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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about research at UM, visit

University Recognized for Student Veteran Services, Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information on UM’s Office of Veteran and Military Services, visit

Military Student Works with Nonprofit to Raise Money for UM Veterans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newby said he already has plans in mind.

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

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

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

Biomedical Engineering Program Soaring

Three new professors join faculty as student enrollment steadily climbs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other administrators in the School of Engineering applauded the hires.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about the UM biomedical engineering program, visit

Don Cole Retires after Storied History at Ole Miss

Longtime mathematics professor, administrator credited with leaving lasting legacy at UM

Don Cole retires from the University of Mississippi and his longtime responsibilities in the Lyceum on Jan. 15. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – When Donald Cole was a graduate student at the University of Mississippi in the 1980s, he and a faculty member would walk over to the Union to get coffee together. Cole would walk so fast, his companion would have to hold onto his shoulder to keep up.

As a champion of education, Cole has outpaced others ever since, but he’s retiring officially Jan. 15, and the many people who love and admire him are feeling the loss. A retirement reception will be hosted from 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom at The Inn at Ole Miss.

“He’s retiring, and it’s hitting home,” said Demetria Hereford, associate director of the Ronald E. McNair Program, who has worked with the assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics for 21 years. “Dr. Cole’s voice is one that people listen to because he’s fair to all people. People respect and appreciate fairness and compromise, thus gravitate towards him.”

The 68-year-young Cole has tried to help all students as a math professor or mentor, but he likely has done more than anyone at the university to help underrepresented students achieve academically through leading such initiatives as the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation’s IMAGE, or Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education, and summer Bridge STEM programs and the McNair program, which recruits 29 low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students each year and prepares them for doctoral studies.

“Dr. Cole is the most giving and kind person,” said Andie Cooper, who has worked as Cole’s executive assistant for the past three years. “His smile is contagious, and his faith is visible through his actions as he works diligently on many committees throughout campus. He truly has the heart of a servant.”

While giving a campus tour to visitors, Don Cole stops by the James Meredith statue situated between the Lyceum and the J.D. Williams Library. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Always ready to laugh but thoughtful when he speaks, Cole reflects on the prospect of retiring after a history with the university that goes back to 1968.

“It’s going to be the people and places that I miss,” Cole said. “I’ll be coming up on weekends and looking around, so the building part I can do something about.

“Some of the people I’ll naturally run into in the community. But I’m going to miss a lot of aspects because I put my life off into it.”

Besides his roles as program director, grant writer, mentor and mathematics professor, Cole is also an administrator. Under Robert Khayat, chancellor from 1995 to 2009, he was named assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.

He chaired the Chancellor’s Standing Committee on Sensitivity and Respect until last year; co-chaired the Extended Sensitivity and Respect Committee in 2013, which was initiated after a post-election incident on campus in 2012; and co-chaired the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on History and Context the last couple of years.

Cole said he believes the university has come a long way in becoming a welcoming place for all.

“I’m always the half-full guy,” Cole said. “And so I see that the university has come a tremendous way. I remember getting here as a freshman (in 1968). I remember how uncomfortable I was, and I remember some of the incidents that made me uncomfortable. And the university’s just a far cry from that today.

“Yes, we have a long ways to go. Sometimes when we ‘fix something,’ we need to be reminded that it doesn’t stay fixed, that as new groups of students, faculty and staff come in (every year), that we have to be vigilant, we have to be conscious and not rest on any laurels. We have to cover some of the same ground, remembering that we’re covering the same ground with different people.”

Cole’s colleagues attest to the powerful effect of his presence on the university.

“From the outset, it was clear that he would be a team player but would never compromise his values and beliefs,” Khayat said. “He was loyal to the university, to his students, his colleagues and his faith.”

Provost Noel Wilkin added, “The advice and guidance that Don has provided around issues of race and diversity have been incredibly valuable. These are grounded in his steadfast pursuit of affording all students who come to our university an opportunity to be successful.”

There and Back Again

Cole grew up in Jackson, living with his parents and seven siblings, and entered Ole Miss as a freshman engineering major in 1968. He was a member of the Black Student Union, which presented the UM administration with a list of demands, asking for an end to overt racism, more opportunities for black students and staff, and the hiring of black faculty.

In 1970, Cole took part in a protest at an Up with People concert on campus and was expelled from the university along with seven other students. He spent two nights in the Oxford jail.

“Virtually every one of the 27 demands have been made a reality on this campus,” said Charles Ross, UM professor of history and director of the African American studies program, which he said exists only because of the courage Cole and others displayed as students. “Today, many individuals on our campus take for granted the opportunities that were created by the sacrifice made by Don and others.”

James Donald (left), Lawrence Anderson, Donald Cole, Edwin Scott and Kenneth Mayfield catch up at a UM Black Student Reunion. Submitted photo

Kenneth Mayfield is another of the students who were expelled in 1970. He and Cole have been best friends since, and Cole even introduced him to his wife. Mayfield did not return to Ole Miss, but he persuaded his daughter, Dominique, to enroll there.

“My daughter graduated from Ole Miss (with a degree in political science),” said Mayfield, senior attorney at the Mayfield Law Firm in Tupelo. “I really wanted her to finish there because I was unable to finish there, and it would give me some sense of completion.”

Cole arranged it so that he would present his best friend’s daughter with her degree.

“It was like I finally got to graduate from there,” Mayfield said. “She’s practicing law with me now.” 

After unsuccessfully trying to re-enter Ole Miss a year after their expulsion, Cole and Mayfield were accepted to Tougaloo College, where they received their bachelor’s degrees.

Mayfield went on to receive a law degree from the University of Michigan. Cole earned master’s degrees in mathematics from both the State University of New York and the University of Michigan, and returned to Ole Miss and completed a Ph.D. in mathematics in 1985.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Cole worked in Fort Worth, Texas, in the aerospace industry. He later accepted an offer to work as a mathematics professor at Florida A&M, and then was asked to join Ole Miss as assistant dean in the Graduate School and associate professor of mathematics. He returned in 1993.

So, why did Cole return to Ole Miss after being kicked out as an undergraduate?

“I’m often asked that question, and I have never been able to truly give a good answer, even to myself,” he said. “I had not truly failed at anything, and I had come here to get a degree and I had failed to get a degree.

“I had left in disgrace, left with a jail certificate, and I had come here, not by myself, but come here representing so many others, and I suspect that I had feelings about letting so many other folk down, and maybe this gave me another shot at redeeming myself, and that’s the nearest that I can answer.”

Don Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith (left) accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss in 1962. Submitted photo

Returning to the university after the way he was treated is probably one of the biggest contributions Cole could make, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“I feel like he truly is a role model,” Hephner LaBanc said. “He was able to forgive what happened to him, not forget.

“There have been many others he’s linked arms with, but I think he was the forerunner. He allowed us to come behind him and be brave.”

Cole has helped carry on what James Meredith accomplished when he became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss, said Judy Meredith, a retired assistant professor at Jackson State University and wife of James Meredith.

“James Meredith opened that door, and God put Don Cole there to keep that door open,” she said.

The Merediths said Cole has always made them feel welcome during their visits to campus.

“I’ve been to Ole Miss a lot of times. Nobody has done more and better for me than Dr. Donald Cole,” James Meredith said. “I’ve never known anyone in education that I’ve had greater respect for, and I’ve known a lot of people in education who have helped me through the years.”

Teacher and Mentor

Cole has taught one math course, ranging from geometry to calculus, every semester since he’s been at Ole Miss. His interest in mathematics started in elementary school.

“I loved me some Caroline Sue,” said Cole, referencing a grade school classmate. “I devised a great scheme to get Caroline Sue to like me. She wasn’t good in math, so I took our math workbook and did the whole workbook, so that whenever Caroline Sue had a question, I had the answer right there.

“The instructor was impressed because they kind of used my book as a key. I didn’t care about that; I cared about Caroline Sue. She ended up dating my friend.”

Over the years, Cole has helped hundreds of Ole Miss students understand math, even those who thought they never could, such as Scott Coopwood, of Cleveland, Mississippi.

“I had one last class to take in order to graduate in August of ’84, and I was worried that I might not pass it because math has never been one of my strong points,” said Coopwood, founder and owner of Coopwood Communications, which includes Delta Magazine and the Delta Business Journal.

Don Cole and IHL President Shane Hooper celebrate UM Commencement in 2016. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The class was Statistics, and the first day I walked into the room I saw a young guy sitting on the edge of his desk looking through some papers, and it was Don. As everyone was pouring into the room, I walked up to him and said, ‘I’m awful at math and I’m concerned that I might not be able to pass this class, and if I don’t, I won’t graduate.’

“Don put his hand on my shoulder and in a very positive manner, he said, ‘Don’t worry, regardless of your math skills, if it comes to it, I’ll work with you after class every day, and I don’t care how long it takes. … You’re going to pass this course, and you’re going to graduate on time.’ He hadn’t known me more than two minutes.

“Don was a great teacher in every way. He went slow and explained everything extremely well. I spent a lot of time with him when I was taking that course. I can’t recall many teachers who had faith in me or in fact even encouraged me. But Don certainly did. Thirty-four years later and I have never forgotten the impact he had on my life in the summer of 1984.”

Other students sing Cole’s praises as a mentor, as well.

“As a freshman majoring in mathematics, I knew that he would be someone who could serve as a resource and mentor throughout my undergraduate tenure,” said Skylyn Irby, who met Cole during the summer before her freshman year and participated in the Bridge STEM program, which serves underrepresented incoming freshman STEM majors, and McNair program.

“He was someone who overcame the adversities that many underrepresented people of color encounter in STEM-related career fields. More specifically, he was a mathematician and someone who gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in mathematics.”

Cole has had a profound impact on undergraduate and graduate education at the university, said James Reid, UM chair and professor of mathematics.

“It was noted in that June/July 2009 issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society that over one-third of the African-Americans who received Ph.D.s nationally that year had graduated from this university in 2006,” Reid said. “Dr. Cole was an essential contributor to this effort and recruited and mentored many of these students. He is a remarkable member of the Ole Miss family.”

Cole, who won the university’s Frist Student Service Award in 2001 and Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education in 2004, said the LSMAMP IMAGE and summer Bridge STEM programs and McNair program are dear to his heart.

“They have been pivotal programs that have absolutely changed the lives of many, many individuals who have participated,” Cole said. “They have been programs that have highlighted us as an institution far beyond our walls and borders.”

Family Man

So, with all the work Cole has done for the university, has he had time to be a caring husband and father and all-around good person? The answer is yes, said Marcia Cole, his wife of 38 years and UM lecturer of applied gerontology.

The Cole family at home: Donald II (left), Marcia, Donald Sr., Mariah and William. Submitted photo

“I think he is the kindest, most patient, caring individual that I know,” she said. “He just genuinely cares about people, and he will do everything within his power and use any resource available to him to be of some help, even to his detriment.”

The Coles have three grown children: Don II, 35; Mariah, 32; and William, 31. Marcia Cole said her husband wanted to be a father from day one. He watched his children play sports and taught them how to swim and build a fire. He made sure his daughter knew how to bass fish, catch a ball, change a tire, do yardwork and fix the plumbing.

“He’s a big kid at heart,” Marcia Cole said. “At the house, if I heard something happen, I wasn’t calling the kids. I called him.”

Upon retirement, Don Cole said he’ll continue to devote time to his favorite hobby, photography, and around the house he plans to set up a couple of aquariums, garden and “fix” things. In addition, he’ll continue serving his community through work with civic and humanitarian organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church.

From faculty to students to administrators, Cole’s impact at the university and across the state will be felt for generations to come.

“Cole is a selfless, supporting role model,” said Victoria Robinson, who participated in the Bridge STEM program, IMAGE and the McNair program. “Without him, I would not be as successful as I have been in my undergraduate career. I’ll miss him more than he knows.”

Don Cole plays on the swings during an Oxford Housing Authority community project to rebuild a playground. Photo by Patrick Perry

Student’s Photos are Picture-Perfect

Yasmine Malone among 22 female photographers featured in The New York Times

UM sophomore Yasmine Malone uses her iPhone to take photos that have appeared in The New York Times. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Yasmine Malone definitely has an eye for photography.

The University of Mississippi student was among 22 young female photographers selected to participate in a recent New York Times feature project. The newspaper asked the women to take photos for “This is 18,” which explores daily life for girls around the world who are becoming adults this year.

The attention Malone has gained from her national exposure has put her on the path to joining the ranks of such renowned women photographers as Annie Liebovitz and Sally Mann.

“I was honored and humbled to be selected for such a unique opportunity,” said Malone, a 20-year-old sophomore English and public policy leadership major from Clarksdale. “Although I think I was deserving of it, I never saw it coming. It was truly a miracle.”

Ironically, Malone, who is minoring in political science and journalism, discovered her interest in photography almost by accident.

While in high school, Malone was selected to participate in Blue Magnolia Films’ “Celebrating Storytellers” project last year.

Commemorating Mississippi’s bicentennial, 100 voices from 13 cities were trained by film company staff in the craft of photography and storytelling during a full-immersion workshop. The resulting images have graced the covers of newspapers across the state, as well as The New York Times.

“I took pictures on my iPhone7 for the Mississippi bicentennial project,” she said. “I never thought that my high school experience would lead to something like this.

“I got to highlight a bright spot in our community. That’s how I ended up being chosen by The New York Times for the ‘This is 18’ project.”

Tieryaa Metcalf, of Clarksdale, Malone’s aunt and seventh-grade honors English teacher, said she noticed her niece was well-spoken and saw her gift of “gab” as potential for future success. To that end, Metcalf urged Malone to write a piece for the Mississippi Public Broadcasting National Writing Project.

Throughout Malone’s high school years, Metcalf encouraged her niece to enter several oratorical contests as well.

“She informed me that I was the first teacher to push and challenge her to think deeper into the context of the different readings and writings that were taught in my class,” Metcalf said. “I am both excited, yet humbled, by her success. I know that she will do great things with her ability to write, speak and be an activist for voices unheard.”

While the New York Times experiences have definitely been a highlight in her life, Malone said she hopes to work as a student photographer for The Daily Mississippian, the Ole Miss campus newspaper. If she joins the staff, it will be in addition to her standing involvements with the Black Student Union and the Associated Student Body Freshman Forum.

“This experience has inspired me to commit myself 100 percent to everything I do,” she said. “I know that as I do that, nothing but good things will eventually come my way.”

To view Malone’s photos and story, visit

Federally Funded Marijuana Turns 50

University researchers observe half-century of growing contract

Mahmoud ElSohly, professor of pharmaceutics and director of the UM Marijuana Project, has worked with the project since joining as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. ­– Fifty years ago, the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy was awarded a competitive contract from the government to grow marijuana that could be standardized for research.

Interest in marijuana research had grown throughout the late ’60s, and the government wanted to study the effects of cannabis on the brain and the body. To do that, it needed a source of certifiable plant material that was responsibly grown and harvested.

Coy Waller, who would later become the leading force of UM’s marijuana operation, was serving on a committee of the National Institute of Mental Health and recommended to the organization that a program be created to provide this standardized marijuana to the government.

After an open competition among institutions around the country, UM won the first contract in spring 1968 to be the government’s provider of marijuana for research purposes. Later that summer, Ole Miss researchers grew the first crop of legal research marijuana in the country, beginning a research project that has lasted half a century.

The marijuana growing field at UM was last planted in 2014, but the National Institute on Drug Abuse has requested a larger crop to be produced in 2019, so university officials are readying the field for use next summer. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

The university’s Marijuana Project is under the supervision of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Its longevity is a result of decades of honing the operation through tough competition for the contract, for which UM competes every three to five years.

“The University of Mississippi applies for the contract just like everyone else,” said Mahmoud ElSohly, director of the Marijuana Project and professor of pharmaceutics in the School of Pharmacy. “Our research capability, our expertise, our knowledge in the areas of cannabis chemistry and production, our personnel and facilities ­­– everything is in place to make us very competitive.”

Since ElSohly joined the project as a postdoctoral fellow in 1975, the marijuana operation has expanded, security has increased and the project has been registered with the FDA as a drug manufacturer, meaning that everything they do must comply with the FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practices.

“For half a century, the Marijuana Project has done an outstanding job of working within federal guidelines to produce cannabis products that are standardized for scientific research,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “I am extremely proud of the stellar faculty, research scientists and staff who have been deeply committed to excellence in this area.”

The Marijuana Project is part of the National Center for Natural Products Research, which is housed within the School of Pharmacy. Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director, has been closely involved with the project over the years.

“We are very proud of our contribution towards the science and understanding of cannabis chemistry, pharmacology and product development over last 50 years,” Khan said.

Indeed, NCNPR and the Marijuana Project both contribute to the university’s unique research profile.

“This 50-year anniversary of the Marijuana Project at the University of Mississippi is truly a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the quality of the science produced by the program,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs. “The exciting part is that there is still much to discover and UM hopes for another 50 years of scientific leadership in this rapidly developing field.”

Since the university produces marijuana based on what researchers request from NIDA’s Drug Supply Program, it grows marijuana in a variety of chemical makeups. Recently, it has begun creating marijuana products for research, such as extracts rich in THC, marijuana’s psychoactive component, or cannabidiol, known as CBD.

For the 2019 growing season, NIDA has exercised the option in its contract to grow marijuana in about half the university’s marijuana field, which consists of roughly 12 total acres of heavily secured land. For the past several years, the project was able to fulfill NIDA’s demand for smaller amounts of plant material by growing in its 1,100-square-foot indoor grow room.

The exact amount to be grown is not yet finalized, said Suman Chandra, a co-director of the project. However, if the crop is planted based on the exercised option, it will be the largest amount of plant material NIDA has ever asked Ole Miss to grow in a single season.

“This is probably because of the research community’s increased interest in CBD oil and CBD-rich cannabis varieties,” Chandra said. “Therefore, we anticipate that the majority of the crop is going to have high levels of CBD.”

Pure CBD extract is created at the UM Marijuana Project for research and clinical trial use. Photo by Don Stanford/Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences

In fact, earlier this month, a clinical study on CBD’s impact on certain forms of juvenile epilepsy began at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, using standardized CBD extract produced on the Oxford campus.

“I truly believe that this CBD extract study will serve as a model for researchers across the country,” ElSohly said. “If we are able to show that a standardized CBD extract is safe and effective for the treatment of severe epilepsy in children, there could be a lot more demand for the material for research purposes.”

UM is also conducting research on new pharmaceutical dosage forms that contain CBD, THC and other cannabinoids that will allow the therapeutic properties of marijuana to work while eliminating the psychoactive component.

“Our interest is not in medical marijuana, but in developing FDA-approved, cannabis-derived pharmaceutical products,” ElSohly said. “There are over 500 known chemicals in marijuana, 120 of which are cannabinoids, and we are interested in what they can be used for.”

Although ElSohly is familiar with some of marijuana’s potential therapeutic benefits, he has also seen how the drug can be misused. Through a potency-monitoring project, the lab has analyzed marijuana samples seized by law enforcement since the early days of the contract and has seen marijuana’s potency increase dramatically.

“We have data from over 85,000 seizures over the years,” ElSohly said. “In the 1970s, the average THC content of seized marijuana was 2 percent or less. In 2017, the potency reached 17 percent.”

This trend also aligns with an increase in the ratio of THC to CBD in seized marijuana. In the 1980s and early ’90s, most seized material had about 10 to 15 times more THC than CBD, ElSohly said. But in 2017, that ratio had jumped to 100 times.

“This is parallel to the increase in emergency room admissions of people experiencing psychosis, irritability and paranoia as a result of using cannabis,” he said.

Although many states have legalized some uses of marijuana, the federal government still considers it to be a Schedule I drug, meaning it is illegal at the federal level to produce or possess. Because of this, UM remains the only place in the country that produces legal marijuana grown within federal requirements and standardized for research.

The DEA announced in August 2016 that it would approve registrations for other qualified growers to produce and distribute marijuana for research purposes, but no additional registrations have yet been granted.

After 50 years of operation, researchers in the Marijuana Project are still working to secure the next growing contract from the government when the current one expires. The project is in its fourth year of a five-year contract, and the university will be reapplying next year.

For more information about marijuana research at UM, visit

Former UM Officials, Staff Recall George H.W. Bush’s Visit, Legacy

Late 41st president spoke during Commencement exercises 33 years ago

Vice President George H.W. Bush spends time with Leone King (center) and Chancellor R. Gerald Turner before his Commencement address in Tad Smith Coliseum. Photo courtesy Leone King

OXFORD, Miss. – As the world mourns the passing of George H.W. Bush, former administrators and staff at the University of Mississippi are reflecting on the 41st president’s campus visit more than three decades ago.

Bush, then-vice president under President Ronald Reagan, delivered the address during the university’s 132nd Commencement exercises in May 1985. R. Gerald Turner, president of Southern Methodist University since 1995, was chancellor at UM at the time.

“It was my first year as chancellor at Ole Miss, and we wanted someone of note for this occasion,” Turner said. “Through my associations with U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran and (U.S. Rep.) Sonny Montgomery, who regularly played golf with the vice president, we invited Mr. Bush to come and deliver the keynote address. He graciously accepted our invitation.”

Turner remembered “intense” preparations between the time Bush agreed to attend Commencement and his arrival on campus.

“The Secret Service came in the day before and did an extremely thorough check of the entire campus and all the areas where Vice President Bush would be while here,” he said. “The day before, my wife Gail and I noticed they had snipers in the woods behind the chancellor’s home to prevent any unauthorized intruders from entering the premises. They really left no stone unturned.”

Leone King (left) greets Barbara Bush at Tad Smith Coliseum. Photo courtesy Leone King

Despite the Secret Services’ best efforts, Bush threw caution to the wind on one occasion, Turner said.

“The Secret Service people were holding the Bushes, my wife and I behind closed doors waiting for a reception to begin,” Turner said. “As the people began to arrive, we could hear the increasing noise of their voices.”

At some point, Bush asked Turner what was going on. After explaining to the vice president what was about to happen, Bush asked, “What do you want to do?”

“I told him, ‘I’d rather we were out there meeting and greeting the people,'” Turner said. “Mr. Bush then responded, ‘Well then, let’s go.’

“He just opened the closed door, entered the room and began introducing himself to everyone. That’s the kind of warm and friendly person he was.”

Other former UM staff members who worked the events connected to Bush’s appearance include Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat; Leone King, former assistant to the chancellor; and Robert Jordan, former director of university photography.

“It was my privilege to visit with President Bush on several occasions,” Khayat said. “I found him to be warm, bright, funny and with the unusual ability to make you feel he was interested in you and your comments. I believe he was the personification of the values that made America a great nation.”

“I remember President Bush and his wife as being very gracious people,” King said. “Security was tight, so I didn’t get to spend much time with him other than hooding him, which was something I did for all Commencement guest speakers.”

Vice President George H.W. Bush delivers his address at the University of Mississippi’s 132nd Commencement in May 1985. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Jordan, an award-winning photographer at UM for more than three decades, took pictures before, during and after Commencement. His memories of the late president’s visit remain vivid years later.

“I remember having to get clearance from Secret Service,” Jordan said. “I had a spot meter in my camera bag that somewhat resembled a gun, I guess. That momentarily made them a little nervous. Everything else after that remains pretty much a blur.”

Following the Ole Miss visit, Turner maintained close contact with the Bush family, even after he left the university 11 years later.

“Because his son’s (George W. Bush) presidential library is housed at SMU, we’ve had both ’41’ and ’43’ on our campus and in our home on several occasions,” Turner said.

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Ford Center Brings LOU Community Together for Holiday Season

Holiday village offers variety of events for all through Dec. 13

The holiday village has returned to the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts again this year for the ninth annual gingerbread house display. The 32 gingerbread structures include houses made by Oxford High students with a 3D printer. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is hosting a series of community events, including a holiday concert, storytime readings featuring special guests Mary Haskell and Patty Lewis, and a special visit from Santa Claus through Dec. 13 to celebrate the holidays.

Each year the Ford Center creates a holiday gingerbread village, and this year’s collection is the ninth annual gingerbread house display. This year’s village features some 32 gingerbread structures, including houses made by Oxford High School students with a 3D printer.

The holiday village opened just before the annual holiday concert on Dec. 1. It is free and open to the public, but since the village supports local food banks, visitors are encouraged to bring food items to donate.

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she looks forward to the holiday season each year because the events help give back to the community.

Mike Jones, a Calhoun Academy student, checks out the gingerbread castle built by another group after helping his classmates top off their gingerbread village. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I love just being in the village and seeing people’s reaction to the houses, especially the children,” Meacham said. “We host many school groups, as well as the story times and the visit from Santa, so we have lots of children visit the village. It’s such a pure reaction, full of the innocence of childhood.”

The holiday village is one of Meacham’s favorite traditions at the Ford Center, and she said it would not be possible without the help of the Oxford-Lafayette Countycommunity.

“(We hope) that it helps bring some holiday cheer to the people who visit, but what I really love about the holiday village is that this is truly a community effort,” Meacham said. “The Ford Center provides the space, some decorations and theatrical lighting, but the real work is done by the people who build the houses. Without them, there would be no village.”

UM alumna Haskell, a successful actress and singer and Miss Mississippi 1977, will read stories to preschoolers and toddlers at the Ford Center’s gingerbread village at 10:30 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 6). The event is free and open to the public.

Santa visits the holiday village from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday (Dec. 8). The event is free, and attendees are advised to bring their own cameras. The Oxford Civic Chorus will perform holiday songs and carols in the Ford Center lobby from 1 to 2 p.m.

Lewis, also a UM alumna, member of the Ford Center advisory board and a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy, will read to elementary school children in the holiday village at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 13. The event is free.

For more information on the Ford Center’s series of holiday events, visit