MOST Conference Provides Resources, Guidance for Potential Students

More than 400 rising high school seniors attended the annual UM recruiting and empowerment event

Participants enjoy a pep rally presented by Ole Miss athletics during the 2017 MOST Conference. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 400 students attended the 2017 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference, a three-day annual event that offers leadership activities, academic and campus resources, and guidance from faculty, staff and student leaders for prospective African-American students.

A partnership between the university’s Office of Admissions and the Center for Inclusion & Cross Cultural Engagement, the conference was made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, FedEx, Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, FASTtrack and the LuckyDay Scholars Program.

The conference provides a positive influence for prospective students, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“As I interact with the students that attend MOST, I frequently hear them say, ‘I wasn’t even looking at Ole Miss, but now I plan to attend,'” she said. “MOST gives these students a chance to see what our campus is all about and leaves them interested in being a part of that experience.”

This year, 426 prospective students gathered on campus for the conference, said Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion & Cross Cultural Engagement.

“They were paired with mentors who will remain connected with them through the senior year, helping with the college admission process, and throughout their freshmen year when they enroll at the University of Mississippi,” Mead said.

Among the keynote speakers during the conference were Ethel Young-Scurlock, associate professor of English and African American studies and senior fellow of the Luckyday Residential College; and Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies.

Several participants said that the conference was an enormously positive experience.

Alvin Edney, a senior from Brandon, worried about negative stereotypes before attending the event.

“I’ve learned that Ole Miss has a lot to offer and that people here really are like a family,” he said. “I truly believe that the mentors I met and friends I made here will remain whether I attend here or not.”

Conference mentors said they understood why some students may have had reservations about coming to campus and volunteered because they wanted to help alleviate those anxieties.

“I came to the 2015 MOST Conference and had a great experience because of my mentor,” said Michael Bennett, a junior pre-pharmacy major from Jackson. “My mentor helped me prepare my college application and motivated me to excel before and after my arrival.

“I decided to become a mentor myself because I wanted to pass along what I’d experienced to others.”

The attention of MOST mentors was appreciated by their mentees and has provided helpful information for students as they begin their college search and selection process.

“Since I’ve been here, Ole Miss has definitely moved up on my list,” said Mariah Beckom, a senior from Columbus. “The mentors helped us a lot by letting us ask questions and giving us real answers. I’m planning to stay in touch with mine all while I’m in my senior year of high school.”

Activities during the event included informational sessions, panel discussions, a talent show, presentations by Greek and campus organization, small group meetings , team-building games led by the Department of Campus Recreation, a faculty-staff networking dinner and Ole Miss athletics pep rally.

During the closing ceremonies, Assistant Provost Donald Cole assured the high school participants that UM is a challenging, but nurturing, place for students who want to pursue higher education.

“The University of Mississippi is ready to assist you with a diverse faculty, staff and student body,” Cole said. “Receiving your education here won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.”

A MOST Conference reunion is scheduled for Nov. 14, and students said they are already planning to attend that meeting as well.

“This has truly been a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anybody,” said Jordan Harper, a senior from Jackson. “They opened more than just their facilities to us. They opened their hearts and let us know we are wanted and welcomed here.”

Nominations Sought for University’s Next TEDx Event

Professors, alumni and students wanted for lineup of third forum with theme 'MOMENTUM'

Josh Mabus discusses ‘Quitting Versus Failing’ during the 2017 TEDxUniversityofMississippi event in the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty, staff, alumni and students are encouraged to submit speaker nominations for the 2018 TEDxUniversity of Mississippi. The theme this year is ‘MOMENTUM.’

Nominations are being accepted online through Aug. 28. The event will be Feb. 2 or 3, 2018.

“Anyone can nominate anyone and submit as many nominations as they like,” said Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American studies and program coordinator. “We will take seven speakers for the event, including at least one spot reserved for a student speaker. In the fall, we will have an ‘(American) Idol’ type competition to select the student speaker.”

TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. After nominations are submitted, the student selection committee uses a blind process to select the speakers they think best represent ideas worth spreading. Students do not know the name, gender or race of any speaker nominee.

In 2015, UM hosted its first TEDx event at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. In spring 2016, the TEDxUniversityofMississippi Student Planning Committee submitted a public call for speaker nominations and topic proposals. A second TEDxUM program was presented in January 2017.

“As an R1 research institution and Mississippi’s flagship university, we believe it is our duty to promote and disseminate the best ideas to the biggest possible audience,” King said.

Partners include the offices of the chancellor and provost; the College of Liberal Arts and its departments of African American Studies, History, Physics and Astronomy, Political Science and Theatre Arts; Residential College South; Croft Institute for International Studies; Division of Student Affairs; Office of Research and Sponsored Programs; Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; Ole Miss Alumni Association; and the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce.

To submit MOMENTUM nominations, visit, or for student speakers. For more event information, go to

StarTalk Program Gives High School Students Education in Chinese

Classroom instruction, cultural activities create enjoyable summer learning experience

Students enrolled in Mississippi StarTalk, an intensive Chinese language camp on the Ole Miss campus, practice their Chinese reading and writing skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Thirty high school students from across the nation are learning how to fluently speak Mandarin Chinese thanks to an intense summer program at the University of Mississippi.

Mississippi StarTalk, which began June 28 and runs through July 28, is a federal program for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Besides studying Chinese inside and out of the classroom, students participate in a cultural program introducing them to China, its people and its culture.

All students who complete the program receive college and/or high school credit in Mandarin Chinese.

“The University of Mississippi has one of the premier undergraduate Chinese language programs in the country and it receives special federal funding to send students to study in China,” said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and professor of Russian and linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts.

“Students who have become highly proficient speakers of Chinese during their high school and college careers will find themselves with unlimited career opportunities when they finish their education over the coming decade.”

In its 11th year, StarTalk provides three levels of instruction. Instructors are Lynn Tian, Yiwen “Abbie” Wang and Cheng-Fu Chen. Ole Miss Chinese students Liz Newsom, Dean Ramsey and Wesley Hale are serving as tutor-counselors.

“Ms. Tian teaches at the Hutchison (Middle) School in Memphis,” Dyer said. “Ms. Wang teaches at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, and Dr. Chen is joining our Chinese faculty this fall after several years of teaching at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.”

Days consist of classes, workshops and Summer College activities. Students learn Chinese calligraphy, cooking, paper cutting and Chinese tea culture. Other activities include dinner at a Chinese restaurant, shopping in a simulated Chinese market, tai qi (martial art) instruction and a panel on studying abroad in China.

“Mississippi StarTalk is a chance to begin or continue the study of Chinese under ideal circumstances and with opportunities to continue during the coming year and into college,” said Brendan Ryan, a UM Stamps leadership scholar who serves as program coordinator. Both Ryan and Hale participated in the StarTalk program in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

A mathematics and Chinese major, Ryan participated in the Fulbright Hayes Group Project Abroad in Xi’an, China and will return in August to partake in the Capstone year of the Chinese Flagship Program.

StarTalk program participants said they have benefitted already from being in the program.

“I love this program and its intensity,” said Mary Entrekin, a Level 1 student from Gulfport. “I catch myself saying things in Chinese that I did not think I knew how to say simply because of all of the exposure that I’m getting to the language and the culture.”

Entrekin said she plans to keep up her Chinese skills with a tutor since Chinese is not offered at her high school.

“I also plan to be able to communicate with Chinese-speaking students in a more efficient way,” she said. “I love learning foreign languages and their corresponding cultures, and this program was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

Other StarTalk program participants are Robert Anderson, Cara Calhoun, Tabitha Ellis, Abigail Melssen and John Tichenor IV, all of Edmond, Oklahoma; Donald Beck of Sikeston, Missouri; Briana Berger Slowinski of Clinton; Aristide Brown and Yurik Warren, both of Charlotte, North Carolina; Rachel Cieplak of Culpeper, Virginia; Madison Conroy of Miami Beach, Florida; Johanna Cooper of Knoxville, Tennessee; Samantha Fabian of Omaha, Nebraska; Daniel Ferro of Rockville Centre, New York; Harrison Fox of Gulfport; Quinn Gordon of Brandon; Taliya Harman of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Sophia Hellams of Miami; Mackenzie Huffman of Houston; Ethan Joss of McLean, Virginia; Emily Lambert of Hattiesburg; Lucy Meehan of Worcester, New York; Madeline Meyer of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Avery Pearson of Dallas; Sophia Ranck of Eugene, Oregon; Sebastian Rouse of New Orleans; Olivia Saunders of Tallahassee, Florida; Francena Sekul of Biloxi; and Alex Yang of Appleton, Wisconsin.

UM offers the state’s only Mandarin Chinese degree program and is home to one of 12 Chinese Flagship programs in the U.S.

“We run one of the largest and most successful summer StarTalk programs in the country, from which we recruit excellent students for our flagship program,” Dyer said.

For more about UM’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, go to For more about Mississippi StarTalk, visit

UM Again Named Among Nation’s Best Universities to Work For

Ole Miss on Chronicle of Higher Education's list for ninth time, makes Honor Roll

For the ninth consecutive year, UM has been named to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of ‘Great Colleges to Work For.’ Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi employees enjoy a strong work-life balance, have confidence in senior leadership and feel appreciated. Those glowing job satisfaction reports have led the Chronicle of Higher Education to name UM a “Great College to Work For” for the ninth time.

The university has made the list, which was released Monday (July 17), nine of the 10 years it has existed. Ole Miss was not only on the list, but it also was recognized for the second year in a row in the Chronicle’s 2017 Great Colleges Honor Roll, an award given to only 10 universities with an enrollment of more than 10,000 students.

It’s rewarding for the university to receive this award for nine straight years because it recognizes the respectful and supportive atmosphere that emanates across all UM campuses, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“Our people are our greatest asset,” Vitter said. “Our faculty, staff and administrators are deeply invested in our university and are responsible for our outstanding campus culture of genuine caring for each individual. They continue to make our vibrant work and learning environments ever greater.”

The Chronicle is a major source of news and information for college and university faculty members and administrators. Online, the Chronicle is published every weekday.

The Great Colleges to Work For recognition is based on thousands of surveys anonymously filled out by higher education employees across the country. 

It’s a great honor for the university to be named to the Chronicle list yet again, said Clay Jones, assistant vice chancellor for administration and human resources. 

“Receiving this acknowledgement multiple years in a row indicates the dedication we have in ensuring our workplace is one of integrity, inclusiveness and fairness,” Jones said. “We take great pride in doing the best we can with the resources we have to ensure our workplace is in fact a great place to work.

“Our faculty and staff are committed to maintaining the levels of excellence we have achieved, and the recognition proves these efforts are getting results.” 

More than 250 UM employees answered the questionnaire earlier this year. Their responses revealed they enjoy collaborative governance, have high confidence in senior leadership, work on a diverse campus, have high job satisfaction and have professional career development opportunities. They also feel respected and appreciated.

Workers report good relationships with their supervisors and department chairs. They also tout the positive work-life balance at Ole Miss. 

The perennial ranking on the Chronicle’s list builds on the university’s sterling reputation as a great place to work. In 2015 and 2016, UM was named one of Mississippi’s Healthiest Workplaces by the Mississippi Business Journal, the Mississippi Business Group on Health and the Mississippi Department of Health. 

The university has policies that allow employees to take two 20-minute breaks during the day to walk around campus, which research has shown improves overall employee morale and productivity.

 Ole Miss also has developed RebelWell, which offers a wide range of opportunities to become educated about living a healthy lifestyle and also offers group fitness classes, cooking demonstrations and nutrition counseling, among other services for employees. The university was also recognized for offering employees many professional development opportunities.

Andrea M. Jekabsons, associate director of human resources, said in addition to recognition for job satisfaction and work-life balance, she’s appreciative of the Chronicle honoring UM’s professional and career development programs.

Those programs have many benefits to employees.

“It’s rewarding to work with employees who are growth-minded and interested in all areas of wellness,” Jekabsons said. “We also continue to support our employees’ professional development efforts and interests, by offering further education benefits, salary increases for those who obtain either an applicable certificate, license or degree and LEAD, which is our employee leadership series.”

Team Effort Funds Improvements for Ole Miss Baseball

Bullpen Club makes major gift to upgrade Oxford-University Stadium

Ole Miss baseball players greet Rebel fans at Swayze Field. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – A ritual has emerged within Ole Miss baseball that compels the Rebels to pump their fists in unison to the beat of the 2007 hit song “Love is Gone.” Now, with a major gift, the sport’s fan base wants to show its players that the love is back.

The Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club has committed $150,000 toward Oxford-University Stadium enhancements primarily designed to benefit the student-athletes.

“As a former player and coach, I’m happy to see these improvements being made on behalf of the players,” said Matt Mossberg, associate athletics director for development and major gifts. “Everyone knows the allure of Swayze Field, and the previous enhancements to the stadium have been crucial to that fan experience.

“Personally, I am extremely excited to help in the effort to improve the space our talented coaches and student-athletes work in every day.”

Thanks in part to the Bullpen Club’s gift, players will soon enjoy a state-of-the-art locker room and team meeting room, new hitting and pitching facilities, weight room enhancements and more. The gift will also help fund the M-Club Rooftop Plaza, which utilizes space on top of the performance center for additional seating.

“When I arrived here in the summer of 2000, one of the first people I met was Ernie LaBarge, the president of the Bullpen Club,” said Mike Bianco, head baseball coach. “I knew I wanted Ernie and the Bullpen Club to be an integral part of the program.

“Ernie built the club to over 1,000 members before his passing and then the club was named in his memory. The ELBC has continued to be instrumental in our growth as a program, helping supplement our budget.”

A longtime friend of the university and Rebel fan, LaBarge died in March 2008.

Members of the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club present the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation with a $150,000 gift to be used for stadium enhancements that will benefit student-athletes. Submitted photo

Of the Bullpen Club’s gift, $100,000 was donated as part of the $200 million Forward Together campaign, which was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. The additional $50,000 is committed to support other baseball projects within the athletics department.

These team-related stadium enhancements are possible because of private giving, said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. Previous stadium renovations, such as the addition of the Diamond Club, were made possible by revenue-generating components, such as the sale of premium seats.

“While there are some new premium seats in this renovation, philanthropy is key to this whole project,” Carter said. “We needed people to step up and the Bullpen Club once again did that. I believe our players will be very grateful.”

For more information about the Forward Together campaign, contact Carter at, call 662-915-7159 or visit For more information about the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club, click here.

UM Library, Grove Among Sites for Oxford Blues Fest

Annual event this weekend features concerts, interviews and brunch

OXFORD, Miss. – The J.D. Williams Library and the Grove Stage at the University of Mississippi are scheduled sites for Saturday events during the eighth annual Oxford Blues Festival this weekend (July 14-16).

A panel discussion with Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, one of the greatest blues guitarist of all time, begins at 11 a.m. Saturday in the library. It is followed by a guided tour of the university’s Blues Archive with Greg Johnson at 12:15 p.m. Both events are free to the public.

Musicians will begin performing free 45-minute concerts at 1:15 p.m. on the Grove Stage. Besides Watkins, the lineup includes Hill Country Stomp, Seven Mile Mushroom, R.L. Boyce Band, the King Bees and the Cedric Burnside Project. Donations are accepted.

The festival opens at 6 p.m. Friday at Tallahatchie Gourmet restaurant on the Oxford Square. Featured performers are Ben Wiley Payton and “The Great” Effie Burt.

The closing event on Sunday is a Gospel Brunch at the Mesquite Chop House restaurant, starting at 11 a.m. A Family Affair Gospel Singers will perform. Tickets are available for a suggested $10 donation.

For more information, contact Joyce Byrd at or visit the festival website at


University Featured in Fiske’s 2018 ‘Guide to Colleges’

Annual publication highlights nation's top 300 schools

UM is featured in the 2018 edition of the ‘Fiske Guide to Colleges,’ a prestigious publication that guides students and their families on college decisions. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is featured in the 2018 edition of the “Fiske Guide to Colleges,” a comprehensive annual volume of the country’s best and most interesting schools. This is the seventh year UM has been included in the guide, and it is the only public institution in Mississippi included.

Edward B. Fiske, former New York Times education editor, compiles the annual report on more than 300 schools from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The prestigious publication, billed as “the top independent voice in college admissions,” has been a source of crucial information for students, parents and guidance counselors for more than 30 years.

The $24.99 guide was released Tuesday (July 11). 

“The university’s listing in the ‘Fiske Guide to Colleges’ is affirmation of our exceptional, nationally-recognized academic programs,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “It also speaks to the Ole Miss family experience, especially our attention to students. We are always pleased to be recognized by prestigious, authoritative resources.”

Besides the printed edition, the Fiske guide is also available as an iPad app on iTunes and a web program here. Fiske Interactive, which is $19.99 for a 12-month subscription, allows families to go beyond the book by viewing photos of each campus, creating school lists, and taking virtual notes.

The guide also has overlap suggestions based on which colleges share the most common applications, a list of where ACT and SAT scored are optional and a professional guide that outlines the best schools based on majors or course of study. There’s also “Sizing-Yourself-Up” questionnaire that will help students figure out what kind of school is best for them.

During his 17 years as education editor of The New York Times, Fiske realized that college-bound students and their families needed better information on which to base their education choices. He is also co-author of the “Fiske Guide to Getting into the Right College” and “Fiske Real College Essays that Work.”

“Readers will discover the real personality of the University of Mississippi based on a broad range of subjects, including student body, academics, social life, financial aid, campus setting, housing, food and extracurricular activities,” Fiske said. 

UM and Jackson State Partner to Further Pharmacy Education

Preferred Admission Program offers JSU students spots in professional program

The UM School of Pharmacy is partnering with Jackson State University to offer qualified JSU students admission to the pharmacy school. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. ­­­– In an effort to provide more opportunities for aspiring pharmacists, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy and Jackson State University have collaborated to create the Preferred Admission Program, which offers qualified JSU students admission to the UM pharmacy school.

“We saw a need to allow students around the state to complete their pre-pharmacy requirements closer to home, and in some cases, at a lower cost,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Pharmacy. “Additionally, we are both hoping to enhance the number of students in our applicant pool.”

As per the agreement, JSU students who perform well in pre-pharmacy coursework and are involved in service activities may be admitted to the School of Pharmacy after the first semester of their freshman year. The program is set to begin this fall, with the first JSU applicants coming to the Ole Miss campus in 2019 to begin work on their Pharm.D.

Pre-health professions students from Jackson State University visit the UM School of Pharmacy earlier this year for a tour of campus and to work on a compounding activity. Photo by Chelsea Bennett

“We are elated that our bright and dedicated students have an opportunity to engage in such a prestigious program,” said Richard A. Aló, dean of the JSU College of Science, Engineering and Technology. “We look forward to witnessing the impact this partnership will have on their lives and the field of public health.”

Students admitted via the Preferred Admission Program will be on the School of Pharmacy’s standard graduation track and will be held to the pharmacy school’s academic and service expectations. The school will maintain its class size of 115 students in each of its four Pharm.D. years.

Kandis Backus

The partnership is “aligned with the university’s priorities of excellence, as well as with our mission,” UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“This expanded access to professional pharmacy education is an important step toward promoting STEM education and impacting the lives, health and well-being of Mississippians.”

Kandis Backus attended JSU as an undergrad and received her Pharm.D. at UM in 2017. During one of Gregory’s visits to JSU, she came along to share her experience at Ole Miss with JSU pre-pharmacy students.

“The tireless pursuit of students’ dreams is common to both schools,” Backus said. “Ole Miss wants students to succeed, and they work to help students graduate.”

This partnership comes in the midst of a statewide pharmacist shortage, which contributes to a stable job market for those graduating with Doctor of Pharmacy degrees. Mississippi has the third-highest shortage of pharmacists in the nation, according to the most recent data from the Pharmacist Demand Indicator.

“We are committed to doing all we can to make sure bright and compassionate students have the opportunity to contribute to the health care landscape,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “This partnership is a step toward ensuring the future of our essential profession.”

‘This Book is Not About Dragons’ Wins 2017 CELI Read Aloud Book Award

Teachers help choose winner of UM children's book award

CELI Literacy Specialist Angie Caldwell reads ‘This Book is Not About Dragons’ to children at Willie Price Lab School. Photo by Andrew Abernathy

OXFORD, Miss. – Spoiler Alert: “This Book is Not About Dragons,” by Shelly Moore Thomas, is actually jam-packed with fire-breathing monsters. It’s also the 2017 winner of the University of Mississippi’s CELI Read Aloud Book Award.

Presented annually by the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction at the UM School of Education, the annual award honors books designed for children ages 3 to 10. Established in 2010, this is the seventh time the award has been given by CELI, a center that provides curriculum support and training for Mississippi reading teachers.

“‘This Book Is Not About Dragons’ is an excellent book to read aloud to children,” said Angie Caldwell, CELI literacy specialist who oversees the award process. “This book piques children’s curiosity and creates an engaging reading experience.

“Teachers reported that the children bounced with anticipation, chanted phrases and echoed actions in the book while reading the book aloud. Teachers also stated that the children asked for the book to be read again and again.”

This year’s winner was selected from several titles, which were distributed to teachers at multiple north Mississippi schools, including UM’s Willie Price Lab School. Schools that field-tested the book were awarded free copies of the book.

“My class loved this book,” said Willie Price teacher Chelsea Walters. “They begged me to read it again and again and they talked about it all through lunch.”

The plot of the book follows a mischievous mouse narrator who leads the reader on a tour of a countryside that has obviously been ravaged by a fire-breathing dragon. The book is designed to ignite the interest of young students who can start to pick apart the narrator’s false claims that, amid all of the fire and smoke and destruction, there are actually no dragons hiding the background.

“As a teacher, I find enjoyment in observing my students actively engaged in the read-aloud process,” said Candace Gooch, a teacher at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford. “While reading ‘This Book is Not About Dragons,’ my students were predicting, inferring and simply enjoying the text. They were excited and asked to have the story reread multiple times.”

The CELI Read Aloud Book Award program is partially supported from a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation. The goal is to promote reading aloud to young children as a way to teach literacy, reinforce a love of reading and help children understand the deeper meaning behind books. Winning books receive the right to be published with CELI’s Read Aloud award seal on the cover.

Participating teachers were asked to evaluate how well the texts stretch children’s imaginations, capture interest and utilize a rich vocabulary. A committee of UM faculty, staff and literacy teachers considered the results to select the winner.

“This Book is Not About Dragons,” illustrated by Fred Koehler, was published by Boyds Mill Press.

Upcoming Ford Center Season Includes Broadway Smash ‘Rent’

Schedule includes new jazz series, productions for all ages and tastes

OXFORD, Miss. – The 20th anniversary tour of “Rent” books a room in Oxford this fall as the Broadway musical comes to the University of Mississippi for one show at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The Ford Center’s 2017-18 season also features a national tour of “The Sound of Music” and “Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility,” plus jazz concerts, children’s shows and much more.

“We are excited to launch some new initiatives and have expanded the offerings this season with a new jazz series and children’s series,” said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director. “We have our audience favorites as well, with musicals, a classical play and dance concerts.

“Our Holiday Village will feature gingerbread houses, miniature Christmas villages, the North Pole and an international corner. This will open on Dec. 1 to coincide with our big event that features a holiday theme for the entire family.”

The season kicks off Sept. 7 with “Nashville Songwriters Night featuring Dickey Lee and Pat Alger with Roxie Dean.”

The Ford Series begins Oct. 26 with the Broadway tour of “Rent,” which follows seven artists struggling to follow their dreams. The von Trapp Family will thrill Ford Center audiences in “The Sound of Music” Jan. 24, with performances of classic songs including “My Favorite Things” and “Do-Re-Mi.”

On Feb. 27, Conspirare, a Company of Voices will perform “Considering Matthew Shepard,” the story of a gay student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie who was kidnapped and left to die nearly 20 years ago. This concert-length work uses musical styles, poetic texts, passages from Shepard’s journal and interviews with family members to tell his story.

The Ford Series concludes with the Tony Award-winning performance of “Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella,” which offers a contemporary take on the classic tale.

The Artist Series begins Sept. 21 by making the audience part of the show in “Artrageous.” The musicians, singers, dancers and artists pay tribute to musical icons and genres in multiple art forms, including a gallery of finished paintings.

BodyTraffic, a dance company from Los Angeles, is slated to perform Nov. 9 at the Ford Center. Submitted photo

On Nov. 9, Oxford audiences will have an opportunity to see a performance named Best of Culture by the Los Angeles Times. West Coast dance troupe BodyTraffic, which recently toured Israel and Jordan, will perform its contemporary dance styles at the Ford Center.

Aquila Theatre continues to expand its adaptations of classical works with “Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility,” coming to the Ford Center on Feb. 13. The story revolves around two sisters in a time when choices were limited for women. The comedic romantic tale of the English upper middle class includes seduction, courtship, love, heartbreak and surprise.

The Artist Series concludes March 25 with “Revolutionaries: Ginastera and Beethoven,” featuring acclaimed German pianist Andreas Klein and North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra conductor Steven Byess. The artists will contrast the styles of Beethoven with works of 20th century Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.

The Jazz Series, made possible by a $25,000 gift from Oxford residents Marty and John Dunbar, will begin Sept. 14 with a performance from the Cyrus Chestnut Quartet. Pianist Cyrus Chestnut blends contemporary and traditional jazz with gospel, Latin and samba and has become one of jazz’s most beloved and acclaimed musicians.

The series continues with “The Birdland All-Stars: The Art of Jazz” featuring Tommy Ignoe. The New York musicians have dazzled audiences for 10 years and return to the road with arrangements featuring music of David Bowie, The Police and Steely Dan, among others.

The series concludes March 1 with “Celebrating Gershwin: A Stroll Down Tin Pan Alley” by the Julian Bliss Septet. Bliss is one of the finest clarinetists of our time and he is joined by some of the best musicians in jazz to form this septet.

The Ford Center also will host a Campus Connections series, beginning Dec. 1 with “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” one of the most popular American operas during the Christmas season, and “Handel’s Messiah.” This collaborative project, made possible by a grant from Nancye Starnes and the Kite Foundation, includes performers from the community, university and professional guest artists.

On Jan. 27, the Malpaso Dance Company brings Havana to Oxford with movement and music from Cuba’s rich dance tradition. From April 20 to 22, the Ford Center will host Ole Miss Theatre’s performances of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth.”

Thanks to a gift from Billy and Rebecca Long, the Russian Folk Orchestra will perform Oct. 3 at the venue. This pops concert features popular selections combined with traditional folk music and is sure to appeal to a variety of audiences.

Throughout the year, the Ford Center also will feature a variety of performances for children as part of its Daytime School Series. “Dinosaur Zoo,” set for Nov. 16, offers two opportunities for schoolchildren to explore life-like dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures in an entertaining theatrical performance that will stimulate the imaginations of children.

On Dec. 13, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins,” based on the book by Richard and Florence Atwater, follows a painter and decorator who dreams of Antarctic adventures when one day, a penguin arrives on his doorstep. The hourlong musical features original songs and penguin puppets, serving as the perfect family treat for the holiday season.

The School Series concludes April 10 with two performances for all ages of “Huck and Tom and the Mighty Mississippi.” This musical, based on the novels of Mark Twain, follows one of the greatest adventurers in American literature and his friends as they explore the river that defined their lives.

For more information about performances, visit Tickets are available for all shows at the UM Box Office, inside the Ford Center or online at