MBJ: UMMC’s MIND Center homing in on Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment

UMMC's Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia Center focus of Mississippi Business Journal story

Mississippi Business Journal: UMMC’s MIND Center homing in on Alzheimer’s prevention and treatment

By Becky Gillette

Alzheimer’s disease is devasting illness that robs victims of their memories and ability to complete simple tasks. It takes a huge toll on families and strains the healthcare system. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it is the most expensive disease in America with annual costs for Alzheimer’s and other dementias estimated at $277 billion.

At the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), vitally important research into the causes and possible preventions and treatments for this disease are being done at The MIND (Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia) Center.

Researchers and clinicians at The MIND Center are conducting multiple industry-sponsored clinical trials in patients with a diagnosis of early Alzheimer’s disease or mild cognitive impairment, a prodromal stage of Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, said Dr. Juebin Huang, associate professor of neurology at The MIND Center at UMMC.

“One of the major focuses of these clinical trials is to develop medications that can remove or reduce the formation of amyloid plaques, a key pathological component that leads to nerve cell death and brain deterioration,” Huang said. “The eventual goal of these trials is to see if the investigational medications can slow down or halt the progression of Alzheimer disease. Data from early phases of these trials are promising.”

Read the full story here.

Don Cole Retires after Storied History at Ole Miss

Longtime mathematics professor, administrator credited with leaving lasting legacy at UM

Don Cole retires from the University of Mississippi and his longtime responsibilities in the Lyceum on Jan. 15. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – When Donald Cole was a graduate student at the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, he and a faculty member would walk over to the Union to get coffee together. Cole would walk so fast, his companion would have to hold onto his shoulder to keep up.

As a champion of education, Cole has outpaced others ever since, but he’s retiring officially Jan. 15, and the many people who love and admire him are feeling the loss. A retirement reception will be hosted from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“He’s retiring, and it’s hitting home,” said Demetria Hereford, associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Program, who has worked with the assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics for 21 years. “Dr. Cole’s voice is one that people listen to because he’s fair to all people. People respect and appreciate fairness and compromise, thus gravitate towards him.”

The 68-year-young Cole has tried to help all students as a math professor or mentor, but he likely has done more than anyone at the university to help underrepresented students achieve academically through leading such initiatives as the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation’s IMAGE, or Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education, and summer Bridge STEM programs and the McNair program, which recruits 29 low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students each year and prepares them for doctoral studies.

“Dr. Cole is the most giving and kind person,” said Andie Cooper, who has worked as Cole’s executive assistant for the past three years. “His smile is contagious, and his faith is visible through his actions as he works diligently on many committees throughout campus. He truly has the heart of a servant.”

While giving a campus tour to visitors, Don Cole stops by the James Meredith statue situated between the Lyceum and the J.D. Williams Library. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Always ready to laugh but thoughtful when he speaks, Cole reflects on the prospect of retiring after a history with the university that goes back to 1968.

“It’s going to be the people and places that I miss,” Cole said. “I’ll be coming up on weekends and looking around, so the building part I can do something about.

“Some of the people I’ll naturally run into in the community. But I’m going to miss a lot of aspects because I put my life off into it.”

Besides his roles as program director, grant writer, mentor and mathematics professor, Cole is also an administrator. Under Robert Khayat, chancellor from 1995 to 2009, he was named assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

He chaired the Chancellor’s Standing Committee on Sensitivity and Respect until last year; co-chaired the Extended Sensitivity and Respect Committee in 2013, which was initiated after a post-election incident on campus in 2012; and co-chaired the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context the last couple of years.

Cole said he believes the university has come a long way in becoming a welcoming place for all.

“I’m always the half-full guy,” Cole said. “And so I see that the university has come a tremendous way. I remember getting here as a freshman (in 1968). I remember how uncomfortable I was, and I remember some of the incidents that made me uncomfortable. And the university’s just a far cry from that today.

“Yes, we have a long ways to go. Sometimes when we ‘fix something,’ we need to be reminded that it doesn’t stay fixed, that as new groups of students, faculty and staff come in (every year), that we have to be vigilant, we have to be conscious and not rest on any laurels. We have to cover some of the same ground, remembering that we’re covering the same ground with different people.”

Cole’s colleagues attest to the powerful effect of his presence on the university.

“From the outset, it was clear that he would be a team player but would never compromise his values and beliefs,” Khayat said. “He was loyal to the university, to his students, his colleagues and his faith.”

Provost Noel Wilkin added, “The advice and guidance that Don has provided around issues of race and diversity have been incredibly valuable. These are grounded in his steadfast pursuit of affording all students who come to our university an opportunity to be successful.”

There and Back Again

Cole grew up in Jackson, living with his parents and seven siblings, and entered Ole Miss as a freshman engineering major in 1968. He was a member of the Black Student Union, which presented the UM administration with a list of demands, asking for an end to overt racism, more opportunities for black students and staff, and the hiring of black faculty.

In 1970, Cole took part in a protest at an Up with People concert on campus and was expelled from the university along with seven other students. He spent two nights in the Oxford jail.

“Virtually every one of the 27 demands have been made a reality on this campus,” said Charles Ross, UM professor of history and director of the African American studies program, which he said exists only because of the courage Cole and others displayed as students. “Today, many individuals on our campus take for granted the opportunities that were created by the sacrifice made by Don and others.”

James Donald (left), Lawrence Anderson, Donald Cole, Edwin Scott and Kenneth Mayfield catch up at a UM Black Student Reunion. Submitted photo

Kenneth Mayfield is another of the students who were expelled in 1970. He and Cole have been best friends since, and Cole even introduced him to his wife. Mayfield did not return to Ole Miss, but he persuaded his daughter, Dominique, to enroll there.

“My daughter graduated from Ole Miss (with a degree in political science),” said Mayfield, senior attorney at the Mayfield Law Firm in Tupelo. “I really wanted her to finish there because I was unable to finish there, and it would give me some sense of completion.”

Cole arranged it so that he would present his best friend’s daughter with her degree.

“It was like I finally got to graduate from there,” Mayfield said. “She’s practicing law with me now.” 

After unsuccessfully trying to re-enter Ole Miss a year after their expulsion, Cole and Mayfield were accepted to Tougaloo College, where they received their bachelor’s degrees.

Mayfield went on to receive a law degree from the University of Michigan. Cole earned master’s degrees in mathematics from both the State University of New York and the University of Michigan, and returned to Ole Miss and completed a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1985.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Cole worked in Fort Worth, Texas, in the aerospace industry. He later accepted an offer to work as a mathematics professor at Florida A&M, and then was asked to join Ole Miss as assistant dean in the Graduate School and associate professor of mathematics. He returned in 1993.

So, why did Cole return to Ole Miss after being kicked out as an undergraduate?

“I’m often asked that question, and I have never been able to truly give a good answer, even to myself,” he said. “I had not truly failed at anything, and I had come here to get a degree and I had failed to get a degree.

“I had left in disgrace, left with a jail certificate, and I had come here, not by myself, but come here representing so many others, and I suspect that I had feelings about letting so many other folk down, and maybe this gave me another shot at redeeming myself, and that’s the nearest that I can answer.”

Don Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith (left) accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss in 1962. Submitted photo

Returning to the university after the way he was treated is probably one of the biggest contributions Cole could make, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“I feel like he truly is a role model,” Hephner LaBanc said. “He was able to forgive what happened to him, not forget.

“There have been many others he’s linked arms with, but I think he was the forerunner. He allowed us to come behind him and be brave.”

Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss, said Judy Meredith, a retired assistant professor at Jackson State University and wife of James Meredith.

“James Meredith opened that door, and God put Don Cole there to keep that door open,” she said.

The Merediths said Cole has always made them feel welcome during their visits to campus.

“I’ve been to Ole Miss a lot of times. Nobody has done more and better for me than Dr. Donald Cole,” James Meredith said. “I’ve never known anyone in education that I’ve had greater respect for, and I’ve known a lot of people in education who have helped me through the years.”

Teacher and Mentor

Cole has taught one math course, ranging from geometry to calculus, every semester since he’s been at Ole Miss. His interest in mathematics started in elementary school.

“I loved me some Caroline Sue,” said Cole, referencing a grade school classmate. “I devised a great scheme to get Caroline Sue to like me. She wasn’t good in math, so I took our math workbook and did the whole workbook, so that whenever Caroline Sue had a question, I had the answer right there.

“The instructor was impressed because they kind of used my book as a key. I didn’t care about that; I cared about Caroline Sue. She ended up dating my friend.”

Over the years, Cole has helped hundreds of Ole Miss students understand math, even those who thought they never could, such as Scott Coopwood, of Cleveland, Mississippi.

“I had one last class to take in order to graduate in August of ’84, and I was worried that I might not pass it because math has never been one of my strong points,” said Coopwood, founder and owner of Coopwood Communications, which includes Delta Magazine and the Delta Business Journal.

Don Cole and IHL President Shane Hooper celebrate UM Commencement in 2016. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The class was Statistics, and the first day I walked into the room I saw a young guy sitting on the edge of his desk looking through some papers, and it was Don. As everyone was pouring into the room, I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m awful at math and I’m concerned that I might not be able to pass this class, and if I don’t, I won’t graduate.’

“Don put his hand on my shoulder and in a very positive manner, he said, ‘Don’t worry, regardless of your math skills, if it comes to it, I’ll work with you after class every day, and I don’t care how long it takes. … You’re going to pass this course, and you’re going to graduate on time.’ He hadn’t known me more than two minutes.

“Don was a great teacher in every way. He went slow and explained everything extremely well. I spent a lot of time with him when I was taking that course. I can’t recall many teachers who had faith in me or in fact even encouraged me. But Don certainly did. Thirty-four years later and I have never forgotten the impact he had on my life in the summer of 1984.”

Other students sing Cole’s praises as a mentor, as well.

“As a freshman majoring in mathematics, I knew that he would be someone who could serve as a resource and mentor throughout my undergraduate tenure,” said Skylyn Irby, who met Cole during the summer before her freshman year and participated in the Bridge STEM program, which serves underrepresented incoming freshman STEM majors, and McNair program.

“He was someone who overcame the adversities that many underrepresented people of color encounter in STEM-related career fields. More specifically, he was a mathematician and someone who gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in mathematics.”

Cole has had a profound impact on undergraduate and graduate education at the university, said James Reid, UM chair and professor of mathematics.

“It was noted in that June/July 2009 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society that over one-third of the African-Americans who received Ph.D.s nationally that year had graduated from this university in 2006,” Reid said. “Dr. Cole was an essential contributor to this effort and recruited and mentored many of these students. He is a remarkable member of the Ole Miss family.”

Cole, who won the university’s Frist Student Service Award in 2001 and Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education in 2004, said the LSMAMP IMAGE and summer Bridge STEM programs and McNair program are dear to his heart.

“They have been pivotal programs that have absolutely changed the lives of many, many individuals who have participated,” Cole said. “They have been programs that have highlighted us as an institution far beyond our walls and borders.”

Family Man

So, with all the work Cole has done for the university, has he had time to be a caring husband and father and all-around good person? The answer is yes, said Marcia Cole, his wife of 38 years and UM lecturer of applied gerontology.

The Cole family at home: Donald II (left), Marcia, Donald Sr., Mariah and William. Submitted photo

“I think he is the kindest, most patient, caring individual that I know,” she said. “He just genuinely cares about people, and he will do everything within his power and use any resource available to him to be of some help, even to his detriment.”

The Coles have three grown children: Don II, 35; Mariah, 32; and William, 31. Marcia Cole said her husband wanted to be a father from day one. He watched his children play sports and taught them how to swim and build a fire. He made sure his daughter knew how to bass fish, catch a ball, change a tire, do yardwork and fix the plumbing.

“He’s a big kid at heart,” Marcia Cole said. “At the house, if I heard something happen, I wasn’t calling the kids. I called him.”

Upon retirement, Don Cole said he’ll continue to devote time to his favorite hobby, photography, and around the house he plans to set up a couple of aquariums, garden and “fix” things. In addition, he’ll continue serving his community through work with civic and humanitarian organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

From faculty to students to administrators, Cole’s impact at the university and across the state will be felt for generations to come.

“Cole is a selfless, supporting role model,” said Victoria Robinson, who participated in the Bridge STEM program, IMAGE and the McNair program. “Without him, I would not be as successful as I have been in my undergraduate career. I’ll miss him more than he knows.”

Don Cole plays on the swings during an Oxford Housing Authority community project to rebuild a playground. Photo by Patrick Perry

McManus Named President of National Groundskeeping Group

Director of Landscape Services to serve one-year term as head of professional society

Ford Center Brings LOU Community Together for Holiday Season

Holiday village offers variety of events for all through Dec. 13

The holiday village has returned to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts again this year for the ninth annual gingerbread house display. The 32 gingerbread structures include houses made by Oxford High students with a 3D printer. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a series of community events, including a holiday concert, storytime readings featuring special guests Mary Haskell and Patty Lewis, and a special visit from Santa Claus through Dec. 13 to celebrate the holidays.

Each year the Ford Center creates a holiday gingerbread village, and this year’s collection is the ninth annual gingerbread house display. This year’s village features some 32 gingerbread structures, including houses made by Oxford High School students with a 3D printer.

The holiday village opened just before the annual holiday concert on Dec. 1. It is free and open to the public, but since the village supports local food banks, visitors are encouraged to bring food items to donate.

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the holiday season each year because the events help give back to the community.

Mike Jones, a Calhoun Academy student, checks out the gingerbread castle built by another group after helping his classmates top off their gingerbread village. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I love just being in the village and seeing people’s reaction to the houses, especially the children,” Meacham said. “We host many school groups, as well as the story times and the visit from Santa, so we have lots of children visit the village. It’s such a pure reaction, full of the innocence of childhood.”

The holiday village is one of Meacham’s favorite traditions at the Ford Center, and she said it would not be possible without the help of the Oxford-Lafayette Countycommunity.

“(We hope) that it helps bring some holiday cheer to the people who visit, but what I really love about the holiday village is that this is truly a community effort,” Meacham said. “The Ford Center provides the space, some decorations and theatrical lighting, but the real work is done by the people who build the houses. Without them, there would be no village.”

UM alumna Haskell, a successful actress and singer and Miss Mississippi 1977, will read stories to preschoolers and toddlers at the Ford Center’s gingerbread village at 10:30 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 6). The event is free and open to the public.

Santa visits the holiday village from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 8). The event is free, and attendees are advised to bring their own cameras. The Oxford Civic Chorus will perform holiday songs and carols in the Ford Center lobby from 1 to 2 p.m.

Lewis, also a UM alumna, member of the Ford Center advisory board and a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, will read to elementary school children in the holiday village at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 13. The event is free.

For more information on the Ford Center’s series of holiday events, visit http://fordcenter.org/.

UM Group, Community Members Visit Lynching Memorial

UM faculty and students, Oxford high school students and community members – visit the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park in Montgomery, Alabama. Photo by Dason Pettit

OXFORD, Miss. – A group of more than 50 people – including University of Mississippi faculty and students, Oxford high school students and community members – recently visited the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park in Montgomery, Alabama.

A student takes in exhibits at the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park. Photo by Dason Pettit

The trip, which took place Nov. 3 and was organized by the UM Slavery Research Group, allowed participants to visit the new museum that examines the history of lynching in America.

The trip was organized to take place one week after the dedication of the Elwood Higginbottom memorial in Lafayette County. More importantly, it allowed older community members to discuss historical information about Oxford and Lafayette County with high school students.

The creation of the Equal Justice Museum and Memorial Park was driven by the Equal Justice Initiative, founded by Bryan Stevenson. The best-selling author and social justice activist delivered the keynote address during the university’s Fall Convocation in 2017.

MBJ: Ole Miss brings multidisciplinary approach to addressing the opioid addiction crisis

UM focus of Mississippi Business Journal story on approaches to the state's opioid crisis

Mississippi Business Journal: Ole Miss brings multidisciplinary approach to addressing the opioid addiction crisis

By BECKY GILLETTE

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 33,000 people in the U.S. died in 2015 as a result of an opiate overdose. One study of areas in 45 states showed opiate overdoses increased by 30 percent between July 2016 and September 2017. The opioid problem has been referred to as the worst addiction problem in U.S. history. Its victims include people from all income levels and walks of life.

A recent symposium at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) was targeted towards developing a new approach to the problem that has spiraled out of control. More than 300 law and pharmacy students attended the symposium, “An Interprofessional Approach to the Opioid Crisis in Mississippi.” The symposium included a mock trial in front of Roy Percy, magistrate judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a keynote speech by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Ole Miss Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter commended the schools for proactively addressing the opioid epidemic.

“By working together, we are more likely to understand the full breadth of this challenge and to find innovative solutions,” Vitter said.

Read the full story here.

UM Offers New Multidisciplinary Disaster Sciences Minor

From dealing with wildfires to hurricanes, program aims to prepare students to help others

Students enrolled in the UM Disaster Sciences minor program meet with Stefan Schulenberg (center), professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center. The students are (from left) Courtney Pomfrey, Mikaela Raley, Sunny Patel, Calli Holland, Emily Gawlik and Phoebe Lavin. All the students except Raley, a first-year graduate student, are undergraduate student research assistants. Photo by Ashley Polk

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts is offering a minor designed to help others in times of need following natural disasters.

UM launched its Disaster Sciences minor program this fall, and 14 students are enrolled.

Disaster Sciences is an 18-hour multidisciplinary minor designed to educate students on managing or helping others manage their lives before, during or after disasters through a variety of disciplines, including social work, psychology, sociology, criminal justice, geology and nutrition.

While the university already offered the courses that are a part of the new minor, they weren’t interconnected.

“To me, it’s just the perfect combination,” said Courtney Pomfrey, a senior psychology major from Cincinnati and one of the first students to enroll in the new program. “You have a wide range of courses, and it’s interesting how they all correlate and intertwine with each other.”

Stefan Schulenberg

Stefan Schulenberg, professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center, is the faculty leader bringing the minor to UM.

Schulenberg said his goal was to gather together a variety of courses that benefit one another.

“It just seemed like an opportunity to bring existing research programs and educational programs together,” he said. “Some of the courses and disciplines you won’t even think about in connection to disaster sciences.

“That’s the exciting thing about having so many disciplines. Everybody brings their own perspective to it.”

The different courses will give students knowledge of how to prepare for and deal with any natural disasters, such as wildfires and hurricanes, and human-caused disasters, such as technological and terrorist attacks and shootings.

Among the requirements to complete the minor are that students complete a minimum of one course from the Foundations of Human Behavior, Applications and Contexts category, and complete a course from the Working with Diversity category. At least three different disciplines outside the student’s major must be represented among the courses completed.

Schulenberg said he believes the lives of many Mississippians will benefit as a result of those who obtain this minor because the region tends to experience so many disasters.

This frequency of disasters made Schulenberg realize that Ole Miss should create a Disaster Sciences minor.

When he was earning his master’s and doctoral degrees in clinical psychology about 20 years ago at the University of South Dakota, it was the only university offering a specialization in disaster mental health. The program was so new that when he graduated, he was noted for being the first student in the country to graduate with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology with a disaster mental health specialization.

The experience of taking some of those courses, along with the occurrences of great disasters in the world such as Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, convinced him to propose this new minor.

Additionally, he said he found that while most people want to help in the wake of a tragic situation, most don’t know what to do or how to effectively handle such situations.

“This minor will give them the level of education needed to make a difference and help others,” Schulenberg said. “We hope to help them in that process.”

The minor offers opportunities to have Mississippi Emergency Management Agency officials, American Red Cross officials and other leaders in the field of disaster management to come to campus and interact with students interested in similar fields. It also provides opportunities to offer training in psychological first aid.

Multidisciplinary minors such as this one are expected to be attractive and useful to more students, said Donald Dyer, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

“We’d love to see students in increasing numbers take advantage of these kinds of minors,” Dyer said. “I think it broadens their perspectives and sometimes really becomes something to complement their degree.”

For a complete description of the minor and course requirements, visit https://catalog.olemiss.edu/liberal-arts/ba-distr-sci.

IHL: Board of Trustees appoints UM Vice Chancellor to serve as Interim Chancellor

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning named University of Mississippi Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance Larry D. Sparks as Interim Chancellor, effective January 4, 2019. He will remain in the position until a permanent chancellor is named.

“Larry Sparks’ extensive knowledge of university finance, coupled with his decades of experience at the University of Mississippi, make him ideally suited to serve as Interim Chancellor,” said Shane Hooper, President of the Board of Trustees. “He has a deep understanding of the issues facing public universities today and an even deeper understanding of Ole Miss. I have no doubt that the university will continue to excel under his leadership.”

Sparks

“Larry Sparks is an outstanding administrator and a lifelong Rebel who has been a leader at the University of Mississippi for more than two decades,” said Chancellor Jeff Vitter. “He knows the Oxford, regional and Medical Center campuses as well as anyone, and his perspective, talent and leadership ability will serve the university well during this period. I am committed to supporting Larry in any way that I can.”

The Oxford native joined the University of Mississippi in 1997 and has served in his current role as the university’s chief financial officer since 2006. His areas of responsibility include budget, contractual services, facilities planning, fiscal affairs, health and safety, human resources, landscape services, facilities management, procurement services, campus mail, the golf course, and airport operations.

“It is an honor to serve the University during this time of transition,” said Sparks. “I have had the privilege of spending the majority of my career at the University of Mississippi and look forward to serving with a strong team of leaders that will continue moving the university forward.”

Sparks also serves as President of the University of Mississippi Educational Building Corporation and as the university representative on the Joint Committee on Investments, which oversees the endowments for the University of Mississippi, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, and the UM Foundation. He is also a member of the IHL-UMMC Partnership and Affiliation Review Committee and the UM Foundation Audit Committee.

“Our UM Foundation team looks forward to working with Mr. Sparks in the months ahead as we enhance private support,” said Wendell Weakley, President/CEO, University of Mississippi Foundation. “This recognition is well deserved, and we look to build on the strong relationship we already enjoy with him in his financial roles.”

Sparks holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Mississippi and an MBA from Mississippi College. He is a certified public accountant and is currently licensed in Mississippi.

“Larry Sparks’ knowledge, experience, and demonstrated leadership skills as the university’s Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance make him well-qualified and an outstanding choice as the interim chancellor for the university,” said alumnus David Brevard of Tupelo, a member of the Executive Committee of the University of Mississippi Alumni Association. “Larry’s positive work as a member of the university’s senior leadership team has contributed to Ole Miss’ recognition as a great public university. I believe that Larry will work effectively with all of the university’s constituent groups and provide stability as the interim chancellor during a time of transition.”

While at Ole Miss, he has served as the Director of Internal Audit, Director of Project DISCOVER, a comprehensive administrative reengineering project, Interim Director of Procurement Services, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Finance, and Associate Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance.

Prior to joining the Ole Miss staff, Sparks served in several positions with the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, including Assistant Commissioner for Audit and Budget and Deputy Assistant Commissioner for Finance and Administration. He also has several years of experience auditing colleges and universities, serving as a practicing CPA, and owning a business. Early in his career, he worked in the accounting office at Ole Miss.

“Larry Sparks has considerable experience managing areas that touch every facet of the campus,” said Dr. Alfred Rankins, Jr., Commissioner of Higher Education. “I look forward to our continued work together to advance the University of Mississippi and the university system.”

Currently a member of the Executive Council Board of Trustees for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC), he has previously served as a member of on-site and off-site evaluation committees for SACSCOC.

“Larry Sparks has done an outstanding job as Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration,” said Dean Mark Wilder, Dean and KPMG Chair of Accountancy in the Patterson School of Accountancy at the University of Mississippi. “As a result of his efforts, the University of Mississippi is in sound financial condition. I am very pleased that Larry has been chosen as Interim Chancellor and I have the utmost confidence in his abilities to lead our University in this time of transition.”

He has also been actively involved with the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (SACUBO), having served as a Board Member and as Vice Chair of the Professional Development Committee and Chair of the Research and Doctoral Constituency Committee. He is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Mississippi Society of Mississippi Public Accountants.

Sparks has been involved in various professional, church and community activities for many years. He and his wife, Jacky Hedgepeth Sparks, are the parents of three children, Jessi, Laura, and Tyler.

# # #

The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

International Education Week Underway at UM

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi community is celebrating International Education Week the week of Nov. 12 with a number of events slated for campus.

“(International Education Week) is a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to promote the benefits of international education and exchange,” said Blair McElroy, UM director of study abroad and senior international officer.

“Each year, International Education Week is celebrated by universities nationwide, and the Office of Global Engagement is proud to put together a variety of activities and educational events together with units on campus to promote international education and global citizenship.”

With free events ranging from information sessions to lectures and films, International Education Week will have something for everyone. The schedule includes:

Monday (Nov. 12); 5:30 p.m.; Croft Institute, Room 107; Lecture: “On the Road with an Axe and a Pen: Temporary Migration to 19th Century Turkey in the Life Narrative of Central European Journeymen.” Richard Wittman, associate director of the Orient-Institut Istanbul in Istanbul, will discuss the life narratives of journeymen and how they afford new insights into how the temporary migration and stay in a foreign culture was made part of journeymen’s life stories and how it shaped their sense of belonging.

Tuesday (Nov. 13); noon, Lyceum, Room 200; Lunch and Learn with Khalid Al-Gudah, director of the Modern Arabic Language International Center in Amman, Jordan, who will discuss the Arabic language study abroad program at the center. RSVP required for this event.

Tuesday (Nov. 13), 6 p.m., Barnard Observatory, Film: “People’s Republic of Desire.” The documentary about the live-streaming culture in China will be screened and followed by a question-and-answer period with Hao Wu, director of the film.

Wednesday (Nov. 14); 3:30-5 p.m.; Lamar Hall, Room 131; Forum for UM Faculty: “International Students in Your Classroom.” The discussion will feature panelists and other colleagues-in-instruction who will talk about positive educational opportunities that international students bring to the Ole Miss campus. Refreshments will be served.

Wednesday (Nov. 14); 6 p.m.; Croft Institute, Room 107; Student Panel: Ole Miss students are invited to attend a panel discussion at which Freeman grantees will talk about their experiential learning experiences in East Asia last summer. The Freeman grant provides $7,500 to students who want to participate in an internship in East Asia in summer 2019. All majors are welcome. Dinner will be provided and those interested in applying for this grant are encouraged to ask questions and hear from this year’s grantees about their experiences.

Thursday (Nov. 15), 1:30-2:45 p.m., Center for Manufacturing Excellence Boardroom, Pronunciation Session. All are invited to join Intensive English Program faculty and students who will discuss pronunciation in several different languages.

Thursday (Nov. 15), 6:30-8:30 p.m., Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, International Culture Night. All are invited to join student members of the International and American Student Alliance for IASA’s International Cultural Night. Attendees will learn about the many cultures represented on campus.

Friday (Nov. 16); 2-4 p.m.; Brevard Hall, first floor; Cultural Cafe. This come-and-go event provides an opportunity to socialize at the weekly Cultural Cafe, meet new friends and connect with other students. Pre-College Programs representatives will provide ice cream and information that can be shared with friends and family about opportunities for international high school-age students at UM.

For more information about International Education Week, contact the Office of Global Engagement at 662-915-7404 or email oge@olemiss.edu.

IHL: Chancellor Vitter announces plan to return to faculty; Board thanks Chancellor for his service

The Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning President Shane Hooper thanked Chancellor and Distinguished Professor Jeffrey S. Vitter for the many contributions he has made to the University of Mississippi as Dr. Vitter announced his intent to return to the faculty.

“Dr. Vitter has made substantial contributions to the University of Mississippi during his three years as Chancellor,” said Trustee Hooper. “His leadership has moved the university forward in numerous ways and we are grateful for his service.”

Dr. Vitter will serve as Chancellor through January 3, 2019 and continue as a tenured Distinguished Professor in the School of Engineering’s Department of Computer and Information Science.

“It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to serve as the leader of the University of Mississippi during a time of great progress and accomplishment,” Dr. Vitter said. “Being the flagship university is not just a designation, it is a responsibility — to transform lives, communities, and the world.  I am gratified that we have grown dramatically in impact, stature, and commitment in the past three years.  We are stronger academically, enjoy more support in private giving and research funding, and engage more proactively with the world around us. In addition, we are a more diverse community with a more visible dedication to inclusion and civility.

“There is no more important role on a university campus than as a faculty member,” Dr. Vitter said. “I am excited about the opportunity as a faculty member to advance the university’s research and academic excellence.  Both Sharon and I will remain strong citizens of Rebel Nation.”

A renowned computer scientist and national academic leader, Dr. Vitter brought the University of Mississippi to a greater level of stature and prominence during his tenure with a leadership legacy and dynamic strategic plan that extends across academics, research, service, and athletics.

For the university’s core mission, Dr. Vitter oversaw tremendous academic accomplishments and achievement:

  • Earning the university’s first-ever, prestigious R-1 designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for doctoral research universities that places UM among the top 2.5 percent of all colleges and universities in the U.S.;
  • Establishing five new academic centers and institutes, including the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics, the Center for Multi-Messenger Astrophysics, and the University of Mississippi Institute for the Arts;
  • Launching the Flagship Constellation program, a multidisciplinary approach to inspire and accelerate meaningful solutions to four of the grand challenges facing society;
  • Earning the Flagship Language Program designation for Arabic, an esteemed designation for undergraduate language programs available only at select institutions;
  • Creating new and fast-growing degree programs in biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship, as well as new Masters programs in accountancy & data analytics, taxation & data analytics, and industrial pharmaceutical sciences.

To position the university for sustained success for future generations of students, Dr. Vitter oversaw several key initiatives and expansion of the physical campuses by:

  • Launching Ole Miss International to recruit and attract more international students and enhance the diversity of our student body starting next fall;
  • Overseeing a robust university-wide construction program with $709 million in projects planned or underway;
  • Expanding the Oxford footprint through acquisition of the 15-acre site of the former Baptist Hospital facility and development of the new South Campus Recreation Center and the William Magee Center for Wellness Education; and,
  • Opening of the new medical education building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson and gaining approval for the expansion now underway at Batson Children’s Hospital.

Private giving and external research funding are more important than ever to support a leading university. In Dr. Vitter’s tenure, external fund-raising expanded in a number of ways:

  • Attracting more than $134 million in external research funding in FY2018, representing a 9.3 percent year-over-year increase and reaching its highest level in four years;
  • Generating private donations of nearly $117 million in FY2018, the university’s seventh consecutive year in excess of $100 million and culminating the best three-year period in university history;
  • Growing fund-raising for the Oxford campus almost 8 percent in FY2018;
  • Driving the university endowment to a record high of $715 million; and,
  • Hiring the university’s first-ever Vice Chancellor for Development to strengthen its capabilities in this vital area.

Dr. Vitter launched far-reaching initiatives to enhance interaction and communication, while also addressing important aspects of the university’s history by:

  • Holding more than 200 events in a listening and learning tour during his first 100 days as Chancellor to meet thousands of supporters of the university;
  • Establishing the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context to lead an academically sound, fact-focused process to offer more history and put the past into context at several sites across the campus;
  • Hiring the university’s first-ever Vice Chancellor for Diversity & Community Engagement; and,
  • Promoting dialogue with all UM stakeholders through launching the annual University Town Hall and engaging actively on social media and through the Chancellor’s blog.

To expand the university’s outreach across the state, Dr. Vitter oversaw new initiatives designed to promote economic development and improve community well-being, including:

  • Launching the annual UM Tech Summit, started  in 2016, which brings together government and industry leaders, along with UM faculty and staff, to inspire innovation and accelerate the university’s impact in the technology arena;
  • Initiating the M Partner program of community engagement, in which faculty, staff, students, and community members partner to build sustainable vibrancy in Mississippi communities; and,
  • Championing legislation successfully that now allows the UM Medical Center to operate more efficiently and to engage in joint ventures that support community hospitals and improve access to healthcare.

An Interim Chancellor will be named soon.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.