Charlotte Parks Named Vice Chancellor for Development

Innovative fundraiser will oversee UM, UMMC and Athletics development activities

Charlotte Parks

OXFORD, Miss. – During his investiture in November 2016, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter announced major initiatives for the University of Mississippi that will require significant philanthropic support and increase the school’s endowment support for faculty, staff and students.

During that same address, Vitter committed to increasing the university endowment from $600 million to $1 billion.

Less than a year later and following a national search, Charlotte Parks, a seasoned fundraiser with more than 25 years of experience in higher education advancement, has been named the inaugural vice chancellor for development at UM.

“Philanthropic support from our alumni and friends is the key factor in achieving and maintaining our success as a flagship university,” Vitter said. “Increasing our endowment is vital to long-term academic excellence and advancing our research endeavors.

“Charlotte Parks is an innovative and experienced development executive who brings a fresh perspective to this tremendously important and newly created position.”

As a direct report to the chancellor, Parks will lead development officers on the Oxford campus, in athletics and at the Medical Center in Jackson to ensure that all fundraising efforts are strategic and effective and support universitywide goals. Private support for the university has exceeded $100 million in each of the last five years, and Parks hopes to continue to advance that unprecedented support in her new role.

“It is exciting to see the incredible support from alumni and friends,” Parks said. “We will build on that generosity to help fund the university’s aspirations to become an even greater public international research university and to ensure that every qualified student admitted can enroll and gain an exceptional education.

“The support is also important for providing superb health care to Mississippians and taking care of those far beyond Mississippi.”

Parks comes to Ole Miss from the University of South Carolina, where she was senior associate vice president for development. At USC, she led fundraising for all colleges and oversaw principal gifts, donor relations and stewardship.

Before joining South Carolina, Parks directed a $300 million comprehensive campaign for Georgia State University and led all fundraising efforts for the university’s Robinson College of Business. Earlier in her career, she served as vice president for resource development at Roanoke College and associate dean for external affairs in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She began her career at Rhodes College, where she worked in admissions before moving into advancement.

Parks will officially assume her duties Sept. 1. She is eager to lead the university’s advancement efforts and support the initiatives crucial to a Carnegie R1 highest research activity institution.

“I cannot wait to meet all the people who make up the University of Mississippi: the students, faculty, alumni, staff and friends,” Parks said. “There is so much happening at Ole Miss that the excitement is infectious. I so much want to be a part of helping it reach its full potential.”

A 1983 Rhodes College graduate, Parks holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology. She received her master’s degree in education from Bowling Green State University in 1985.

UM Advisory Committee on History and Context Submits Final Report

University to implement contextualization of physical sites on Oxford campus

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi announced the recommendations it will be implementing from the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context. The communication outlining the accepted recommendations as well as the committee’s final report can be accessed at

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter established the CACHC in summer 2016 to address Recommendation 5 of the university’s 2014 Action Plan, a comprehensive set of recommendations related to improving the campus’ environment for diversity and inclusion. Recommendation 5 of the action plan urged the university to “offer more history, putting the past into context” and to do so “without attempts to erase history, even some difficult history.”  

“Contextualization is an important extension of a university’s responsibility to educate and provides an opportunity to learn from history,” Vitter said. “As an educational institution, it is imperative we foster a learning environment and fulfill our mission by pursuing knowledge and understanding. The CACHC embodied this approach in its work, recognizing that while our history is not by any means all that we are, it remains an important part of who we are.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, the CACHC worked to complete its two-phase charge. The initial task of the committee was to recommend which additional physical sites on the Oxford campus (beyond those already completed) should be contextualized, so as to explain the environment in which they were created or named.

Secondly, the committee was tasked with designing the content and format to contextualize the recommended sites. In the final report, the committee explained that “contextualizing the campus reminds us of the enormity and complexity of our shared past” and that “done correctly, and therefore carefully, contextualization is an additive process, not a subtractive one.”

The following Oxford campus sites will be contextualized with plaques: Lamar Hall, Barnard Observatory, Longstreet Hall and George Hall. The antebellum sites of Barnard Observatory, the Croft Building, the Lyceum and Hilgard Cut (a railroad cut on campus) will be collectively contextualized with one plaque to be placed just west of Croft, within sight of the three buildings, noting that these four projects were built with slave labor.

In addition to contextualizing these sites, the university will seek to rename Vardaman Hall. In applying guidelines developed by the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming at Yale University, the CACHC found that James K. Vardaman was an exceptional case for his time because he was an individual who “actively promoted some morally odious practice, or dedicated much of [his life] to upholding that practice.”  

Vardaman Hall was approved by the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning in May 2016 for substantial renovation, an event that often results in consideration of renaming the building. After fundraising and renovation are completed over the next several years, renaming of Vardaman Hall will occur through university processes and be subject to IHL approval.

Additionally, signage at the Paul B. Johnson Commons will be altered to add “Sr.” to clarify that it is named after Paul B. Johnson Sr.

In addition to the seven contextualization sites, the committee’s final report put forth two supplemental sites of university history for contextualization. The first is a plaque for the stained-glass windows in Ventress Hall dedicated to the sacrifice of the University Greys, a company of primarily UM students who fought in the Civil War and suffered 100 percent casualties. The second is for the Confederate Cemetery and related memorial, for which the committee recommended adding individual gravestones to recognize the sacrifice of each person known to be buried there as well as a marker in an appropriate location to recognize the men from Lafayette County who served in the U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

These two supplemental sites were not part of the original list of seven contextualization sites accepted by Chancellor Vitter in February 2017 and were therefore not included in the online form to receive public input. To ensure continued community engagement, the university is seeking public input at prior to taking any action related to the Ventress stained-glass windows and the Confederate Cemetery.

“Throughout this process, the university has sought to listen and engage in constructive and transparent conversations with all university stakeholders,” Vitter said. “In the past year, the product of the CACHC has been enriched and informed by the hundreds of individuals who provided feedback in person, through online web forms, and through individual letters, emails and calls. I am confident that our decisions with regard to these two supplemental items will be equally enhanced by public input.”

The public review and comment period for the two additional items recommended by the CACHC will be open at through July 31, 2017.

The university’s contextualization approach was established as an academically focused and fact-focused process with the 14 CACHC members selected from nearly 100 nominations received from the university community. CACHC membership was based upon expertise in relevant subject matters such as history, sociology, English, law or race relations; a demonstrated track record of consensus building and collaboration; a deep understanding of the UM community and culture; experience in commemoration and contextualization of historic sites; and a commitment to a process that is inclusive, respectful, civil, candid, transparent and honors the UM Creed.

“As the work of the CACHC concludes and our formal contextualization process draws to a close, we extend profound thanks to the CACHC members for their tremendous work on this challenging but extremely important task for our university,” Vitter said.

“I also want to commend our university community for staying engaged and supportive throughout the process. Even when our views differ on issues of vital importance to Ole Miss, Mississippi and the nation, we remain inextricably bound together by our belief in the university’s ability to positively transform lives, just as it has changed many of our own lives for the better.”

The university has tasked the vice chancellor for university relations and the vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement with oversight and coordination of implementation of the recommendations including funding and timeline for ordering and installing plaques and markers.

UM Community, Friends Mourn Passing of Carolyn Ellis Staton

University's first female provost remembered as trailblazer, mentor and friend

Carolyn Ellis Staton

OXFORD, Miss. – Carolyn Ellis Staton, respected and beloved as a University of Mississippi law professor and administrator, was fondly remembered by family and friends Monday (May 22) during memorial services in Paris-Yates Chapel. Staton, 71, died May 19 at her home in Oxford.

A trailblazer who became the university’s first female provost, Staton joined the Ole Miss faculty in August 1977. During her 32-year tenure, she served as a professor and interim dean in the School of Law, associate provost and provost before her retirement in 2009.

“She was truly remarkable in every way,” Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said. “Nobody ever had a better partner at work. She was straightforward, but always kind and treated people with respect.

“I will always remember her for her intellect, creativity, kindness, tolerance and strong value system.”

Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emeritus of university relations, remembers Staton as a “dear friend and transitional leader who helped change the face of Ole Miss.”

“Dr. Staton definitely strengthened the academic community here,” said Kellum, recalling the professional camaraderie and abiding friendship the two shared. “As the first two women on UM’s executive management team at one point, we worked together on various university projects.

“I have always had an immense respect for how much she loved the university and its students. She was truly a champion who created many educational opportunities for them.”

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, described Staton as “a powerful and strong leader on campus, tender mother, dedicated spouse, scholar, thinker and crafty seller of books.”

“We celebrate Carolyn Ellis Staton’s extraordinary life,” he said. “She truly made a lasting, positive impact upon all of us who worked with her and knew her well.”

Along with university administrators, faculty, staff and alumni, the Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton paid her respects. The former U.S. Secretary of State and three other Yale University alumni flew in to offer condolences to the family of her longtime friend and law school roommate.

“It is always hard to lose a friend – someone who made you a better person,” a tearful Clinton said during her remarks. “No matter what else I may have been, to Carolyn, I was always just a friend.”

Clinton remembered Staton as “a kind of surrogate confessor and godmother” to a lot of their fellow students. She also said that Staton was a leader in the Barrister’s Union and one of the few women who could hold her own in a debate.

“Carolyn was sympathetic, but she was also very clear that each of us had to prepare to play our part in whatever was coming in the future,” Clinton said. “And boy, could she make people laugh!”

Born in Vicksburg to the late John and Marguerite Shibley Ellis, Staton earned her bachelor’s degree at Tulane University, a master’s degree at Columbia University and her Juris Doctor from Yale University.

Staton was warmly remembered by both her predecessor and her successor in the provost’s position.

“She was an unusually outgoing person, and we became immediate friends,” said Gerald Walton, provost emeritus and Staton’s predecessor. “Carolyn Ellis Staton will be recognized because of her intelligence, vision, professionalism, dedication, loyalty, commitment, good judgment, organizational skill, understanding of higher education, commitment to academic excellence, professionalism and collegiality.

“Ole Miss is a stronger institution because of her skill, understanding and drive.”

Morris Stocks, UM professor of accountancy who served nine years as provost, said Staton spent her life improving the lives of others.

“She reminded us of the privilege we have to create opportunities for others,” Stocks said. “I’m thankful for what she taught me. Through Carolyn Staton’s example, many of us have grown to love and cherish the unique challenges we have at this public institution.”

As provost, she facilitated the creation of the university’s residential colleges and Croft Institute for International Studies. She expanded on the ideas of others in building the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Staton was a dedicated and loving wife of 33 years and a loving mother to three boys. She found great joy in her travels overseas and prided herself on enabling her children to travel.

She was a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps, where she achieved the rank of captain. She served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in the 1990s at the Pentagon.

Staton is survived by her husband, William Staton of Oxford; sons William Staton and his fiance, Katrina, of Washington, D.C., Thom Staton of Asheville, North Carolina, and Michael Staton of Hooksett, New Hampshire; and brothers David Ellis of Hilton Head, South Carolina, and Robert Ellis of Memphis, Tennessee.

Memorial contributions in Staton’s memory may be made to the Carolyn Ellis Staton Scholarship in Law Endowment, University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

Lecture Examines Links Between Faulkner Classic and Book of Daniel

UM McCool fellow to share findings from dissertation research on Thursday

Barry Hudek’s dissertation examines the ‘solitary furnace experience’ undergone by a character in Faulkner’s classic ‘Absalom, Absalom!’ Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – This year’s Frances Bell McCool Fellowship Lecture in Faulkner Studies at the University of Mississippi examines connections between an iconic William Faulkner novel and the Biblical book of Daniel.

The lecture, titled “Thomas Sutpen’s ‘Solitary Furnace Experience’: The Book of Daniel in William Faulkner’s ‘Absalom, Absalom!'” is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday (May 4) in Bishop Hall, Room 112. Barry Hudek, a doctoral candidate in English, will present the talk based on his research.

Faulkner writes in “Absalom, Absalom!” that one of the main characters, Thomas Sutpen, undergoes a “solitary furnace experience,” Hudek said.

“When I first read the novel, I thought the phrase was strange, but I thought it might reference the ‘fiery furnace’ story in the Old Testament book of Daniel,” he explained.

The lecture will focus on the implications and meanings of that phrase and why the connection to the book of Daniel is important.

“The hardest part of the lecture is paring down 50 pages of material to 16 pages,” Hudek said. “But all of that fosters stronger work, so I am happy where the project currently is.”

The McCool Fellowship Lecture is delivered by a student studying Faulkner in his or her dissertation, coming in the final year of dissertation work, said Jay Watson, the university’s Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies. The lecture represents an important professional development opportunity for the fellowship recipient, he said.

“It is great practice to address the general public and not just a specialized audience of scholars,” Watson said. The purpose of scholarship, after all, is “not just to study and learn privately, but to create knowledge and to share knowledge.”

The endowment for the fellowship and lecture was established by Campbell McCool, a 1985 UM graduate, in honor of his mother, the late Frances Bell McCool. A 1959 Ole Miss graduate and one of the first recipients of the Robert M. Carrier Scholarship, she spent more than 30 years teaching high school mathematics in Jackson and New Orleans.

“We chose to establish a Faulkner scholarship in the English department and the writing program because we truly believe it is one of the areas where Ole Miss has a growing national reputation and can go head-to-head with any school,” McCool said in 2004, when the fellowship endowment was announced.

A native of Crest Hill, Illinois, Hudek said he is honored to be a McCool fellow. He is on track to receive his doctoral degree in August.

“What Barry is doing as the McCool fellow is part of what faculty, grad students and even undergraduate students are all doing at the university,” Watson said. “It’s a part of the mission of the university and it’s an important learning opportunity for the audience as well.”

Student Activities Association Spring Concert Canceled

OXFORD, Miss. — The Student Activities Association has canceled the annual spring concert in the Grove due to current weather conditions and the threat of inclement weather throughout the day on Sunday, April 30.

The decision was made after consulting with university officials and event personnel after taking into consideration current weather conditions and the continued threat of severe weather forecast by the National Weather Service throughout the afternoon on Sunday.

“While we were excited about having Gucci Mane and Mix Master Mike in the Grove this afternoon, our primary concern is the safety of our students, concert attendees, the artists and event staff,” said Brady Ruffin, Director of the Student Activities Association. “We have been looking forward to a great show, but with the threat of flash flooding and potential for tornadoes this afternoon, we decided to do what is best for everyone involved.”

There is no alternative event scheduled for the spring concert.

UM, Georgia Music Professors Team Up for Teaching, Performance

Joint saxophone event funded by SEC travel grant

Adam Estes

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi saxophone studio traveled to the University of Georgia last month for a joint event that included a teacher swap, master class and collaborative concert.

Adam Estes, UM assistant professor of music, traveled with seven of his students to Athens, Georgia, where they worked alongside Connie Frigo, associate professor of saxophone at Georgia, and her students. The event was funded by a travel grant from the Southeastern Conference as part of its academic initiative.

“Our goal was to create as much student-to-student interaction as possible throughout this event,” Estes said. “We were delighted and inspired by the quality of work that our students completed.”

Estes and Frigo, who met while in graduate school at the University of South Carolina, proposed the idea last spring to gather students from both institutions for a joint event.

Generally, SEC travel grants are used for faculty support. Estes has previously used the program to travel with a pianist to various SEC schools and provide master classes to students there.

The board liked the idea that Estes and Frigo’s proposal was not only faculty-centric, but focused on student as well, Estes said. The grant had funded student travel expenses for the collaboration, which was structured differently from other events.

The event included Estes and Frigo teaching saxophone fundamentals and helping students improve their sight-reading skills. Students then engaged in peer-to-peer coaching under the supervision of both instructors. In addition, both instructors conducted a formal faculty master class, working with selected students from each studio in front of the entire class.

Finally, the combined students performed a large ensemble of a piece titled “Three Images.”

“Learning how to break the ice with people from other places is an invaluable tool and will serve me well in my future as I network with peers, colleagues and pedagogues from other universities,” said Ryne Anderson, a UM sophomore from Purvis who is majoring in history and music.

“The students weren’t simply the audience here but also the participators and the teachers in certain sessions. It was an interactive setting, making it tremendously more engaging for all of the students involved.”

Estes and Frigo agreed that the event has potential to grow. They are both open to expanding it in the future and inviting other SEC universities to participate.

“As always, the feasibility of these events relies almost exclusively upon funding, and we are grateful for the funding that is supporting us to create a special event like this that brings together our two studios,” Frigo said. 

Rocket Rebels Aim High

Students to compete in NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville

Members of the Rocket Rebels include (from left) Olivia Lanum, Kyle Parton, Peter Dowling, DJ Johnson, Blake Horner, Barrett Freeman, Dillon Hall (team leader), Ryoma Thomas, Garrett Reed, David Biggs and David Thomas.

OXFORD, Miss. – The Rocket Rebels, a team of students from the University of Mississippi’s Center for Manufacturing Excellence, are preparing to compete in the NASA Student Launch Competition on April 8 in Huntsville, Alabama.

During the competition, the team, made up of 15 Ole Miss students, hopes to launch its rocket, named “Presidium,” a mile into the sky. The crew has been preparing for participation in the competition since last semester.

The Rocket Rebels team includes mechanical engineering majors Dillon Hall of Saltillo, Ryoma Thomas of Canton, Branden Livingston of Madison, David Biggs of Norman, Oklahoma, Olivia Lanum of Branden, David Thomas of Brooklyn, New York, Blake Horner of Frankfort, Illinois, Peter Dowling of Lexington, Virginia, DJ Johnson of Fairhope, Alabama, and Matt Whitfield of Madison; chemical engineering major Kyle Parton of Ocean Springs; business major Will Thomas of Somerville, Tennessee; and accountancy majors Garrett Reed of Abbeville, Caroline Rose of Bluffton, South Carolina, and Barrett Freeman of New Albany.

“Many long hours had to be put into this project, and we had our fair share of obstacles that pushed our deadlines,” said team leader Dillon Hall. “However, the team was dedicated to finishing what we started. We are representing the CME and Ole Miss on a national stage of scientific experts, and we are determined to prove that we can compete.”

CME has played a large role in the success of the Rocket Rebels. In addition to financial and material support, the center’s cutting edge facility and manufacturing tools have provided the team a great advantage over the competition. Additionally, industry sponsors have been helpful throughout the rocket-building process.

“The Center for Manufacturing Excellence is an absolutely incredible resource for the Rocket Rebels,” said team mentor Cody Hardin, a manufacturing engineer from Orbital ATK. “The resources and capabilities available to manufacture Presidium in the CME are equivalent to what’s found in industry.

“The Rocket Rebels also have the benefit of GE Aviation next door in Batesville that has provided engineering support and autoclave time and Orbital ATK in Iuka that has provided carbon fiber and aerospace adhesive material that is used on actual NASA rockets along with engineering support. The growing aerospace industry in Mississippi has been hugely beneficial for the team.”

While the space provided by CME is second to none, so, too, is the opportunity to participate in the nationwide contest.

“The obvious opportunities are the contacts within the aeronautics communities that are being made through this competition,” said the team’s faculty adviser Jack McClurg. “The students have gone out to the community and have acquired corporate sponsors that have provided material, expertise and services in order to ensure the success of this project. Hopefully, contacts with these types of people will lead to employment opportunities in the near future.”

McClurg said he admires the team members for their hard work and determination.

“There is a fundamental pride that you sense in the students when all of the hard work pays off. As a faculty member, that’s what excites me the most,” McClurg said.

While it may be the team’s inaugural year to compete in the Student Launch Competition, McClurg and Hardin both believe the team has a good chance at bringing home the trophy.

“The main goal in my opinion is to get some real-world, practical experience in working as a team to successfully accomplish the mission at hand,” McClurg said. “It is the chance to get out of the classroom and apply the principles of teamwork across the majors to successfully complete something as exciting as launching a rocket. Even if the team doesn’t bring home a trophy, the excitement of watching the fruits of their labor shoot into the sky are reward enough.”

To find out more about the Student Launch Competition, visit To learn more about the Rocket Rebels, visit To watch a video from the test launch, visit

UM Advisory Committee on History and Context Hosts Listening Sessions

Group seeking community input for content and design

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context held its second listening session Thursday (March 23) to hear from the community about designing the content and format for physical sites recommended for contextualization.

The meeting Thursday represents the second part of the committee’s work. The first listening session was held March 6 at the Inn at Ole Miss and it focused on input from students, faculty and staff.

Thursday’s event, held at Burns-Belfry Museum in Oxford, allowed the advisory committee to focus on input from the broader community. More than 25 community members and alumni came to the meeting.

In addition to the listening sessions, the committee is accepting input from the community via an online form about facts or other information, such as noted experts or resources to be considered in the design of the content and format. Submissions will be accepted until March 31. The committee also has recently updated its website with a FAQ section.

Don Cole, assistant provost and professor of mathematics, who serves as CACHC co-chair, opened the session and invited UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter to talk about the significance of the committee’s work.

“Our university has long been committed to honest and open dialogue about its history and how to make our campuses more welcoming and inclusive,” Vitter said. “I think it is important to recognize that we are on the forefront of institutions of higher education in the nation to systematically and vigorously undertake contextualization efforts.”

Vitter established the committee in summer 2016 in an effort to address UM’s physical site contextualization efforts in a comprehensive and transparent process informed by expertise.

There are more than 100 structures on the Oxford campus. Seven of those have been identified for contextualization. Designing the content and format for the contextualization of these sites will finish the committee’s work. The group will use the public’s input to help draft their final recommendations to submit to the chancellor by May 31.

The chancellor explained the importance of the listening sessions.

“I’ve made it clear that the committee of experts needs to listen and engage in constructive conversations with all our university stakeholders – students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends – so that they don’t miss anything and so that they weight all relevant information,” Vitter said. “It’s the best of all worlds: a committee of experts but at the same time, very wide and broad input.”

During his remarks, Vitter referenced his March 9 letter in response to misperceptions that emerged from the March 6 listening session. He emphasized that the committee’s work is focused on contextualization of existing physical campus sites.

“No other items are under the purview of the CACHC as a part of tonight’s discussion,” he said. “For example, as I explained in my letter of June 10, the terms ‘Ole Miss’ and ‘Rebels’ are here to stay as positive and endearing nicknames for the University of Mississippi.”

Rose Flenorl, an Ole Miss alumna and manager of social responsibility at FedEx Corp., serves as co-chair of the committee along with Cole. Flenorl talked about how the committee has used community engagement as a key part of its effort.

“Dr. Vitter understands that community input and engagement are paramount to the integrity and success of our efforts,” Flenorl said. “He encouraged the committee to utilize transparent and inclusive mechanisms such as the online form we used in August 2016 to solicit public input into the identification of the physical sites to be considered for contextualization.”

“The committee received 45 separate submissions, and we used those to inform our discussions and guide our recommendations. And we are again using an online form to ask for your input and ideas about the final part of our work.”

The listening session included committee members Andy Mullins and Charles Ross presenting background information about the committee, the work completed so far and the plan to address the final part of their charge.

Ross explained the seven sites to be contextualized include Lamar Hall, Barnard Observatory, Longstreet Hall and George Hall. The antebellum sites of Barnard Observatory, Croft Hall, the Lyceum and Hilgard Cut are to be contextualized with one plaque to be placed just west of Croft, within sight of the three buildings, noting that these four projects were built with slave labor.

In addition, one building, Vardaman Hall, which was already approved for renovation by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Education last spring, will be recommended for renaming. A new name is yet to be determined. The renaming would occur through university processes and be subject to IHL approval.

Also, signage at the Paul B. Johnson Commons will altered to add “Sr.” to clarify that it is named after Paul B. Johnson Sr.

Cole explained the committee’s approach to the final part of its work.

“The CACHC is armed with a wealth of knowledge and perspective through the assemblage of talented faculty, staff, alumni and students,” Cole said. “We are approaching our second task by dividing into smaller work groups, which will each address one or more of the sites. We will organize our effort while we eagerly await the results on the online submission form.”

The committee heard from a handful of attendees including community members, students and alumni.

“The achievements of these people who these buildings were named after must not be understated or overstated,” said UM alumnus Richard Noble of Indianola. “Personal modern day opinions and prejudices are not necessary and are not applicable to explain the facts of their time. If we let the events of the past dictate the decisions of the present, our future will be lost. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to alter the facts of history.”

The comments from the listening sessions along with the online feedback will be used by the committee to inform their recommendations to the chancellor.

UM Liberal Arts Graduate Programs Jump in Rankings

English, history and political science doctoral programs named among nation's best

Several programs in the UM College of Liberal Arts, headquartered in Ventress Hall, have risen in the latest rankings of graduate programs by U.S. News & World Report. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – On the heels of achieving the university’s highest-ever standing in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, the publication’s most recent graduate academic program rankings confirm the university’s commitment to academic excellence.

Doctoral programs in English, history and political science all made significant strides in the 2018 graduate program rankings, indication of the growing strength and upward trend for UM’s graduate programs in social sciences and humanities.

The U.S. News & World Report graduate rankings for the three programs were last updated in 2013.

“We are proud of the faculty who have worked hard to distinguish our graduate programs, and these new rankings clearly indicate that they are gaining recognition for their efforts,” said Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “We have encouraged each of our programs to pursue excellence and I am pleased that this pursuit is bringing recognition to our faculty, our university and our state.”

The English doctoral program demonstrated the biggest jump as it improved 16 spots, where it tied for No. 40 in the nation among public universities with fellow Southeastern Conference institutions the universities of Florida and Missouri.

A Ph.D. in history from the university has never been more valued, as the graduate program cracked the Top 40 for the first time. UM tied for No. 37 in the category – up nine spots from 2013 – and shares the position with fellow SEC and Carnegie R1 research universities Texas A&M and Kentucky.

The political science graduate program entered the rankings for the first time and tied for No. 58 among public institutions.

Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, says the rankings are a testament to the university’s strong faculty, staff and students.

“These rankings demonstrate what we have believed for some time: that we have strong, competitive doctoral programs on our campus that are well-respected at the national level,” Cohen said. “Of course, without the hard work of our faculty, staff and students, and the support of university administration, none of this would be attainable.”

The rankings are based on data collected last fall via surveys sent to administrators or faculty members at schools that granted five or more doctorates in each discipline from 2011 to 2015.

“Graduate education is increasingly important and valued in today’s competitive global marketplace,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “A UM graduate degree marks someone as a leader who will exceed employer expectations and be a real-world change maker.

“In order to continue the rise of our graduate programs, we are committed to enhancing our R1 standing as well as faculty excellence, research and scholarship.”

UM Support of International Community of Scholars

On January 29, I shared a statement with the University of Mississippi community about a recent Presidential Executive Order that limits immigrant and nonimmigrant visa holders from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entering the U.S. for 90 days. The order also directed the suspension of the refugee admission program for 120 days, and indefinitely for refugee processing of Syrian nationals.

You have my commitment that we will focus upon what is truly best for the well-being, safety, and success of our students and our university.  I want to assure all members of our community that as we closely monitor the long-term impact of the recent Presidential Executive Order, we will continue to do as we always have done: support all our students.  We will also continue to abide by all federal and state laws, including federal constitutional and statutory privacy rights afforded members of the university.

Here are some of the ways we are supporting our international colleagues and some of the information we are providing to those in our community affected by this action:

  • University administrators on the Oxford and Jackson campuses have individually and directly communicated with the 26 students and 11 faculty and staff members from these named countries who are affected by the executive order.
  • At this time, we are advising all nonimmigrant-status students, faculty members, and staff members from the named countries to avoid travel outside the United States.
  • Individuals from the affected countries who hold permanent resident status in the United States, as well as nonimmigrant-status individuals holding dual citizenship from these countries and a country other than the United States, are advised to consult with the Office of International Programs or an immigration attorney before traveling abroad.
  • Housing accommodations will be available for affected students needing assistance over spring break and summer, if necessary.
  • The Office of the Chancellor is reaching out to student groups to facilitate discussions on how UM can provide additional support to affected students.
  • If you believe you may be affected by the executive order or are uncertain about whether these orders affect you or someone you know, we encourage you to contact the Office of International Programs. If you are seeking advice in confidence, you may call 662-915-7404.  Additional resources and support are available from

I want to reiterate my frequently stated conviction that the many members of our international community enrich our Flagship university and add great value. As one of the key initiatives I highlighted in my investiture address on November 10, we will make our great learning and research environment even greater by expanding international presence on our campuses and educating our students to prosper in a global society.

I ask all members of the Ole Miss family to please join me and our leadership team in lending support to our international students, faculty, and staff.  Having a robust international community — with its diversity of talents, cultures, and contributions — enriches and enhances the vitality of our university and our state.


Jeffrey S. Vitter