Office of Food and Nutrition Security Opens at South Oxford Center

Applied Sciences faculty and student researchers expand food security research

UM graduate students Marta Dees (left) and Rebecca Henry pack take-home bags full of nutritious foods for Calhoun City High School football players. The effort is part of a study at the School of Applied Sciences’ Office of Food and Nutrition Security. Photo by Sarah Sapp/School of Applied Sciences

OXFORD, Miss. – The School of Applied Sciences at the University of Mississippi has opened a new Office of Food and Nutrition Security at the South Oxford Center.

Although David H. Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management, has been producing food security research at UM since he arrived in 2015, he and his students finally have devoted space to analyze data, conduct focus groups and interviews, and engage with community members.

“My vision for the Office of Food and Nutrition Security at the University of Mississippi is to be the recognized leader in providing innovative solutions for food insecurity in Mississippi, the United States and the world,” said Holben, who has been studying the problem since 1997.

“I’m hoping that we can have a global impact. I think (establishing a formal office) just reinforces the support that the university and the school have for this issue of food insecurity.”

Food insecurity is a lack of regular access to enough food to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. According to the USDA’s 2017 estimates, some 15 million American households were food insecure.

More than 13 percent of rural households reported food insecurity, much higher than those in metropolitan areas. Between 2015 and 2017, food insecurity in Mississippi was among the highest in the nation, at 17.2 percent.

The university community is committed to helping solve this problem through its Flagship Constellations initiative, which seeks to find meaningful solutions through multidisciplinary response to health and social issues affecting Mississippi communities, the nation and the world. One of those constellations is Community Wellbeing, which works to find solutions to the challenges affecting rural communities to build stronger and more vibrant communities.

Holben brings food security expertise and research from the Office of Food and Nutrition Security to this collaboration.

Students and staff conducting research through the Office of Food and Nutrition Security have presented their findings at international conferences, including discussions of seven studies at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ annual conference in October.

Doctoral student Prabhdeep Sandha, of Jalandhar City, India, earned the Mead Johnson Nutrition/Research Dietetic Practice Group Student Research Award at the conference for her study, “Impact of a Produce Intervention on Parental Produce Intake and Behaviors,” co-authored by fellow graduate student Michelle Weber, of Cincinnati.

“Our (office) is continuously working to make a difference in Mississippi through fresh produce and healthy food interventions, community engagement and community education,” Sandha said. “With our previous projects, we were able to see some great results, which I hope will be evident in our future projects.”

Undergraduate students also are gaining research skills through the new office. Katelyn Tarr, a junior dietetics and nutrition major from Pawnee, Illinois, presented a study on “Food insecurity and type 2 diabetes risk of adults with school children” at the conference, with funding from the first Undergraduate Travel Grant awarded by the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

“Dr. Holben brought me in to learn how to write an abstract and make a poster for a conference, which is something that graduate students would normally do,” Tarr said. “It really helped me prepare for my post-graduate career.

“I was excited to work on nutrition research, but it turns out this really hits close to home for me. I’m from an area that has high food insecurity, so it was awesome to be a part of that.”

Five of the abstracts presented at conference stem from the Farm-to-YOUth! Project that Holben and his students have been working on since 2016, studying varying nutritional and educational interventions and their impact on food security in a rural Mississippi county.

From produce tastings and take-home produce for elementary school children to summer nutrition education and feeding programs at the public library, the faculty-student team has examined different ways to improve food security for people living in rural areas.

This fall, the office rolled out a new study in Calhoun County to examine food education interventions for high school athletes.

Holben, along with an external consultant, develops the twice-weekly programming that includes a lesson, snack and educational handouts. Graduate students Marta Dees, of Oxford, and Rebecca Henry, of The Plains, Virginia, teach the lessons and give each football player a take-home bag of fuel for the week, including peanut butter, yogurt, fresh fruit and granola bars, to implement the practices at home.

“We’re primarily hoping to change the food environment at home,” Holben said. “They’re learning eight to 10 basic principles about food and nutrition that we’re helping them to implement through take-home food packages.

“I think we can play a really key role in teaching basic sport nutrition principles to high schoolers, while keeping performance nutrition at the forefront of the coach’s mind. The hope is we can fill in the gap if they do have food insecurity in the home to help them to implement some performance nutrition principles since they’re athletes.”

Holben, lead author of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ most recent position paper on food insecurity in the United States, is elated with the opportunities that come with having an official office at the South Oxford Center. He looks forward to playing a significant role in fulfilling the university’s commitment to creating healthier, more vibrant communities.

For more information about programs of study in nutrition at UM, visit


UM Students Explore Food Insecurity and Delinquency in Belize

Legal studies students travel to Central America to study issue

Students from the UM Department of Legal Studies, including (from left) Lamar Yates, Kayla Holland, Emma Burleson, Lindsay Goschke, Zachary Buckner, Hillary Coney and Tre’ McCune, traveled to Belize recently to conduct research exploring the links between food insecurity and delinquency. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A team of University of Mississippi students and faculty recently traveled to Belize to learn more about the correlation between food insecurity and delinquency.

Under the leadership of Linda Keena, interim chair of legal studies, and Martha Bass, associate professor of health, exercise science, and recreation management, graduate students from the Department of Legal Studies went to the Central American nation to study the relationship between food insecurity and delinquency in youth.

Previous research indicated that delinquent behaviors are used as a coping strategy to increase household resources such as food.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine food insecurity and delinquent behaviors in Belize,” said David H. Holben, resident food security expert, professor of nutrition and hospitality management, and contributor to the study. “Individuals and households cope with food insecurity in a variety of ways.

“This study underscores that having poor access to enough food for an active, healthy life may lead to or be caused by delinquent behaviors.”

To conduct the study, the team visited Belize City, the country’s largest city, which suffers from high rates of violence and poverty. Many of the city’s young adults are victims of these harsh conditions.

Ole Miss faculty and student researchers worked with the Conscious Youth Development Program, an organization within the Belize Police Department that specializes in gang intervention, to find participants for their study. Funding for the work came from the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Emma Burleson, a recent Master of Criminal Justice graduate, was among those who helped carry out the research abroad.

“I gained valuable experience as a researcher and experienced a new culture in a unique way,” Burleson said. “The research we conducted brought us in direct contact with the citizens of Belize City, and we were interacting with them in their communities, sometimes literally in their backyard.

“I will forever be thankful for the chance to participate in such an enriching research opportunity.”

The study looked at 139 participants, who were primarily Creole/black African and averaged 23 years old. The study examined participants’ grit, or perseverance and passion for long-term goals; food insecurities; trust in police fairness and effectiveness; past illegal activity and interest in gangs; and possession of a firearm.

The results indicated that almost 75 percent of respondents suffered very low food security. Additionally, when asked about criminal activity in the past 12 months, 56 percent of respondents indicated they had stolen something and 70 percent had used drugs.

Evidence from the study suggests that food insecurity is positively associated with delinquent behaviors, so developing interventions in Belize City that address food security should be warranted.

“The cycle of food insecurity and its relationship to delinquent behaviors, including gang membership, has been something we have observed in past study abroad visits to Belize,” Bass said. “It was exciting to see the legal studies graduate students interact with the Belizian participants and validate our supposition.”

Students become better global citizens by studying societal problems in different communities around the world, Keena said.

“Increasing their knowledge about food insecurity and delinquency in the Belizean culture and learning how to interact and work with people of different cultural backgrounds was an invaluable educational experience,” she said.

Members of the research collaboration, including graduate student Marta Dees, presented “Food insecurity and delinquency among adults in Belize City, Belize” at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. The study’s poster, titled “Wellness and Public Health,” was one of seven from the Office of Food and Nutrition Security presented at the conference.

“This was my first trip to FNCE,” Dees said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope to get the chance to present work from the University of Mississippi again.

“It was a fulfilling experience connecting with others who have interest in the same subject area and to be able to speak to them in person. I was honored in the amount of interest shown in, not only our research, but the University of Mississippi as well.”

For more information about the departments involved in the study, visit or call 662-915-7900.

School of Applied Sciences Honors Students of the Month

Evi Addoh and Alan Cuff recognized for academic excellence

The School of Applied Sciences has honored Alan Cuff (left), of Mandeville, Louisiana, as its Undergraduate Student of the Month for October and Evi Addoh, of Delta State, Nigeria, as Graduate Student of the Month. Photo by Sara White

OXFORD, Miss. – The School of Applied Sciences has honored Evi Addoh, of Delta State, Nigeria, as its Graduate Student of the Month and Alan Cuff, of Mandeville, Louisiana, as Undergraduate Student of the Month for October. 

With a 4.0 GPA, Addoh is a second-year student in the master’s program in health promotion, part of the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management.

“Ms. Addoh is collegial, bright and overall an exceptional student both inside and outside the classroom,” said Allison Ford-Wade, professor of health, exercise science and recreation management. “She is the first person that many of the faculty calls on for leadership among the graduate students, and she is always the first person to volunteer whenever help is needed on community projects or research.”

Some of her previous volunteer experiences with community health organizations and events include the Mississippi Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, Project SCORE, or Student Centered Outcomes Research Experience, and the Entrepreneurial Learning Centers conducted by the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Before studying at Ole Miss, Addoh worked as a dentist in Nigeria.

“I studied dentistry, and while I was in school I got very involved in organizing some oral health promotion programs,” Addoh said. “It made me interested in health promotion, so I thought it would be a great idea to further my education in this field.”

Addoh is interested in continuing her education in health promotion or the dental public health field.

Cuff is a junior working toward a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice with an emphasis in homeland security.

“Alan has shown himself to be a remarkable and dedicated student,” said Kimberly Kaiser, assistant professor of legal studies. “His work ethic and dedication have been excellent.”

Over the summer, Cuff worked in an undergraduate research program.

“Through this program, he has carved out a piece of research that he is planning to present at the national conference of the American Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and develop into a published, peer-reviewed research article,” Kaiser said. “His contributions to the program were superb.”

As an active member of Alpha Phi Sigma, a criminal justice honor society, Cuff serves as president of the Ole Miss chapter.

Following graduation in spring 2020, he plans to attend law school, ideally at UM.

“I love it here,” Cuff said. “It has a beautiful campus and a great feel.”

The School of Applied Sciences calls for nominations by faculty and staff throughout the school to recognize students for extraordinary scholarship, leadership and service. Nominations should be emailed, along with a nomination form, by the fifth of each month to

For more information about the School of Applied Sciences, visit

Applied Sciences Students Take Top Two Awards in 3MT Competition

Matthew Frakes and Prabhdeep Sandha win top doctoral category honors

Matthew Frakes delivers his winning presentation on nutrition intervention in concussion treatment at the Three Minute Thesis Competition, sponsored by the UM Graduate School. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Matthew Frakes, of Columbus, Ohio, and Prabhdeep Sandha, of Jalandhar City, Punjab, India, won first and second place in the doctoral category in the recent Three Minute Thesis Competition sponsored by the University of Mississippi Graduate School.

This annual competition asks graduate students to present a compelling oration on their research thesis topic and its significance in just three minutes. They are allowed to use one PowerPoint slide.

“My 3MT topic was looking at a nutrition intervention at the time of concussion diagnosis or suspicion of a sports-related concussion throughout the athlete’s concussion protocol until the athlete returns to baseline measurements,” said Frakes, a doctoral student studying sports nutrition in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

Frakes said the nutrition intervention helps support overall energy and nutrient intake that is potentially diverged due to athlete’s loss of appetite or nausea symptoms experienced in concussions.

“I am also observing athlete symptomology and assessing total calorie intake and overall dietary intake, where these observations and recordings may be related to the return to baseline measurements from pre- and post-concussion assessments,” he said. “The goal of my study is to contribute to the findings on sports-related concussion recovery, and the impact overall energy intake has on return to baseline recovery time.”

Melinda Valliant, professor of nutrition and hospitality management, oversees Frakes in his doctoral research.

“Matthew has done an excellent job learning from and managing all facets of his pilot research project,” Valliant said. “His success in the 3MT competition is a testament to his willingness to take feedback and apply it.

“Matt has demonstrated that he is not afraid to step out of his comfort zone and take risks, and I am so happy that has received this well-deserved honor.”

Prabhdeep Sandha took second place in the doctoral category in the UM Three Minute Thesis Competition. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Sandha’s thesis also examined nutrition, but her research interest is in food security.

“One in eight Americans, or 40 million Americans, experience some form of food insecurity in a 12-month period,” said Sandha, also a doctoral student in nutrition and hospitality management.

“My research examined the impact of produce intervention on produce intake and behaviors of parents/caretakers of elementary school students in an economically distressed, highly food insecure, rural Appalachian Mississippi region.”

Three schools participated in the study; two were control schools and one was the intervention school. A six-week intervention was implemented with three important parts: cafeteria tasting station twice a week, nutrition education, and provision of take-home materials and gadgets.

Every Friday, participants at the intervention school also received $15 worth of fresh produce to replicate tasting station recipes at home.

“We utilized a validated 10-item USDA Household Adult Food Security Survey Module, which had questions like, ‘We worried whether our food would run out before we got money to buy more’ or ‘We couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals,'” Sandha said.

Sandha and her research partners found the perceived willingness to try new fruits and vegetables was significantly higher in the intervention group parents, compared to the control group.

“With this project, we were able to transform the household food environment to make it more likely that the family members have an adequate amount and access to healthy foods,” Sandha said. “This program also enhanced the university’s Flagship Constellation mission, which is to transform life through community outreach and community well-being.”

David H. Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management, oversees Sandha’s research.

“Ms. Sandha is very deserving of this award,” Holben said. “She is a servant-leader who excels in the classroom, in her assistantship at the Institute for Child Nutrition and in a research setting. This award recognizes her excellence.”

For more information about the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, visit

Hospitality Management Department Partners with Chawla Hotels

Ownership and management group visits campus to meet faculty, staff and students

Shelley Walker (left), Chawla Hotels vice president of emerging brands and innovation, and Suresh Chawla (right), company president, chat with with UM student Madeleine Coleman during their campus visit to discuss internship and employment opportunities with the company’s two new hotels in the Mississippi Delta. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A new relationship has blossomed between the hospitality management program at the University of Mississippi School of Applied Sciences and Chawla Hotels Inc., an independent hotel ownership company.

Suresh Chawla, president of Chawla Hotels, and Shelley Walker, vice president of emerging brands and innovation, recently visited Cindy Choi, assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management, and her NHM 361: Lodging 1 class to discuss internship and employment opportunities and updates on their two new hotels.

“It was very beneficial to my students because they were able to learn about the great features of (their two new hotels), the American IDEA and The Scion, as well as career opportunities with the company,” Choi said. “Their inspiring career advice will stay in (students’) minds for a long time.”

During the presentation, sophomore Trist Brower, of New Orleans, won $100.

“The prize was a $100 bill that was put in front of the class, and it was for demonstrating confidence and ‘going for it’ when you want something,” Brower said. “I learned that it is important to work hard to do what it takes to reach your goals.”

The Chawla representatives were impressed by students’ enthusiasm and positive attitude, as more than 30 students inquired about career advice, industry trends and details about the company’s new hotels. Following the presentation, students waited in line to ask Chawla and Walker additional questions and thank them for coming.

“(Ms. Walker and I) talked about how the new hotels were going to be a great economic development addition,” said Linda Stevenson, a senior from Carterville, Illinois. “They are supplying jobs for the local community and using resources that are around town versus the first searches that pop up on Google search.

“We discussed how great it was that they are putting women in manager positions and creating a more diverse work environment. It truly was such a great opportunity, being able to connect with two professional managers in the field I am studying.”

After the class visit, Chawla management met with Mary Roseman, program director for hospitality management; Jim Taylor, graduate program director for the online master’s degree in hospitality management; and Choi to discuss potential partnerships, including field trips, career fairs, on-campus interviews for hospitality management students and promoting the online master’s degrees to Chawla employees.

Chawla Hotels Inc. owns 18 properties across the Mississippi Delta. The two new hotels, The Scion and American IDEA Hotel, will be two of the first units under those brands in the world, and they are projected to open in 2019.

According to Visit Mississippi’s 2017 tourism and economic impact report, the travel and hospitality industry was responsible for producing $398 million in general fund revenues and $3 billion in labor income, stemming from approximately 90,000 jobs. Coahoma County was responsible for 945 of those jobs and $7.4 million in revenues.

For more information about the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, visit

Center for Health and Sport Performance Expands Services with Move

New space in South Oxford Center allows for more testing and consultative services

Melinda Valliant, co-director of the UM Center for Health and Sport Performance, oversees baseline concussion testing with Oxford High School football players. Photo by Sarah Sapp/School of Applied Sciences

OXFORD, Miss. – Well known for providing health and wellness research and services to Ole Miss athletes, the University of Mississippi’s Center for Health and Sport Performance is extending its services to the community and settling into its new centralized offices at the South Oxford Center.

With more space and the addition of new staff and more graduate students, the center will offer more testing and consultative services, including concussion testing, to constituents across the region and state.

“The space was much-needed,” said Melinda Valliant, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management and the co-director of the Center for Health and Sport Performance, or CHSP. “It’s really giving us the opportunity to do things that we were all spread out doing.”

Launched in October 2013, the center is a partnership between the School of Applied Sciences and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and is co-directed by Valliant and Shannon Singletary, senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance and adjunct clinical instructor in health, exercise science and recreation management.

“I believe that our goal is to help expose the community to a more comprehensive approach to health and sport performance by linking together various aspects in one common place that the individual can go to,” said Heather Landry Shirley, assistant athletics director of sports medicine and adjunct instructor in health, exercise science and recreation management. “The new location will allow us to provide a more neutral and user-friendly environment that will be more easily accessible to the community.”

The center recently was featured in statewide news for helping Rebel football players fuel properly for maximum athletic performance. With more space in its SOC location and expanded staffing, the center is poised to offer more resources to more people.

One of the main projects that the center is working on is studying concussions in high school athletes, combining both research and service learning.

“By law in the state of Mississippi, an appropriate health care provider must approve and order the return to play of an athlete that has had a concussion,” Singletary said. “The center is working to provide objective information to the provider that can be used along with other medical information to allow the professional to return the athlete to competition safely.”

The center is implementing ImPACT Testing to test the effects of concussions on Oxford High School athletes.

“The ImPACT is not a stand-alone diagnostic tool, but rather, it is one piece to the puzzle that allows health care professionals to properly diagnose and manage a concussion or TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Shirley said.

“(When) taken at a time prior to injury, (it) gives the trained clinician a caption of the brain’s normal neurocognitive function and, in turn, can be used for comparison to that of the injured brain, allowing us to determine whether or not the injured individual’s brain has returned to a level of neurocognitive function that is in line with their normal range. A properly trained health care professional can then make a more sound decision in the overall recovery of the individual.”

The center’s staff is collecting baseline data and will work with an analytics team from the Health and Sport Analytics Laboratory, led by Minsoo Kang, professor and chair of health, exercise science and recreation management, Valliant said.

In the future, the center plans to offer different educational courses, different types of testing and nutritional counseling throughout the community.

“We feel that across the country, there is a need for objective information to be given to coaches that will allow more of an evidence-based approach to health and sports performance,” Singletary said. “We will be providing education and best practices to the community that will ensure proper standards are being met, whether it being in sports training programs, proper nutrition or other injury-prevention strategies.”

Students have opportunities to study sports nutrition as an emphasis in master’s and doctoral programs housed in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

They also can choose from master’s and doctoral programs in the areas of sport and recreation administration, health promotion, exercise science and health behavior. Enrollees in these programs may apply to conduct research with the CHSP.

For more information about the Center for Health and Sport Performance, contact Valliant at or visit the center’s website. Learn more about the academic departments that work with the CHSP at

School of Applied Sciences Welcomes New Development Officer

William Fisher joins staff as large-scale renovation projects approach completion

William Fisher

OXFORD, Miss – Greenwood native and University of Mississippi alumnus William Fisher has joined the university’s School of Applied Sciences as its new development officer.

Fisher has been a member of the Ole Miss family for as long as he can remember.

“Ole Miss is a family affair,” he said. “I am a third-generation student at the university, including two of my four grandparents, both of my parents and my brother Martin, who is the associate director of admissions.”

Fisher graduated from UM in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies, featuring minors in public policy, history and journalism. He began his career as a graduate assistant for the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct and later was promoted to coordinator within the office after earning his master’s degree in higher education.

He served as chapter president of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. During the 2014-15 academic year, Fisher helped raise $40,000 for the fraternity’s philanthropy, Delta Streets Academy, a Christian-based alternative school for at-risk youth in the Mississippi Delta. He remains active as a chapter adviser.

Through efforts with his fraternity and later in his graduate position, Fisher worked with different campus offices and organizations, quickly learning to work with people from all backgrounds. Since the School of Applied Sciences has the highest enrollment of historically underrepresented students of any professional school on campus, his background is important to the school’s leadership.

“We are excited to welcome William onboard,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of applied sciences. “He has already proven to be an asset in helping establish key funding priorities.

“Given his engaging personality and knowledge of the university, we have great expectations for the coming year.”

Fisher said he appreciates the contributions the school makes in the state and nation to create healthier, more vibrant communities.

“The School of Applied Sciences prepares individuals to go into the communities and improve the conditions and people around them,” he said. “I am excited to have a small part in assisting those students.

“I am equally thrilled that I have the opportunity to work with faculty members by helping them find the resources they need to continue their world-class research.”

With two large building renovations – Garland, Hedleston and Mayes residence halls, being renovated as the school’s new home, and the South Oxford Center wellness facility – nearing completion, ample opportunities exist for donors to get involved with the school, particularly in honoring or memorializing others with gifts in their name.

“It is an exciting time to be part of the applied sciences team,” Fisher said. “It is my hope that after three years on the job, I will have helped facilitate gifts that impact the lives of students and faculty members on our campus.”

The School of Applied Sciences offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being. The school’s vision is for academic excellence: that each department will be recognized by their respective scientific, professional and community organizations as a hub for scholarly thought, professional development and community impact.

For more information about giving opportunities in the School of Applied Sciences, contact Fisher at 662-915-2293 or To learn more about the school and its mission, visit

Social Work Faculty Offers Insights on Domestic Violence Awareness

Understanding warning signs and ways to help are critical to helping combat problem

Social work professor Desiree Stepteau-Watson says that information is one of the most important tools for combatting domestic violence. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, a time to share information and resources about an issue that affects millions of people every year.

At the forefront of domestic violence are social workers who say it is one of the most common issues they come across. Faculty members in the University of Mississippi Department of Social Work are doing their part to educate the community and state about the issue.

“The best resource to offer is information about where and how to seek help,” said Desiree Stepteau-Watson, Bachelor of Social Work program director and associate professor of social work. “It is also important to convey the message that victims will be supported, believed and heard.”

Domestic violence can be anything from physical violence, sexual assault, intimidation, threats of violence and/or psychological abuse.

Among the signs that a person may be a victim of domestic violence are unexplained injuries, being concerned about disobeying their partner, being in constant contact, having to check in with their partner, injuries at various stages of healing, and cutting off relationships with family members and friends, Stepteau-Watson said.

Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are at the greatest risk of experiencing of domestic violence, but it can affect anyone, regardless of economic or educational level, race, religion, age group (including the elderly) or sexual orientation, Stepteau-Watson said.

This type of behavior in relationships can be learned at a young age, as children who grow up witnessing or experiencing violence at home may believe that it is a normal way to resolve conflict. Drug and alcohol use may contribute to the violence, but do not necessarily cause it to occur.

“Common myths about domestic violence include perceptions that it is easy to leave violent situations,” Stepteau-Watson said. “Some people think if the abuse was that bad, then the victim should just leave, and if she or he doesn’t leave, that must mean they like it.

“In fact, it can be extremely dangerous to leave an abusive partner. The abuse may escalate and become more dangerous if the victim attempts to leave. Leaving may put family members, children and friends at risk of harm.”

Stepteau-Watson encourages anyone who suspects that a loved one is experiencing domestic violence to put their safety first by finding a safe place to talk, then focusing on what they want to do, not what they should do.

“Be sure to let them know that you want to be of support,” Stepteau-Watson said. “It is also important to document what you observe, keep a record of what you see and hear. Such a record could be a useful piece of evidence in the future.

“Learn more about domestic violence and get information from local domestic violence agencies.”

On a local level, victims can rely on the Family Crisis Services of Northwest Mississippi for resources. 

In 2017, 185 domestic violence arrests were recorded in Lafayette County through the Oxford Police Department, University Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department, said Mary-Margaret Chaffe, domestic violence advocate and program assistant at Family Crisis Services.

“That averages about 15.4 a month,” Chaffe said. “The scarier part is the number of ones that go unreported.

“Family Crisis Services is here to support and believe our victims, survivors and families. Our mission is to reduce the trauma of violence by providing immediate and long-term support to survivors.”

The organization provides victim advocacy, on-site counseling, resources, referrals, hospital accompaniment and court accompaniment services. It also operates a 24-hour crisis hotline, 800-230-9929.

“We are here for the victims and their families throughout their healing process,” she said. “Having the community involved in the awareness campaigns that we do means everything to the families we represent. We need to stand up against domestic violence as a community because no one should suffer in silence.”

Besides local groups, statewide agencies such as the Mississippi Coalition Against Domestic Violence can offer help. On campus, students can get help from the UM SAFE website or the Counseling Center.

The Master of Social Work program trains students to work with victims of domestic violence in mental health settings, courtrooms, hospitals, schools, family counseling and child protective services, Stepteau-Watson said.

“Our Master of Social Work program prepares graduates with the clinical assessment and intervention skills to address domestic violence with individuals, families and in communities,” she said. “The macro-level training that our MSW program provides, enables graduates to work on policy initiatives on local, state and national levels.”

For more information about becoming a social worker, contact the Department of Social Work at 662-915-7336 or email

Stuttering Expert to Present Fall Institute Keynote, Campus Lecture

Patricia Zebrowski to present research at annual CSD conference and universitywide lecture

OXFORD, Miss. – Helping people who stutter is the focus of this year’s installment of the Ole Miss Fall Institute and a related campuswide lecture by a respected researcher and clinician in the field.

Patricia Zebrowski, former director of the Stuttering Research Lab at the University of Iowa and professor emeritus in the university’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, will address best practices for clinicians working with older adolescents who stutter in “Therapy with Teenagers Who Stutter: Facilitating Readiness for Change and the Plan to Accomplish It,” the keynote for the Ole Miss Fall Institute. The institute runs Thursday and Friday (Oct. 11-12) at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“Dr. Zebrowski is an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association fellow and a board-recognized fluency specialist,” said Vishakha Rawool, chair and professor of communication sciences and disorders, or CSD. “She is primarily interested in the onset and development of stuttering in childhood and stuttering intervention.

“She also serves as the co-director of the University of Iowa Summer Program to Educate Adolescents and Kids Who Stutter, an intensive residential therapy program for teenagers who stutter.”

More than 70 million people worldwide stutter, according to the Stuttering Foundation. Approximately 5 percent of all children go through a period of stuttering that lasts six months or more. Three-quarters of those will recover by late childhood, leaving about 1 percent with a long-term problem.

Zebrowski received her master’s and doctoral degrees in speech pathology at Syracuse University. Her text, “Manual for Stuttering Intervention,” as well as several book chapters and journal articles, has helped increase knowledge and therapeutic intervention for stuttering.

The CSD department and the university’s chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association host the Fall Institute each year to offer educators and speech-language pathology practitioners an opportunity earn continuing education units and learn more about discoveries in their field. This student-planned event gives CSD students an opportunity to develop professional and organizational leadership skills under the mentorship of Brad Crowe, co-director of the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic and clinical instructor.

Online registration for the Ole Miss Fall Institute is encouraged, as seating will be limited. The cost of the two-day event is $275 for on-site registration. A link to the secure payment site is available at under the “Fall Institute” tab.

In conjunction with the institute, the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association chapter will host a 5-K run benefitting the Sarah Wheat Voice Lab, a facility used for evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with voice disorders. It is named after an Ole Miss CSD graduate student who died in 2012.

The run is set for 6 p.m. Thursday (Oct. 11), starting in front of the Lyceum. Registration is $25 for timed runners and $15 for nontimed runners or walkers. To register, visit

Anyone who wishes to make a donation in lieu of race participation should can send a check payable to the Sarah Wheat Voice Laboratory Fund to 100 George Hall, 325 Rebel Drive, University, MS 38677.

Besides her role as keynote speaker for the annual continuing education conference, Zebrowski will serve as the School of Applied Sciences’ first visiting research scholar for the 2018-19 school year.

The school began its Visiting Research Scholars Forum last year to connect meritorious research scholars from across the country with members of its own faculty.

“Dr. Zebrowski aligns well with the applied science focus on the importance of having evidenced-based research direct clinical practice protocols,” said Teresa Carithers, the school’s interim dean. “We are lucky to have her for both our Fall Institute and Visiting Research Scholars Forum.”

Zebrowski will present “Readiness to Change in Therapy for Stuttering” in a meritorious lectureship for the campuswide community at 4 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 10) in Bryant Hall, Room 209. Anyone interested in attending the free lecture should visit to register.

For more information about the Ole Miss Fall institute, email or visit

For more information about the Visiting Research Scholars Forum, visit

UM Awards First Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy Scholarship

Community college transfer poised to complete bachelor's degree, pursue career in mental health

Drew Lefmann (right), coordinator for social work advising, recruitment and retention, congratulates Steven Swinford, a junior social work major from Potts Camp, on being selected for the first Dr. Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy Scholarship. Photo by Sarah Sapp/School of Applied Sciences

OXFORD, Miss. – While unloading a truck at his part-time job at Wal-Mart, Steven Swinford received news that he had been awarded the first Dr. Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy scholarship at the University of Mississippi. His immediate response was disbelief.

“I said, ‘Me? No, not me. I’ve never gotten anything like this,'” Swinford explained. “I’ve always been in the background, and I don’t receive help.

“This really boosts my confidence and self-esteem. It makes me feel like I can achieve whatever I want.”

A graduate of Northeast Mississippi Community College, Swinford is on track to earn his Bachelor of Social Work in August 2019 after completing 18 hours this fall, 19 hours in the spring and a required summer internship.

“It’s stressful, but it’s worth it,” Swinford said.

He explained that while his family offers praise for his dedication to higher education, he is the first in his immediate family to pursue a four-year degree.

“I wanted to go a step further to see if I can achieve something even bigger – to make sure I have the willpower to do what I want to do later in life,” Swinford said.

His passion for social workers’ role in mental health drives his ambition.

“I plan on working in mental health because I’ve struggled with it and so have all my friends,” Swinford said.

Social work often plays a major role in mental health, said Drew Lefmann, UM coordinator of advising, recruitment and retention for social work.

“In fact, 65 percent of all mental health professionals are social workers,” said Lefmann, who advises Swinford and nominated him for this scholarship.

Swinford is exploring options for graduate study and career paths where he can apply his passion for mental health, including public policy, public health, education and gerontology.

Playing a role like his adviser, Lefmann, a licensed social worker who also teaches in the department, is an enticing idea, Swinford said.

“I really can’t put my finger on what I want to do yet exactly,” he said. “I know I want to be that person who can help guide a person, an advocate.

“I want to show people they have potential and help them believe in themselves, because I have a hard time believing in myself sometimes. Everybody needs someone like Drew.”

Lefmann described Swinford as determined, noting that he commutes from his home in Potts Camp to work in New Albany and to school in Oxford.

“I’ve worked with Steven as he has tried to figure out what he can handle, what is reasonable and what is too much,” Lefmann said. “He has been really open to the advising process, and I believe this has helped him to be successful. He is so open and engaged in advising, and I hear from faculty how open and engaged he is in classes, too.”

Teresa Carithers, interim dean of the School of Applied Sciences, met with ZonaDale Taylor, of Collierville, Tennessee, when she established the scholarship endowment in honor of her late sister, Bonita Lyons, an Ole Miss alumna and former director of academic status and retention services for the University of Memphis.

After meeting Swinford, Carithers was persuaded that he possesses the true spirit of this award.

“He is actually the epitome of the student they were looking for,” Carithers said. “What really amplified our gratitude for this wonderful gift was the overwhelming numbers of students we identified during our selection process needing this kind of assistance.”

The Dr. Bonita Lyons and ZonaDale L. Taylor Legacy Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or visit

Planned gifts award donors membership in the 1848 Society, named for the year the university welcomed its first students.

For information on including Ole Miss in long-term estate planning, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or