UM Journalism School Wins Third Kennedy Award

Depth reporting class exposé on 50th anniversary of Voting Rights Act winner in college category

University of Mississippi student Mollie Mansfield, right, interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders, center, with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice's Upholstery in Leland, Miss., Tuesday, March 11, 2014. (Photo/Thomas Graning)

University of Mississippi student Mollie Mansfield, right, interviews civil rights activist and business owner Vernice Sanders, center, with Professor Bill Rose at Vernice’s Upholstery in Leland on March 11, 2014. Photo by Thomas Graning

OXFORD, Miss. – For the third time in seven years, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi has won an annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Journalism Award.

UM’s depth reporting class won in the college category for “Land of Broken Promises.” The exposé examines the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in the Mississippi Delta 50 years later.

The winning project was led by Willard “Bill” Rose, visiting professor and a fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics; Mikki Harris, assistant professor; and Darren Sanefski, assistant professor of multiple platform journalism.

“Winning the Kennedy Award for college journalism is a testament to the quality of teaching by Mikki Harris, Bill Rose and Darren Sanefski,” said Will Norton Jr., professor and dean of the journalism school. “These three individuals have demonstrated repeatedly that they are uncommonly effective, student-oriented teachers. We are grateful to have professionals of their caliber on our faculty in the Meek School.”

Twenty-seven students spent spring break 2014 conducting interviews and photographing images for the 132-page, four-color magazine. It was published and distributed in January 2015.

Students who worked on the project included Eliza McClure, Debra Whitley, Erin Scott, Jason Burleson, Logan Kirkland, Thomas Graning, Clancy Smith, Katie Adcock, Karson Brandenburg, Phil McCausland, Cady Herring, Phillip Waller, Mary Marge Locker, Kayleigh Skinner, Alex Edwards, Allison Moore, Mollie Mansfield, Christina Cain, Taylor Davenport, Kristen Ellis, Conner Hegwood, Jessica Hotakainen, Lauren Keossian, Ignacio Murillo, Savannah Pounds, Kimberly Sanner, Madisen Theobald and Ellen Whitaker.

Three reporters both wrote and captured photographs. One worked on the design and captured photographs, and four were dedicated to photojournalism for the project.

“This was a wonderful and unique opportunity for our journalism students to work as multimedia journalists in a very diverse setting,” Rose said. “It’s one of the things I love about working here. Students who are driven to be the best can get opportunities here they won’t get at other journalism schools.”

The project focused primarily on documenting the work of activists in the civil rights movement and their struggles to help people in impoverished areas register and vote in local, state and national elections.

“These students tracked down civil rights legends Andrew Young and John Lewis and lesser known, but influential, civil rights workers to capture what happened here after the Voting Rights Act was passed,” Rose said. “They tackled the tough conversations on race and did it impressively.”

The result was a print depth report produced to raise awareness of this community.

The award is nice, but the experience with the students is the best reward, Harris and Sanefski agreed.

“We used a significant number of archival photos to tell a visual story of major events that happened in the past,” said Harris, who edited the photos to fit the written stories. “The process of spending hours looking at the AP’s archive of images was eye-opening and emotional.”

Archival images selected for inclusion in the project showed activist Fanny Lou Hamer speaking to delegates attending the Democratic National Convention in 1964, civil rights leader Lawrence Guyot as a young man in 1963, covered with marks from a police beating, and Martin Luther King, Floyd McKissick and Stokely Carmichael marching together for equality.

“The images from the 1960s provide a visual of the blood, sweat and strength that laid a foundation for today,” Harris said.

Sanefski’s digital design students spent more than a semester designing the award-winning publication.

“We were not able to accomplish it in one semester, so me and three other students from that class wrapped it up early the next semester,” Sanefski said. “Design is always about making content easier to understand. I’m very proud of my students and all the students who have pooled their talents together to create a great product.”

The journalism school has won previous RFK Awards for magazines on poverty in the Delta and attempts to help residents of an island off the coast of Belize.

“Throughout his life, my father held a deep commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “He would invite reporters and news crews to join him in the most impoverished city neighborhoods, to Indian reservations and communities in Appalachia, California’s Central Valley or rural Indiana – places that often lacked electricity and plumbing – and he would ask the press corps why it wasn’t covering those issues and these places.

“The journalists who followed his ’68 campaign created the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards in his name, to honor those who covered the issues most important to him.”

This year’s Book and Journalism Award winners were chosen from more than 300 submissions. Historian Michael Beschloss chaired the judges’ panel for the 2016 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.

The journalism awards ceremony, in its 48th year, will be presented May 25 by Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. All honorees will receive a bust of Robert F. Kennedy in recognition of their award.

For more information about the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, visit http://meek.olemiss.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/.

Student Continues Education, Cares for Mother Recovering from Cancer

Matt Waldrup hopes to attend law school after receiving degree from UM DeSoto Center

Matt Waldrup and his mom, Johnnie, at the University of Mississippi - DeSoto’s Graduation Celebration on May 3.

Matt Waldrup and his mom, Johnnie, at the UM DeSoto Center’s graduation celebration on May 3.

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Matt Waldrup can think of one person who wants to see him graduate more than anyone: his mom.

“Ever since I was little, she always said, ‘I just want to see you grow up, finish your education and be happy,'” said Waldrup, a Memphis native who is finishing his final semester at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center in Southaven. “So not only is this my dream, it’s hers also. Soon we will both be seeing things that we have wanted our entire lives.”

Waldrup, who is set to receive a Bachelor of General Studies on Saturday (May 14), has been caring for his mother since she was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2009. That was the summer that Waldrup planned to enroll as a freshman at the University of Mississippi‘s main campus in Oxford.

The diagnosis was a heartbreaking blow for Waldrup, whose father died of brain cancer just two years before.

“All responsibilities of a husband, of a son, of a caretaker – they fell on me,” he said. “It was very scary because I was still what I would consider a young age. My mom had to endure a lot of treatments, surgeries, etc., and being there alone was hard.”

Two years into his mother’s treatment, Waldrup returned to school. He received an associate degree from Northwest Community College in 2014 before enrolling at the university’s DeSoto regional campus. Waldrup, who also works in Southaven, said that his education “would not be possible” without the convenience of having a campus close to home.

Through his major, Waldrup is minoring in psychology, legal studies and English. Kacy Dixon, academic adviser for general studies majors, encouraged Waldrup during his time at Ole Miss.

“Matt has a lot of perseverance,” Dixon said. “I am proud of him for making it this far. Even when he has setbacks, he picks up and keeps going. It takes a lot of character to tackle those types of responsibilities at such a young age.”

One of Waldrup’s proudest moments during his time at the DeSoto campus was when he realized that he couldn’t go it alone.

“I’ve always been a person who has said, ‘Matt, just do it yourself,'” he said. “‘You don’t have time for your own feelings. You have to put your mom and school first.’ I’ve realized that I’m important also. Reaching out to my counselor, Mr. Brian Adams, and getting the help I needed from Ole Miss was a proud moment for me.”

Counseling services at the university have been essential to Waldrup’s success, he said. Though his mother is still battling severe complications from radiation treatment, he is determined to stay optimistic.

“Even though it has been a struggle, I take it one day at a time,” he said. “I just give it my best every day. Whether it’s school, whether it’s work or at home – no matter what situation I’m in – I give it my best. That’s what I’ve learned. If you try your best, something good will come of it.”

Through the ups and downs of Waldrup’s daily life, he said he is thankful for those who have helped him along the way.

“I’ve realized that there are so many people supporting me,” he said. “One of my friends even started a GoFundMe page called ‘Mercy for Matt.’ It is really overwhelming to witness this outpouring of kindness.”

Waldrup wishes to pay it forward by encouraging students who might be in similar situations.

“Never give up, give it your best, count your blessings and don’t look at what’s wrong in your life, but what’s good,” he said. “If you don’t feel that you can do that, then seek some help. Help can always get you to another place like it did me, though I’m still a working progress. With this campus and university, I’ve learned that you aren’t alone.”

After he receives his degree, Waldrup plans to attend law school when the timing is right. Dixon said she looks forward to seeing what Waldrup’s future holds.

“I’m excited to celebrate with Matt and his mom at Commencement,” she said. “It will be a special time.”

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.

UM Honors 150 Students with Who’s Who Distinction

Selections based on leadership, service and academic achievement

This year's honorees will be recognized Friday (March 11) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

This year’s honorees will be recognized Friday (March 4) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has selected 150 students to be honored as the 2015-2016 class of Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

The honorees will be recognized for their achievements on Friday (March 4) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The ceremony also will include the announcement of students inducted into the 2015-2016 Hall of Fame.

“I am extremely proud of this impressive group,” said Melinda Sutton, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “As an institution, we’re only as strong as our students. This prestigious honor allows us to recognize them for a job well done both in the classroom and in our community.”

Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges is a respected honor program for college students in the U.S. Students who excel academically and demonstrate leadership and community service on and off campus are recognized for this exclusive honor.

Presidents of the Associated Student Body and Black Student Union, the Daily Mississippian editor and representatives from each academic school, the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, Ole Miss yearbook and the Office of Dean of Students made up the 2015-2016 selection committee. Committee members rated nominees based on their leadership, service and academic achievements.

The Who’s Who honorees are:

Hillary Ake, Bjad Almutairy, Kaitlin “Kate” Aspinwall, Jack Badger, Ethan Baker, Destinee Ball, France Beard, Silas Beebe, Alexandra Bensel, Mary Katherine Berger, Robert Bobo, Mary Bracken, Denae Bradley, Allison Bradshaw, Robert Bramlett, Rod Bridges, Lauren Briscoe, Brianna Burse, Kristin Buskirk, Brittany Byrd, Melissa Capocaccia, Alix Cawthon, Brittany Clark, Laura Cline, Jeremy Coleman, Mary Chandler Cossar, Maia Cotelo, Joe Curry, T’Keyah Davis, Anne DeLee, Daniel Drummond, Emily Duhe, Maggie Durnien, Mary Alex England, Callie Entwisle, Austin Ezell, Katherine Farese, William Fisher, Madeline Friedmann, Hunter Gabbard, James Galloway, Terrian Garvis, Kristina Gautier, Cassidy Gills, Alexandria Gochenauer, Whitney Griffin, Melissa Griffith, Colleen Haadsma, Maggie Hall, Dana Hanley, Gretchen Harknett, Cynthia Harris, Jamille Hartfield, Ann-Marie Herod, Claire Hick, Mary Hitt, Tanetra Howard, Erin Hudnall, Lauren Hughes, Austin Ivy, Kaylee Jacks, Carole Jennings, Mary Kakales, Su Kim, Sara Kiparizoska, Logan Kirkland, William Kneip, Sabrina Kosloske, Lindsey Landrum, Mary Langford, John Larkin, Joseph Latham, Elizabeth Leary, Elizabeth Lee, Mallory Lehenbauer, Michelle Ley, Caroline Loveless, Kevin Mahalak, Mary Martin, Natalie Martinez, Chastity Massengill, Gabrielle Matthews, Haley McFall, Jennifer Miller, Mary Morris, Jacqueline Morris, Amber Murphy, Quinn Murray, Gabrielle Mykytyn, Vinayak Nahar, Heather Neilson, Abigail Newton, Allison Nooe, Matthew Oellerich, Tori Olker, Madison Osias, Vivian Paris, Lyda Phillips, Anna Leigh Phillips, Paul Pohto, Mary Portera, Mallory Pullman, Allison Ramsey, Claire Rearick, Joseph Rebentisch, Chandler Rhea, Brandi Rhoden, Emily Richmond, Alexandra Robbins, Hart Robbins, Rachel Robertson, Julie Roher, Elizabeth Romary, Paige Rucker, Georgia Russell, Kelsey Sanders, Kelly Savage, Emily Sharpe, Shawn Wesley Skinner, Kelly Smith, Brownlee Smith, Ryan Snow, Laura Speights, Alexander Spradlin, Kristen Stephens, Anna Grace Stout, Ann Sutton Teichmiller, Sumudu Tennakoon, Madisen Theobald, Jamie Thomas, Justavian Tillman, Jenny Tran, Rose Turner, Regan Tyler, Pierce Vaughan, Joella Vaughnn, Olivia Vinzant, Camille Walker, Katelin Wallace, Katie Wegener, Anna Lee Whisenant, Debra Whitley, Elizabeth Wicks, Summer Wigley, Michael Wilkerson, Rachel Wilson, Logan Wilson, Payton Winghart, Kathryn Wright and Ruth Zegel.

RebelTHON Dance Marathon Nearly Doubles Goal

Event raises more than $112,000 for children's hospital

This year, the RebelTHON dance marathon raised $112,603 this dollars for Blair E. Batson Children's Hospital.

This year’s RebelTHON Dance Marathon raised $112,603 or Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital.

University of Mississippi students raised $112,603 for Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital at this year’s RebelTHON, held over the weekend at the Turner Center.

The total was announced following the annual dance marathon. RebelTHON is a yearlong fundraiser for Batson Children’s Hospital, which is part of the UM Medical Center in Jackson.

Thirteen patients from the hospital were in attendance to share their stories and tell what fundraising means to them, said Maia Cotelo, an Ole Miss senior and RebelTHON executive director.

This year’s goal was to raise $60,000, but the group nearly doubled that amount.

“We are one of few schools that gets to raise money for a hospital that is directly connected to the university and this event offers the rare opportunity to meet the cause one is fundraising for,” Cotelo said. “It is a very moving experience.”

RebelTHON is a year long fundraiser for Blair E. Batson Hospital, which is part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

RebelTHON is a yearlong fundraiser for the children’s hospital, which is part of the UM Medical Center in Jackson.

The dance marathon serves as a celebration for all the fundraising work done throughout the year. Students involved in the fundraising since August are invited to attend the 12-hour overnight celebration with music, food and games. Participants are asked to stand, jump, dance or just keep moving for 12 hours.

“They cannot sit down,” she said. “We are literally standing in solidarity with the patients and families of Batson. It is very difficult, but extremely fulfilling.”

The dance marathon is part of the Miracle Network Dance Marathon, a nationwide movement for college and high school students to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

“All of the money raised goes directly to Batson,” she said. “We survive on sponsorships and donations from places around town, as well as a very small budget.”

Gravitational Waves Detected 100 Years After Einstein’s Prediction

UM scientists join colleagues in celebration of historic achievement

Members of the University of Mississippi LIGO Team include (from left) Camillo Cocchieri, visiting scholar; Mohammad Afrough, graduate student; Marco Cavaglia associate professor of of physics and astronomy; Katherine Dooley, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; Jared Wofford, undergraduate researcher; and Hunter Gabbard, undergraduate research assistant. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Members of the UM LIGO Team include (from left) Camillo Cocchieri, visiting scholar; Mohammad Afrough, graduate student; Marco Cavaglia associate professor of of physics and astronomy; Katherine Dooley, assistant professor of physics and astronomy; and Jared Wofford and Hunter Gabbard, both undergraduate research assistants. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – For the first time, scientists have observed ripples in the fabric of space-time called gravitational waves, arriving at the earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window onto the cosmos.

Gravitational waves carry information about their dramatic origins and about the nature of gravity that cannot otherwise be obtained. Physicists have concluded that the detected gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.

The gravitational waves were detected at 4:51 a.m. Sept. 14, 2015 by both of the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington. The LIGO Observatories are funded by the National Science Foundation and were conceived, built and are operated by the California Institute of Technology and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The discovery, accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters, was made by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, which includes the GEO Collaboration and the Australian Consortium for Interferometric Gravitational Astronomy, and the Virgo Collaboration using data from the two LIGO detectors.

“Using sophisticated algorithms and data analysis techniques, we estimate that the black hole collision took place about 1.3 billion years ago,” said Marco Cavaglià, University of Mississippi associate professor of physics and astronomy and assistant spokesperson of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. “The two black holes had a mass of about 29 and 36 times the mass of the sun.”

The black holes collided with each other at nearly half the speed of light, said Katherine Dooley, UM assistant professor of physics and astronomy and senior member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration.

“The explosion released so much energy that about three times the mass of the sun was converted to gravitational waves in only a fraction of a second,” Dooley said. “These are the gravitational waves that LIGO has observed.”

LIGO research is carried out by the LIGO Scientific Collaboration, a group of more than 1,000 scientists from universities around the United States and in 14 other countries. More than 90 universities and research institutes in the LSC develop detector technology and analyze data; approximately 250 students are strong contributing members of the collaboration.

UM has been a member of the LIGO Scientific Collaboration since 2007. Cavaglià founded the group at UM and has contributed to understanding artifacts of the instrument data that come from sources other than gravitational waves, a critical component for being able to positively identify a gravitational wave signal. Since 2012, Cavaglià has served as the collaboration’s assistant spokesperson.

Dooley joined UM this past fall after having worked for over nine years on building and improving the LIGO and GEO600 detectors. The detectors use laser light to measure infinitesimal changes in the distance between mirrors mounted 2-1/2 miles (4 kilometers) apart.

“The detected gravitational waves changed this distance by one-billionth of a billionth of a meter, about one-thousandth the diameter of a proton,” Dooley said. She designed techniques to control the angular pointing of the laser beam, helping push the limits of the precision measurement technology that was needed to make this detection possible.

Cavaglià, Dooley, UM post-doctoral research assistant Shivaraj Kandhasamy and three doctoral students from the UM-LIGO team are among the authors of the discovery paper. The UM LIGO team also includes a master’s student, an undergraduate and three undergraduate exchange students from Italy.

“LIGO’s detection opens a new way to look at the cosmos,” Cavaglià said. “I think LIGO will go down in history in the same way as we now remember Galileo’s telescope.”

The entire university community shares in the excitement of this extraordinary achievement, UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said.

“This astounding breakthrough is the result of decades of international collaboration by a talented team of scientists and engineers,” Vitter said.  “Everyone at UM congratulates our colleagues in the physics department for their role in this historic discovery. The University of Mississippi is committed to pursuing research and scholarship that helps us understand and improve our world.”

The discovery was made possible by the enhanced capabilities of Advanced LIGO, a major upgrade that increases the sensitivity of the instruments, compared to the first-generation LIGO detectors, enabling a large increase in the volume of the universe probed – and the discovery of gravitational waves during its first observation run.

LIGO was originally proposed as a means of detecting these gravitational waves in the 1980s by Rainer Weiss, MIT professor emeritus of physics; Kip Thorne, Caltech’s Richard P. Feynman Professor Emeritus of Theoretical Physics; and Ronald Drever, Caltech professor emeritus of physics.

The LSC detector network includes the LIGO interferometers and the GEO600 detector. The GEO team includes scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics (Albert Einstein Institute), Leibniz Universität Hannover, along with partners at the University of Glasgow, Cardiff University, the University of Birmingham, other universities in the United Kingdom and the University of the Balearic Islands in Spain.

Several of the key technologies that made Advanced LIGO so much more sensitive have been developed and tested by the German UK GEO collaboration. Significant computer resources have been contributed by the AEI Hannover Atlas Cluster, the LIGO Laboratory, Syracuse University and the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee.

Several universities designed, built and tested key components for Advanced LIGO: The Australian National University, the University of Adelaide, the University of Florida, Stanford University, Columbia University in New York and Louisiana State University.

The NSF leads in financial support for Advanced LIGO. Funding organizations in Germany (Max Planck Society), the U.K. (Science and Technology Facilities Council) and Australia (Australian Research Council) also have made significant commitments to the project.

Virgo research is carried out by the Virgo Collaboration, consisting of more than 250 physicists and engineers belonging to 19 different European research groups: six from Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France; eight from the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy; two in The Netherlands with Nikhef; the Wigner RCP in Hungary; the POLGRAW group in Poland and the European Gravitational Observatory, the laboratory hosting the Virgo detector near Pisa in Italy.

“This is a momentous event,” Dooley said. “LIGO has opened our ears to the universe. For the first time ever, we can now listen to the cosmos.”

For more information on the UM LIGO team, go to http://ligo.phy.olemiss.edu/.

UM Recognized Among Country’s Elite Research Universities

Carnegie Classification recognizes R&D investment, doctoral degrees granted and faculty achievement

Caleb Ezell (left) and Eleanor Anthony, both students in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, work with English professor Gregory Heyworth to examine a 15th century Italian manuscript for Oberlin College. The work is part of the Lazarus Project, which uses multispectral imaging technology to analyze old and/or damaged documents and recover faded or erased text. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Caleb Ezell (left) and Eleanor Anthony, both students in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, work with English professor Gregory Heyworth to examine a 15th century Italian manuscript for Oberlin College. The work is part of the Lazarus Project, which uses multispectral imaging technology to analyze old and/or damaged documents and recover faded or erased text. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is included in the elite group of R-1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list for the top doctoral research universities in the United States.

UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the “highest research,” or R-1 category. This group represents the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The Carnegie Classification analyzes Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, data from all U.S. post-secondary institutions and evaluates measures of research activity for doctoral universities in making its assessments, which are released every five years.

“As a flagship university, the University of Mississippi is determined to play a key role in the cycle of research and discovery that drives and sustains our community and world,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “This ranking was achieved thanks to our outstanding faculty and their dedication to research and education.”

The Carnegie Classification’s assignment to categories of highest, higher and moderate research activity is based on research and development expenditures, science and engineering research staff including post-doctoral candidates and non-faculty staff members with doctorates, and doctoral conferrals in humanities and social sciences fields, in STEM fields and in other areas such as business, education, public policy and social work.

Dr. Wael ElShamy, director of the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program, has received a patent on a method to diagnose and treat several cancer types and subtypes. The method may lead to the first targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and add to therapies for other cancers.

Dr. Wael ElShamy, director of the UMMC Cancer Institute’s Molecular Cancer Therapeutics Program, has received a patent on a method to diagnose and treat several cancer types and subtypes. The method may lead to the first targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and add to therapies for other cancers.

Alice Clark, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs, applauded the university’s new classification and affirmed the vital economic role that a world-class research institution plays in the state and region.

“Attaining the Carnegie ‘highest research activity’ classification is historic for our university,” Clark said. “It illustrates the value we place on scholarly inquiry and the application of our expertise to understanding and improving our world and educating future leaders. Our faculty, staff and students deserve this recognition of their efforts to create and innovate.”

Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine at the UM Medical Center, was elated at the Carnegie distinction.

“We are very pleased and proud to be a part of a university where research and scholarly activity are highly valued,” she said. “From internationally renowned basic science research in physiology to large population studies being conducted through the MIND Center and the Jackson Heart Study, UMMC is leading the way in research on the diseases that impact Mississippians most.”

The university received more than $117 million in sponsored awards, with more than $105 million in research and development expenditures, during fiscal year 2015. Of that total, more than $77 million was in federal grants, more than $16 million was from foundations, about $11 million came from the state of Mississippi, approximately $8 million was from industry and roughly $4 million came from other sources.

UM researchers submitted 876 proposals and 546 research projects were funded in the last fiscal year.

Among the university’s most prestigious and longstanding research projects is the Jackson Heart Study. UMMC researchers are collaborating with Tougaloo College and Jackson State University on the world’s largest long-term study of cardiovascular risk factors in African-Americans.

In 2013, the university joined the American Heart Association and Boston University for “Heart Studies v2.0,” which will expand upon the landmark Framingham and Jackson studies to improve the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular ailments.

The population study has followed the health of 5,000 participants, producing data that continues to yield insights into the underlying causes of cardiovascular disease. In 2013, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, each a part of the National Institutes of Health, announced renewed funding for the JHS.

Other long-term prestigious projects are the marijuana research project conducted by the university’s National Center for Natural Products Research, jet noise reduction studies at the National Center for Physical Acoustics, known as NCPA, and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory collaboration through the Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Faculty and postdoctoral researchers in the physics department played major roles in the search and discovery of the Higgs boson, the subatomic particle thought to be responsible for all mass in the universe. The discovery was announced July 2012 by scientists at CERN, a multinational research center headquartered in Geneva.

Most recently, two faculty members within the physics department and NCPA received a $3 million Department of Energy grant to study nuclear fuel storage safety and stability.

Three Ole Miss professors received Faculty Early Career Development Awards from the National Science Foundation within the past eight months. Patrick Curtis, assistant professor of biology, is the seventh CAREER award recipient at the university in the last eight years. Sarah Liljegren, associate professor of biology, received the award last November and Jared Delcamp, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry, earned a similar award in June 2015. This marks the first time three UM faculty members were selected in the same academic year.

From its first class of 80 students in 1848, UM has grown to a doctoral degree-granting university with 15 academic divisions and more than 23,800 students. Located on its main campus in Oxford are the College of Liberal Arts; the schools of Accountancy, Applied Sciences, Business Administration, Education, Engineering, Journalism and New Media, Pharmacy and Law; and the Graduate School. The Medical Center in Jackson trains professionals in its schools of Medicine, Nursing, Health Related Professions, Dentistry, Pharmacy and Graduate Studies.

In all, more than 100 programs of study offer superior academic experiences that provide each graduate with the background necessary for a lifetime of scholastic, social and professional growth. Strengthening and expanding the academic experience are the acclaimed Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Croft Institute for International Studies and Lott Leadership Institute.

For more information about research at UM, visit http://research.olemiss.edu/.

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, visiting with Dr. Albert Nylander, Director of McLean Institute

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.

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.”