Students with Disabilities Find Welcoming Environment, Assistance

ADA-compliant facilities, disability services assist in adapting to campus routines

Rhett Unbehagen and his service dog, Scout, enjoy a playful moment together in the Grove. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Before Valentine’s Day 2011, Rhett Unbehagen did not consider himself to be a person with a disability.

But while running on his high school campus that day, the University of Mississippi student experienced a 70 percent loss in his lung capacity. Barely breathing and covered with hives, he was rushed to the emergency room at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune.

After treatment of his condition, Unbehagen was diagnosed with exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Before then, fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases existed and the condition wasn’t considered fatal.

“I now realize that I had been disabled ever since I was originally diagnosed,” said the junior investment banking major from Carriere. “Two months later, I discovered I also have hypohydrosis (meaning he doesn’t sweat) and dermagraphia (a painful skin irritation).”

While Unbehagen’s particular disabilities are rare, he is far from alone. Of the more than 21,000 students  enrolled at UM last spring, an estimated 1,130 had registered disabilities that had to be accommodated in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The vast majority have what we call ‘invisible disabilities,'” said Stacey Reycraft, director of Student Disability Services. “These include things like chronic illness, learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

“Our office helps with classroom accommodations, such as assisting with testing, lecture acquisition and attendance difficulties.”

Unbehagen said he was somewhat depressed following his attacks. Once he decided to embrace the necessary lifestyle adjustments caused by his medical conditions, things quickly began to improve for him.

“I decided that I needed a medical service dog to help me keep all my medications, such as epinephrine, close,” he said. “Before coming to Ole Miss, I had never seen anyone with a service dog.”

Through social media, Unbehagen contacted other owners of medical service dogs and began searching for his own canine companion. His search came to an end March 28 when he obtained a newborn Great Dane puppy, whom he has given the name “Scout.”

After undergoing training together, the pair has been inseparable.

Rhett Unbehagen and Scout. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

Service animals, such as dogs or miniature horses, are considered to be equipment – much like a wheelchair or crutches – and are permitted to accompany their owners wherever they might go, Reycraft said. Emotional support animals, including cats and birds, are restricted to residential areas and not allowed in classrooms, food service areas and elsewhere.

“Requests for emotional support animals have to be approved in our office before they can stay in residence halls,” she said.

Reycraft and her staff regularly listen and respond to the concerns of students such as Unbehagen.

“Right now, we have appointments to see students scheduled through mid-September,” Reycraft said. “Our office has ordered an online management system which will allow us to serve these students more efficiently, improve communication and the registration process.

“The system has to be customized and we all have to learn it, so it won’t be operational before early 2018.”

Wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces, braille buttons on mechanical equipment, including elevators, and handrails on stairs and in restrooms are among the adaptations that have been made campuswide.

“The University of Mississippi is definitely ‘disabled friendly,'” said Denny Buchannon, project engineer in the Department of Facilities Management. “We aim to be fully compliant. Due to the age of the campus and some of the buildings, it is an ongoing process.”

Scout is able to keep Unbehagen’s medications at the proper temperature constantly in a vest the dog wears. Impossible to go unnoticed, the dog draws others to Unbehagen and generates positive discussions.

Such ongoing dialogue about disabilities is useful, Reycraft said.

“The biggest struggle people with disabilities face are the attitudinal barriers most people without disabilities have,” she said. “Often, students express their frustrations at being an invisible minority who are not always understood or accepted by the majority.”

For that reason and others, the Office of Student Disability Services seeks to promote awareness on campus. During Disability History Month each April, a panel discussion is scheduled for disabled students to share their experiences with the public.

“This is helpful, but we need more,” Reycraft said. “It would be most helpful if more disabled faculty and staff on campus would join in these discussions as well.”

Other than having his lovable dog with him constantly, Unbehagen said he and other disabled students live much like every other UM student.

“I’m basically just like everyone else,” he said.

Reycraft said she remains hopeful that attitudinal barriers will eventually be erased.

“Twenty years ago, students with disabilities rarely made it to college campuses,” she said. “As more disabled young people attend institutions of higher learning, the laws have changed to require facilities, equipment and programs to meet their special needs.

“Cultural shifts have been known to take decades and even centuries. Hopefully, people’s thinking about people with disabilities will continue to evolve.”

Khayat to Receive Winter-Reed Partnership Award

Former chancellor to be honored Tuesday in Jackson

UM Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat will receive the 2017 Mississippi Association of Partners in Education Winter-Reed Partnership Award Tuesday in Jackson. The award is named in honor of former Gov. William Winter and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Sr. for their lifelong contributions to education. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat will be honored Tuesday (Oct. 17) in Jackson for his tireless lifelong commitment to improving education.

Khayat will receive the 2017 Mississippi Association of Partners in Education Winter-Reed Partnership Award during a tribute luncheon at 11:30 a.m. at the Hilton of Jackson. MAPE established the award in 2007 to honor former Gov. William Winter and the late Tupelo businessman Jack Reed Sr. for their lifelong contributions to public education and to provide continuing recognition for Mississippi’s outstanding education leaders. 

The former chancellor said the honor is special to him because he greatly admires the award’s namesakes. 

“When a chancellor or any other university employee receives recognition, it is being received really on behalf of the entire university because of contributions the university makes to the lives of our students and to the public,” Khayat said. “Knowing Mr. Reed through the years and knowing Gov. Winter all these years, I know what remarkably generous men they were to continue giving so much of their lives to public service. This is a tremendous honor.”

Khayat’s vision took the university to previously unimagined heights of excellence, said Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who plans to attend the awards luncheon.

“Robert’s exceptional leadership laid the foundation for where we are today and our continued focus on excellence across all aspects of the university,” Vitter said. “We are all indebted to him, and I am especially appreciative that, since my arrival, he has been a true friend and mentor to me.”

MAPE was designated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1994 and is committed solely to providing training and resources to help build local support for the success of all students.

Winter, a UM alumnus, and the late Reed, a state business and community service leader from Tupelo, were lifelong friends. Reed chaired then-Gov. Winter’s 1982 Blue Ribbon Committee on Education. 

A friend of both men, Khayat said he always respected them because Winter, a Democrat, and Reed, a Republican, worked together to make improvements to the state. They were lifelong partners for public education, and the chancellor admired their steadfast conviction to improve Mississippi’s schools.

“From the beginning, they supported education and did it dramatically,” Khayat said. “When things were difficult, they didn’t waver from their belief that public education was the key to Mississippi’s future and that if we were going to be prosperous as a state, and have a higher quality of life, we would have to have an educated populace. 

“We will forever be indebted to them for their efforts.”

Khayat served as UM chancellor from 1995 until his retirement in 2009 and has established a legacy of leadership in numerous fields throughout his distinguished career, including academics, law, sports and higher education. 

He is credited with leading efforts to increasing UM’s enrollment by 43 percent and bringing more than $100 million in research and development grants to the university. He arranged for a $5.4 million gift from Jim and Sally Barksdale to establish an honors college as one of his first acts as chancellor.

He also secured a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society at Ole Miss. In 2008, he helped bring a presidential debate to the campus.

His book “The Education of a Lifetime” won a Silver IPPY award in 2013 for best memoir in the nation.

The 1956 Moss Point High School graduate excelled as an undergraduate history major at Ole Miss, where he was an Academic All-American football player and All-SEC catcher for the 1959 and 1960 SEC Champion baseball teams.

He earned undergraduate and law degrees from the university. He joined the law faculty in 1969, and a Sterling Fellowship enabled him to pursue a degree from the Yale Law School in 1980.

He holds an honorary membership from Phi Beta Kappa and was selected as Law Alumnus of the Year in 2014.

He is a member of the Ole Miss Football Team of the Century, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Student Hall of Fame at Ole Miss. He also is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the NFL, the Distinguished American Award from the National Football Foundation, and the 2017 Dick Enberg Award presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America.

MAPE President Phil Hardwick said one of the attributes of a real leader is the courage to change things that need to be changed, especially in the world of education. Khayat embodies these attributes, he said.

“Robert Khayat showed genuine transformational leadership as chancellor of Ole Miss at a time when others would have preferred the status quo,” Hardwick said. “His memoir, ‘The Education of a Lifetime,’ should be required reading not only for educators but for anyone in a leadership position. He truly exhibits the spirit of the Winter-Reed Award.”

Sponsorship opportunities for the Winter-Reed Partnership Award are available by contacting MAPE at 601-573-0896 or visiting http://www.mapie.org. Individual tickets for the awards banquet are $75 and may be purchased online at http://www.mapie.org or from MAPE, P.O. Box 2803, Madison, MS 39130.

Scientists Detect Gravitational Waves Produced by Colliding Neutron Stars

Joint LIGO-Virgo discovery marks first cosmic event observed in both gravitational waves and light

An artist’s illustration of two merging neutron stars. 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. – For the first time, scientists have directly detected gravitational waves – ripples in space and time – in addition to light from the spectacular collision of two neutron stars. This marks the first time that a cosmic event has been viewed in both gravitational waves and light.

The discovery was made using the U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, known as LIGO, the Europe-based Virgo detector, and some 70 ground- and space-based observatories.

Neutron stars are the smallest, densest stars known to exist and are formed when massive stars explode in supernovas. As these neutron stars spiraled together, they emitted gravitational waves that were detectable for about 100 seconds; when they collided, a flash of light in the form of gamma rays was emitted and seen on Earth about two seconds after the gravitational waves.

In the days and weeks following the smashup, other forms of light, or electromagnetic radiation – including X-ray, ultraviolet, optical, infrared and radio waves – were detected.

“This is really the beginning of multimessenger astronomy,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Mississippi and principal investigator of the Ole Miss LIGO group. “Since the time humans have first gazed at the sky, people have just relied on light to learn about the universe.

“Today, we proved we can simultaneously observe a cosmic event using two different carriers of information: electromagnetic waves and gravitational waves. This is a revolution in astronomy comparable to Galileo’s first telescopic observations.”

The observations have given astronomers an unprecedented opportunity to probe a collision of two neutron stars. For example, observations made by the U.S. Gemini Observatory, the European Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope reveal signatures of recently synthesized material, including gold and platinum, solving a decades-long mystery of where about half of all elements heavier than iron are produced.

The LIGO-Virgo results are published today in the journal Physical Review Letters; additional papers from the LIGO and Virgo collaborations and the astronomical community have been either submitted or accepted for publication in various journals.

The gravitational signal, named GW170817, was first detected at 7:41 a.m. Aug. 17; the detection was made by the two identical LIGO detectors in Hanford, Washington, and Livingston, Louisiana. The information provided by the third detector, Virgo, situated near Pisa, Italy, enabled an improvement in localizing the cosmic event.

At the time, LIGO was nearing the end of its second observing run since being upgraded in a program called Advanced LIGO, while Virgo had begun its first run after recently completing an upgrade known as Advanced Virgo.

The National Science Foundation-funded LIGO observatories were conceived, constructed, and operated by Caltech and MIT. Virgo is funded by the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France, and operated by the European Gravitational Observatory. Some 1,500 scientists in the LIGO Scientific Collaboration and the Virgo Collaboration work together to operate the detectors and to process and understand the gravitational-wave data they capture.

Each observatory consists of two long tunnels arranged in an “L” shape, at the joint of which a laser beam is split in two. Light is sent down the length of each tunnel, then reflected back in the direction it came from by a suspended mirror. In the absence of gravitational waves, the laser light in each tunnel should return to the location where the beams were split at precisely the same time. If a gravitational wave passes through the observatory, it will alter each laser beam’s arrival time, creating an almost imperceptible change in the observatory’s output signal.

On Aug. 17, LIGO’s real-time data analysis software caught a strong signal of gravitational waves from space in one of the two LIGO detectors. At nearly the same time, the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor on NASA’s Fermi space telescope had detected a burst of gamma rays.

Rapid gravitational-wave detection by the LIGO-Virgo team, coupled with Fermi’s gamma-ray detection, enabled the launch of follow-up by telescopes around the world.

The LIGO data indicated that two astrophysical objects located at the relatively close distance of about 130 million light-years from Earth had been spiraling in toward each other. It appeared that the objects were not as massive as binary black holes – objects that LIGO and Virgo have previously detected.

Instead, the inspiraling objects were estimated to be in a range from around 1.1 to 1.6 times the mass of the sun, in the mass range of neutron stars. A neutron star is about 12 miles in diameter and is so dense that a teaspoon of neutron star material has a mass of about a billion tons.

“The scientific community has been eagerly awaiting this moment,” says Kate Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy and a member of the LIGO team that designed and built the detectors.

“Coalescing neutron stars provide such an exciting laboratory for new physics. We can study how neutrons behave when they’re packed so closely together, and even make an independent measurement of the expansion of the universe. We are tremendously lucky this event was relatively close by and could also be so precisely pinpointed in the sky.”

Theorists have predicted that when neutron stars collide, they should give off gravitational waves and gamma rays, along with powerful jets that emit light across the electromagnetic spectrum. The gamma-ray burst detected by Fermi, and soon thereafter confirmed by the European Space Agency’s gamma-ray observatory INTEGRAL, is what’s called a short gamma-ray burst.

The new observations confirm that at least some short gamma-ray bursts are generated by the merging of neutron stars – something that was only theorized before.

“This result is a great example of the effectiveness of teamwork, of the importance of coordinating and of the value of scientific collaboration,” said Federico Ferrini, director of the European Gravitational Observatory. “We are delighted to have played our relevant part in this extraordinary scientific challenge: Without Virgo, it would have been very difficult to locate the source of the gravitational waves.

Each electromagnetic observatory will be releasing its own detailed observations of the astrophysical event. In the meantime, a general picture is emerging among all observatories involved that further confirms that the initial gravitational-wave signal indeed came from a pair of inspiraling neutron stars.

Approximately 130 million years ago, the two neutron stars were in their final moments of orbiting each other, separated only by about 200 miles and gathering speed while closing the distance between them. As the stars spiraled faster and closer together, they stretched and distorted the surrounding space-time, giving off energy in the form of gravitational waves before smashing into each other.

At the moment of collision, the bulk of the two neutron stars merged into one ultra-dense object, emitting a “fireball” of gamma rays. The initial gamma-ray measurements, combined with the gravitational-wave detection, also provide confirmation for Einstein’s general theory of relativity, which predicts that gravitational waves should travel at the speed of light.

Swope and Magellan telescope optical and near-infrared images of the first optical counterpart to a gravitational wave source, SSS17a, in its galaxy, NGC 4993. The left image is from Aug. 17, 11 hours after the LIGO/Virgo detection of the gravitational wave source, and contains the first optical photons of a gravitational wave source. The right image is from four days later. SSS17a, which is the aftermath of a neutron star merger, is marked with a red arrow. On the first night, SSS17a was relatively bright and blue. In only a few days, it faded significantly and its color became much redder. These observations show that heavy elements like gold and platinum were created in the merger. Photos courtesy 1M2H/UC Santa Cruz and Carnegie Observatories/Ryan Foley

Theorists have predicted that what follows the initial fireball is a “kilonova,” a phenomenon by which the material that is left over from the neutron star collision, which glows with light, is blown out of the immediate region and far out into space. The new light-based observations show that heavy elements, such as lead and gold, are created in these collisions and subsequently distributed throughout the universe.

In the weeks and months ahead, telescopes around the world will continue to observe the afterglow of the neutron star merger and gather further evidence about various stages of the merger, its interaction with its surroundings and the processes that produce the heaviest elements in the universe.

“Gravitational wave astronomy continues to provide exciting new ways to observe our universe,” said Josh Gladden, UM interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “A particularly exciting aspect of this discovery is that this event could be observed by both traditional electromagnetic (light) astronomy as well as by gravitational waves, which allows for direct comparisons.

“We are proud that our gravity group at Ole Miss continues to provide important contributions to the LIGO effort.”

LIGO is funded by the NSF, and operated by Caltech and MIT, which conceived of LIGO and led the Initial and Advanced LIGO projects. Financial support for the Advanced LIGO project was led by the NSF with Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) making significant commitments and contributions to the project.

More than 1,200 scientists and some 100 institutions from around the world participate in the effort through the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian collaboration OzGrav. Additional partners are listed at http://ligo.org/partners.php.

The Virgo collaboration consists of more than 280 physicists and engineers belonging to 20 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy; two in the Netherlands with Nikhef; the MTA Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland; Spain with the University of Valencia; and the European Gravitational Observatory, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy, funded by CNRS, INFN, and Nikhef.

UM communications specialist Edwin Smith contributed to this report.

UM Town Hall Features Strategic Plan Unveiling

Chancellor, provost share vision for university's future, invite ideas for achieving goals

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter delivers the ‘State of the University’ address during the university’s second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Responding to ideas and hopes expressed more than a year ago at the University of Mississippi’s first-ever universitywide Town Hall, UM officials unveiled a new strategic plan for the institution’s future success Wednesday (Oct. 11) at the second Town Hall.

Similar to the inaugural event, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the two-hour gathering in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of The Inn at Ole Miss. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter opened with a “State of the University” address.

“We can see higher peaks, but to reach those peaks, we must continue having the important conversations about, ‘How do we go from great to greater?’ and ‘How will we get there?'” Vitter said. “The four pillars that emerged from the Flagship Forum last year are academic excellence; healthy and vibrant communities; people, places and resources; and athletics excellence.

“Our road map to the future focuses upon these four pillars.”

Audience members posed questions to Ole Miss administrators during a question-and-answer session following Vitter’s address.

Members of the UM community share ideas for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Also during the assembly, Provost Noel Wilkin unveiled the “Flagship Forward” strategic plan, born from the 550 ideas shared at the first Town Hall in August 2016. Wilkin outlined details about the transformative initiatives and goals around the four pillars.

Attendees were among the first in the university community to receive a copy of the new strategic plan.

“Each pillar has its own transformative initiative and specific goals,” Wilkin said. “For example, the academic excellence initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to society’s grand challenges. Our goals are to enhance the quality of academic programs, support faculty excellence, enhance student success and increase research and creative achievement.”

UM faculty and staff members discuss ideas and share feedback for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

During the interactive segment of the Town Hall, participants were asked to brainstorm future “headlines” they hope will be achieved within the next five years and beyond. By the end of the event, more than 150 “headlines” focused around the pillars and goals were shared.

Anne Klinger, a staff member in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education who attended last year’s Town Hall, said she felt the new strategic plan definitely reflected ideas expressed last year.

“I think that the committee looked at all the great ideas submitted and narrowed them down to these achievable ideals,” she said. “I am inspired by many of them and I can’t wait to see where we are at by the next Town Hall.”

Students in attendance expressed similar hopefulness.

“The thing I most look forward to is achieving a goal within the people, places and resources pillar,” said Abigail Percy, a junior journalism major from Carthage. “I’d most definitely like to see more appreciation for theater and film.”

Logan Williamson, another junior journalism student from Byrum, said the academic excellence pillar is important to him.

“My hope is that as Ole Miss continues to grow, the campus culture will continue to evolve in order for everyone to rise,” he said.

The session was moderated by David Magee, longtime Oxford resident, Ole Miss alumnus and publisher of The Oxford Eagle.

“This is a moment when we all get to actively participate in the future of this great university,” Magee said. “We all love Ole Miss and everything that it has accomplished, but were poised to achieve more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.”

Vitter urged participants to recognize their responsibilities as Ole Miss Rebels and members of the state’s flagship university as they face the world’s many challenges.

“Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another, it means we do not shy away from difficult discussions, it means every voice matters and it means we move forward together in a shared vision for our future,” Vitter said.

Grant Supports Student Internships in East Asia

Freeman Foundation provides $100,000 for experiential learning initiative

Palmer Whiters (left) and William Bumpas, recent graduates of the UM Croft Institute for International Studies, completed a one-semester internship in China during their capstone year of the Chinese Flagship Program. The university has been awarded a grant from the Freeman Foundation to fund UM Experiential Learning in East Asia, an initiative to support internships in East and Southeast Asia. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont, has awarded a $100,000 grant to the University of Mississippi for an initiative to support student internships in East and Southeast Asia.

The program, UM Experiential Learning in East Asia, will allow 18 undergraduates to complete a summer internship of at least eight weeks in summer 2018. Each recipient will receive $5,000 from the Freeman Foundation grant and an additional $2,500 provided by the university’s Office of Global Engagement and the successful applicants’ respective UM school(s).

“The Croft Institute has been the campus leader in promoting engagement with East Asia for the last 20 years, and this generous grant by the Freeman Foundation will allow us to add another important dimension to those efforts,” said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies.

Dinius will administer the program and is working with Joshua Howard, Croft associate professor of history, Minjoo Oh, associate professor of sociology; and Blair McElroy, the university’s senior international officer, to design the application process, select award recipients and assist students as they prepare for their internships.

The goal of the Freeman Foundation’s grant is to help students gain real-life experience while interacting regularly with local populations. Established in 1994 by the estate of AIG cofounder Mansfield Freeman, the foundation’s general mission is “to strengthen the bonds of friendship between this country and those of the Far East” and “to stimulate an exchange of ideas in economic and cultural fields which will help create mutual understanding.”

Headed by Mansfield’s grandson, Graeme Freeman, the foundation donates approximately $50 million annually to programs such as study abroad scholarships for Asian and American students and the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, which has supported the Croft Institute’s efforts to strengthen teaching about East Asia in Mississippi for more than 15 years.

The grant will provide students with life-changing opportunities to work and experience life in East Asia, Howard said. Participating students will “be able to put their learning into practice – whether it’s in the field of engineering, accounting, language studies, just to name a few examples – and become global citizens in the process,” he said.

This grant will allow the Croft Institute and the other participating units on the Oxford campus to deliver on the university’s commitment to greater internationalization and support for experiential learning, two core goals set by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Provost Noel Wilkin. Students chosen for UM Experiential Learning in East Asia will learn how a foreign culture affects the work environment and help prepare them to succeed.

“International experiences give students the skills they need in an increasingly global workplace, such as intercultural communication skills, self-awareness, knowledge of current events and their impact upon the world, and open-mindedness,” McElroy said.

Interested students should find their own internship and apply for the UM-administered funding with a specific proposal. The program welcomes proposals for internships in all parts of East Asia, although priority is given to sending students to countries that are at the heart of UM’s long-standing engagement with East Asia: China, Japan and South Korea.

Oh, a native of Korea, is excited about the potential of this grant reinforcing UM’s recent commitment to Korean studies.

“I hope that many students will take advantage of this opportunity to complete internships in Korea, deepening our engagement with one of the most culturally and economically dynamic places in the world,” she said.

The program is open to undergraduate students from all schools and majors on the Oxford campus. The only restriction is that they must be enrolled as full-time Ole Miss undergraduate students in the semester after completing their summer internship.

Individual awards are designed to offset costs that may otherwise discourage students from interning abroad, including airfare, accommodations and meals. The program will begin accepting applications in mid-October.

Interested students should visit http://www.croft.olemiss.edu/home/freeman-internships-in-east-asia for details about the application process and deadlines. For more information, contact William Mahoney, Croft’s coordinator for career planning, at mahoney@olemiss.edu.

UM Accountancy Programs Maintain Top 10 Standing

Undergraduate, master's and doctoral degree programs continue string of elite rankings

Conner Hall is home to the competitively ranked Patterson School of Accountancy at UM. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

OXFORD, Miss. – All three degree programs at the University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy are among the top 10 in the 2017 annual national rankings of accounting programs published by the journal Public Accounting Report.

The undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs are No. 8. The master’s program leads the Southeastern Conference in the rankings and the undergraduate program is second in the SEC. One or more Ole Miss programs have led the SEC in each of the past seven years.

The Patterson School has become a mainstay on the national scene, with its programs ranked in the top 10 nationally for seven consecutive years, and among the top 20 in the nation for 10 straight years. The PAR has been ranking accounting programs for 36 years.

“These rankings are very meaningful for us,” Dean Mark Wilder said. “They enhance our visibility nationally and validate that we are experiencing success in pursuing our vision, which is to be one of the leading accounting programs in the nation.”

The rankings are based on a survey of accounting professors in the United States. Other undergraduate SEC programs ranked in the top 25 are Alabama, at No. 7; Texas A&M, 9; Florida, 10; Georgia, 11; and Missouri, 13.

Among the highly ranked master’s programs are Alabama, at No. 9; Texas A&M, 10; Florida, 11; Georgia, 13; and Missouri, 15. The doctoral rankings include Alabama at No. 7; Texas A&M, 9; Georgia, 13; Florida, 16; and Missouri, 20.

Ranking by region, UM’s master’s program placed No. 1 for the second consecutive year.

“We are proud of the academic programs and the research conducted by our Patterson School of Accountancy faculty and staff,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s provost. “They are dedicated to the success of our students and their ability to be successful in the field of accountancy. Additionally, the research of our faculty is helping to improve the field.

“The true beneficiaries of this are the students, and the accountancy firms who employ them.”

More than 1,000 schools in the United States offer accounting programs, and around 500 of those, including UM, are accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business as being among the best accountancy and business programs in the world, said Dale Flesher, associate dean and holder of the Burns Chair of Accountancy. PAR voters who determine the rankings are influenced by several other factors that set UM apart.

“Our rankings success provides enhanced opportunities for our graduates and also helps us in recruiting students and faculty to the University of Mississippi,” Wilder said. “While we are enjoying many successes in the Patterson School, we are constantly looking for ways to improve and expand our school.

“Toward this end, we are currently planning two new graduate degrees in data and analytics, with a goal of offering these new masters degrees beginning fall 2018.”

UM also has hosted a number of faculty from other schools in recent years, whether to present their research to Ole Miss faculty and doctoral students or to visit the National Library of the Accounting Profession, housed at the J.D. Williams Library, Wilder said.

“For example, these faculty come from places like the universities of Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio State, Duke and Penn State,” he said. “Invariably, they all leave impressed with the quality of our faculty, students and program. They are also impressed with the collegiality of our faculty and the beauty of our campus.”

Wilder credits the school’s faculty, students and alumni for having a positive impact on its reputation.

“We have an outstanding faculty of top teachers and researchers from a top-tier group of highly skilled staff members,” he said. “Our faculty and staff are very much focused on serving and mentoring students. In short, our faculty all work together toward our common goal of having one of the top accounting programs in the nation.

“The Patterson School is also fortunate to have outstanding students who go on to have phenomenal careers. The academic profile of our accountancy student body gets stronger every year, a fact that is certainly being recognized in the marketplace.”

Master’s students Rachel May, of Collinsville, and Allison Assel, of Houston, Texas, both said the program’s rankings, curriculum and instruction were major factors in their decision to apply for admission to the program.

“I had another major for about a year before I chose accountancy,” May said. “The school’s record of successful graduates who find employment most definitely influenced my decision. I’ve had many opportunities since then.”

“I actually began as a marketing major,” said Assel, who also earned her bachelor’s degree in accountancy from UM. “After about a year-and-a-half into that program, I discovered how great the Patterson School of Accountancy was. Two accountancy faculty members I had classes with encouraged me to switch majors. I’m so glad that I did.”

Wilder also noted the importance of private support in the school’s successful equation.

“The successes we are enjoying are directly attributable to the loyalty and generosity of our alumni and friends,” he said. “Their support helps us to offer scholarships to attract outstanding students, to reward our faculty and to strengthen our program.

“We are grateful for their loyalty and willingness to give back to the school. It is absolutely a difference-maker for us and allows our successes to be built upon and perpetuated.”

For more information about the Patterson School of Accountancy, visit http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/accountancy

Davenport Gift to Support University’s ‘Seat of Knowledge’

UM alumnus designates J.D. Williams Library in estate plans

UM alumnus Bill Davenport has designated the J.D. Williams Library as recipient of his planned gift because of the library’s central role on campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi was once known as the campus where everybody speaks. Even today, despite smart phones and ear buds, Ole Miss retains its reputation as a place where professors know students by name and strangers are just friends who haven’t yet become acquainted.

That personable atmosphere goes a long way. In fact, for at least one alumnus, it was the catalyst that inspired a $200,000 gift to the J.D. Williams Library.

A personal letter set Bill Davenport, associate dean of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas School of Dentistry, on a path to making a legacy gift.

“A number of factors went into this decision,” said Davenport, a Corinth native. “First and foremost, I loved Ole Miss. It opened up a whole new vista to a small-town country boy. I loved the school and the students, and the majority of the professors were truly motivating and inspiring. I always wanted to give something back.

“As everyone says, you can’t really describe your attachment to Ole Miss after going to school there.”

Davenport, who’s active in the Ole Miss Alumni Association and has made other contributions to the university, said he began to consider a major gift after he received a letter from the late Charles Noyes, then chair of English, when the Friends of the Library philanthropy was being organized.

“The library is the cornerstone of the university and is truly the most visible icon for education and life-long learning,” Davenport said. “The personal letter was what convinced me as it included comments regarding my time in his sophomore literature course.

“I was hooked. I never figured out how Dr. Noyes even remembered me.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter expressed gratitude for Davenport’s planned gift.

“The J.D. Williams Library is a hub of excellence for our university,” Vitter said. “It enables the superb quality of education that our students receive. As one of our most highly-valued resources, it can have a tremendous transformative effect on turning students into scholars and scholars into informed citizens who will make an impact on our world. ”

William Davenport

In high school, Davenport thought he wanted to become an electrical engineer until he took chemistry under an engaging teacher. He entered Ole Miss as a chemistry major but changed his focus once again after taking a required biology elective taught by the late Georgia St. Amand, whom he says was extremely inspiring.

“After that course, chemistry lost its luster to me, so I switched to biology,” Davenport remembers. “As a biology major, I encountered her husband, Dr. Wilbrod St. Amand, also in the biology department, who became a great mentor and friend to this day.”

Even then, UM’s personable atmosphere influenced Davenport’s life: His relationship with the St. Amands, as well as having the opportunity to be a teacher’s assistant in the biology labs, guided his decision to become an educator.

Davenport graduated from Ole Miss with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in biology in 1969 and 1971, respectively. He taught biology at Arkansas State University for a year before enrolling at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, where he earned a doctorate in 1976.

While completing his doctorate remotely, Davenport joined the UM Medical Center faculty and taught the first seven dental school classes from 1975 to 1982 before transferring to the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry in New Orleans, where he taught for the next 20 years.

“Serendipitously, in 2002, the opportunity came to come to UNLV in Las Vegas and help start the new dental school,” he said. “Salaries were very good, benefits even better. Thinking I would work a few years in Vegas and move on, but I blinked and here I am 16 years later.”

Davenport said he designated his planned gift for the library because he believes it is the center of knowledge, initially for the entering student and secondarily for the lifelong learner.

“The library is the seat of intellectualism,” he said. “I hope that my gift will provide the library with funds to contribute to the ever-changing technology and methodology that will attract and benefit the students that will be tomorrow’s leaders.”

Private gifts provide critical support to the library, more than ever as public institutions constantly struggle with budget issues, said Cecilia Botero, library dean. Gifts such as Davenport’s help the library cover costs associated with digital and paper subscriptions and increasing numbers of journals used as resources by students on a myriad of different career paths.

“I am so grateful that Dr. Davenport chose to support the library with his generous gift. It will help sustain our services in countless ways,” Botero said.

Though distance has kept Davenport from returning to campus, he fondly remembers his days at Ole Miss.

“I was there in Archie’s heyday. What could be more exciting than that!” Davenport exclaimed, adding that being in the Grove during football season was a special time as was participating in the Army ROTC band, being active in his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon, eating at Grundy’s and Mistilis, and bowling at Kiamie’s.

For information on designating a deferred gift to Ole Miss, contact Sandra Guest at 662-915-5208 or sguest@olemiss.edu. To support the J.D. Williams Library, contact Angela Barlow Brown at 662-915-3181 or ambarlow@olemiss.edu.

UMMC Earns National Telehealth Center of Excellence Designation

The standard of care and record of leadership at the Center for Telehealth has led to UMMC being named a Telehealth Center of Excellence. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

JACKSON, Miss. — For 14 years, the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been a national trailblazer in providing high-quality health care, especially for those with little access to both primary and specialty services.

Its leadership, body of work and mastery of telecommunications technology is being recognized by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The Medical Center has been designated one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence, the agency’s top award given only to programs at public academic medical centers.

“The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s successful program is already a model for national telehealth expansion,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “As a Center of Excellence, UMMC will be able to demonstrate to a broader audience how to use telehealth to increase patient access to care and decrease costs.

“Mississippians can be proud that our state’s telehealth investments have set a high standard for improving health care everywhere.”

The recognition from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was announced during an Oct. 5 news conference in Washington. It includes an initial $600,000 in funding, with the opportunity for an additional $2 million over two years.

The designation allows UMMC’s Center for Telehealth to serve as a national clearinghouse for telehealth research and resources, including technical assistance to other telehealth providers.

The Center for Telehealth connects patients and caregivers to Medical Center health care providers remotely, in real time, using video calls and interactive tools. More than 500,000 patient visits in 69 of the state’s 82 counties have been recorded since the center began with just three sites, expanding to more than 200 sites today, not including the homes of patients.

“UMMC’s selection as a national Telehealth Center of Excellence is affirmation of our mission and responsibility to bring high-quality health care to all Mississippians, especially those in rural, underserved areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“We look forward to using our experience to help advance best practices for this increasingly vital service.  I’m grateful for Senator Cochran’s support of our application.”

The Medical University of South Carolina was also selected as a Telehealth Center of Excellence.

Mississippians will directly benefit from the honor, said Michael Adcock, the Center for Telehealth’s executive director who joined the operation in 2015. The designation “sets us apart. We were selected because we have one of the most comprehensive telehealth programs in the country.”

Adcock said the designation allows the center to focus on four work areas: assessing the impact of telehealth on health care spending; creating new and/or refining payment methods; improving physician and patient awareness; and expanding its overall research portfolio.

“While our center has been able to show some impressive outcomes, we have not had the staff to focus on researching telehealth delivery models and outcome comparisons,” Adcock said.

“That is vital work that needs to be done, and we are well positioned to do it.  This funding and designation will allow us to build on our comprehensive program and develop the research to support further changes in models of delivery.”

The Telehealth Center of Excellence honor brings with it the responsibility to create a new knowledge base for telehealth through research, said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC professor of emergency medicine and associate vice chancellor for research. 

The grant funding “will help UMMC to build the infrastructure for research in telehealth and allow us to bring a national leadership to this emerging special area of medical practice,” he said.

The Center for Telehealth provides remote, on-site access to caregivers in more than 35 specialties, including urgent care, trauma, mental health, dermatology, cardiology, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care.  Pediatric telehealth specialties include remote concussion evaluation, cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, genetics and urology.

Telehealth nurse practitioners are stationed in the emergency departments of 17 rural Mississippi hospitals to treat patients via a multidisciplinary team that includes a certified emergency medicine physician on the UMMC campus.

And, the center recently debuted its “UMMC 2 You” online minor medical care program offered throughout Mississippi to those who are on the state employee insurance plan and their families. It’s also offered through select schools and companies.

“Our drive to address health care challenges with innovation is what has allowed us to be recognized as a leader in telehealth, nationally and internationally,” Adcock said.

Science Day Returns to UM Field Station

Researchers to host LOU community on Saturday, Oct. 7

The University’s Biological Field Station Photo by Robert Jordan

OXFORD, Miss. – Researchers from a variety of disciplines will share insights about their work and the environment of northeast Mississippi this weekend during Science Day at the University of Mississippi Field Station.

The event, set for from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 7), is designed for visitors ages 5 and up.  A $5 contribution per person will help to cover the cost of supplies for the day’s activities, including a beverage and snack for Science Day visitors.

“Science Day at the University of Mississippi Field Station has always been a fun and educational experience for all those who are curious about the natural world,” said Marjorie Holland, UM professor of biology and one of the coordinators of this year’s event.

Holland started Science Day in the 1990s and is leading this year’s revival of the educational afternoon after a hiatus of more than a decade.

“This year, presenters and demonstrations provide insights into current research underway throughout Oxford and give visitors a chance to chat one-on-one with investigators,” Holland said. “We look forward to welcoming numerous visitors to the station.”

The afternoon will include activities such as nature walks, demonstrations, exhibits and tours, offering a variety of options for participants.

Ole Miss faculty, staff and graduate students from the College of Liberal Arts, University Museum and School of Engineering, and well as from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Sedimentation Laboratory, are scheduled to speak about their respective fields.

“Science Day provides a wonderful opportunity for the college to share ‘nature’s lab’ with the community,” said Jan Murray, associate dean of College of Liberal Arts, which hosts the event.

“Our (presenters) and others have eagerly volunteered to share what they do with the families and community groups who visit on Science Day,” she said. “We hope you will join us for a day of exploration, observation and fun.”

The UM Field Station is a research facility that support studies in aquatic and terrestrial ecology. To reach the Field Station, go east on Highway 30 to Littlejohn’s store, turn north onto County Road 215 for 2 miles, then east for 6 miles on County Road 202 to 15 Road 2078.

For more information and pre-registration, contact Lele Gillespie at elgilles@olemiss.edu or call 662-915-1514. To learn about the Field Station, visit http://fieldstation.olemiss.edu.

CELI, Local Groups Help Little Free Library Program Grow

Partners add six new book exchanges in Lafayette County

Charline Hubbard (center), director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center, cuts the ribbon on a Little Free Library at the center as Meridith Wulff (left), youth specialist at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, and several students at the center watch. Also on hard are Angela Rutherford (third from right), director of the Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction; Suzanne Ryals, head of the LOU Reads Coalition; and Nancy Opalko, the library’s children’s librarian. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

OXFORD, Miss. – The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library has teamed up with the University of Mississippi Center for Excellence in Literacy Instruction and the LOU Reads Coalition to install six new Little Free Libraries in Lafayette County.

The small book exchanges, which operate on a “take a book, return a book” basis, are at Lafayette County fire stations in Harmontown and Paris and on Highway 30 East, as well as at Mary Cathey Head Start Center, Gordon Community and Cultural Center in Abbeville and in the Community Green neighborhood.

While three other officially registered Little Free Libraries have been set up in Oxford, including those at Avent Park and the Stone Center, several unofficial libraries exist in town. That’s why the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library, CELI and LOU Reads chose to focus their efforts on communities in the county.

“We know that it can be much harder for those who live in the outer reaches of the county to make it to the public library, and Little Free Libraries allow us to take a bit of the library to them,” said Nancy Opalko, children’s librarian and assistant branch manager at the Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library.

The libraries were built by Oxford resident and Ole Miss student Harriman Abernathy with materials donated by Elliott Lumber Co. Each library is overseen by an individual steward in that community who checks it weekly to ensure it is stocked and in good repair.

“We are so excited to have a Little Free Library here,” says Harmontown resident and First Regional Library staff member Randie Cotton, who serves as steward of the Little Free Library there.

“People can just grab a book for themselves or their kids on their way to and from work or church and bring them back when they’re done. It doesn’t get much easier than that!”

The libraries are stocked with books for both children and adults. Putting books in the hands of children is a priority for the library, CELI and LOU Reads. All three organizations are part of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a nationwide effort that focuses on grade-level reading by the end of third grade, an important predictor of school success and high school graduation.

One of the community’s newest Little Free Libraries is at Mary Cathey Head Start Center. Photo by David Brown/First Regional Library

In Mississippi, 74 percent of fourth-graders and 80 percent of eighth-graders scored below proficient in reading on the 2015 National Assessment of Education Progress.

“The Little Free Libraries make it easy for parents and caregivers to make reading and early literacy skills a fun part of everyday life starting at birth, which is critical to their children’s early development and how they do in school,” said Angela Rutherford, CELI director.

Besides books, the libraries contain information for parents and caregivers about how to use books and other resources to develop children’s early learning skills.

“This library really supplements all we do to promote family literacy every day by putting more books in the hands of our students and their caregivers,” said Charline Hubbard, director of the Mary Cathey Head Start Center. “They love having it here so they can just pick up or bring back a book as they come and go every day.”

Little Free Libraries are a global phenomenon, with more than 36,000 around the world in 70 countries. The Little Free Library nonprofit organization has been honored by the Library of Congress, the National Book Foundation and the American Library Association. Each year, nearly 10 million books are shared in Little Free Libraries.

To learn more, visit https://littlefreelibrary.org/.