Delta Students Get College Experience during Ole Miss Visit

Ninth-grade biology class learns about collegiate science courses and the admissions process

Students from Madison S. Palmer High School in Marks get biology lessons from UM instructors during their campus visit. Photo by Christina Steube/University Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Students from Madison S. Palmer High School in Marks got a hands-on learning experience in a college atmosphere recently when they visited the University of Mississippi’s Department of Biology.

These students attended learning sessions in Shoemaker Hall, where they participated in field sampling, isolated DNA and learned to use a microscope to view microbes.

Daniel Myrick, a first-year biology teacher at the high school, led the trip to improve academic standards and resources for his students. Myrick, who graduated from UM last May, reached out to Ole Miss assistant biology professor Erik Hom to plan this trip and another for the upcoming fall semester.

“As I spent the first three months with my students, I started to realize that not many of these students get the opportunities to spend time around college campuses via sporting events and educational programs,” Myrick said. “How can we expect students to apply and move away from everything they know if they have no experiences of what college is actually like?

“It is too big of a gap to bridge, so I wanted to start with my ninth-graders to show them what we as educators are pushing them toward for the next three years.”

Following the biology lesson, students attended a session with an admissions counselor at the Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The field trip ended with lunch at The Grill at 1810 and a tour of the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

Myrick reached out to the biology department to set up a tour that would include more than simply beautiful campus sites. Hom, who founded the pilot program ARISE@UM, designed to provide research opportunities for high school students over the summer, helped coordinate the visit.

After getting Myrick’s request, Hom and Renee Cunningham, assistant professor of math education, visited the school in Marks in November 2016.

“After that trip, I decided to apply for additional grant funding to make some of the things I talked with Daniel and was thinking about possible,” Hom said.

Madison S. Palmer ninth-grade biology students learn about field sampling and DNA during a visit to the UM Department of Biology. Photo by Christina Steube/University Communications

“I was intrigued by Daniel’s interest and wanted to help as best I could, since I’ve come to really believe our problems with STEM education and poor academic performance start well before college. High school is a really formative period for preparing students with the basics and habits to succeed in college and later in life.”

Hom applied for and received funding via his National Science Foundation grant, DEB-1541538. The additional funding included a Research Experiences for Teachers supplement and the Research Assistantships for High School Students supplement to support Myrick’s outreach efforts.

The RAHSS was approved for funding in late January, just in time to plan the field trip.

“We both felt it necessary to bring the students out to UM and begin a steady effort to show them the opportunities for education at college and how exciting science can be,” Hom said. “We want to build relationships, and I do not believe in hit-and-run outreach, so I hope we might be able to continue what we have started in the years to come.”

The two grant supplements total more than $25,000. Hom will use part of the funds to support Myrick’s work by helping him develop teaching modules and supporting field trip activities.

Some of the funds will allow a Madison S. Palmer High School senior who attends UM beginning this fall to participate in summer research in Hom’s lab as part of the ARISE@UM program.

“Part of the draw of teaching and working at UM is the opportunity to lend a helping hand to communities in need in Mississippi – a little bit of help here goes so much further than the much better-resourced places I’ve been before, and I find it quite rewarding to be able to effect change,” Hom said.

Thanks to the supplemental NSF funding, Myrick also will get to work in Hom’s lab this summer on research related to Hom’s primary project under the NSF Genealogy of Life program. Myrick plans to focus on how he can bring research with fungi, algae, field sampling and symbiosis to his classrooms through teaching modules.

The field trip was a huge success, Myrick said. He plans to work with Hom to improve the experience so his high school freshmen can continue to learn from and build relationships with a college professor.

“My students loved being treated like college students where they were just expected to work and do right, and they loved getting to work in the labs,” Myrick said. “What they had been learning recently in my class transferred to an experiment they could do in a college lab, and I think that started to give importance to what they are required to learn in high school.

“My goal was not for them to just love Ole Miss, but I wanted them to love the idea of pursing a college that fits them.”

UM Development Welcomes Annual Giving Director

Wesley Clark brings passion-driven skill set to Ole Miss

Wesley Clark outside his office at Carriage House. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – For Florida native Wesley Clark, not even a promising career in law was worth giving up his passion for fundraising.

“I earned a law degree and passed the bar, but after a few years of practicing, I knew that I didn’t want to be a lawyer for my whole life,” Clark recalled. “I recognized my passion was in higher education and fundraising.”

Clark, who earned both a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and a juris doctorate from the University of Florida, is taking the next step of his dream career by becoming the new annual giving director at the University of Mississippi Office of Development.

Gifts to the Annual Fund support every aspect of an Ole Miss education. Yearly contributions from more than 8,000 donors top $7 million for schools, colleges and programs across the Oxford campus. Alumni, friends, parents, faculty, staff and students choose the area to which they designate their gift.

“I always hope to bring together people’s passions with areas of need and causes that matter,” Clark said. “Everyone has generosity within them that they want to fulfill. It’s a big part of my job to connect that drive to the needs of the university.”

Clark has no shortage of experience as he takes on this position. He began as a student worker in the Telefund program at the University of Florida before taking on professional fundraising positions at the University of Michigan, Humboldt State University and at his most recent workplace, Texas State University.

Each new experience has enhanced Clark’s fascination with the process and the purpose of fundraising for higher education.

“I love the balance between the rational side of strategic planning and the emotionally driven side that’s more creative and based on what people care about as human beings,” he said. “It creates significant leverage when people support a university because of the impact it has on the students and their futures. It’s not a one-time impact; it lasts forever.”

At Texas State, Clark spearheaded many profitable fundraising campaigns such as “Step Up for State,” a day of giving that raised more than $220,000 in support of diverse campus initiatives. He also managed direct mail appeals, the online giving portal, the fundraising call center and the faculty-staff giving campaign, which saw significant growth during his leadership.

“With experience at several respected universities, Wesley Clark brings outstanding expertise in annual giving, crowdfunding and day-of-giving programs to the Office of University Development,” said Robin Buchannon, associate vice chancellor for university relations. “We believe Wesley will be instrumental in developing new annual giving donors to help strengthen academic initiatives across our campus.

“Wesley’s strategic approach to annual giving – a bedrock of our fundraising efforts – will greatly benefit our schools and College of Liberal Arts.”

Clark and his wife, Angela, look forward to calling Oxford their new home.

“Once I saw the opportunity, we did our research and (Oxford) seemed like a perfect fit,” he said. “We love small-town communities and the connectedness that they allow community members to have.”

To learn more about supporting Ole Miss academic programs through the Annual Fund, contact Wesley Clark at or 662-915-2293.

ACT 7 Experience Focuses on Revival of Magazine Industry

Annual conference pairs UM journalism students with industry leaders

OXFORD, Miss. – Magazines and print journalism matter, and that’s the theme at this year’s ACT 7 Experience at the University of Mississippi.

The conference, hosted by the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media from Tuesday to Thursday (April 25-27), will focus on the revival of the magazine industry in terms of publishing, advertising, creating content and distribution. The event also allows students to network with industry professionals.

Created in 2010 by Samir Husni, Ole Miss journalism professor and Magazine Innovation Center director, the conference will feature more than 50 speakers and 50 other attendees, including CEOs of major magazine and marketing companies, publishers, editors-in-chief and other industry leaders. Students will be paired with industry professionals throughout event to learn directly from them.

“There is no other place where we have this collection of experts with future industry leaders, our students,” Husni said. “When they see students in the audience, they tell us stuff from the heart and it creates an intimate atmosphere. CEOs and freshman students are on the same level of communication.”

All conference lectures are slated for the Overby Center Auditorium and are free and open to the public, thanks to the support of industry leaders and their sponsorships.

Husni tells his students to leave an impact on the industry professionals they shadow, and some have.

At last year’s conference, Austin Dean, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Hammond, Illinois, shadowed Jim Elliott, president of the James G. Elliott Co. By the end of the conference, Dean was offered an internship at the company and spent his summer in New York working in the industry.

“For me, the benefits have been spending one-on-one time with publishers, editors and distributors, getting to know them and making reliable connections with them,” Dean said. “Dr. Husni does a great job at putting together this collective group of people and makes sure each of his students have someone they want to shadow.”

Ashlee Johnson, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Monticello, Arkansas, enjoys the intimate aspect of learning from both the guest speakers and Husni.

“Even people that work with these professionals don’t get to know them like we do,” Johnson said. “It’s a great opportunity and it’s good for professional development.

“Another great part of this conference is watching Dr. Husni interact with the speakers. He is so well-respected in the industry. He’s a hidden gem in Mississippi and we’re lucky to have someone who cares so much about their students as a mentor.”

Students will accompany the guest speakers on a trip through the Delta to experience magazines, music and Mississippi. The group will travel to the B.B. King Museum, Dockery Farms Historic District and Delta Blues Museum before ending the evening with dinner at the Ground Zero Blues Club.

The conference, in its seventh year, has grown dramatically after beginning with just 14 speakers in 2010. It even has its own band, the ACT Band, made up of musicians from the Delta, the Netherlands and New York City that will perform at Ground Zero.

“When I started the Magazine Innovation Center, it was at a time when everyone was saying print is dead and new media is in,” Husni said. “It’s not an either/or situation. Print, broadcast, digital, mobile, social media – it’s all journalism. The necessity will never change, regardless of the platform.”

Husni teaches his students to be strong writers first to break into the industry.

“When magazines hire, they want writers,” he said. “The other stuff is great, but journalism is still what’s important.

“Magazine industry leaders are experience-makers. Reading a magazine is unlike reading something online. It’s an experience packaged together in your hand.”

A full schedule of events is available at

UM Pharmacy Students to Present at Veterinary Conference

Both are leaders in campus Rebel Vets

Alexandria Gochenauer. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two UM School of Pharmacy students are to speak this weekend at the Annual Veterinary Pharmacy Conference in Memphis, Tennessee, hosted by the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists.

Second-year pharmacy students Robert Ross and Alexandria Gochenauer, who are both interested in veterinary pharmacy, were recommended to speak at the April 20-22 conference by Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration.

“Alex and Robert are very passionate about the practice of veterinary pharmacy and have developed a great relationship with ACVP,” Holmes said. “They’ve already written several articles designed for veterinarians, veterinary pharmacists and pet owners as part of the ACVP’s quarterly newsletter.”

Ross, a native of Homer Glen, Illinois, helped create the university’s student chapter of ACVP, called Rebel Vets, and is the organization’s president-elect. He will present at the conference on the treatment and prevention of diabetes in cats and dogs.

“I’m fascinated by the complexity of diabetes and how prevalent it is in our country,” Ross said. “I was interested to see that it’s very common in pets, just as it is in humans.”

Robert Ross. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Ross is weighing his career options but is interested in the possibility of working in a veterinary hospital.

“I see this conference as a great opportunity to be able to meet people with similar interests from around the country,” Ross said.

Gochenauer, of Republic, Missouri, also played a key a role in establishing Rebel Vets and has served as its secretary for two years.

“I was lucky to be offered this opportunity, and I am very excited to break into the world of veterinary pharmacy,” Gochenauer said.

She will present on cancer therapeutics in cats and dogs, focusing on available drugs and treatments for the disease in these animals. Upon graduation, Gochenauer hopes to complete a veterinary pharmacy residency and eventually work in a veterinary teaching hospital.

“These students’ working knowledge of veterinary pharmacy sets them apart as speakers for the upcoming conference,” Holmes said. “As a new organization in the School of Pharmacy, I’m very excited for the opportunities that are emerging for the Ole Miss Rebel Vets, and I could not be prouder of all they have accomplished.”

UM School of Engineering Honors Alumni, Faculty and Students

Annual awards recognize recipients' achievements, service

UM Engineering Dean Alex Cheng presents 2017 Engineer of Service Awards to brothers Chuck (center) and Steve Smith during the annual awards banquet. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Successful University of Mississippi School of Engineering alumni, faculty and students received their due Thursday (April 20) during the school’s 2017 Honors Banquet.

The annual awards were presented by Dean Alex Cheng and others at the Inn at Ole Miss. Alumni recipients are Karen Comer Matthews (BSCE 85), president and CEO of Delta Health Alliance, and Charles E. Smith Jr. (BSEE 83) and Steven A. Smith (BSEE 93), co-founders of Guardian Manufacturing Inc. Matthews received the Engineer of Distinction Award, while the Smith brothers were given Engineer of Service Awards.

“We’re enjoying a warm and wonderful evening celebrating the accomplishments and service of our students, faculty and alumni,” Cheng said. “We are proud of them and are honored to join them to celebrate together.”

Each honoree expressed gratitude for the recognitions.

“You have honored me today with this recognition, one in which I accept with both humility and gratitude,” Matthews said. “I truly hope that I have been true to my quest, that I have created some positive forward motion in Mississippi – however slight it may be in the grand scheme of life – and, most importantly, lived a life that validates the love and respect of my family, my divine guidance and the desire to return the respect that we all have for this institution.”

A nonprofit organization that funds and operates more than 20 health care and education initiatives throughout the Mississippi Delta, the alliance works to overcome health and education disparities in rural communities. It has been a leader in using information technologies to improve delivery of services, nurturing collaborations among professional disciplines and community organizations, and applying quantitative assessment and evaluation to guide development and improvement of programs.

“Engineers, regardless of discipline, are people who contrive and derive from cleverness, and we are this little secret group of problem solvers that the rest of the world sees as nerds, but we know better,” said Matthews, a Fulton native who also earned a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Memphis and her doctorate in health science administration from the University of Tennessee.

Before joining Delta Health Alliance, she served as vice chancellor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, where she was responsible for promoting, establishing and supporting interdisciplinary and inter-organizational collaborations in research, education and patient care.

Karen Comer Matthews accepts the 2017 Distinguished Engineer of the Year Award during the annual UM School of Engineering awards banquet. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Under her direction, Tennessee Health Science Center was an early leader in establishing telemedicine networks as a way of bringing health care specialists to underserved communities. The Tennessee system ultimately grew to more than 110 sites throughout the Mid-South and was named the third largest network in the country in 2005.

Matthews has served as principal investigator on numerous state and federal contracts, authored more than 50 articles for academic journals and written successful grant applications for more than $250 million in research support.

Chuck and Steve Smith are the oldest and middle of three sons of the late Charles E. Smith Sr., who from 1975 to 2004 devoted his life to the advancement of the UM electrical engineering program as chair and professor. Years later, his legacy is being maintained by the benevolence of his two sons.

The Smith brothers have served as members of the Engineering Advisory Board since 2007. Steve served as an executive committee member since 2010 and as chair for 2014 and 2015.

“Receiving an award that was previously given to our father many years ago is very special,” Chuck Smith said. “His dedication and service to Ole Miss and the School of Engineering meant everything to him and to be honored in a similar way is a humbling experience.”

Both served in the Engineering School’s Vision Council in 2010-12 for strategic planning. They have spoken to students on multiple occasions and generously donated to rename the former Engineering Science Building to Charles E. Smith Sr. Hall in 2004.

“Ole Miss and Oxford represent a very special place for our family,” Chuck Smith said. “We have so many friends and fond memories of family and growing up here. Although we live in Florida, our roots are and will always be in Oxford.”

Steve Smith echoed his brother’s sentiment.

“Being recognized from my Ole Miss home is humbling, yet brings a deeper purpose to strive even harder,” he said. “Raised in the halls of engineering, I was fortunate to have many mentors, many who grace the walls today.

“I always remember walking by plaques that adorn the walls, many whom I knew, thinking one day I would join them. Little did I know, I would join with my father and brother – a family affair.”

Both are both involved in Shema Ministry of Merit Island, Florida, serving as board members. This is a group of business leaders committed to helping meet financial needs of individuals in the community.

Steve Smith and his wife, Karen, have served as ministry leaders to other couples through Calvary Chapel Viera. He is also a board member of My Community Cares Inc., served as a Lafayette County volunteer firefighter during the years he lived in Oxford and Yocona communities and donated airline miles a year ago for UM’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders travel to the West African nation of Togo.

Chuck and Steve support the Veteran’s Airlift Command and other charitable causes, where they donate time on their corporate aircraft to provide transportation to veterans and others in tough situations at no charge. Chuck also serves on the Luis Palau President’s Council.

Employees who received awards included Ramanarayanan (“Dr. Vish”) Vishwanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, Outstanding Engineering Faculty of the Year Award; Wei-Yin Chen, professor of chemical engineering, Senior Faculty Research Award; Matt Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, Junior Faculty Research Award; Alexander Yakovlev, professor of electrical engineering, Faculty Teaching Award; Dwight Waddell, associate professor of electrical engineering, Faculty Service Award; and Paul Matthew Lowe, machine shop supervisor, Outstanding Staff Award.

Students recognized as Outstanding Senior Leaders during the ceremonies included Dustin Dykes, a mechanical engineering major from Madison, Alabama; Holly Pitts, a civil engineering major from Indianola; and Adam Schildhammer, a geological engineering major from Alpharetta, Georgia. Frances Miramon, a civil engineering major from Shreveport, Louisiana, received the David Arnold Engineering Award. Graduate students Bradley Goodwiller, a civil engineering major, and Matthew Nelms, a mechanical engineering major, both from Oxford, received Graduate Achievement Awards.

For more about the UM School of Engineering, visit


Ford Center to Host Russian National Ballet for ‘Sleeping Beauty’

Production of classic fairytale is accessible for families

The Russian National Ballet will perform Sleeping Beauty at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday, April 25. Submitted Photo

OXFORD, Miss. -The Russian National Ballet brings the fairytale “Sleeping Beauty” to life for one performance next week at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The show is set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (April 25). Tickets are $46 for the Orchestra, Parterre and Tier 1 Box levels, $40 for the Mezzanine and Tier 2 Box levels and $34 Balcony. A 10 percent discount is available for all UM faculty, staff and retirees. Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center, online at or by telephone at 662-915-2787.

The ballet is based on Charles Perrault’s classic fairytale. It tells the story of a young princess who, on the day of her christening, is cursed by an evil fairy to prick her finger on her 16th birthday and die, but the benevolent Lilac Fairy declares that the princess will only sleep until she is awakened by the kiss of a prince.

“The Russian National Ballet is dedicated to producing classic ballets like ‘Sleeping Beauty,'” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “They are a premier ballet company and their productions are always magical.

“‘Sleeping Beauty’ is a classic fairytale that most people know. It’s a great opportunity to introduce children to the ballet.”

The production is choreographed by Marius Petipa and is considered to be one of his greatest works. Petipa’s choreography paired with the compositions of Pyotr Ilich Tchaikovsky has made this ballet renowned. The lavish, yet refined blending of traditional ballet with the dramatics and eloquence of the theater is loved around the world.

The Russian National Ballet Theatre was founded in the late 1980s in Moscow. Originally known as the Soviet National Ballet, the company was founded by the graduates of the Russian choreographic schools of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Perm, and allowed them a place to showcase their works.

The Russian National Ballet is made up of 50 dancers, all experts in their field with decades of experience. Many of the dancers have been a part of the company since its inception.

For more information, go to

UM Museum to Host Kate Freeman Clark Family Activity Day

Children of all ages invited to explore people, places and things through interactive art projects

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Museum’s Kate Freeman Clark Family Activity Day this weekend will allow families to explore artistic people, places and things.

The free drop-in event, from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday (April 22), will allow children to draw inspiration from the museum’s newest exhibit, featuring Holly Springs native and impressionist painter Kate Freeman Clark.

“This family day provides a great opportunity for families to check out our newest exhibition and be inspired by the talent and story of Kate Freeman Clark,” said Emily Dean McCauley, museum education curator. “We will have projects for families in every space as we create educational connections to the people, places and things captured in exhibit.

“Families with children of all ages are encouraged to attend, as we will also have a space for our youngest ‘Buie Babies’ to explore and discover.” 

The theme for the day is “People, Places and Things,” and interactive projects inspired by these nouns in the art of portraits, landscapes and still life paintings will be adapted for all ages. Activities include creating collages, painting and participating in a scavenger hunt through the exhibit.

All children must be accompanied by an adult.

This event is made possible by sponsorship of Baptist Memorial Hospital of North Mississippi.

For more information, contact Emily Dean McCauley at or at 662-915-7073.

UM Honors Two Employees with Access Awards

Excellence in disability awareness recognized in annual ceremony

UM graduate assistant Meghan Edwards, left, receives the Faculty Access Award from Stacey Reycraft, the university’s director of student disability services. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi employees have been recognized for their outstanding service to assist students with disabilities.

Meghan Edwards, a graduate assistant in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, and Heather Duncan, administrative coordinator in the Patterson School of Accountancy, were presented Access Awards in the faculty and staff categories, respectively, Wednesday (April 19).

The annual awards are sponsored by the university’s Office of Student Disability Services as part of its open house activities in Martindale Hall.

“The recipients are nominated each year by students registered with the office for demonstrating exceptional support for inclusion of students with disabilities,” said Stacey Reycraft, SDS director. “This year, we had more nominations than ever before.

“All of the students’ comments we received were incredible, which made selecting our award recipients truly a challenge.”

Both honorees expressed surprise and gratitude for the honor.

“I am humbled and honored to have been chosen to receive this award,” said Duncan, who began working at the university Sept. 11, 2001 as a senior clerk typist. “I try to treat all of our students as if they were my very own kids because that’s the way I would want someone to treat my child while in school.”

The Oxford native was a senior administrative secretary before assuming her current duties.

Heather Duncan, right, a senior administrative coordinator in the Patterson School of Accountancy, is presented the Staff Access Award by Stacey Reycraft, the university’s director of student disability services. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Employed at the university for three years, Edwards teaches classroom courses and several activity courses for the department. Receiving the award has additional meaning to Edwards, who herself had experiences with trying to learn while coping with a sleeping disorder.

“During my undergraduate years, I was registered with my university’s disability services,” the Plymouth, Minnesota, native said. “Despite having a diagnosed sleeping condition, I still had instructors that seemed to not understand what I was going through.

“I would always tell professors that my condition causes me to fall asleep unexpectedly, and that it is no personal disrespect to them or their class. Yet, sometimes I still felt like professors thought I was a lazy or disrespectful student.”

However, Edwards said she also had some professors who really empathized and worked with her to accommodate in any way they could to ensure her academic success.

“Feeling like your professor is on your side and genuinely wants to see you succeed is quite powerful,” she said. “I am just thankful that I was able to serve in this capacity for a student.”

Excerpts from students’ nomination letters praised the two recipients for their exemplary efforts.

Edwards is described as “an incredible, patient, kind, charismatic teacher, and now, a friend.” Duncan is cited as being “absolutely outstanding” when it comes to arranging for students to take tests with their accommodations.

“Meg has gone out of her way to help me achieve my greatest potential, taken the time to even email me whenever I have told her that I am having a hard time and reminded me that she is always there to help,” one student wrote.

“She always makes sure that my test accommodations are comfortable, is extremely easy to talk to and responds to me, usually within minutes, if I need to catch up on something or just vent about what is going on. Meg is what Ole Miss should strive to always be about.”

Those words are all the acknowledgement needed to continue working with students, Edwards said.

“Her words have served as a wonderful reminder of the importance of my continued efforts to do this for all of my students,” she said.

The Patterson School of Accountancy has many students whom need accommodations, and Duncan goes above and beyond to make sure their needs are met, the student wrote.

“She always goes out of her way to ensure each student is comfortable and has everything they need for exams in order to help the student remain calm during the test. When you arrive, she always greets you with a smile and a kind word.

“If a student needed something, from a pencil to a hug, Ms. Duncan would go out of her way to make sure each student was accommodated appropriately. She always makes sure you have a clock and a quiet testing environment. We are so lucky to have Ms. Duncan, and I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

Previous Access Award recipients include Natcha Knight-Evans, from the Office of the Registrar; Denis Goulet, Department of Biology; Julie Anderson, Department of Mathematics; Sue Hodge, School of Business Administration; Sam Thomas, Department of Accounting; Linda Colley, Department of Psychology; Carl Jensen, Center for Intelligence and Security Studies; Barbara Leeton, College of Liberal Arts; Jennifer Buford, Department of Social Work; Kerry Scott, Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry; Gayle Wicker, UM at Tupelo regional campus; Micah Everett, Department of Music; Michael Howland, Veteran and Military Services; and Violetta Davydenko, Department of Finance.

For more information about the Office oif Student Disability Services, visit

Street Awarded UM Online Teaching Award

Journalism instructor honored for innovation in online instruction

The Ole Miss Online office recently announced that Robin Street, center, is this year’s winner of the annual Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Learning. Blair McElroy, left, UM director of study abroad and adjunct instructor in the legal studies department, and Jason Solinger, associate professor of English, were named as runners-up. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Adjusting to the ever-changing world of public relations has been a constant in Robin Street’s career. Although she has taught at the University of Mississippi for more than 25 years, the courses she teaches and her teaching style are parts of that continual evolution.

Her efforts were recognized this month when she was awarded the eighth annual UM Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Teaching.

“In some classes, such as history or math, the materials taught pretty much remain the same each semester,” Street said. “But this class looks at current public relations cases and situations. You never know when a situation will occur that creates a public relations nightmare for an organization.”

Last year, Street, a senior lecturer in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, worked to translate her Journalism 492: Public Relations Case Problems course into an online format. She credits her success in creating this course to looking at online course creation in a different way.

“I once attended a workshop on good writing called ‘Think Like a Fish,'” Street said. “The speaker, a renowned writing coach, explained the title. Her father was an excellent fisherman. When asked what his secret was, he replied, ‘I think like a fish.’

“In designing the online JOUR 492 class, I decided to think like a student. Today’s students have short attention spans and are very visual. They do not read lengthy documents, but prefer to skim instead. I thought about what would attract their attention in the class and filled the online class with folders, icons, charts, to-do lists and other visual reminders of what to do next.”

Each year, the UM Office of Online Design and eLearning recognizes a UM faculty member who has excelled in online teaching through the annual Paragon Award. The nominee must exhibit good practice in course design and innovative use of technologies. Nominees’ efforts are acknowledged for engaging students as well as their commitment to providing students with a quality education.

“While I expect that there will always be a need for an on-campus educational experience, the digital-immersive, online learning environment is growing and evolving,” said Noel Wilkin, UM acting provost, during the Paragon Award presentation April 7 in the Lyceum.

“In that realm, design and innovation enhance the educational experience. It is inspiring to see our faculty members dedicate considerable effort to innovate on this evolving platform.”

When asked about developing a successful online class, Street said that organization is key.

“The layout of the class was easy to follow and keep up with,” said Kailee Wilson, a December graduate from Allen, Texas. “The lesson folders were so convenient.

“We had everything for that week laid out so there was no reason or excuse for not knowing what to do. I especially loved the to-do lists that were posted each week.”

Street created a private Facebook page account where students were required to take part in weekly discussions about the class topics.

“I chose to use Facebook because the students were already comfortable with this medium,” Street said. “They were able to see photos and learn about each other from the very first post where they introduced themselves.

“They also responded and reacted to each other’s posts. Student comments about that experience were very positive.”

YouTube and other popular social sites also were used to give students a greater grasp on current PR situations and campaigns to discuss what strategies might be best for a PR professional in certain situations.

“Students are not just reading a text and listening to a lecture, but observing public relations at work,” Street said. “They can watch PR events take place in real time while visiting the sites of the organization being studied.

“Students are asked to watch videos to learn not just theory from the text, but realities of public relations practice and careers today.”

Sydney Rubin, a senior marketing and corporate relations major from Raleigh, North Carolina, said her favorite part of the class was creating PR plans.

“I am currently applying for jobs in public relations and companies are asking me for writing samples, “Rubin said. “Now, I have lengthy campaigns that I was able to create on my own and get feedback on as a part of this class. I now feel more confident applying for these jobs and submitting my work.”

By using multiple forms of media in the course, Street maximized student engagement and maintained their interests, said Wan Latartara, instructional designer and training specialist.

“Her course design did more than meet the eye,” Latartara said. “She strategically placed elements so to catch students’ attention and guide them through the course right from the beginning.

“By thinking like a student, Robin made a commitment to meet students where they are.”

This year’s runner-up category for the Paragon Award featured two online courses taught by Blair McElroy, UM director of Study Abroad and adjunct instructor in the UM legal studies department, and Jason Solinger, associate professor of English.

March for Science Set for Weekend

UM, Oxford community to participate in national event

OXFORD, Miss. – In celebration of scientific investigation and its benefits, and in support for publicly-funded science, the Oxford community is invited to a March for Science this weekend.

Co-sponsored by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Physics Graduate Students Association, the nonpartisan event begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday (April 22) on the steps of the Lyceum.

Walkers will begin a 1-mile route through the Grove, head east on University Avenue, then north on South Lamar Boulevard. The march ends with a gathering on the Square.

“We value inclusion, diversity, equity and access to everybody,” said Marco Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy and one of the event’s organizers. “We aim for a diverse group of participants, including first-time marchers. Families with young children are welcome.”

This weekend’s event is one of many Marches for Science in cities and towns around the world. Each seeks to reaffirm core values of science.

“Science protects the health of our communities, the safety of our families, the education of our children, the foundation of our economy and jobs, and the future we all want to live in and preserve for coming generations,” said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy at Ole Miss.

“Science is a tool of discovery that allows us to constantly expand and revise our knowledge of the universe. In doing so, science serves the interests of all humans.”

March for Science supporters contend that science education teaches children and adults to think critically, ask questions and evaluate truth based on the weight of evidence.

“Science promotes diversity and inclusion and builds robust and resilient communities for the benefit of all people,” Bombelli said. “Science makes our democracy stronger.

“Please show your support for science as a vital feature of a working democracy, spurring innovation, critical thinking, increased understanding and better, healthier lives for all people.”

Follow the Oxford March for Science on Twitter @ScienceoxfordMS and Facebook at For assistance related to a disability, contact Marco Cavaglia at 662-915-7642 or