Professor, State Organization Win Grant to Improve Pharmacy Practice

Money will fund workshop to develop ways to boost ambulatory care in state

Anastasia Jenkins

OXFORD, Miss. – Anastasia Jenkins, a clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Mississippi, recently accepted a grant from the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists Foundation on behalf of the Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists. It’s part of efforts to advance and improve pharmacy practice and ambulatory care in Mississippi.

ASHP’s Ambulatory Care State Affiliate Workshop grant will support a workshop for pharmacy leaders to share ideas about how the state can improve the pharmacy care it provides. As part of the workshop, a representative from ASHP will present information to attendees about what is needed to develop an action plan and identify top areas of potential impact.

The grant is part of a project called the Pharmacy Advancement Initiative. PAI was started by ASHP to guide pharmacists across the country in how to improve the practice of pharmacy, particularly surrounding ambulatory care.

Jenkins, who also is president-elect of the Mississippi Society of Health-System Pharmacists, said she is thrilled to have a member of ASHP help implement the project in the state.

“The opportunity to have someone invested in supporting us and sharing in our successes is fantastic, and we are so grateful to the ASHP Foundation for this opportunity,” Jenkins said.

Although the leader of this workshop has yet to be identified, ASHP will appoint someone who fits Mississippi’s needs and who has proven success in implementing a similar ambulatory care PAI in his or her state. That person will guide MSHP in implementing its initiative over the next year.

“The ASHP Foundation has been instrumental in helping to advance the practice of pharmacy nationally,” said Josh Fleming, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy practice and co-chair with Jenkins of the MSHP task force that determined the workshop as the best course of action. “This grant will help us go even further in advancing pharmacy practice in Mississippi, especially in the ambulatory and community settings.”

The workshop, which will be held at the MSHP annual meeting next summer, also will focus on establishing practice sites and collaborative practice agreements, competency and credentialing, billing for services, and tracking and documenting clinical outcomes.

After the workshop, $2,000 from ASHP will go toward activities that promote pharmacy practice advancement in Mississippi. These activities will be determined by the ASHP presenter, the MSHP task force and workshop attendees.

Law Firm Challenge Created to Increase Alumni Giving

Businesses that achieve 100 percent participation get trophies, recognition

Robert C. Khayat Law Center. Photo by Robert Jordan/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Alumni of the University of Mississippi School of Law have a new way to feed their competitive side while giving back to their alma mater with the school’s newest initiative.

The UM Law Firm Challenge encourages 20 Mississippi law firms to reach 100 percent giving participation from alumni within the firm.

“During my time as dean, it has been evident that Ole Miss law alumni are very loyal and supportive of the law school, so I know that they will respond well to this initiative,” said Susan Duncan, dean of the school. “We are excited to see which firms come out on top.”

The goal of the competition is to increase the giving rate among the school’s 7,000 alumni, which runs about 4.4 percent. By increasing giving participation, alumni can help provide the school with vital scholarship and operational funds that will benefit our students during their legal education.

“We are at a time when private support is essential for law students,” said Suzette Matthew, development officer for the School of Law. “As we continue to transition into the new world of law practice and legal education, the law school’s success depends significantly on our generous donors.”

The challenge began July 1 and runs through June 30, 2018. Gifts can be made to any UM Law Fund, and gifts already given during these dates will be included.

Firms that reach 100 percent giving participation will receive a trophy, recognition on the school’s website and recognition in the alumni newsletter.

An incentive to reach full participation as quickly as possible also is in place. The challenge has been divided into four categories: firms with 41 or more alumni, firms with 11-40 alumni, firms with 3-10 alumni and other entities, which includes offices with Ole Miss law alumni that are not law firms.

The firm that reaches 100 percent first in its category will receive a personalized trophy and premium placement on the school’s website and the alumni newsletter.

To take the challenge, contact Carol Mockbee at or Suzette Matthews at For more information, visit

UM Music Majors Fare Well in Statewide Competition

Christopher Scott won his category at the Mississippi Music Teachers National Association Competition

Adam Estes (left) congratulates Christopher Scott on Scott’s win in the Young Artist Solo Woodwind category at the Mississippi MTNA Competition. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Several University of Mississippi music majors competed at the annual Mississippi Music Teachers National Association Competition recently at Millsaps College in Jackson, with one student taking top honors in his category.

Christopher Scott, a senior music major, won the Young Artist Solo Woodwind Performance category. This win advances him to compete in the Southern Division MTNA Young Artist Woodwind Competition representing Ole Miss in January at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

“I’m extremely excited to represent myself, the University of Mississippi music department and the state of Mississippi in a positive light,” said Scott, a New Albany native. “Winning the Young Artist Solo Woodwind Performance portion proved to me that hard work, consistency and determination does indeed pay off, and that is something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.”

Scott performed four pieces during his winning performance, including works by Giovanni Benedetto Platti and Takashi Yoshimatsu.

“Every member of the music faculty here at the University of Mississippi has been valuable to helping me prepare for this audition,” Scott said. He particularly credited Adam Estes, assistant professor of music, and Stacy Rodgers, associate professor of music, with being significant in his growth and maturation as a musician.

Other institutions competing at the event were the University of Southern Mississippi, Mississippi State University and Jones County Junior College.

Besides Scott’s win, the Ole Miss Saxophone Quartet received an Honorable Mention in the Woodwind Chamber Music Competition, and Austin Brooks earned an Honorable Mention in the Senior Woodwind Solo Performance.

Estes said he believes that Scott and Brooks both peaked in their competition performances, and that the rest of the Ole Miss students who performed represented themselves and the university well.

“I am proud of all the students who competed, both those who received placings and those who did not,” Estes said. “For the students, receiving medals and honors help validate the work that they are doing.

“The goal of every competition is to win, but in my opinion, the process of preparing a full program of music: the day-in and day-out work of developing skills, score study, becoming a better ensemble mate, exploring and trying out new interpretive ideas, and learning more effective strategies in rehearsing with collaborators – this is the goal.”

‘Just Mercy’ Panel Sparks Restorative Justice Discussion at UM

Legal studies department and Common Reading Experience host 250 students for program

Roughly 250 students attended the ‘Just Mercy’ panel discussion hosted by the Department of Legal Studies and the UM Common Reading Experience. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – “Is it the water that needs to be changed, or is it the fish? I think it is the water that needs to be changed,” said Joseph Holiday, an inmate at the Marshall County Correctional Center.

Holiday’s question regarding the high rate of recidivism in Mississippi’s prison system elicited applause from the 250 students attending the recent panel discussion hosted by the University of Mississippi Department of Legal Studies and the Common Reading Experience about social issues and problems in the criminal justice system. The issue is the focus of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” this year’s universitywide common reading book.

Twelve inmates from the Marshall County Correctional Center joined the event via Skype to share their insights from the book, having completed a study of it through restorative justice classes with Linda Keena, event facilitator and interim legal studies department chair.

Panelists included Patrick Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American studies and co-founder of the UM Prison-to-College Pipeline program; Randall Rhodes, chief juvenile officer for the 32nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri and adjunct legal studies instructor; and Patricia Doty, deputy warden of security operations at the Marshall County Correctional Center.

The final panelist was Terun Moore. Originally sentenced as a juvenile to life without parole, Moore was paroled in October after serving 19 years. He was able to appeal for parole thanks to “Just Mercy” author Bryan Stevenson’s winning argument to the Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama that life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for juveniles.

“This has been a great motivation to each and every one of us,” Moore said. “We have learned through our restorative justice class that the things we did to our victims took away from them the power that they once had and instilled fear instead.

“We’ve learned to how to take responsibility for that. We want to thank Dr. Keena and Warden Doty, who have been very supportive of us. This class has been wonderful.”

Restorative justice is a sentencing philosophy wherein the focus isn’t on the perpetrator and how to punish him or her. The focus is on the victims and what would make them feel whole, Keena said.

“We work with the institutions to teach the offenders to recognize their responsibility, to quit blaming other people for their wrongdoings and then provide them opportunities to make amends for their harm to society,” she said.

Alexander described the UM Prison-to-College Pipeline classes he teaches at Parchman. The program, a university-community engagement initiative, promotes higher education in prison in response to rising rates of incarceration, high-cost punishment and recidivism in the state.

Ole Miss joins Mississippi College, Millsaps University and Jackson State University in providing classes, supplies, books and professors to teach incarcerated people.

“This is an investment in our shared citizenship,” said Alexander, citing the high rate of illiteracy among incarcerated people. “It saves taxpayer dollars. Education, particularly higher education, reduces recidivism.

“There is a much greater chance these people who have taken these restorative justices classes will do well when they are back out in society.”

Twelve inmates from the Marshall County Correctional Facility joined the event via Skype with host Melissa Dennis, of the UM Common Reading Experience (left); facilitator Linda Keena, legal studies department chair (second from left); and panelists Patrick Alexander, assistant professor of English and African American studies and co-founder of the UM Prison-to-College Pipeline Program; Randall Rhodes, chief juvenile officer for the 32nd Judicial Circuit of Missouri and adjunct legal studies instructor; Patricia Doty, deputy warden of security operations at the Marshall County Correctional Center; and Terun Moore, a recent parolee. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

Rhodes talked about the school-to-prison pipeline he combats through grant-funded detention alternative programming that diverts juveniles into community engagement before they end up in prison as adults. He discussed the growing number of children in foster care due to parents’ drug abuse and skyrocketing elementary school suspension rates affecting a disproportionate number of children of color.

“I want to warn you that this bubble of foster care youth and this bubble of elementary suspension kids is a problem,” Rhodes said. “It is really something we have to watch. Stevenson’s idea of a constantly moving target where racial biases come in – now it has moved to this elementary suspension zone.”

Improving the way courts and society consider mitigating factors, such as previous abuse and mental health issues, became an important talking point for the panelists.

In Doty’s years in the criminal justice system, inmates have shared a common thread of substance abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or mental health problems, she said. Society would rather not address these problems because people don’t understand them and are afraid, she said.

“Substance abuse contributes to a significant amount of crimes in the U.S., and a significant number of those folks are people of color,” Doty said. “White people have a more significant substance abuse problem, yet people of color are more often incarcerated.”

Rhodes encouraged students to volunteer time with vulnerable children to help keep them out of prison.

“With all my years in grant programs, I’ve always told my officers (that) it really doesn’t matter what you spend time doing with these children, but that you’re right there beside them spending time with them, showing enthusiasm for whatever you’re doing together,” he said. “Whatever you have to offer is important.

“The kids are going to get something out of it – an attachment with an adult who cares about them. So go for it. Go out there and do it.”

The evening ended with the men from the Marshall County Correctional Center thanking Ole Miss students, faculty and staff for the opportunity to connect.

“Let everyone know, the people there in the audience, you all are the future and cornerstone of changing the mindset of how incarcerated people are viewed in the United States,” said Joseph Holiday of New Orleans.

“The worst prison is what a lot of people are dealing with right now – the prison inside the mind. Many people are held captive to their old prejudices, biases and other things that aren’t conducive to our human development. We want to ask you all to lay down your past biases about those incarcerated and look at the soul and mindset of the individual that can be cultivated.”

For more information about the UM criminal justice program, email or visit

UM Museum Unveils 2017 Keepsake Ornament

This year's design features popular 19th century scientific instrument

The UM Museum’s 2017 keepsake ornament featuring Barlow’s Planetarium is available for purchase. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum has unveiled its 17th annual keepsake ornament, a design featuring the Barlow’s Planetarium, part of the collection of antique scientific instruments on display at the museum.

The planetarium, also known as an orrery, has a storied history with Ole Miss. Designer Thomas H. Barlow of Lexington, Kentucky, who created and sold several of these instruments to universities and museums throughout the United States, made the university’s orrery in 1854.

The ornaments alternate annually between highlights of the museum’s 20,000-object permanent collection, campus landmarks and sites around Oxford, said Robert Saarnio, museum director.

“This mid-19th century astronomical model occupies a place of great prominence in the museum’s exhibition galleries and is a much-beloved historical artifact of countless museum visitors,” Saarnio said. “All ornament sales proceeds directly support programs of the University Museum, and we are very grateful to those campus and community members for whom these collectibles are eagerly-awaited annual Museum Store offerings.”

In the late 1850s, Chancellor F.A.P. Barnard, who also served as chair and professor of mathematics, astronomy and natural philosophy, purchased the orrery for the university. The orrery and other scientific instruments were used in classrooms and laboratories until they became obsolete in the 1870s.

The planetarium aligns the planets based on a specific date. At the museum, the date is set to Nov. 7 1848, the day the university first opened its doors to students.

The Barlow’s Planetarium commemorative ornament is available for $25, plus tax. It can be purchased in the Museum Store or by phone with a credit card at 662-915-7073. A flat $7 shipping and handling fee will be added to all orders to be shipped within the 48 contiguous states, and all sales are final.

Orders must be placed by Dec. 13 to arrive in time for Christmas Day.

Collectible ornaments from previous years still available in the Museum Store include the Old Skipwith House, Brandt Memory House, Ventress Hall, Lafayette County Courthouse, Oxford City Hall, the Ole Miss Women’s Basketball Jersey, Theora Hamblett House, Theora Hamblett’s “Christmas Trees,” Walk of Champions, Oxford’s Double Decker Bus and the Herakles Neck Amphora. All previous year’s ornaments are $20, plus tax.

Museum members and Friends of the Museum receive a 10 percent discount on all merchandise in the Museum Store. 

The University Museum is at the corner of University Avenue and Fifth Street. Holiday Hours for the Museum Store are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, and 10a.m.-6p.m. Saturdays.
Museum gallery visiting hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays.

For information about events and exhibits, visit

Medical Education Building to Be Named in Honor of Gov. Phil Bryant

Move recognizes leadership role and commitment to constructing facility

The new medical education building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center was dedicated in August 2017. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi has announced the naming of the medical education building at its Medical Center campus in Jackson in honor of Gov. Phil Bryant. The naming of Phil Bryant Medical Education Building became official today (Nov. 16) with approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

The new building – a 151,000-square-foot, $76 million state-of-the-art facility – was dedicated Aug. 4, 2017. Working with the Legislature, Gov. Bryant was instrumental in securing funding for the project, including $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding through the Mississippi Development Authority to launch the effort, as well as helping to secure $66 million in state bonds.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to bringing more physicians to Mississippi and to growing the state’s health care economy extends back to his term as lieutenant governor.

“Gov. Bryant has worked tirelessly over many years to ensure that the new medical education building would become a reality,” said Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor. “He recognized the vital need to train additional doctors as well as the tremendous impact this medical school will continue to have upon our state for generations to come.

“The new building and expanded classes will stand as a part of his legacy.”

At roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, Mississippi is the most medically underserved state in the nation. Addressing this issue has been one of the governor’s highest priorities. His commitment to increasing the state’s number of physicians was a focal point of his 2013 State of the State address in which he observed that having more providers will create better health care access for Mississippians, resulting in lower costs.

“This honor is incredibly humbling and unexpected, and I am so grateful,” Gov. Bryant said. “I will continue to serve the university and its medical community in every way possible in order to be deserving of this distinction.

“It is my hope that this wonderful new facility will help grow and sustain our ability to provide the best health care possible for the people of Mississippi.”

Medical school leaders began increasing class sizes several years ago in anticipation of the new building. With the opening of the facility last summer, the entering class size grew from around 145 students to 155 this year, and will eventually top off at approximately 165 – the size considered necessary to meet the goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

It is projected that the larger class sizes accommodated by the new facility will generate about $1.7 billion in economic impact by 2025 and that the additional physicians trained will support more than 19,000 new jobs by the same year. The economic impact of practicing UMMC-trained physicians is more than $6.3 billion annually, and those physicians are estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs in the state.

Governor Phil Bryant

“Gov. Bryant has been a great champion of the effort to build a new medical education building, which will ultimately lead to more physicians for Mississippi and greater access to health care for more of the state’s residents, particularly those in rural areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are extremely grateful for the governor’s exceptional leadership in helping us achieve our mission of training Mississippians to take care of Mississippians.”

Besides his central role in garnering funding for the new building, Gov. Bryant has more broadly supported medical education efforts in the state. During the 2012 legislative session, Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 317 into law to establish more medical residency programs throughout the state, a move intended to allow more Mississippi-trained physicians to remain in the state.

That same year, Gov. Bryant championed and signed legislation creating Health Care Industry Zones to spur expanded access to health care and grow health care jobs.

Gov. Bryant also has a longstanding history of leadership and advocacy in support of growing Mississippi’s health care economy, including two years of legislation that removed barriers to the full adoption of telehealth as a means of providing patient care. As a result, Mississippi has been recognized by the American Telemedicine Association as one of only nine states with an A-rating as a top state for telehealth.

UMMC also was recently designated one of only two Telehealth Centers of Excellence nationwide by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Gov. Bryant also was instrumental in passing the Health Care Collaboration Act, which will provide new opportunities for UMMC to partner with rural hospitals and others to further expand medical services. During his terms, the governor has also devoted significant support to growing the Mississippi Healthcare Corridor, which includes UMMC as an anchor institution.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to a healthier Mississippi is shared by first lady Deborah Bryant, whose career in health care spanned more than three decades. Health care is one of the pillars of her platform to improve the quality of life for Mississippians of all ages. 

She is active in a number of health-related causes, including serving as a board member for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, which honored her in 2014 as a recipient of the “Women of Excellence” Award. She is also a frequent volunteer at Batson Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ford Dye, member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning and an alumnus of the UM School of Medicine, praised Gov. Bryant for his commitment to improving medical education in the state.

When Gov. Bryant first came into office, he set as a top priority the need to increase the physician workforce in our state to provide quality health care for our citizens,” Dye said. “He led the way to obtain necessary funds to build this incredible new building, which will house the School of Medicine at UMMC.

“Without his strong leadership, this new building would not have been completed. We are grateful to Gov. Bryant for his vision and service to the people of this state and are delighted this building will be named in his honor.”

The new medical education building was designed and built to house the School of Medicine, which was originally in the Medical Center complex that opened in July 1955. Over the years, demands for space have grown, and, as the Medical Center expanded, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

“Naming the building housing the medical school after Gov. Bryant is a fitting tribute,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the health of all Mississippians and has pursued this goal with vision and passion. His vision will change the medical landscape of our state and help generations of Mississippians lead healthier lives.”

The medical education facility includes a cutting-edge simulation training area, which was made possible in part by grants totaling nearly $5 million from the Hearin Foundation. It is also equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

Located on the north side of campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the Phil Bryant Medical Education Building will house the educational core of the School of Medicine. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and Health Related Professions, along with the Bower School of Population Health in the new Translational Research Center.

University Hosts ‘Sorts-Giving’ to Support Game-day Recycling

Volunteers needed to help sort materials

Volunteers pick put recyclables as bags of material from the Grove are added to the conveyor belt. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Office of Sustainability is seeking faculty, staff and community member volunteers to help sort recycling collected from the Ole Miss-Texas A&M game.

The event, called “Sorts-Giving,” will take place at the Oxford Recycling Center from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 20 and Nov. 21. To sign up to volunteer, click here.

Sorting is a component of the university’s Green Grove game-day recycling program, which is operated by students, many of whom will be out of town on Thanksgiving break. In 2015, when “Sorts-Giving” last took place, UM employees diverted 1,400 pounds of recyclables from landfill.

“A primary focus of the Green Grove program is to provide an engaging and educational volunteer experience to continue to build the recycling program on campus,” said Ian Banner, university architect and director of sustainability and facilities planning. “This is an opportunity to have a direct impact on the university’s waste reduction efforts and to learn more about the recycling process in Oxford.”

Volunteers get a free T-shirt and can play a sorting-themed recycling bingo game for a chance to win prizes. Participants also will be entered to win a dozen Insomnia cookies for their office or department.

The Green Grove program was established in 2008, in collaboration with Landscape Services and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. It is managed by four student interns in the Office of Sustainability, a team of Green Grove ambassadors and hundreds of volunteers annually.

Last season, the program diverted 6.4 tons of recyclables from the landfill.

Music Faculty Members Release Album

Trio explores compositions of François Rossé for new recording

UM music faculty members Adam Estes (left), Stacy Rodgers and Amanda Johnston have released a new album of music by French composer François Rossé. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi music faculty members have released a new album of material by French composer François Rossé.

Adam Estes, assistant professor of music, is the lead performer on saxophone, accompanied on piano by Stacy Rodgers, professor of music, and Amanda Johnston, associate professor of music. “François Rossé: Métissage” is on the MSR Classics record label.

Rossé is considered avant-garde because of his distinctive techniques for playing instruments that break from tradition. Knowledge of contemporary music and training is essential to perform Rossé’s work, Estes said.

“I have devoted much of my creative energy to exploring Rossé’s music,” Estes said. “I hope that as this music becomes more fully integrated into the saxophone repertoire, familiarity will allow audiences to experience the expressive power of these unique compositions.”

Recording is essential to music research and scholarship, and Rossé’s music is Estes’ primary research interest. Releasing an album of the composer’s music has been a longtime goal, Estes said.

Estes also had an opportunity to interview and collaborate closely with Rossé in efforts to better understand the work and assist other musicians to perform the “dramatic and demanding music,” he said.

This album is Estes’ fourth; he has done two solo recordings and two with his quartet, the Assembly Quartet. This is the first album that Estes and Johnston have recorded together, but the second between Estes and Rodgers.

“I am very excited about the release of our album and was honored to be asked to play two pieces by François Rossé,” Johnston said.

She typically performs with singers and enjoyed changing things up a bit to perform two pieces of Rossé’s works, Johnson said.

“It is always a pleasure working with Adam Estes, who is a consummate musician and exciting performer,” she said.

Estes and Johnston are also both part of the 2017-18 Southeastern Conference Faculty Travel Grant Program. They traveled to the University of South Carolina, where Estes graduated, to perform a guest artist recital in September.

UM Social Work Students Discuss Justice with Lawmaker

Rep. Jay Hughes discusses policy affecting social work practice with students

State Rep. Jay Hughes urges undergraduate and graduate social work students to help the marginalized populations they represent by staying informed and engaged with local and state politics. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of social work undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Mississippi recently joined state Rep. Jay Hughes to discuss issues of social justice in social work in Mississippi and beyond.

“One vein of social work that does not get as much attention as direct social work practice with individuals, families and groups is macro social work practice,” said Daphne Cain, UM chair of social work.

“Macro practice includes social advocacy and policy development that advocates for individuals who find themselves among the most vulnerable in society. Social work advocacy engages not only in reflecting on the policies and decisions that are being made that impact the most vulnerable members of our communities, but also demands action when policies and decisions negatively impact marginalized groups disproportionately.”

The students were introduced to Hughes at Social Work Advocacy Day last semester, said Claire Griffin of Decatur, one of two students in the new doctoral program in social welfare.

“We were able to meet him and get a little insight into what is going on at the Capitol,” Griffin said. “He plays a big role in advocating for our social service agencies and their funding.

“When I’ve gone to the Capitol and listened to them discuss bills to be passed or not, he is an advocate for us, so to have him here is a blessing, really.”

Many people don’t understand social work’s commitment to advocacy for social justice, said Amy Fisher, assistant professor of social work and moderator for the event.

“You’ll find social workers proposing, lobbying and protesting all manner of policy and serving in all levels of government, employed at policy institutes and involved with legal advocacy, too,” Fisher said. “We’re really everywhere.”

Hughes emphasized to the students that state legislation and local ordinances, more often than federal legislation, affect the vulnerable populations social workers serve every day. Federal issues that politically divide the nation, such as immigration and abortion, distract voters from issues in their state and city that can be solved in a bi-partisan manner, he said.

“We tend to lose focus of civics and policy,” Hughes said. “Because of party identity, we fail to see that 99.9 percent of what affects us happens after Election Day, and it’s not in Washington by any stretch of the imagination.

“Policy is not at a federal level. It is what happens in Jackson, Mississippi, and Oxford, Mississippi.”

To illustrate, Hughes explained that 183 bills were signed into law last year in D.C., compared to 22,000 enacted on the state level and 500,000 signed into city ordinances.

The students discussed bills from the last legislative session that were defeated, in part, because of their professional organization’s vocal opposition, including House Bill 1425.

H.B. 1425 would have granted the governor power to make appointments to an Occupational Licensing Review Commission, affecting 26 state licensing boards, including the Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists.

Hughes joined the National Association of Social Work-Mississippi Chapter in opposing the bill and met with Ole Miss student members during the annual Social Work Advocacy Day in February at the state Capitol to discuss the bill’s potential ramifications.

“What is going to work is dealing with the problem – putting educated, trained social workers in charge of educating and training social workers who understand the root of poverty and the consequences of poverty,” Hughes said.

The group also discussed bills, such as H.B. 1523, that passed despite the professional organization’s opposition.

“H.B. 1523 is of great concern to social workers because the profession is focused on creating and advocating for social justice for all, regardless of age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or national origin,” Fisher said.

Hughes encouraged students to not be discouraged when bills are passed that they disagree with, but to instead get more engaged in local politics by attending Board of Aldermen meetings and writing their representatives when issues arise that affect their profession and the people they serve.

“Be informed, be engaged and be registered to vote,” he said.

Hughes explained that to make a difference in policy and be agents of change, students should share real, genuine, direct and brief concerns with their lawmakers, using social media and personal emails.

“Make it personal,” he advised. “Let me assure you, you will get a blanket response, but after a few people keep sending those kinds of emails, the politicians start having an ‘a-ha moment.’

“It is very difficult for a policy maker to appreciate (your client’s experience) if they’ve never dealt with it, unless you share it with them, and share it with them in a civil way; that is critical. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall, or if you fall in the middle, attacks result in closed ears, whether you are in your political, personal or religious life.”

Hughes warned students to pay close attention to local policy on the agenda ahead of city meetings to express concerns for their constituencies before it is too late.

He recounted a recent Board of Aldermen meeting where the lease for the only food pantry in Oxford was not renewed, resulting in The Pantry’s need to find a new home.

“The board had to vote because of growth issues, but that is affecting real life,” he said.

Hughes left the students with the charge to be a voice for the vulnerable populations they serve.

“No one will look out for the children you try to help unless they know the reality,” he said.

For more information about the UM Department of Social Work, visit or email

New Program Engages Students in Environmental Issues Close to Home

Students learning scientific process for observing health of local resources

Participants and faculty in the ‘Green Is the New Pink’ program spent a recent Saturday working and learning at the UM Field Station. On hand for the session were (front, from left) faculty members Angela Whaley, Ellen Shelton, Martha Tallent and Katie Szabo, students Mary Porter Fountain of Oxford; Michaela Anderson of Saltillo; and Alex Nagle, Claire Cizdziel, Srujana Murthy, Andreel Ward, Emory Elzie, Grace Wolff and Zoe Jones, all of Oxford, and (rear) Scott Knight, Field Station director. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Students involved in the University of Mississippi’s “Green Is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action” program recently spent a Saturday testing and observing water sources and trying their hand at electrofishing at the UM Field Station in northeastern Lafayette County.

“I like nature,” said Mary Porter Fountain, a ninth-grader at Oxford High School. “I think it’s interesting getting to learn about what plants and different species need to survive.”

This fall is the inaugural year for the new environmental program for girls in eighth through 12th grades. It is sponsored by grants from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s “Show Me” Campaign, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift.

Martha Tallent, an eighth-grade science teacher at Oxford Middle School, serves as a faculty member for the program.

“I feel like something happens between eighth and 10th grades where many students seem to lose interest in science,” Tallent said. “I want to teach our students to be risk-takers in science and to engage in several different scientific fields to see what interests them.

“There are so many disciplines and jobs in the various fields, and we want to expose them to the different options.”

A collaboration among the Office of Pre-College Programs, the UM Writing Project, the UM Field Station and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, the program is introducing students to real-world research strategies and generating curiosity about the natural environment.

The cross-disciplinary partnership between English and science is allowing students in the program to conduct their own research, create a project and deliver a presentation. They are guided through four field experiences of data collection, data exploration, analysis and interpretation of data, and drawing conclusions.

“I’m thinking about trying some of the water quality experiments on the ponds in my neighborhood,” Fountain said.

Oxford High ninth-grader Srujana Murthy said she is interested in looking at some invasive species growing around a local pond and possibly reintroducing native plants to bring native birds back to the area.

“That’s what happened at Strawberry Plains,” Murthy said. “The former owner planted several non-native plants around the home, and the hummingbirds stopped coming. Once they removed those and replanted with native species, they saw many hummingbirds return to the area.”

Srujana Murthy (left) and Claire Cizdziel try their hand at electrofishing under the guidance of Scott Knight, director of the UM Field Station, as part of the ‘Green is the New Pink’ environmental program. UM photo by Pam Starling

So far this fall, students have spent one Saturday in September at Strawberry Plains Environmental Center in Holly Springs. This month, they spent a Saturday studying the ecosystem at the Field Station.

In February, they will return to Strawberry Plains to examine the winter landscape and wildlife. Their final Saturday field experience will be at the Field Station in April to participate in environmental-awareness activities surrounding Earth Day.

The activities this month at the Field Station included testing the water quality of local streams and sampling the fish content through a process called electrofishing. This scientific tool involves sending a small electrical current into the stream that attracts the fish and makes them easier to catch. The different types of fish are recorded and then released.

“Comparing ecosystem integrity from one stream to another is just one tiny piece of what ecology is about,” said Scott Knight, Field Station director. “In our experiments, we were trying to test the integrity and sample the diversity to measure the health of the environment.”

Throughout the year, participants stay connected in their research and writing through an online Google classroom, where they will be reflecting on their field experiences and refining the writing component of their scientific findings.

“There are so many interesting paths in studying ecology,” Knight said. “There are also many job opportunities in this field that we hope to open participants’ eyes to.”

For more information about the “Green Is the New Pink” program, visit