Business Plan Competition Open to All UM Students

Teams invited to present best business plan for solving Mississippi's most pressing problems

Blake Wilson, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council; Robin Robertson, Director of Organization Development and Corporate Communications at Sanderson Farms, Inc. and on the Board of Trustees for IHL; Governor Phil Bryant; Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community

Blake Wilson, President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council; Robin Robertson, Director of Organization Development and Corporate Communications at Sanderson Farms, Inc. and on the Board of Trustees for IHL; Governor Phil Bryant; Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community

OXFORD, Miss. – This fall, Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning has launched the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge, which asks students to develop and present business plans to solve one of Mississippi’s pressing social problems.

Each of Mississippi’s public universities will participate in the competition, which will culminate in a statewide competition to be held March 12, 2015 in the Capitol in Jackson.

The goal of this event is to encourage students to develop ideas for solving Mississippi’s problems while learning important lessons about planning, teamwork and presenting ideas. The challenge also will serve as a showcase of talent and skill level.

“Mississippi’s universities are hotbeds of innovation, and this exercise underscores the valuable contributions these institutions make to the entire state,” Gov. Phil Bryant said. “These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and I know they are up to the task of developing creative ways to address any challenge that is put before them.”

At Ole Miss, the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and the School of Business Administration are playing lead roles in organizing the competition. The campus competition is scheduled for 2 p.m. Nov. 7 at Insight Park. Teams will include up to six students with one faculty adviser. Each team will designate a team captain and co-captain.

“I believe Mississippi’s university students are capable of creating innovative business ideas and plans needed to address some of the state’s most pressing issues,” said Albert Nylander, McLean Institute director. “Hopefully this challenge will provide an opportunity to transform their ideas into action. With support from the university, we expect to see excellent student business plans from campus.”

The deadline for on-campus applications is Oct. 29. Teams can apply by sending the names of their team members, including the faculty adviser, captain and co-captain, to

Teams will submit a business plan, including up to five pages, and develop an interactive presentation. Full details regarding the competition are available online. The winning team from each campus advances to the state competition.

Judges will evaluate all presentations based on nine topics: the overall business plan, social problem chosen, their business solution, a market analysis, financial analysis, social impact, business viability, formal presentation, and question-and-answer ability.

The prize for first place team is $1,000, and the runner-up team will receive $500.

The IHL oversees all eight of the state’s public universities in one system to enhance the quality of life of Mississippians by meeting their diverse educational needs.

For more information on the Blueprint Mississippi Social Business Challenge, visit the McLean Institute’s website or contact Ryan Parsons at

New Funding to Support UM Entrepreneurship Programs

Two grants provide collaborative opportunity for UM business, community engagement programs

School of Business Administration Dean, Ken Cyree

School of Business Administration Dean, Ken Cyree

OXFORD, Miss. – A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation is expanding the capacity of the University of Mississippi’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The $370,500 grant will provide support for the center’s student-led consulting program for three years.

Through the Student Entrepreneurship and New Venture Development Program, the center will create a student-led consulting program that focuses on helping startup and early-stage Mississippi businesses achieve growth, profitability and success.

“This grant is extremely important to get the center off the ground and to help us provide the knowledge and skills so our students can start businesses and engage in the economy,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “I believe this is a watershed moment for the Mississippi and regional economy and I am hopeful that the center will provide the catalyst for many startup firms that are successful, in addition to better innovation in existing businesses. We look forward to the focus the center will bring to entrepreneurship and to funding Rebel-led businesses for many years. ”

The program, which will launch during the fall 2014 semester, will provide employment for up to 10 UM business students. Working under faculty supervision, the students will assist entrepreneurs throughout Mississippi, including those in UM’s Office of Technology Transfer, Small Business Development Center and to businesses located within UM’s Insight Park business incubator. The students will also participate in the projects and initiatives developed by the center.

“A primary goal of the business school is to provide our students with opportunities to gain real-world work experience,” said Clay Dibrell, UM professor of business management and the center’s executive director. “The Hearin Foundation grant provides us with an avenue for students to be able to work on actual entrepreneurship projects, which will help their entrepreneurial clients be more successful. This experience will allow the students to use the skills they learn in the classroom and to apply these skills, which we anticipate will enable them to be more competitive in the job market or enhance their probabilities of success if they choose to start their own business.”

Student teams will provide a broad range of services aimed at helping startups develop and implement stable business plans. Services will include social media marketing, payment system development, accounting system implementation, marketing design, customer outreach, promotions, process reengineering, bank document preparation and more. Students may also connect clients to other university resources as needed.

A separate, $1.6 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will support the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, which seeks to increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development in rural Mississippi communities. The McLean Institute and the business school plan to collaborate on projects that will help improve economic development through both traditional and social entrepreneurship programs.

“The entrepreneurship faculty envision the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to be a catalyst in continuing to develop and enhance the Ole Miss entrepreneurial ecosystem to benefit our stakeholders,” Dibrell said. “This grant enables us to further develop our collaborative relationships with other departments on campus, as well as increasing the likelihood for entrepreneurial ventures coming out of Ole Miss to be successful, which is good not only for the university but also for the state of Mississippi.”

University Museum Scores Fashion Touchdown

New exhibit showcases one-of-a-kind designer helmets created to benefit the NFL Foundation

An NFL helmet designed by Alexis Bittar is a highlight of a new exhibit at the University Museum. Photo courtesy of Bloomingdale's.

An NFL helmet designed by Alexis Bittar is a highlight of a new exhibit at the University Museum. Photo courtesy of Bloomingdale’s.

OXFORD, Miss. – Fashionistas and football fans alike will find reasons to celebrate with the University Museum‘s newest installation, “Bloomingdale’s Fashion Touchdown: NFL Haute Couture Helmets.” The exhibit is the only one of its kind featuring designer football helmets from Bloomingdale’s Fashion Touchdown, a project that benefited the NFL Foundation.

In celebration of Super Bowl XLVIII, the first Super Bowl ever held in the New York City area, Bloomingdale’s, the NFL and the Council of Fashion Designers of America seized an opportunity to highlight football and fashion for a great cause. Their collaboration engaged some of the world’s top designers to put their creative touches on 48 NFL helmets, which were auctioned off during an online charity event that raised more than $73,000 to benefit the NFL Foundation.

Robert Saarnio, University Museum director, took part in the auction and acquired three helmets for the museum’s collection. The exhibit will feature the actual helmets designed by Alexis Bittar, Fenton/Fallon and Lela Rose. High-resolution photographs of the remaining helmets – created by fashion icons Helmut Lang, Kenneth Cole, Nicole Miller and others – complete the exhibit.

“No other museum in the country is showcasing all of the helmets, and we are thrilled to be on the cutting edge of this unique concept,” Saarnio said. “The exhibit has the potential to draw in an entirely new audience for us, and we are grateful for the cooperation from Bloomingdale’s to help make this happen.”

Bloomingdale’s is supplying the museum with photographs of the entire collection, as well as an interactive video featuring rotating images of the helmets.

“When planning our marketing campaigns, especially those with a charity component, we hope they reach a large audience,” said Anne Keating, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of public relations, special events and corporate philanthropy. “For the Bloomingdale’s brand and our commitment to giving back to be a focus of an exhibit in such a prestigious university is more than anyone could hope for, and we are proud to support this exhibit.”

The NFL haute couture helmets exhibit coincides with the 2014 Ole Miss Rebels football season, which includes much-anticipated home games against SEC rivals Alabama, Tennessee, Auburn and Mississippi State. The exhibit is free to the public and runs Aug. 1, 2014-Jan. 15, 2015.

The University Museum, which is celebrating 75 years of exhibitions and service to the community, is at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, visit or call 662-915-7073.

For more information on the Bloomingdale’s Fashion Touchdown project, contact Katie Nida-Rovano at or 212-705-2443, or Jamie Frankel at or 212-705-3911.

Friends of UM Museum Prepare for Harvest Supper

Third annual event offers farm-to-table meal benefiting museum's educational programs and exhibits

Harvest Supper

The 2014 Harvest Supper will take place on October 16.

OXFORD, Miss. – Friends of the Museum is hard at work organizing the 2014 Harvest Supper, the largest annual event benefiting the University of Mississippi Museum. Scheduled for Oct. 16, the event offers a unique opportunity to build community over a meal offered on the grounds of William Faulkner’s historic home, Rowan Oak.

Proceeds from the event help support numerous aspects of the museum, including acquisitions, the “Conversations” series, exhibitions, educational programming and special events. The event also helps raise awareness about the ongoing needs to maintain and operate Rowan Oak, which is one of two historic properties managed by the museum.

“Harvest Supper is a notable event in Oxford’s annual arts and cultural calendar, and its proceeds permit the museum to continue its dynamic growth and offer a wide range of arts and educational programs for our community,” said Amy Lowe Lewis, president of the Friends of the Museum. “Support and sponsorship from community leaders and businesses allow the event to dedicate its proceeds entirely to the museum. We are grateful to everyone who takes part.”

Numerous sponsorship levels are available to businesses and individuals, each offering a variety of benefits, including name recognition in event materials, event tickets and museum memberships. More information regarding sponsorships is available by calling 662-915-7073.

The University Museum, which is celebrating 75 years of exhibition and service to the community, is at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, visit or call 662-915-7073.

Ford Center Announces 2014-2015 Season

Tickets available for Broadway productions, musical performances and premiere of 'Hamlet' opera

Mark Twain Tonight

“Mark Twain Tonight!” is just one of the shows that will be featured at the Ford Center during the 2014-15 season

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts has announced its programming for the 2014-15 season, a lineup includes dance programs, Broadway hits and a performance by the Russian National Ballet.

Iconic contemporary jazz artist Ramsey Lewis is set to kick off the new season with a Sept. 11 show. Ticket sales for all shows begin Aug. 18.

“We continue to focus our efforts on providing premier programming for our audiences across north Mississippi and right here in our Oxford and campus communities,” said Norman Easterbrook, Ford Center director. “The upcoming season will again include performances that provide our students, faculty and alumni opportunities to participate, while others will delight in the mix of high-quality Broadway productions and musical performances.”

Performances by banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and the Knights, and Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter Kenny Loggins are part of the lineup. Straight from successful runs on Broadway, productions of “Anything Goes,” “Jekyll & Hyde” and “Sister Act” provide a wide range of entertainment options. Hal Holbrook will make his third Ole Miss appearance and his second at the Ford Center in his one-man play “Mark Twain Tonight!”(Holbrook’s first appearance on campus was in October 1962.)

Introduced during the 2013-14 season, “Campus Connections” productions feature faculty-led student ensembles or involve themes that are of particular importance to students. A highlight of the upcoming season has the Ford Center partnering with the UM Opera Theatre ensemble to produce “Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.” Composed by alumna Nancy Van de Vate and based on Shakespeare’s classic play, the opera will feature faculty, students and alumni. The world premiere of Van de Vate’s opera, under the direction of Julia Aubrey, UM associate professor of music, is set for April 18, 2015.

New for this season is an upgraded online ticketing system, which will more easily process season and single-ticket purchases, including discounts for UM faculty, staff, students and retirees.

“We have researched ticketing software used by performing arts centers across the country and have selected what we believe is an easy-to-use, convenient online ticket purchase package for our patrons,” said Kate Meacham, director of marketing for the Ford Center.

The Ford Center will continue its numerous community programs, including the ever-popular Gingerbread Village, held each December.

Dates for each performance, as well as information about season and individual ticket sales, are available online. For the latest updates, visit, and follow the Ford Center on Facebook and Twitter. Also, download the Ford Center’s app for iPhone in the App Store and for Android on Google Play.

UM Professors Play The Blues

When it comes to playing and singing the blues, two UM professors have a not-so-hidden talent.

The Blues Doctors.

Alan Gross, left, and Adam Gussow, right, two UM professors, make up the Blues Doctors.

What happens when a harmonica-playing English professor teams up with a guitar-strumming psychology professor? Someone is sure to get the blues.

Adam Gussow, UM associate professor of English and southern studies, and Alan Gross, UM professor of psychology and director of clinical training, are ‘The Blues Doctors,’ a duo whose debut album has been garnering national acclaim. Regulars on the local music scene, this dynamic duo will be playing Saturday, July 19, at 4:30 p.m. as part of the Oxford Blues Festival, held on the lawn of the Walton-Young House.

Gussow has a long history as a solo artist, as well as a 25-year stint with Mississippi-born guitarist Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee. For nearly a decade, Gross played guitar in Mississippi bluesman Terry “Harmonica” Bean’s band, among others. It took about a decade for Gussow and Gloss to meet and begin playing together. When they did, a powerful sound was born.

“Alan and I had bumped into each other every once in a while for about a decade, either at a gig in town or just walking across campus,” explains Gussow. “We knew that each other were faculty members and blues musicians, but somehow we’d never quite connected.  I didn’t even know his name!  I just knew that he was a professor who was also a blues guy.”

A chance encounter at a local gas station set everything in motion.

“I’d been thinking about adding a guitar player and trying to score some local gigs. We started talking, and decided to get together for a rehearsal in my garage. We clicked right away,” Gussow adds. “We started playing small gigs around town, first at farmer’s markets, then a happy hour at Rooster’s in the fall and spring of 2012-2013. Last summer we went into the studio to make a CD, which became ‘Roosters Happy Hour.’ We just keep growing, learning new songs, and getting comfortable in the two-man-band format.”

Among other accolades, ‘Roosters Happy Hour‘ rose to number 10 on the “Living Blues” Top 25 national blues radio chart in January 2014.

Gross, who has been playing guitar since his youth, says the warm reception from the Oxford community makes the sharing the music he loves all the more enjoyable.

“We are exceptionally lucky to live in a community that is so excited about music,” he said. “My rule is playing is better than not playing, and it is most fun playing for an enthusiastic audience.”

So, get your ticket, bring your blanket or lawn chair, pack a cooler (with no glass) and turn up your zeal for great tunes as you soak in the sounds of The Blues Doctors and others during the 2014 Oxford Blues Festival.

University Museum Gets Ready for Oxford Blues Festival

Fifth annual event features music, lectures, VIP reception for fans, scholars

5th Annual Oxford Blues Fest to be held July 17-19

5th Annual Oxford Blues Fest to be held July 17-19

OXFORD, Miss. – The fifth annual Oxford Blues Festival will take place July 17-19 on the lawn of the Walton-Young Historic House, which is adjacent to the University of Mississippi Museum. The museum will host a VIP reception Thursday night and several panel discussions on Friday.

“The museum is exceptionally pleased to continue our partnership with the Oxford Blues Festival, an annual event that enlivens our outdoor landscape and provides additional great content in its educational sessions,” said Robert Saarnio, University Museum director. “Occurring this year in conjunction with our primary summer exhibition, ‘Blues @ Home, Mississippi’s Living Blues Legends,’ the 2014 festival makes it a wonderful ‘summer of the blues’ here at the museum.”

The Jeff Jensen Band will kick off the festival with a performance Thursday at 7:15 p.m. The VIP Meet ’n’ Greet just prior to the performance will allow ticket holders to visit with the band while enjoying food inspired by blues music.

The mission of the Oxford Blues Festival is to preserve, protect and promote blues music and culture. The festival offers education, community events and workshops throughout the year, culminating with the production of an outdoor festival uniting a diverse citizenry in a celebration of American blues-based music.

Walton-Young House

Walton-Young House

“North Mississippi has a really rich blues heritage, but it doesn’t get as much attention as Chicago or the Mississippi Delta,” festival director Darryl Parker said. “This festival is a great way to bring attention to the North Mississippi music scene. Good music, fun with family and friends. It’s a reason to celebrate.”

Panel discussions featuring Mississippi blues visual artists, scholars and musicians will take place inside the University Museum, Friday, July 18, from noon until 3:30 p.m. DeWayne Moore, UM doctoral candidate in history, will moderate the panel discussions.

Festival ticket holders will have free access to Mississippi artist H.C. Porter’s “Blues @ Home” exhibit on Friday and Saturday. “Blues @ Home” is a collection of 30 portraits of Mississippi living blues legends in their at-home settings. The paintings are paired with music and oral histories collected by project manager Lauchlin Fields.

Other artists featured in the blues festival include Eric Hughes, Big Joe Shelton, The Blues Doctors, Cadillac Funk, Libby Rae Watson, Silas Reed ’N’ Da Books, the Bluez Boys, Effie Burt, Zack Tilotson, Cameran Kimbrough and The Zediker Boys.

Passes for a single day or for the entire festival are on sale now. Ticket information is available on the festival website, including discounted tickets for early purchases. Children 12 and younger can enter free of charge with an adult. Coolers are allowed for a $5 fee, but glass is not allowed inside the venue. Food vendors will be on-site. For more information, contact Darryl Parker at or visit the festival website.

The University Museum, which is celebrating 75 years of exhibitions and service to the community, is located at the intersection of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. For more information, visit or call 662-915-7073.



Road Trip!

A group from the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi tours the University Museum.

A group from the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Mississippi and the Upward Bound program tour the University Museum.

Summertime is the right time for road trips and exploring the world. For a group of youngsters from Batesville that road trip led them to Ole Miss.

Through the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, a group of children, ages 6 to 16, from the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Mississippi and the Upward Bound program visited Ole Miss. While here for their day-long journey, they enjoyed a guided tour of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology, a campus tour and a up-close look at ancient artifacts and modern art at the University Museum. They even got to create their own paintings inspired by the work of Theora Hamblett.

I hope wherever your summer road trips take you, you smile and laugh as much as these children did.

Ole Miss MBA Program Bestows Honors on Alumni, Faculty, Students

Honorees chosen for exemplifying best of MBA program

Dean with

Christopher Thomas and Sam Cousley pictured with Dean Ken Cyree after receiving the Most Outstanding Faculty award.

OXFORD, Miss – A crowd of nearly 100 University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered June 19 at the M-Club room of the Starnes Athletic Training Center to honor members of the university’s MBA program.

Dean Ken Cyree welcomed guests, including Jeffrey Conley, recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Conley, who earned his Bachelor of Business Administration in 1975 and his MBA in 1977, was also a member of the 1972 Rebels baseball team that competed in the College World Series. Accompanied by his wife, Susan, Conley received his award just hours before this year’s Rebels beat TCU to advance to the final four of the CWS.

“I am humbled by this, as I think there are so many deserving people,” said Conley, who is president of Conley Buick Subaru in Bradenton, Florida. “You certainly make friends for life here at Ole Miss and in this program.”

Lisa Heros Ellis, who received a BBA in marketing in 2001 and an MBA in 2003, received the Outstanding Young Alumnae award. Ellis, who was joined by her husband and parents, serves as senior regional event specialist for ALSAC, the fundraising arm of St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis. She says she was surprised by the award and hopes “to do more to support the program” that has done so much for her.

Students voted for the Most Outstanding Faculty awards, which were given to Sam Cousley, clinical assistant professor of marketing, and Christopher Thomas, assistant professor of management.

While the event drew in alumni and faculty for recognition, a theme throughout the night was about supporting students, whom Cyree challenged to stay focused on the future.

“Don’t underestimate your power and abilities to influence and to create great opportunities,” Cyree said. “You will be the ones we talk about in the future.”

Two awards based on academic performance were presented to students. Andrew Ritter, of Jackson, received the Outstanding Campus MBA award, and Elizabeth Albers, of Knoxville, Tennessee, received the Outstanding Professional MBA award.

Ashley Mesecke, of Oxford, who served as MBA class president, and William Allen, of Houston, Texas, who served as class vice president of recruitment, were each recognized with an MBA Student Leadership Award.

The Rebel with a Cause award, which is voted on by students, was presented posthumously to Zach McLendon.

In closing remarks, Christopher Daniel, incoming MBA advisory board president, reinforced the purpose and mission of the program to the students. “We are here for you,” he said. “We want to grow with you.”

A Perfect Mix of Athletics and Academics

Dean Cyree (left) presents the award to Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Dean Ken Cyree (left) presents the 2014 Distinguised Alumni Award to Jeffrey Conley (right). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The M-Club is a really beautiful place. I recently had an opportunity to walk through the hallowed halls, which are lined with photos and memorabilia that tell the story of Ole Miss athletics accomplishments throughout the school’s history. This gathering, however, was to honor outstanding alumni and students from the Ole Miss MBA program.

Dean Ken Cyree welcomed the nearly 100 guests, including Jeffrey Conley, recipient of the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus Award. Conley, who obtained his bachelor of business administration in 1975 and his MBA in 1977, was also a member of the 1972 college world series’ Rebel baseball team. Conley received his award Thursday night, June 19, just hours before this year’s Rebels beat TCU in a nail-biting match up to advance to the final four of the CWS.