Motivational Speaker to Keynote Ole Miss PULSE Conference

Nearly 170 sophomores selected for leadership training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upon participating in PULSE, students will learn to:

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

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

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

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

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

Nobel Laureate to Present Benefits of Early Childhood Education

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

James J. Heckman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hollandale Couple’s Gift Supports Ole Miss Athletics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

National recognition given for the school's online degree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers gathering to honor King's legacy through community engagement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other activities scheduled are:

Saturday (Jan. 13):

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

Monday (Jan. 15):

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

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

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


For more information about MLK Day of Service events, contact

Gift Supports UM Liberal Arts Faculty

Growing Ole Miss family inspires Morgans' gift

The home that Kirk and Shelly Morgan purchased in Oxford has kept them connected with campus and friends, renewed their love for the area and provided an excuse to visit. The whole family often meets here to enjoy Rebel sports and all that Ole Miss and Oxford have to offer. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Kirk and Shelly Morgan of Lexington, South Carolina, say their recent gift to the University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts is, in a sense, simply supporting their family.

“Our Ole Miss family just gets bigger,” said Kirk Morgan, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, who knew no one when he arrived at UM his freshman year. But the relationships he formed on campus and beyond have inspired his desire to give back by establishing the Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence.

“All of these relationships stem from my graduation from the College of Liberal Arts,” said Morgan, a 1980 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

During his sophomore year, Morgan met his wife, Shelly Stefoniak, a Dallas native who earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1981.

“I have been fortunate enough to realize that Ole Miss is as much an important factor in our entire family’s lives as any other group deserving of support,” he said. “I am hopeful that the College of Liberal Arts can utilize our financial assistance to continue improving the faculty and facilities and encourage other young students to attend.

“I have particularly enjoyed the fact that, like our family, many out-of-state students attend Ole Miss.”

The Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence supports the recognition of outstanding teaching, scholarship and service by a faculty member within the College of Liberal Arts as deemed appropriate by the dean.

“The Morgans’ generous gift is a testament to how much they care for the quality of instruction at the University of Mississippi as well as their desire to ensure that Ole Miss students continue to receive the very best higher education has to offer,” liberal arts Dean Lee Cohen said. “Their gift will have a significant impact for years to come.”

Besides meeting his wife on campus, Morgan’s ties to Ole Miss include an uncle, John Gainey, a former All-American Rebel baseball player.

“He encouraged me to visit Ole Miss to meet the coach so that I might get an invitation to join the team, which I got,” said Morgan, who also lettered in golf his sophomore year.

Family ties continued as both of the Morgans’ sons, Eddie and Sam, became UM graduates, as well as Eddie’s wife, Alaina McClain-Morgan of Houston, Texas.

And one person in particular is like family to the Morgans, even though she’s not a blood relative. Linda Spargo, coordinator of special projects in the chancellor’s office, became a friend and trusted educational counselor to both Eddie and Sam. Additionally, Spargo remained “on call” for the family when Eddie and Alaina were seriously injured in a car wreck their junior year.

“During Eddie’s convalescence, the support, friendship and practical advice we received from Dr. Linda Spargo was a prime motivation in my realization that Ole Miss was not just a great school but also a family,” Morgan said.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Morgan remained on campus for his first year of law school while his wife finished her senior year and graduated. They transferred to South Carolina, where he finished law school, then worked briefly in Dallas before returning to South Carolina, where Morgan has practiced as a trial lawyer ever since.

He recently served as president of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association among other achievements.

Morgan found great value in his final year as a student in Oxford.

“We made many great friends who remain so today and are a big part of our continued involvement and commitment to Ole Miss,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our support of the College of Liberal Arts for the balance of our lives, to enjoying many new relationships and friends made as a consequence of our gift, and to watching the College of Liberal Arts have an impact on the lives of faculty and students because of this gift.

“It’s a chance for us to return the favor and make a difference in our university. We want to be a part of its future successes.”

Nikki Neely Davis, a UM development director, thanked the Morgans for their gift.

“We appreciate so much their vision in making this type of gift,” she said. “While scholarship endowments are crucial, endowments that provide support for faculty and programs are equally important to supporting the university’s future.

“The Morgans are gracious and generous people whom I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know.”

The Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit; or contact Davis at or 662-915-6678.

Pharmacy School Begins Cooperation with University of Chile

Agreement focuses on student exchange and collaborative research

David Allen (left), UM pharmacy dean, meets with Pablo Caviedes, director of the Center for Clinical Research and Studies at the University of Chile’s Faculty of Medicine. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Chile’s Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences to collaborate on graduate education and research.

Although details of the collaborations are yet to be finalized, the agreement will initially focus on research collaborations and graduate and post-doctoral student exchanges between the School of Pharmacy and the University of Chile’s Santiago campus.

Potential collaborations could include training on the School of Pharmacy’s state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy instruments, sharing of the synthetic facilities and natural product resources, and select graduate level courses offered through the departments of BioMolecular Sciences and Pharmacy Administration, said Soumyajit Majumdar, associate dean for research and graduate programs at Ole Miss.

“This collaboration will tremendously benefit graduate students, research scientists and faculty from both institutions by exposing them to different technologies, culture and ways of thinking,” Majumdar said.

Since the formal agreement includes the entire university, other schools could benefit as well.

“This agreement will open up exciting opportunities for students and for faculty research,” said Blair McElroy, the university’s interim senior international officer and director of study abroad. “We anticipate hosting Chilean students in labs on campus, fostering intercultural exchange in the teaching and learning environment at UM and helping to expand the horizons of UM students who study in Chile.”

Pablo Caviedes, director of the Center for Clinical Research and Studies at the University of Chile’s Faculty of Medicine, was instrumental in establishing the partnership. He hopes the agreememt will set a foundation for a long-term cooperation between the two institutions, including a dual degree program and a robust cooperation between his university and the National Center for Natural Products Research.

“NCNPR has enormous expertise and infrastructure in the study of new molecules derived from natural sources,” Caviedes said. “Chile, due mainly to its geographical isolation, possesses a vast and unique flora, which represents a source for a largely unexplored number of novel compounds.”

David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy, hopes the agreement will allow members of each institution to learn from each other.

“This kind of agreement not only contributes to the depth of our research, but promotes a better relationship with our scientific partners around the world,” Allen said.

“Science is the main tool available to humanity in the search for the truth and the advancement of knowledge for the better of mankind,” Caviedes said. “Such an undertaking necessitates the joint efforts of researchers around the globe. We hope our efforts under this new program will further this goal.”

Professor Sheds Light on Overlooked Artistic Side of Vikings

Nancy Wicker is completing a book about the art and culture of ancient Norsemen

Nancy Wicker, UM professor of art history, is working to shed light on the artwork Vikings made, including pieces like the replica jewelry she is wearing. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Vikings are often portrayed as brutish, violent Norse conquerors, but a University of Mississippi professor wants to shed light on the often-misunderstood peoples’ artistic side that led them to make intricate golden jewelry and impressive wooden carvings on the prows of their ships.

Nancy Wicker, a professor of art history, is involved in projects that aim to broaden what the world knows about the early Scandinavians, who continue to capture the public imagination through TV shows such as “Vikings.” She hopes to shift some of the focus from stereotypical characteristics to the art they made, as well as how they traveled like no group before them.

“I ask people who are interested in Vikings, ‘Do you know about Viking art?'” Wicker said. “They say, ‘Did they have art? They were a bunch of barbarians. Would they have had art?’ Of course they had art. All cultures produce art.”

Her goal is ambitious, given that the public’s basic understanding about the group is often oversimplified or just plain inaccurate. Even the iconic “Viking helmet” with horns protruding from the sides isn’t historically correct. They didn’t wear them. But, misperceptions aside, the public has a longstanding fascination with the Norse warriors and explorers.

“People are fascinated,” Wicker said. “We art historians and museum curators laugh about it. Everyone is interested in Vikings, mummies and dinosaurs. If museums have any of those three, they’re golden.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Wicker was on sabbatical to write a book about art of the Viking Age. She was a fellow-in-residence at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The experience provided her with access to some of the world’s best library collections and also gave her a work site very conducive to writing, she said.

She gave a public lecture there in April about Viking art, but the room full of scholars quickly shifted the discussions back to the darker aspects of folklore.

“The first question I got was, ‘What about the moral compass of the Vikings?'” Wicker said.

She’s committed to broadening understanding of the misunderstood group. Many people have a simplistic view of them that is mostly portrayed as violent.

Yet Vikings even produced art on their ships, which featured impressive carvings in their own distinctive style. They also made metal objects, most of them very small, featuring likenesses of various animals and people.

“You may have seen the Viking ship woodcarvings,” Wicker said. “They made the jewelry they wore. They had arm rings, neck rings and pendants. … You will see lots of animals, very, very abstracted animals on brooches and pendants that hold clothing together.”

 Metal detecting is very popular and legal in Denmark and the United Kingdom. 

There’s a TV show in the UK called “Detectorists” about hobbyists who hope to find treasure. The show may have boosted the popularity of the avocation.

Metal detecting also has led to new discoveries of Viking art that differs somewhat from what’s traditionally been uncovered in graves.

“In addition to animal art, small figurines are now being found,” Wicker said. “My argument is that the newest discoveries of human figures are changing our view of Viking art. We can’t say it’s all just animal art.”

This small silver pendant, which is around an inch high, found in Sweden, is interpreted as a Valkyrie offering a cup of mead to welcome a fallen warrior to Valhalla, the hall of the slain, according to Norse mythology. Submitted photo by Creative Commons

Besides their artistic endeavors, the great distances Vikings traveled for trade and exploration are worth scholarly treatment. They traveled from Scandinavia to Spain, North Africa and Italy, and in the other direction to Russia, the Black Sea, Istanbul, Greece and Baghdad, among other places, Wicker said.

“There are many theories about why they expanded,” she said. “They were already traveling before the Viking Age – not as far, not to Spain, not to Russia, but certainly across the Baltic and to England.

“They were already on the move, and there was a population boom. What do the second and third sons do when the first son inherits the farm?”

Around the eighth century, just before the beginning of the Viking Age, Scandinavians developed ships that were faster than the vessels that came before them due to use of sails, but they still had a shallow draw. The innovation enabled them to conquer both the seas and rivers with relative ease.

“The new ships were very adaptable, which really allowed them to be on the move and go all around the coast of France and Spain, and across the Atlantic to Greenland, North America and Newfoundland, as well as down the rivers of Russia,” Wicker said. “The development of ships is very important in the eighth century, just on the cusp of the Viking Age.”

Despite their creativity and nautical ingenuity, Vikings suffer from perceptions based on inaccuracies.

Many people who are most fascinated by the idea of pagan Nordic Vikings don’t realize that their world was multicultural. Vikings – both Christian and pagan – were in contact with Christians in Western Europe, Muslims and Jews in Spain, Slavs in Russia and Eastern Europe, and Byzantine leaders in Constantinople, as well as Turkic and Jewish groups in Central Asia.

These people also traveled to Scandinavia to trade and sometimes stay, as indicated by grave finds where Wicker excavated at Birka, in Sweden, for instance, she noted.

“The art of the Viking world fascinates me because it reflects these wide-ranging interactions,” Wicker said. “With my research, I want to show others how these diverse peoples influenced each other’s cultures.”

Wicker is also studying how pre-Viking gold jewelry reveals wear and breakage. She’s lending her expertise in this area to collaborate with Dr. Jason Griggs, associate dean for research in the School of Dentistry and professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Materials Science at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Gold is an important metal in dental work because it is sturdy, malleable and noncorrosive.

She made impressions of jewelry breakage at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, and Griggs will analyze the fractal geometry of her impressions as part of his analysis of material fatigue and failure.

The department is fortunate to have Wicker, who has achieved national and international recognition, said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and professor of art.

“To say that Dr. Wicker is actively engaged in scholarly activity would be an understatement,” Chavis said. “Dr. Wicker is not only interested in her own scholarship, but in the advancement of her field as a whole.

“She is well-connected across the globe with other members at the top of her field. She has been an essential collaborator on various projects and is one of the most rigorous of colleagues I have known. She is a truly devoted scholar, and it is an honor to have her as a member of our faculty.”

Top Stories on Ole Miss News in 2017

Year-end review reveals significant, widely-read headlines

The Ole Miss softball team celebrates a huge win over LSU on May 13th, 2017 in the championship game of the 2017 SEC Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee. Photo by Joshua McCoy/Ole Miss Athletics

As 2017 draws to a close, we are pleased to share highlights of stories from Ole Miss News.  While we would quickly run out of room if we tried to share the more than 600 stories we produced in 2017, here is a nice sampling of great things that happened across our campuses: 

Be sure to check out our year in review in photos to see all these stories, plus so much more. 

Well, that’s it for 2017! Happy holidays and be sure to continue following us on Ole Miss News to stay up-to-date on all the exciting things happening at the University of Mississippi!

UM Youth Summer Camps Release 2018 Schedule

Outreach offers special option for holiday gifts, several new camps for K-12 students

Ole Miss student Maggie Craze (right) helps participants at STEM Camp for Girls launch paper rockets they designed and constructed. The camp is among several popular offerings available for next summer, and the Office of Pre-College Programs is offering gift certificates for the holidays. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Office of Pre-College Programs can help make holiday shopping easier this year by offering the gift of a fun, educational experience. Gift certificates are available for a slate of 2018 academic summer camps designed for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

“These camps give students the opportunity to explore new academic fields and find out which area interests them the most,” said Ari Lugo, UM pre-college programs counselor.

Several community members jumped at the idea of giving a class last December, Lugo said.

“These academic experiences can help to jumpstart academic and lifelong careers,” Lugo said. “That’s an amazing gift.”

Registration is open for more than 25 summer programs offered to students in grades K-12 beginning in late May 2018 on the Ole Miss campus. There are monthlong, two-week and one-week camps to choose from. Some programs also offer options for students to stay on campus overnight or commute each day from home.

The popular “Rebel Quest” day camps for rising first- through sixth-grade students will host weekly sessions from June 4 to July 27. Each week includes a new theme to help shape learning opportunities and fun activities. Parents are encouraged to register as soon as possible as space fills up quickly for each week.

Academic one-week camps have increased for 2018. The new lineup was expanded to inspire students with different interests.

“We know that students can be very busy in the summer months and may not have a full month to dedicate to a program,” said Ellen Shelton, director of pre-college programs. “These various shorter camp options allow students to have an engaging academic experience and explore the Ole Miss campus with a smaller time commitment.”

Middle school students can enjoy the popular Game Development, STEM Camp for Girls, STEM Camp for Boys, Engineering Camp and many more. These one-week camps allow students to explore an academic field and make new friends while enjoying campus life.

The 2018 lineup of one-week camps for high school students has been expanded to offer even more classes for a broad range of interests.

“The Art of the Story” is a one-week camp set for July 23-27 that explores the work of Oxford’s most notable author, William Faulkner.

The “Young Naturalist” experience July 8-13 for rising 11th and 12th graders is for students who want to get their hands dirty. Those interested in environmental science and biology will be at the UM Field Station throughout the week conducting experiments and fieldwork.

The new “Young Women’s Empowerment” camp, also set for July 8-13, will explore the importance of women in leadership positions. Women leaders from various careers and walks of life will help lead discussions and guide students as they shadow them in their careers.

The full list of one-week camps can be found at

For high school students looking to get a head start on college, Summer College for High School Students and JumpStart program for incoming freshmen are now taking applications.

These camps allow students to come to campus for one month over the summer and get a head start on their college courses. Students can receive college credit in one of the numerous academic tracks to choose from, including computer science, engineering, health professions, pre-pharmacy, journalism, integrated marketing communications, intelligence and security studies, legal studies, liberal arts, or one of numerous intensive foreign language programs.

To find out more about the Office of Pre-College Programs’ Summer 2018 schedule, including a full list of classes, dates and costs, as well as gift certificate and payroll deduction information, visit, email or call 662-915-7621.