Medical Education Building to Be Named in Honor of Gov. Phil Bryant

Move recognizes leadership role and commitment to constructing facility

The new medical education building at the University of Mississippi Medical Center was dedicated in August 2017. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi has announced the naming of the medical education building at its Medical Center campus in Jackson in honor of Gov. Phil Bryant. The naming of Phil Bryant Medical Education Building became official today (Nov. 16) with approval from the Board of Trustees of Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

The new building – a 151,000-square-foot, $76 million state-of-the-art facility – was dedicated Aug. 4, 2017. Working with the Legislature, Gov. Bryant was instrumental in securing funding for the project, including $10 million in federal Community Development Block Grant funding through the Mississippi Development Authority to launch the effort, as well as helping to secure $66 million in state bonds.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to bringing more physicians to Mississippi and to growing the state’s health care economy extends back to his term as lieutenant governor.

“Gov. Bryant has worked tirelessly over many years to ensure that the new medical education building would become a reality,” said Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor. “He recognized the vital need to train additional doctors as well as the tremendous impact this medical school will continue to have upon our state for generations to come.

“The new building and expanded classes will stand as a part of his legacy.”

At roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, Mississippi is the most medically underserved state in the nation. Addressing this issue has been one of the governor’s highest priorities. His commitment to increasing the state’s number of physicians was a focal point of his 2013 State of the State address in which he observed that having more providers will create better health care access for Mississippians, resulting in lower costs.

“This honor is incredibly humbling and unexpected, and I am so grateful,” Gov. Bryant said. “I will continue to serve the university and its medical community in every way possible in order to be deserving of this distinction.

“It is my hope that this wonderful new facility will help grow and sustain our ability to provide the best health care possible for the people of Mississippi.”

Medical school leaders began increasing class sizes several years ago in anticipation of the new building. With the opening of the facility last summer, the entering class size grew from around 145 students to 155 this year, and will eventually top off at approximately 165 – the size considered necessary to meet the goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

It is projected that the larger class sizes accommodated by the new facility will generate about $1.7 billion in economic impact by 2025 and that the additional physicians trained will support more than 19,000 new jobs by the same year. The economic impact of practicing UMMC-trained physicians is more than $6.3 billion annually, and those physicians are estimated to support more than 60,000 jobs in the state.

Governor Phil Bryant

“Gov. Bryant has been a great champion of the effort to build a new medical education building, which will ultimately lead to more physicians for Mississippi and greater access to health care for more of the state’s residents, particularly those in rural areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We are extremely grateful for the governor’s exceptional leadership in helping us achieve our mission of training Mississippians to take care of Mississippians.”

Besides his central role in garnering funding for the new building, Gov. Bryant has more broadly supported medical education efforts in the state. During the 2012 legislative session, Gov. Bryant signed House Bill 317 into law to establish more medical residency programs throughout the state, a move intended to allow more Mississippi-trained physicians to remain in the state.

That same year, Gov. Bryant championed and signed legislation creating Health Care Industry Zones to spur expanded access to health care and grow health care jobs.

Gov. Bryant also has a longstanding history of leadership and advocacy in support of growing Mississippi’s health care economy, including two years of legislation that removed barriers to the full adoption of telehealth as a means of providing patient care. As a result, Mississippi has been recognized by the American Telemedicine Association as one of only nine states with an A-rating as a top state for telehealth.

UMMC also was recently designated one of only two Telehealth Centers of Excellence nationwide by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Gov. Bryant also was instrumental in passing the Health Care Collaboration Act, which will provide new opportunities for UMMC to partner with rural hospitals and others to further expand medical services. During his terms, the governor has also devoted significant support to growing the Mississippi Healthcare Corridor, which includes UMMC as an anchor institution.

Gov. Bryant’s commitment to a healthier Mississippi is shared by first lady Deborah Bryant, whose career in health care spanned more than three decades. Health care is one of the pillars of her platform to improve the quality of life for Mississippians of all ages. 

She is active in a number of health-related causes, including serving as a board member for the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi, which honored her in 2014 as a recipient of the “Women of Excellence” Award. She is also a frequent volunteer at Batson Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Ford Dye, member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning and an alumnus of the UM School of Medicine, praised Gov. Bryant for his commitment to improving medical education in the state.

When Gov. Bryant first came into office, he set as a top priority the need to increase the physician workforce in our state to provide quality health care for our citizens,” Dye said. “He led the way to obtain necessary funds to build this incredible new building, which will house the School of Medicine at UMMC.

“Without his strong leadership, this new building would not have been completed. We are grateful to Gov. Bryant for his vision and service to the people of this state and are delighted this building will be named in his honor.”

The new medical education building was designed and built to house the School of Medicine, which was originally in the Medical Center complex that opened in July 1955. Over the years, demands for space have grown, and, as the Medical Center expanded, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

“Naming the building housing the medical school after Gov. Bryant is a fitting tribute,” said Glenn Boyce, commissioner of higher education. “He has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to improving the health of all Mississippians and has pursued this goal with vision and passion. His vision will change the medical landscape of our state and help generations of Mississippians lead healthier lives.”

The medical education facility includes a cutting-edge simulation training area, which was made possible in part by grants totaling nearly $5 million from the Hearin Foundation. It is also equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Fund for a Healthier Mississippi – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

Located on the north side of campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the Phil Bryant Medical Education Building will house the educational core of the School of Medicine. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and Health Related Professions, along with the Bower School of Population Health in the new Translational Research Center.

New Program Engages Students in Environmental Issues Close to Home

Students learning scientific process for observing health of local resources

Participants and faculty in the ‘Green Is the New Pink’ program spent a recent Saturday working and learning at the UM Field Station. On hand for the session were (front, from left) faculty members Angela Whaley, Ellen Shelton, Martha Tallent and Katie Szabo, students Mary Porter Fountain of Oxford; Michaela Anderson of Saltillo; and Alex Nagle, Claire Cizdziel, Srujana Murthy, Andreel Ward, Emory Elzie, Grace Wolff and Zoe Jones, all of Oxford, and (rear) Scott Knight, Field Station director. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Students involved in the University of Mississippi’s “Green Is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action” program recently spent a Saturday testing and observing water sources and trying their hand at electrofishing at the UM Field Station in northeastern Lafayette County.

“I like nature,” said Mary Porter Fountain, a ninth-grader at Oxford High School. “I think it’s interesting getting to learn about what plants and different species need to survive.”

This fall is the inaugural year for the new environmental program for girls in eighth through 12th grades. It is sponsored by grants from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s “Show Me” Campaign, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift.

Martha Tallent, an eighth-grade science teacher at Oxford Middle School, serves as a faculty member for the program.

“I feel like something happens between eighth and 10th grades where many students seem to lose interest in science,” Tallent said. “I want to teach our students to be risk-takers in science and to engage in several different scientific fields to see what interests them.

“There are so many disciplines and jobs in the various fields, and we want to expose them to the different options.”

A collaboration among the Office of Pre-College Programs, the UM Writing Project, the UM Field Station and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, the program is introducing students to real-world research strategies and generating curiosity about the natural environment.

The cross-disciplinary partnership between English and science is allowing students in the program to conduct their own research, create a project and deliver a presentation. They are guided through four field experiences of data collection, data exploration, analysis and interpretation of data, and drawing conclusions.

“I’m thinking about trying some of the water quality experiments on the ponds in my neighborhood,” Fountain said.

Oxford High ninth-grader Srujana Murthy said she is interested in looking at some invasive species growing around a local pond and possibly reintroducing native plants to bring native birds back to the area.

“That’s what happened at Strawberry Plains,” Murthy said. “The former owner planted several non-native plants around the home, and the hummingbirds stopped coming. Once they removed those and replanted with native species, they saw many hummingbirds return to the area.”

Srujana Murthy (left) and Claire Cizdziel try their hand at electrofishing under the guidance of Scott Knight, director of the UM Field Station, as part of the ‘Green is the New Pink’ environmental program. UM photo by Pam Starling

So far this fall, students have spent one Saturday in September at Strawberry Plains Environmental Center in Holly Springs. This month, they spent a Saturday studying the ecosystem at the Field Station.

In February, they will return to Strawberry Plains to examine the winter landscape and wildlife. Their final Saturday field experience will be at the Field Station in April to participate in environmental-awareness activities surrounding Earth Day.

The activities this month at the Field Station included testing the water quality of local streams and sampling the fish content through a process called electrofishing. This scientific tool involves sending a small electrical current into the stream that attracts the fish and makes them easier to catch. The different types of fish are recorded and then released.

“Comparing ecosystem integrity from one stream to another is just one tiny piece of what ecology is about,” said Scott Knight, Field Station director. “In our experiments, we were trying to test the integrity and sample the diversity to measure the health of the environment.”

Throughout the year, participants stay connected in their research and writing through an online Google classroom, where they will be reflecting on their field experiences and refining the writing component of their scientific findings.

“There are so many interesting paths in studying ecology,” Knight said. “There are also many job opportunities in this field that we hope to open participants’ eyes to.”

For more information about the “Green Is the New Pink” program, visit

UM to Debut Flagship Constellations Nov. 17 at Ford Center

Community invited to learn about research initiatives seeking to solve pressing issues

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will unveil a new initiative, Flagship Constellations, at 4 p.m. Nov. 17 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Multidisciplinary teams, consisting of faculty, staff and students, are being created to search for meaningful solutions to complicated issues through collaborative thinking in four areas: big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

The idea for the Flagship Constellations was first announced during Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter’s investiture in November 2016.

“This initiative brings creative people and ideas together in fresh and unique ways to tackle grand challenges,” Vitter said. “The atmosphere of innovation at UM is exceptional and aligns perfectly with the Flagship Constellations’ focus on high-impact multidisciplinary research and creative achievement.

“We recognize that our goals are lofty, but as a great public international research university and the state’s flagship, we have a duty and leadership responsibility to tackle the pressing issues of our time. I am eager to see the innovations and societal contributions that will result from the success of our Flagship Constellations.”

Provost Noel Wilkin will introduce representatives from each constellation, who will discuss details about their teams and goals.

In each of the four constellations, researchers and creative-minded faculty, staff, students, alumni and university partners will focus on a specific area to develop different points of view and practical responses.

“Many of our current challenges are very complex and require a multidisciplinary approach that draws on a broad range of expertise,” said Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research and professor of medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“The Flagship Constellations provide a natural gravitational platform for the collaboration of a diverse group of experts across the entirety of our academic enterprise that can focus on solving a central salient problem.”

These Flagship Constellations will energize the research collaborations that will be occurring across all UM campuses, Wilkin predicted.

“This will take our institution and the research that we do to new levels and bring our intellectual creativity to bear in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges,” Wilkin said. “Our researchers have been creating knowledge and making discoveries that have benefitted society for a long time.

“This initiative will focus those efforts on solving some of the most pressing issues of today.”

The event is free and open to all staff, students, faculty and alumni, as well as the general public. For those interested in attending the event, register at

National and Worldwide Rankings Provide UM Benchmarks of Success

University committed to capitalizing on momentum and reaching new heights of excellence

Mississippi’s flagship university, UM has improved upon its standing in business and engineering in this fall’s latest national and worldwide rankings of colleges and universities. The university also is highly regarded around the world for its programs in pharmacology and toxicology, clinical medicine and physics. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss – The University of Mississippi was recently named to the U.S. News and World Report’s Best Colleges and the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education’s College Rankings for 2018. UM also continues to increase its global research standing through gains in the NTU Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities.

Mississippi’s flagship university has improved upon its national standing in business and engineering while its pharmacology and toxicology, clinical medicine and physics research get high marks in worldwide university rankings.

“The University of Mississippi stands out nationally with unique academic programs and learning experiences, and we are committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “We will accomplish this goal by increasing the value of our degrees, expanding the impact of our research and boosting the competitiveness of our students, faculty and staff.”

Ranked as the nation’s 10th fastest-growing public doctoral institution in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2017 Almanac, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university with 23,780 students.

The university is also included in the elite category of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification. This group represents the top 2.5 percent of public and private institutions of higher education in the country.

“Rankings provide important benchmarks for our university to continue our focus upon growing our reach and enhancing our international pre-eminence,” Vitter said.

The university has climbed steadily in the overall ranking of the 800 best research universities in the world, moving up nine spots from a year ago. The NTU Performance Ranking of Scientific Papers for World Universities evaluates achievements in scientific research by using objective indicators. Research productivity, impact and excellence were measured to assess the performance of scientific publications.

UM ranked No. 76 in the U.S. and No. 321 worldwide among public institutions in the NTU rankings.

The university’s pharmacology and toxicology research ranked No. 152 among public institutions worldwide, while physics ranked No. 217 and clinical medicine came in at No. 242.

In four of the last five years, the university has also improved its overall U.S. News and World Report ranking. This year, UM comes in at No. 73 among public institutions and saw a rise in its rankings in engineering and business administration.

UM has climbed steadily in the overall ranking of the 800 best research universities in the world, moving up nine spots from a year ago. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The university’s peer assessment and first-year student retention rates also were at all-time highs.

“The improvements in the business school and School of Engineering rankings are a positive sign that their efforts to provide outstanding programs to our students are being noticed,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor. “I am consistently impressed with how our faculty and staff create an amazing, engaging and caring environment in which our students can learn and realize their full potential.”

The School of Engineering’s undergraduate programs are tied for No. 113 among public universities. This fall, the engineering school raised its admission requirements, and the overall quality of the programs continues to improve.

The recent addition of the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering program included a fall 2017 inaugural class of 54 students with an average ACT of 30.9.

The School of Business Administration’s undergraduate ranking rose four spots in this year’s rankings to No. 65 among public universities.

The school, which is celebrating its 100-year anniversary on campus this fall, is committed to continuing the momentum, said Ken Cyree, UM business dean.

“I am proud of our commitment to adding value to our students and helping them prepare for the competitive workplace and for success,” Cyree said.

UM is also ranked among the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education’s best U.S. universities, coming in at No. 78 among public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The findings are based on surveys on success and learning completed by 100,000 college students.

The surveys ask students whether sufficient resources are available to teach them properly and whether their teachers and classmates challenge and engage them. It tries to answer whether the college has a good academic reputation and what kind of campus community is in place.

The ranking also aims to help prospective students decide how likely they are to graduate, pay off loans and get a good job.

Ranked among the nation’s 10th fastest-growing public doctoral institutions, UM is the state’s largest university with 23,780 students. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The university scored high in student satisfaction surveys found in the Wall Street Journal rankings – 87.9 percent of students said if they could start all over again, they would still choose Ole Miss. More than 80 percent said they found the university successful in helping secure internships that prepared them for their careers, as well.

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades, including the School of Law ranked as the No. 22 best value law school in the country by National Jurist magazine and the School of Accountancy’s undergraduate, master’s and doctoral program all ranked No. 8 in national rankings published by the journal Public Accounting Report. The master’s program leads the SEC in rankings, while the undergraduate program comes in second.

Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge places UM in an exceptional position to continue leading the way in learning, discovery and engagement, Vitter said.

“As we continue to measure our success on a national and global stage, I am committed to a future marked by even greater achievements and contributions by our strong, vibrant university,” he said.

Student Callers Earn While They Learn

Call center offers Ole Miss students a form of financial aid

Deandre Kidd (left) and other students in the UM call center reach out to prospective donors while earning money to offset college expenses. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Each week, students in the call center at the University of Mississippi seek support for Ole Miss while also gaining income and valuable experience for themselves.

Five days a week, 40 students reach out to alumni and friends, engaging them in conversations that frequently lead to financial benefits for UM schools and colleges, departments, faculty, programs and scholarships. In fiscal year 2017, callers raised more than $560,000 in pledges and gifts for Ole Miss; the center was recently named Call Center of the Month by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, a provider of fundraiser management services and software.

While the university depends on private support to ensure the margin of excellence expected of prominent educational institutions, students such as Deandre Kidd depend on the $8.15 per hour and an opportunity to earn a bonus at the end of the month.

“I can honestly say if it wasn’t for my job at the call center, I wouldn’t be able to have a car or phone on my own,” said Kidd, a senior exercise science major from Hattiesburg who also uses his salary from this and a second job to offset the cost of books and rent.

Kidd works two jobs to relieve his parents’ financial pressure; his father is a restaurant kitchen manager and his mother is a homemaker who takes care of his sister and brother as well as her grandchildren.

“The job is really a form of financial aid, similar to a scholarship because it provides an opportunity for students to earn money while they get an education,” said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. “It really gives them a great deal of support.”

Timber Heard, a senior anthropology major from McComb, likes that the call center pays more than minimum wage.

“I needed a higher paying job,” said Heard, who was a fast-food employee when she applied at the call center.

Heard took the job as a steppingstone, hoping to gain experience that will help her grow professionally. A year-and-a-half later, she feels the experience has been invaluable and enjoys talking to potential donors.

“I like getting to know people over the phone, hearing their different stories and learning about where they’re from,” she said. “I like people who have a sense of humor like me; that makes it fun.”

Like Kidd, Heard works a second job while balancing classes. She uses the income from both jobs, as well as student loans, to pay for rent, utilities, food and clothes.

Similarly, Lakia Taylor, of Brandon, depends on the call center job to pay rent. The sophomore marketing major covers other expenses with income from an online personalized jewelry business she founded.

Taylor said the Ole Miss job fits her busy 15-hour class schedule and provides valuable networking experience.

“This past Thursday, I was talking to one of the alumni about his experiences in school, and he recommended that I go meet a professor he knows on campus, so I’m planning to go meet him,” Taylor said. “You never know where opportunities like that could lead.”

For information on making a gift to UM, contact Wendell Weakley at 662-915-3845 or visit

UM, General Atomics to Collaborate on Unmanned Submarine Technology

Company moving into Insight Park offices and labs Nov. 1

The University of Mississippi and General Atomics are working together to develop new technology for unmanned underwater vehicles. The joint effort is based at UM’s Insight Park. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and General Atomics are beginning an on-campus collaborative effort focusing on acoustic sensing and navigation technologies for unmanned underwater vehicles to aid Department of Defense operations in deep-sea areas.

GA Electromagnetic Systems Group will occupy offices on the UM campus at Insight Park beginning Nov. 1. The Insight Park facility will help GA-EMS strengthen the relationship established with UM and its National Center for Physical Acoustics to facilitate the investigation of acoustic-based techniques for navigation and control of unmanned underwater systems.

The collaboration ultimately will likely involve not just the NCPA, but other campus groups as well, said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs.

“We are so pleased to have General Atomics plug into the university community through Insight Park,” Gladden said. “Over the course of the past year, we have identified multiple research groups on campus that could partner with GA-EMS to help find solutions for modern needs of the Department of Defense.

“I’m sure as our partnership continues to strengthen, both GA and UM will find this a mutually beneficial relationship.”

GA-EMS has a history of collaboration with universities to advance acoustic and infrasound technologies. This partnership is a natural one, said William Nicholas, Insight Park’s assistant director.

“Our location provides GA-EMS with close proximity to the National Center for Physical Acoustics and other key schools, colleges and centers at the University of Mississippi,” Nicholas said. “We are especially excited to provide our students with opportunities to intern with such an innovative company.”

Officials with the company look forward to being on-site at UM to continue researching and developing critical technologies designed for real-world applications, said Hank Rinehart, business lead for surveillance and sensor systems at GA-EMS.

“The broad spectrum of talent at Ole Miss and the focus on engineering disciplines is a great match for GA-EMS,” Rinehart said. “We are excited to work with students and faculty in an environment that not only advances game-changing technologies, but also fosters community growth and entrepreneurship.”

GA-EMS will initially occupy approximately 1,800 square feet of office space and laboratory for general electronic and mechanical systems and subsystems development, testing and prototyping. It is expected to expand operations to 3,500 square feet within the first half of 2018.

The company also has extensive manufacturing facilities in Tupelo and Iuka.

About General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems

General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems Group is a global leader in the research, design and manufacture of first-of-a-kind electromagnetic and electric power generation systems. GA-EMS’ history of research, development and technology innovation has led to an expanding portfolio of specialized products and integrated system solutions supporting aviation, space systems and satellites, missile defense, power and energy, and processing and monitoring applications for critical defense, industrial and commercial customers worldwide.

UM Establishes Center for Graphene Research and Innovation

New center to capitalize on decade of cross-disciplinary graphene and nano materials research

Ahmed Al-Ostaz is director of the UM Nano Infrastructure Laboratory and professor of civil engineering. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has established a new center to advance translational science and engineering of graphene-based technologies. The Center for Graphene Research and Innovation was officially established Oct. 19, with approval from the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning.

The new center will focus on bridging the gap between university-based science and discovery and industry-led innovations and applications for graphene, a form of carbon made of a single layer of atoms. First isolated and described by scientists in 2004, the material is incredibly strong and flexible, and its conductivity lends it to a broad range of applications ranging from manufacturing to electronics to medicine.

Establishing the center aligns with UM’s status as a Carnegie R1 highest research activity institution and the growth of research in graphene and related nanostructure materials at the university over the last decade, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“The Center for Graphene Research and Innovation will serve as a hub connecting research activities across multiple disciplines and departments and will propel the university forward in this field,” Vitter said.

Graphene is heralded for having significant growth potential across a number of market segments. It is 200 times stronger than steel and more conductive than silicon. Another notable property is flexibility, which allows it to be pulled and curved to a certain extent without breaking.

Graphene makes solar cells 50 to 100 times more efficient, semiconductors 50 to 100 times faster, aircraft 70 percent lighter and composites more multifunctional.

“Graphene is one of the strongest materials known,” said Alex Cheng, Dean of the UM School of Engineering. “It also has superior thermal, electric, electromagnetic and even antibacterial properties.

“The wide range of applications will greatly impact technology and spur innovators to develop new products and processes.”

A scanning electron microscope image of graphene nanoplatelets. Photo by the UM Nano Infrastructure Laboratory

During the past few years, graphene-related research conducted at UM has included computational physical chemistry; photovoltaic solar cells; drug, protein and gene delivery; electromagnetic applications, including perfect absorbers, high-impedance surfaces, subwavelength imaging, hyperlenses, plasmonic waveguides, cloaking/invisibility and reduction of interference in antennas; and nanocomposites for defense, homeland security, aerospace and structural application.

While graphene has a number of applications, initial sectors to be targeted by the center include energy, electronics, biomedical, and structural, said Ahmed Al-Ostaz, director of the Nano Infrastructure Laboratory and professor of civil engineering.

“Graphene offers many potential applications, such as reinforcement in composites, energy conversion and storage, thermal conductors, electronics, anticorrosion coatings and paints, and drug and gene delivery to human diseases and medical devices,” Al-Ostaz said.

The center will partner with a number of public and private entities, including the Oxford-based National Graphene Association. The association provides a networking and information platform to expedite the integration of graphene into the commercial arena.

UM plays an active role in the association, including representation on the NGA Advisory Board. Among other national and international thought leaders from industry, government and academia, five members of the advisory board are from UM: Al-Ostaz, Cheng, Vitter, Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, and Will Norton, dean of journalism and new media.

“We are so excited to establish the Center for Graphene Research and Innovation,” Gladden said. “Graphene as a material shows great promise in a wide variety of applications from structural materials to electronics to biomedical.

“The CGRI will focus on bringing a wide variety of faculty and researchers at UM together to bridge the fundamental science of graphene to applications.”

Willie Price Students Plant New Learning Garden at UM

Partnerships, volunteers help shape real food curriculum

Parent and volunteer Tess Johnson helps Willie Price Lab School students sow seeds at the school’s new learning garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The seeds are planted for a new learning garden at the University of Mississippi’s Willie Price Lab School, which will allow the pre-K facility to integrate gardening and an understanding of food sources into its curriculum.

Several 3- and 4-year-olds at Willie Price, part of the UM School of Education, recently planted radishes, lettuce, carrots and garlic with the help of FoodCorps service member and parent Tess Johnson and others.

Sarah Langley, director of Willie Price, also partnered with preschool parents, UM Landscape Services, the Office of Sustainability and the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reinstall the garden, which had previously been part of the school’s curriculum.

“Tess became involved with FoodCorps and she approached us about revitalizing the space and has volunteered to lead a parent committee and organize all of the planting and harvesting events for our Willie Price students,” Langley said. “Before, the garden was an amazing space with tomatoes, blackberries, carrots and herbs everywhere, and the children were out there all the time.

“They were working with two gardeners, but for budget reasons, from what I understand, the space became neglected and we were no longer able to maintain that partnership.”

Johnson said that it was her work with Oxford Elementary School students that inspired her to help bring gardening back to Willie Price.

“I’m always blown away when I ask even fourth- or fifth-graders, ‘What’s your favorite food?’ and, if they say French fries, they think they came from McDonald’s or the grocery store,” Johnson said. “They have no idea that someone grew those potatoes and that’s how their food got there.”

Johnson also helped Willie Price students make a healthy snack of homemade hummus with pita chips and carrots on the day of the planting.

“It’s just so important for kids to be outside with fresh air, green space and to know where their food comes from,” she said.

In addition to enthusiastic parents, Willie Price also received a $500 grant from the Mississippi Farm to School Network to reopen the garden.

“We are interested in reaching out to more early child care programs with our school garden grants because we know that the earlier we can reach kids with good produce, fruits and vegetables, the more likely they will be interested in those foods when they are older,” said Sunny Young Baker, co-director of the Mississippi Farm to School Network.

 Langley said she feels there’s a bright future for Willie Price’s garden.

“We are partnering with landscape services, which is awesome because we have the most beautiful campus in the country,” Langley said. “They’ve been coming over to help us and just do as much as they can to help us protect the space.”

Langley also partnered with the UM Office of Sustainability to obtain compost from the university’s compost program for the garden.

Before the installation of the garden, Willie Price students learned about nutritious food and healthy living in a two-week unit on health that concluded with planting seeds in the reopened garden.

The Willie Price Lab School is a preschool facility on the UM campus. It provides opportunities for Ole Miss students and faculty to provide services and conduct research.

Embry Legacy Continues with Latest Scholar

Wilson receives 2017 award created in UM football player's memory

UM freshman Lori Wilson is the 2017 Joey Embry Scholar. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – In receiving this year’s Joey Embry Scholarship, University of Mississippi freshman Lori Wilson carries on the legacy – and in many ways, the spirit – of the student-athlete who died tragically in 1998, just months before he was expected to be a major contributor on the Rebel offensive line.

According to Bobby Killion, Embry’s teammate, “Joey touched the lives of so many people while having an influence on those who came in contact with him.”

The same can be said of Wilson. The Water Valley native has always worked hard to make life better for those around her. For example, when she realized her high school was struggling to overcome negativity, she organized and led a booster committee, encouraging her fellow seniors and some juniors to serve as mentors for younger students.

“I was like, ‘Maybe we can do something to fix things,” Wilson recalls. “I said, ‘Let’s put fun back into school and show these kids that you don’t have to sell drugs or be that type of person’ because a lot of the younger kids were heading toward the wrong path.

“So I thought it would be a good idea to get the seniors – the ones on the honor roll and those that participated in all the clubs – to come together and show the younger students that it starts with us; we can change things. And it turned out so great.”

Wilson also was involved in the music, art, family consumer science and Beta clubs. She served on the student council and supported the athletics teams as a cheerleader. In her free time, she volunteered at the local nursing home.

“I got to talk to a lot of the people there,” she said. “You learn a lot from them. They have so much to tell. I always connected with them.”

At Ole Miss, Wilson is majoring in exercise science because it will be a good foundation for the nursing degree she hopes to attain on her way to becoming a doctor, a logical career path for someone like Wilson whose desire has always been to help others.

But one step at a time, said Wilson, who also received a Luckyday scholarship and was selected for the university’s FASTrack program, which provides freshmen an enhanced learning environment.

Just weeks into her freshman year, Wilson is already finding ways to make a difference. She’s active in two networking organizations and the student organization E.S.T.E.E.M., or Educated, Successful, Talented, Evolving, Empowered, and Motivated, a club for minorities that works to boost women’s confidence.

She gets her motivation from her role model.

“I never see my mom cry,” Wilson said. “She’s a very determined person. I always have aspired to be like my mom, strong-willed. And she always fixes things.”

They have that in common.

“All the things I went through and all the things I saw in my community and in my school just made me want to be the fixer,” Wilson said. “I realize I can’t fix everything, but I definitely try. I’m a perfectionist and try my best to help in any way I can.”

Gwen Embry, Joey Embry’s mother, said she and her husband, Bill, are pleased that the scholarship was awarded to someone who obviously shares their son’s spirit.

“Joey gave everything for there to be this scholarship, and we want to make sure it’s used to the best of its ability – that the students will devote their time and efforts to school and keep their priorities in the right direction,” she said.

Wilson said she’s honored to receive the scholarship and understands its gravity.

“Just to know that I got the scholarship, I feel very heartened by it,” she said. “I’m honored to carry on Joey Embry’s legacy. I always try to do my best here at Ole Miss.”

Since the Embrys have lived in Calhoun and Yalobusha counties, they offer the scholarship in each geographical area. Students interested in applying for the scholarship should speak with their high school guidance counselor.

Individuals and organizations can contribute to the Joey Embry Memorial Scholarship Fund through the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS; phone 800-340-9542; or online at

Ford Center Hosts ‘Rent’ Anniversary Tour

Award-winning musical set for Thursday UM performance

The acclaimed musical ‘Rent’ comes to the Ford Center for one performance Oct. 26 as part of the production’s 20th anniversary tour. Photo by Carol Rose.

OXFORD, Miss. – The 20th anniversary national tour of the smash musical “Rent” visits the University of Mississippi for one performance Thursday (Oct. 26) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

“Rent” follows the lives of seven impoverished artists in New York City over the course of a year as they fight to pursue their dreams without giving up or selling out. Underneath the story are inspiring messages of joy and hope, facing fears, friendship and love.

“This courageous love story has resonated with opera audiences since 1896 with Puccini’s ‘La Bohème and again with its modern reimagining 100 years later in ‘Rent,'” said Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director. “It is hard to believe that this 1996 musical is now 20 years oldWhether it is your first time or 10th, this musical still rocks.”

The Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning musical continues to capture audiences two decades later. It is one of only five musicals to win both awards.

“It has enormously valid things to say about the ways in which we all seek out community and form families, and how we take care of one another in very difficult times,” said Michael Greif, who directed the original off-Broadway and Broadway productions. “The message of the musical is to truly appreciate the time that we have and to truly appreciate each other, because you don’t know when someone will be gone from your life.”

The performance, based on the original direction by Greif, is restaged by Evan Ensign and choreographed by Marlies Yearby.

The “Rent” 20th anniversary tour is produced by Work Light Productions, whose other productions include “Cinderella,” “Mamma Mia!” “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas,” the Vocalosity national tour and “Crazy for You.”

A limited number of tickets are available at the UM Box Office inside the Ford Center. Tickets are $75 for orchestra/parterre and tier 1 box levels, $69 for mezzanine and tier 2 box levels and $63 for the balcony level. A 10 percent discount is available for UM faculty, staff and retirees when tickets are purchased at the box office.

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