UM ‘Corpse Flower’ Will Soon Bloom with Smell of Death

School of Pharmacy offering live stream of rare blooming event

A titan arum, a flowering plant known as the ‘corpse flower,’ is soon to bloom at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Faser Hall. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Just keep watching – that’s the best advice for witnessing the soon-to-blossom, towering titan arum housed in the atrium of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Faser Hall. The odd-looking plant, which has the largest unbranched flower cluster in the world, is expected to bloom any hour now.

When it does, the 5-foot-tall flowering plant (Amorphophallus titanum) will appear even more otherworldly, with its now-lime-green spathe unfolding to display a dark burgundy. The species also emits a decomposing flesh odor when it blooms, a smell intended to attract pollinators but a putrid smell nonetheless that has earned titan arum the nickname “corpse flower” or “corpse plant.”

Lal Jayaratna, a research and development botanist with the Maynard W. Quimby Medicinal Plant Garden of the National Center for Natural Products Research, where the plant is usually housed, said he believes the plant will blossom Thursday or Friday.

On Thursday morning, a steady stream of onlookers viewed the titan arum in person in the UM School of Pharmacy, some even posing for pictures. A live stream of the titan arum is also available at the Ole Miss Pharmacy YouTube page

The plant, native solely to western Sumatra and western Java in Indonesia, is grown at the garden as a collection and also for research by NCNPR scientists on the chemistry of different parts of the plant. The garden is home to three mature titan arums and a few others.

The blooming of the plant is a rare sight, with the titan arum taking about five or more years to start flowering. It then subsequently blooms infrequently, once in three or four years, and even more rarely in cultivation. In 2014, UM housed two plants that bloomed within weeks of each other.

Bowlin Named Inaugural Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy

Distinction honors professor's excellence in teaching and research

Kendall Bowlin (at podium) teaches a class in the UM Patterson School of Accountancy. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy has named Kendall Bowlin as the inaugural holder of its Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy.

An associate professor and UM alumnus, Bowlin joined the faculty of the accountancy school in 2008 after earning a doctoral degree at the University of Texas. His primary teaching and research interests are in the field of auditing.

Before his doctoral studies, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the UM School of Business Administration and a master’s degree in accountancy from the Patterson School in 1998 and 1999, respectively. He worked four years as an auditor with Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Being named the first Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy is a tremendous honor, and I am grateful for Mr. Krei’s generous support of our school, faculty and students,” Bowlin said. “The success that our students and faculty have had, and continue to have, is a result of the wonderful financial support and friendship provided by Ed Krei and other alumni.”

Barbara and Ed Krei, of Edmond, Oklahoma, established the Edward Krei Lectureship in Accountancy in 2009. In 2015, they generously elevated their endowment to the chair level, with more than $1.5 million committed to sustaining and strengthening the school’s faculty.

The endowment provides salary supplements, research and creative activity support, and other funding deemed appropriate by the dean.

“We are deeply grateful to Barbara and Ed Krei for establishing the Krei Chair of Accountancy at Ole Miss,” Dean Mark Wilder said. “Ed has enjoyed an exceptional career, and we are proud to have him as an alumnus and also as a member of the Patterson School Hall of Fame.

“We are humbled by the Kreis’ generosity. Their vision to support our faculty will enable the Patterson School to continue building on its strong teaching and mentoring tradition, a trademark of our program and a key reason for the successes that we enjoy.”

All three degree programs at the Patterson School are among the top 10 in the 2017 annual national rankings of accounting programs published by the Public Accounting Report. The undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs are all ranked No. 8 nationally.

The master’s program leads the Southeastern Conference in the rankings and the undergraduate program is second in the conference. One or more Ole Miss accountancy programs have led the SEC in the rankings in each of the past seven years.

Bowlin’s appointment to the chair is well-deserved, Wilder said.

“Dr. Bowlin is enjoying an outstanding career at Ole Miss,” he continued. “He is one of the bright young minds in our profession and is a national leader in auditing research. His presence on our faculty has enabled us to attract other top faculty and doctoral students to the Patterson School.”

Bowlin’s research focuses on the strategic aspects of interactions between auditors and client managers. He is particularly interested in the ways in which institutional features of the audit environment affect the auditor’s ability to anticipate and respond to the manager’s possible tendencies toward financial misreporting.

Ed Krei

“I very much appreciate Mr. Krei’s and Dean Wilder’s confidence in appointing me to hold the Krei Chair, and I hope to justify their confidence through a devotion to our students, our alumni and my colleagues in the Patterson School,” Bowlin said.

“The establishment of the chair represents continued and growing faculty support from our alumni. This support allows the Patterson School to recruit and retain high-quality faculty, who will, in turn, commit to the development of our students and accounting leaders of the future.”

Krei enjoyed an outstanding career as managing director and board member for the Baker Group in Oklahoma City. The Baker Group is an institutional fixed-income firm that serves community banks throughout the nation. For 21 years, he has represented the Baker Group, helping client organizations develop strategies and plan for the future.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy from Ole Miss in 1973. He said the endowment is meant to provide an “eternal flame,” commemorating the education he received.

“I think the Patterson School is an excellent investment because of its faculty members,” Krei said. “Their passion is so evident, and they really excite students about their field. And now, with the speaking engagements I have, I find myself emulating what I learned from them.”

The Kreis met at UM as freshman members of the Pride of the South Marching Band. Barbara Krei graduated from what is now the School of Applied Sciences and has enjoyed a career as a speech pathologist in the Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City.

“The Kreis’ investment in our faculty will provide benefits for many generations of future Ole Miss accountancy students,” Wilder said.

The Ed Krei Lectureship in Accountancy Endowment 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., University, MS 38655; or visit

For more information on ways to support the Patterson School of Accountancy, contact Denson Hollis, executive development director, at 662-915-5092 or

Center for Inclusion Creates Lasting Impact for Graduating Seniors

CICCE celebrates four years of service to students

UM students participate in the CICCE’s Celebration of Achievement, a graduation ceremony for students from historically underrepresented populations. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – During their college careers, many students find an organization, resource or mentor that influences the person they become and affects them both academically and personally. For several of this year’s graduates, the University of Mississippi’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement served as all three.

The CICCE was established in 2014 to provide services that foster an inclusive campus environment. The students graduating this year were freshmen when the center first opened, and it became a haven to them for mentorships and conversations.

“The class of 2018 is especially special to me, as many of the undergraduates were only freshmen when the CICCE opened during the fall 2014 semester,” said Shawnboda Mead, the center’s director. “Four years later, the center has contributed to the university’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, yet I know there is still more work to be done.

“My hope is that with each class, we will continue to see progress towards making the university a more welcoming place for all students.”

The center’s mission is to create open and continuous communication to deepen the understanding of self-identity and the identity, culture and heritage of others for all students. The center’s staff also works to create a space that is nurturing and welcoming for students from historically underrepresented groups.

Over the last four years, the center has assisted with growth and retention of underrepresented students. In 2016, UM’s retention rate for African-American students was more than 85 percent. This rate was the highest among institutions in Mississippi and higher than the Southern University Group average.

The center also has developed programs and leadership initiatives for underrepresented students and hosted events to promote cross-cultural interactions among the entire student population. Among the most successful of those programs is the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Mentoring program, a partnership with the Office of Admissions that pairs incoming freshman and high school seniors of color with an upperclassman mentor.

The annual MOST Conference, held each summer for high school seniors, aims to expose prospective African-American students to academic offerings, campus resources and leadership opportunities. The conference has grown each year, and more than 850 students have applied for this year’s event, scheduled for July.

Terrence Johnson graduates with a degree in journalism from the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communication

Of students attending MOST in 2015 and 2016, about 30 percent enrolled at Ole Miss.

Hundreds of students have volunteered to serve as mentors in MOST, as well as other leadership programs including UM CONNECT, which matches African-American, Latin American, Native American, Asian-American, multiracial and first-generation college students with a mentor.

The African American Males Enrolling Retaining Graduating Initiative provides mentoring, community outreach, and personal and professional development opportunities for students. The Inclusion Team of Peer Diversity Educators allows any student to volunteer as an advocate for diversity, multiculturalism and social justice.

“The participation of students has been instrumental in allowing our small staff to expand our reach across the campus and fulfilling our mission,” Mead said.

The CICCE, in collaboration with campus partners, also hosted a Lavender Graduation for the last three years to celebrate the achievements of LGBTQ students. The center also develops programs for Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBT History Month and Native American Heritage Month, among other celebrations.

Students who entered the university during the center’s inaugural year have directly benefitted from those services during their time at Ole Miss.

Terrence Johnson, broadcast journalism major and African American studies minor from Shuqualak, said the center eased his transition into university life and allowed him to participate as a MOST mentor.

“The center was the first place that I was able to call home,” he said. “It was one of the best things that happened to me because it gave me the privilege to invest in students like I had been invested in.

“I know that through this position, it led to other opportunities on campus that really solidified my undergrad experience. I am so thankful for the center and everyone who’s a part of being a change agent for our campus. The center changed me.”

Nekkita Beans, social work major from Philadelphia and outgoing president of the Black Student Union, said the center was the backbone of her UM experience.

“As a freshman, I struggled to find my footing as a black student who attended a predominantly white high school and now a predominantly white institution,” she said. “I did not know what it meant to be too black or not black enough.”

That year, the CICCE took a group of students to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which filled Beans with many different emotions: rage, happiness, sadness and pride. After the trip, Mead and Melinda Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, sat down with students to discuss their experiences over dinner.

“The center has always had a way of bringing upper-level school administrators down to the table with students,” Beans said. “That is something that I have always admired about that place.

“With my newly found black pride in tow, I boldly marched into sophomore year more comfortable and confident than the previous year.”

Beans also developed a home at the center, where she had daily conversations about race, pop culture, campus climate and current events. She said these conversations allowed her to learn much more beyond the classroom.

Caitlynn Hamilton, a 2018 UM graduate, credits the CICCE with teaching her best practices for inclusion. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“One of the biggest lessons that I have come to learn through the CICCE is the importance of intersectionality,” she said. “The center is a place where all aspects of identity is explored. 

“Having this space equipped me with the confidence and tools that I needed to address injustice, inequality and ignorance within my community and on campus.”

The CICCE serves as the advising office for the Black Student Union. This is just one way the university has shown that it values and respects students of color, Beans said.

“We are able to mentor other students of color as they enter and matriculate at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “This shows that the University of Mississippi is willing to truly invest in the success of its students. I have no doubt that this is the direct result of the CICCE.”

Besides providing resources to underrepresented students, the center also has shaped the way students view peers of different backgrounds.

For Caitlynn Hamilton, a general studies major from Hernando, the center was a turning point in understanding her own privilege and the lack of opportunity for underrepresented populations.

“Being a part of the iTeam has allowed me to learn many different strategies for best practicing inclusion, but also how to break those ideas down for the students we present to,” she said.

Being involved with the center shaped Hamilton into a person who cares about students on a deeper level and has led her to pursue a career as a student affairs professional, she said.

“I think the center’s impact in my life is reflected in my friend group as well, considering not a single one of them is just like me,” Hamilton said. “I have found comfort in being uncomfortable at this university, because of the center’s work in challenging me to find differences and embrace them.”

For more information about the center and its resources, visit

National Science Foundation Funds Further Lightning Research

UM professors studying the mysteries of how lightning starts

Thomas Marshall (pictured) and Maribeth Stolzenburg, a pair of University of Mississippi professors of physics and astronomy, have been granted two National Science Foundation awards to study lightning initiation.Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Science has revealed several fascinating things about lightning. For instance, a lightning flash can heat the surrounding air to temperatures around 50,000 degrees – five times hotter than the sun’s surface.

Lightning bolts roar toward the ground at speeds of 200,000 mph. And an American has about a one-in-14,600 chance of being struck by lightning during an 80-year lifetime.

Questions remain about lightning, though, including how lightning starts, and that’s a secret two University of Mississippi professors are working on unraveling.

Two recent National Science Foundation awards will assist the scientists – Thomas Marshall, professor of physics and astronomy, and Maribeth Stolzenburg, research professor of physics and astronomy – as they pursue the mysteries of lightning initiation.

Knowing how lightning begins could lead to a better understanding of where it might strike and being able to better warn people of approaching weather conditions conducive to lightning strikes. Marshall and Stolzenburg are not working on predicting lightning strikes, as the first question to answer is: How does lightning initiate?

“We’re going to try to get a better understanding about how lightning starts, and then how it moves through the cloud,” Marshall said. “But the starting part is especially interesting because air is not a conductor and when you see the big, bright … return stroke of a lightning flash, that’s a big current and it needs a good conductor.

“How a lightning flash can change a thin path of air from a non-conductor to a conductor has eluded explanation for a long time.”

Stolzenburg said scientists have to have puzzles, and “one of those puzzles is that we’ve known that lightning has existed forever, but all the detailed physics of what has to happen to get that started … is really poorly understood.”

“In terms of why should society care about this research, the answer is: Better understanding of lightning processes may allow us to better predict when lightning will happen or at least understand where it’s going to happen,” she said. “Being able to do that means we may eventually be able to give better warnings about when to get off the golf course or the soccer field.”

Marshall is principal investigator of an award that is for $154,222 for its first year and titled “Lightning Initiation and In-Cloud Electromagnetic Activity in Mississippi Thunderstorms.” Stolzenburg is the co-principal investigator for the award, No. 1742930. Expected future NSF support for the award is $95,419 each year in 2019 and 2020.

The second award is titled “Collaborative Research: High-Speed Slitless Spectroscopy Studies of Natural Lightning Flashes” and is for $154,476 for its first year. Stolzenburg is principal investigator for the award, No. 1745931, and Marshall is co-principal investigator. The award is a continuing grant with an estimated total award amount of $440,314. 

The second project is a collaboration between Ole Miss and Texas A&M University professor Richard Orville and will collect new lightning data, including high-speed video data and lightning spectra.

Thomas Marshall, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi, captured this lightning strike in New Mexico. Two new National Science Foundation awards are allowing Marshall and Maribeth Stolzenburg, research professor of physics and astronomy at UM, to further study lightning initiation. Photo courtesy Tom Marshall

“Lightning is one of the most dramatic natural events, observed through countless generations, but it’s still not fully understood,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “Drs. Marshall and Stolzenburg have deep expertise in lightning initiation, and this NSF grant will help them take our knowledge to the next level.”

The first award allows the duo to analyze data collected in the spring and summer of 2016 in north Mississippi, also funded by the NSF. That award was granted after Marshall and Stolzenburg conducted lightning studies at Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2010 and 2011.

In the summer of 2016, lightning data was collected at seven sites in north Mississippi. One of the sites was at the UM Field Station, and another was on the Ole Miss campus.

The data collected is some 20 terabytes of computer memory, enough to max out the storage capacity on about 312 iPhone Xs with 64-gigabyte storage capacities.

The lightning data is on a time scale of less than one-millionth of a second.

The second award will collect new data on lightning initiation using three high-speed video cameras and the seven sensors. The data collection will focus on the initial sparks (with durations of only 5- to 60-millionths of a second) that occur during the time needed to form the lightning channel, roughly the first 3- to 10-thousandths of a second of a lightning flash.

The video cameras will record the initial pulses as they develop.

“Essentially, we are trying to understand all this fine detail in the lightning data to see if it fits with the theories of how lightning starts,” Stolzenburg said. “Or, if it doesn’t fit, then there is something wrong with the theory, so we need to modify the theory.

“Eventually, we need to understand how a flash is able to go from initiation to a conducting channel that travels to ground. Fortunately, we have a lot of lightning data collected in 2016, including data from traditional lightning sensors and from new lightning sensors, to help us investigate how lightning initiation works.”

According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, from 2006 through 2017, 376 people were struck and killed by lightning in the U.S., with almost two-thirds of the deaths involving outdoor leisure activities such as fishing, being on the beach, camping, boating, or playing soccer or golf.

University Appoints Erica McKinley as General Counsel

Respected attorney brings 20 years of experience in private and public sectors

Erica McKinley

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has appointed Erica McKinley as general counsel. McKinley, former chief operating officer for the National Basketball Players Association, is an attorney with nearly 20 years of global legal experience in the private and public sector.

As general counsel, McKinley will serve as the university’s chief legal officer. She will report to Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter and provide advice and counsel on a wide array of matters including governance, research, athletics, student affairs and finance. McKinley also will coordinate with the University of Mississippi Medical Center on legal matters, working closely with its general counsel. She will be a member of the chancellor’s senior leadership team.

McKinley is a trusted adviser with outstanding judgment and a distinguished background, Vitter said. Before her work in professional basketball with the NBPA, she was associate general counsel for Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Previously, McKinley was an assistant attorney general in the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, where she served as chief of general litigation. She was later appointed general counsel for the D.C. Department of Human Resources. Early in her career, McKinley practiced commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense with two D.C. firms, Arnold & Porter and Akin Gump.

“I am honored to support the University of Mississippi as it continues its unprecedented growth in higher education, research and health care,” McKinley said. “I’ve come home to Oxford with an immediate sense of pride, purpose and responsibility.

An Ole Miss alumna from Jackson, McKinley earned a law degree from the UM School of Law in 1998, graduating summa cum laude and salutatorian. After law school, she completed a clerkship with Judge E. Grady Jolly on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. McKinley also holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Tougaloo College.

“We are extremely pleased to have an accomplished leader with such vast experience,” Vitter said. “Ms. McKinley is a highly-respected attorney with exceptional legal experience in corporate, government and private practice. We are thrilled to welcome Erica back to Ole Miss.”

McKinley will relocate from New York to Oxford and assume the role of general counsel on June 22.

UM Scientists Work Toward Natural Remedy for Bed Bugs

NCNPR researchers look for safer solution in pest management

Bed bugs are tiny when they hatch, but each insect can grow to one-fourth of an inch in size as it matures.
UM photo by Don F. Stanford

OXFORD, Miss. – It’s a fear for children that monsters reside under the bed. But those monsters could be living on the mattress or in the sheets. They’re called bed bugs.

However, scientists with the National Center for Natural Products Research at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy are searching for a natural remedy to stop the insect from not only biting, but growing in rapid numbers.

“In the past few years, the number of bed bug infestations has risen, potentially impacting the hospitality industry” said Amar Chittiboyina, NCNPR assistant director. “The resources at the NCNPR make it an ideal research center for the discovery of a natural chemical as an insecticide.”

Funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Defense, the Insect Management Program looks for a natural compound for management of pests affecting soldiers and the public. Finding that solution is easier said than done, as bed bugs are tough to control, much less eradicate.

Junaid Rehman, research scientist in the NCNPR, works closely with two strains of bed bugs: those that are resistant to insecticides and those that haven’t been exposed to insecticides. Rehman is tasked with the challenge of sorting the tiny bed bugs, which grow to less than one-fourth of an inch in size, by age and making sure each gets its weekly fill of rabbit blood to help maintain the colonies.

Researchers use three delivery methods to test the effectiveness of natural compounds on the bed bugs, Rehman said.

The easiest ones to perform are fumigation and residual methods. In fumigation, the bugs are exposed to the vapor form for 24 hours, while the residual method has the treatment placed on filter paper and the insects are released over it.

The toughest is a topical method, which involves Rehman knocking the insects unconscious with carbon dioxide before applying a drop of test article on each adult’s back. This process can take up to five hours with 50-60 bed bugs in each treatment for statistical significance.

“In most cases of severe infestation, the only option to eradicate the insects is to discard the furniture,” Rehman said. “To avoid such an expensive operation, we are probing several methods for effective delivery of potential insecticides.

“At the end of the day, we are looking for natural compounds that are easy to apply in a laboratory setting and in the field. The hardest part is finding a natural compound that will safely and effectively eradicate or control the growth of bed bugs.”

Junaid Rehman, a research scientist in the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, works to separate bed bugs to prepare for testing of potential control agents in the lab. UM photo by Don F. Stanford

Researchers work in a biosafety lab at the Thad Cochran Research Center where special precautions are taken to prevent the escape of any bugs. Though bed bugs are easily contained in the lab, that’s not the case in public areas. Bed bugs hiding in dark corners and crevices of hotel rooms or other spaces can survive as long as three months without food.

The insect is not known to transfer diseases, but when an infestation is severe, the bites can cause health concerns. Finding a solution for this problem is at the forefront of the NCNPR’s goals.

“We have such unique resources at the NCNPR that we can optimize and convert the knowledge we have into finding a safer solution, as there is currently no easy way to get rid of these bed bugs,” said Ikhlas Khan, NCNPR director. “Having this funding from the USDA helps us to work toward our overall goals.”

As Bed Bug Awareness Week (June 3-9) rolls on and as many people prepare to travel for summer vacations, Khan acknowledged that public awareness and preemptive measures help in bed bug cases. NCNPR researchers will continue working to make bed bug nightmares a thing of the past.

“If we can come up with a natural compound that inhibits the bed bugs’ growth or alters its life cycle, and the natural compound has a safety profile needed for approval by the EPA as an insecticide, then we achieved our goals,” Chittiboyina said.

This work is supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, under agreement no. 58-6066-6-043. Any opinions, findings, conclusion or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

UM Signs Agreement with Science and Innovation Consortium

Alabama-based association expands regional academic engagement

Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Chris Crumbly, executive director of the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, sign a memorandum of understanding between the university and the center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has joined the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation-University Consortium to help create a collaborative environment that channels the power of university innovation to tackle challenges in the areas of space and national defense.

Representatives from UM and the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation, or VCSI, recently signed a memorandum of understanding. Established in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2006, VCSI is a nonprofit organization specializing in research and development that works to further the mission of key governmental stakeholders through a regional consortium of academic institutions.

The consortium, a team of academic institutions offering unique capabilities in advanced technologies, engineering prototyping, and research and analyses, connects academia thought leaders to the needs of the federal government.

“The University of Mississippi is always looking for better ways to partner with our sister research institutions, so we are excited to join the consortium,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“Robust partnerships are critical in today’s academic research environments, and this group is committed to building a strong coalition of universities. Ole Miss is pleased to become one of the inaugural members of VCSI.”

UM was the first of several universities to join the consortium. The consortium is extending invitations to any and all research universities in the region surrounding Huntsville and recently has added the University of Alabama, Auburn University and Alabama A&M University to the consortium.

“We are excited to sign our first agreement with the University of Mississippi,” said Chris Crumbly, the center’s executive director. “This demonstrates our renewed emphasis for expanding our region of academic engagement with the Huntsville technology community and adds more opportunity to showcase the exciting research ongoing at Ole Miss.”

As a nonprofit, the Von Braun Center for Science and Innovation created the consortium to facilitate communications between federal government agencies and universities. Also, the center integrates the universities to add synergy for solving complex problems, Crumbly said.

“This understanding recognizes a mutual relationship of our organizations such that the VCSI will provide actionable information concerning research opportunities in the Huntsville region and represent the University of Mississippi as a contributing member of our consortium,” he said.

UM Film Nominated for Regional Emmy

'Shake 'Em on Down' was produced by the Southern Documentary Project

Blues musician Fred McDowell (seated) plays guitar and sings at a house party in the Southeast Emmy-nominated documentary ‘Shake ‘Em On Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell.’ Photo by Chris Strachwit

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi filmmakers have been nominated for a 2018 Southeast Emmy Award for their documentary chronicling the life and music of a regional bluesman.

“Shake ‘Em on Down: The Blues According to Fred McDowell,” a 55-minute film produced as part of the Southern Documentary Project, housed in the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, is among four films nominated in the Documentaries category. The winner will be announced June 16 during ceremonies at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta.

“We were all elated to receive such great recognition from our peers,” said Scott Barretta, a sociology and anthropology instructor who co-produced the film. “It’s a wonderful feeling when your friends praise the film, but to be judged so positively by people who are assessing the film simply on its own merits is another thing altogether.”

Scott Barretta

Barretta and Andy Harper, Southern Documentary Projects director, learned of the nomination from Joe York, a former Ole Miss faculty member, freelance director and the film’s other co-producer, who spotted it on the Southeast Emmy Award website.

“Shake ‘Em On Down” tells the story of Fred McDowell, who was first recorded by Alan Lomax in 1959, mentored Bonnie Raitt and served as the cornerstone of the unique and enduring north Mississippi style of blues music.

Building on the longevity, success and devoted audience of “Highway 61 Radio,” a production of the Southern Documentary Project, York and Barretta feel that a dedication to visual storytelling about the musical heritage of the South, with a primary focus on the blues, will greatly enhance SouthDocs’ ability to meet its goals of documenting and educating the region.

Joe York

“If the film wins, I think it will be a testimony to the power of Mississippi Fred McDowell’s music and the compelling nature of his life story,” Barretta said. “It would also be a great boost to further promote the film, which was so well received on the festival circuit and aired nationally on PBS through the Reel South series.”

Barretta is the longtime host of “Highway 61 Radio,” and York its former producer.

If the film wins, it would be the second Emmy for the Southern Documentary Project. The first award was for “The Toughest Job: William Winters’ Mississippi,” an hourlong film that chronicles the life and career of the state’s 57th governor and his fight to pass the 1982 Education Reform Bill.

“When we get nominated or win awards, it serves primarily as an indicator that we’re on the right path,” Harper said. “With the launch of our new M.F.A. in Documentary Expression this year, it’s another thing we can point to for folks who want to know what they can expect from their time here.”

To view “Shake ‘Em on Down,” visit To watch “The Toughest Job,” go to

American Legion Boys State Returns to UM

Largest group of participants ever arrives Sunday to develop leadership and political skills

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter speaks to the 2017 particpants of Boys State. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the third consecutive year, the University of Mississippi will host the American Legion Boys State beginning Sunday (May 27), bringing young men from across the state to campus for a week of events designed “to develop tomorrow’s informed, responsible citizens.”

The university was chosen to host Boys State for three years, beginning in 2016. As many as 400 delegates will stay on campus and have access to the many resources of UM departments and programs. Here, they will perform the functions of state and local governments to develop their leadership, political skills and understanding of governing and citizenship.

The university is dedicated to nurturing leaders, and the campus community is particularly pleased to host Boys State again this year, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

Hosting events like Boys State on the Ole Miss campus greatly contributes to our strategic goals of fostering a vibrant student environment and nurturing future leaders,” Vitter said. “This outstanding educational and leadership program provides exemplary opportunities for young men to further develop their academic potential and leadership skills.

“We at Ole Miss highly value our partnership with Boys State over the last three years.

The young men learn how city, county and state governments function through simulating those jobs. They also conduct debates and give speeches ahead of the Boys State elections.

The election results will be announced at 7:30 p.m. June 1 in Fulton Chapel.

This year’s lineup of speakers includes Gov. Phil Bryant, Attorney General Jim Hood, U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith and former U.S. Rep. and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy.

The delegates also will participate in a Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. Monday (May 28) at the flagpole in the Circle. The public and local officials are invited to attend.

“Once again this summer, we are honored to host the young men attending the American Legion Boys State,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs, who led efforts to bring Boys State to Ole Miss. “The University of Mississippi is a perfect partner for the Boys State program as our mission includes ‘transforming lives, communities and the world by providing opportunities for the people of Mississippi.’

“As a Buckeye Girls State graduate, I am personally aware of the transformative impact this program can have on budding leaders. My wish for them is that they leave the experience with a desire to lead through service to others, especially within the state of Mississippi.”

The Illinois American Legion created the program in 1934, and Mississippi’s began in 1938. The program was adopted by the national organization in 1945, with a goal of showing that democracy needs both an intelligent citizenry and also a moral, honest and impartial administration that is responsive to the will of the people.

The nonpartisan program, open to young men who are high school juniors, is conducted each year across the country through each state’s Department of the American Legion. It’s estimated that more than 28,000 young men annually participate in the civic workshops.

The gathering is designed to be a virtual 51st state with a constitution, statutes and ordinances constructed by its citizens to govern themselves. Mississippi’s Boys State is known as the mythical state of Magnolia.

Participants are required to review their knowledge about political workings of state and local government, and they perform the same duties as real-world officeholders.

The group looks forward to the experiences they will share at Ole Miss, said Cortez Moss, this year’s organizer for Boys State.

“We have a record registration of 400 this year, which is the largest in the program’s history,” Moss said. “It’s not a secret that Ole Miss has been critical to our program reaching its largest number of registered attendees.

“We are excited about all the accommodations and the work Bradley Baker (director of the Ole Miss Student Union) and his team have done to make this program a success.”

By week’s end, leaders hope to have developed these young men into Mississippians who understand the structures of governments and can use these systems in effort of realizing their policy goals, Moss said.

“What is more, we hope to inspire some young man to stay and lead in Mississippi.”

‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ Wins 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Award

Teachers collaborate to pick winner of children's book award

Sarah Siebert reads the 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book, ‘Grandma’s Tiny House,’ to children at Willie Price Lab School at UM. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – “Grandma’s Tiny House,” a children’s book about a colossal family gathering set in a tiny old house, is the 2018 winner of the University of Mississippi’s 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Award.

Given annually by the UM Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction, the award honors books written for children ages 3 to 10. Established in 2010, this is the eighth time the award has been given by CELI, a center that provides support for Mississippi reading teachers.

“‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ is a diverse picture book that can be read aloud to children over and over again,” said Angie Caldwell, CELI literacy specialist who supervises the award process. “It’s a book that tells the story of a family celebration.”

Written by JaNay Brown-Wood, an author and educator in Sacramento, California, this year’s winner was selected from numerous titles, which were given to teachers in north Mississippi schools, including UM’s Willie Price Lab School. The finalists for this year’s award were read to more than 100 north Mississippi children this spring.

“This is a wonderful book for children,” said Shelly Embrey, librarian at Senatobia Elementary School. The rhyme and rhythm made it an excellent read-aloud book and the illustrations were inviting to the students and myself.”

Written from the perspective of a child staying with her grandmother on the day of a large family dinner, the book utilizes rhyming and counting to list the numerous friends and family members as they arrive at the little house and what they bring to the potluck-style gathering. As dozens cram into Grandma’s tiny house, the group must become resourceful to host the massive event.

“We loved reading ‘Grandma’s Tiny House’ in our classroom,” said Sarah Siebert, Willie Price teacher. “Any book that you can incorporate more than one subject is great. With this book, we had discussions about numbers and how our families are alike and different. 

“We also discussed why this family might be going to Grandma’s house, so our students were able to make predictions. We were so excited to hear it was the 2018 CELI Read Aloud Book Choice.”

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

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

“Grandma’s Tiny House,” was illustrated by Priscilla Burris and published by Charlesbridge in Watertown, Massachusetts.