Alumni Fund Tribute with a Twist

Couple funds insurance policy to honor mentor, support business school program

Van Hedges (third from left) has purchased a life insurance policy to support the UM School of Business Administration’s insurance program and its faculty. With Hedges are (from left) Tom Quaka, senior vice president of FCCI Insurance Group in Jackson; Andre Liebenberg, the Gwenette and Jack W. Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance; and Dean Ken Cyree. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Discovering that a friend has purchased an insurance policy on your life would, for many people, be unsettling.

“I am watching my back a little more carefully now,” said Andre Liebenberg, playing along with the suggestion that such a situation might cause him to shudder. “As a risk and insurance professor, I think about these things a lot – more than other people.

“So it didn’t really have that effect. It was a real honor, actually, that Van and Mary (Hedges) would think about doing something like this, something that would serve the program.”

Liebenberg is the Gwenette and Jack W. Robertson Chair of Insurance and associate professor of finance at the University of Mississippi. He also is named as the insured on a $250,000 life insurance policy endowed by his friend and fellow Insurance Advisory Board member Van Hedges of Nashville, Tennessee.

The two have a history of good-natured ribbing and Hedges means Liebenberg no ill will, Hedges said. In fact, the policy serves more as a tribute to someone who greatly influenced Hedges’ life.

“My wife, Mary, and I wanted to do something for Ole Miss and our insurance program and also to honor our friend and my mentor, Tom Quaka,” said Hedges, a 1975 graduate of the School of Business Administration and president of Southern Insurance Consulting. “I thought it would be fun and interesting to build in a key-man life component.

“No prudent, successful business, through their risk management program, would fail to have a key-man policy on someone as important to that business as Andre is to our program.”

The Thomas G. Quaka Faculty Support Endowment, which is named as beneficiary at the time of Liebenberg’s death, is designed to provide income for the recruitment and retention of faculty members in the School of Business Administration’s risk management and insurance program. Therefore, should Liebenberg – 43 years old and the picture of health – suffer an untimely death while serving as chair, some of the proceeds could be used to find a replacement.

Quaka said he is greatly honored by the tribute.

“Well, you can imagine, I’m overwhelmed,” he said. “We set up a very small endowment years ago, and this will add considerable amounts to it for the future. But there really isn’t anything more important to us than the welfare of this chair and its long-term continuance.”

Quaka, senior vice president of FCCI Insurance Group in Jackson, and Hedges have been longtime friends within the insurance profession and have served together on the Insurance Advisory Board for many years.

“Tom has been the anchor to this board from day one, and I think Andre would tell you that the board has been key to the success of the risk management and insurance program, which is one of only 12 programs in the U.S., and 20 worldwide, to be designated as Global Centers of Insurance Excellence,” Hedges said. “So we did this really to honor Tom’s service.”

Quaka, who frequently benefits from the Ole Miss insurance program, speaks highly of it.

“I employ the students who graduate from here and I’m happy to say we have 12 of them in our organization,” he said. “We have been exponentially successful because of the alumni we’ve been able to recruit from this program.”

Hedges and Quaka are among those who should be commended for their roles in building the insurance program to its current level, said Ken Cyree, UM business dean.

“I hope that I’m long gone by the time we cash in this policy, and I’m sure Andre does too, but it’s a wonderful gesture, demonstrating the dedication of people like Tom and Van and others on this board,” Cyree said. “Without their support for the program, we simply could not do what we do.

“We would not have had the success we’ve had and also the success we’ll enjoy for generations to come because of their generosity, dedication, time and, truly, the ambassadorship that they’ve both taken on in the program. Because of that, we’ve had significant buy-in from the board and that’s been the key component in making this a successful program.”

Individuals and organizations may make gifts to the Thomas G. Quaka Faculty Support Endowment by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Tim Noss at 662-915-5932 or

UM Disaster Mental Health Expert Offers Advice for Hurricane Survivors

Department of Social Work offers tips to those affected by recent storms

UM students help collect nonperishable foods as part of a campus drive. Getting involved in volunteer activities or events that help others is an excellent way to deal with the stress from a major disaster, mental health experts advise. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With 1,409 students from Texas and 513 from Florida enrolled this fall, the University of Mississippi is the home away from home for many residents of the two states that sustained the greatest impact from hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Many students’ and even some faculty members’ homes and property were damaged or destroyed while they watched the storm’s news coverage and waited to hear from their family members back home.

“(It was) probably the worst week in my life,” said adjunct legal studies professor George Ackerman, who was at his home in Del Ray Beach, Florida, when Hurricane Irma made landfall. “We are perfect today and everyone accounted for here, but it was very bad.

“Ninety degree temperatures in our home, and the baby and kids as well as pets were doing very bad. I slept on the floor, and we jumped staying from house to house as there were no hotels. Finally, we got one after four days. The hurricane itself was frightening to everyone, but we move forward.”

While managing loss of property is often top of mind after a natural disaster, managing the psychological effects of an event of this magnitude can be an even more critical part of storm recovery.

The psychological impact for individuals who are directly impacted by disaster – those who have lost property or a loved one, or who have been injured or dislocated – puts them at risk for developing long-term psychosocial conditions, said Daphne Cain, disaster mental health expert and chair of the UM Department of Social Work.

“Post-disaster reactions and behaviors may appear to be symptoms of psychological distress,” Cain said. However, many of these reactions are normal for people responding to traumatic situations.

“Studies show some common reactions include symptoms of shock, exhaustion, disorientation, irrationality, racing thoughts, fear and anxiety, or uncontrollable emotions,” said Cain, citing a 2013 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cain offered five important tips for students affected by the storms:

– Talk about it. Connect with social support systems, including family, friends, teachers and residence hall advisers. Visit the Student Health CenterPsychological Services Center or the Counseling Center.

First-year biology major Maggie Coulter,of Houston, Texas, puts effort into staying connected with her family in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“I call and check on my parents and grandmother every day,” said Coulter, whose family continues to work on repairing her grandmother’s home, which suffered substantial water damage from the storm.

– Take care and calm yourself. Avoid using alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and engage in healthy coping, including yoga, stretching, walking and deep breathing. Get the rest you need, drink plenty of water for hydration and eat healthy meals and snacks.

– Turn off social media, television and radio. Listening to and viewing coverage of the disaster can be traumatizing or re-traumatizing. Take a break from listening to and viewing coverage.

– Get back to your daily routines. Returning to your normal routine, including going to class, meeting deadlines, engaging with friends and with usual activities, are good ways to regain a sense of control and can help those affected feel less anxious.

– Get involved. You are not alone. Engage in positive activities such as discussion groups and volunteering activities that can help to create a sense of meaning and connectedness. Get involved in university-related volunteer opportunities.

The Department of Social Work’s mission is to prepare competent and ethical social workers, for scientific inquiry and practice, who are leaders committed to social and economic justice, diversity and the enrichment of the quality of life at every level of society. For more information about social work at Ole Miss, email

Third Annual Hispanic Heritage Film Series Begins Sept. 21

UM screenings part of Hispanic Heritage Month observance

OXFORD, Miss. – “Hard-to-see films from unexpected countries” are on tap as part of the Third Annual Hispanic Heritage Film Series, hosted by the University of Mississippi Department of Modern Languages. It begins Sept. 21 with a screening of “The Return.”

The film series is part of Hispanic Heritage Month, which will be observed at Ole Miss from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. All five films have English subtitles and will be shown at 7 p.m. Thursdays in Lamar Hall, Room 131. The Lafayette County and Oxford Public Library also will host a showing of one of the films in the series, “Truman,” at 3 p.m. Sept. 30.

The series consists of five contemporary films from Spanish-speaking countries, including Spain this time, said Diane Marting, associate professor of modern languages and one of the organizers. 

“This year has several special features: a community showing, hard-to-see films from unexpected countries and a nice, new location,” Marting said.

The films to be screened at 7 p.m. Thursdays in Lamar Hall are:

  • Sept. 21 – “The Return.” This Costa Rican movie is based on a life-changing journey back to Costa Rica.
  • Sept. 28 – “Truman.” Argentinean actor Ricardo Darín stars in a beautiful nostalgic movie about a dog named Truman. The movie was awarded Spain’s Goya Prize for the best film of 2015. The Oxford Public Library also will screen “Truman” on Sept. 30.
  • Oct. 5 – “The Companion.” Cuba’s official entry to the Academy Awards covers the period in the 1980s when HIV patients were sent to AIDS centers under military rule.
  • Oct. 12 – “The Tenth Man.” This comedy explores identity, faith and father-son relationships in Once, which is Buenos Aires’ bustling Jewish district.
  • Oct. 19 – “Seven Boxes.” This Paraguayan crime thriller chronicles a few days in the life of Victor, a daydreaming 17-year-old pushcart porter in Mercado 4 who is asked to keep seven boxes with unknown content away from the police.

The trailers for the films can be seen here.

The Hispanic Heritage Series is made possible with the support of Pragda, the Spanish Film, SPAIN Arts & Culture, and the Secretary of State for the Culture of Spain. Local major sponsors are the Department of Modern Languages, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement and Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society. Other sponsors include the College of Liberal Arts; the cinema studies minor program; the departments of English, history, political science and sociology and anthropology; Croft Institute for International Studies; the Oxford Film Festival; and the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.

“This series promotes cultural understanding of the Hispanic community,” said Carmen Sánchez, a UM modern languages instructor and another of the organizers.

Irene Kaufmann, UM lecturer of Spanish and another co-organizer, added, “Being exposed to international cinema is one way of opening our minds to the world, something we all need very much in these times.”

Special Collections Fall Lecture Series Begins this Month

Lunch lectures on varied topics slated throughout the semester

Jennifer Ford, head of Archives and Special Collections, prepares a copy of Shakespeare’s Second Folio for viewing at the J.D. Williams Library. The acquisition of this copy, published in 1632, is the topic of one of several lectures scheduled throughout the semester. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Libraries’ Department of Archives and Special Collections will feature guest speakers on a variety of topics during its Fall Lecture Series.

“I am so pleased Special Collections has such a distinguished panel of speakers scheduled for the fall,” said Jennifer Ford, the department’s head. “The presentations address subjects which are both thought-provoking and varied in nature, with something to appeal to everyone.”

The series run through November. Each lecture will be held at noon in the Department of Archives and Special Collections, on the third floor of the J.D. Williams Library. All programs are free and open to the public. Guests are welcome to bring a brown bag lunch to the events.

For more information, contact Ford at or 662-915-7408.

  • Sept. 21 – “Mississippi in the Work of Sherwood Bonner.” Katie McKee, UM associate professor of Southern studies and English, will discuss Sherwood Bonner, a 19th century literary figure from Mississippi who is the subject of McKee’s forthcoming monograph.
  • Sept. 28 – “Tracking RFK Through the Delta: Digging Through Documents and Knocking on Doors.” Ellen Meacham, UM assistant professor of journalism, will discuss her research for the upcoming work “Delta Epiphany: RFK in Mississippi,” which focuses on Robert F. Kennedy’s historic trips to the Mississippi Delta.
  • Oct. 5 – “We Believed We Were Immortal.” UM journalism professor Kathleen Wickham will discuss her new book, “We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss.” Wickham will discuss her research, which focuses on the work of 12 journalists during that time and the unsolved murder of French reporter Paul Guihard.
  • Oct. 10 – “From Shakespeare’s London to Faulkner’s Oxford: The Unlikely Journey of Edwin Booth’s Second Folio.” UM theatre arts professor Rhona Justice-Malloy will discuss the acquisition of Shakespeare’s Second Folio by the university. The acquisition of the folio, owned by actor Edwin Booth, was made possible in 2016 thanks to a donation from the Gertrude Ford Foundation.
  • Oct. 19 – “Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.” Pamela Junior, director of the new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, will discuss the museum’s exhibits, history and future.
  • Oct. 31 – “The Bell Witch of Mississippi: Slavery and the Supernatural.” Amy Fluker, visiting assistant professor of history, will discuss the folk tale of the Bell Witch and its connections to Mississippi, the supernatural and slavery.
  • Nov. 8 – “Make Me a Hummingbird of Words: Salvos into the Word of Micro-Memoirs with Beth Ann Fennelly.” Mississippi poet laureate and English professor Beth Ann Fennelly hosts this session, part craft talk, part reading. She will share strategies that informed her new book, “Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs.” She crosses genres, combining the brevity of poetry and the truth-telling of nonfiction in her storytelling form.
  • Nov. 15 – “Living, Making, Being: Houses and Craft Production at a 14th Century Native American Village in Southwestern Virginia.” Maureen Meyers, UM assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, will discuss her excavations at the Carter Robinson site over the last decade. The excavation of six houses on 14th century mound and village site has yielded finds such as shell beads and gaming stones. Meyers will talk about households of people who lived at the site, craft production and what recent excavations have revealed.

Founder of Georgetown Memory Project to Speak at UM

Richard Cellini to discuss work Monday in public lecture

The tombstone of GU272 member Cornelius Hawkins (born 1825, died 1902) is in the Immaculate Heart of Mary Cemetery in Maringouin, Louisiana. Richard Cellini, founder of the Georgetown Memory Project, will discuss his work to track down GU272 members at 4 p.m. Monday in Barnard Observatory. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Richard Cellini, founder of the Georgetown Memory Project, will speak Monday (Sept. 18) at the University of Mississippi about how he helped identify descendants of slaves at Georgetown University.

The event, set for 4-5 p.m. in the Tupelo Room of Barnard Observatory, is free and open to the public. A question-and-answer session will follow the presentation.

Cellini, a Georgetown alumnus, learned that in 1838, the university sold 272 slaves to plantations in Louisiana to pay off university debts. A computer scientist, Cellini wanted to use data to find out where these people and their descendants went. He, along with other Georgetown alumni, located 212 of the original GU272 members, along with more than 5,200 of their direct descendants.

“Richard’s research of the Georgetown slaves has facilitated a much-needed discussion regarding the specific benefactors of this long-standing institution in America,” said Chuck Ross, co-chair of the UM Slavery Research Group. “We continue to discuss the need for frank dialogue around race relations in this country; this project is another example of that need.” 

Cellini will discuss the Georgetown Memory Project, the group’s history, ongoing work with descendants and the relationship with Georgetown University. The work has sparked national interest.

Richard J. Cellini

Upon discovery of the descendants, Georgetown offered legacy admission. Melisande Short-Colomb is one of those descendants who has enrolled this fall as a freshman at Georgetown, according to the Washington Post. At 63, she is the university’s oldest undergraduate.

The event is sponsored by the UM Slavery Research Group, with support from the Office of the Provost and the College of Liberal Arts. The group invited Cellini to campus because its members are interested in slavery history at UM.

“The Georgetown Memory project is a terrific example of how learning more about slavery in our nation’s past can propel us forward as a society,” co-chair Jeffrey Jackson said. “It’s a great opportunity for those of us here at UM to learn more about the Georgetown University story that has captured the attention of the nation.”

The Slavery Research Group has collaborated with University Museums and the Center for Archaeological Research to conduct archaeological research at Rowan Oak to better understand the lives of enslaved workers who lived on the estate during the pre-Faulkner antebellum period. The interdisciplinary group also is working on other research and community events.

For more information, visit

UM Student First to Attain Degree through Complete 2 Compete

Statewide initiative aims to create brighter future and improve Mississippi economy

Debra Harris earned her Bachelor of General Studies degree from UM last month through the Complete 2 Compete Initiative. UM photo by Jessica Coker Hughes

OXFORD, Miss. – The first student in Mississippi to earn a degree through the Complete 2 Compete Initiative finished within days of the program launch by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Community College Board.

University of Mississippi student Debra Harris had a long college journey and was awarded a bachelor’s degree in general studies with minors in English, business administration and computer science last month.

Harris began at Ole Miss in 1977, but her college career was cut short when she joined the Navy. After a military career and starting a family, Harris returned to campus in 1996. She completed about two more years of college before her mother fell ill, causing her to leave the university once again.

“I had a lot of hours completed, but still no degree,” Harris said.

She heard about the Complete 2 Compete program on the radio. The website for the initiative launched in August to provide information and resources for Mississippi adults who have completed some college, but whose requirements fell short of earning a degree.

The program’s goal is to encourage those people to complete their degrees in order to improve their quality of life as well as positively affect the state’s educational attainment rate and economy. 

In Mississippi, more than 2,400 former students over the age of 21 have enough credits to potentially finish a bachelor’s degree without additional coursework. An additional 28,000 students have enough credits to potentially earn an associate’s degree with no additional coursework, and more than 100,000 former students can complete their degree with minimal additional coursework.

The purpose of Complete 2 Compete is to reach out to adults with some college coursework and encourage them to finish what they started. In return, families will be stabilized, the Mississippi economy will thrive and lives will be changed, program administrators said.

Harris completed the online application with the expectation that she’d need to complete more courses. However, just a week after her submission, UM Interim Provost Noel Wilkin called to inform her that she would be eligible for a degree without any additional coursework.

The decision was reached after a Complete to Compete coach and others on the Ole Miss campus determined the courses she completed would qualify her for a degree.

“As we were looking through Debra’s transcripts, it all started coming together,” said Audra Trnovec, Complete 2 Compete coach in the university’s Bachelor of General Studies office. “We reviewed her previous coursework and consulted with different departments on campus to correlate which classes could count toward graduation.”

She had successfully completed enough courses to earn minors in three different areas, allowing her to be eligible for her degree.

“I was speechless,” Harris said. “I was thinking it would be nice if I just needed one or two more classes. I was very excited.”

Harris, from Grenada, hopes to use her degree to pursue career opportunities in adult literacy.

“College degrees have incredible value to the individuals who have earned them,” Wilkin said. “The knowledge gained and the associated credential can open many doors.

“In Debra’s case, she had already done the work, gained the knowledge and was missing the credential. This program has the potential to find these cases and the potential to show people the paths available to finish their degrees.”

UM has received more than 150 applications through the program since its launch last month. Students who enroll under the program are also eligible to be considered for a one-time grant to eliminate past-due balances on accounts at previous institutions or to pay application fees for re-enrolling in courses.

“I am so pleased to hear that the first degree has been awarded through the Complete 2 Compete initiative,” said Glenn Boyce, Mississippi commissioner of higher education. “Debra represents what the project is all about. I congratulate her and hope that the thousands of former students like Debra will all take advantage of this opportunity.

“I look forward to the continued success of Complete 2 Compete as many more Mississippians benefit from this life-changing program.”

For more information, visit

Biomimetic Acoustic Sensors Topic of Sept. 19 Science Cafe

Renowned researcher Ronald N. Miles is first lecturer for fall semester

A fly sits atop a cricket listening to sounds inaudible to the human ear. A new nanochip inside a hearing aid is capable of mimicking the fly’s acoustic sensors. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The acoustical organs of insects and their potential to revolutionize human hearing aids is the topic for a monthly public science forum organized by the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy.

The fall semester’s first meeting of the Oxford Science Cafe is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Lusa Bakery Bistro and Bar, 1120 North Lamar Blvd. on Oxford. Ronald N. Miles, chair and distinguished professor of mechanical engineering at the State University of New York at Binghamton, will discuss “Biomimetic Acoustic Sensors for Hearing Aids.” Admission is free.

“We have studied the hearing in mosquitoes, flies, crickets, midges, caterpillars and spiders to explore remarkable ways these insects sense sound,” Miles said. “In this presentation, I will describe our discovery of the amazing directional ears of a special fly, Ormia ochracea, which is able to localize sound better than humans can, even though its ears fit in a space only 1 millimeter across.”

Mile’s 40-minute presentation also will include discussion about the development of biomimetic microphones based on this discovery, which show better performance than existing hearing aid microphones.

“We have also recently discovered new ways to sense sound based on the use of nanoscale fibers, such as insect hairs or spider silk,” he said. “This has resulted in a directional microphone that has ideal flat frequency response from 1 hertz to 50 kilohertz, far beyond the range of human hearing.

“There remains much more to learn from nature to create technology to improve hearing.”

Miles also will present a talk in the colloquium series of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 4 p.m. that day in Lewis Hall, Room 101, on “The Naonphone: Sensing sound with nanoscale spider silk.”

Miles’ appearance should be interesting for everybody, said Marco Cavaglia, organizer of the Science Cafe series.                                                                                                                                                          

“Dr. Miles is an expert in acoustic engineering, electronic engineering and optical engineering,” said Cavaglia, associate professor of physics and astronomy. “His presentations are sure to be fascinating and enlightening.”

Miles received a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of California at Berkley, and earned master’s and doctoral degrees in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington at Seattle. He holds memberships in the Acoustical Society of America, American Society of Engineering Education, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the International Society for Neuroethology.

For more information about Oxford Science Cafe programs, go to For more information about the Department of Physics and Astronomy, visit or call 662-915-7046.

FedEx Founder Fred Smith Issues Challenge at Honors Convocation

Annual fall event also featured Silicon Valley icon Jim Barksdale

Fred Smith, founder and CEO of FedEx, delivers the keynote address Tuesday evening during the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College Fall Convocation in the Ford Center. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Legendary FedEx founder and CEO Frederick W. Smith challenged University of Mississippi honors students Tuesday (Sept. 12) to continue having academic conversations with the aim of developing workable solutions to national and global problems.

Smith was the keynote speaker for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s Fall Convocation at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Celebrating the college’s 20th anniversary, the program also featured Silicon Valley icon and Ole Miss alumnus Jim Barksdale, who introduced Smith.

“If this country is to continue being recognized as the leading nation on the global scene, then we must use rational thinking and political compromise to fix our problems,” Smith said. “I think that the answers are going from young minds such as those found in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Even as students, when you search for good ideas, it can lead to big things.”

Considered one of the world’s most influential entrepreneurs, Smith founded FedEx more than 46 years ago. He recounted how his global corporation began with a paper he wrote as a student at Yale University. Smith’s idea went on to revolutionize the transportation industry and beyond.

“We singlehandedly created the overnight delivery system,” Smith said. “We also invented the ability to track and trace shipments while in transit, pioneered the unique wireless technology to keep in touch with all our service people and spearheaded transportation deregulation, which made it easier for growing companies to get goods and services to market.”

While citing the company’s assets and achievements, Smith maintained that its people are the real key to FedEx’s success.

“The FedEx culture is that people plus service equals prosperity,” Smith said. “The Purple Promise of every employee is ‘I will make every FedEx experience outstanding.'”

Barksdale credited Smith with changing traditional business operations from the industrial model into a technological society.

“FedEx has such a stellar reputation because it was led by this man of such great integrity and incredible executive leadership acumen,” he said.

Smith, in turn, praised Barksdale as “one of the great resources of American history.”

“This Honors College is named for one of the greatest philanthropists and advocates for education that I have ever known,” Smith said. “She was a true American hero who lived her life for the betterment of others.”

Smith’s visit represented an extraordinary moment for UM students, Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“Mr. Smith is one this country’s most important and innovative corporate leaders,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “I am thrilled that our students had the opportunity to hear and interact with such an impactful figure in his field.”

Sullivan-Gonzalez also praised Barksdale and his family for their contributions to the Honors College.

“Jim is a pioneer and leader in the technology world and a great friend of education and the University of Mississippi,” he said. “A noted alum of our business school, Jim’s career achievements and the commitment of his time, energy, passion and resources to elevating the quality of life in his home state are truly remarkable.”

With an annual income exceeding $60 billion, FedEx employs more than 400,000 workers in 220 countries. With a fleet of 650 cargo aircraft and thousands of delivery trucks, the company delivers more than 13 million shipments daily.

Institute of Child Nutrition’s Mission Continues to Grow

New executive director hopes to expand facility's role in promoting healthy meals in schools

Aleshia Hall-Campbell, director of the Institute of Child Nutrition at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The Institute of Child Nutrition at the University of Mississippi has agreed to partner with the American Heart Association and is moving forward on other initiatives to provide training for child nutrition professionals across the country under new Executive Director Aleshia Hall-Campbell’s leadership.

ICN, which is part of the School of Applied Sciences, provides resources to improve child nutrition programs, including guidance on making school meals healthier and safer, while keeping costs feasible for school districts. Its staff also offers free and low-cost training options for child nutrition professionals and provides resources to help them meet new professional standards requirements.

Hall-Campbell was selected recently as the institute’s new executive director. ICN is the only federally funded national center dedicated to applied research, education, training and technical assistance for child nutrition programs.

“We’re trying to expand partnerships with allied organizations to continue providing high-quality training and resources for nutrition professionals,” Hall-Campbell said. “We want to continue to make resources available in various modalities and formats like online courses, videos, webinars, face-to-face training, facts sheets and infographics.” 

The ICN’s work is a good example of the importance of partnerships, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. 

“The Institute of Child Nutrition at the University of Mississippi is a tremendous example of one of our many longstanding partnerships with federal agencies that benefit our nation,” Vitter said. “The institute reaches millions of people through education, outreach and training, as well as partnerships.

“I look forward to the institute’s continued impact on improving the quality and operation of child nutrition programs nationwide.”

Hall-Campbell had been acting director for the past two years before getting the job permanently. Before that, she was the institute’s associate director of cooperative agreements.

She holds a doctorate in higher education leadership from UM, a Master of Public Health from the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and a bachelor’s degree from Jackson State University. She’s also ICN’s first African-American executive director. 

“It’s overwhelming,” Hall-Campbell said. “It’s humbling. I don’t want that to be the focus, but I do want to acknowledge it and step in to be a role model and also open the door of opportunity for everyone.”

Under a new memorandum of understanding, ICN will work with the American Heart Association, a major health organization dedicated to fighting cardiovascular disease and strokes. The goal is to join forces in support of efforts to provide training and resources for school nutrition and childcare professionals on preparing healthy meals for students. 

“We want to work collaboratively to develop heart-healthy resources, which is major factor in combating childhood obesity these days,” Hall-Campbell said.

Both organizations are already partners with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “What’s Shaking?” and “Team Up for School Nutrition Success” programs to assist child nutrition operators in reducing sodium in foods, and to create peer-to-peer mentoring. 

The late Jeanette Phillips, former professor and chair of the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, worked to bring the institute to the university. Congress established the ICN in 1989 and it’s funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service grant.

It has four divisions: Education and Training, Information Services, and Administration are all at Ole Miss. The ICN’s Applied Research Division is housed at the University of Southern Mississippi.

Since its creation, the ICN has become a go-to source for information, resources, research and on-site training at schools across the country, all at little to no cost. It offers online training resources, free online courses for child nutrition personnel and an expert help desk in support of child nutrition program management.

The institute houses the Child Nutrition Archives, which preserves the history and artifacts of the federally funded child nutrition program, at Ole Miss.

Research indicates that one in three American children is overweight or obese, Hall-Campbell said. Transforming menus in schools and encouraging physical activity doesn’t just help make kids healthier; research also shows healthy food and better academic performance go hand in hand.

The institute’s quality interactive online courses, such as Focus on the Customer for school nutrition managers, provide guidance in meeting federal regulations and practical advice and tools for best serving students, school staff and others. The courses also offer flexibility for working professionals to fit them into their schedules.

The Food Buying Guide Calculator, which was developed in partnership with USDA’s Team Nutrition and found on ICN’s website, helps simplify ordering for school nutrition staff.

Moving forward, ICN will continue to focus on creating new partnerships to continue transforming school nutrition, Hall-Campbell said. 

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to step into this capacity,” Hall-Campbell said. “Serving in the acting capacity got my feet wet and let me really see it.

“I had been here five years before that, but now it’s full ownership and accountability in this organization. I’m focused on how we can move forward and be a major resource in this field.” 

Cyrus Chestnut Quartet to Perform at Ford Center

Thursday show is first in the 2017-18 Jazz Series

The Cyrus Chestnut Quartet performs Thursday at the Ford Center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts will host a night of jazz Thursday (Sept. 14) with the Cyrus Chestnut Quartet.

Chestnut, a Baltimore native and soulful jazz pianist, blends contemporary, traditional and gospel jazz styles with soulful sounds and a mix of Latin and samba. His style allows him to explore a wide range of emotions with his music, all while keeping it under the jazz umbrella.

The performance is part of the 2017-18 Jazz Series, made possible by a gift to the Ford Center from Marty and John Dunbar.

“We are looking forward to opening our first Jazz Series with the Cyrus Chestnut Quartet,” said Kate Meacham, Ford Center marketing director. “We are truly grateful to the Dunbars for their generosity. It’s a great addition to our season and a wonderful opportunity for our students.”

Chestnut also will conduct a master class at noon Wednesday (Sept. 13) in Nutt Auditorium. The class is free and open to the public.

The New York Times praised Chestnut’s performance at a previous concert: “His brand of crisp articulation and blues inflected harmony evokes another era … multifaceted and dynamic. … Mr. Chestnut was the evening’s star and he brought charisma to the role.”

Tickets are $25 for the orchestra, parterre and tier 1 box levels, $20 for the mezzanine and tier 2 box level and $18 for balcony seating. All tickets are available at the UM Box Office, inside the Ford Center. Tickets can also be purchased online at