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 http://www.olemiss.edu/internships. 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 jdcoleman@umc.edu, or go to http://mrpsp.umc.edu.

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 http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/booneville/.

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 http://www.generalstudies.olemiss.edu.

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 http://www.mississippi.edu/posters.

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.

McLean Scholar Takes Service, Leadership Roles in CEED Program

Houston native Brittany Fields looks forward to giving back

Brittany Fields, CEED Innovation Scholar, visiting with Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of McLean Institute

Brittany Fields, CEED Innovation Scholar, visits with Albert Nylander, McLean Institute director.

OXFORD, Miss. – Some students from small towns grow up yearning for the day when they can graduate from high school, go off to college and leave the community they feel has nothing to offer them.

They leave with the anticipation of making their lives better and gaining all that the world has to offer, including opportunities that may not have been afforded to them back home. Brittany Fields, a senior at the University of Mississippi, was one of those students.

Raised in a single-parent household, Fields graduated from Houston High School in Houston, Mississippi, before heading to college. Moving away from Houston gave her an opportunity to see Chickasaw County from an outsider’s view and helped her see the county’s true values that many people so often overlook, Fields said.

“Houston, Mississippi, is a very small town where everyone knows everyone,” she said. “But that’s not a bad thing. Houston is a lively town. The people are sociable and the educational system is remarkable. Crime rates are low. There’s a church on every corner, and the town itself just gives you a sense of well-being.”

Fields said she believes it’s her duty to not only give back to the community that so graciously gave to her, but to innovatively bring more to a deserving town. She started her journey to do just that last year when she joined the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at UM as an undergraduate Innovation Scholar.

Vaughn Grisham, a leader in the field of community development, founded the McLean Institute at Ole Miss in 1984. From that foundation, the McLean Institute is being dramatically expanded as part of UM 2020, the university’s strategic plan that calls for an increase in service to benefit Mississippi.

The McLean Institute seeks to make community engagement a distinctive part of the university’s educational culture by promoting engaged scholarship and reflective community action.

Fields has been named an Innovation Scholar within the institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative, known as CEED. In her last year of the two-year program, Fields will work alongside about 30 other UM students to establish partnerships throughout rural communities in Mississippi.

CEED organizers hope that these partnerships will help boost economic development and entrepreneurship throughout these rural communities.

“Brittany’s role as an Innovation Scholar at the McLean Institute provides her the opportunity to engage her background from Chickasaw County and her exercise science major to advance the mission of the McLean Institute,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

Fields, along with fellow Innovation Scholars Elizabeth Kelley and Madison Gable, started a smART summer art and wellness camp in Vardaman for the month of June. The purpose of the day camp was to combat the summer slump and teach children, ages 5-13, about living a healthy lifestyle.

The program included teaching local youths about different European and Mexican artists and organizing art activities. The CEED scholars also taught the young participants about the human body and gave them anatomy projects to complete. Those in the art and wellness camp learned about physical fitness and the effects it has on the body, and they were instructed in how to do physical activities.

The goal of each Innovation Scholar is to develop a specific sustainable solution within a community. The scholars attain the solutions by making connections with communities and by developing a method of research that includes participating in a summer-long internship in their chosen community. Each scholar then presents some sort of business plan or research paper at the end of two years.

Although she has many paths left to explore before selecting an area to address, Fields said she is considering committing her efforts to the further promotion of health care as a means of combating health-related issues plaguing Mississippi.

Coast Native Takes Leadership Role in CEED Program

UM junior Madison Gable helps launch camps for kids

Madison G - Nylander

Madison Gable visits with Albert Nylander.

OXFORD, Miss. – As a McLean Institute Innovation Scholar within the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, Initiative at the University of Mississippi, Madison Gable will work alongside other UM students to establish partnerships in rural Mississippi communities during the next two years.

Gable was born into a family that has resided in Mississippi for many generations. After living briefly in other states and across Mississippi, she said she understands her state’s unique challenges from an intimate perspective.

As a McLean mentor, Gable traveled to neighboring counties to tutor elementary and middle school students.

“Seeing the disparities between their opportunities and my own was a turning point,” the Ole Miss junior said.

Moving away from the Coast to attend UM gave Gable an opportunity to view her home from a distance, allowing her to appreciate the distinct educational opportunities coastal schools offer. She said her early exposure to the art, music and “gifted” programs at East Hancock Elementary were essential to her academic success.

Her Hancock High School teachers were committed to their students’ social education and set an example by using their education to serve others, Gable said.

As a freshman at Ole Miss, she sought opportunities that would allow her to follow their lead. That’s when she began volunteering with the McLean Institute’s mentoring program during its pilot semester.

Vaughn Grisham, a leader in the field of community development, founded the McLean Institute. The McLean Institute is in the process of a dramatic expansion as part of UM 2020, the university’s strategic plan, which calls for an increase in service to benefit Mississippi. The McLean Institute seeks to make community engagement a distinctive part of the educational culture at UM by promoting engaged scholarship and reflective community action.

In her time volunteering, Gable said she realized that most Mississippi children have minimal exposure to art, music or other activities to enrich their academics, and, more importantly, lives overall.

“Not only have I observed the educational deficits these children face, but I have come to learn about their insufficient access to medical care,” she said. “Many struggle with undiagnosed learning disabilities and problems with their sight that further complicate learning.

“The dedicated staff does their best to make up for the lack of doctors and psychologists, working hard to uncover these problems and proceed toward resolutions.”

Seeing their example, Gable found it was not enough to just serve these organizations, but that she must learn firsthand how to initiate social entrepreneurship endeavors that help spur change in the education and economic opportunities within her state.

Social entrepreneurship is the attempt to use business techniques to find solutions to social problems. Gable discovered social entrepreneurship while working with the McLean Institute and was inspired to promote social entrepreneurship when her mother, Stephanie Gable, founded Gulf Coast Breastfeeding Center LLC, the only private practice breastfeeding center in the state at the time, in November 2014.

By helping mothers and infants successfully breastfeed, Stephanie Gable has created an entirely new environment for Gulf Coast women and children.

“By using her business to advocate for a breastfeeding norm, my mom is helping to solve education and health care issues rooted in social problems, which is my aim as an innovation scholar,” Madison Gable said.

This summer, Gable began working toward that end by launching smART Art and Wellness Day Camp in Vardaman with two fellow CEED Scholars. For the month of June, Gable and her partners taught 32 students, ages 4-13, about art history and health.

This experiential learning opportunity taught Gable about community partnership and program administration.

“Madison’s role as an innovation scholar at the McLean Institute provides her to engage her background from the Coast to advance the mission of the McLean Institute,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The goal of each innovation scholar is to develop a specific sustainable solution within a community. The scholars attain the solutions by making connections with communities and by developing a method of research that includes participating in a summerlong internship in their chosen community.

Each scholar then presents some sort of business plan or research paper at the end of two years.

Going forward, Gable said she is considering focusing her efforts on promoting early education and reducing the barriers that make it difficult for sustainable food producers to enter markets, thereby boosting economic development in the state.

Ray Brothers Create Scholarship to Honor Their Mother

Funds are earmarked for students who have lost a parent to cancer

Martha Nell Flaherty Ray is being honored through the Martha Nell Flaherty Ray Scholarship Endowment established by her sons Ken and Van at the University of Mississippi.

Martha Nell Flaherty Ray is being honored through the Martha Nell Flaherty Ray Scholarship Endowment established by her sons Ken and Van at the University of Mississippi.

OXFORD, Miss. – Though Martha Nell Flaherty Ray lost her battle to cancer at the young age of 52, her memory and dedication to education will live through a gift from her sons, Ken Ray and Van Ray, in the form of the Martha Nell Flaherty Ray Scholarship Endowment at the University of Mississippi.

“Our goal in establishing this scholarship is to reflect and model the nurture, support, value for education and community responsibility that our parents and the Pontotoc community provided to us during and after our mother’s illness, and to assist deserving students, particularly those from Mississippi, who face challenges similar to those Van and I faced when we were pursuing our degrees,” said Ken Ray of Long Valley, New Jersey.

This new scholarship has been created with an initial $25,000 gift and is earmarked to help Ole Miss students whose parents have fallen victim to cancer.

Martha Nell passed away in June 1981, a year after Van Ray received an undergraduate degree in business from Ole Miss, and just before Ken Ray entered the university as a freshman. While the loss of their mother presented hurdles to completing their college studies, Van and Ken both earned bachelor’s and graduate degrees from Ole Miss and went on to successful careers.

“Our parents modeled the values of leadership and service in the community and did so simply because it is the right thing to do,” said Van, who lives in Yazoo City. “Despite losing our mother early in life, the values Martha Nell gave us prepared us to be independent and successful, despite the inevitable challenges we face in life.”

Martha Nell supported efforts for reading programs at the Pontotoc County Library, and both Martha Nell and her husband, Raymond, were church and community leaders and regular boosters at school events. She was always there for those who needed her but did so quietly and without any desire for recognition, her sons recounted.

However, the generosity displayed by the Ray family will undoubtedly change lives and shape the future for incoming UM freshmen.

In a letter sent to the Ray brothers earlier this year, then-Chancellor Dan Jones wrote, “Your support enables us to challenge students, broaden their perspectives and give them the preparation needed to help them reach their full potential. Thank you for your extraordinary dedication to Ole Miss and our students.”

The Martha Nell Flaherty Ray Scholarship will be available to incoming freshmen from Mississippi, with preference being given to those from Pontotoc County.

Anyone interested in making a gift to the Ray Scholarship Endowment can send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift. For information about establishing a scholarship, contact the UM Foundation at 662-915-5944.

UM Sophomore Wins Free Tuition

Journalism major Marlee Crawford victorious in C Spire-sponsored competition

Oxford, Mississippi native and 19-year-old sophomore Marlee Crawford, a journalism major at the University of Mississippi, won the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest Saturday - earning free tuition for the remainder of her college education. (PRNewsFoto/C Spire)

Marlee Crawford, a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Mississippi, won the C Spire Toss for Tuition contest, earning free tuition for the remainder of her college education. (PRNewsFoto/C Spire)

OXFORD, Miss. – Marlee Crawford, a University of Mississippi sophomore, bested a student from Mississippi State University in a game of bean bag toss before the Nov. 28 Egg Bowl to win free tuition for the remainder of her education here.

Crawford, a journalism major from Oxford, defeated Emily Ware, a junior at MSU, in the C Spire Toss for Tuition by a score of 21-16 as 2,000 friends, family and spectators cheered.

“Actually playing corn hole at the game just felt like a dream,” Crawford said. “I was so nervous, but when I won, I just couldn’t stop smiling. I was so grateful and thrilled for that amazing opportunity – it was truly a blessing.” 

The company sponsored the contest in November at all its 56 store locations in the state. Hundreds of students and their families had entered the contest, and Crawford and Ware were chosen as the two finalists to battle it out for tuition.

The Mississippi-based company has donated more than $3 million since 2008 to higher education-related scholarships, causes and programs across Mississippi through its nonprofit foundation. Crawford’s victory could yield her an estimated $18,360 in tuition funds.

“At C Spire, support for education has been a key focus for over 27 years, and we are passionately committed to helping elementary, high school and college-age students succeed in school, in the workforce and in life,” said Jim Richmond, vice president of corporate communications for C Spire. “Our children are our future. We need to prepare and support the next generation to be leaders in their communities and the world.”

Interim UM Chancellor Morris Stocks congratulated Crawford.

“We are thrilled for Marlee and her good fortune,” Stocks said. “We are also extremely grateful to C Spire for its outstanding support of higher education in Mississippi.”

Crawford said she was shocked when she was told she was selected for the showdown. She had one week to learn the rules of the game and practice her throws with a borrowed game set, but she immediately went to work. Her mother, Tammy Crawford, paced nervously during the competition.

“She couldn’t have practiced harder, and I’m so proud of her,” Tammy Crawford said. “It’s a sincere blessing.” 

After she won, her father, Ray Crawford, was there to hug her. He said the funds are a huge blessing for the family.

“It’s amazing that C Spire would do that for some fortunate individual, but it’s even more incredible that it’s our daughter,” Ray Crawford said. “We were shocked and overjoyed that she won. God definitely had a hand in this. It’s a huge load off of our shoulders, as we are helping to pay for her schooling.”

With the big victory behind her, Crawford said the money will be extremely beneficial to her, especially since she is planning to study abroad in England in 2016.

“College is such a financial burden for families, and I’m grateful to C Spire for providing opportunities like this one for students,” Crawford said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system: my family and friends that practiced with me, coached me and were there cheering me on.”