Celebrating the Arts Sets Big Goal for Ford Center

Campaign launches to build endowment for performing arts

The Ford Center has cloisonne friendship balls for sale as part of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which runs through May 18. Photo by Kirsten Faulkner

OXFORD, Miss. – Adding $1.5 million in endowment for the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Mississippi is the goal of the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which will increase the total endowment to $3 million.

Mississippi native and UM alumnus Gerald McRaney serves as the celebrity spokesperson.

“It’s important to support the arts, as opposed to supporting simple entertainment, because simple entertainment quite often will fund itself,” said McRaney, who majored in theatre arts at Ole Miss. “But all too often, the arts – like fine, old books in public libraries – won’t be supported on their own.

“They need us to keep them alive, and they are an essential part of our culture. … Without the arts, without those reminders, we’re lost. We’re a rudderless ship at sea with no direction home.

“The arts in Mississippi have a long, long history, and I don’t want to see that history overlooked, and I don’t want to see it end. I want us to continue to make history, not just appreciate it.”

To honor donors to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, the Ford Center has unveiled plans for a large bronze tree sculpture commissioned from Sanford Werfel Studio and hand-carved by artist Richard Teller. The sculpture will be a permanent installation in the theater lobby.

Major initial gifts already include those from the Gertrude C. Ford Foundation, of Jackson; Mary and Sam Haskell, of Oxford; and Nancye Starnes, of Charleston, South Carolina, with their names to be displayed on the tree trunks. Dr. Ralph Vance and his wife, Douglas, as well as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, also have made major gifts, bringing the early total for campaign efforts to more than $220,000.

Calling the 15-year-old Ford Center a world-class arts and entertainment venue for the state and region, Vitter said providing cultural arts experiences is a key component of the university’s mission to prepare well-rounded students and provide opportunities to the greater community.

“As a flagship institution, we’re committed to growing the capacity of our extraordinary arts and cultural resources and programs,” Vitter said. “The arts keep everything vibrant and relevant; the arts provide an enduring legacy that offers insight into ourselves, as well as cultures of other times and places.

UM alumnus Gerald McRaney is the celebrity spokesperson for the Celebrating the Arts campaign. Submitted photo

“Friends of the Ford Center have provided amazing ideas and are investing their time and energy to move the Ford Center forward. With continued support of alumni and friends, I am confident that we will have a successful campaign.”

The campaign will conclude May 18, 2019 at the Ford Center’s inaugural Friendship Ball. McRaney and his wife, actress Delta Burke, are expected to perform A.R. Gurney’s “Love Letters,” a two-character piece in the form of a staged reading of the 50-year correspondence between East Coast bluebloods Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III.

Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from several levels of support with names engraved on different parts of the tree sculpture. The middle trunk represents the Muse of Music and features Gertrude C. Ford rising from the roots with her violin, while the other two trunks hold figures representing the Muses of Drama and Dance.

Nestled among the trees are various sized boughs – representing gifts of $20,000, $25,000 or $30,000 – and on the ground ensuring future trees, golden acorns for gifts of $10,000. In the engraver’s brass gold are also 750 donor recognition leaves, for gifts of $1,000. When a gift is made, the Ford Center will send the donor a form with instructions for personalizing the bough, acorn or leaf.

Most performing arts centers rely upon private contributions from individuals, foundations, corporations and businesses to sustain operations and programming, and the Gertrude C. Ford Center is no different.

University resources can cover salaries and a nominal budget, and other resources come from the Ford Foundation, Friends of the Ford Center and other alumni and friends. These additional resources cover the costs of special appearances or series, as well as programming, advertising and other costs associated with running the facility.

The shows each season are major costs, as large-scale musicals can cost up to $70,000 to bring to campus, Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey said.

“We want to offer the biggest and the best that our facility can present, and this takes support beyond ticket sales,” she said. “The building is now 15 years old, and to maintain its beauty and functionality, we have to continually repair, replace and upgrade. Our technology also must be updated to keep competitive with today’s expectations.”

Investing time, energy and resources in the Ford Center is a worthy endeavor, said Ole Miss alumna and Ford Center volunteer Susan Meredith, of Oxford.

“The Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts is a magical place,” Meredith said. “Where else can live music make your heart soar? Where else can dance make you gasp in amazement? Where else can the spoken word bring tears of sorrow or joy to your soul?

“And we have this amazing facility right here in our own backyard!”

Ford Center Director Julia Aubrey joins UM alumni and friends recently to launch the Celebrating the Arts campaign, which intends to add $1.5 million to the center’s endowment, elevating it to $3 million. A bronze tree sculpture has been commissioned to recognize donors to the campaign. Photo by Robert Jordan

Among highlights of the center’s 2018-19 season are national tours of the “Wizard of Oz” (Oct. 21) and “Jersey Boys” (Nov. 9), as well as “Ferri-Cornejo-Levingston: An Evening of Dance and Music” (Sept. 20), St. Lawrence String Quartet (Oct. 16), Warren Wolf Quartet (Nov. 13), Moscow Ballet’s “Great Russian Nutcracker” (Nov. 30), ensemble 4.1 (Jan. 21), “We Shall Overcome – A Celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.” (Feb. 12), “In the Mood, a 1940s Musical Revue” (Feb. 16), Cirque Éloize Saloon: A Musical Acrobatic Adventure (Feb. 26), Billy Hart and the Academy (Feb. 26) and Junie B. Jones (March 30).

“I believe the arts reflect the heart of a culture and society,” Aubrey said. “We seek out paintings, sculpture and music from the past to learn what people were thinking or feeling – what was important to a previous generation.

“The performing arts that are presented in the Ford Center invite an audience to share someone else’s story for a brief period of time. Whether that story is told through music, drama or dance, we have a chance to share that visceral or intellectual experience. You leave laughing, thoughtful or both, and that makes one a more empathetic human being.”

To make a gift to the Celebrating the Arts campaign, send a check made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Ford Center campaign noted in the check’s memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or online at http://www.fordcenter.org/celebrate. More information also is available on the site, and Vitter’s comments from the campaign launch dinner can be found at http://chancellor.olemiss.edu/celebrating-the-arts-campaign-launch-dinner/

The Ford Center also has cloisonne friendship balls available for $50 at its ticket office, with the design featuring the center and Oxford. For more information, contact Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director, at kmeacham@olemiss.edu or 662-915-6502.

University’s Talented Jazz Ensemble Performs Overseas for First Time

Members of The Mississippians recall 'trip of a lifetime' to Europe

The Mississippians perform at the Umbria Jazz Festival this summer in Perugia, Italy, as part of the group’s European tour. The group includes (from left) Asher Mitchell, Tyler Hewett, Christopher Scott, Ryne Anderson and Courtney Wells on saxophone. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippians, the University of Mississippi’s jazz ensemble, performed overseas for the first time this summer in Europe.

The 19 musicians of The Mississippians had an opportunity to play in Antibes, France, as well as the Italian cities of Genoa, Santa Margherita, Perugia and Rome while they traveled from July 14 to 23. Before this summer, they had traveled to the Jazz Education Network’s National Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2012 and the Notre Dame Collegiate Jazz Festival in 2016.

Michael Worthy, director of The Mississippians, felt that the next achievement was to do a performance outside the United States.

“It was a significant achievement for the band to be selected to perform on these festivals, and each individual made important musical contributions,” he said. “The performances and the cultural and culinary experiences were incredible. It was the trip of a lifetime for many of us.”

The musicians loved sharing the music that began in the region of their home with others from around the world.

“The most enjoyable part about it was just taking the jazz music that started here … and sharing that with the people of Europe,” said Ryne Anderson, a senior saxophone player from Purvis. “They’ve listened to jazz for decades and decades, but it still originated here. It’s our music.”

While on the trip, they also opened up to the culture of Europe.

“We fully delve into the cuisine and culture,” said Courtney Wells, a senior baritone saxophone player from Philadelphia. “We eventually even learned language along the way.”

They were also slated for a performance at Nice, France, as well, which included opening for Earth, Wind and Fire, but it got rained out.

The Mississippians pause for a group photo at the ruins of the Forum in Rome. The group includes (front row, from left) Asher Mitchell, Max Warren, Courtney Wells, Tyler Hewett, Billy Roberts, Alicia Venchuk, Ryne Anderson, Michael Worthy and Gabe Ackermann, and (back row) Lazarrus Miller, Kyle Dozier, Jesse Gibens, Brady Bramlett, Jamie Geoghegan, Christopher Scott, Kurt Hickey, Aaron Dallaire, Dakota Dooley, Quayshun Shumpert and Liam Mooney. Submitted photo

Many of the students enjoyed the performance at the Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia the most. What made it so memorable is how the audience reacted to the music and danced to it, as well.

“The crowd was really into it,” Wells said. “When you get feedback from the audience, you really dive into it and enjoy it yourself. It was a night to remember.”

“It was great to have such an involved crowd,” said Jesse Gibens, a junior trumpet player from Ripley.

The experiences and memories they made while performing their music across Europe made the students realize how deserving they were of this occasion, Gibens said.

“We think of ourselves just as The Mississippians for the University of Mississippi, but when you’re performing on stage like that with other artists and bands with such name recognition, it makes you think, ‘Hey, we are important,'” he said. “We’re worthy of this opportunity.”

Other students on the European tour as part of the ensemble were: Gabriel Ackermann, a graduate student on rhythm from Flowood; Brady Bramlett, a graduate student on rhythm from Memphis; David Cuevas, a graduate trombone player from Long Beach; Aaron Dalliare, a sophomore trombone player from Jackson; Kyle Dozier, a sophomore on trumpet from Ridgeland; Jamie Geoghegan, a senior trumpet player from Tupelo; Tyler Hewett, a freshman saxophone player from Walls; Kurt Hickey, a junior trombone player from New Albany; Lazarrus Miller, a junior on rhythm from Shannon; Asher Mitchell, a senior saxophone player from Silver Creek; Liam Mooney, a freshman on rhythm from Chattanooga, Tennessee; William Roberts, a junior on rhythm from Senatobia; Christopher Scott, a senior saxophone player from New Albany; Quayshun Shumpert, a junior trombone player from Fulton; Alicia Venchuk, a graduate student on rhythm from Ludington, Michigan; and Max Warren, a freshman trumpet player from Ocean Springs.

Construction Projects at UM Nearing Completion

Building renovations, traffic expansions designed to improve campus life

Construction crews have reworked the roundabout in front of Guyton Hall to align with Guyton Place and Magnolia Drive. The new design, which opened Aug. 10, allows for a safer roadway for pedestrians and motorists. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Several construction projects at the University of Mississippi are expected to be completed during the 2018-19 academic year.

Construction crews already have reworked the roundabout in front of Guyton Hall to align with Guyton Place and Magnolia Drive. The new design, which opened Aug. 10, allows for a safer roadway for pedestrians and motorists in front of Guyton Hall.

It also removed the closed road that led to Fraternity Row and provides a landscaped pedestrian connection between Fraternity Row and Guyton Hall.

“Renovations and new facilities being undertaken aim to provide the best possible space for students to learn, discover and live while on campus,” said Ian Banner, director of facilities planning and university architect. “They will also create state-of-the-art facilities for students, faculty and staff once they are completed.”

A temporary footpath linking the Grove to the new Lloyd Bell Tower and the Jake Gibbs Letterwinner Walk has been added for this fall, Banner said. The path will provide a direct connection to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on game days. During the week, the walk will revert to being part of the construction site.

Other projects nearing completion across the Oxford campus include:

The existing 98,000 square feet of the Ole Miss Student Union, which opened in 1977, is being reconfigured with an additional 80,000 square feet. The addition, which opened last fall, provides an enhanced dining space, kitchens, transit hub and a large ballroom. Once complete, the renovated part will accommodate Student Activities Association, Dean of Students, Greek Life, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and Associated Student Body offices. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss Student Union – The existing 98,000 square feet of the campus’ center of student life, which opened in 1977, is being reconfigured and expanded by 80,000 square feet. The addition, which opened last fall, provides an enhanced dining space, five well-known food vendors, kitchens, a transit hub and a large ballroom.

Once complete, the renovated original building will accommodate the Student Activities Association, Dean of Students, Greek Life, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and Associated Student Body offices. It also will include an expanded Barnes and Noble bookstore and coffee shop, conference rooms and a Mississippi Federal Credit Union. Completion is slated for early 2019.

All American Drive – To prepare for the construction of the STEM building, crews have been working to remove or relocate underground utilities located along All American Drive. While work on the street is complete, fences will remain until construction on the new facility begins.

The South Oxford Center on Lamar Boulevard is open, providing nearly 485,000 square feet of space for growing programs. UM’s Counselor Education Clinic for Outreach and Personal Enrichment is the first of nine tenants to move in throughout the 2018-19 academic year. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

South Oxford Center – The university purchased the former Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi facility on South Lamar Boulevard in 2017. With approximately 485,000 square feet of space and a four-story parking structure, the building provides an ideal solution to space challenges on the Oxford campus.

“Designing and building almost half-a-million square feet of academic space would take at least three years and could cost up to seven times more than the cost of the former hospital and grounds, so purchasing the facility solved expansion problems almost immediately while containing cost,” Banner said. “Medical spaces do not match academic needs exactly, therefore some renovations would be inevitable.

“Selecting university departments whose needs matched as closely as possible with the existing facility was key to keeping costs down and shortening the construction time for interior modifications.

Most of the renovation work has focused on the first and second floors, he said.

“The university’s Department of Facilities Planning design team began by taking accurate dimensions of the areas requiring immediate renovation to understand the parameters of each project. Then, with input from the users, design documents were completed, prices obtained, and renovations began on site. It is fair to say, this was a concentrated and compressed effort.”

The first wave of renovations is nearly complete, Banner said. It will provide space for eight UM departments and programs in some 85,000 square feet of the facility.

Repair work is being done in the parking structure, which, when complete, will accommodate 680 vehicles. Another 75 spaces are located under the existing main building, and 202 spaces are in a surface lot.

“This work provides newly renovated spaces at the South Oxford Center, while alleviating ongoing challenges related to space on the main Oxford campus,” Banner said.

Plans for the South Campus Recreation & Transportation Hub, a 121,000 square foot facility, include all-weather sports fields, basketball courts, a multi-purpose court, an elevated walking/running track, a climbing wall, workout equipment, classrooms, locker rooms and conference rooms

South Campus Recreation and Transportation Hub – Plans for the 121,000-square-foot facility include all-weather sports fields, basketball courts, a multipurpose court, an elevated walking/running track, a climbing wall, workout equipment, classrooms, locker rooms and conference rooms. It also will be the home of Ole Miss Outdoors, the William Magee Center for Wellness Education and the Department of Parking and Transportation. Completion date is spring 2019.

Garland, Hedleston and Mayes – Built as men’s dormitories in 1938, these buildings are being renovated for academic and administration use. Renovations underway include new mechanical and electrical systems, barrier-free accessibility features, weatherproofed exteriors, larger classroom space and upgraded interiors.

Once complete, the buildings will house the School of Applied Sciences. Completion date is early 2019.

Garland, Hedleston and Mayes buildings are being renovated for academic or administration use. Renovations underway include new mechanical and electrical systems, barrier-free accessibility features, weatherproofed exteriors, larger classroom space and upgraded interiors. Once complete, the buildings will accommodate the School of Applied Sciences. Completion date is early 2019. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Communications

Paul B. Johnson Commons East – Constructed in 1929, the 28,073-square-foot facility previously was home to the Department of Human Resources, University and Public Events and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Renovations include repairing and replacing key parts of the building envelope, correcting the perimeter site drainage, expanding interior spaces, and new HVAC, electrical, plumbing and communications systems.

When complete, the first floor will house the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, Developmental Studies and the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. University and Public Events will be on the second floor. Completion date is early 2019.

Submissions Sought for UM Film Festival One-Minute Film Competition

University, high school filmmakers urged to enter by Sept. 21

UM film production professor Harrison Witt (right) works with cinema student Sam Cox to set up a shot in Bottletree Bakery near the Oxford Square. Pictured on the screen is former Ole Miss acting student Darbianna Dinsmore, who plays special agent Grace Henderson in the short film ‘MANGRY.’ Photo courtesy Chris Floyd

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film is debuting a new way for the university community and high school students to get involved in filmmaking.

The first-ever UM Film Festival One-Minute Film Competition is open for submissions through Sept. 21. The competition is free to enter and offers cash prizes; top finishers in the High School and University categories will be screened at the UM Film Festival, a free event taking place Oct. 12-13 at Fulton Chapel.

This snappy addition to the UM Film Festival’s offerings was conceived in a class taught by Harrison Witt, assistant professor of film production, who did a one-minute film project with students and was inspired by how much the students enjoyed it.

“I did a little research and found that there are quite a few one-minute film competitions out there,” Witt said. “It’s a great way to get involved without making a full-length film. And besides, short-form films are just fun to watch.”

To be considered in the High School category, a film must be made by someone who either is in high school or who was when the film was completed; the University category is open to all current and former Ole Miss students and current faculty and staff. All films must have been completed after Jan. 1, 2018.

Entries can be narrative, documentary, experimental or even promotional, but whatever the style, they must be under 60 seconds, including titles and credits.

“You might wonder if something so short is valid,” Witt said. “But think about how much work goes into commercials, and some of them are only 15 seconds long.”

In fact, commercials and “mock” commercial entries are welcome and encouraged.

“Our whole program is based on cinematic storytelling,” Witt said. “Bring anything you want.”

Witt hopes the short format will encourage people who might not otherwise consider making films to take a chance, and he wants it known that amateurs and others who have limited access to high-tech film equipment shouldn’t feel intimidated.

“‘Tangerine,’ which premiered at Sundance in 2015, was shot on iPhones,” Witt said. “Lots of our students make their films on phones.”

Sarah Hennigan, assistant professor of film production, emphasized that lower production costs and the ubiquity of basic equipment and editing software – such as cell phones and apps – make a project like this feasible for a diverse group of participants.

“With today’s technology, high school students are better versed in these things now than we were at that age,” Hennigan said. “I’m excited to see what people will come up with.”

Entries will be judged by a panel composed of faculty members Hennigan, Witt and Alan Arrivée, associate professor of film. Despite the lack of strict production guidelines and the assumption that many films will be made using “sophisticated phone gadgetry,” as Arrivée put it, judges are expecting high production values.

“We’ll be looking at how well people meet the challenge of telling a beginning-middle-end story in 60 seconds,” Arrivée said. “Even within short-film competitions, shorts have gotten shorter, and this is an extreme of that. It becomes more and more challenging.”

The competition is unique not only for its abbreviated format, but for its inclusion of high school students from both within and outside the state.

The Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre Arts with emphasis in Film Production is a new degree in the Department of Theatre and Film, and it’s among only a handful of film programs in the region. Opening the competition to high school students provides an opportunity for aspiring young filmmakers to interact with a program that could be a springboard for their dreams.

Besides the educational and entertainment value of the competition and the UM Film Festival overall, this new component serves to bolster Mississippi’s image as a rising star in the film world. The 15-year-old Oxford Film Festival, held annually in the spring, has attracted national media attention and recently landed on MovieMaker magazine’s list of “50 festivals worth the entry fee.”

“We want to promote the idea that Mississippi can be a home for independent filmmaking,” Hennigan said.

For complete rules and submission guidelines, visit UM-1 Minute Film. For more information, contact Harrison Witt at hcwitt@olemiss.edu.

Annual 9/11 Memorial Run Set for Saturday

First responders and general public invited to offer support and participate

Cadets from all four of the university’s ROTC programs participate in last year’s 9/11 Memorial Run, which honors victims of and first responders to the 2001 terrorist attacks. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi ROTC programs host the annual 9/11 Memorial Run at 6:45 a.m. Saturday (Sept. 8) in remembrance of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on New York and Washington. The run, which is in remembrance of the victims and first responders who came to their aid, begins in front of the Lyceum and continues to the Oxford Square and back.

All local first responders and the public are invited to the run, which is open to anyone who wants to either participate or show their support by encouraging the runners.

“The 9/11 Memorial Run continues to grow each year with more student organizations,” said Scott Caldwell, recruiting operations officer for UM Army ROTC. “Last year, we had members of the Ole Miss Rebelettes and increased fraternity, sorority and Oxford community participation.

“We would love to see this 9/11 Memorial Run grow even more and welcome the biggest participation we have ever had.”

The university’s Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force ROTC programs host the event each year. Ole Miss is one of the nation’s few universities to have all four branches of military service represented on campus, Caldwell said.

The run is an important event that brings together all the ROTC military services and local first responders, he said.

The route for the event will be different this year.

“We will start at the Lyceum and run around the Square, but this year the endpoint is back at the Lyceum instead of the Grove,” said Cadet Justin Bush, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Brandon and the cadet public affairs officer for the program.

Another change is that organizers are asking people to park at the Jackson Avenue Center by 6 a.m. so they can be shuttled at 6:30 to Paris Yates Chapel.

“The goal is to make this year’s 9/11 Memorial Run the biggest we have ever done,” Bush said. “We hope to continue this upward trend as we get the Oxford community and university involved.”

Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program Admits 28 Freshmen

One-of-a kind scholarship program designed to stimulate quality education in the state

The METP 2018 cohort is (front row, from left) Natallie Noel, Katlin Third, Anndee Huskey, Evelyn Smith, Margaret Massengill, Caroline Underwood, Georgia McGahee and Julianne May; (middle row) SeLane Ruggiero, Katherine ‘Grace’ Mobley, London Smith, Kathryn Spiers, Hannah Witherspoon, Anna Kate Broussard, Julia Alexander, Madeleine Biddle, Olivia Arnold and Modena ‘Mae’ Edwards; and (back row) Matthew Bailey, Lilian Null, Hannah Saizan, Parker Connell, Kaylee ‘Rene’ Dupree, Victoria Bamburg, Margaret ‘Maeve’ Lewis, Kate Stalcup, Natalee Dixon and Austyn Jones. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The sixth cohort of the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program at the University of Mississippi consists of 28 outstanding freshman from 11 states with an average high school grade-point average of 3.88 and ACT score of 29.4.

Originally designed to recruit secondary education majors, METP includes elementary and special education students and is financially supported by the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson. One of the nation’s most valuable teaching scholarships, METP provides up to four years of tuition, housing, living expenses, a study abroad experience and more.

“We accept high-performing students to teach in our schools in Mississippi,” said Ryan Niemeyer, METP director. “It’s a big win for the School of Education and the students, but it’s even a bigger win for our state to have these future teachers in our classrooms.

“It’s all about looking at education from a broader picture in our state.”

A joint effort with Mississippi State University, which recruits a partner cohort each year, METP was established in 2012 with a $12.9 million investment from the Hearin Foundation. The scholarship was renewed in 2016 with a second investment of more than $28 million, which will fund the program through 2021.

The program is designed to help stimulate Mississippi’s economy by creating a pipeline of top-performing students into the state’s education workforce.

The incoming freshman are: Julia Alexander of Union; Olivia Arnold of Vancleave; Matthew Bailey of Sedalia, Missouri; Victoria Bamburg of Haughton, Louisiana; Madeleine Biddle of Brandon; Anna Kate Broussard of Covington, Louisiana; Parker Connell of San Antonio, Texas; Natalee Dixon of Hudson, Wisconsin; Kaylee Dupree of Tampa Florida; Modena Edwards of Hernando; Andee Huskey of Ridgeland; Austyn Jones of Jackson; Margaret Lewis of Lake Forest, Illinois; Margaret Massengill of Brookhaven; Julianne May of Memphis, Tennessee; Georgia McGahee of Little Rock, Arkansas; Katherine Mobley of Coppell, Texas; Natallie Noel of Biloxi; Lilian Null of Corinth; SeLane Ruggiero of Southhaven; Hannah Saizan of Pass Christian; Evelyn Smith of Oxford; London Smith of Wildwood, Missouri; Kathryn Spiers of Picayune; Kate Stalcup of Overland Park, Kansas; Katlin Third of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida; Caroline Underwood of Birmingham, Alabama; and Hannah Witherspoon of Southaven.

After graduation, METP graduates must teach in a public school in Mississippi for five years. However, this may be postponed for up to three years if graduates wish to pursue a graduate degree.

The new class brings the number of METP scholarship recipients at Ole Miss to 132. With the second cohort graduating last May, 93 percent of program graduates are teaching in Mississippi public school districts, with the remainder pursuing graduate degrees.

Along with many other benefits, the program also includes at least two meaningful trips for the students.

METP Program Coordinator Blake Adams speaks to new METP students during orientation. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Sophomores travel to Washington, D.C., each spring to study American education through a policy perspective. And each summer, rising seniors travel out of the country to experience education through different perspectives, with past trips to Finland, Sweden and Canada.

The new cohort comprises 10 elementary education majors, seven English education majors, five math education majors, three science education majors and three special education majors.

“My favorite thing about METP so far has been meeting my class and getting to know them,” METP freshman cohort member Julianne May said. “The small groups that we have and our shared interest of being great teachers makes it easier for us to connect with each other, but at the same time our group is diverse and different people are doing such different majors so we can learn from each other.”

METP is unique in that it allows members to begin classroom observations in September of their freshman year – an entire year before traditional education students begin observation.

“Being able to go into classrooms already as a freshman is really neat,” METP freshman cohort member Natalie Dixon said. “No one else except for METP gets to do that.

“The METP program really makes you think about how important it is to be a teacher and what the best ways of teaching are. It makes me appreciate my future profession more.”

For more information about METP, go to http://metp.olemiss.edu/.

University Hosts Third Annual Tech Summit

Leaders discuss key issues, vision for advancing Mississippi forward

At the third annual University of Mississippi Technology Summit, UM alumnus and technology pioneer Jim Barksdale, far left, led a panel titled “Future Opportunities & Challenges in Tech,” which discussed the current trends in technology and what the future might hold. That panel featured, second from left, Nishanth Rodrigues CIO of UM; David Steel of Samsung; John Felker with the Department of Homeland Security, NCCIC; Rob Carter CIO of FedEx; and Kevin O’Toole with Comcast. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.

OXFORD, Miss. – An array of business, government and industry leaders gathered Wednesday in Oxford to discuss the critical intersection of technology and education at the third annual University of Mississippi Technology Summit.

During the event at The Inn at Ole Miss, experts in a variety of fields shared visions of the current state of technology, the future of the ever-changing field and how Mississippi can be best poised to succeed in the ongoing technological revolution.

In his welcome remarks, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter highlighted the interest and commitment to technology shared by Tech Summit attendees.

“You represent a vast array of experiences, and that fits right into the goals of the summit,” Vitter said. “Together, we’re going to explore how we can work in tandem and connect. We can find solutions to problems and discover smart ways to reach our goals.”

Vitter commended U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, guest of honor at the event, for continuing to prioritize policy on the federal level that will help advance Mississippi and its residents.

Acknowledging the “wealth of brainpower” in the room, Wicker urged the group to think about what Mississippi and the university can be doing to be at the forefront of technology information.

“I hope that we build on the information and discussion we had today and come together with some action items to provide opportunities for job growth here in our state,” said Wicker, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation and the Internet. “It makes me so optimistic about what we can do.”

University of Mississippi student Elena Bauer speaks to the crowd at the 2018 UM Tech Summit about her time using technology – specifically virtual reality – to show children across Mississippi worlds they might not have ever seen before. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.

Continuing with the trend of technology’s impact on society and business, Rob Carter, chief information officer for FedEx, discussed the long road of innovation his company has traveled since 1978, when FedEx were envisioning systems that would harness the power of information, including the ability to electronically track a package. 

FedEx was able to develop groundbreaking tools and systems that had a profound impact beyond just the business world through building a culture around the idea of continuous innovation, Carter said.

“We connect people and possibilities around the world, and through that, businesses prosper, communities flourish and people thrive,” Carter said. “We think the connected world is a significantly enhanced world. We think it enables better health care, better education, better access to goods and services.”

The event reinforced the university’s commitment to strengthening STEM education. The summit also complemented many of the university’s recent efforts in this area, including growth of the university’s capacity to address future workforce needs and enhancement of its status as a Carnegie R1 Highest Research Activity institution.

UM’s launch of a transformative research initiative called Flagship Constellations, which seeks to inspire multidisciplinary solutions to some of the region’s and world’s complex problems such as big data and brain wellness, also aligned with the overall goal of the summit.

Some of the successes from these ongoing initiatives came full circle when seven Ole Miss students from a variety of backgrounds took the stage to share how they’ve used technology inside and outside the classroom.

Elena Bauer was born in Champaign, Illinois, but spent her entire childhood living across the United States and Freiburg, Germany. Through her time at Ole Miss and the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, Bauer has used technology – specifically virtual reality – to show Mississippi children worlds they might not have ever seen.

“We took a virtual reality tour to different places across the world,” said Bauer, of her time working with high students in the Mississippi Delta. “Virtual reality has proven to be an influential educational tool.”

Nick DePorter with LinkedIn speaks during a panel at the 2018 UM Tech Summit titled “Role of Education in Preparing the Workforce,” which discussed the ongoing efforts to prepare today’s students to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services.

Bauer said she is passionate about exploring the new and innovative ways that technology can assist workforce development and community engagement across Mississippi. She is working with McLean to build a sustainable job-training program for the Clarksdale community.

Making his first trip to Mississippi, Michael Kratsios, White House deputy assistant to the president for technology policy, provided the lunchtime address. Kratsios shared how he looks at emerging technologies with a great sense of optimism, emphasizing how the U.S. must focus on areas of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems and connectivity. 

Kratsios concluded his remarks by acknowledging that challenges exist and contending that America remains the best place to drive technological innovation because of its culture.

“What makes the American R&D ecosystem unique is our government, industry and academia working in tandem for innovation,” Kratsios said. “It’s not top-down industrial policy.

“We’ve made our greatest discoveries because of our freedom to invent, explore and discover. This freedom, coupled with our strong free market ideals, is a recipe for continued technological leadership.”

Panels throughout the day focused on a variety of subjects.

UM alumnus and technology pioneer Jim Barksdale led a panel examining “Future Opportunities and Challenges in Tech,” which discussed trends in technology and what the future might hold. That panel featured Carter; John Felker, with the Department of Homeland Security’s National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center; Kevin O’Toole, of Comcast; Nishanth Rodrigues, the university’s chief information officer; and David Steel, of Samsung.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour led a panel titled “Role of Education in Preparing the Workforce,” which discussed ongoing efforts to prepare students to succeed in tomorrow’s workforce. That panel featured Nick DePorter, with LinkedIn; Hu Meena, of C Spire; Ryan Miller, with the UM Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence; Mike Petters, with Huntington Ingalls Industries; and Noel Wilkin, the university’s provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

Allyson Best, director of the UM Office of Technology Commercialization, led a panel on “Technology Applications in Government and Industry,” which discussed recent technology applications and the process of effectively moving discoveries into action. That panel featured Michael Adcock, of the University of Mississippi Medical Center; Kratsios; Art Morrish, with Raytheon; Willie Nelson, of the  U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command; and Olivia Trusty, from Wicker’s office.

“Every aspect of our research enterprise will benefit from this event,” Best said. “The opportunity to hear from leaders in industry and government provides valuable insight and helps us shape our strategies in order to maximize the impact of our efforts.”

For more information on the summit or any of the participants, visit http://techsummit.olemiss.edu/.

Croft Institute Marks Two Decades of Preparing State for the World

More than 500 graduates have launched successful global careers

A degree from the Croft Institute for International Studies serves as a passport into the world economy. Here, the 2018 class celebrates its graduation. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Since its first class graduated in 2001, the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi has sent hundreds of students into the world.

A Croft Institute degree serves as a passport, a stamp of approval recognizable in the global marketplace of a student who is prepared for a career on the worldwide stage.

The first cohort entered Croft in 1998, and as of May, 520 UM students have graduated from the institute, going on to work in global fields with international expertise, working alongside people from various backgrounds.

Just as remarkable is what the institute has done at home – both on the Ole Miss campus and in the state of Mississippi. It has been at the forefront of internationalizing the university and the state. The institute, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this fall, is both raising the profile of the state through outreach programs and helping UM attract new initiatives.

“A major reason for the creation of the Croft Institute was to help bring an international outlook to the state of Mississippi,” said Oliver Dinius, Croft executive director and associate professor of history. “Part of that agenda was to offer outreach programs, especially for teachers at high schools, which would strengthen their ability to teach on international topics and to recruit talented students from the state of Mississippi for the Croft Institute, where they could receive the education to become global leaders.”

Besides offering outreach programs for Mississippi’s kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers (such as its National Consortium for Teaching about Asia-funded workshops), Croft has stimulated the internationalization of the state and university through study abroad for Ole Miss students, partnerships with the Department of Modern Languages and more.

Each of these initiatives tells a story of how Croft has moved beyond the walls of its beautifully restored Y Building home on campus and helped usher the university and Mississippi onto the global scene.

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, served on the organizing team for the Croft Institute. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

When UM and the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund announced in September 1997 the $60 million donation from the fund that would create the institute, decisions were already being made on the focus of the international studies major offered at Croft.

The interdisciplinary major offered under the College of Liberal Arts would focus on politics, economics and culture in one of three regional concentrations – East Asia, Europe and Latin America – along with language courses every semester related to the regional concentration.

Students also were expected to study abroad – either for a semester or a whole year – in a country whose language they had been studying.

“The three regions were selected because of their dominance in Mississippi’s international trade,” said Michael Metcalf, who served as Croft’s executive director from 1998 to 2007. “The university had relative strength in European and Latin American studies, so the first new Croft faculty hires were made in 1998 and 1999 to initiate instruction in Chinese language and to start to build strength in East Asian history, society and religion.

“The importance of studying these three regions was for students who might work there with Mississippi firms to learn about their social, political and cultural backgrounds and thus be more effective.”

Choosing Latin America as one of the three initial regional concentrations was an opportunity to redefine what the South is and reshape it as a “global South,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

In 1998, Sullivan-González was an assistant professor of history selected to teach in Croft and serve on the institute’s organizing team. Sullivan-González first became interested in Latin American studies as a freshman at Samford University during a trip to rural northern Mexico working on a water project.

He was part of a group of history professors who pushed for the inclusion of Latin America as a regional concentration.

“That conviction was: We know there is a growing immigration wave of people who are speaking Spanish who are coming from Mexico and Central America, and it is going to affect the culture,” he said. “It did. We’ve seen the change.”

During that first academic year of Croft, in 1998-99, Sullivan-González also taught a course that included a trip to Queretaro, Mexico – one of the early study abroad opportunities through Croft.

Since its first graduating class in 2001, 520 students have graduated from the Croft Institute for International Studies. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“(Students) have to see how the questions that haunt us here come alive there,” he said. “You see how the questions come alive in Latin America and all of a sudden, you realize: They’re struggling with the same things we are, but it’s a very different path and a very different history, and it enriches the conversation today to look at which groups have made better strides, which groups have made weaker strides, and compare and contrast that.”

Other early study abroad opportunities included students visiting Europe and East Asia.

The benefits of studying abroad are numerous, said Kees Gispen, who served as executive director of Croft from 2007 to 2016. Gispen has taught in Croft since its inception.

“When students study (abroad), they become aware,” he said. “And when they live in it, when they study abroad, they see how it functions. They come back and more often than not, it helps them come up with new ideas of how to improve our own situation.

“Different cultures have different ways of doing things.”

While Croft students were heading abroad, the institute was quickly making a difference within Mississippi; for example, through early outreach programs such as the National Consortium for Teaching about Asia, which looks to increase teaching and learning about East Asia in elementary and secondary schools.

Peter Frost, who served as Croft’s interim director in 1997 and ’98, had been involved with the consortium’s director before coming to UM. Once at Ole Miss, Frost had offered NCTA workshops to Mississippi teachers even before Croft was started.

Understanding Asia is a crucial part of understanding the world, both for cultural understanding and politics, Frost said.

“NCTA aims to help K-12 teachers enrich their (often required) world history courses, develop the imagination and cultural understanding of younger students, and helps give older students and adults a better grasp of the many issues surrounding our relations with Asia,” he said. “Teachers enjoyed getting educational materials and references, educational credits, learning more and developing lesson plans with other teachers.”

Besides summer workshops and online continuing education units and professional development opportunities in East Asia, through courses such as “Sake, Sushi and Soft Power” and “Korea in the Modern World,” the Croft Institute during its first two decades also has offered outreach programs to Mississippi teachers in Latin American and European studies.

Oliver Dinius is executive director of the Croft Institute and an associate professor of history. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

With students going into the world, and Mississippi teachers coming to UM to learn more about the world, strengthening the opportunity for the study of foreign languages became an early mission of Croft, too, Dinius said.

“The institute made high levels of oral proficiency in at least one foreign language a requirement for the international studies major, and it supplemented the resources available in the Department of Modern Languages with three faculty positions: in Chinese, Spanish and Japanese,” he said. “The focus remained on the so-called critical languages, and Dr. Metcalf was instrumental in securing a grant to bring a Chinese Language Flagship Program to the university.”

Started in 2002, The Language Flagship programs are a federal initiative to graduate students who have a superior fluency level in foreign languages deemed critical to U.S. interests.

Work on attracting a Flagship program to Ole Miss began in 2000, Metcalf said, with the Croft Institute and Department of Modern Languages working in tandem to land a program in Chinese. UM received its Chinese Language Flagship Program in 2003.

The program is a tremendous resource for students who wish to become highly proficient in Chinese and pursue careers in such fields as business, government and journalism in which they will use Chinese to give themselves and their employers a professional advantage, Metcalf said.

Croft and the modern languages department also worked together to attract a second Language Flagship program, in Arabic, which was awarded in August. The department’s work on building a prestigious program in Arabic also enabled the Croft Institute to add the Middle East as a fourth geographical concentration, adding two Middle East faculty positions, when Gispen served as executive director.

“This is an area where we are constantly involved,” he said. “This is an area we can’t afford to ignore.”

Even as Croft has internationalized the Ole Miss campus and Mississippi, the institute’s purpose has remained the same: to give students the best possible preparation to launch successful global careers.

“I’ve always thought the strongest part of the Croft Institute was its really good students … and a good curriculum, a good plan,” Gispen said. “The core strength is these high-achieving students whom we can attract from all over the country who can make a real contribution.”

University Endowment Builds to All-time High of $715 Million

Strong investment returns, generosity of alumni and friends spurs growth

The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high, thanks to generous support from private donors. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s permanent endowment grew in its latest fiscal year to an all-time high of $715 million, thanks in part to the seventh consecutive year of new gifts of $100 million or more.

Private support totaled more than $115.8 million from 30,332 donors, giving the university essential resources to continue providing exceptional experiences for students, faculty, researchers, health care patients and providers, citizens served by outreach efforts, and visitors to all its campuses.

“Private investments are essential to fuel the work of our flagship university,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“The generosity of our alumni and friends ensures the university has resources needed to sustain and expand nationally prominent programs, and it enables us to deliver on our Flagship Forward strategic plan to improve learning, health and the quality of life in Mississippi. We remain grateful and inspired by their support.”

Total private giving to the Oxford campus grew by 6.5 percent over the previous year. Private support for academics increased more than 10 percent. 

Eighty-seven percent of the private giving will provide current funding for donor-directed areas or directly affect those areas, while the remaining 13 percent was added to the university’s endowment, which also grew through returns on its investment strategies.

State support as a percentage of total revenues available for the university’s operations was 12.4 percent, making private support all the more crucial.

“Ole Miss alumni and friends are making major investments that transform students’ lives and continually enhance the quality of our programs,” said Charlotte Parks, vice chancellor for development. “Gifts to higher education also have a far-reaching impact on the economy of Mississippi and beyond, and the resources ultimately improve the quality of life for everyone.”

Healthy growth of the university’s endowment reflected the increase in funds invested and managed for the university, said Wendell Weakley, president and CEO of the UM Foundation. The endowment benefited from a 10 percent return on its investments.

Private giving helps UM maintain margins of excellence in a range of fields across all its campuses. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“The endowment has now reached the historic high of $715 million, and we are on our way to realizing our long-range goal of a $1 billion endowment,” Weakley said. “We are extremely grateful to our donors who provide this permanent stable funding that can be counted on year after year and will advance the university’s mission for generations to come.”

Some of the largest gifts included: $5 million for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College; $4.25 million for several programs including Bridge STEM, Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Initiative, College Ready Literacy, Center for Mathematics and Science Education, First Generation Scholars, Principal Corps, Upstart in the School of Dentistry and more; $4 million for new endowed chairs in geriatrics and palliative care at the Medical Center; $2 million for the College of Liberal Arts‘ departments of mathematics and sciences; $2 million for professorships in surgery and pulmonology at the Medical Center; $1.5 million for expansion of pediatric care at the Medical Center; and gifts of $1 million or more for a faculty chair in the Patterson School of Accountancy, the Flagship Constellations, Southern Foodways Alliance and the Forward Together campaign for Ole Miss athletics.

Likewise, the Medical Center’s Campaign for Children’s Hospital campaign enjoyed a third successful year with $10 million raised, which brings the total giving in the campaign to more than $66 million toward its ambitious $100 million goal. This campaign supports the construction and renovation of facilities and recruitment of 30-40 doctors and researchers.

Work has begun on a new seven-story, 340,000-square-foot tower adjacent to Batson Children’s Hospital that will also house the Children’s Heart Center.

Gifts to the campaign represent “an outpouring of love and support that runs deep and wide across all of Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “We have outstanding physicians and the best staff, and they have a passion for caring for patients. What we need now are the facilities to match that quality of care.”

Financial resources provided by alumni and friends of the university ensure students will have the tools necessary to be successful. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Ole Miss athletics also enjoyed a successful FY 2018 both on the field and in investments made by alumni and friends. Cash gifts exceeded $30 million for the fourth consecutive year. The Forward Together campaign stands at $176 million, with plans to complete this $200 million campaign in FY 2019.

“Rebel Nation represents one of the most loyal fan bases in college sports,” said Keith Carter, deputy athletics director for development and resource acquisition. “The support shown year in and year out allows us to enhance our facilities to help our student-athletes compete at the highest level, while also providing a high-quality experience for our fans.

“We express our thanks to loyal donors and fans, and we look forward to the upcoming year as we close out the Forward Together campaign and begin new endeavors.”

To make gifts to the university, go to https://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/ for academics, https://www.umc.edu/givenow/ for the UM Medical Center or http://givetoathletics.com/forward-together/ for Ole Miss athletics.

Famed Actor Stars in Production of ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business’

Gordon Clapp of 'NYPD Blue' performing in one-man show Thursday at Ford Center

Emmy winner Gordon Clapp stars in the one-man show ‘Robert Frost: This Verse Business,’ coming Thursday to the UM Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Copyright 2017 Robert C Strong II

OXFORD, Miss. – Emmy-winning actor Gordon Clapp, of “NYPD Blue,” stars in the one-man show “Robert Frost: This Verse Business” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Aug. 30) at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Frost, who for nearly 50 years traveled around the country charming audiences with his celebrated verse and rascally sense of humor, was one of America’s most celebrated poets. “This Verse Business” gives audiences insight into what seeing Frost in person was like through Clapp’s acclaimed performance.

The show’s playwright, Andy Dolan, said Frost’s wit and perception of the world around him was on par with that of a celebrated author from Oxford. 

“Both Oxford’s own William Faulkner and Robert Frost hand a unique ability to find the universal by means of an intense focus on their local environments,” Dolan said. “Both writers could hear poetry in the everyday speech of their neighbors.”

Clapp, who is best known for his Emmy-winning role as Detective Greg Medavoy on ABC’s “NYPD Blue,” brings uncanny authenticity and joy to his Frost, the American literary “rock star” of his day. Using materials pulled from actual recordings and interviews, Clapp shares the funny and flinty icon’s poems and pointed “wild surmises” on religion, science and politics.

Dolan and Clapp also will host a master class in the Ford Center Studio Theater at 1 p.m. Friday (Aug. 31). The class is free and open to the public.

Tickets are $25 for the orchestra/parterre, $20 for the mezzanine and $15 for balcony seats. Tier 1 box seats are $25, tier 2 box seats are $20. A 20 percent UM faculty/staff/retiree discount is available at the UM Box Office with a UM ID.  Student tickets are $10 for all seats, with an Ole Miss student ID required, also at the UM Box Office.