Three UM Students from Oxford to Intern in Asia this Summer

Meredith Brown, Emma Scott, Daria Herasymova are part of new program funded by Freeman Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Meredith Brown and Emma Scott, both of Oxford, and Daria Herasymova, an exchange student from Ukraine who attended Oxford High School, are three of 17 University of Mississippi students who will be interning in East and Southeast Asia this summer, thanks to a substantial grant from the Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont.

Brown is a junior in the UM Patterson School of Accounting, where her major is accountancy, and she has a second major in Chinese. She has an internship with FedEx in Shanghai.

Scott is a freshman in the UM College of Liberal Arts, where she majors in international studies. She has an internship with K Star Live in Seoul, South Korea.

Herasymova is a junior in the UM School of Business, where her major is economics, and she has a second major in managerial finance. She has an internship with Evotech Capital in Shanghai.

Brown, Scott and Herasymova are among the inaugural members of the UM Experiential Learning in East Asia program at the university.

This $100,000 program allows selected undergraduates to complete a summer internship of at least eight weeks in summer 2018. Each 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 students’ respective Ole Miss schools.

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 co-founder 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 Freeman’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 efforts of the UM Croft Institute for International Studies to strengthen teaching about East Asia for more than 15 years.

This grant lets the Croft Institute and other participating campus units deliver on the university’s commitment to educate and engage global citizens and to support experiential learning, two core principles in the university’s Flagship Forward strategic plan. 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.

The goal is to make the UM Experiential Learning in Eastern Asia program a permanent feature at the university.

For more information about UM Experiential Learning in Eastern Asia, visit A more detailed news release about the program can be found here

Two Grandmothers Receive University’s Highest Academic Honor

From 'I can't go back to school' to earning Taylor Medals, new graduates aim to make a difference

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Lori Fain. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Lori Fain, of Sherman, and Brenda Raper, of Nettleton, are both busy mothers and grandmothers who not only spend time investing in their families but are beginning careers that also will allow them to invest in the lives of others in their community.

As students at the University of Mississippi at Tupelo, both ladies’ efforts are being honored this spring as recipients of 2018-19 Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medals.

Only the top 1 percent of all students enrolled at the university receives this award each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average to be considered and receive nominations from UM faculty.

“Brenda is truly one of those students I will never forget,” said Svjetlana Curcic UM associate professor of education. “We tend to assign a label of a ‘nontraditional student’ to those who enroll in college at a later day.

“In Brenda’s case, she has been a teacher of not only her own children, but other children in our community for years and by going back to school later in life, she has proven that she wants to become the best teacher she can be.”

Upon graduating from Itawamba Agricultural High School in 1980, Raper married and started working as a clerk at the Lee County Tax Collector’s office in Tupelo. She and her husband, Danny Samuel Raper, started a family and soon added three children to their home.

While raising children, she taught everything from 4-year old pre-K through fifth-grade classes in the private school housed at the Tupelo Children’s Mansion for 11 years. At the end of the 2012 academic year, the school program had to lay off employees, and Raper found herself at a crossroads.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and Brenda Raper. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“My husband encouraged me to go back to school and get my degree,” Raper said. “I told him that I didn’t think I could do that, but he was very supportive and encouraged me until I finally decided to try.”

So, in 2014 at age 52, she enrolled at Itawamba Community College and started her college career.

“I was very nervous, but on the first day everyone treated me kindly and like one of the other students,” she said. “I really enjoyed my classes and realized more and more that I was doing the right thing by going back to school.”

After excelling at ICC, Raper transferred to start her junior year of classes on the UM-Tupelo campus. During her time there, she stayed involved in student organizations and worked to maintain her 4.0 GPA.

This spring she served as a student teacher in a third-grade classroom at Rankin Elementary School in Tupelo.

“I just love seeing the students learn and grow,” Raper said. “It’s a special job that I feel I was made for.”

Fain attended East Union High School before getting married and moving to Washington in 1990. A few years later, she returned home to Sherman and earned her GED at ICC in 1993.

Her family soon began expanding with the addition of her four children. Throughout this time, she worked as a phlebotomist with United Blood Services and later as an office manager with a local dentist.

After a divorce and unexpected job loss, Fain began to experience financial issues.

Lori Fain celebrates winning a Taylor Medal, the highest academic honor at UM, with sons Adrian and Carson Hester. Submitted photo

“I lost everything,” she said. “I lost my house, my car, and had to move home with my mother. I had my pity party for about a year, until I decided I had to do something so I might as well get ahead.”

That’s when she decided to work toward earning her bachelor’s degree in social work.

Fain said she decided to major in social work because she wanted to help people who might find themselves in the same situations she had struggled with.

“People can get lost,” Fain said. “I want to help other people who may be going through some hard times just like I did.

“If I had known about some of the resources that were available to me, I might could have stayed in my house. I want to help people when they need it the most.”

During her senior year, Fain helped to organize a “Kids Fest” event at Ballard Park in Tupelo. The event had free games and prizes for children while raising awareness for child abuse prevention.

“Not only did Lori excel academically, she was a leader with peers,” said Shane Robbins, a social work instructor at the regional campus. “Her passion to help others and be a leader in this field has been evident throughout her time at UM.”

Brenda Raper (center, seated) celebrates winning a Taylor Medal, the highest academic honor at UM, with her family. Submitted photo

Because of Fain’s life experiences, she demonstrated a unique ability to problem-solve in real-world scenarios, said Jandel Crutchfield, an assistant professor of social work at UM-Tupelo.

“We need more social workers like Lori, who can use critical thinking to create the most effective interventions possible for their clients,” Crutchfield said. “I believe she will make an important impact in this field.”

Fain said she has learned so much about herself throughout her time at Ole Miss.

“Even though when I started college I knew I wanted to help people, through my studies and my internship experiences, I have learned a better way to look at myself and how to empathize with other people,” she said. “I’ve learned how to step out of my place and into someone else’s situation to work toward the best solution to meet their needs.”

Go Forth and Prosper: Croft Alumni Take on the World

Six graduates reflect on their experience

OXFORD, Miss. – On a Saturday afternoon in May 2001, the first five graduates of the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi received their diplomas. The group included the program’s very first graduate, Lauren Michelle Gent, a Gulfport native who had completed her degree in May 2000.

The ceremony was short. The graduates and guests gathered in the Joseph C. Bancroft Conference Room in the newly renovated Croft building. There were congratulatory remarks. Then the five students – Gent, along with Julie Anna Newton, Martine Louise Schaefer, Jenny Christine Senften and Emily Melissa Sindelar – were presented their diplomas. A reception followed.

Two decades later, as the institute celebrates the 20th anniversary of its 1998 opening, Croft boasts 520 alumni, including 33 who are set to graduate Saturday (May 12).

Croft was established in 1997 by a generous gift and funded annually by the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund. Each class has fulfilled Croft’s mission of broadening the international horizon, with students and alumni traveling around the world, from the Siberian pine forests of Russia to the shining metropolis of Accra, Ghana, to the towering skyscrapers in the financial heart of Hong Kong.

It is not easy to describe a “typical” Croft alumni, but the institute’s selective admission, exceptional academic program, small classes and first-rate facilities – along with the requirement that Croft students study abroad for at least one semester – attract motivated and intelligent students who leave the institute prepared to succeed on the global stage.

“From the inception of Croft, the overarching goal of its curriculum for the international studies major was to educate students who knew how to navigate an increasingly interconnected world,” said Oliver Dinius, Croft executive director and associate professor of history. “The pillars of the curriculum are learning a foreign language, studying one world region in depth and gaining a broad understanding of global dynamics.

“The foreign language is a tool for communication, but its study also provides an understanding of the cultural context. Taking courses in history, social science and economics about a region and beyond trains the ability to analyze problems from multiple perspectives, an essential skill in today’s global market.

“The signature elements of our curriculum – the mandatory semester of study abroad and the writing of a senior thesis – reinforce the commitment to the foreign language and to research-based analysis, and they also serve as the proof that our students are ready to go out into the world as global citizens.”

According to Croft, 55 percent of its graduates are employed in the private sector, with other alumni working in the public sector, nonprofits or education. Those in the private sector hold jobs in banking, finance, insurance and accounting; law; media, marketing and public relations; and other fields such as business and manufacturing, consulting and lobbying, and technology.

Public sector occupations include serving in the military, working for the U.S. Department of State or Congress, and being employed in various federal, state and local government agencies. Croft graduates working for nonprofits run the gamut, from the arts and education to international development and human rights.

About half of Croft alumni in the education field are professors, teachers and researchers, while the other half are administrators.

No two Croft alumni stories are alike. Here are six examples of what Croft alumni do:

Chris Lamont

Chris Lamont, Class of 2002 

Associate professor of international relations at Tokyo International University in Tokyo

Originally from Houston, Texas, Lamont attended the Croft Institute because of “a strong interest in international affairs.”

“Given the program’s focus on languages and study abroad, I thought it was a perfect fit,” he said.

What he found at Croft was a strong interdisciplinary foundation in international studies and rigorous research training, and the opportunity to study abroad, which he did in Croatia. That study abroad experience led to a Fulbright Program scholarship that allowed him to spend a year in Zagreb, Croatia, researching post-conflict justice processes in the former Yugoslavia, which ultimately led him to continue working on the topic for years to come.

“Pretty much every member of the Croft faculty encouraged me to embrace research interests that would remain with me throughout my career,” Lamont said. “The interdisciplinary focus of the major helped give me a broader foundation in international relations that went far beyond the narrow discipline specific training that is offered elsewhere.

“Also, Croft provided me with an opportunity to begin to gain early experience conducting fieldwork and to carry out my own research that would later allow me to get a head start on my Ph.D. dissertation research.”

Daniel Booth

Daniel Booth, Class of 2005 

Worldwide account manager at FedEx in Memphis

Booth, a native of Amory, does not hold back when talking about how Croft affected his life and career.

“Every class, professor and teacher had a positive impact on my life,” he said. “I truly believe the Croft Institute is one of the best undergraduate programs in the international studies field. Dr. Michael Metcalf, Dr. Peter Frost, Dr. Kees Gispen and Dr. Holly Reynolds all come to mind as being extremely impactful on my education and development.”

Also a licensed customs broker, Booth works for a global company that serves more than 220 countries and territories with more than 500,000 team members, moving more than 12 million packages a day.

Having a Croft degree positioned Booth for working on the international stage.

“For much of my life, I had a passion for all things international and different cultures,” he said. “I work with individuals inside of FedEx and customers all over the globe each and every day, and I have been afforded amazing travel opportunities. … I believe my international studies education and study abroad experience through Croft created a great foundation for me to be successful in my career.”

Susan Hedglin

Susan Lawrence Hedglin, Class of 2009 

Consultant for oncology research and development, and finance with Eli Lilly and Co. in Indianapolis

Growing up in Madison in the 1990s, Hedglin witnessed the daily headlines of a changing world, she said, from the post-Soviet economic transitions in Russia to China’s accession to the World Trade Organization in 2001.

She entered Croft because she was drawn to government and policy, had several friends who went through Croft and raved about it, and knew of the program’s sterling academic reputation.

After graduation, Hedglin gravitated toward business instead of government, but her Croft education is always with her. Her consulting position includes quickly processing data from current events to policy changes to large amounts of internal company information. Croft’s rigorous academics prepared her for that.

Plus, her studies gave her extra benefits.

“I always love the look on people’s faces when I tell them I speak Mandarin Chinese,” she said. “They ask, ‘Where did you learn that?’ and the jaws drop when I say, ‘the University of Mississippi.’

“Even though I am based in the U.S., I work at a multinational company with business partners from around the world. Having knowledge of their background and culture helps me build effective relationships. Lots of people are curious about the world, but Croft helps students see it – and process it – in depth at a young age. It’s a valuable foundation to build a career on.”

Cooper Reves

Cooper Reves, Class of 2010 

Digital director for the office of U.S. Sen. John McCain in Washington, D.C.

Reves’ introduction to international studies started in high school in Madison, where he took a course on Chinese history and Mandarin.

“I learned a deep appreciation for cultures outside my own, and I wanted to continue exploring that curiosity into my college career,” he said. “Thankfully, Ole Miss offered an incredible program in international relations at the Croft Institute that I was able to take advantage of.”

But Reves’ education at Croft went beyond the borders of China; he learned history, economics and how to appreciate differences among cultures.

“But most of all, the Croft Institute taught me analytical reasoning skills that I have been able to adapt into my career in campaign politics and digital organizing,” he said. “No matter what you do after college, the skills you learn debating world issues with your fellow classmates in the Croft building will serve you in any capacity.

“At the Croft Institute, I developed the intellectual self-confidence necessary to thrive in the political world. I also know that the historical perspective on current world events that Croft teaches has been directly applicable to my work. Though I work in American politics, the historical echoes of our current political environment are undeniable, and being well-versed in recent world history has proven to be indispensable.”

Deeneaus Polk

Deeneaus Polk, Class of 2011 

Director of the Mississippi Apprenticeship Program for the Mississippi Community College Board in Jackson

While at Pascagoula High School, Polk spent time in Germany and decided there that he wanted to become ambassador to that country in the future. To reach that goal one day, Polk was drawn to Croft because he knew the strong interdisciplinary program would challenge him.

Still working toward his dream, Polk will begin working on a master’s degree in public policy this fall at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government on a full scholarship. The Pascagoula native said the Croft Institute is a large reason why.

In 2015, Polk became the first Mississippian to land an exclusive German Chancellor Fellowship that took him to Germany for a year of study and research, during which he sought to contextualize the German Vocational Education System to fit within Mississippi.

“There are two individuals who are no longer part of Croft that I would love to express gratitude towards,” he said. “I didn’t grow up with much and was the first in my family to go to college, but Dr. Michael Metcalf saw past all of that and urged me to apply to the Croft Institute while I was still in high school.

“Similarly, Dr. Kees Gispen implored me to apply to Croft. … He challenged me to dig deeper in expanding my academic capacity, because passion is only beneficial for others if it is refined and purposeful in its intent.”

Elizabeth Romary, Class of 2017 

English teacher with Peace Corps in Namibia

Only a year removed from her Croft studies, Romary is roughly 7,500 miles from her home of Hillsborough, North Carolina, teaching English and natural science at a primary school to sixth- and seventh-graders at a village in the southern African nation of Namibia.

Her teaching adventure in Namibia is partly because of Dinius, she said.

“Without Dr. Dinius’ guidance, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “So I am grateful for everything he taught me during my four years at Croft. I hope that I’m making him proud.”

Romary’s interest in international studies is an equation that includes an interest in international events, politics, cultures and languages from an early age.

“When I learned about the Croft Institute, I instantly knew that this was the program for me,” she said. “I loved the fact that we would be completely immersed in a language, get to broaden our global horizons on multiple levels and have the opportunity to study abroad in a different part of the world.”

Croft’s foreign language requirement came in handy when Romary was assigned by the Peace Corps to learn Khoekhoegowab, a local language that contains “clicking” sounds.

“It was an incredibly difficult yet rewarding process, and I feel that the language practice I had in Croft helped me to prepare for the classes I took here,” she said.

To read more about Croft alumni, visit

UM Students Sweep Public Relations Association of Mississippi Awards

Twelve Ole Miss students honored out of 14 winners, including Best in Show

Students Prepare for Careers through New York and D.C. Internships

UM program offers insight, connections and course credit

UM students share their experiences from the Washington and New York Internship Experiences program with Chancellor Jeffery Vitter (left) at the Lyceum. Joining Vitter are (from left) Graham White of Biloxi; Harris Ormecher of Austin, Texas; Gabriella Berlanti of Bradenton, Florida; Divya Gosain of Clinton; and Jesse Webb of Atlanta.

UM students share their experiences from the Washington and New York Internship Experiences program with Chancellor Jeffery Vitter (left) at the Lyceum. Joining Vitter are (from left) Graham White of Biloxi; Harris Ormecher of Austin, Texas; Gabriella Berlanti of Bradenton, Florida; Divya Gosain of Clinton; and Jesse Webb of Atlanta.

OXFORD, Miss. – Learning more about personal strengths and weaknesses is a big part of the college experience. The University of Mississippi‘s Washington, D.C., and New York Internship Experience programs in the Division of Outreach is helping more students have those learning experiences.

“Students involved in this program can gain so much from the real-world experience,” Chancellor Jeffery Vitter said. “An internship in the field they are interested in can really help them get the most out of their summer break.”

From attending the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to helping uncover the next New York Times best-seller, UM students who participated in the 2016 Internship Experience Program each had their own extraordinary moments. They shared these highlights recently with Vitter and program faculty during a special presentation in the Lyceum.

“The program is a two-way pipeline between these cities and our university,” said Laura Antonow, UM internship experience program director. “Our students get the opportunity to work with successful UM alumni in their field of interest. In return, these alumni have the opportunity to stay connected to the students and happenings on our campus.”

Networking and gaining professional experience are key roles of the program, which also helps students earn UM academic credit while they intern in a large metropolitan city. The 2016 class consisted of juniors and seniors majoring in criminal justice, public policy leadership, computer science, psychology, exercise science, political science, journalism and marketing.

Gabriella Berlanti, an Ole Miss junior from Bradenton, Florida, interned with Interpol Washington.

“It wasn’t as James Bond as everyone thought, but it was still very exciting,” she said.

Berlanti worked in the transnational organized crime unit, particularly the violent crimes division.

“We sent out notices around the world about violent criminals, their activities and whereabouts,” she said. “It was such an amazing learning experience.”

Berlanti is double-majoring in criminal justice and psychology with a minor in intelligence studies. During her internship, the bombings in Paris became a major topic within her workplace.

“After that incident, our supervisors decided that all personnel needed to participate in active shooter response training,” Berlanti said. “It was pretty eye-opening, and I learned when and how to run, hide or fight if needed.”

Berlanti shared housing and participated in group tours and events with fellow UM students interning in the nation’s capital. They included Linda Bardha of Tirana, Albania; Patricia DeFelice of Southaven; Allison Hemmer of Tuscola, Illinois; Harris Ormecher of Austin, Texas; Emily McKee of Dyersburg, Tennessee; and Camille Walker of Tupelo.

UM senior Linda Bardha, a computer science major from Tirana, Albania, spent her summer serving as an intern in Washington with the broadcasting organization Voice of America. VOA is funded by the U.S. government and works to supply accurate, balanced and comprehensive information to an international audience.

UM senior Linda Bardha, a computer science major from Tirana, Albania, spent her summer serving as an intern in Washington with the broadcasting organization Voice of America. VOA is funded by the U.S. government and works to supply accurate, balanced and comprehensive information to an international audience.

Interning with Washington, D.C., shadow Sen. Paul Strauss was an interesting lesson in the political world for Ormecher, who helped host town hall meetings to gauge the concerns of constituents in the D.C. area. He was also involved in the New Columbia Statehood Initiative, tracking policy to help the District of Columbia gain autonomy.

“Mr. Strauss does not have actual voting privileges in the Senate, but he is playing an integral role in making sure the needs and concerns of D.C. citizens are heard,” Ormecher said.

Five UM students headed to New York City over Memorial Day weekend for welcome week events and tours to get them acclimated. The group enjoyed a tour at Fox News headquarters and a meet-and-greet with Ole Miss journalism alumnus Shepard Smith.

Graham White, a senior marketing major from Biloxi, spent the summer interning at the White Space Group, a marketing and digital rebranding company in New York.

“It was eye-opening to be a part of important sales meetings and learn how branding happens on the front end of promotion,” White said. “I learned more about the fast-paced atmosphere of the marketing world.

“Being a part of this program showed me the importance of getting outside of your comfort zone and how beneficial it can be if you do that.”

Divya Gosain, an Ole Miss junior from Clinton, also worked in the city this summer. She is majoring in psychology with a minor in business and has taken a particular interest in industrial and organizational psychology to study human behavior in the workplace.

“By interning with the Interdependence Project, I helped with research to see if meditation during the workday had any effect on the increased productivity of employees,” Gosain said.

She also interned with the law firm of Dewan and Associates, hoping to learn more about employment law and legal issues concerning various workplace settings.

UM senior Harris Ormecher, a marketing major from Austin, Texas, attended the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this summer as part of his work with Washington, D.C., shadow senator Paul Strauss.

Graham White, a senior marketing major from Biloxi, lived in Brooklyn, New York, this summer as he participated in the UM New York Internship Experience Program. He served as a marketing intern for the White Space Group, a digital rebranding company.

“I definitely have a new perspective due to these experiences,” Gosain said. “I believe I have grown personally and professionally. I am more motivated than I was before. I want to be more involved in campus activities now because I just feel more comfortable with putting myself out there and getting to know people.”

Jesse Webb, a senior marketing major from Atlanta and member of UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is interested in a career in publishing. He was accepted for an internship with the Inkwell Management Literary Agency.

“I feel that as a publisher, I could play a part in our culture and help effect it in a positive way,” Webb said. “I received feedback on reports I was asked to write that helped me learn how to discuss writing better. I got to see the process of how a manuscript becomes a published and marketed book from the very beginning.”

Webb read more than 30 manuscripts and queries, helped to plan a book tour for a new publication about yachting and learned about international contracts and the auction process.

“It was a neat experience to think I might have played a tiny part in helping to get an interesting book to the public,” Webb said. “I’m really happy to have had this experience.”

Also, interning in New York this summer were Lynley-Love Jones of Oxford and Breanna Lomax of Indianapolis.

The university’s Washington and New York Internship Program is taking applications for spring and summer 2017 participants. Juniors and seniors interested in the program should visit The deadline to apply is Nov. 11.

Three UM Students Accepted into Rural Physician Scholarship Program

Scholars agree to serve four years in small Mississippi communities after graduation

Cal Wilkerson, Kaleb Barnes, and Judi Beth McMillen have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Cal Wilkerson, Kaleb Barnes, and Judi Beth McMillen have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

JACKSON, Miss – Kaleb Barnes of Booneville and Judi Beth McMillen of Mantachie, juniors at the University of Mississippi, along with Cal Wilkerson, a senior from Woodville, have been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Barnes is the son of Rodney and Melissa Barnes, McMillen is the daughter of Tracy and Michelle McMillen, and Wilkerson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. David Wilkerson.

Created in 2007, MRPSP identifies college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become competent, well-trained rural primary care physicians in the state. The program offers undergraduate academic enrichment and a clinical experience in a rural setting.

Upon completion of all medical school admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the UM School of Medicine or William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine.

During medical school, each MRPSP scholar is under consideration for $30,000 per year, based on available funding.

Consistent legislative support of MRPSP translates to 60 medical students receiving a total of $1.8 million to support their education this fall. Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support.

Upon completion of medical training, MRPSP scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics.

Each MRPSP scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 20,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

MRPSP provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn a seat in medical school, receive MCAT preparation, earn a $120,000 medical school scholarship in return for four years of service and learn the art of healing from practicing rural physicians.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRPSP associate director, at 601-815-9022 or, or go to

Booneville Campus Student Honored with Taylor Medal

Summer Sharplin continues family tradition in education field

Summer Shaplin with Chancellor Vitter Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss CommunicationsUniversity of Mississippi-Booneville campus senior, Summer Shaplin of Ripley, received UM's highest academic award, the Taylor Medal during the Honors Convocation Ceremony held April 7 on the Oxford campus. UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Shaplin during the annual Taylor Medalist dinner held that evening.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Summer Sharplin, a senior on the university’s Booneville regional campus who received UM’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal, during the April 7 Honors Convocation on the Oxford campus.

OXFORD, Miss. – Summer Sharplin, a senior majoring in elementary education at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, has been awarded the university’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal, during the annual Honors Convocation, which was April 7 on the Oxford campus.

She is the daughter of Tony and Tammy Sharplin of Ripley. Attending the awards ceremony with Sharplin were her mother and her 84-year-old grandmother, Thelma Rutherford of New Site. Rutherford herself taught elementary school for 35 years in northeast Mississippi.

“I was so proud to have my grandmother with me,” Sharplin said. “She has been my personal teacher my entire life. I hope I become half the teacher she was.”

For many years, Sharplin has heard the good, the bad and the funny stories from one of the many professional educators in her family.

University of Mississippi-Booneville campus senior Summer Shaplin of Ripley (right) with her grandmother and mentor Thelma Rutherford of New Site during the UM Honors Convocation ceremonies held April 7 on the Oxford campus. Shaplin credits her grandmother with inspiring her to become a teacher.

Summer Sharplin of Ripley (right) visits with her grandmother and mentor Thelma Rutherford of New Site after the UM Honors Convocation. Sharplin credits her grandmother with inspiring her to become a teacher.

The family legacy of excellence in education began when her grandmother and grandfather met while serving as teachers in Marietta. They soon married and started their family while continuing to teach. Her grandfather eventually became superintendent of Tippah County Schools.

Her cousin, Mary Margaret King of New Albany, was honored as Mississippi’s “Teacher of the Year” in 2014 for her work at New Albany High School.

“My mom tells about a time that her dad was actually her history teacher and he threw an eraser at her for talking during class,” Sharplin recalled.

Even though she hadn’t until recently considered pursuing a career as a teacher herself, she became drawn to the profession.

“If anyone had asked me before, I never would have said I was considering becoming a teacher,” Sharplin said. “I really thought I would like to work in the medical profession. I shadowed a few friends who were working in various medical jobs, and I realized it just wasn’t for me.”

Sharplin did, however, enjoy music. She had an opportunity to sing the national anthem at different local and regional events, including a Memphis Redbirds baseball game. Then she began taking courses at the UM Booneville campus.

“I enrolled in the ‘Music for Children’ class at Ole Miss, and I was hooked,” Sharplin said. “It was then that I knew I had made the right choice to alter my career plans.”

Sharplin is interning as a student teacher for a sixth-grade math class at Hills Chapel School in Booneville.

“At first, I was a little leery of teaching math because I have enjoyed teaching English more,” she said. “I think my professors wanted me to challenge myself, and I am so glad that they did. I’m really enjoying it. I want to be confident in every subject area.”

Sharplin said that the students she works with each day are her favorite part of teaching.

“It is just so special to watch a student really grasp a concept we are presenting to them,” she said. “I get to be their guide and help them to comprehend the subject matter. There’s really not another feeling like this.”

Virginia Moore, an associate professor of education on the university’s Tupelo and Booneville regional campuses, noticed Sharplin’s commitment to not only her own education, but to the education of the students she worked with during her practicum experiences.

“Summer demonstrates strong leadership abilities and a strong devotion to the teaching profession,” Moore said. “After observing her work in the college setting, I believe she is an exemplary student and one who represents high personal and teaching standards we expect of an Ole Miss student in teacher education.”

Those qualities led Moore to nominate Sharplin this spring for the Taylor Medal.

Established in 1904 in memory of Marcus Elvis Taylor of Booneville, an honored 1871 UM alumnus, Taylor Medals recognize no more than 0.45 percent of all undergraduates, regardless of campus, for meritorious scholarship and deportment. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average.

Sharplin was also inducted into the Kappa Delta Phi education honor society and the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi national academic honor society this spring.

“Summer is extremely passionate about education,” Moore said. “She is motivated and works to keep her students engaged. We are pleased that she has received this honor. She is very deserving.”

Even though she feels she has found the right career path, Sharplin plans to keep learning and hopefully obtain a graduate degree in education.

“I have some big shoes to fill,” she said.

For more information about programs offered at the University of Mississippi at Booneville, go to

UM Senior Prepping for International Service

Outstanding general studies student working toward education to serve others

UM Outstanding Student in the BGS program, Connor Edwards, with his 7th and 8th grade students in Satun, Thailand where he first taught English during the summer of 2014.

Connor Edwards (center), the UM Outstanding Student in the BGS program, with his seventh- and eighth-grade students in Satun, Thailand, where he first taught English during the summer of 2014.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Although University of Mississippi senior Connor Edwards is from a small town – Pickens, in Holmes County – he has his sights set on some big-world experiences and has set his future in motion with the goal of helping people on the other side of the world.

A transfer student from Holmes Community College, Edwards has excelled during his time at UM. He recently was named the 2016 Outstanding Senior in the Bachelor of General Studies degree program as well as the class marshall. He will deliver an address during the university’s May 14 graduation ceremonies.

“I knew Connor was a remarkable young man when I began recruiting him to transfer to Ole Miss,” said Jason McCormick, a UM development officer and former community college admissions counselor.

Edwards earned the prestigious Lyceum Scholarship when he transferred to the Oxford campus  to begin his junior year in fall 2014. When he arrived at Ole Miss, he was considering a career in the medical profession, but a summer trip to Thailand changed his mind.

“I spent the summer before coming to Ole Miss as an English teacher for seventh- and eighth-graders in Thailand, and my whole mindset changed,” Edwards explained. “I wanted my future career to be one where I could help change people’s lives for the better. That is when I decided that completing a well-rounded education would be of great use to me in the real world.”

Edwards changed his major to a specialized BGS degree. The BGS program at UM is a cross-disciplinary degree plan offered to maximize opportunities for individuals who want to reach personal goals, meet job requirements and advance their careers. Students can choose any three minors offered at the university and create a specialized educational path.

“By changing my major, I was able to study things I was interested in, like language and philosophy,” he said.

Edwards’ degree comprises minors in biology, chemistry and religion.

“I had taken many science classes preparing for the medical field,” he said. “These classes helped me learn to think through problems and really examine situations in a thorough way. I’m grateful for the skills I learned.”

The travel bug had bitten and in the summer of 2015, Edwards headed back overseas to teach English to college students in Japan.

When he returned, he helped start the “Global Café” on the Oxford campus to give international students an opportunity to meet and foster friendships with American students.

“I enjoy languages and learning about different world-views,” Edwards said. “It’s exciting to see communication and friendship come out of our exchanges. It has really been a learning experience for me to find ways to connect with others even when we are speaking a different language.”

When Edwards returned to campus following his Japan visit, his learning didn’t stop. He dove into a strenuous senior year of courses and continued to achieve. His hard work paid off as he was selected to receive membership in the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society in November.

“The significance of this honor is that it recognizes Connor’s school and service work as being at the highest level for a college student,” said Tony Ammeter. UM dean of general studies.

Upon graduation in May, Edwards plans to pursue his master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.

“I think this career path will be very rewarding,” Edwards said. “I can help others learn a new skill that could possibly improve their future.”

McCormick said he has stayed in touch with Edwards since his arrival in Oxford and has been especially proud of his work with international students.

“Connor is the definition of a servant leader; you don’t find kids like him every day,” McCormick said. “We were lucky to have him at Ole Miss. He really found his niche working with international students, and he’s a great ambassador for Ole Miss.

“A unique student like Connor has reached out and done a great job welcoming others into the university.”

For more information about the BGS program at UM, visit

Posters in the Rotunda Event to Showcase Student Research

Three UM students to present Thursday at state Capitol

OXFORD, Miss. – Students from all eight of Mississippi’s public universities, including three from the University of Mississippi, will share their research and creative activities on topics ranging from health care to cultural heritage to agribusiness with legislators and state leaders at Posters in the Rotunda, set for Thursday (March 24) in the Rotunda of the state Capitol.

The students will show how their research solves some of Mississippi’s most pressing problems and benefits the citizens of the state. The UM students presenting in the Posters in the Rotunda event are:

 Katelyn Allen, a chemistry major from Hernando who studies on the Oxford campus. Allen, who plans to attend dental school at UM, is researching the physical properties of newly developed halogen bond donors using Raman spectroscopy and electronic structure theory, toward the development of advanced materials for solar cell and drug delivery applications.

 Benita Williams, a medical laboratory science major from Jackson who studies at the Medical Center. Williams, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Health Sciences at UM and become a researcher, is involved in research related to identification of molecular markers released during trauma, to help early diagnosis of patient with sepsis.

 James Robinson, a general engineering (pre-med) student from Covington, Louisiana, who studies at the Oxford campus. Robinson, who plans to become a physician and go into sports medicine, is involved in research investigating the immediate and cumulative effects of soccer heading on brain injury, toward improving awareness and coaching practices to change concussion culture in youth and women’s sports.

The event provides opportunities for legislators to visit with students from their districts, allows students to network with one other as they learn about work on other campuses, and showcases the cutting edge research conducted by undergraduates that benefits the residents of Mississippi.

“We are very excited about the event and hope it will share with the legislators and public the incredible research projects conducted by undergraduates at all eight public universities in the state,” said Marie Danforth, chair of the steering committee for the Center for Undergraduate Research at the University of Southern Mississippi and coordinator of the event.

“We are very proud that undergraduates were integral to many aspects of the launch, including the creation of the Posters in the Rotunda logo as well as designing the website and placing it in operation.”

Modeled after the Posters on the Hill event in which students from across the country share their work in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Mississippi’s Posters in the Rotunda event is similar to ones held in 17 other states. The posters will be on display in the Capitol Rotunda from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Scheduled speakers include Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and Commissioner of Higher Education Glenn Boyce, with introductions given by Gordon Cannon, vice president for research at the University of Southern Mississippi.

A proclamation of support will be given in the House Chamber at 10 a.m. and in the Senate Chamber at 10:30. Senate Concurrent Resolution 606 designates March 24, 2016, as “Undergraduate Research Day in Mississippi” to emphasize the value of scholarly inquiry and the application of research to the education of future leaders. The resolution has been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

“Students who generate their own research projects at the undergraduate level gain firsthand experience in identifying topics that merit investigation, designing and executing detailed research plans, applying for grant funding, and communicating their findings both in writing and via conference-style presentations,” said Rodney D. Bennett, president of the University of Southern Mississippi.

“These experiences strengthen their work ethic and time-management skills. Participating students are also better prepared for rigorous graduate school courses and have a higher level of confidence in their ability to succeed in master’s, specialist’s and doctoral programs.”

More information on the Posters in the Rotunda event is available at

Ten Seniors Awarded Hall of Fame Honors

Recipients chosen for academic achievement, community service and potential for success

Hall of Fame 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Hall of Fame 2016. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi seniors have earned membership in the school’s 2015-2016 Hall of Fame, one of the university’s highest honors.

The Hall of Fame inductees were honored Friday (March 4) in a ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Recipients are chosen by a committee in accordance with ASB policy, with selections based on a student’s academic achievement, community service and potential for future success.

New Hall of Fame members are Brady Bramlett of Memphis, Rod Bridges of Madison, Jeremy Coleman of Jackson, Maia Cotelo of Oxford, Joe Curry of Stringer, Ann-Marie Herod of Abbeville, William Kneip of Mobile, Alabama, Justavian Tillman of Bruce, Debra Whitley of Natchez, and Elizabeth Wicks of Ocean Springs.

“We commend these outstanding students for their impressive accomplishments both in and out of the classroom,” said Morris Stocks, provost and executive vice chancellor. “We anticipate great successes for these young men and women, both professionally and academically. We also know that our Hall of Famers will contribute to the betterment of society.”

The 10 students, along with 150 other Ole Miss seniors, were also recognized for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. They are to be listed in the national publication’s 2016 edition.

Brady Bramlett. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Brady Bramlett. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Bramlett is a biological science major, a pitcher for the Ole Miss Rebels baseball team and a tenor in the UM Concert Singers and Men’s Glee groups. He is president of Ole Miss Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and vice chair of the NCAA Division I SAAC. He is a member of NCAA Division I Strategic Vision and Planning Committee and a council member of NCAA Minorities Opportunities and Interests Committee. He is an SEC representative for Autonomy Five legislation and in the National Collegiate Honor Society. He also was a member of the Ole Miss Concert Singers European tour that included performances in Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic. Bramlett is a seven-time Ole Miss Scholar Athlete and a three-time SEC academic honor roll recipient. After graduation, he plans to enroll in the university’s MBA program and then pursue a career in athletics administration. His parents are Bobby and Amy Bramlett of Bartlett, Tennessee.

Rod Bridges. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Rod Bridges. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Bridges, a public policy leadership major, is president of the Associated Student Body, a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a Trent Lott Institute scholar. He is an officer for the Kappa Alpha Order fraternity and received the UM Outstanding Student Higher Education Award for 2016. Bridges is in Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. He received the ASB Senator of the Year Award in 2014 and the UM Freshmen Leader of the Year Award in 2013. After graduation, he plans to attend Officer Candidacy School. His parents are Roddy Bridges of Madison and London and Thomas Wagner of Coos Bay, Oregon.

Jeremy Coleman. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Jeremy Coleman. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

A biological science major, Coleman was chief of staff for the Black Student Union’s vice president and treasurer for the university’s Gospel Choir. He is an Ole Miss Ambassador, a member of the Columns Society, treasurer for Men of Excellence and has been a reporter for The Daily Mississippian student newspaper. Coleman was on the committee that opened the Ole Miss Food Bank. He received the Segal AmeriCorps Education award for serving more than 300 hours of community service at the food bank and the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi. After graduation, he plans to attend veterinary school and wants to open a small animal clinic and, eventually, an animal rescue center to protect endangered species. His parents are LaShaundra Coleman and Boris Thomas of Jackson. 

Maia Cotelo. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Maia Cotelo. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Cotelo has a triple major in international studies, economics and mathematics. She is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a Croft Institute scholar. A founding member of the RebelTHON dance marathon, she was the event’s 2016 executive director. She received the World Cup Initiative Grant and was the Portuguese Outstanding Student of the year from 2013 to 2015. She is a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. She is also on Mortar Board and is recipient of a Taylor Medal, the university’s highest academic award. After graduation, Cotelo plans to take a year to travel and then pursue a career in the nonprofit sector. She is the daughter of Enrique and Irene Cotelo of Oxford.

Joe M. Curry II. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Joe M. Curry II. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Curry is an accountancy major and a Columns Society member. He was an orientation leader for two years, a University Judicial Council member and an Ole Miss Ambassador. He was president of the UM National Pan-Hellenic Council and is a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, where he served as the Nu Upsilon chapter president and dean of new membership. Curry was a freshmen council member and mentor, and is a Student Activities Association member. He has volunteered at More than a Meal, Oxford Veteran’s Home, Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi, UM Food Bank and Habitat of Humanity. He has participated in RebelTHON, the Big Event and the Green Grove Initiative. Curry has been on the Chancellor’s and Dean’s list. After graduation, he plans to pursue a master’s degree in taxation from the Patterson School of Accountancy. His parents are Joe Curry of Bay Springs and Shirley Curry of Stringer.

Ann-Marie Herod. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Ann-Marie Herod. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

A broadcast journalism and African-American studies major, Herod has received the Gannett Freedom Forum Scholarship, the Robert Williams Minority Scholarship, the Daniel Phillips Memorial Scholarship and the D. Landrum & C T Hill Scholarship. Not only is she a College Corp member under AmeriCorps, but she is also a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award recipient. She has served as vice president and president of the university’s Association for Black Journalists, and as public relations and community service director for the Black Student Union. She has been a senator and co-director of inclusion for the Associated Student Body, an Ole Miss Ambassador, an Ole Miss Athletics Ambassador and a member of the Freshmen Council. Herod is a journalist and recording secretary for the Lambda Sigma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and vice president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council. With the Wesley Foundation, she did missionary work in Honduras. She has worked with the Horizons Summer Enrichment Program as a mentor and teacher’s aide and was involved with the UM Association for Black Journalist Mentor Program with the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi. After graduation, Herod plans to teach with Teach for America in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Her parents are Dr. James and Ann Herod of Abbeville.

William Kneip. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

William Kneip. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Kneip is a public policy leadership major and member of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. He was elected Mr. Ole Miss for the 2015-2016 school year. He is the president of Phi Delta Theta fraternity and holds the title of 2015 IFC President of the Year. He is the president of the Mississippi Columns Society and a member of Lambda Sigma and Omicron Delta Kappa honor societies. Kneip was also co-director of finance and fundraising for the Big Event. After graduation, he plans to work at the UM Foundation. His parents are Edward and Tori Kneip of Mobile, Alabama.

Justavian Tillman. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Justavian Tillman. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Tillman is majoring in general studies with minors in education, English and journalism, and is on the Chancellor’s Honor Roll. He is president of the Black Student Union and the Men of Excellence, and was the university’s Gospel Choir president for 2014-2015. He is the UM Association of Black Journalist secretary, on the Associated Student Body Inclusion Committee, Vice Chancellor Advisory Council and Black History Month Planning Committee. He is also on the Office of the Dean of Students Leadership Development Committee and Insight Leadership Advisory Council. Tillman is an African-American Male Retaining, Enrolling and Graduating Ambassador, Fastrack Peer Mentor, and a student worker for the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. He interned at Brown University for the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International. He has worked as a volunteer for the Big Event, More Than a Meal, Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi and LeapFrog. He is in Sigma Alpha Lambda honor society, is a UM Opportunity Scholar and is in the National Undergraduate Fellowship Program. After graduation, he plans to obtain a master’s degree in higher education/student personnel. He is the son of Sesame Hall and grandson of Nancy Hall of Bruce.

Debra Whitley. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Debra Whitley. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Whitley, a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, is majoring in integrated marketing communications. She is a member of the Black Student Union and Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. Whitley is in the Student Alumni Council and UM Gospel Choir and was on Freshmen Council. She is a MOST mentor and has worked with More Than a Meal and Leap Frog, and is an Episcopal Kids Community volunteer. She was also an Ole Miss Women’s Council scholar. After graduation, she plans to move to Texas to pursue a career in marketing or public relations. Her parents are the late Robert Whitley and Connie Whitley of Natchez.

Elizabeth Wicks. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Elizabeth Wicks. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

An international studies and French major, Wicks is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where she was a senator, and the Croft Institute, where she was a senator and vice chair for social activities. She co-founded the Honors College Student Union and was an Associated Student Body senator. She is an NSHSS Di Yerbury International Scholar, and a member of Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Beta Phi and Phi Eta Sigma honor societies, Alpha Epsilon Delta pre-medical honor society, Alpha Lambda Delta freshman honor society and Pi Delta Phi French honor society. She served as community service chair for Omicron Delta Kappa and on Mortar Board. Wicks also worked with the Lazarus Project multispectral digital imaging team and was a Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine summer scholar and research intern in 2014 and 2015. She helped to organize TEDxUM and is in the Columns Society. Wicks is an Ole Miss Ambassador, Global Ambassador appropriations committee chair and a member of its rules committee. She has volunteered for numerous events and organizations in Oxford, including Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi, Big Event, RebelTHON, Green Grove Initiative and Operation Christmas Child. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school. She is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Wicks of Ocean Springs.