UM Educators Fostering Cuban Educational Collaboration

Six faculty members are applying principles, information gathered and shared during recent conference

Cuba TIES IV Conference participants help set up one of the posters by UM faculty for presentation. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Six University of Mississippi faculty members were among educators from Cuba and many surrounding countries, including the United States, brought together for the recent Cuba TIES IV Conference.

UM educators who presented at the fourth annual conference, held in Cienfuegos, Cuba, included Chris Sapp, Tracy Koslowski, Guy Krueger and Brad Campbell.

“We have established a connection with colleagues at numerous universities in Cuba who are requesting we present and collaborate in further research,” said Koslowski, an instructor of intensive English who presented a poster on “Teaching Critical Thinking Skills in the EFL/ESL Classroom” with Silvia Miriam Morgan, a Cuban research partner from Universidad de Guantanamo. The poster was co-authored by fellow Ole Miss lecturer Dinorah Sapp.

“We have also established connection with the Ministry of Higher Education in Cuba in hopes of building future opportunities for Cuban colleagues and students in collaboration with UM faculty, students and programs,” Koslowski said.

Christopher Sapp, associate professor of German, co-designed Koslowski’s poster. He also presented a poster on “Teaching Students to Read Research” with colleagues from Universidad de Holguin.

“I have been invited back to Cuba in the spring to present at WEFLA at the University of Holguin,” Sapp said. “I also have four potential students from Cuba who would like to pursue graduate degrees in applied linguistics or teaching English as a second language.”

Krueger, a lecturer in writing and rhetoric, described his Cuba reception as “fantastic.”

“The people in Cuba were interested in my scholarship, asked great questions and have been proactive in reaching out to have me return and present at other venues,” said Krueger, who, with Campbell, presented a paper titled “Fostering Academic Development Through Social Language Experiences: An International Perspective” with their Cuban research partner Luis Mijares Nunez of Universidad de Pinar del Rio.

“The people I worked with in Cuba are serious about continuing relationships and working together.”

UM faculty participants in the Cuban TIES IV Conference are (front row, from left) Chris Sapp, Tracy Koslowski and Laura Antonow; (middle row, left) Sandy Spiroff and Brad Campbell; and (back row) Guy Krueger. Submitted photo

All Ole Miss presenters collaborated via email and social media with their partners for several months before the conference to prepare their work.

“Dinorah Sapp and I have been invited to present our poster at the TESOL International Convention in Atlanta in March,” Koslowski said. “I have been invited to design and conduct other workshops for students and faculty at the universities in Pinar del Rio and Cienfuegos this coming April.”

The conference was hosted by Universidad de Cienfuegos, a school with about 4,000 students and campus buildings located across the city. Besides faculty from Universidad de Cienfuegos and educators from several countries such as Colombia and Ecuador, a representative from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education was in attendance.

The UM faculty contingent, which also included Sandra Spiroff of the Department of Mathematics and Laura Antonow of the Department of Higher Education, were able to meet and network with many of the conference participants over the five-day event.

Koslowski met with Dayni Diaz Mederos, the director of international programs at Universidad de Cienfuegos, and with Santiago Rivera Perez, the director of language programs in the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, to explore the potential for Cuban students to attend Ole Miss or even possibly faculty and student exchange programs with Cuban universities. Because open travel between the U.S. and Cuba is not yet possible, establishing a relationship with the Ministry of Higher Education is critical for potential partnerships in areas such as funding and granting visas.

“Major takeaways from the conference include that Cuban students are interested in American universities for their studies, and by having the largest faculty delegation from the U.S. at the event, UM representatives were able to widely promote UM to students and faculty alike,” Krueger said. “This promotion had a profound impact, as faculty at Cuban universities and representatives from the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education expressed their interest in further partnerships with UM due to the successful collaborations we have already enjoyed.”

Krueger said he also has noticed a difference in his classroom fluency.

“I have always been comfortable working with international students in my classroom, but attending the Cuba TIES IV Conference, where some information was presented in Spanish, really made me think about how much language matters in educational settings,” he said.

“Being forced to try to translate quickly reminded me what many of our international students at UM might go through on a daily basis. This helps me remember to slow down and think about the extra challenges international students face.”

For more information about future Cuba TIES events, contact Tracy Koslowski at tlcase@olemiss.edu.

UM Recognized Among Country’s Top-Tier Research Universities Once Again

Carnegie Classification recognizes R&D investment and doctoral and professional degrees granted

The University of Mississippi is included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity released Monday in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the top doctoral research universities in the United States. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi is included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Very High Research Activity released Monday in the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the top doctoral research universities in the United States.

UM is among a distinguished group of 120 institutions that includes Ivy League research powerhouses and major, public flagship institutions. It places UM in the “very high research activity,” or R1 category, and means the state is represented among the top 2.7 percent of research institutions of higher education.

“Earning this designation again is a tribute to our top-tier faculty, staff and students,” said Larry Sparks, acting chancellor. “It reflects our emphasis on delivering research excellence, providing graduate and professional educational opportunities, and attracting new students and faculty to our flagship university.

“However, at the end of the day, it is really about how we utilize and implement research and education for creating opportunities and applying knowledge to solve the problems that face our state and nation.”

The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education is the product of an independent review process recognized as the industry standard. The university first received this designation in 2015.

“We continue to grow the impact of research and scholarly work at UM to advance increasingly complex problems of importance to our state, region and nation,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “This growth is being fueled by broadening our partnerships with both public sector entities, such as federal and state agencies, as well as private sector entities, from small high-tech businesses in the state to large industries with a global footprint.

The University of Mississippi is among a distinguished group of 120 institutions that includes Ivy League research powerhouses and major, public flagship institutions. It places UM in the ‘very high research activity,’ or R1 category, and means the state is represented among the top 2.7 percent of research institutions of higher education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“This R1 designation helps us attract and retain highly talented faculty, researchers and students to the state.”

In 2017-18, UM received 581 research awards totaling more than $134 million in external funding, its highest level in four years and an increase of 9.3 percent from last year. This funding total includes more than $101 million in federal money. Awards from corporate, private, state and other sources funded more than $33.1 million.

UM research dollars are benefiting lives in Mississippi and around the globe, fueling economic growth and prosperity, educating future leaders and innovators, and more.

The Carnegie Classification’s assignment to categories of R1: Doctoral Universities – very high research activity, R2: Doctoral Universities – high research activity and Doctoral/Professional Universities includes institutions that awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees during the update year and also institutions with fewer than 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees that awarded at least 30 professional practice doctoral degrees in at least two programs.

The R1 and R2 categories include only institutions that awarded at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees and had at least $5 million in total research expenditures, as reported through the National Science Foundation Higher Education Research & Development Survey.

For more information about research at UM, visit http://research.olemiss.edu/.

Music Professor Receives Prestigious International Fellowship

Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship supports George Dor's work with Nigerian university

UM music professor George Worlasi Kwasi Dor will travel to Nigeria in summer 2019 to collaborate with colleagues at the University of Port Harcourt as part of the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – George Worlasi Kwasi Dor, a music professor at the University of Mississippi, has been awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program to work with professors at the University of Port Harcourt in Nigeria.

Dor, a native of Ghana who holds the McDonnell-Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology at UM, will travel to Nigeria in the summer of 2019 to collaborate with Adeoluwa Okunade and Marie Agatha Ozah on field research in ethnomusicology, curriculum development, and mentoring of graduate assistants and assistant lecturers.

“The research portion of the project will consider the ways indigenous knowledge in traditional ethnic music stays relevant to contemporary communities in Ghana and Nigeria,” Dor said. “This will build on research Dr. Ozah and I have collaborated on before, and we look forward to using the opportunity to train graduate students in ethnographic field research methods.

“I’ll also be in conversation with Dr. Okunade and the faculty as they refine and develop their ethnomusicology curriculum. Because of my experience in this field, I hope to be a resource for them, but I expect to learn a great deal that could benefit our program, as well.”

Dor’s selection is well-deserved, said Robert Riggs, chair of the UM Department of Music.

“The receipt of this Carnegie fellowship further validates Dr. Dor’s well-established reputation as a leading researcher in the field of ethnomusicology,” Riggs said. “I am confident that both he and his colleagues in Nigeria will benefit greatly from this exciting opportunity to pursue joint scholarly projects.”

Dor’s fellowship is part of a broader initiative that will pair 51 scholars with one of 43 higher education institutions and partners in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda to work together on curriculum co-development, research, graduate teaching, training and mentoring activities.

“Dr. Dor’s collaborative approach to pedagogy, research and performance with Dr. Adeoluwa Okunade and colleagues at the University of Port Harcourt and the University of Mississippi serves as a beacon for others in academe who facilitate understanding of musical traditions within the wider African diaspora,” said Gail Simpson, an Ole Miss doctoral candidate in music education.

Dor’s fellowship was the only one awarded in the area of music. Other visiting fellows will work with their hosts on a wide range of projects that include controlling malaria, strengthening peace and conflict studies, training and mentoring graduate students in criminal justice, archiving African indigenous knowledge, creating low-cost water treatment technologies, building capacity in microbiology and pathogen genomics, and developing a forensic accounting curriculum.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program, in its sixth year, is designed to increase the movement of skill and talent to benefit African nations, build capacity at host institutions and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada.

Some 385 African Diaspora Fellowships have been awarded for scholars to travel to Africa since the program’s inception in 2013.

University Recognized for Student Veteran Services, Treatment

Rankings place Ole Miss in top 5 percent nationally for military services

Andrew Newby (left), UM assistant director for veteran and military services, speaks with guests at the opening of the Veterans Resource Center. Newby has implemented several new services that have helped Ole Miss rise in the rankings among public institutions for supporting military veteran students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has been recognized as a top institution for military veteran students for 2019 by both Military Times and College Factual.

Military Times ranked Ole Miss among the leaders in student veteran treatment in its annual rankings, with the university coming in at No. 85 nationally among all public institutions.

Ole Miss also finished in the top 5 percent of schools nationally – No. 65 among public universities – for “veteran friendliness” in College Factual’s Best for Vets category for 2019. It is the second straight year that the university has been the best school for veterans in Mississippi on the College Factual list.

“(The rankings) are huge for the university, because we essentially are a new office,” said Andrew Newby, assistant director of veteran and military services. “In 2013, (the university) really began the initiative of putting a priority on veterans. So, we went basically from nonexistence to now being recognized in multiple publications.”

The rankings consider a variety of factors, including veteran affordability, veteran support services and available resources, that combine to form the best educational experience for student veterans. The goal, according to College Factual, is to “help veterans identify colleges that are likely to be supportive of them and their unique needs.”

This approach is important because student veterans face different challenges than traditional students, Newby said.

“This gives us the ability to say to these veterans, ‘If you want a good college experience and you want somebody who understands all the facets of you as a veteran, then this is where you go in Mississippi,'” he said. “We are putting faces and names to that invisible identity of ‘a veteran.'”

The university’s highest categorical ranking was second nationwide for student veterans seeking degrees in health professions, College Factual said.

UM student veterans gather at the opening of the Veterans Resource Center in February. The resource center is among several new services provided to student veterans at Ole Miss that have helped the university improve its ranking among universities in the category of student veteran support. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss has instituted programs that allow student veterans to have their voices heard and to allow individual issues to be addressed, said Evan Ciocci, Student Veterans Association president.

“It is eye-opening to see how much the student veterans program has grown in my time here,” he said. “We’ve improved immensely to change the atmosphere surrounding student veterans in higher education.

“With the Veterans Resource Center and Veteran Treatment Team, resources have been more accessible ranging from academic success to health care.”

The Veterans Resource Center opened in February in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center. The center provides the university’s 1,400 military-connected students with academic resources, test materials and a place to gather and connect.

The Veterans Treatment Team brings together a collection of health care professionals, social workers and academic resources on campus to provide student veterans with a holistic plan to achieve their educational and personal goals.

That hands-on approach with each individual veteran allows the university to separate itself from its peers, Newby said.

“At the end of the day, we are making happy alumni who are successful in the workforce,” he said. “When you come to Ole Miss, I’m going to make sure you can get a job, that you’re going to enjoy your time and that you’re going to have good memories of being an Ole Miss Rebel.”

The needs of veterans are evolving and often, the old traditions of only providing a place for student veterans to gather and trade war stories are not enough for the younger generation of military students, Newby said.

“That’s what today’s vet does not want,” he said. “So, what we went out from there to do was to give them a sense of purpose.

“They all have servant’s hearts. That’s why they joined the military. So why not make the SVA a service organization that actually does things you want to be a part of?”

Newby and others did this by implementing a variety of community and campus service opportunities for student veterans to get involved, including the Ole Miss Wish, a philanthropic effort that works with military families to give children an unforgettable Ole Miss experience.

The Office of Veteran and Military Services staff does not plan to rest on its laurels, and new programs are in the works on campus.

“We are actively working toward more resources to help transition veterans and set them up for success in higher education and into their career fields,” Ciocci said. “I see a bright future for veterans’ services as we continue to grow.”

College Factual provides data analytics to compare more than 2,500 colleges and universities across the nation in a variety of categories. Military Times covers topics relevant to service members at home and abroad.

For more information on UM’s Office of Veteran and Military Services, visit https://vms.olemiss.edu/.

UM Names New Associate Development Director

Anthony Heaven to work to garner support for Honors College

Anthony Heaven

OXFORD, Miss. – As the inaugural development officer for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi, Anthony Heaven hopes to build relationships and secure resources to help the Honors College produce engaged citizen scholars prepared to be tomorrow’s leaders.

“In the short term, I want to learn about the culture and impact of the Honors College so that I can be well-versed in how philanthropy will help the team further the mission,” said Heaven, a native of Detroit. “Long-term, I have a goal to work with the team to develop and implement innovative ways of building connections, demonstrating impact and capitalizing on the affinity among alumni and supporters of the Honors College.”

Philanthropy expands the reach and scope of the Honors College as it bolsters resources to provide student scholarships, increases academic services and funds community service work.

“Private giving enables the Honors College to set the imagination of our students afire,” Heaven said. 

The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College attracts a diverse body of high-performing students to the university and prepares citizen scholars to lead. For the 2018-19 academic year, the Honors College enrolled a record 1,605 students, a 7.2 percent increase over last year’s class. Almost 56 percent of the freshmen are Mississippians.

Established in 1997 through a gift from the Jim Barksdale family, the Honors College merges intellectual rigor with community action. It offers an education similar to prestigious private liberal arts schools and universities, but at a far lower cost. Small, discussion-based classes, dedicated faculty and a nurturing staff enable honors students to experience intellectual and personal growth.

“It is evident that the faculty and staff are passionate about serving as catalysts for their students, and they believe in the power of their work,” said Heaven, who earned a bachelor’s degree in history and religion/theology from Stillman College in 2012, as well as a master’s degree in education and doctorate in higher education leadership from the University of Texas in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

After graduating from Stillman, he worked as a development assistant, director of IE Kuhn Scholars and coordinator of the Gateway Scholars and Summer Bridge programs in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement at the University of Texas. In 2017, he joined the University of Florida advancement staff as associate director of donor engagement.

Heaven will be of great value to the UM development staff and to the university as a whole, said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development.

“We are excited to welcome Anthony onboard,” she said. “Given his background and experience in development, we have great expectations for what he can help the Honors College do.”

As an undergraduate, Heaven was a McNair Scholar, Harte Honors Scholar and Presidential Scholar. He is a member of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

In his free time, he enjoys kayaking, traveling, music, spoken-word, reading and connecting with family and friends.

“I am excited to be a member of the Ole Miss family,” he said. “I look forward to building meaningful connections and helping move the institution to even greater heights.”

To make gifts to the university, go to https://give.olemiss.edu/.

Books and Bears Bids Farewell to Its Father Christmas

Retiring administrator Donald Cole attends his 21st and final toy distribution for employee families

Donald Cole smiles as he takes photographs on his personal camera Friday at the Books and Bears distribution of toys for employees’ families. Cole, who co-founded the event and has emceed for the past 20 years, is retiring in January 2019. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Twenty-one years ago, Donald Cole volunteered to emcee the first Books and Bears program at the University of Mississippi. Each second Friday in December since, the associate provost and associate professor of mathematics has been “Father Christmas” to Facilities Management Department employees gathered to collect free gifts for their children and grandchildren.

The occasion was joyous, as usual, but smiles mingled with tears Friday (Dec. 14) as Cole, who retires Jan. 15, 2019, attended the event for his last time.

Underneath festive lighting and with seasonal music playing in the background, UM employees gathered in Fulton Chapel for the distribution. The floor area in front of the stage was filled with books to the left, bears to the right and toys front and center.

“Standing before this distinguished crowd gives me great pleasure, because they consist of friends and colleagues of a lifetime,” Cole said.

Sponsored by the campus Black Faculty and Staff Organization, the charitable event annually distributes hundreds of new teddy bears, children’s books and toys donated by Ole Miss faculty, staff, students and alumni during the last three weeks of the fall semester. This year, the number of presents donated reached a new record.

Without a doubt, there has been a number of most fulfilling times,” Cole said. “They have occurred when so many others joined the Book and Bears team to make this event happen. They have occurred when a department or unit accepted the challenge to optimize their giving far beyond the normal expectations.

A Black Faculty and Staff Organization volunteer passed dolls to two happy Books and Bears recipients. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“It occurs every time I sit back and watch the final set-up of thousands of dollars of gifts donated in love by hundreds of individuals – many of whom could easily use the gifts themselves.”

Cole, along with Janice Murray, associate dean of liberal arts and professor of art, organized the first Books and Bears in 1997 in response to what they saw as a need to help custodial staff provide Christmas gifts to their children. Spread by word-of-mouth only, the initial response to the call for donations was overwhelming.

“We wanted the staff’s children to have the books for literary development and the bears for nurturing purposes,” Murray said. “People have been responding generously ever since. Somehow, there’s always been enough so no one left empty-handed. It’s truly amazing.”

Cole agreed.

“There has not been one single year in the 20-plus years of Books and Bears there have not been ample gifts donated to accommodate every single attendee of the program,” he said.

Black Faculty and Staff Organization members expressed their appreciation to Cole for his continuing leadership and assistance in obtaining toys and books for the children.

“Dr. Cole has aided the building of generations,” said Jacqueline Certion, assistant director of the FASTrack Program in the College of Liberal Arts. “I cannot thank him enough for his guidance as a professional at the university and as to how to as help better mankind.

“He is the truest example of a servant leader. I thank him for taking me under wings and then trusting me to fly.”

Cole summed up his experience with the program.

“Books and Bears is more than an event – it’s a spirit,” Cole said. “A spirit that will continue long beyond you and me. Its characters will change. Its format will vary. Perhaps its name might be altered, but its spirit will remain.”

The stage in front of Fulton Chapel was loaded with book, bears and toys awaiting new owners during the 21st annual Books and Bears event. Photo by Megan Wolfe / Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Sharon Nichols Joins Small Business Center as State Director

New leader brings seven years' experience from Oklahoma center

Sharon Nichols

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Small Business Development Center has hired Sharon Nichols as the organization’s new state director.

The MSBDC state office is housed on the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus and is administered through a partnership with the School of Business Administration.

“We are thrilled to have Sharon join our team in the SBDC in this leadership role,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the Ole Miss business school. “We have an excellent center with experienced, capable and dedicated staff who fulfill the mission of helping transform Mississippi’s businesses, and Sharon brings experience and passion to help expand the success we have enjoyed.

“I believe the future is bright for the MSBDC under her leadership and I look forward to the impact we will have in the future on Mississippi businesses and the economy.”

Nichols brings more than seven years’ experience with the Oklahoma SBDC, where she served the last three years as assistant state director. She succeeds interim director Judy Forester, who resumes her position as associate state director.

“I am so grateful for the outstanding job Judy Forester did as interim director,” Nichols said. “Her leadership has been invaluable to the program and cannot be overstated.

“I truly believe in the mission of the SBDC, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact it can have on people’s lives. Mississippi has such a strong program and I am excited to be part of this team and help prepare our centers for a successful future.”

Nichols received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MBA specializing in organizational leadership and change management from Northeastern State University. Her certifications include Economic Development Finance Professional, Professional in Human Resources and Certification in Technology Commercialization.

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the MSBDC provides services and support at no charge to any Mississippian who wants to start a small business or is looking to grow an existing business.

Comprising seven regional centers across the state, the MSBDC offers a wealth of knowledge and information via trained counselors with backgrounds in banking, finance and business development. For a list of available workshops and counselors in your area, see http://www.mssbdc.org or call 800-725-7232 in Mississippi.

Lengthy Pretrial Incarceration Continues in Mississippi Jails

Database creators urge Legislature to establish uniform system of reporting lockup data

The Mississippi office of the MacArthur Justice Center is housed in the UM School of Law. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The vast majority of the 5,534 men and women detained in local Mississippi jails are not serving sentences for criminal convictions but instead are awaiting their day in court to face charges, and nearly half the detainees have been in jail for more than 90 days.

Those are among the findings made available to the public by the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law. The updated version of the center’s comprehensive database identifies the 5,534 detainees in Mississippi’s county and regional jails and can be accessed at https://msjaildata.com/.

The initial version of the database, released in April 2018, identified 7,193 such detainees. Besides the names of those held in jail, the database provides dates of arrest, charges against each detainee, the amount of time each person has been in jail, average length of detention in each Mississippi county and a comparison of the April and November databases. The information used to create the database was obtained directly from “jail lists” produced by Mississippi sheriffs pursuant to court rules.

Cliff Johnson, director of the MacArthur Justice Center’s Mississippi office, expressed continued concern regarding lengthy pretrial incarceration.

“Our database confirms that long-term pretrial incarceration of poor Mississippians, attributable primarily to improper and illegal use of the money bail system, continues to be a significant problem that costs counties millions of dollars.” Johnson said. “Our estimate is that Mississippi counties collectively are paying between $80 million and $100 million each year to lock up people who have not yet been convicted of any crime.”

A search of the database reveals that more than 2,600 people have been detained in local jails for longer than 90 days. Of those, 1,603 have been held for longer than 180 days, 1,035 for longer than 270 days, and 675 for longer than a year.

Johnson explained that lengthy periods of pretrial incarceration is of particular concern in Mississippi and is due, at least in part, to a combination of factors unique to the state.

“In addition to the widespread illegal and improper use of money bail, other significant factors are that grand juries meet infrequently in Mississippi’s many rural counties, and that prosecutors across the state, for a variety of reasons, often are slow to present cases to the grand jury,” Johnson said.

“There is no limit in Mississippi on how long a person can be held prior to indictment, so detainees can wait up to a year or more before even being formally charged with a crime. They wait months after that for their trial date.”

The MacArthur Justice Center has asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to adopt a rule limiting the amount of time a person can be held in jail before indictment, but the court has declined to do so.

While the updated database shows a 24 percent decrease in the jail population since the April report, there is no clear explanation for the change.

“I believe the decrease is attributable, at least in part, to our public disclosure of information regarding the people locked up in our jails coupled with recent litigation in Mississippi reminding judges and other participants in the criminal justice system of what the law says about the proper use of money bail and the illegality of incarcerating poor folks for unpaid fines and fees,” Johnson said.

“I also credit the new Mississippi Rules of Criminal Procedure adopted by the Mississippi Supreme Court last year.”

The new data show that several counties have reduced their jail population since the center’s first report. Among those are:

  • Desoto – from 519 to 219
  • Harrison – from 1,106 to 882
  • Lauderdale – from 245 to 140
  • Lincoln – from 150 to 65

Despite the downward trend, the jail population in some counties increased over the same period. Those include:

  • Hancock – from 124 to 185
  • Hinds – from 625 to 667
  • Leflore – from 86 to 136

The available data does not show whether detainees are awaiting trial, have yet to be indicted, are waiting for mental health evaluation or treatment, or have been convicted and are waiting to be transported to a state prison, Johnson emphasized.

“At this point, we can only provide limited ‘snapshots’ of Mississippi’s jail population at different points in time,” he said. “We urge the Mississippi Legislature to require the implementation of a uniform statewide system of reporting jail data that is available to the public and provides comprehensive real-time information about who is in our county jails and why.

“This tool would enable judges, lawyers, legislators, politicians and the public to make informed decisions regarding how best to make certain that our criminal justice system is efficient and fair.”

“Jail data available to everyone is a valuable tool in our struggle to reform the criminal justice system,” said Andre DeGruy, state defender for Mississippi. “Research shows that people who are in jail pretrial are more likely to get convicted and receive longer sentences for the same crimes as those who are not incarcerated pretrial.

“They are also more likely to need the services of a public defender than the person who can get out and go to work while awaiting trial. Excessive pretrial detention strains every part of the system.

“Being able to see who’s in jail and how long they have been serving allows us to shine a light on the dark places in our system and can facilitate error correction, whether that means getting the person moved to state custody, a mental health facility or back home.”

Gipsy Escobar, director of research at Measures for Justice in Rochester, New York, has reviewed the new database. Measures for Justice works across the country to develop a data-driven set of performance measures to assess and compare the criminal justice process from arrest to post-conviction on a county-by-county basis.

“The MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Mississippi School of Law has done tremendous work to collect jail data, literally by hand,” Escobar said. “Absent any other information about jails in Mississippi, this is the best we have.

“However, as MJC acknowledges, the data may not be uniformly collected or defined. Thus this terrific effort brings to the fore the urgent need for collecting uniform jail and local criminal justice data in Mississippi in pursuit of ever more reliable measurement.”

The Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review, known as the PEER Committee, recently issued a report addressing the lack of comprehensive jail data in Mississippi and recommending that the Legislature create a uniform statewide system of reporting jail data.

The report, referring extensively to the efforts of the MacArthur Justice Center, concluded that such information would assist policymakers in making economic decisions regarding incarceration.

“The extended imprisonment of thousands of Mississippians who have not been convicted of a crime is unacceptable,” Johnson said. “Rarely is any effort made to determine whether the release of these pretrial detainees would actually put the public at risk, and current pretrial incarceration practices cost Mississippi counties a fortune.

“We must reform this system that forces Americans to pay cash for their freedom and permits the government to lock people up for months before being formally charged with a crime and getting their day in court.”

The Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center is a public interest law firm with offices in Chicago at Northwestern Law School, St. Louis, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Oxford at the UM School of Law. The MacArthur Justice Center litigates a wide range of civil rights cases, with particular emphasis in the area of criminal justice. For more information, go to https://www.macarthurjustice.org/.

Military Student Works with Nonprofit to Raise Money for UM Veterans

Walkers for Warriors group gives back to Ole Miss through 'Walking Dead' cosplay enterprise

Nicholas Roylance is a theatre arts major at the University of Mississippi, a disabled military veteran and a member of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit organization that raises money for military veteran students at Ole Miss. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Four years ago, University of Mississippi student Nicholas Roylance was injured in training exercises during his time as an active duty member of the United States Army. That accident during drills left Roylance wounded, angry and searching for his path in life.

Roylance eventually found his place at Ole Miss, pursuing a career in acting while using his talents, in partnership with a start-up nonprofit, to help raise money for veterans like himself.

“I signed up for the military because I wanted to do my part for the country, but I also wanted to live after that,” Roylance said. “I found my (outlet) in my art: acting. I want to change the stigma surrounding veterans, that they can be seen as humans and seen as artists.”

Roylance, originally from San Francisco, generally sports long black hair, usually topped by a black baseball cap. He often carries a smattering of facial hair and wears a black leather jacket.

Fans of the AMC series “Walking Dead” can paint a perfect mental image of Roylance by picturing the character Daryl Dixon.

Nicholas Roylance (left) and Gene Russell (right) have a photo taken with a fan at a ‘Walking Dead’ cosplay convention. Roylance, a UM theatre arts major, and Russell are members of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit that raises money for military veteran causes. Submitted photo

Roylance is one of the “team leaders” of Walkers for Warriors, a nonprofit that raises money at “Walking Dead” cosplay conventions to help fund services that benefit veterans at the university. The Walker Stalker cosplay conventions are hosted in cities around the world to give fans opportunities to interact with cast members as well as costume experts, such as Roylance, who are adept at portraying characters from the acclaimed show.

Walkers for Warriors’ first major donation to the university was for last month’s Ole Miss Wish. The organization gave $7,500 to the family of Ole Miss Wish Kid Benjamin Clark to go to Disney World.

Clark, son of Mississippi Air National Guard 172nd Airlift Wing chaplain Maj. Caleb Clark, is in remission from B-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

Roylance’s story does not include a trip overseas and a return home with medals signifying valor in combat.

“My service is very tragic,” he said. “I got hurt and a lot of people had to take over and deploy for me.”

Roylance’s consideration of soldiers and their lives after service led to his eventual involvement with Walkers for Warriors, an organization that allows him to give back to fellow veterans while taking advantage of his natural appearance and his acting ability.

But Roylance didn’t set out to be a cosplay star; instead, he wished to become a TV and film actor. That dream started when he was young, but it grew intense as an adult as he tried to find an outlet for his post-service frustrations.

“When I came out of the military, I was angry at everybody,” he said. “I had nothing to do and no one to yell at, and then acting and cosplay gave me a purpose.”

Roylance, who has appeared in a couple of movies, is majoring in theatre arts at Ole Miss. Acting created a natural outlet for Roylance to get into cosplay, he said.

“I love acting because I get to be somebody else,” Roylance said. “Cosplay was a cheap and easy way to start acting while putting smiles on people’s faces.

“As an actor, I want people to enjoy my work, but if you’re telling me I can just dress up in costume and make someone smile? Sign me up.”

It was at a “Walking Dead” cosplay convention in Atlanta in February 2018 where fate would have Roylance meet his future Walkers for Warriors partner Gene Russell.

Roylance, who portrays Daryl Dixon, and Russell, who is a spitting image of character Negan, had both wrapped up appearances as their respective characters when they happened to share a table and start talking. They began working together at conventions, and Russell told Roylance that he had created a nonprofit for wounded veterans, but it had never really gotten off the ground.

“The idea sat dormant, but when Nick and I first met, he explained that he was a disabled veteran,” said Russell, an insurance adjuster from Atlanta. “I said, ‘I have this nonprofit for disabled veterans; why don’t we start gearing (cosplay) for the benefit of veterans?'”

“The fact that we even found each other and said, ‘hello’ is remarkable,” Roylance said.

Gene Russell (left) and Nicholas Roylance raise money for the nonprofit Walkers for Warriors by portraying ‘Walking Dead’ characters Negan and Daryl Dixon, respectively. Roylance is an Ole Miss student majoring in theatre arts. Photo by David Yerby

Roylance and Russell felt that veterans organizations around the country could do more to directly help those they serve.

The two began working with Mary Loveland, director of Walkers for Warriors, and daughter Grace Loveland, president. The nonprofit gives money it raises to veterans services, with the sole beneficiary being Ole Miss.

The group raises money through interaction with fans, who come to meet the celebrity look-a-likes, have photos taken and purchase prints and other merchandise.

The partnership between Walkers for Warriors and the university allows services to be provided to student veterans on the “ground floor,” said Andrew Newby, UM assistant director of veteran and military services.

“Walkers for Warriors does wonderful things that deliver tangible results immediately, as opposed to other larger groups that provide things for nameless, faceless veterans,” Newby said. “Walkers for Warriors benefits real veterans in our community, on our campus and in the Ole Miss family.”

The link between the nonprofit and Ole Miss was an obvious one, according to its founders.

“The partnership with the University of Mississippi seemed like a perfect fit,” Mary Loveland said. “Nicholas, being a student veteran, was clearly the impetus for the relationship and has continued to work diligently to develop and enhance the partnership.

“The SVA program at University of Mississippi is extraordinary and, in my opinion, should be emulated throughout the university level in this country.”

Eventually, Walkers for Warriors may expand its benefactors to other universities or organizations, but for now, its sights are set on even bigger impacts for Ole Miss, Roylance said.

“Right now, we are working on compiling thousands of dollars, because the next donation we want to be super-substantial,” Roylance said. “We want to give Andrew enough money to say, ‘Wow, I can do anything I need.'”

Newby said he already has plans in mind.

“We are hopeful that as we gain more space on campus in the future, we will be able to partner with Walkers for Warriors in outfitting a dedicated one-stop-shop for our military-connected students,” he said. “As we see growth in terms of veterans coming to campus, we will need more space and personnel to accommodate these wonderful students, and the partnership with Walkers for Warriors will make this vision a reality.”

For Roylance himself, the goal remains an acting career. He hopes to continue his studies at Ole Miss and eventually move back to his home state of California to pursue a serious film and television career.

Anyone interested in supporting Walkers for Warriors can visit https://www.walkersforwarriors.com/. There, guests can contact members of the nonprofit to find information on cosplay convention schedules or donate.

Biomedical Engineering Program Soaring

Three new professors join faculty as student enrollment steadily climbs

A group of chemical engineering majors compare data collections from an experiment in their chemical engineering lab. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – With the addition of three faculty members and growing student enrollment, the new biomedical engineering program at the University of Mississippi continues its impressive rise.

In its second year, the program has 105 students and three new full-time faculty positions. David Puleo, who became dean of the School of Engineering in August, is also a biomedical engineer.

“The rapid growth of our biomedical engineering program demonstrates the desire for this discipline in Mississippi,” Puleo said. “With a greying population and increasing life expectancy in the U.S., the application of engineering principles to drive discovery of new knowledge in the life sciences and development of advanced biomedical technologies is increasingly important.”

The Bachelor of Science program offers students a choice of three tracks: bioinformatics, biomedical systems and biomolecular.

The program capitalizes on the school’s existing strengths to prepare engineering students to meet the expected demand in biomedical industries in Mississippi and across the nation. It also provides additional human resources for the practice of medicine and to address public health issues.

The goal is to enhance the state’s biomedical workforce with top-notch students, Puleo said. Graduates will be able to pursue employment in biomedical or related industries, graduate studies in biomedical engineering or related disciplines, and professional careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or patent law.

“The collaborative nature of the disciple will also promote interaction between departments within the school, across the Oxford campus and with the Medical Center in Jackson,” he said. “We have great expectations for the new Ole Miss biomedical engineering program.”

Catherine Klaire (center) and Lauren Hale work together on a chemical engineering lab project. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Dana Nicole “Nikki” Reinemann-Goss, Thomas Werfel and Glenn Walker joined the university’s faculty this fall to bolster the program. Reinemann-Goss is an assistant professor of biomedical engineering and chemical engineering. Werfel is an assistant professor of chemical engineering and biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy. Walker is an associate professor of biomedical engineering and electrical engineering.

All three bring years of research experience and teaching to their positions.

Werfel earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Murray State University, and his master’s and doctoral degrees in biomedical engineering, both from Vanderbilt University. Werfel, who teaches Biomaterials, Immunoengineering and Drug and Gene Delivery, said he hopes to develop more electives for upperclassmen and graduate students over the next few years.

Before joining the Ole Miss faculty in July 2018, Walker helped establish the biomedical engineering program at North Carolina State University, when he began his academic tenure in 2004.

Reinemann-Goss earned bachelor’s degrees in chemical engineering and chemistry from UM in 2013 and her doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from Vanderbilt University in May.

Other administrators in the School of Engineering applauded the hires.

“Dr. Werfel brings some exciting research, which dovetails nicely with that done by Dr. Adam Smith,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “Their collaborations should prove very productive and raise their national visibility.”

The university is particularly fortunate to have a senior-level researcher such as Walker for the biomedical engineering program, said Dwight Waddell, program director.

“Dr. Walker brings years of experience as both a veteran researcher and a highly skilled educator. A new program like biomedical engineering strongly benefits from the addition of such a senior-level faculty member.”

Hiring Reinemann-Goss was also a “rare opportunity,” Waddell said.

“Not only is she incredibly qualified, having graduated with her Ph.D. from a prestigious biomedical engineering program at Vanderbilt, she comes to us already attuned to life at Ole Miss and Oxford,” he said.

“Dr. Reinemann-Goss has expertise in biomolecular engineering, which will be immediately put to use through a shared research agenda with multiple departments on campus, including biochemistry, biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy, as well as chemical engineering. We are thrilled to have her back, and we hope it still feels like home.”

For more information about the UM biomedical engineering program, visit https://engineering.olemiss.edu/biomedical/.