UM Students Explore Food Insecurity and Delinquency in Belize

Legal studies students travel to Central America to study issue

Students from the UM Department of Legal Studies, including (from left) Lamar Yates, Kayla Holland, Emma Burleson, Lindsay Goschke, Zachary Buckner, Hillary Coney and Tre’ McCune, traveled to Belize recently to conduct research exploring the links between food insecurity and delinquency. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A team of University of Mississippi students and faculty recently traveled to Belize to learn more about the correlation between food insecurity and delinquency.

Under the leadership of Linda Keena, interim chair of legal studies, and Martha Bass, associate professor of health, exercise science, and recreation management, graduate students from the Department of Legal Studies went to the Central American nation to study the relationship between food insecurity and delinquency in youth.

Previous research indicated that delinquent behaviors are used as a coping strategy to increase household resources such as food.

“To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine food insecurity and delinquent behaviors in Belize,” said David H. Holben, resident food security expert, professor of nutrition and hospitality management, and contributor to the study. “Individuals and households cope with food insecurity in a variety of ways.

“This study underscores that having poor access to enough food for an active, healthy life may lead to or be caused by delinquent behaviors.”

To conduct the study, the team visited Belize City, the country’s largest city, which suffers from high rates of violence and poverty. Many of the city’s young adults are victims of these harsh conditions.

Ole Miss faculty and student researchers worked with the Conscious Youth Development Program, an organization within the Belize Police Department that specializes in gang intervention, to find participants for their study. Funding for the work came from the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs.

Emma Burleson, a recent Master of Criminal Justice graduate, was among those who helped carry out the research abroad.

“I gained valuable experience as a researcher and experienced a new culture in a unique way,” Burleson said. “The research we conducted brought us in direct contact with the citizens of Belize City, and we were interacting with them in their communities, sometimes literally in their backyard.

“I will forever be thankful for the chance to participate in such an enriching research opportunity.”

The study looked at 139 participants, who were primarily Creole/black African and averaged 23 years old. The study examined participants’ grit, or perseverance and passion for long-term goals; food insecurities; trust in police fairness and effectiveness; past illegal activity and interest in gangs; and possession of a firearm.

The results indicated that almost 75 percent of respondents suffered very low food security. Additionally, when asked about criminal activity in the past 12 months, 56 percent of respondents indicated they had stolen something and 70 percent had used drugs.

Evidence from the study suggests that food insecurity is positively associated with delinquent behaviors, so developing interventions in Belize City that address food security should be warranted.

“The cycle of food insecurity and its relationship to delinquent behaviors, including gang membership, has been something we have observed in past study abroad visits to Belize,” Bass said. “It was exciting to see the legal studies graduate students interact with the Belizian participants and validate our supposition.”

Students become better global citizens by studying societal problems in different communities around the world, Keena said.

“Increasing their knowledge about food insecurity and delinquency in the Belizean culture and learning how to interact and work with people of different cultural backgrounds was an invaluable educational experience,” she said.

Members of the research collaboration, including graduate student Marta Dees, presented “Food insecurity and delinquency among adults in Belize City, Belize” at the recent Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo in Washington, D.C. The study’s poster, titled “Wellness and Public Health,” was one of seven from the Office of Food and Nutrition Security presented at the conference.

“This was my first trip to FNCE,” Dees said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and hope to get the chance to present work from the University of Mississippi again.

“It was a fulfilling experience connecting with others who have interest in the same subject area and to be able to speak to them in person. I was honored in the amount of interest shown in, not only our research, but the University of Mississippi as well.”

For more information about the departments involved in the study, visit or call 662-915-7900.

Past Meets Future with UM Research into Greek Plaques

Classics, engineering professors team up to explore ancient history

Brad Cook, UM associate professor of classics, balances an ancient Greek inscription over an X-ray fluorescence spectrometer as Lance Yarbrough, assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, collections manager for the University Museum, watch. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – It is a delicate balancing act Brad Cook performs as he places a more-than-2,000-year-old golden Greek artifact atop a high-energy X-ray fluorescence spectrometer. In position, the wafer-thin ancient article soon will be beamed with billions of photons, all to unlock its age.

Cook, an associate professor of classics at the University of Mississippi, is working in a back room of the University Museum on an October morning alongside Lance Yarbrough, UM assistant professor of geology and geological engineering, and Melanie Munns Antonelli, the museum’s collections manager.

Today meets a yesterday of centuries ago as the trio is using the spectrometer to peer into a gold, and then a bronze, inscription to discover the elemental compositions of the Greek relics. The results will offer a clue whether the inscriptions – both part of the museum’s David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Antiquities – are ancient or modern.

Because it is undetermined where the inscriptions were originally found and because the survival of metal inscriptions is so rare – they were commonly melted down, even in antiquity, and “recycled” – there is doubt as to whether the inscriptions are ancient or more modern. While the scans cannot prove the plaques are ancient beyond a doubt, they can reveal the absence of anything that would signal modern manufacturing.

After scanning, the gold inscription is found to contain 99.8 percent gold, with the remaining 0.2 percent being below the detection limit of the device. The bronze inscription’s makeup is 82.2 percent copper and 17.8 percent tin. The percentages are definitive.

“The results of the scans for the two metal inscriptions show that there is nothing modern about the composition of the metals,” Cook said. “These scans, then, provide an answer that is one of many answers that collectively build a case that argues for the antiquity of both inscriptions.

“Without these scans, there would always be a ‘what if?’ hanging around the room. In the broadest terms, every artifact has a story to tell, and these artifacts in the museum have, I suspect, a unique story to tell.”

The research into the composition of the inscriptions continues Cook’s work from earlier this year, when he received a $21,000 National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the two inscriptions, including five months of work based at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in Greece.

While other parts of the roughly 2,000-piece Robinson collection have been the subject of published works, these inscriptions – both about the size of an index card – have not been.

A gold Greek inscription, an artifact at the University Museum, records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The gold inscription records the essence of a defensive treaty between Philip V, king of Macedon from 221 to 179 B.C., and the city of Lysimachia, a strategic town on the Dardanelles between the Aegean and Black seas. The bronze inscription records the freeing of a slave woman named Philista in northwestern Greece about the same time.

“A ‘mini’ version of a treaty on gold is, however, unparalleled, so much of my research is trying to finding comparanda for such things so I can answer … what is the purpose of a gold epitome of a treaty,” Cook said.

Classics and engineering might seem like strange research partners, but Cook has a friend, Scott Pike, an archaeological geologist at Willamette University in Oregon, who uses a spectrometer. Witnessing the usefulness of the instrument in that line of work and how it might aid him, Cook asked Pike where to find such an instrument. He told Cook: Ask your geology department.

“Brad sought us out,” Yarbrough said. “He emailed my chair, Dr. Gregg Davidson, hoping we had an XRF device. I only recently purchased the device in the spring of 2017, so it was good timing.

“One of the most useful aspects of (X-ray fluorescence) is that it is nondestructive. Many other methods of elemental analysis require you to destroy or consume a portion of the item.”

The spectrometer, a Bruker Tracer housed at the UM School of Engineering, is an apparatus that knocks electrons loose from their atomic orbital positions via an X-ray beam. The resulting burst of energy yields an elemental fingerprint that the instrument categorizes by element.

During the course of all this knocking, yielding and categorizing, the instrument ejects a minimal dose of radiation right above its “eye.” It is a “really safe” level, Yarbrough said. Still, he wears a radiation badge dosimeter just as a precaution.

His advice? Don’t stand over the spectrometer while it is beaming.

While handling the relics, Antonelli and Cook have their own safety precautions, wearing either white cotton gloves or blue industrial nitrile gloves when carefully positioning the articles over the “eye” of the spectrometer. Once the instrument starts lighting up yellow to red, everyone stands back and awaits the elemental composition percentages to calculate on Yarbrough’s laptop.

A scan takes a minute or two from positioning to final percentages.

Having answered the questions about the elemental composition of the two inscriptions, Antonelli, Cook and Yarbrough soon get curious about the composition of other museum artifacts, including ancient arrowheads, a jug and a ladle, which is found to be a surprising 67 percent silver.

The trio is having fun with its work, letting scientific inquisitiveness run wild for a while, but what they are uncovering is also valuable information to be used by future researchers.

“Understanding the composition of the artifacts helps us determine whether it may be modern or ancient since it is harder to visually date metal artifacts,” Antonelli said. “As the University of Mississippi Museum, we strive to be accessible for all scholarly research and to educate the public about our collection with the most accurate information possible. Any new information aids in this mission.

“So much of the antiquities collection could benefit from further scientific study. In the past, doing this kind of testing would have necessitated sending the artifact to another university. It’s wonderful that we have this technology on campus, and that Lance has been such a collegial partner readily willing to help Brad with his research.”

‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ Tour Brings Holiday Spirit to UM

Young dancers from across north Mississippi get chance to perform with Moscow Ballet

Performers in the Moscow Ballet’s ‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ dance during a party scene in the show that is coming to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30). Image courtesy of Moscow Ballet

OXFORD, Miss. – The Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” is coming to the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30).

The Moscow Ballet has toured annually with the “Great Russian Nutcracker” since 1993. This year, the show is being performed in more than 100 cities, featuring the Russian Vaganova ballet and 64 local dancers in each city performing across hand-painted sets for a true holiday experience.

Julia Aubrey, Ford Center director and UM associate professor of music, hired local dance teacher Lydia Siniard to teach choreography to 64 young north Mississippi dancers who were selected by Moscow Ballet audition director Yuriy Kuzi to perform with the troupe.

“It is an extraordinary opportunity for these young dancers to appear with a professional ballet company,” Aubrey said. “I know their family and friends will cherish the memory of seeing the children on stage for a magical two hours.”

The selected dancers, who will perform in specific dances throughout the program, were chosen from 109 children who auditioned Sept. 11. The group has practiced every Sunday afternoon since the audition.

“The Ford Center is dedicated to offering arts opportunities for our local children,” Aubrey said. “Whether it is music, theater or dance performances, I want to provide our young people with a chance to practice their art and express themselves as unique individuals. To see them smiling and excited about their time on the Ford stage is an incredible reward.”

Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, said she is looking forward to the production coming to the community. The two-act ballet of “The Nutcracker” has been presented at the Ford Center in 2004 and 2013, but not by the Moscow Ballet.

The ‘Great Russian Nutcracker’ features a new character from the original storyline, the Dove of Peace. Two dancers balance and leverage with each other to create the white dove with a 20-foot wingspan. The Moscow Ballet brings the show to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at 7:30 p.m. Friday (Nov. 30). Image courtesy of Moscow Ballet

“It’s such magical show and holiday tradition,” Meacham said. “I hope the audience takes the sense of magic and wonder that is such a part of ‘The Nutcracker.'”

“The Nutcracker” is a fairy tale story about Masha, a young Russian girl who dreams that her toy nutcracker transforms into a prince to protect her from villains such as the Mouse King.

The “Great Russian Nutcracker” features a new character from the original storyline, the Dove of Peace, and the character is instrumental in one of the production’s many highlights. When the Dove of Peace escorts Masha and the Nutcracker Prince to the Land of Peace and Harmony at the start of Act II, two dancers balance and leverage with each other to create one stunning soaring white dove with a 20-foot wingspan.

A limited number of tickets remain available, so those planning to attend the performance are encouraged to buy tickets soon.

Tickets are $50 for orchestra/parterre and Tier 1 Box-level seating, $45 for mezzanine and Tier 2 Box-level seating, and $40 for balcony seating. A 10 percent discount is offered to UM faculty, staff and retirees. Discounted tickets for UM students are $20 for balcony seats only.

Tickets can be purchased at the UM Box Office at the Ford Center or online at Discounted and student tickets are available only at the Box Office with a valid UM ID.

For more information on the performance, visit

Three Faculty Win Digital Learning Innovation Award

Trio recognized as national leaders for advancing student success through personalized learning

UM faculty members Karen Forgette (left), Guy Krueger and Andrew Davis have won the Digital Learning Innovation Award from the Online Learning Consortium. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi faculty members have earned a national award from Online Learning Consortium for advancing student success through adoption of digital courseware. Their work is having an impact across introductory writing courses and producing direct cost savings for students.

Karen Forgette, Andrew Davis and Guy Krueger won the OLC Digital Learning Innovation Award for their project, “Addressing Access, Assessment and College Readiness Gaps in First-Year Composition: Personalized Open Educational Resources Courseware Modules at the University of Mississippi.” The honor includes a $10,000 stipend.

The UM team, in collaboration with Lumen Learning, applied principles of OER to develop and implement customized, low-cost, modular courseware in first-year writing curricula. The courseware addresses student preparation gaps in foundational content knowledge and rhetorical skills, areas often under-assessed in writing classes.

“We have worked together on adaptive/personalized courseware for six years, and it was very satisfying to see such a payoff after this time,” said Krueger, core lecturer and Writing 101 curriculum chair. “More importantly to us, though, was that it was fulfilling to know that the work we do for our students is recognized as valuable.”

To overcome the limitations of generalized, pre-packaged course material restricted by traditional copyright, the trio adapted open content to their own institutional context. This approach produced courseware that’s relevant, engaging and connected to the needs and experience of Ole Miss faculty and students.

Survey results following the fall 2017 pilot of roughly 1,000 students revealed that 68.5 percent felt the courseware contributed to their success on major writing projects. Data also revealed that students used the courseware in various ways without being prompted, indicating the platform is versatile enough to accommodate individual student needs.

“We feel that we are out in front of our field in a lot of ways since adaptive/personalized learning isn’t used much in writing courses,” Krueger said. “So to be able to help our students and save them money is rewarding on its own. But to receive a national award for this work – we couldn’t be happier.”

The open courseware has substantially reduced textbooks costs for students. After the team’s success with the pilot, the courseware has been implemented programwide for the fall 2018 semester and is being used by at least two other schools.

“Andrew Davis, Karen Forgette and Guy Krueger are innovative teachers who think first and foremost about their students,” said Stephen Monroe, chair of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. “With the support of PLATO, a UM program funded by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, this incredible team has developed low-cost digital modules that personalize learning for UM students.

“These tools are making an enormous impact across our introductory writing courses. The University of Mississippi is a national leader on this front because of Andrew, Karen and Guy.”

The trio was presented the award and recognized at a ceremony Nov. 13 in Orlando, Florida.

“The OLC Award for Digital Learning Innovation by a faculty team is a testament to the successful combination of collaborative course revision for multiple sections, low cost/high impact digital learning tools and a department-level commitment to continual improvement,” said Patti O’Sullivan, PLATO program director.

“The PLATO Program provided the First Year Writing course directors financial and organizational support, but Guy, Karen and Andrew put in hundreds of hours to create learning and practice modules. I am so pleased to see them recognized nationally for their work.”

Lee Cohen, dean of the university’s College of Liberal Arts, agreed.

“Our faculty team in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric spent many months developing innovative online modules to complement proven, traditional teaching methods,” Cohen said. “We are very proud of what we are doing on our campus in this regard and are grateful to the OLC for recognizing the outstanding work of our faculty as a national best practice.”

Brisack Makes History as UM’s First Female Rhodes Scholar

Senior from Oxford earns coveted award, becomes university's 26th honoree

Jaz Brisack

OXFORD, Miss. – Jaz Brisack is the University of Mississippi’s 26th Rhodes Scholar, and the first woman in the university’s history to be selected to the elite international academic program. 

Brisack, a senior general studies major from Oxford, is the 2018 Truman Scholar for Mississippi and has a long history as a champion for human, civil and labor rights in Mississippi. She is president of the College Democrats and a frequent contributor to The Daily Mississippian.

She has worked as a teacher-adviser for the Sunflower Freedom Project in 2016 and as a labor organizer with the United Auto Workers on the Nissan campaign. She also helps defend the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, known as the “Pink House,” Mississippi’s sole abortion clinic.

She was selected after interviews with officials from the Rhodes Trust Nov. 16-17 in Birmingham, Alabama. Scholarship recipients were announced Saturday (Nov. 17).

“I guess this is one small step toward smashing the patriarchy,” Brisack said. “But I think it’s especially important to use this platform to call attention to the way the glass ceiling is easier for some women to break through than others.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, which were created in 1902, bring outstanding students from many countries to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Besides “intellectual distinction,” the selection committee seeks excellence in qualities of mind and of person, which combined offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead.

Rhodes Scholars receive tuition, travel, room and board, and a stipend for two years of study at Oxford University, with the possibility of being renewed for a third year.

Ole Miss students Jarvis Benson and John Chappell were also 2018 finalists for the Rhodes Scholarship and competed in Birmingham with Brisack. Besides those current students, Chinelo Ibekwe, a 2018 chemical engineering graduate from Lagos, Nigeria, was named a finalist in the Rhodes Scholarships for West Africa program. She will interview Dec. 1 in her category. 

UM has had 25 Rhodes Scholars and many Rhodes finalists, but never four finalists in one year.

“I’m awed by how wonderful the other applicants all are,” Brisack said. “I’ve known John and Jarvis, the other UM applicants, for years and am continually inspired by them. But everyone was brilliant, caring and amazing.”

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said that from last year’s Truman Scholarship to this distinction of being the university’s first female Rhodes Scholar, Brisack continues to chart a groundbreaking path of excellence.

“Her success on the national stage reflects the best of the university’s exceptional programs – like the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College – that enable students to flourish intellectually and personally,” Vitter said. “With her deep drive, leadership abilities and passion, Jaz will continue making a difference in the lives of others.”

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said that out of the thousands of honors students he’s met over a decade-and-a-half, Brisack is one of the top 10.

“She engaged our academic community with deep conviction, knowledge and understanding,” Sullivan-González said. “The name of Jaz Brisack may become a household name when all is said and done. I’m proud to know her as a colleague and scholar of the SMBHC.”

Brisack is thankful for the opportunity that Ole Miss and the Honors College have provided her to work with professors who have inspired her.

“I have had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people at this school, from Debra Young and Tim Dolan to Joe Atkins and Curtis Wilkie to JoAnn Edwards and Kiese Laymon,” Brisack said. “They have challenged me to think about the world in different ways and inspired me to pursue this chance.”

Journalism professor Curtis Wilkie first met Brisack when she was in an upper-level Honors College course he was teaching. He said Brisack is one of the most extraordinary students he’s ever taught. 

“I was astonished that she already knew virtually every book that I cited during the semester,” Wilkie said. “Aside from her excellent grades, I’ve been impressed by her passion for so many causes that are rarely embraced by people of her age. 

“We are all so proud of Jaz, and feel that her triumph is one for Ole Miss as well.”

UM Senior Completes Coveted Internship with Tesla Motors

CME prepped Jarrett Simmons with innovative practices for work at groundbreaking company

Jarrett Simmons, a University of Mississippi senior majoring in mechanical engineering, has completed two internships with Tesla Motors at the company’s headquarters in Fremont, California. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Jarrett Simmons was obsessed with cars from an early age, and as a University of Mississippi sophomore, he found himself working at Tesla Motors, which has shaken up the automotive world with its luxury electric vehicles that boast ludicrously quick acceleration times.

Simmons, a senior mechanical engineering major with an emphasis in manufacturing, is a student at the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. He was among the less-than-1 percent of applicants who received an internship with Tesla, not once, but twice. He aggressively pursued opportunities, which he credits for landing the sought-after gig at Tesla.

“It’s very cliche, but anything really is possible,” said Simmons, of San Diego. “Going to one of the harder companies to get into for an internship and being able to thrive in it is a very rewarding thing.

“I’m much more confident after learning to apply everywhere for different positions. Getting told ‘no’ is a lot better than not applying at all. A lot of doors open when you do that.”

Tesla, which builds electric cars and “infinitely scalable clean energy generation and storage products,” is headquartered in Fremont, California.

“It’s kind of like Disneyland, in a way,” Simmons said. “It’s so clean. It’s so big. It’s unlike any manufacturing center that I’ve ever been to with the CME.

“There’s also a lot of security, so it’s kind of cool that you get to see it and a lot of people don’t.”

Elon Musk, a South African-born entrepreneur and businessman who has been called “tech’s most enigmatic CEO,” started online bank in 1999, which later became PayPal. He founded SpaceX in 2002 and Tesla Motors in 2003.

At the Fremont facility, Simmons bumped into Musk a few times. The maverick was very visible, but always busy working on ideas about private space exploration, Mars colonization, electric and self-driving cars, solar energy and artificial intelligence.

“He was working on higher-level problems than I was,” Simmons said with a laugh.

Simmons has a relative who is a car collector, which allowed him to go to many car shows, and once, he met Lincoln’s design director. He learned about how the company builds all its prototypes, and that ignited an excitement about automotive engineering and production in Simmons. 

Years later, he found himself as an Ole Miss sophomore working in Tesla’s powertrain group with the rotor team during his first internship with the company. He worked on the main engine drive unit in the Tesla Model S.

Jarrett Simmons checks out an electric truck developed by Tesla Motors, where the UM senior has interned twice. Submitted photo

During his most recent internship, he worked in the new product unit on everything from the control screens in the cars to the battery packs that power the Model 3. 

His time in the “real world” came with many lessons, beyond organizing his time and finding his meals. He learned the importance of social skills in the workplace. 

“Something I thought going in was that I needed to have a lot of technical knowledge,” Simmons said. “But the most important part was the social aspect of work. That surprised me quite a bit.

“You need to be able to communicate quite a bit with others. Reaching out to the right people can help you go a long way.”

Getting an opportunity to work for such a groundbreaking company as an undergraduate was special, Simmons said. 

“Tesla has a very different approach,” he said. “The cars work. They’re fast. They’re efficient. They are better than most gas cars that you can buy.

“Beyond that, just as a company, it is just so untraditional. It doesn’t really have a marketing team; there’s no advertising, plus they’re manufacturing in the Bay area. It just has a lot of elements that make it different.”

Simmons credits much of his success to the skills he’s learned at the CME, which was one of the reasons the California kid came to Ole Miss, besides the strong sense of school spirit at the university. The CME is something other universities he considered didn’t have going for them.

The CME teaches its students fundamental and innovative practices that are crucial in modern manufacturing. Its mission is to cultivate future leaders by immersing students in unique experiences that are instrumental in a variety of different career paths.

The center serves as a professional resource to aid the state’s economic growth.

Students have secured some impressive internships in addition to the one Simmons landed at Tesla, said Scott Kilpatrick, associate director of internal operations at the CME. They’ve worked for Ingalls Shipbuilding, Toyota, Nissan, BMW, Lockheed Martin, Exxon and others.

The internship concept is central to the CME’s mission of training students, he said. 

“We don’t require them to do an internship, but the expectation is certainly laid out that we want them to do this,” Kilpatrick said. “We try to provide as many resources as we can either to connect with partners we have, or be prepared to go out and search on your own.”

Simmons has excelled partially because of his determination to find opportunities, Kilpatrick said. 

“We’re very proud of what he’s done, but we’re also really excited to see what he’s going to do in the future,” he said

UM Cadets Ready to Run in Egg Bowl Tradition

ROTC students will carry game ball from Calhoun City to Oxford

Ole Miss ROTC cadets reach the Calhoun City town square and are welcomed by cheering fans during last year’s Egg Bowl Run. This year’s run, which will bring the ceremonial game ball for the annual Egg Bowl game to Oxford, will be Monday (Nov. 19). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD – Two dozen ArmyNavy/Marine and Air Force ROTC cadets from the University of Mississippi will arrive by van in Calhoun City Monday morning (Nov. 19) on a mission to retrieve the ceremonial game ball for the 91st Battle for the Golden Egg, but it will be their feet that bring them home to Oxford.

The ROTC’s Sixth Annual Egg Bowl Run will feature Ole Miss cadets taking turns trekking more than 40 miles, from the Calhoun City town square to the Lyceum, with the game ball in tow after receiving it from cadets from Mississippi State University. The transfer of the ball is to occur around noon at the gazebo in the Calhoun City public square.

The football will be signed by MSU coach Joe Moorhead, and Ole Miss coach Matt Luke will sign the ball after the cadets return it to Oxford.

Waiting in Calhoun City will be residents of the town, as well as fans who come from all over Mississippi to see the cadets meet, circle the town square with the ball, trade cheers and friendly trash talk, and eventually part, heading back to their respective universities.

“It’s breathtaking (when you come into town),” said Ole Miss Army ROTC cadet Sam Faulkner, an Egg Bowl Run veteran. “It’s a really fascinating site to see that amount of people show up in support of the Egg Bowl Run.”

The Egg Bowl Run began in 2013 as a way for Ole Miss ROTC to show its support of Ole Miss athletics. The event serves as a fundraiser for the Rebel Battalion Cadet Activity Fund. Supporters can visit the Army ROTC Facebook pagewhere a link will be posted to direct people to a donation website.

“Our cadets think this run is so important,” said Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Douglas with UM Army ROTC. “These cadets run in rain and sleet without ever complaining or feeling sorry for themselves.

“From the moment that they take over carrying the ball, their singular focus is to get that ball to the Lyceum. There’s a lot of dedication and resilience they will have to exhibit come (Monday).”

Laura Edwards, president of the Calhoun City Chamber of Commerce, said the event usually hosts some 500 fans, split down the middle between each school. Fans host tailgates, and there are activities for all ages. The National Guard provides an interactive military display for children and adults to enjoy.

Ole Miss ROTC cadets receive the handoff of the ceremonial game ball from Mississippi State University cadets at the Calhoun City town square. Rebel cadets will run the ball back to the Lyceum on the Ole Miss campus during this year’s run, which is set for Monday (Nov. 19). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Along the run back to Oxford, Ole Miss cadets greet fans and supporters, sometimes passing out candy to children along the route, Faulkner said.

“There is a really good split between fans of both schools to support the runners,” Faulkner said. “We have good support along the route with people who stop to cheer us on and say, ‘Hotty Toddy!'”

The tradition is catching on with Ole Miss fans, and support continues to grow, Douglas said.

“We’ve had a steady increase in fan participation,” he said. “Every year, there’s a few more Ole Miss tents and shirts in the Calhoun City square. Knowing that Ole Miss fans are there at the handoff means a lot to us all.”

And while the focus of the Egg Bowl often remains on the football field, Edwards said the Egg Bowl Run is a way to shift the attention to those who will serve the country.

“Our military doesn’t always get the thanks and notoriety that it should,” she said. “I think we need to keep that on the forefront of our children’s minds. They need to understand that freedom isn’t free.

“It needs to stay something that we have respect for, and we need to respect what (these cadets) do.”

Cadets see the run as a good chance to connect with not only their own classmates, but also with counterparts from MSU.

“I know a lot of older guys in the program that I’m friends with that said this is something you should experience,” first-time Egg Bowl Run participant Cole Cromwell said. “It’s a good way to meet cadets from Mississippi State and build connections.”

Douglas said he hopes Ole Miss supporters will show Calhoun City and the Ole Miss cadets a true Rebel football atmosphere.

“We would prefer that the Calhoun City square looked more like a game-day Grove scene,” Douglas said. “It would be icing on the cake if businesses and the LOU community lined University Avenue on our way back into town or if they met us at the Lyceum at the conclusion of the run.”

MSU cadets will leave Starkville at approximately 5 a.m. Monday. They will meet and exchange the ball with Ole Miss cadets around noon, and then Ole Miss cadets will return to campus and take the ball to the Lyceum about 9 p.m.

Times may vary, but a link will be shared on the Army ROTC Facebook page where fans can keep track of the runners’ progress via GPS, Douglas said.

Center for Health and Sport Performance Expands Services with Move

New space in South Oxford Center allows for more testing and consultative services

Melinda Valliant, co-director of the UM Center for Health and Sport Performance, oversees baseline concussion testing with Oxford High School football players. Photo by Sarah Sapp/School of Applied Sciences

OXFORD, Miss. – Well known for providing health and wellness research and services to Ole Miss athletes, the University of Mississippi’s Center for Health and Sport Performance is extending its services to the community and settling into its new centralized offices at the South Oxford Center.

With more space and the addition of new staff and more graduate students, the center will offer more testing and consultative services, including concussion testing, to constituents across the region and state.

“The space was much-needed,” said Melinda Valliant, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management and the co-director of the Center for Health and Sport Performance, or CHSP. “It’s really giving us the opportunity to do things that we were all spread out doing.”

Launched in October 2013, the center is a partnership between the School of Applied Sciences and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and is co-directed by Valliant and Shannon Singletary, senior associate athletics director for health and sports performance and adjunct clinical instructor in health, exercise science and recreation management.

“I believe that our goal is to help expose the community to a more comprehensive approach to health and sport performance by linking together various aspects in one common place that the individual can go to,” said Heather Landry Shirley, assistant athletics director of sports medicine and adjunct instructor in health, exercise science and recreation management. “The new location will allow us to provide a more neutral and user-friendly environment that will be more easily accessible to the community.”

The center recently was featured in statewide news for helping Rebel football players fuel properly for maximum athletic performance. With more space in its SOC location and expanded staffing, the center is poised to offer more resources to more people.

One of the main projects that the center is working on is studying concussions in high school athletes, combining both research and service learning.

“By law in the state of Mississippi, an appropriate health care provider must approve and order the return to play of an athlete that has had a concussion,” Singletary said. “The center is working to provide objective information to the provider that can be used along with other medical information to allow the professional to return the athlete to competition safely.”

The center is implementing ImPACT Testing to test the effects of concussions on Oxford High School athletes.

“The ImPACT is not a stand-alone diagnostic tool, but rather, it is one piece to the puzzle that allows health care professionals to properly diagnose and manage a concussion or TBI (traumatic brain injury),” Shirley said.

“(When) taken at a time prior to injury, (it) gives the trained clinician a caption of the brain’s normal neurocognitive function and, in turn, can be used for comparison to that of the injured brain, allowing us to determine whether or not the injured individual’s brain has returned to a level of neurocognitive function that is in line with their normal range. A properly trained health care professional can then make a more sound decision in the overall recovery of the individual.”

The center’s staff is collecting baseline data and will work with an analytics team from the Health and Sport Analytics Laboratory, led by Minsoo Kang, professor and chair of health, exercise science and recreation management, Valliant said.

In the future, the center plans to offer different educational courses, different types of testing and nutritional counseling throughout the community.

“We feel that across the country, there is a need for objective information to be given to coaches that will allow more of an evidence-based approach to health and sports performance,” Singletary said. “We will be providing education and best practices to the community that will ensure proper standards are being met, whether it being in sports training programs, proper nutrition or other injury-prevention strategies.”

Students have opportunities to study sports nutrition as an emphasis in master’s and doctoral programs housed in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

They also can choose from master’s and doctoral programs in the areas of sport and recreation administration, health promotion, exercise science and health behavior. Enrollees in these programs may apply to conduct research with the CHSP.

For more information about the Center for Health and Sport Performance, contact Valliant at or visit the center’s website. Learn more about the academic departments that work with the CHSP at

UM Establishes Center for Researching Multi-messenger Astrophysics

Emergent scientific field arose from discovery of gravitational waves

Neutron stars – pictured in this artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars – are among the phenomena to be studied at the new UM Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics. The narrow beam represents the gamma-ray burst, and the rippling spacetime grid indicates the isotropic gravitational waves that characterize the merger. Swirling clouds of materials ejected from the collision are a possible source of the light that was seen at lower energies. Graphic courtesy National Science Foundation/LIGO/Sonoma State University/A. Simonnet

OXFORD, Miss. – Riding a new frontier of scientific discovery into gravitational waves, the University of Mississippi is now home to the Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics.

The center was launched Nov. 1 after the center’s creation was approved by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning in August. It will allow UM researchers to play a prominent role in the emergent field of multi-messenger astrophysics, which is a new branch of science born in 2015 through the discovery of gravitational waves by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, or LIGO.

Multi-messenger astrophysics studies “messengers” – electromagnetic waves, high-energy particles and gravitational waves – to reveal information about the universe.

“That event really opened up a new branch of astronomy and astrophysics,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy and the center’s director. “Since the dawn of humanity, most, if not all, of the information we had from the universe was in the form of light, with some exceptions because we also use particle physics.

“Gravitational waves are a completely new way of looking at objects – for example looking at black holes, what happens to the center of stars when they explode and even the beginning of the universe.

“The main goal is to learn more about the universe, how the universe works. This is really frontier science. Science has always been motivated by trying to understand the world and the universe around us.”

Marco Cavaglia, UM professor of physics and astronomy and an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, is director of the new Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Cavaglia also is principal investigator of the UM Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory Group, which is an active member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

Last year, the LIGO detectors, along with the Europe-based Virgo detector and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories, directly detected gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in addition to light from the merging of two neutron stars. It was the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.

The center will allow Ole Miss faculty and students to further their research into the field and build upon existing research programs and expertise of faculty within the Department of Physics and Astronomy, where the center will be housed. Plans call for adding two additional full-time faculty members affiliated with the center in fall 2019, with at least one more added by 2021.

The center also will support several post-doctoral research associates and graduate student research assistants.

“The experimental detection of gravitational waves marked a historic event in physics, and UM is so proud to have played a role in that discovery,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “With strengths in high energy physics, observational astronomy and now gravitational waves, UM is well-positioned to establish a Center for Multi-messenger Astrophysics.”

This new branch of physics has exploded, and the time is right to have a center dedicated to multi-messenger astrophysics that will boost the image of the department while conducting groundbreaking research, Cavaglia said.

“I really hope that it will help put Mississippi on the map more when it comes to this kind of research,” he said. “And it will attract and retain new faculty and students. This is an emerging field.

“It will really help recruit bright minds from around the world to come here and do research. That aligns well with the research mission of the university and also its educational component. And it’s cool. It’s cool stuff.”

University Initiative Funding Research to Solve Statewide Issues

Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation awards $17,000 in grants

Members of a research team collect water samples in Jackson, where the University of Mississippi’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation is funding a grant to explore the link between water quality and health. Photo by Kristie Willett/UM School of Pharmacy

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a year since its launch, the University of Mississippi‘s Flagship Constellations initiative is already benefiting Mississippi, with four seed grants recently awarded to research teams within the Community Wellbeing constellation.

The grants, which total $17,200, fund a range of research that affects Mississippi, from uncovering the link between water quality and health in Jackson to identifying key barriers to political empowerment and participation in the state. The research teams consist of faculty, staff and students from UM Oxford and the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

The Flagship Constellations initiative was unveiled in November 2017 as a collaborative effort among faculty, staff and students to explore and solve complex issues through the diversity of ideas. The initiative includes multidisciplinary teams working to find solutions to grand challenges in the areas of big data, brain wellness, community wellbeing and disaster resilience.

With communities representing both rural and urban settings facing increasing challenges in areas such as personal health and housing and infrastructure, the Community Wellbeing constellation’s research teams and programs work within communities to identify factors impairing their well-being and deploy new programs and practices to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Grand challenges will require new and innovative partnerships,” said John Green, constellation team leader, professor of sociology and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “In that spirit, for the seed grants, we required that applicants include investigators from at least two different departments to be eligible, and we strongly encouraged collaboration linking UM with UMMC.

“Applications were also scored based on their contributions to scholarship and to addressing needs in Mississippi communities.”

Fourteen different units at UM and UMMC are represented among the four awardees. The grants are supported by a $1 million donation to the Flagship Constellations by Thomas and Jim Duff, who created the Ernest R. Duff Flagship Constellation Fund in honor of their father.

“The Flagship Constellations is a significant initiative at the university that seeks to tie together broad expertise that exists at UM around grand-challenge issues facing society,” said Josh Gladden, vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs at UM.

“Such challenges are inherently multidimensional, and comprehensive research universities are uniquely suited to address them. We are so thankful to the Duff family whose gift was critical for getting this important initiative off the ground and enabling UM researchers to develop practical solutions in these areas.”

The awardees are:

  • Community Political Empowerment Assessment Project: This project uses fuzzy cognitive mapping and community focus groups to identify the key barriers to political empowerment and participation, as well as identifying resources for overcoming those barriers. This information will be used to work with local stakeholders to hold informational sessions around barriers and develop a voter empowerment brief to inform local, state and national leadership on issues being faced by these rural, marginalized communities.
  • Helping Communities Uncover the Link between Water Quality and Health in Jackson, Mississippi: This award supports the efforts of the Jackson Water Coalition to improve water quality and infrastructure in Jackson. The project team is working on an information briefing for the coalition that provides an overview of the connections between water quality and health and infrastructure challenges. The team also is partnering with the coalition and other stakeholders to organize a series of drinking water and water body sampling events.
  • Learning about HIV Risk and Resilience among African-American Adolescents through Storytelling: This project is identifying barriers and inroads to HIV prevention among African-American adolescents. An interdisciplinary health communication class in spring 2019, created through the university’s new MPartner program, will assist the team in facilitating expressive writing, creative role play and a series of peer-led focus groups in Charleston. Findings will inform an AIDS prevention agenda for the Mississippi Delta, including a culturally sensitive information campaign and behavioral intervention opportunities within the faith community.
  • Student-Centered Outcomes Research Experience, or SCORE – Pilot: Project SCORE is engaging Mississippi high school students from communities with significant health disparities in the development of relevant health behavior research questions by partnering with graduate students in the health sciences to train them in basic research methodology. The project is aiding the development of student-conducted research projects to explore student-driven research questions related to health behavior and develop a student-centered prevention and wellness research agenda to address student-identified needs.

“We were looking for proposals that were scientifically sound, demonstrated a broad collaborative team membership, (encouraged) engagement from nonuniversity partners and that could be leveraged into larger project proposals in the future,” said Meagen Rosenthal, constellation team leader and assistant professor of pharmacy administration.

Besides Green and Rosenthal, other Community Wellbeing team leaders are Seena Haines, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacy Practice; and Dr. Joshua Mann, professor and chair of UMMC’s Department of Preventive Medicine.

The constellation team leaders recently announced a second call for seed-funding proposals for fall 2018, with roughly $20,000 available for awards. These awards will be selected in early 2019.

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