor of hospitality management, the class will offer informative meetings with upper-level management to discuss how various amenities of a resort property add to the overall guest experience.

“Las Vegas is a real-world laboratory for hospitality management,” Taylor said. “Where else can students see a destination that was once a desert and has now become one of the premier convention, vacation and dining locations in the United States?”

Students will learn more about large-scale hotel operations and how lodging components interact with resorts. They will also find out more about how different facets of resorts work together to increase productivity and customer satisfaction.

Students from the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College can dive into ethical theories and principles at work in our nation’s health care system during “Biomedical Ethics,” led by philosophy professor Neil Manson.

The class will meet Jan. 2-6 in Oxford and Jan. 7-13 in Washington, D.C.

“Students will get to meet with experts addressing some of the most interesting issues in medicine right now,” Manson said. “They will be discussing questions like ‘What can we do with a person’s genetic information’ and ‘How should the American health care system be structured?’

“Also, ‘Is medicine just about restoring people to “normal” health, or should we feel free to use medical technologies to enhance human abilities?'”

Manson said he hopes the class helps students learn how to be professional, prepare, ask intelligent questions, overcome their fears and feel comfortable interacting with experts in the workplace.

“I also hope they get some sense of how Washington works – not just the branches of government, but the think tanks and the lobbyists,” Manson added. “Whether or not they aspire to careers in or near government, there is just no substitute for seeing up close how the system works.”

The application deadline for Study USA’s Wintersession 2018 courses is Nov. 9. Some scholarship opportunities are available. For more information, visit

Students Share Experiences from New York and D.C. Summer Internships

UM program helps students make transition from college to career

Grant Gaar (right) of Ripley, a senior integrated marketing major, got to meet several of his favorite Food Network stars, including celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis, during his summer internship with Scripps Networks Interactive, the media company that perates lifestyle channels including HGTV, The Travel Channel and DIY Network. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Preparing for the transition from college to career can be intimidating. The University of Mississippi Internship Experience Program, in its 10th year, helps make that move successful for students through career preparation and internship opportunities in New York and Washington, D.C.

Participants in the summer 2017 cohort recently presented an overview of their internship experiences during a presentation for Ole Miss students, faculty and staff.

“Fostering these experiences is one of the ways that the university is showing a commitment to our students,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s provost, who encouraged students to keep stepping out of comfort zones to make positive changes in their lives.

“I know there were steps that I took that changed the course of my life for the good. I hope these internship experiences will do the same for you. The real value is what you learned and how it changed your perspective on your career field and the world.”

Since its inception in 2008, the program has sent more than 100 students to Washington and New York. In summer 2018, students also can be part of a new cohort living and working in Atlanta.

The program is a two-way pipeline between these cities and the university, said Laura Antonow, director of college programs for the UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

“UM students have the opportunity to work with successful UM alumni in their field of interest,” Antonow explained. “In return, these alumni have the opportunity to stay connected to the students and happenings on our campus.”

Networking and gaining professional experience is the key role of the program, which also helps students earn academic credit while interning in a metropolitan location. The 2017 participants spent the spring semester enrolled in a career-preparation course on campus that provided insight into what employers are looking for and how to make the most of an internship experience.

“This program really opened my eyes to another world,” said Aurielle “Sunny” Fowler, an Ole Miss junior from Clinton.

Fowler, a psychology major who is minoring in biology and chemistry, plans to attend medical school upon graduation. Her internship at the National Rural Health Administration helped her to dive into many of our country’s most pressing medical issues, she said.

“I was working on analysis of the American Health Care Act and how it would affect patients in rural areas of the country,” Fowler said. “I was present at congressional briefings, where I took notes and then published the key points online.

“I was able to learn so much in my workplace, but also I felt inspired by the other young adults working in the city.”

Will Hughes, a senior from Savannah, Georgia, also spent the summer on Capitol Hill while serving as a congressional intern for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson and Rep. Tom Graves, both of Georgia.

“Growing up, I had visited D.C. a few times, and it was very awe-inspiring to me,” Hughes said. “I was grateful for the opportunity to work there this summer and for the opportunity to help people in my home state.”

UM senior Aurielle ‘Sunny’ Fowler of Clinton spent her summer interning with the National Rural Health organization, where she researched and shared information concerning the most pressing medical and health needs for people living in less populated areas of the country. Fowler was one of four Ole Miss students preparing for future careers as participants in the university’s Washington Internship Experience program last summer. Submitted photo

Hughes said he worked on research briefings for the senator concerning important issues such as veterans’ affairs, immigration, gun rights and health care. He also fielded phone calls, emails and letters from constituents and presented their concerns to the senator’s staff.

“The senator’s office would get thousands of phone calls a day,” Hughes said. “It’s busy, but exhilarating.”

Hughes plans to attend graduate school, but said he hopes to return to D.C. to work on a political campaign.

Fellow D.C. interns included Kenric Wright, a senior management information systems major from Greenwood, and junior public policy leadership major David “Walker” Oglesby of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Wright’s summer internship with First Global helped him to learn more about the behind-the-scenes work of an international organization, he said.

“There is a lot of preparation and handling of logistics with international partners,” Wright said. “It was exciting and the environment really encouraged and celebrated diversity.”

Nine UM students interned in New York City this summer: Caroline Block of Athens, Georgia; Sam Dargene of Dallas; Grant Gaar of Walnut; Anna Clara Lee of Atlanta; Jack Lynch of Atlantic City, New Jersey; Rachel Mudd of Perryville, Missouri; Anna Bess Pavlakovich of Denver; Malki Pridgeon of Horn Lake; and Brittany Pringle of Jackson.

Gaar, a senior integrated marketing communications major, hosts a regular cooking show on UM’s NewsWatch 12 television station. This summer, he used his love of food and media to land an internship in New York with Scripps Networks Interactive, owner of several cable channels including Food Network and HGTV.

“It really was a dream come true,” Gaar said. “I got to meet several of the cooking celebrities, and I also was able to network with people in the industry who really inspired me.”

Gaar served as a digital video producer who created content for the network’s social media channels. His favorite part of the internship was a passion project that his supervisor asked interns to present to a team of producers, he said.

Hence, “The Fried Chicken Chronicles” was born. The episodes that feature Gaar sharing different ideas for cooking fried chicken will be shown on the Food Network’s website later this fall, he said.

Before leaving New York, Gaar applied for full-time employment with the media group following graduation in the spring.

“It’s amazing how one conversation with someone in your field can change your outlook for the future,” he said. “I think this summer was really an investment in myself that I’ll reap the benefits of for years to come.”

UM’s Internship Experience Program is taking applications for Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C., interns for summer 2018. Students interested in the program should visit The application deadline is Nov. 10.

UM Communiversity Classes Help Locals Try Something New this Fall

Schedule includes $10 Lunch and Learn holiday classes

Communiversity participants practice their CPR skills. The program’s fall slate of classes features many options, including first aid, photography, social media marketing, cake decorating and many more. Photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss. – What does learning to decorate a home like Joanna Gaines, spinning around the dance floor like your favorite “Dancing With The Stars” couple and decorating a cake like you’re a contender on “Cake Wars” have in common? These are just a few of the things participants can learn during the University of Mississippi’s fall 2017 Communiversity classes.

“We want to give people the chance to change their, ‘I wish I coulds’ into ‘Yes, I cans,'” said Gazel Giles, Communiversity coordinator. “People may want to try something new, like learning to use essential oils or putting together a show-stopping Christmas tree, and with Communiversity classes, now they can.”

With several options this fall, the schedule features  new classes and several returning favorites, including the popular $10 fall “Lunch and Learn” classes. These classes teach participants how to design their perfect holiday table, trim a beautiful tree and even make a Christmas tree for the birds.

“Communiversity classes are for everyone,” Giles said. “We try to offer a broad range of short workshops and classes that will give community members the opportunity to learn something new.

“There is a wealth of knowledge to pull from in our community. People enjoy sharing the hobbies, skills and techniques they are passionate about. Our Communiversity teachers make these classes fun.”

The fall schedule kicks off this weekend with an excursion to the 2017 Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. Birdwatchers on the sold-out trip will enjoy one of the biggest nature festivals in the area and enjoy the thousands of hummingbirds, live shows, arts and crafts, and native plant sales.

Next week, the popular “Ballroom and Latin Dance with Arman” class begins for the fall. Arman Sahakyan will host his step-by-step dance instruction classes on Monday evenings at a location to be announced.

Participants can come for one or all of the classes taking place from Sept. 11 to Nov. 27. Ballroom dance lessons run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Latin dance classes are 7:30-8:30 p.m. The cost for each class session is $10 per person.

The popular “CPR and First Aid Training” class is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 23 at Insight Park on Hathorn Road. Students will learn resuscitation techniques for infants, children and adults, along with how to use Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs.

The course also covers first aid, home safety, splinting and victim assessment. This course meets requirements for foster care, adoption and child care workers. The fee is $79 and includes American Red Cross CPR certification.

Ole Miss graduate Maila Rogers of Southaven enrolled in this course last spring and used the first aid information she learned while serving as a camp counselor this summer at Camp Lakeside in Scobey.

“I felt better prepared and calmer when I needed to recall my training,” Rogers said. “Unfortunately, we did have a few minor accidents at camp this summer that needed quick responses. I was glad to have the knowledge and skills to help.”

“Safe Sitter Essential Skills for ages 11-14” is a nationally recognized program where teens learn lifesaving skills to stay safe when they are home alone or watching younger children. The class meets 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 4 at Insight Park. The cost is $45.

Community residents who would like to learn more about the healing power of natural remedies are invited to try Communiversity’s special classes with Ann Marie Farrell on Thursday evenings in October.

“The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices” class meets 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Oxford-University Depot. The cost is $39. “Advanced Essential Oils – Lifestyle Change” is set for the same times Oct. 19 and 26. The cost is $85 plus a $9 materials fee.

Communiversity classes are short noncredit classes open to anyone in the community interested in learning something new. Back on the schedule this fall are the popular $10 holiday decor and design classes. Photo by Larry Agostinelli

Learn more about how to take photos like the pros in “Getting to Know Your Digital Camera” from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 30 at Insight park. Robert Jordan, UM director of photography services, will teach participants to take professional-looking photos and share his tips on enhancing images, archiving photos and techniques for printing. The cost is $85. Students will have an opportunity to practice their skills with their own camera during lessons around campus that same day.

For beginning photographers who want to learn more about digitally enhancing photos, the “Adobe Photoshop Workshop: Getting Started,” is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 7 at Weir Hall. The cost is $89.

Local seniors interested in learning more about their tech devices are invited to the “iPhones?, iPads?, iWhat?” class offered ofrom 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at Weir Hall. The fee is $45. Participants will learn basic settings, navigation, how to take photos, send texts, download apps and much more.

“Marketing Your Business Using Social Media” will meet 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 12 and 19 at Weir Hall. The cost is $69. This course teaches participants how to set up and optimize social media accounts for their business, generate leads through Facebook ads and gain traffic to their websites.

Two-time winners of Food Network’s “Cake Wars,” Jeff and Kathleen Taylor, of Oxford’s Sweet T’s Bakery, are back this fall with their popular cake design classes. They will lead a Halloween-themed “Cake Decorating: Spooky, Scary and Spectacular” class from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Depot. The class covers techniques for creating piping, cake borders, flowers, rolled fondant and modeling techniques. The course fee is $75.

The Taylors also will lead “Holiday Sweet Treats” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 12, again at the Depot. This family-friendly class will cover how to take a simple cupcake or cookie and turn it into something special. The class fee is $59.

Communiversity’s popular $10 holiday Lunch and Learn classes return to help participants deck their halls with lots of festive cheer and decor. Each class will be offered from noon to 1 p.m. at the Depot.

The first Lunch and Learn class is set for Nov. 8, when one of Oxford’s favorite designers, Jordan Brown, of Discount Building Materials, shares her unique “Tips for Trimming Your Tree.” Learn her easy-to-re-create design ideas for putting together your own show-stopping tree this holiday season.

Brown also will teach fun DIY holiday decorating ideas for designing “Easy to Elegant Tablescapes and Centerpieces” during a noon class on Nov. 29.

The final Lunch and Learn is slated for Dec. 13, when Mitch Robinson from the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center shows participants how to attract feathered friends to their yards with his class, “Christmas Tree for the Birds.” Students will get hands-on training to decorate an evergreen tree with decorations that will attract birds and various wildlife.

Visit for more information on these and other classes happening this fall. Discounts are available for ages 55 and older. UM employees can use payroll deduction for any class over $60.

Gazel Giles Takes on Community Enrichment Position with UM

Oxford native looking forward to organizing inspiring programs and continuing education opportunities

Gazel Giles

OXFORD, Miss. – After graduating from Lafayette High School in 2002, Gazel Giles had a dream of helping others. She wanted to go into nursing, but family responsibilities and the need to work 40 hours a week left little time to attend college, so she trained for a position as a dialysis technician.

“I enjoyed working with patients,” Giles said. “Knowing that I was making a difference in their lives made it enjoyable to come to work.”

Giles took courses at Northwest Community College in Oxford part time when she could, and in 2011 she was ready to pursue her dream of a bachelor’s degree. She enrolled at the University of Mississippi to begin classes in the psychology program.

“I was thinking of working as a counselor or case manager,” Giles said. “I felt like I was called to continue making a difference in others’ lives.”

After graduation, Giles needed to stay in Oxford, as she was raising her children. She took a position in the Rebel Reserve temporary clerical pool and began serving as a secretary in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and later in the university’s Facilities Planning Office.

A full-time position became available in the facilities planning office, and Giles landed the job. As a receptionist there, Giles learned more about the SAP data management system, billing, organizing projects, and working with architects and contracts.

“I really enjoyed learning new things and meeting new people,” she said. “It was a great experience for me.”

In 2014, Giles joined the UM Staff Council to represent her department. Two years later, she was elected by her peers to serve as the president of the staff council for that year.

“I saw this as a way to represent my fellow staff members and help solve problems in a positive way,” Giles said. “I wanted to make a difference. This position taught me so much about working with university and community leaders.”

During this time, Giles continued her education by taking classes toward a master’s degree in higher education. She graduated in May.

This spring, Giles applied and was chosen for a position in the UM Division of Outreach as a coordinator of continuing education programs.

“I felt I could be a strong example of the benefits of continuing your education,” Giles said. “I took classes when I could, raised my family, stopped classes, worked and started classes again.

“I had a dream and just pursued it when the opportunity came along. I’m grateful that I had those opportunities.”

In her new position, Giles works with UM’s noncredit, professional development and lifelong learning programs. She will coordinate the Communiversity short-term, noncredit classes that support community members who want to learn new skills. These programs are open to anyone in the community, including retirees, Ole Miss students, and family members of all ages.

Giles’ outgoing personality and experience in event planning will be factors that will contribute to her success in this position, said Mary Leach, director of UM’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning.

“She has outstanding customer service skills,” Leach said. “She’s willing to go the extra mile in getting the job done.

“I think her experience as president of the staff council will add to our department’s mission by fostering relationships on and off campus that will help us provide quality programs to those that we serve.”

In a recent ballroom dance class offered by Communiversity, Giles said she was able to witness firsthand how this program is enriching other’s lives.

“I watched one participant who was nervous and unsure of himself as the class began, but by the end of the session he was smiling and happy. He was able to spin his wife around the dance floor with confidence.

“When I saw that, I knew for sure that this program was something I wanted to be a part of.”

For more information about the Communiversity program, visit