School of Education Hosts Guyton Fall Festival

UM students plan family-friendly event for Oct. 26

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Education and student organization Teachers of Tomorrow are sponsoring the 2018 Guyton Fall Festival from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Friday (Oct. 26).

Free and open to the public, the festival in Guyton Hall will feature a variety of educational games and activities for children. Children are encouraged to wear their Halloween costumes and bring trick-or-treat baskets to collect candy during the event.

Student organizers ask attendees to bring new or used books to donate to the Lafayette Literacy Council.

“As a group of future educators, we love welcoming in families to our little piece of campus,” said Ashley Berry, TOT president. “It is a fun, safe and free event, which is open to all families. We are also hoping to give back to the community further through the book drive.”

The event will include a face painting station, bowling lane, photo booth and several game booths, such as a “witch hat toss.” Snacks, including popcorn and cotton candy, will be provided.

“We look forward to this event each year,” said Alicia Stapp, assistant professor of health and physical education and the group’s faculty adviser. “It is a wonderful way for our future teachers to serve and interact with the community as hundreds of families come through Guyton Hall on the night of the event.”

The UM Museum will sponsor arts and crafts and other activities, and the Center for Mathematics and Science Education is setting up a science experiment for children.

“We’re so excited for this great event, and we hope everyone can make it out on Oct. 26th,” Berry said.



Fun, Frights and Food Set for Annual ‘Spooky Physics’ Night

UM Department of Physics and Astronomy hosts hands-on event Oct. 26

An Oxford Elementary School student lies on a bed of nails as a volunteer places a weight on her while other ‘Spooky Physics’ participants observe. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – New frights and fresh takes on old delights are the order of the evening when the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy presents “Spooky Physics Demonstrations” from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26 in Lewis Hall.

The program will include a stage show at 7:30 p.m. New demonstrations planned include a virtual reality simulation that will allow people to see a particle detector in 3D. New demonstrations on electricity, magnetism, lasers and optics also will be on hand.

“As in the past years, there will be shows and a lot of hands-on science demonstrations with a Halloween ‘twist’ to experience weird physics phenomena, from electricity to heat and pressure to the ultra-cold,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and coordinator of the evening’s activities. “And to make the evening ‘sweeter,’ guests will be able to taste our world-famous liquid nitrogen ice cream.”

Activities throughout the evening include freezing objects in liquid nitrogen (at minus 320 degrees), generating sound waves with Bunsen burners and tubes, and levitating magnets with superconductors. Other fun hands-on experiences include optical illusions with mirrors, a Van de Graaff generator (a “hair-raising” electrical device), a bed of nails and other contraptions.

Physics department personnel also will prepare ice cream with liquid nitrogen and award prizes for the most original, scariest and cutest costumes to kids 10 and under.

“Prizes will be cool physics demonstration toys,” Cavaglia said. “Winners will be able to impress their friends by repeating some of the cool demonstrations they will see at the show.”

The annual event is the department’s way to give something back to the community, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“We, as scientists, feel that outreach and education is an important part of our work,” he said. “Many people are often intimidated by science, and children often do not pursue a career in STEM because they have not been exposed to it.

“We want to show cool science while having fun. And, who knows? Maybe one day one of the children at our ‘Spooky Physics’ night will win a Nobel Prize.”

Parking will be available along All American Drive, in the Circle, areas alongside or behind the Turner Center and the Intensive English building (just west of the Turner Center), in the Pavilion garage or in the Tad Smith Coliseum parking lot after 6 p.m.

For more information or for assistance related to a disability, call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 662-915-5325.

New Scholarship Honors Late Alumna’s Favorite Professor

Lori Sneed and Colby Kullman are linked by gift to Ole Miss Women's Council

Members of the late Lori Sneed’s family – (from left) brother, Johnny; mother, Patti; and father, Shorty Sneed – are joined by honoree Colby Kullman at a recent Ole Miss Women’s Council Rose Garden Ceremony. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – As a University of Mississippi student, the late Lori Sneed quickly formed a special bond with English professor Colby Kullman, and soon the feeling was mutual. Now, the two “great friends” will be linked in perpetuity by a new Ole Miss Women’s Council scholarship endowment bearing their names.

The $250,000 Lori Sneed Council Scholarship Endowment in Honor of Colby H. Kullman, Professor Emeritus was established as a gift to the university by Sneed’s parents, John B. “Shorty” and Patti Sneed of Gulfport.

The scholarship’s recipients will be entering freshmen majoring in English, chosen on the basis of financial need, academic ability and leadership potential. Contingent upon maintaining a 3.0 GPA, the award may be received for up to eight semesters.

Besides their academic pursuits, scholars will be expected to participate in leadership development and mentoring sponsored by the OMWC and the Lott Leadership Institute.

“We are deeply honored that Colby allowed us to honor him along with Lori because he was her favorite teacher, without a doubt,” said Shorty Sneed, adding that Kullman, of Oxford, agreed to participate as mentor for the scholarship’s first recipient.

Lori Sneed, who died of liver cancer in July 2017 at age 44, suffered a paralyzing spinal cord injury in a 1991 car accident during her UM freshman year. After months of rehabilitation and a year at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, she returned to Ole Miss to complete her bachelor’s degree in English.

Kullman recalls a special memory he has of his favorite student, who was always prompt for class.

“One day she didn’t appear and I thought, ‘I wonder what’s wrong,'” Kullman said. “Well, 10 minutes into class, suddenly there’s this police officer with Lori in her wheelchair. Both looked a little bit winded. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, did she get arrested?’

“But she had parked her van and some unthoughtful person had parked behind her, so she was trapped in her van. Well, the police officer helped her out of the van, got her into the chair and brought her to class.

“She always deflected attention away from herself, so she said, ‘This is Officer Clark. He is my hero today. He just rescued me from my car. Let’s hear it for Officer Clark!’ And there was a round of applause and she said, ‘You can do better than that!’ And they all stood up and gave him a standing ovation.”

Lori Sneed

A longtime Ole Miss professor, Kullman earned his bachelor’s degree at DePauw University, master’s degrees from the universities of Chicago and Kansas, and a doctorate from the University of Kansas. His teaching and research interests include restoration and 18th century studies, dramatic literature, satire, biography, comedy and tragedy.

He is a published author and editor of a number of academic works, including “Speaking on Stage: Interviews with Contemporary American Playwrights;” “Studies in American Drama: 1945-Present” and “Death of a Salesman at Fifty: An Interview with Arthur Miller.”

Lori’s uncle, Bill Henry, quoted in Gulfport’s Sun Herald, said that beyond her humor and strength, Sneed was exceptionally kind.

“For me, the thing about Lori was, when you were with her, she always made you feel as if you were the nicest thing that happened to her,” he said. “She asked how you were doing; she’d compliment you about something you were wearing. … It’s like you were the absolute highlight of her day.”

At Ole Miss, she was a Campus Favorite, member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, member of the Committee on Disabilities and a two-time winner of the Most Beautiful Eyes on Campus contest, before and after her accident.

After graduation, she moved to Atlanta, where she worked in public information for CNN from 1997 to 2006. In Atlanta, she performed self-deprecating humor in comedy clubs, telling audiences they should request their money back if they were expecting a stand-up comedian. She loved art, poetry, music and animals.

She returned to Gulfport in 2015, where she attended St. Mark’s Episcopal Church and worked as a self-employed artist.

Her love for her family was deep.

“Nothing brought her more pride than when her mom and dad came to Atlanta so Lori could bring them to CNN or to go to dinner with them and her Atlanta friends,” said Tom Johnson, former president of CNN, delivering a eulogy at Sneed’s funeral.

During a recent OMWC ceremony officially dedicating the endowments, Shorty Sneed said he remembers the day his daughter, who never thought of herself as disabled, called to say that she would casually roll through the background of the CNN news broadcast.

“Look for me. I’ll be wearing a blue blouse and some gray slacks,” she told him.

“I said, ‘Lori I think you’ll be the only person in the newsroom in a wheelchair. I think we’ll be able to pick you out,'” her father said, laughing. “And she rolled through and just kind of looked at the camera. She never let (her disability) hold her back in school or at work at CNN or in her social life.

“She once asked one of Oxford’s finest on the Square one night if he would follow her home so she wouldn’t get a DUI. He did. And she didn’t.”

Johnson remembers Lori Sneed’s jovial spirit, an affable charisma that kept her coworkers both on their toes and in good humor.

“For me, there has never been a more inspiring example of optimism, of warmth, of courage, of humor and of love than Lori,” he said, remembering the many times she would navigate her motorized wheelchair at full speed into his office with one announcement or another or to meet visiting dignitaries or celebrities.

“One day, she wheeled into my office to tell me that the doors at CNN were not wheelchair-friendly, especially the one down the hall from her office on the sixth floor,” Johnson said. The doors at CNN Center became accessible within a week.

Lori Sneed did things and got things done.

Even now, brother Johnny Sneed, an actor in Los Angeles, gives his sister credit for shaping his personal life. A series of events initiated by Lori resulted in Johnny’s introduction to his fiance, Cristina; the two are parents of a 1-year-old boy.

“Lori passed away in July and my baby boy, Wilder, was born in August,” Johnny Sneed said. “A big regret of mine is that they weren’t able to meet, but I know that she’s with us. We see her in different ways every day.”

At the dedication ceremony, OMWC chair Mary Susan Gallien Clinton expressed her gratitude for the Sneeds’ generous gift.

“This OMWC scholarship honors Dr. Kullman and an extraordinary, vivacious young woman who tragically lost her life while living it to the fullest,” Clinton said. “The generosity of this gift, which overwhelms our hearts, will continue for many generations to give OMWC scholars a four-year academic and cultural program to prepare their lives to be world-ready upon graduating.

“Our hope is the life Lori lived will inspire her scholarship recipients to always strive to achieve the best version of themselves, despite the circumstances.”

Read more about the Women’s Council at For information on how to make a gift to support OMWC programming or a scholarship, contact Suzanne Helveston, development associate, at or 662-915-2956.

UM to Stage Reading of William Faulkner’s ‘Marionettes’

Public invited to free Monday performance of Nobel Prize-winning author's play

One of six original copies of the script for William Faulkner’s play ‘The Marionettes’ is on display in the J. D. Williams Library. The play is written, illustrated and hand-bound by Faulkner, who sold the books for $5 on the Ole Miss campus to raise money for the drama club, The Marionettes. Photo by Katherine Stewart/Department of Theatre and Film

OXFORD, Miss. – When it comes to Oxford’s original writer-in-residence, William Faulkner, most people can easily rattle off at least one or two of the titles that earned the man his place in the literary pantheon. Relatively few people, however, are familiar with a work titled “The Marionettes,” a one-act play written by Faulkner years before he published any of the novels his reputation would be built upon.

The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film aims to remedy that with a rare staged reading of the little-known play at 7:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 22) in Meek Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required.

The production is part of the Ole Miss Common Reading Experience, a program that is intended to foster a sense of community by encouraging every first-year student to read a selected text that will be woven into classes. The selection for 2018 is William Faulkner’s “Collected Stories,” which Peter Wood, professor of theatre arts, said inspired him to work a theatrical event into the CRE programming – no small feat, given the paucity of plays in Faulkner’s body of work.

“Eric Ehn has written an excellent adaptation of ‘The Sound and the Fury’ for the stage, but I quickly discovered there’s no script copy of that … it’s not published anywhere,” Wood said. “While I was researching that, I stumbled across ‘The Marionettes.’

“Since it’s a short play and something I could probably do a reading of, it seemed like something we could easily add to the theater season, and a way to take part in the freshman reading series.”

A staged reading, as opposed to a full production, is exactly what it sounds like: actors on a stage reading a script as if they were performing it, but without sets, props, costumes, choreography and other theatrical elements typically found in a performance. The play lends itself well to such a pared-down presentation, Wood said.

“The play itself is kind of a symbolist drama, and in symbolist dramas, a lot of what’s happening is in the interior,” he said. “There’s not a lot of action … it’s more of a poetic meditation on themes of desire, sexuality, growing older, life and love.

“A staged reading can convey all of that in a way that doesn’t necessarily prepare expectations for a full production.”

Faulkner wrote the play circa 1921, during his brief stint as an Ole Miss student, for the campus drama club, The Marionettes. The play is entirely written, illustrated and bound by hand, and Faulkner produced only six copies, one of which is on display in the J. D Williams Library.

It wasn’t until 1975 that the play was published commercially, in facsimile, by Yoknapatawpha Press. The Marionettes may have performed the play back in the 1920s – and that may be the last time it was seen by an audience.

“I’m not aware of any significant performance history the play has,” said Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies. “It may be that in the 45-year history of the Faulkner conference (The Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference celebrating the author, held annually by the university) there were some early moments when they gave this a whirl, but in the 30 years I’ve been here experiencing the conference, we’ve never taken it up.”

Despite its limited exposure to theatregoers, “The Marionettes” has attracted the attention of Faulkner scholars and enthusiasts specifically because it was written so early in Faulkner’s career.

“Faulkner isn’t ‘Faulkner’ yet,” Watson said, “So when people get interested in this play, they mainly get interested in what it might foreshadow about where Faulkner’s going to go from here.

“I certainly think the idea of an interior life that can play itself out in highly stylized scenes, that we script and choreograph, and direct a kind of fantasy of ourselves in our interior life … this is an insight that is on the way to some of that great stream-of-consciousness work he’ll do in the novels that first made him famous.”

“The Sound and the Fury,” published nearly a decade after “The Marionettes,” in 1929, employs the stream-of-consciousness style – as well as a similar narrative device called “interior monologue” – that would become a hallmark of Faulkner’s most enduring novels; the author is credited with advancing the development of these techniques in the early 20th century.

The play is a basic melodramatic romance: Boy woos girl, girl relents, boy disappears. But the similarities between Marietta, the female love interest, and Estelle Oldham, Faulkner’s childhood sweetheart who eventually became his wife, have led scholars to a more personal kind of speculation about the author’s early work.

“On a more biographical level, scholars have been very interested in how much Marietta derives from Estelle Oldham, who at the time that he wrote this was the childhood sweetheart that he couldn’t marry and who had gotten married to another man and was no longer living in Oxford,” Watson said.

“So when he writes this play, this is perhaps a way for Faulkner to grapple imaginatively, to work through some of the issues he has with his absent love object.”

Oldham’s marriage eventually broke up, and when she returned to Oxford to live with her family, Faulkner was waiting. They were married in 1929, the year “The Sound and the Fury” was published.

“These are a few of the many reasons this play has been interesting to people,” Watson said.

The staged reading, which will run approximately a half-hour, will be followed by a talk-back with Watson and Wood in the auditorium and a reception in the lobby of Meek Hall.

Scientist Invents Device to Improve Fishery Operations

Design being tested by Gulf shrimpers reduces bycatch of untargeted marine life

Glenn Parsons

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi marine biologist has created a new device that could greatly improve shrimping operations and is putting the device to the test through partnerships with members of the Gulf of Mexico fishing industry.

Glenn Parsons, professor of biology and director of the UM Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, has invented a device that reduces unwanted fish and other creatures caught during the commercial fishing process – also known as bycatch – and thereby significantly increases the amount of shrimp caught.

“Bycatch slows down fishing, requiring extensive sorting to separate shrimp from bycatch,” Parsons said. “I have squatted on the back deck of countless shrimp boats, sorting shrimp from bycatch. It is back-breaking work – sort of like picking cotton.”

About a decade ago, Parsons noticed that previous bycatch reduction devices do not take advantage of flow quality changes that encourage fish to move to a place in the net where they can escape. With that in mind and through collaboration with Gulf Coast shrimpers and scientists at the Pascagoula Laboratory of the National Marine Fisheries Service, Parsons developed an improved version.

A typical catch on shrimp boats operating in the Gulf of Mexico contains many unwanted fish (bottom basket), known as bycatch, creating work for crews and reducing the amount of shrimp caught. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

“Called the Cylinder Bycatch Reduction Device, it was developed to increase the amount of shrimp that is retained in the trawl and to eliminate a greater number of bycatch species,” he said. “This BRD creates a flow shadow that draws fish – but not shrimp – to it. The fish are then able to escape.”

Final design modifications of the Cylinder BRD occurred two years ago. The device has been tested by the National Marine Fisheries Service, passing with flying colors.

“A BRD has to deliver 30 percent or more bycatch reduction to be certified,” said Dan Foster, gear development specialist at the service in Pascagoula. “Ours came in at about 44 percent.”

Before administrative certification, Parsons and company decided that it should be placed on commercial shrimp boats to gauge its acceptance. It is being tested on about 10 boats in the northern Gulf of Mexico.

One boat captain using the CBRD gave it rave reviews.

Shrimpers using the Cylinder Bycatch Reduction Device have recorded dramatic decreases in the amount of bycatch (left basket), which means less work and more profitable catches. Photo courtesy of Mark Kopsvywa

“He said that it eliminated about half of the fish from the trawl and lost very little shrimp,” Parsons said. “The shrimp loss is a very important consideration for shrimpers.

“Most shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico are using a BRD called the ‘fish eye,’ and it loses about 10 percent of the shrimp that enters the net. The Cylinder BRD enjoys superior bycatch reduction but only loses 1.7 percent of shrimp.”

The new BRD is fully developed and is being distributed, free of charge, to shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico. While some changes will likely be required, early evaluation of the device by shrimpers has been extremely promising. Parsons will deliver the BRD to shrimpers wherever they are.

“Feedback from shrimpers is very important for gauging the performance of the device in a real-world situation,” Parsons said. “After using the device, we require a short questionnaire to be filled out. As an incentive, we’re offering a $250 honorarium to try the device.”

Parsons’ device is funded under his U.S. Dept. of Commerce, NOAA cooperative agreement No. NA17NMF4720254, “Application of a New Bycatch Reduction Device for Use in the U.S. Shrimp Industry.”

To evaluate the new BRD, contact Parsons at 662-915-7479 or Learn more about the device at

Marijuana Project Head to Deliver Pharmacy School’s Waller Lecture

Mahmoud ElSohly will speak about marijuana project founder Coy W. Waller

Mahmoud ElSohly

OXFORD, Miss. – Mahmoud ElSohly, co-director of the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Project, will deliver the School of Pharmacy’s 15th Coy W. Waller Distinguished Lecture at 11 a.m. Friday (Oct. 19) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

The lecture series was established in 2004 to recognize the founder of UM’s marijuana cultivation program and former director of the pharmacy school’s Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Coy W. Waller. ElSohly’s talk, “Building on the Legacy of Coy Waller at Ole Miss,” will celebrate Waller’s vision for the Marijuana Project and expand on research developments.

“I think Coy would be pleased about the progress we’ve made on his research projects to continue his legacy,” ElSohly said.

ElSohly assisted with Waller’s research for several years before Waller retired in 1979. Two of Waller’s major research contributions were the study of cannabinoids to treat glaucoma and working to formulate a natural remedy for poison ivy.

“Coy Waller had an ambitious vision for the pharmacy school and its Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences that informs much of the research we conduct today,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy.

ElSohly received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Cairo University in Egypt, and his doctorate in 1975 from the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy. He joined UM in 1975 and has directed its Marijuana Project since 1981.

He has more than 40 years’ experience working with the isolation of natural products, most notably, secondary metabolites in cannabis, as well as synthetic, analytical and forensic chemistry. He has more than 30 patents and over 300 publications related to these disciplines.

The School of Pharmacy and its National Center for Natural Products Research are hosting the event, which is free and open to the public.

Cannabis plants thrive in the indoor grow room of the UM Marijuana Project. Photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest/School of Pharmacy

“I am pleased we can honor Dr. Waller in this way while highlighting the ways in which his work is continued at the National Center for Natural Products Research and the school,” said Ikhlas Khan, the center’s director.

Symposium on Opioid Crisis Brings Law and Pharmacy Together

UM students from both schools learn about interprofessional approach to challenge

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood speaks to law and pharmacy students during the interprofessional symposium regarding the opioid crisis in the state. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 115 people die each day in the United States from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

These statistics constitute a crisis, and the University of Mississippi schools of Law and Pharmacy are working together to combat that crisis in an interdisciplinary manner.

Last week, the schools collaborated for an education symposium on “An Interprofessional Approach to the Opioid Crisis in Mississippi.” More than 300 law and pharmacy students attended the event, which included a mock trial in front of Roy Percy, magistrate judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a keynote speech by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

“A multidisciplinary approach is great and our university here is the first I’ve seen do this, so y’all are on the front end of addressing the crisis,” Hood said. “These epidemics come and go, but we have yet to see an epidemic affect such a broad cross-section of people.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter provided opening comments at the symposium and commended the schools for proactively addressing the opioid epidemic.

“By working together, we are more likely to understand the full breadth of this challenge and to find innovative solutions,” Vitter said.

Symposium panelists discuss the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the opioid crisis. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The afternoon panel featured Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Kenneth Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Board of Licensure; Amanda Criswell, nurse practitioner and instructor of nursing at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and Julie Mitchell, an attorney at Mitchell Day Law Firm in Ridgeland.

Law professor Larry Pittman and pharmacy practice professor Kim Adcock worked over the last year to organize the event to ensure that both professional schools developed an understanding of how different professions are navigating the opioid crisis.

“This interprofessional mock trial and symposium exemplified the importance of interdisciplinary interactions and provided a springboard for our students to begin working together to learn from, about and with each other,” Adcock said.

The goal of the event was to provide students and future practitioners a foundation to make the best professional decisions related to pain management.

“Interprofessional education and collaboration are very important because such efforts are necessary for resolving many of the pressing issues that we as a nation will continue to encounter,” Pittman said.

UM law student Sammy Brown serves as an attorney during the mock trial portion of the interprofessional collaboration between the schools of Law and Pharmacy. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The School of Pharmacy engages in regular interprofessional education with many of the health sciences schools on the UMMC campus, where upper-level pharmacy students receive training, and the School of Law engages in interdisciplinary endeavors with undergraduate programs and other legal entities. However, this is one of the first such events where the two schools collaborated to address a national crisis.

“Law is inextricable from the profession of pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “This is an incredible way to demonstrate to our future pharmacy, nursing and law professionals that together they have the power to make real contributions that can lessen or end the opioid crisis.”

Allen and Susan Duncan, dean of the law school, both expressed hope that the seminar would show students that interprofessional collaboration has potential to create solutions for any number of professional issues.

“We are educating future leaders, and it’s so important that they understand the importance in collaborating with those of other disciplines,” Duncan said. “Students in professional schools work well with each other, but it is vital for them to learn from their peers in other schools who can provide a different perspective.”

M Partner Deploying Volunteers Across Mississippi

Charleston, Lexington, New Albany focus of ambitious initiative

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter speaks at the M Partner announcement in March 2018. The university will send 150 M Partner volunteers to work Saturday (Oct. 13) in Lexington, Charleston and New Albany. Photo by Photo by Thomas Graning/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 150 volunteers will work Saturday in Charleston, Lexington and New Albany during M Partner Community Day to tackle some of each city’s major priorities. M Partner is the University of Mississippi’s hands-on new approach to addressing community needs in the state.

M Partner, which was unveiled in March, was outlined in the university’s comprehensive strategic plan, Flagship Forward. It is the result of a meeting of leaders from all UM campuses to create an ambitious new approach to the university’s longstanding commitment to improving quality of life in Mississippi.

M Partner Community Day engages students in the three partner cities through volunteer projects.

“This Community Day of Service embodies the tenets of M Partner and gets to the core of our university’s commitment to building healthy and vibrant communities,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “It is extremely rewarding to see our students so overwhelmingly and enthusiastically embrace this tremendous opportunity.

“I am excited about this community collaboration and the experiences our students will gain as well as the measurable impact this M Partner event will have upon our partner communities.”

Besides the day of service on Saturday, business development forums are set for Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 16 and 17) in New Albany and Charleston. These forums are hosted in partnership with the Entrepreneur Center at the Mississippi Development Authority, as well as the university’s Insight Park and McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Transportation and lunch will be provided at the business forums. To register, email or

Vitter laid out the vision for M Partner in his November 2016 inaugural address, noting the considerable potential in channeling the talents of the university to support towns and cities as they work together to improve community life. Service efforts such as M Partner Community Day will be complemented by faculty members teaching academic courses that align with priority projects identified by community members.

The work to this point is only the beginning. M Partner will act as a pilot program for up to two years. The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has a lead role in M Partner, and administrators have been working to find community goals for the program through ongoing discussions in each of the three cities.

M Partner programs began over the summer, when students in the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative worked with youth from each M Partner city to help them understand how the entrepreneurial mindset can be used to address challenges. Faculty members from the Ole Miss departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Management; the School of Law; and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College worked with those students.

Community partners including the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center, Mississippi Development Authority – The Entrepreneur Center and the Mississippi Main Street Association have pitched in as well.

Locals have spoken passionately about what they love about their cities, as well as their economic development, education, community well-being and beautification ideas in meetings the institute has conducted with partner cities over the last few months, said Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director of the McLean Institute.

“We are thrilled that M Partner Community Day will be an opportunity to contribute to the beautification projects identified by each community,” Martin said. “And we are excited for our student volunteers to see how their efforts in this day of service are connected to a much larger community-university initiative.”

Volunteers will be sent to each community to help with beautification and landscaping, and they will even work Charleston’s Gateway to the Delta Festival, said Michaela Cooper, the AmeriCorps VISTA supporting M Partner.

Some Ole Miss students from these towns will talk with volunteers and leaders about life in their towns and the importance of this day to them personally to provide perspective to the helpers, Cooper said.

“On days of service, it is vital that we constantly think about how to maintain the sustainability of these partnerships and how to bring lessons learned from our partner communities back to our campus,” Cooper said. “We plan to accomplish this by making this not just a day of community service, but also a day of reflection and a call to action.”

More information about the M Partner program is available at

Archaeology Researchers Searching for Civil War Graves in Columbus

Public invited to observe search for resting places of soldiers

A search using ground-penetrating radar will attempt to locate the lost graves of Union soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tony Boudreaux

OXFORD, Miss. – This weekend (Oct. 12-13), representatives of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi will be at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus as part of an effort to locate the unmarked graves of Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.

On Friday (Oct. 12), classes of students are invited to observe the search that will be led by Tony Boudreaux, director of the UM center. Classes are welcome to visit the cemetery between 9 a.m. and noon, and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. to watch and learn about the archaeological technology used in the search.

On Saturday (Oct. 13), the public is invited to the cemetery, also between 9 a.m. and noon and 1:30-4 p.m., to learn about the use of noninvasive technology during a day of public archaeology.

All that is known of the soldiers’ location is that they are in the southwest corner of the cemetery grounds, according to information that dates to 1919. The soldiers probably fought under the command of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and died after the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, in 1862.

Visitors who come by this weekend to watch the efforts will have an opportunity to learn about the technology being used to find the graves, Boudreaux said.

The Ole Miss team will use different kinds of noninvasive, remote sensing technology, chiefly ground-penetrating radar, to send electronic pulses up to 20 feet into the ground. The pulses are used to generate images of what the area beneath soil looks like.

The team also will use a magnetometer, which can pick up localized differences in underground magnetic fields. 

Other organizations involved in the project include the U.S. Grant Association and the U.S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University, the Billups-Garth Foundation of Columbus, with assistance by the city of Columbus and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“If we can hopefully get some results that will be important to people of Columbus and people of Mississippi, I’ll enjoy that,” Boudreaux said. “And if we get folks that show up because they’re interested in history and archaeology, it’s always good to share what we know in our profession with others who are interested.”

To schedule a time for a class to visit the project and observe the remote sensing technology, contact Visit Columbus at 662-329-1191.

Powerful Conversations, Emotions Shared at UM Event on Hazing

Families of Max Gruver and Tim Piazza share stories of sons' deaths, call for change in culture

Audience members watch a video as Evelyn Piazza (left), Rae Ann Gruver and Steve Gruver share their sons’ stories. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Painful memories and brutal facts were revealed Tuesday (Oct. 9) at the University of Mississippif     as the parents of Max Gruver and Tim Piazza detailed how their sons died from binge drinking during separate fraternity hazing incidents in 2017.

More than 1,000 people from the community filled the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts for “Family Matters: A Community Conversation on Hazing.” The audience listened intently as Steve and Rae Ann Gruver and Evelyn Piazza spoke frankly about the trauma surrounding the two tragic fatalities that were among four separate pledge deaths across the country last year.

The trio also called upon student leaders to join campus administrators in effecting a “no-hazing” culture on campus.

“This hazing has to stop,” Evelyn Piazza said. “It has no place on college campuses. It’s time to end hazing and to save lives.”

On Feb. 3, 2017, Piazza’s son, who attended Pennsylvania State University, was served 18 drinks in roughly an hour-and-a-half during a Beta Theta Pi fraternity pledge initiation called “The Gauntlet.” The 19-year-old fell several times, including down a flight of stairs, causing numerous traumatic injuries.

Members didn’t get him medical attention until the next morning. He died Feb. 4, 2017.

During an initiation called “Bible Study,” senior Phi Delta Theta fraternity members at Louisiana State University instructed Gruver, 18, and other pledges to chug 190-proof Diesel liquor. He died Sept. 14 with a blood-alcohol level of .496, more than six times the state’s legal driving limit.

“Max was made to drink Diesel, which is the highest-potency alcohol there is,” Rae Ann Gruver said. “No one tried to save him by calling 911. Can you really call this a brotherhood – subjecting pledges to life-threatening activities?”

Steve Gruver shared how hazing is a misdemeanor in Mississippi punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and six months in jail. In states where hazing is a felony, those convicted have permanent criminal records.

Rae Ann Gruver (left) listens as her husband, Steve, warns Ole Miss students about the dangers and damage of hazing. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“You’re guilty of hazing even if you’re a bystander,” Gruver said. “If you see someone in distress or in need of medical attention and don’t call for help, you can be charged and convicted of involuntary manslaughter.”

Using video and photo stills, the Gruvers and Piazza shared pertinent information about the manners and types of hazing, number of campus hazing deaths nationally since 2005 and actions that can be taken to counter hazing.

“The destruction caused by hazing is far-ranging and forever,” Piazza said. “Consider the consequences. Don’t think it won’t happen here, because it can and it does. Please listen to us. Don’t haze.”

Arthur Doctor Jr., UM director of fraternal leadership and learning, and student Brittany Brown served as moderators for the event. Ann Weston Sistrunk, College Panhellenic president, gave a welcome; Randon Hill, National Pan-Hellenic Council president, introduced the presenters; and Bennett Wilfong, Interfraternity Council representative, gave closing words to those in attendance.

“Hazing should have no place on our campus if we will all live by the words of the UM Creed,” Wilfong said. “Speaking up will not be easy, but it’s the right thing to do.

“Let’s care for one another, get involved, make the right decisions and spread this message: hazing isn’t allowed here.”

For a second year, Ole Miss administrators addressed high-risk behaviors on campus in an open letter to the campus in September. Other steps taken include:

  • Mandatory prospective new member education regarding alcohol/drugs and violence prevention/sexual assault
  • Launch of the Livesafe app
  • Updates to the event registration process to address safety and help curb high-risk behavior
  • Recruitment visits and assessments by National Interfraternity Council representatives.

To report any concerning behavior, complete the Hazing Report Form at