New UM Scholarship Honors Randy Noble

Family establishes endowment to benefit liberal arts students

Randy Noble (left) enjoys the 2016 Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M football game with his son, Nathan; wife, Jeana; and daughter, Rachel. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Noble family name is an institution at the University of Mississippi. Nobles have walked the university’s historic halls, studied in its classrooms and strolled its tree-lined pathways for generations.

Among the grandparents, parents, sons, daughters and cousins who have attended Ole Miss is the late Randy Noble, of Greenville, a 1967 graduate of the UM College of Liberal Arts and a 1972 alumnus of the School of Law.

Now, a scholarship established by his family members will memorialize Randy Noble’s name at his alma mater.

“The Nobles’ gift truly honors Randy’s memory and highlights how much he loved his alma mater,” said Lee Cohen, dean of liberal arts. “We are extremely grateful for their generosity, which will most certainly make a difference in our students’ lives for years to come.”

The Randy Noble Scholarship Endowment will be available to full-time freshmen who are graduates of Washington School in Greenville with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and who have participated in at least one sport.

“Randy was an outstanding quarterback and kicker in high school and was a really good baseball player,” said Richard Noble, of Indianola, Randy Noble’s cousin. The two were in college together and joined the same fraternity, Kappa Alpha.

“He could’ve played college ball but didn’t want to. He was an outstanding student, and we took care of each other as students at Ole Miss. He was just a great guy – more like a brother than a cousin. We were all such a close family.”

In addition to many other cousins, nephews and nieces, Randy Noble’s sisters Rose Marie Noble Turner, of Belzoni, and Jo Ann Noble Blair, of Laurel, earned degrees from Ole Miss in 1960 and 1962 respectively.

His father, Randolph Noble, also attended Ole Miss, and “Randy was proud of the fact that he had two children who graduated from Ole Miss with master’s degrees and whose involvement at Ole Miss strengthened his love for family and the university,” said Jeana Noble, Randy Noble’s wife.

Randy Noble (left) and cousin Richard Noble met for lunch in Oxford every Friday during football season. Submitted photo

Daughter Rachel, a four-year diamond girl for the baseball Rebels, received a bachelor’s degree in education from Ole Miss in 2013 and a master’s degree in 2015; son Nathan, a four-year letter winner in football, earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2015 and a master’s in 2017.

“When Nathan played football at Ole Miss, we had a little tradition of meeting for lunch every Friday during football season,” Richard Noble said. “Even though we only lived 25 miles apart, watching his children at Ole Miss brought us even closer together.”

Randy Noble was born in Vicksburg but grew up in Lorman. At Ole Miss, he joined the Army ROTC and, after graduating, served two years in the U.S. Army at Fort Gordon, Georgia, before returning to law school, where he was a member of Moot Court and Phi Delta Phi legal fraternity.

After receiving his Juris Doctor, he moved to Greenville and established the law firm of Noble and Rounsavall, where he practiced as a partner until 2017. He was a member of the Mississippi Bar and the Washington County Bar associations.

Noble was active in the First United Methodist Church in Greenville, where he served as legal counsel on the administrative board and as a member of its Outreach Sunday School class.

Regarding the scholarship established in his cousin’s name, Richard Noble says, “Randy would be humbled by it. He wouldn’t stick his chest out. He wasn’t that type of guy. He was caring, just as tenderhearted as can be, just a great guy.

“He would probably say, ‘Can you spend your money better somewhere else?’ and I would say, ‘Absolutely not!’ We want people to contribute to the endowment and make it bigger and better for the students it will benefit.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Randy Noble Scholarship Endowment by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or

Three Professors Honored with Research and Creative Achievement Awards

College of Liberal Arts honors faculty members with inaugural distinction

Jaime Harker

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts has presented its first-ever Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement Awards to three outstanding faculty scholars. 

The new award, which will be presented annually to tenured liberal arts faculty members, recognizes “sustained exemplary performance in research, scholarship and/or creative achievement at the national and international level.” The 2017 winners are Emanuele Berti, professor of physics and astronomy, who was recognized for work on gravitational physics; Robbie Ethridge, professor of anthropology, who was recognized for her work on the ethnohistory of Native Americans in the South; and Jaime Harker, professor of English, who was recognized for work on women’s and gender studies.

This year’s winners are some of the university’s strongest scholars, said Charles L. Hussey, professor of chemistry and associate dean for research and graduate education. 

“This is the first instance that the College of Liberal Arts has given such awards to established faculty members,” Hussey said. “The three individuals who were chosen for these awards represent the very best scholars that the college, if not the university, has to offer.

“They have enjoyed distinguished careers at UM and selecting them for this recognition was a simple matter.”

Robbie Ethridge

Chosen from among all categories of liberal arts disciplines, the recipients have achieved scholarly recognition and influence well beyond the Ole Miss campus. Each receives a $2,000 cash prize and a medal presented at the College of Liberal Arts graduation ceremony in May.

Harker, who also serves as director of the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, said she feels honored to be among the first awardees. 

“I am delighted to be one of the inaugural recipients of the 2017 Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement Award,” Harker said. “Valuing humanities research is important, and so is recognition of interdisciplinary scholarship like gender studies.

“The College of Liberal Arts is filled with brilliant scholars, and I look forward to their achievements in the future.”

The creation of the award reflects the university’s renewed emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education, Berti said. 

Emanuele Berti

“I am happy and grateful for this award,” Berti said. “For me, it is particularly meaningful because it recognizes the growth of the gravity group, of the physics department and of the university as a whole as one of the leading research institutions at the national and international level.

“The creation of this award and other institutional initiatives, like the Flagship Constellation program and the construction of the STEM building, are promising signs that this growth will continue in the future.”

Ethridge said she is honored to be included among this group of esteemed scholars. 

“I’m honored to have won this award, and I am especially humbled to be in the company of Jaime and Emanuele, both of whom have made impressive contributions to knowledge,” Ethridge said. “Such recognition is relatively rare in this game and I much appreciate the university’s efforts to highlight research, scholarship and creative achievement among its faculty. It is indeed very special.”

Department chairs and tenured faculty members with the rank of professor are invited to submit nominations. Each nominee’s unique contributions to research, scholarship and/or creative achievement, as well as the candidate’s CV, are evaluated by a select committee.

The dean’s office will solicit nominations from all college departments by March 1 of each year. More information on the nomination process can be found here.

Motivational Speaker to Keynote Ole Miss PULSE Conference

Nearly 170 sophomores selected for leadership training

The PULSE conference provides opportunities for Ole Miss sophomores to network, develop skills and consider the type of leader they want to become. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A group of University of Mississippi sophomores will kick off 2018 this weekend by attending PULSE – Preparing Undergraduate Leaders, a Student Experience – a leadership conference that brings together students from different campus roles to learn about themselves and their leadership potential.

Randy Gravitt – a motivational speaker, life coach and co-author of the book “Finding Your Way, Discovering the Truth About You” – is set to deliver the keynote address at the Jan. 19-20 event. As president of InteGREAT Leadership, he encourages leaders through his speaking and writing to remain integrity-driven. Among his clients are Chick-fil-A and the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball organization.

The 168 student participants were selected from nominations from more than 40 different student organizations and academic departments on campus. Friday’s events will begin with registration at 3:15 p.m. at The Inn at Ole Miss. Saturday’s sessions will be at the Robert C. Khayat Law Center, beginning with an 8:30 a.m. check-in.

Ole Miss has always been known for its tradition of training future leaders, and PULSE enhances that mission, said Mindy Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students.

“The PULSE conference is a unique opportunity for sophomore students to network, develop skills and consider the type of leader they want to become,” she said. “Students always speak highly of their experiences with PULSE, and this year’s conference will again feature outstanding speakers and educational offerings for our students.”

Other speakers include Beverly Langford, president of LMA Communication; and the university’s Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement Center; Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs; and EJ Presley, assistant director of the Career Center.

Presenters will focus their presentations and activities on the three core values of this year’s conference: collaboration, communication and reflection.

“PULSE participants will be exposed to concepts that will help them understand leadership as an expression of self and a means of serving, inspiring and empowering others,” said Suzanne Helveston, career and leadership coordinator of the Ole Miss Women’s Council, a conference host. “We believe strong leadership training significantly impacts our students’ lives, enhancing their time on campus and increasing their success in future careers and community service.”

Upon participating in PULSE, students will learn to:

  • Identify and apply knowledge about their behavior styles in leadership roles
  • Understand there are many types of leadership
  • Appreciate the need to develop interpersonal skills in a leadership role, including communication skills, relationship building and empathy
  • Gain an understanding of how leadership applies in the real world

“PULSE helped me to connect with other leaders my age on campus, as well as be exposed to unique leaders on our campus I never even knew about,” said Catrina Curtis, of Nesbit, a student who participated in last year’s conference. “I learned more about myself and my leadership styles and how I could best use them in whatever leadership position I am put in.

“I will always remember the people and practical skills I learned at PULSE.”

PULSE is hosted by the Office of Leadership and Advocacy and the Ole Miss Women’s Council. Sponsors include Chick-fil-A of Oxford and the university’s Division of Student Affairs, Residential Housing Association and Associated Student Body.

For more information, contact Suzanne Helveston, OMWC career and leadership coordinator, at or 662-915-7273.

Living Music Institute Hosts Leading Opera Soprano

Inaugural opera aria workshop brings renowned soprano Kallen Esperian back to UM

Kallen Esperian

OXFORD, Miss. – The Living Music Resource at the University of Mississippi is holding its inaugural Living Music Institute this weekend. This intensive opera aria workshop includes a residency by world-renowned soprano and recording artist Kallen Esperian.

A member of the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala Opera, Esperian has performed in leading roles at major opera houses around the globe.

This is not Esperian’s first time at Ole Miss. In 2011, she led master classes and special topic courses, taught private voice classes and worked alongside the Ole Miss Opera Theatre ensemble as a one-year artist-in-residence.

“I had the immense privilege of working with Kallen when she came to Ole Miss and experienced her greatness firsthand,” said Nancy Balach, co-director of Living Music Resource in the Department of Music. “She left an invaluable mark at Ole Miss and helped us keep our pulse on the professional world of music.”

Esperian will appear at two of the three public events this weekend.

The activities open at 7 p.m. Friday (Jan. 19) with a documentary showing, mini-concert and Q&A session in Nutt Auditorium. Accompanying Esperian are filmmaker Steven John Ross and pianist Gary Beard.

The documentary “Vissi D’Arte” explores challenges Esperian has faced throughout her career. Tickets are $5 each, available at the Ole Miss Box Office or at the door.

At 1 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 20), a performance of “Aria Matinée” in Nutt Auditorium will feature emerging artists from nine states who are participating in the workshop. This event is free.

Later that evening, Living Music Resource will host its signature live show, “LMR Live,” hosted by Balach. This production’s guests will focus on Esperian, and she will be accompanied on stage by Beard. This 7:30 p.m. show is free to the public.

“At Saturday’s ‘LMR Live,’ we will dig even deeper into how one finds balance in life, professional and personal,” Balach said.

Balach also said she expects this to be a unique showing of “LMR Live,” since participants of this weekend’s Living Music Institute will be in the audience. She anticipates an engaging show with much more interaction than usual.

“I am thrilled to have Kallen back in Oxford as the featured guest artist for the inaugural Living Music Institute,” Balach said. “Her journey is relatable to anyone who has faced adversity. She is inspirational and to experience Kallen’s artistry is an absolute gift.”

Balach described Esperian as “inspirational” and “one of the leadings sopranos of our time.” It is significant to have an artist of Esperian’s caliber to share knowledge and experiences with the Living Music Institute participants and with Ole Miss students and faculty, she said.

Nobel Laureate to Present Benefits of Early Childhood Education

James Heckman to explain why investing in early learning is good for state economy at Jackson event

James J. Heckman

OXFORD, Miss. – Nobel Prize-winning economist James J. Heckman will present his research on how investments in quality early childhood education can yield exceptionally high economic returns at a free public event at 2:30 p.m. Jan. 25 the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson.

Open to anyone who registers online, the event is the second in a three-part series hosted by the University of Mississippi‘s Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. The speaker series is designed to bring leading experts from across the nation to meet with Mississippi business leaders, educators and policy makers and discuss economic benefits of quality education opportunities for children during early childhood, which spans from birth to age 5.

“High-quality early childhood development plays a crucial role in shaping the capabilities that lead to flourishing lives,” said Heckman, who received a Nobel Prize in economics in 2000. “Investments in early childhood for low-income children from birth to age 5 create opportunity without any trade-offs in equity; quality programs pay for themselves, even after accounting for the costs of investment.”

Heckman will explain how investing in early childhood education as early as infancy is a smart business move for Mississippians and use economic models to show a high yield on dollars invested into quality early childhood programs. The return on investment can exceed 13 percent per year in the form of cost savings.

Heckman’s research has influenced more than $1.5 billion in appropriations, which funded programs such as Every Student Succeeds Act; the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program; and more.

He will be available to answer questions from the public and news media following the event.

“We are extremely fortunate to have the benefit of Dr. Heckman sharing his expertise with us,” said Cathy Grace, co-director of the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning. “Our hope is that by sharing his knowledge on the importance of investing in early childhood education as a foundational part of workforce development, we will be called to take action.

“If collectively we take his expert advice, Mississippi’s economy now and in the future will become energized by investing in our young children so that we will be successful in growing our workforce.”

Mississippi does not offer universally funded public early childhood education. State-funded Early Learning Collaboratives – which comprise Head Start agencies, school districts, child care centers and nonprofits and adhere to standards from the National Institute for Early Education Research – provide early childhood education programs at 14 sites statewide, according to the Mississippi Department of Education.

Heckman is the Henry Schultz Distinguished Service Professor of Economics and a professor of law at the University of Chicago, where he also directs the university’s Economic Research Center, Center for the Economics of Human Development and the Center for Social Program Evaluation. His research focuses on human development with an emphasis on the economics of early childhood development.

The first speaker series event took place Dec. 12 at Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson, with Virginia Tech researchers Craig and Sharon Ramey presenting findings from the Abecedarian Project. The groundbreaking study, which the Rameys helped start in the early 1970s in North Carolina, showed significant and positive long-term effects of early childhood education among low-income children.

The study, which has been replicated at multiple sites, showed that children who received quality early childhood education are more likely to have higher IQs, finish high school, attend college, hold steady employment as adults and more. Data from Abecedarian Project participants is still being collected after more than four decades.

The third and final event will take place in Jackson on Feb. 6 when Dr. Pat Levitt, a brain scientist and developmental pediatrician with appointments at Harvard University, the University of Southern California and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, will present the latest neuroscience research in early childhood education.

The speaker series is co-sponsored by the Graduate Center for the Study of Early Learning, W.K. Kellogg FoundationNorth Mississippi Education ConsortiumMississippi Kids Count and the UM School of Education.

Hollandale Couple’s Gift Supports Ole Miss Athletics

Simmons get gate at the end of the brick road to the stadium

Doug and Jane Simmons (left) enjoy the Ole Miss-Texas A&M football game on campus with their grandchildren, Oliver and Jane Baldwin Cook. With the family is Ole Miss Athletics Foundation development officer Matt McLaughlin (right). Photo by Josh McCoy/Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics

OXFORD, Miss. – Rebel fans who’ve enjoyed game day at the University of Mississippi are likely familiar with the arched gateway that begins the Walk of Champions, the football team’s brick-paved passage to the stadium. Lesser known is where the Walk of Champions ends.

UM alumni Doug and Jane Simmons, however, know it ends at Gate 4 of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, just beyond Letterwinner’s Walk. That’s where new signage, displaying the Simmons name, will serve as a lasting tribute to the Hollandale couple’s recent major gift in support of Ole Miss athletics.

“I just wanted to give back to Ole Miss,” said Doug Simmons, himself a letter-winner, having played halfback for the Rebels during college and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1971. Jane Simmons graduated the same year with a bachelor’s degree in education.

The gift is part of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation’s drive to honor donors with naming opportunities for each of the entrance gates at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and The Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Rebels’ basketball arena.

“The Gate Naming Initiative is the first of its kind and will play an integral role in completing the $200 million Forward Together campaign,” said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation.

“With $173 million raised toward a multitude of capital projects, the final phase of the campaign will see the opening of an indoor tennis facility this December and completed renovations at Oxford-University Stadium (baseball) in early spring.”

Gate naming recognition starts with commitments of $250,000, payable over five years.

Matt McLaughlin, a development officer with the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, said he hopes the Simmons couple’s gift will inspire similar support for the campaign.

“Now, more than ever, it’s critical for Rebel fans to give back,” McLaughlin said. “We greatly appreciate Doug and Jane for stepping forward in support of Ole Miss. Their generosity will help to significantly improve our facilities, giving our student-athletes the competitive edge they deserve.”

Naming opportunities are available for the grand gates at the north, east and west entrances, as well as a limited number of individual gates. Earlier this year, the stadium’s south entrance was named for Diane and J.L. Holloway after the Ridgeland couple made a major gift to the Forward Together campaign.

For more information about the gate-naming initiative, contact the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation at 662-915-7782 or visit

Sports Nutrition Program Helps UM Athletes Reach Fullest Potential

Nutrition and hospitality management doctoral students provide sports dietetics

Melinda Valliant (right), UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, leads doctoral students (from left) Corbit Franks and Matthew Frakes in conducting a body composition assessment with the BodPod for athletics trainer Nate Yoste. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s the New Year, a time when many people rethink their diet. But for doctoral students in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, rethinking diets is a year-round activity.

“A proper diet is important for everyone, but it is critical for athletes,” said Melinda Valliant, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management and co-director of the university’s Center for Health and Sport Performance.

Faculty, staff and graduate students from the sport nutrition emphasis provide dietetics services to athletes across 16 different Ole Miss sports through the center.

“Usually we are helping athletes navigate fueling adequately around early morning workouts, tutoring, class, study hall, practices and games, so it’s really a lot,” Valliant said. “Most of them start at six in the morning, and they might finish at eight or nine at night.”

Prescribing individual meal plans based on an athlete’s physical output is just part of what the students, faculty and staff offer for athletes looking to retool their fuel.

“Sports dietetics is both food service and clinical work,” Valliant said. “They are prescribing meal plans, providing education, doing grocery store tours and hosting cooking classes.

“We work with a multidisciplinary team, including athletic trainers, strength coaches, sports medicine physicians, physical therapists and sports psychologists to help the athlete be the best they can be.”

Matthew Frakes, is a registered dietitian enrolled in the Ph.D program, is working to meet the requisite hours he needs to obtain credentials as a certified specialist in sports dietetics. He works with athletes in baseball, track and field and golf.

“My favorite part of what I do is working with athletes and seeing the outcomes they want to see after helping them with the missing nutrition pieces to their performance puzzle,” Frakes said. “For instance, an athlete who complained of feeling tired and sluggish throughout the day was having trouble with putting on weight for their individual goal.

“We had a one-on-one consultation and discussed difficulties with schedule, timing and sleeping habits. After our consult and follow-up, they were able to reach their goal weight during off-season training, sleep better and perform a lot better in the classroom and during their practice and training times.”

Frakes stays busy, conducting group nutrition education talks; developing individual nutrition assessments; creating nutrition education material; preparing practice, training and competition refueling snacks and travel bags; executing BodPod body composition assessments and working with the coaching staff on individual and team health and performance goals.

His passion for sports nutrition began as an undergraduate student-athlete, playing football for Ohio University, then Bowling Green State University and studying nutrition.

“Learning nutrition while being a student-athlete help me connect the dots on why I was not playing at my best in the past, not able to recover as fast and why I was always tired in the classroom,” he said. “After I graduated and started my dietetic internship rotations, I couldn’t see myself doing anything but working with sports and helping athletes get the best out of their health and performance.”

Frakes is enrolled alongside Corbit Franks, an assistant athletic trainer who decided to enter the doctoral program when he started seeing the distinct advantages and disadvantages that food choices create in athletic competition.

“Dr. Valliant has been a phenomenal mentor,” Frakes said. “She challenges us to think outside the box and allows many opportunities to learn. The education and my experience working with her on a daily basis will provide opportunities to expand myself as an educator and professional.

“Each athlete that I have who undergoes a surgery is required to meet with Dr. Valliant to ensure that they are fueling properly and taking in the adequate nutrients to promote healing. This is invaluable.”

While Ole Miss athletes get world-class nutrition counseling, the department has a pool of athletes for case study to develop injury protocol and add to a growing body of peer-reviewed sports nutrition research. Similar programs at other universities allow students to work only with intramural athletes, but the unique relationship with athletics affords UM doctoral students full access to all athletes in their cafeteria, weight rooms and training rooms.

The job market for sports dieticians has increased dramatically in recent years, Valliant said.

“There are a lot more colleges and professional sports organizations hiring sports dietitians, but there aren’t enough qualified practitioners to fill the jobs,” Valliant said. “What I want to do is get students ready to take these jobs that are opening up.”

She has seen a shift in perception of sports nutrition on campus.

“Attitudes in the athletics department around nutrition have certainly changed,” she said. “I think people see the value in sport nutrition – that dietitians are valuable team members. I also think having this program has allowed us to have more numbers.

“When there was just me working 10 hours a week, there was the same number of student-athletes. Clearly, I only had time to work with those athletes with problems. We weren’t proactive. Now that there are more people, there is more opportunity for athletes, but also the ancillary staff, coaches, everybody to see what dietitians can do.”

Teresa Carithers, School of Applied Sciences interim dean, sees potential for the center to draw national attention as its improves clinical outcomes and contributes critical research.

“Dr. Valliant was the driving force in developing our sport nutrition program and has provided the critical leadership in consistently helping us keep our program on the cutting edge,” Carithers said. “Applied Sciences recognizes the great future potential this center has to offer and is assisting with positioning and resource acquisition to help increase their overall impact and national visibility.”

Approved by the IHL in October 2013, the center began as a partnership between the departments of Nutrition and Hospitality Management and Intercollegiate Athletics, and continues to grow its staff and student support. Shannon Singletary, senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance, co-directs the center, and Kate Callaway, a certified specialist in sports dietetics, joined the staff in 2016.

For more information about the sports nutrition emphasis in the Nutrition and Hospitality Management Ph.D. program, contact Valliant at or visit

Pharmacy Alumni Match Medications with Need at Dispensary of Hope

Work benefits thousands of needy patients nationally each year

Dispensary of Hope employees sort medicines at Integral Care Pharmacy. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy alumni Hillary Blackburn and Edward Woo know that everyone needs a little help now and then. That’s why they work with Dispensary of Hope to provide necessary medications to patients who may not be able otherwise to afford them.

Based in Nashville, Dispensary of Hope is a charitable medication distributor that connects supplies of unused medications to pharmacies and clinics serving low-income and uninsured patients across the nation. Blackburn and Woo both found their staff roles after volunteering with the company and are among the 24 team members working directly for Dispensary of Hope.

“Working in community pharmacy for nearly 10 years, I have seen many patients that were in need of medications due to chronic or acute medical conditions, but unable to afford them,” Woo said.

Woo, who earned his Pharm.D. in 2007, added that providing patients with necessary medications regardless of income is an ongoing concern.

“I wanted to help solve this issue by ensuring that the uninsured population had better access to medications,” Woo said. “Once I saw the unique way Dispensary of Hope met this population’s needs, I knew it was the place for me.”

Blackburn, a 2011 Pharm.D. graduate, shares Woo’s sentiments. Her time as an intern with the pharmacy department of the Health Resources and Services Administration in Washington, D.C., gave her insight into the importance of medication access for the uninsured.

Hillary Blackburn

“My visits to the clinics and hospitals that utilize Dispensary of Hope give me a glimpse into the lives of those positively affected by the service,” Blackburn said. “Seeing their faces and hearing their stories show me I chose the right profession because it allows me to serve others and to help make a difference.”

As director of Dispensary of Hope’s pharmaceutical services since November 2015, Blackburn provides expertise to clinical pharmacists and consults with pharmacy leaders across the nation about affordable medication access. She helps Dispensary of Hope partner with safety net clinics, charitable pharmacies and many of the nation’s health care systems.

The network continues to grow through word-of-mouth, conference attendance and email introductions. The distributor has more than 145 access sites across 28 states.

Woo leads the charge on data analytics for organizational operations as director of pharmaceutical operations. This role utilizes both Woo’s pharmacy degree and his Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering, also from Ole Miss.

“My dual degrees are a perfect combination for this role,” Woo said. “I use my analytical and problem-solving skills that I learned in electrical engineering for data analytics and technical implementation of software within Dispensary of Hope.

“With my pharmacy degree, I can understand medications, their uses and be able to help make decisions on formulary medications for medication dispensaries.”

With Blackburn and Woo’s help, Dispensary of Hope serves more than 40,000 patients each quarter. It filled 744,731 monthlong prescriptions in fiscal year 2017 and has no plans to slow down.

Edward Woo

“We hope to make a meaningful impact on the health and lives of the most vulnerable through access to medication,” Blackburn said. “With a goal of 260 sites by 2020 and over 1,000 sites in the next decade, our vision is to serve over a million of the sickest Americans who lack coverage with a consistent supply of medication.”


This work not only benefits those who need medications but has allowed Blackburn and Woo to learn more about themselves, their leadership abilities and the work it takes to help others.

“Before Dispensary of Hope, I did not realize that the need for medications for the uninsured was so great in our nation,” Woo said. “Through this work, I’ve learned that the health of our nation depends on getting the processes right. This may take time, but it can’t be rushed.”

Ole Miss Online MBA Program Ranks in U.S. News Top 25

National recognition given for the school's online degree

The UM online Master of Business Administration program has been ranked among the nation’s top 25 by U.S. News & World Report. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s online Master of Business Administration program has been named as one of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The rankings, released today (Jan. 9), place Ole Miss at No. 25 nationally.

“We are thrilled to have this external recognition of the success of our online MBA program,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “This achievement is a reflection of the dedicated faculty and staff who have created an excellent learning environment for our online MBA students who are not able leave their jobs in order to obtain their degrees.

“We are excited to continue the strong tradition in our online program and to receive these accolades for our efforts and for our online students.”

MBA programs have a greater enrollment than any other type of graduate business degree program in the country, the U.S. News release noted. Prospective students often narrow their research exclusively to programs that award MBAs.

To aid their efforts, the publication compiles annual rankings of distance-education MBA programs.

“A strength of our online program is that all of instructors are full-time faculty at Ole Miss,” said Walter Davis, faculty adviser for the MBA program. “The curriculum for the online program is the same as the campus program.

“While students in our online program are always welcome on campus, all course requirements can be completed online.”

For the 2018 edition, U.S. News ranked online MBA programs using five categories: student engagement, admission selectivity, peer reputation, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology.

The publication selects factors, known as ranking indicators, to assess each program in the five categories. A program’s score for each ranking indicator is calculated using data that the program reported to U.S. News in a statistical survey and from data collected in a separate peer-reputation survey.

The strength of the Ole Miss curriculum is a plus for businesses in the state, said Ashley McGee, the program’s director.

“Today’s professional is busy,” McGee said. “They are concerned with projects at work. They are caring for their children. They are involved in their communities. Our online degree is designed for them. It is flexible and entirely online.

“The curriculum allows for those in any field to utilize the knowledge learned in the program and progress within their career.”

UM edged Oklahoma State, ranked No. 30, and ranked ahead of the University of Arizona, No. 33; Syracuse University, No. 42, and Louisiana State University, No. 51.

UM Students, Staff Join Community for MLK Day of Service Activities

Volunteers gathering to honor King's legacy through community engagement

Brian Foster, UM assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies, speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2017 MLK Day of Service. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students, staff and community partners are spearheading efforts to promote community engagement and encourage a spirit of service in Lafayette County and Oxford during 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Day observances.

The Lafayette-Oxford-University MLK Day of Service opening ceremony is set for 10:30 a.m. Jan. 15 at the Burns-Belfry Museum and Multicultural Center.

Program participants include: Oxford Alderman Ulysses “Coach” Howell; Jeff Busby, of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors; and Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. The Rev. C. Edward “CJ” Rhodes II, pastor of Mt. Helm Baptist Church of Jackson, will deliver the keynote address.

“I am very humbled and honored to be asked to deliver the keynote for such a historic occasion,” said Rhodes, the 23rd and youngest pastor of Jackson’s oldest historically black church. “As we look back on the achievements and sacrifices of Dr. King and others, this generation is challenged to do great things not just for themselves, but for others and the world as well.”

The son of famed civil rights attorney Carroll Rhodes Sr., Rhodes earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from UM in 2004. He continued his education at Duke Divinity School, where he served as vice president of the Black Seminarians Union in Raleigh, North Carolina.

The Rev. Carroll Edward Rhodes II, pastor of the Mt. Helms Baptist Church in Jackson and a UM alumnus, will deliver the keynote address during the community’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day observance. Submitted photo

Rhodes serves on the board of the Urban League of Greater Jackson, the Center for Ministry and the Mississippi Religious Leadership Conference, and is the former president of the Farish Street/Main Street Project. The recipient of numerous awards and recognitions, he also serves as host of “The CJ Rhodes Show” on WRBJ-97.7 FM and is author of “Thy Kingdom Come: Reflections on Pastoral and Prophetic Ministry.”

Following the keynote, awards will be presented to outstanding LOU volunteers in four categories: a community member and one student apiece from the Oxford School District, the Lafayette County School District and the university. All recipients are to be announced at the ceremony.

“The Office of Leadership and Advocacy is proud to work once again, side-by-side with so many excellent community partners,” said Hal Sullivan, coordinator of student affairs programs at UM. “Our goal, in the spirit of Dr. King, is to encourage reflection, action and redefine ‘service’ for this community.”

Other activities scheduled are:

Saturday (Jan. 13):

Second Annual Community Reading of “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” 5 p.m., Off-Square Books. Readers include members from the LOU community to acknowledge one of King’s most powerful works.

Monday (Jan. 15):

  • Community breakfast, 8:30 a.m., Second Baptist Church
  • Opening ceremony and keynote address, 10:30 a.m., Burns-Belfry Museum. Attendees also can participate in activities for children ages 3-10 and listen to recordings of oral histories that illustrate what life was like for north Mississippians during the civil rights era.
  • Community showing of “The Long Walk Home,” 1:30 p.m., Burns Belfry Museum. A community conversation about the film, hosted by the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, follows. Kiese Laymon, UM professor of English, will facilitate discussion about the movie.
  • Community give-back benefiting the Exchange Club Family Center, 4-9 p.m., Chili’s Bar & Grill.
  • Community food drive benefitting the Food Pantry, all day, Abundant Truth Salt and Light Ministry in Taylor. Donations can be brought to any of the day’s events.

Ole Miss staff involved in planning of MLK Day of Service events expressed enthusiasm about participating in such a worthy cause.

“We are inspired by the members of the North Mississippi VISTA Project, who are collaborating with the Oxford and Lafayette school districts to offer lessons and activities on the civil rights movement,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. “In the spirit of lifting up agents of change, we encourage people in the LOU community to nominate deserving individuals for the MLK Service Awards.”


For more information about MLK Day of Service events, contact