$60 Million Gift Launched Croft Institute onto Global Stage

Donation from Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund endowed institute 20 years ago

Before the Croft Institute for International Studies called the ‘Y’ Building, or the old chapel, home, the building, constructed in 1853, underwent about a $3.5 million renovation funded by the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund. In June 1998, the Croft board of directors toured the ongoing renovations with Chancellor Robert Khayat (third from left), Provost Carolyn Staton (right) and others. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The Croft Institute for International Studies celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but before that first cohort entered in August 1998, the institute’s story began with a man walking into an office.

The man was Gerald M. Abdalla, CEO and president of Croft LLC and chairman of the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund. The office, located in the Lyceum at the University of Mississippi, was occupied by then-Chancellor Robert Khayat.

A native of McComb, Abdalla had graduated from the UM School of Law in 1973 (where Khayat was a professor of his), earned a master’s in taxation from New York University and joined Croft Metals as corporate counsel after five years in private practice. He had been promoted to lead the McComb-based company, founded by Joseph C. Bancroft, in 1996.

Bancroft died in March 1996, but his will set up the fund, with an eye toward funding educational pursuits. And Abdalla had an idea for using some of the money, so he called his former professor, set up a meeting and soon walked into Khayat’s office in September 1996.

“He came in and we had a little conversation preceding ‘the conversation,’ and I said, ‘Well, Jerry, what can I do for you?'” Khayat recalled.

I want to give Ole Miss some money, Khayat remembered Abdalla saying.

Good, because we need it, Khayat replied.

I want to give $60 million.

What did you say? Khayat asked.

$60 million.

“It got very quiet for a moment because I’d never heard of that before – or since,” Khayat said. “I said, ‘What would you like us to do with that money?’ He said, ‘What do you want to do with it?'”

Abdalla said when he first met with Khayat, he mentioned establishing an institute incorporating majors he had studied, such as accounting, law and taxation. After he met more with Khayat, Associate Provost Carolyn Ellis Staton and other university officials, the decision was made to use the $60 million for an international studies program.

“That was foreign to me, but as far as myself and the other members of the board, we figured if that’s what the university wanted, and they were going to be there to be involved in it, we’d go ahead and do that one,” Abdalla said. “That’s what we did.”

About a year later, on Sept. 18, 1997, after negotiations and drawing up contracts, the $60 million gift – largest in the university’s history – was publicly announced, with Khayat stating the gift would create a premier international studies institute, the Croft Institute for International Studies.

“The University of Mississippi and the state of Mississippi will be forever changed by the work of the Croft Institute,” Khayat said during a press conference announcing the gift.

Twenty years later, no one can argue with the foresight of that statement. Since the institute’s inception in 1998, the program has sent its graduates out into the world, placing both UM and its graduates on the global stage.

“We have just completed a survey of our alumni, and it shows that a Croft degree opens doors to a broad range of exciting jobs all over the world,” said Oliver Dinius, Croft executive director and an associate professor of history. “This confirms that the original vision for the Croft Institute was right on target, and it is rewarding to hear directly from graduates of Croft how well its educational model prepared them for their careers, often in fields that one may not associate with international studies.

“The generous support of the Bancroft Fund and the dedicated work of Croft faculty and staff over two decades have created something unique. Croft offers an education that is at the same time specialized – command of a foreign language and knowledge about world affairs – and general by emphasizing strong writing and research skills. Prospective employers value that, and Croft truly has become a brand.”

Following this year’s Commencement, the institute has more than 500 graduates. Every year, between 40 and 50 students are expected to graduate from the institute with a bachelor’s in international studies, developing a growing network of Croft alumni that support one other and spread the reputation of the institute.

Though it was Abdalla who walked into Khayat’s office that day, plans for an international studies program had been floated earlier, by people such as Robert J. Haws, former chair of the UM Department of History, who joined the university in 1969; and Staton, who joined the university in 1977 and served as a professor and interim dean in the School of Law, associate provost and provost before her retirement in 2009. Staton died in May 2017.

When campus members begin hearing of the plans for the institute and the generous gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund that would make it possible, a palpable energy began spreading on campus.

“There was tremendous excitement,” said Kees Gispen, who served as executive director of Croft from 2007 to 2016 and who has taught in Croft since its inception. “This was a dedicated program in international studies, which is something the university sorely lacked.

The announcement of the $60 million gift from the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund to the university to endow the Croft Institute for International Studies made headlines around the state and nation. Submitted photo

“It has historically been a pretty inward-looking school and concerned with Mississippi, and we’re always measuring ourselves in Mississippi, and the whole idea of looking beyond the boundaries of the state and, more than that, beyond the borders of the country was very innovative and exciting and electrifying.”

The students entering Croft in 1998 were educated in the George Street House, as the “Y” Building or the old chapel (built in 1853), where Croft calls home, underwent about a $3.5 million renovation, a project also funded by the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund.

Those first students entered Croft in a changing world, one shaped by globalization spreading via new trade agreements, the internet, increasing free trade, imaginative technologies and more. Croft was designed to prepare students for this new world.

Douglass Sullivan-González, dean of the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, was in 1998 an Ole Miss history professor who was selected to teach in Croft. He also was part of the Croft organizing team.

The Croft planners knew the importance to the institute and international studies of students learning a foreign language.

“Any diplomat will tell you that once you can understand and express yourself in the native language, you have an inside; you’re not on the outside always,” Sullivan-González said. “We envision our students obtaining positions at the highest levels in the nation as an outgrowth of this program, which would include the diplomatic corps. …

“Language carries our students farther. I would say our experiences have borne this out, especially beyond our wildest expectations. We have one of the best teaching corps in the nation here, and our students are catching prize possessions of jobs, given their language proficiencies.”

Another key decision early on required Croft students to spend at least a semester abroad in a country that speaks their chosen language, said Peter Frost, who was interim Croft director during its planning year and taught in the program for 15 years.

“I do not remember any debate over this wise decision,” he said. “Here Ole Miss faculty instantly understood what living abroad in a qualified program could do for a student’s maturity, let alone language fluency.”

Class sizes also were purposely kept small, Frost said, as “a small, carefully guided discussion group is much better at training students to think, participate and retain information than a faculty member droning on in a large, often sleepy, lecture hall.”

Also, students are required to write an honors thesis, Frost said. That senior honors thesis “is an amazing, tough and super-beneficial part of Croft that develops a close bond between the director and the student,” he said.

Jeremy Mills was an early Croft student, graduating from the institute in 2002. He works as the military program manager for the Winchester Division of Olin Corp. in Oxford.

Between the foreign language component, studying abroad and more, Mills’ Croft education distinguished him from his peers by making him adaptable, he said.

“The diversity of experiences I had and people I met while a student at the Croft translates today into me being able to adapt to pretty much any situation with relative ease,” he said. “Many people get uncomfortable and nervous with new places and people; for me, I crave those experiences.

“You never really get rid of the nervous part, but as someone told me, ‘It isn’t about getting rid of the butterflies; it is about making them fly in formation.'”

Blair McElroy also graduated from Croft in 2002 as part of the first cohort who started in 1998. As a high school student, she loved language and math and knew she wanted to study abroad, hence her decision to study at Croft.

She studied in China as part of her Croft education, and that exposure of studying and living in a different country – along with her other Croft experiences – has influenced her career.

McElroy is director of UM’s Study Abroad program and senior international officer.

“Majoring in international studies was incredible preparation for working in the field of international education,” she said. “The ability to communicate in another language, the intercultural communication skills gained through study at UM and abroad, and the knowledge imparted by the Croft program has given me the tools to facilitate programs in many disciplines, encourage partnerships around the world, and connect with faculty and staff on campus.”

Nearing its 20th anniversary, the Croft Institute has helped the university, the state of Mississippi and its people become players on the international stage. Powering that journey has been the Joseph C. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund, including a new $5 million commitment to the institute in 2016.

“Mississippi is part of the global economy just as much as any other state in the United States,” Abdalla said. “Large multinationals – such as Nissan and Toyota – and many smaller multinational companies operate in the state, and their management is looking for employees who have an understanding of the global connections in today’s economy.

“Even if they do not require command of a foreign language skill, employers like the fact that our students have experienced a different culture and know how to adapt to different practices at the workplace and beyond.

“If the United States wants to remain a world economic leader, it needs people who are truly international. … Every time a U.S. company wants to go global or expand its worldwide reach, it will be looking for employees willing to relocate to a foreign country. Students trained at Croft are ready to do that.”

Beyond moving the boundaries of the university internationally, the Croft Institute also has made UM a global destination for students.

“Having it in Mississippi is another wonderful thing … because it brings students from all over the world,” Gispen said. “People from other states have these perceptions of our state, and the more you can mix that up and bring people here and let them see with their own eyes, the more you gradually whittle down the stereotype of Mississippi.

“We’ve worked on that, and I think all of us continue to work on that. That’s a very important endeavor.”

Croft students are bright, motivated, inspired and grasp opportunity, Khayat said, and no matter where they go, they move forward as ambassadors of the university and the state, opening up a world of possibility.

“It’s become one of the stellar programs in America,” Khayat said. “Really a leading, cutting-edge international studies program.

“Croft … gets you focused on the larger world and gives you a chance to be a part of it.”

Spanish Instructor Recognized for Work with Elementary Students

Mexico City native finds passion in classroom after career change

OXFORD, Miss. – For Edgar Serrano, the Spanish language is a tool. More than just a way to strengthen their language skills, foreign language instruction is one of many tools Serrano hopes students receive to help make the world a better place.

That passion for teaching Spanish to college and elementary students resulted in national recognition.

Serrano, an instructor in the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Mississippi, has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award.

“Being honored makes me proud of my decision to teach and help impact young learners,” he said. “It also means that there is a light at end of the tunnel, and that it is never too late to start a new career.

“You never know, you may find your real passion in life, just as I have. I am also humbled and touched that I would be considered for this honor.”

Serrano is both a college-level instructor at UM and an elementary Spanish teacher at the Oxford University School. He was recognized for his work with elementary students at the AATSP conference held in Salamanca, Spain, in June.

The AATSP, founded in 1917, promotes the study and teaching Spanish and Portuguese languages and culture throughout all levels of education. The organization collaborates with educators on programs and research projects so students can develop a better understanding of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of the world.

Originally from Mexico City, Serrano worked in international sales for more than a decade. In 2009, he returned to college to earn a master’s degree and began teaching language in 2011.

He teaches basic and intermediate Spanish at the university and third through eighth grades at OUS. Serrano’s work makes Oxford a more vibrant community and supports the university’s strategic goal of educating and engaging global citizens.

“I have always loved culture, travel and foreign languages, and I felt that I could make an impact in the lives of students by encouraging them to explore the world,” he said.

Serrano began teaching young children in 2011, and he said the challenge has been rewarding.

“I learned how smart and how fast very young students can learn,” he said. “They looked at me with emotion and were full of energy. They love learning the language and they accept everything naturally, like there is nothing difficult about it.”

He said the children have been very receptive in learning another language.

“They absolutely love it,” he said. “Parents tell me that their kids are always using the language by counting, singing the days of the week, or by playing with their toys and teaching them Spanish. For them, it’s so natural and simple like playing.

“This is the perfect time in their lives to learn another language.”

To keep younger students engaged, he introduces songs, videos and activities including role-playing, puppet shows, story time, yoga, scavenger hunts and travel experiences. Students are given positive feedback and assessed on the readiness standards of communication, connection, comparison, culture and community.

His students also take an active role in their language lessons by creating stories and art projects and asking questions about Spanish-speaking countries.

“As an educator, for me, it is very important to help students feel that Spanish is fun and can be learned with ease by connecting with what they already know. For example, we adapt STEM projects to keep their interest, make connections with what they know, while at the same time activating their critical thinking and using collaboration in the group projects.”

Serrano is making Mississippi a better place by teaching young students, said Dan O’Sullivan, chair and professor of modern languages at Ole Miss.

“Mr. Serrano has proven himself to be a leader in language education in our state, and he has been doing our state the biggest service of all by focusing on language education in elementary schools,” he said. “The younger the student, the easier it is to learn a foreign language, and moreover, the broader the young mind starts out in life.”

Serrano has a passion for teaching and feels he is making a difference in the lives of his students.

“They are our future and for me, it is so important that their lives get enriched by a foreign language,” he said. “I hope that in the future they will see the world with more open minds, so they can make it better.”

Kirsten Dellinger Named Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion

New role will serve College of Liberal Arts students, faculty, staff

Kirsten Dellinger is the new associate dean for diversity and inclusion for the College of Liberal Arts. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole MIss Digital Imagaing Services

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi faculty member Kirsten Dellinger will be continuing her passion and dedication to making UM a more diverse and inclusive place in a new role, beginning Aug. 15.

Dellinger has been named associate dean for diversity and inclusion at the College of Liberal Arts. She joined the faculty as a professor of sociology in 1998 and has served as the chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology for 11 years.

“In this role, I will be dedicated to making the University of Mississippi a place where students, faculty and staff feel safe and supported in their work,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working closely with the many other individuals and offices on campus who are dedicated to this goal.”

She hopes to work closely with other department heads and faculty members to identify need across campus related to diversity and inclusion and help determine creative solutions.

“My own research focuses on how workplace culture plays a role in creating and challenging workplace inequalities,” she said. “The chance to work on these issues at a collegewide level is very exciting to me.”

Over the last 20 years, Dellinger has served on several college and university committees to address challenges related to these issues.

“Dr. Dellinger brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our office after successfully serving 11 years as chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology,” said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. 

“In addition to leading the college’s efforts to ensure a welcoming and productive environment for all of our faculty, staff and students, she can also help us with virtually everything that comes into our office. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to add Dr. Dellinger to our administrative team.”

Dellinger earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, and her master’s and doctoral degrees in sociology at the University of Texas. In her graduate studies, she began researching gender and sexual inequality in organizations and places of work.

These subject areas have continued to be the focus of her research and teaching. Her findings have been published in dozens of academic journals and publications.

UM Team Places Third in Pharmacy Quality Alliance Challenge

Students devised business proposal to reduce opioid abuse

Siddhi Korgaonkar

OXFORD, Miss. – A team from the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy placed third out of 22 teams in the Pharmacy Quality Alliance’s Healthcare Quality Innovation Challenge last month in Baltimore.

The four-student group consisted of third-year student pharmacists Mariah Cole, of Meridian; and Anna Crider, of Brentwood, Tennessee; as well as pharmacy administration graduate students Sushmitha Inguva, of Hyderabad, India; and Siddhi Korgaonkar, of Mumbai, India.

“I was very proud of our group and thought they did a superb job of presenting their proposal and answering questions from the judges,” said Ben Banahan, director of the Center for Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management and professor of pharmacy administration. “Though we might be slightly biased, the UM faculty in attendance truly thought our team would get first place.

“They provided a great practical approach for improving access without developing a costly competitive system that was based on electronic health record systems.”

The team was tasked with submitting a business summary around the prompt “Addressing Potentially Unsafe Opioid Use.” The students’ goal was to develop a plan that alleviated the time-consuming effort for health care professionals to manually track and monitor a patient’s history of prescription opioid use.

Anna Crider

The result was “Interactive Coordination in Healthcare Promoting Safe and Effective Prescription Drug Use” or “iCHOOSE Rx.” The proposed computer/phone application would give providers an easier and more useful method to understand a patient’s history and manage their pain effectively.

“Addiction is a serious issue in the United States, which is costly to our health system,” Cole said. “As a future pharmacist, I feel compelled to monitor for potential medication abuse.

Mariah Cole

“In addition, pharmacists play a great role in dealing with the current opioid crisis, so I was intrigued to improve prescription monitoring for all health care professionals.”

With their proposal submitted, the team prepared a presentation for judges at the PQA annual convention. Inguva said the team felt comfortable onstage.

“We were nervous about answering the judges’ questions since we did not know what to expect,” she said. “In order to prepare for it, the team conducted mock sessions where members would speculate potential questions, and then everyone would discuss how to tackle them.”

Sushmitha Inguva

The team originated from collaboration between the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy and International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research student chapters. The challenge provided an opportunity to learn from each other and spread awareness about each professional organization.

“Working with a team this size was a wonderful learning experience,” Crider said. “Being from different educational backgrounds, we each brought an aspect of creativity and knowledge to the proposal to make it thorough and applicable in the real world.

“This experience taught me how critical it is for each person working in a group to have different interests and education because it helps broaden the scope of conversation and interaction.”

Scholarship Recipients Display Attitudes of Gratitude

UM Kelly Gene Cook scholars enjoy opportunity to thank donors

The Kelly Gene Cook Charitable Foundation board and Executive Director Katy Pacelli (front, fourth from left) joins Chancellor Jeff Vitter and Sharon Vitter for a spring luncheon to celebrate the Cook and Mikell Scholars. JoAnn Mikell (front, in pink), secretary; Carolyn Bost (front, fifth from right), director; Deborah Rochelle (front, fourth from right), chair; and Ron Page (front, third from right), treasurer; are surrounded by the undergraduate and graduate scholars at Ole Miss. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – “As I look around this room, it’s hard to not get teary-eyed,” Samantha Brewer told a crowd at a recent luncheon at the University of Mississippi. “Because I know it was you. You all made this possible.

“You all made me possible. You made me being a teacher possible. And I can’t thank you enough. So let me start now. Thank you. Really, thank you.”

These were the sentiments expressed by Brewer when she and fellow Kelly Gene Cook Foundation scholars had an opportunity to meet donors at a recent luncheon hosted by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter at his home on the Oxford campus.

Brewer, a senior elementary education major from Southaven, and her cohorts received a full scholarship to Ole Miss, thanks to the Cook Foundation.

The late Kelly Gene Cook Sr., of French Camp, was a pipeliner for more than three decades who joined Houston Contracting Co. in 1956 and became vice president and general manager for domestic and foreign operations in 1971. In this capacity, he dealt with pipelines throughout the Middle East, Brazil, Trinidad, Ecuador and Nigeria.

In 1976, he and a partner formed Gregory & Cook Inc., a pipeline contracting firm in Houston, Texas.

Cook was active in the industry associations, serving on the boards of the International Pipeline Contractors Association and the American Pipeline Contractors Association. In 1986, he and his wife, Peggy, formed the Kelly Gene Cook Sr. Charitable Foundation Inc., which primarily provides funds to support religious, charitable, scientific and educational organizations in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas.

Cook Foundation representatives at the Ole Miss luncheon were president Deborah Rochelle, of Folsom, Louisiana; treasurer Ron Page, of Houston, Texas; secretary JoAnn Mikell, of Madison; director Carolyn Bost, of Madison; and executive director Katy Pacelli, of Jackson.

“They say teachers are difference-makers,” Brewer told her donors. “That’s true. But you all are difference-makers too. You’ve made a difference in my life.

“Throughout my college education, not once have I had to worry about being able to buy my books or pay my tuition. I’ve never wondered if I’d be able to pay off student loans because I have don’t have any. Because of you, I did not have to shift my focus from school to work just to pay my bills, and that’s incredible because a lot of my friends cannot say the same thing.”

Kayton Hosket, of French Camp, who earned a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from UM in May, echoed Brewer’s comments.

“The investment of the Kelly Cook Foundation in my education has been a life-altering blessing,” she said. “I am grateful for your support of me as a student and a young professional.

“The members of the Cook Foundation have been personable and interested in my life over the past eight years. Your generosity has opened the door for learning opportunities that will be used to impact students and educators both locally and nationally.”

Likewise, Savannah Fairley, of Lucedale, told donors she never imagined how much having the Cook Scholarship would change her life.

“The support from the Kelly Gene Cook Foundation allowed me to devote my efforts to better my mind,” said Fairley, who graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in biological science. “It afforded me the opportunity to spend summers in Germany, taking language classes, and winter breaks doing research in a medicinal chemistry lab, rather than working to make sure I could pay for the books I would need for the upcoming semester.

“I was able to find my passions and dive into them. I was able to network and make connections with some truly amazing people. Being a Cook Scholar gave me the ability to get the most out of my university experience and I will forever be grateful. Thank you so much for the life-changing work that you do.”

The Cook Scholarship is open to entering freshmen from Mississippi who have scored at least a 24 on the ACT and have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. They also must have proven financial need and academic ability.

Rochelle, Cook’s niece, said her uncle was very proud of the way his foundation selected scholars and subsequently offered them stewardship and mentorship.

“He often said our youth are our most precious natural resource and that we should take care of them,” she recalled. “Of course, we want our students to be happy in their fields of study and to become successful members of our society.

“We have been very proud of our Ole Miss students and have had many graduate in various occupations. We also look forward to continuing our partnership with Ole Miss – a partnership that offers scholars donors who keep in touch with them and help them mature into self-assured individuals who graduate with no measurable debt.”

For more information about the Cook Scholarship, go to https://scholarsapp.com/scholarship/kelly-gene-cook-foundation-scholarships/.

Three UM Professors Co-Host Grant Proposal Writing Workshop

Participants armed to apply for National Science Foundation funding

Participants in the Summer Course on Grant Writing in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences gather to socialize and discuss one another’s work. The group includes (from left) Nicole Jones, of the University of Missouri; Jessica Kizer, Pitzer College; ReAnna Roby, Michigan State University; Stacey Greene, Rutgers University, and Zhiying Ma, University of Michigan. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Three University of Mississippi faculty members in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology co-hosted a recent grant proposal writing workshop that drew scholars from nine institutions across the country to Oxford.

The Summer Course on Grant Writing in the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences, known as SCG, has been funded through summer 2021 by the National Science Foundation. The five-day workshop aims to help junior faculty prepare well-designed research projects and obtain funding with persuasive, compelling research proposals relevant to underrepresented communities.

“NSF funds very little research from Southern states and seeks to encourage more scholars from Mississippi and surrounding states to apply for grants,” said Kirk Johnson, associate professor of sociology and African American studies. Johnson and UM colleagues Willa Johnson and John Sonnett collaborated with University of Florida anthropologist Jeff Johnson to create the program.

Ten faculty members representing nine institutions attended the workshop. Participating universities were Delta State University, John Carroll University, Rutgers University, Michigan State University, Virginia Commonwealth University and the universities of Michigan, Missouri and Texas. Pitzer College is also participating.

“Participants did advance readings and critiqued sample grant proposals before they came to Oxford,” he said. “Once here, they listened to lectures and presented their research ideas in small-group discussions during the day, then did homework at night.”

Reviews of the SCG workshop have been glowing.

“SCG provided all the nitty-gritty about different NSF programs and the review process,” one professor wrote. “It definitely helped demystify the process.

“I really appreciate the fact that the workshop was geared towards underrepresented junior scholars. The whole space was full of respect, support and love. We gave each other candid, but constructive comments.”

Another said, “The real-life expertise was a great help. The small group brainstorming sessions helped elevate my projects and gave me wonderful insights.”

The workshop’s creators plan to track the group’s progress.

“We will follow each participant for five years to track how the workshop enhances their ability to fund their work,” said Willa Johnson, associate professor of sociology. “In the meantime, we will check in with each person annually to offer our help in reading their proposals, or interpreting comments from proposal reviewers.”

More faculty are encouraged to apply for the program.

“Anyone with a recent Ph.D. in the social sciences is eligible, but we are particularly interested in attracting talented scholars from the South,” Kirk Johnson said.

At its inception in 2015, the SCG was directed by co-principal investigators Jeffrey C. Johnson and Christopher McCarty, and assisted by Kirk Johnson and Sonnett. Willa Johnson joined the SCG faculty in 2016. Beginning this year, Kirk Johnson is the principal investigator and Willa Johnson and Sonnett are co-principal investigators. Jeffrey Johnson and McCarty are assisting as facilitators.

The deadline to apply for the next workshop is Feb. 1, 2019. For more information or to apply for the Summer Course on Grant Writing, email Kirk Johnson at kjohnson@olemiss.edu.

Ten UM Freshmen Receive Omicron Delta Kappa Awards

Honor society recognizes outstanding young leaders and community servants

This year’s recipients of the Omicron Delta Kappa Freshman Leader Awards are (back row, from left) Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Abby Johnston and Harrison McKinnis, both of Madison; (front row, from left) Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi freshmen have been named recipients of Omicron Delta Kappa’s Freshman Leadership Awards.

The annual ODK Freshman Leadership Awards, which identify outstanding freshman leaders and community servants, were presented at the organization’s annual induction ceremony in April. Previous recipients have gone on to serve in roles such as Associated Student Body president and Student Activities Association director, and to be inducted into the university’s student Hall of Fame.

This year’s recipients of the ODK Freshman Leadership Awards are: Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Jacob Fanning, of Philadelphia; Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Abby Johnston, of Madison; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; Harrison McKinnis, of Madison; Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro.

“We created this award in 2010 to recognize the future leaders on our campus and to encourage their continued engagement in campus and community activities,” said Ryan Upshaw, ODK adviser and assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering. “Each year, the selection process becomes more difficult as the university attracts student leaders from all over the country.

“Our society is excited to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions during their first year on campus. We also look forward to their potential membership in our society later in their college career.”

McKinnis, a chemical engineering major and graduate of Madison Central High School, said he is honored to be a recipient of the award.

“I was very excited when I found out I would receive this award,” McKinnis said. “To be recognized alongside such talented student leaders is truly an honor. I hope more than anything that my actions here on campus will make the lives of students more enjoyable and that they will see Ole Miss with the same love that I do.”

Baldwin, a chemistry major, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where she received the Parker Memorial Scholarship. As an incoming freshman, she attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference, and she is a member of the Student Activities Association, Ole Miss Running Club and the Baptist Student Union.

Crasta, a Provost Scholar, is studying biology and political science. He attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and served as a legislative aide for the Associated Student Body Senate. He is a member of Men of Excellence, the Black Student Union and Lambda Sigma. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

A biology and political science major, Fanning is a Provost Scholar and member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He serves on the Ole Miss Mock Trial Team and is a member of ASB Freshman Forum. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Gammill, a business and public policy leadership major, is a Provost Scholar and member of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Lott Leadership Institute. He is a member of ASB Freshman Forum, the Ole Miss Cycling Team, Alpha Lambda Delta and Lambda Sigma.

Harden is a member of the Honors College and is studying integrated marketing communication. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and is a member of ASB Freshman Council. She was a team leader for the Big Event and is a staff writer for the Ole Miss yearbook and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class and Lambda Sigma.

A member of the Honors College, Johnston is studying public policy leadership as part of the Lott Leadership Institute and the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. She is an ASB senator and an ambassador for the Lott Institute. She also serves as a pre-college programs counselor for the Office of Outreach and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

Manivannan is an international studies and Spanish major as part of the Honors College and Croft Institute. She serves as secretary of the Residential College Cabinet and the UM Collegiate DECA chapter. She is also a member of the Model United Nations team, the Indian Students Association and the ASB Freshman Council.

McKinnis is a member of the Honors College and the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Scholarship. He attended the MPOWER Leadership conference and is a member of the ASB Freshman Council, Lambda Sigma and the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

An accounting major, McMillan is a member of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, where she serves on the Student Advisory Board. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and serves on the ASB Freshman Council.

Williams is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College. She is a member of ASB Freshman Council and Alpha Epsilon Delta, and participated in RebelTHON and the Big Event. She is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Omicron Delta Kappa is a 104-year-old leadership honor society that has initiated more than 300,000 members since its founding. The society has more than 285 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States.

Bridge Program Giving Incoming Freshmen Preview of STEM

UM summer session courses offer future scholars head start on academic success

Mississippi Bridge STEM Program participants build model rockets and launch pads as a project in their summer camp. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Up to 25 incoming freshmen at the University of Mississippi are getting a head start on science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors, thanks to a summer session program.

The Mississippi Bridge STEM Program, funded by the Hearin Foundation under the Louis Stokes Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation, or LSAMP, began June 26 and runs through July 26. Participants are recent graduates of Oxford, Terry, Ridgeland, Houston, Southaven, Lamar, Germantown, Byhalia, South Panola, Hattiesburg, Pontotoc and Bartlett high schools, and the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. Students are staying in Pittman Hall.

“All the students are required to take a math course of their choice and EDHE 105,” said Jacqueline Vinson, co-principal investigator of the Bridge STEM Program, EDHE 105 instructor and project coordinator for Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education, or IMAGE. “Students will also attend various seminars, including health promotion, career center, financial aid, counseling center, student organizations and so forth.”

IMAGE was born from the Mississippi Alliance for Minority Participation, which is funded through Jackson State University by the National Science Foundation’s LSAMP. These programs began with the recognition that more could be done to stimulate growth in the number of STEM-educated professionals in the country.

“Congressional leaders recognized that we were coming up with a shortage of trained people in the sciences, and we were importing,” said Donald Cole, assistant provost and associate professor of mathematics. “Some forward-thinking individuals recognized that there was a need to increase the number of STEM graduates in the U.S., and they noticed that a big untapped market of that were minority students.”

Participants in the 2017 Mississippi Bridge STEM Program meet in the Circle. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

IMAGE offers tuition stipends ranging from $500 to $1,000 that increase when students excel. One of the program’s major goals is to establish a sense of community among underrepresented students.

“Aside from supplementing students academically and financially, we’ve found that it’s very important to make sure they develop socially here as well,” Cole said. “We put quite a bit of emphasis on participation.

“The idea behind the summer retreat is to get away from the campus and to create an atmosphere for students to take the reins, show leadership. Out of that come our leaders.”

Together, the programs function as a pipeline, helping students transition through college and graduate school. Recent participants have gone on to earn doctorates across the STEM disciplines, and many have become leaders in their fields.

LSAMP supports sustained and comprehensive approaches that facilitate achievement of the long-term goal of increasing the number of students, particularly from populations underrepresented in STEM fields, who earn doctorates.

For more information about LSAMP, visit http://lsmamp.blog.olemiss.edu/.

Political Science Professor Co-authors Prize-Winning Book

Conor M. Dowling to receive Don K. Price Award for best book on science, technology and politics

Conor M. Dowling, associate professor of political science, is being awarded the Don K. Price Award from the American Political Science Association in August. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi professor is being nationally recognized for having co-authored the best book on science, technology and politics in 2017.

Conor M. Dowling, associate professor of political science, will receive the Don K. Price Award from the Science, Technology and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association. Dowling, co-author with Alan S. Gerber and Eric M. Patashnik of “Unhealthy Politics: The Battle over Evidence-Based Medicine” (Princeton University Press, 2017), will be presented the award Aug. 31 at the APSA annual convention in Boston.

“I was incredibly humbled and honored to receive the Don K. Price Award with my co-authors,” Dowling said. “It is always nice to have your work recognized by your peers.”

“Unhealthy Politics” draws on public opinion surveys, physician surveys, case studies and political science models to explain how political incentives, polarization and the misuse of professional authority have undermined efforts to tackle the medical evidence problem and curb wasteful spending in the United States. The book offers insights not only into health policy but also into the limits of science, expertise and professionalism as political foundations for pragmatic problem-solving in American democracy.

“The book’s intended audience is academics and policymakers, particularly those interested in health care, science and technology policymaking,” Dowling said. “Any individual who is interested in the current state and trajectory of the U.S. health care system might find the book interesting, though.”

Dowling is an outstanding scholar in American politics with a strong record of working with both undergraduate and graduate students, said John Bruce, UM chair and professor of political science.

“Professor Dowling has accumulated an extensive record of research across a range of areas and continues to be recognized for his contributions,” Bruce said. “He is a good teacher, outstanding scholar and an ideal colleague. His productivity has lifted the performance of those around him.”

An Ole Miss faculty member since 2012, the Massachusetts native earned his bachelor’s degree from James Madison University and both his master’s and doctoral degrees from Binghamton University.

He was also a postdoctoral associate at Yale University’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies and Center for the Study of American Politics.

Dowling’s research interests are political behavior, campaigns and elections, election law, public opinion and political psychology. Dowling is also the co-author (with Michael G. Miller) of “Super PAC! Money, Elections and Voters After Citizens United” (Routledge Press, 2014) and more than 30 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

Another recent work of his (co-authored with David Doherty and Michael G. Miller), “The Effects of Candidate Race and Gender on Party Chairs’ Assessments of Electoral Viability,” received the 2017 Best Paper Award by the APSA’s Experimental Research Section.

For more information about the UM Department of Political Science, visit https://politicalscience.olemiss.edu/.

‘It Starts with (Me)ek’ Team Wins Silver Anvil

Award is considered to be the Oscar of the PR industry

Actress and ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ contributor Nancy Giles presents a Silver Anvil award to UM senior lecturer Robin Street at a ceremony in New York. Accompanying Street at the ceremony are three of the 30 graduates who worked on the campaign. Pictured (from left) are Grace Miller, Giles, Street, Bianca Abney and Brittanee Wallace. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – An instructor in the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media and her 30-student team have won a Silver Anvil, the most prestigious U.S. award in public relations, for “It Starts with (Me)ek, a public relations campaign they created asking students to “just pause” before stereotyping others.

The award, given by the Public Relations Society of America, is considered to be the “Oscar” of the public relations industry.

Actress and “CBS Sunday Morning” show contributor Nancy Giles, perhaps best known for her role on the TV show “China Beach,” served as emcee for the event in New York and presented the award to senior lecturer Robin Street, campaign chair.

Three of the 30 students who served on the It Starts with (Me)ek committee joined Street at the ceremony. The journalism school graduates attending the event in New York were Brittanee Wallace, an integrated marketing communications major from Gulfport, Bianca Abney, an integrated marketing communications major from Moss Point, and Grace Miller, a broadcast journalism major with a specialization in public relations from Gainesville, Georgia.

The weeklong “It Starts with (Me)ek” campaign consisted of 50 events, speakers and activities, all based on the message to “just pause” before judging people based solely on one factor, such as their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness or other factor.

While those judging the entries in this category remained anonymous, one of the judges said the “It Starts with (Me)ek” campaign was a “very brilliantly executed and impactful campaign. Well done!”

Street said winning the Silver Anvil and attending the ceremony with three of the students who worked on the campaign was “so exciting.”

UM senior lecturer Robin Street, chair of the ‘It Starts with (Me)ek’ campaign, accepts the award at a ceremony in New York. Accompanying Street at the ceremony are three of the 30 graduates who worked on the campaign. Pictured (from left) are Brittanee Wallace, Street, Bianca Abney and Grace Miller. Photo by Stan O’Dell

“We were surrounded there by some of the biggest names in public relations and corporations in the country,” Street said. “The fact that a student team won competing with those professionals is truly a testament to the education our students received from all their Meek School instructors.

“It is also especially meaningful because it was for a public relations campaign with a very simple message: Just pause before stereotyping others based only on their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other factor.

“We hoped that the campaign would encourage our students to treat others with understanding, dignity, respect and inclusion, and based on our follow-up surveys and focus groups, we believe we succeeded.”

Like the Oscars, Silver Anvils are given in multiple categories. “It Starts with (Me)ek” won in the internal communications category for government or nonprofit organizations. Only one Silver Anvil is awarded in each category, while other entries may be given an Award of Excellence.

The campaign previously won awards from both the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and the Southern Public Relations Federation.

A previous campaign Street did with 15 Ole Miss students won a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence in 2009.