Six UM Students Awarded Prestigious Language Scholarships

Prestigious honors allows undergrads to study abroad, prepare for international careers

Trent Small-Towns enjoys a relaxing moment in China, where he will complete his study abroad experience. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Six University of Mississippi undergraduate students have won prestigious national scholarships to study foreign languages considered critical to U.S. economic, diplomatic and security interests.

The Critical Language Scholarships are given annually by the U.S. Department of State. They are competitive, with undergraduate, master’s, Ph.D. and M.D. students vying for the funds. Recipients of the awards also include students from the Columbia, Georgetown and Harvard universities and the universities of Chicago and California at Berkeley.

“We are tremendously proud of the six Ole Miss recipients of this prestigious, competitive scholarship awards,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “What a great opportunity for these students to enhance their critical language and cultural skills.

“Their selection for these scholarships is certainly a reflection of their high level of achievement and hard work. It is also a testament to the strength and excellence of the university’s language and international programs.”

Tyler Caple poses on the Great Wall during one of her study abroad trips. Submitted photo

The five UM winners of the Critical Language Scholarships are Meredith Brown, a sophomore Chinese and accountancy major from Oxford; Tyler Caple, a sophomore Chinese and international studies major from Huntsville, Alabama; Mary Frances Holland, a sophomore international studies major with a Russian minor from Lucedale; Trent Small-Towns, a sophomore Chinese and integrated marketing communications major from Atlanta; and Chase Young, a senior international studies and Arabic major from Hattiesburg.

 These students are among about 550 American students at U.S. colleges and universities who received a Critical Language Scholarship in 2017.

Nathaniel Williams, a senior Arabic major from North Hampton, New Hampshire, received a Summer Arabic Language and Media, or SALAM, Scholarship, which is given to students who study Arabic and is hosted by the Sultanate of Oman. Williams will spend six weeks studying Modern Standard Arabic as well as the Gulf Arabic Dialect.

Brown, Caple and Small-Towns are all members of UM’s Chinese Language Flagship Program. Brown is going to study in Dalian, China; Caple is headed to Changchun, China; and Small-Towns is off to Xi’an, China.

Williams will study in Manah, Oman, and Young is headed to Meknes, Morocco. Holland is headed to Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.

Each recipient flies to Washington, D.C., for orientation, where they will meet with students going to other parts of the world to study. Then they will fly to their language sites, where they will have classes for at least four hours a day and excursions to cultural and historical sites.

“Since 2008, 31 UM students, including this year’s five recipients, have earned this prestigious award,” said Daniel

Nathaniel Williams will be studying Arabic in Manah, Oman, for six weeks. Submitted photo

O’Sullivan, interim chair and professor of modern languages. “Our rate of success is higher than most SEC institutions, many of which are much larger than UM, and I think it demonstrates the University of Mississippi is where serious language students enroll.

“Continued student success further testifies to the dedication of our skilled faculty. We are proud of students and professors alike.”

The languages these students will study are considered quite demanding. According to ratings by the Foreign Service Institute, Arabic and Chinese are in the highest category of difficulty for English speakers. Russian is in the next highest category of difficulty.

Each UM student has prepared for their time abroad. Brown is the first female accountancy student to win one of these scholarships to study Chinese. She is also just the fifth accounting student to win a Critical Language Scholarship in the history of the program.

“I was shocked because I knew many people applied and the program is very selective,” said Brown, who will spend the summer studying at the Dalian University of Technology, considered a top university in China. A city of just under 7 million people, Dalian is a major finance and high-tech center in China and home one of Intel’s major chip fabrication plants.

“This summer, I hope I can not only make progress on my goal toward fluency, but also absorb Chinese social customs and cultural differences, which would help me in the future to bridge the gap between Chinese and American professionals.”

Mary Holland will be studying Russian in Nizhyn Novgorod, Russia’s fifth-largest city. Submitted photo

Small-Town said he is looking forward to interacting with peers and strangers who may be different from himself.

“I want to see the terra cotta warrior statues,” he said. “I learned most of my Chinese history from textbooks, so it will be interesting to see it even more contextualized in real life. I’m also really looking forward to all the different types of foods Xi’an has to offer.”

Caple, Holland and Young are all students in the university’s Croft Institute for International Studies. Small-Towns is enrolled in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“Most of my time will be spent taking language classes at the Changchun Northeast Normal University in Changchun, Jilin, China,” Caple said. “Later in life, I would like to work in global health and/or environmental policy.

“I believe that Chinese is a good choice for this kind of policy work, since China and the U.S. are the top carbon emitters of the world, but are also the two largest countries doing the most sustainable energy research.”

Holland said she was doing homework one afternoon when the email notification appeared on her phone. She read over the selection, speechless.

“I had applied for the scholarship the previous year and did not get past the semifinalist round, so this news was wonderful and exciting,” she said. “For the days following, it barely seemed real.”

Meredith Brown enjoys time at a shopping mall during one of her many trips. Submitted photo

She will be studying in Nizhny Novgorod, which is about five hours east of Moscow and is Russia’s fifth-largest city. There Holland will be in intensive Russian classes five days a week, followed by group excursions around the city.

“I am most excited to visit Nizhny Novgorod’s Kremlin, located in the center of the city,” Holland said. “I will also be studying abroad in Moscow during the fall semester.

“I hope this summer experience will help prepare me, linguistically, for long-term study in Russia. I foresee this experience being critical in improving my understanding of Russian culture, necessary for an international business career.”

Chase Young, a senior international studies and Arabic major, defends his senior thesis in the Croft Institute for International Studies. Submitted photo

Williams received a Critical Language Scholarship last summer and studied in Tangiers, Morocco. Although he graduated in May, Williams was still two credits shy of the Arabic requirement for his degree.

“I needed this scholarship or I would have to study abroad and pay out of my own pocket for it,” he said. “This experience will play a vital role in my career path as I move forward working for the United States government in various capacities where I will be using the Arabic language.

“Having both the ability to continue my studies of the Arabic language while simultaneously gaining firsthand knowledge about a new culture will be extremely beneficial.”

“Critical” languages are those that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools but are essential for America’s engagement with the world. Since 2006, the State Department has awarded scholarships to more than 5,200 American students to learn critical languages around the world.

Critical language scholars are among the more than 50,000 academic and professional exchange program participants supported annually by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

For more about the Critical Language Scholarship Program, visit

UM Alumna Takes Comedy on the Road

Kendall Ketchum tours with former 'SNL' cast member Darrell Hammond

Ole Miss alumna Kendall Ketchum performs her comedy routine at KAABOO’s comedy club in Del Mar, California. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna Kendall Ketchum has performed her comedy routines for a decade in New York City, but she’s recently taken her talent from dive bars to a tour with former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Darrell Hammond.

Ketchum, who studied theatre arts at Ole Miss, earned her bachelor’s degree in 2006 and moved to New York shortly after, intent on breaking into comedy.

“It was always going to be New York,” she said. “I always wanted to be on ‘Saturday Night Live.'”

For a girl from Yazoo City, the cultural transition was not as difficult as one might think, thanks to a close network of other Ole Miss graduates. She immediately tried her hand at stand-up comedy.

“I completely bombed,” she said. “I would get up there and it would just be the sound of crickets. It was horrible.”

Ketchum took a break from stand-up to join the Upright Citizens Brigade, an improv group and training ground for comedians that once included such heavyweights as Amy Poehler.

About five years ago after regaining her footing through improv, Ketchum began doing stand-up again. She performed successfully at big-name venues such as Gotham Comedy Club and Caroline’s on Broadway, which eventually became her home base.

The focus of Ketchum’s comedy is not jokes, but storytelling. She is known for her brand of Mississippi-meets-New York humor as she describes cultural differences and how each handles different situations.

Ketchum met Hammond while she was preparing new material for a show at Caroline’s.

“I was sitting in the green room by myself and I felt a presence of someone walk into the room,” she said. “I look up and it’s Darrell. He asks if he could sit with me, and I said, ‘sure,’ but I thought, ‘OK, don’t pester him. Just keep staring at your material.'”

The two ended up talking about New York delis and other random topics when he asked her to watch the show with him. She did, and they sat and whispered about different styles of comedy, including her own unique style.

“I did my set and when I got offstage, he was gone. We didn’t exchange contact information, so I thought that was that.”

Just a few days later, she received a call from Hammond, who had gotten her information from someone at Caroline’s.

“I met with him, and he wanted me to open for his set in New York,” she said. “He was intrigued that I was Southern and that I went to Ole Miss.”

The two began touring in September and have been working together since. Ketchum has performed with Hammond in Del Mar and San Francisco, California; Jacksonville, Florida; Charlotte, North Carolina; Salt Lake City; and Tempe, Arizona.

“Kendall can be anything she wants to be, go anywhere she wants to go,” Hammond said. “Her comedy is appealing to everyone of all ages, Republican and Democrats alike. Being able to strike across the board like that is key.”

Ketchum said Hammond, who has a similar comedic style of storytelling, helps her with writing and ideas.

“It’s just been so great to learn from him, but I always thought my mentor would be someone a few steps ahead of me, not an ‘SNL’ legend,” she said. “He’s the best impressionist, but what people don’t know is he is the nicest person on the planet.”

Ketchum said she is excited to have gotten a break after years of hard work and, sometimes, frustration.

“I had been doing comedy in some not-so-fun places and I’m still performing in the back of dive bars,” she said. “It was nice to be thrown a bone a little bit, even though it felt out of the blue, even now.”

Pharmacy School Remembers Associate Dean Emeritus Charlie Hufford

Professor, researcher and administrator influenced many over 43-year Ole Miss career

Charlie Hufford

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.

Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.

“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”

Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.

He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.

During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.

He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.

Charlie Hufford is remembered by colleagues as a dedicated teacher, administrator and researcher, who helped transform the UM School of Pharmacy’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.

Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.

Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.

“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”

Hufford was an avid bowler who recorded more than 30 perfect games over his career.

Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.

“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”

At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.

Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”

“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.

“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”

Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.

Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.

“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”

Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”

Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.

First Group of METP Students Graduate from Ole Miss

Fourteen graduates make plans for new teaching careers in Mississippi

The first group of students in the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program graduated from UM over the weekend. They are (back row, from left) Benjamin Logan, Jake Wheeler, Kaypounyers Maye and Shelby Knighten, (middle row) Emily Reynolds, Abigail Null, Kaye Leigh Whitfield, Katianne Middleton, Nancy ‘Bella’ Hutson and Jenna Smiley, and (front row) Anna Claire Kelly, Brenna Ferrell, Lydia Hall and Rachel Sanchez. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Fourteen seniors who graduated Saturday (May 13) at the University of Mississippi are prepared to make a difference in the lives of students statewide as the first group to graduate from the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program.

METP, a highly selective and rigorous teacher preparation program, was established in 2013 to offer full scholarships to the best and brightest students from around the nation to study education and teach in Mississippi.

The 2017 graduates are Brenna Ferrell of Ocean Springs; Lydia Hall of Madison; Nancy Hutson of Liberty; Anna Claire Kelley of Madison; Shelby Knighten of Gautier; Benjamin Logan of Sherman; Kaypounyers Maye of Gulfport; Katianne Middleton of Selma, Alabama; Abigail Null of Corinth; Rachel Sanchez of Southaven; Emily Reynolds of Brandon; Jenna Smiley of Meridian; James Wheeler of St. Johns, Florida; and Kaye Leigh Whitfield of Birmingham, Alabama.

“Five years ago, METP was just an idea,” said Ryan Niemeyer, the program’s director. “Seeing these students walk across the graduation stage will be a moment of great pride for many faculty and staff at the School of Education who have gone to great lengths to make the program what it is today. We have great expectations for the impact they will have on the future of our state.”

METP is a collaboration with Mississippi State University, which celebrated the graduation of its first cohort earlier this month.

Initial funding for the program came from a $12.9 million grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation of Jackson in 2013, and the foundation reaffirmed its support with a $28 million commitment in January. The two universities split the funding and collaborate on educational opportunities for students each semester.

This first group of students entered UM with a high school GPA of 4.0 and an average ACT score of 28.5. Besides earning full tuition scholarships, the students received monies for housing, technology, professional development and study abroad.

More than 100 students from 18 states have been admitted into the program since its creation. With four classes admitted, the program has an average incoming ACT score of 30.

Graduate Jake Wheeler said he chose METP four years ago over 17 other programs to which he applied because it was the one that provided the most opportunities in a classroom environment.

“I was in classrooms my freshman year,” Wheeler said. “None of the other programs that I applied to put students in classrooms before junior year.”

Wheeler also traveled around the country and to Canada as part of study abroad to learn about national and international education policies during his METP career.

“The most recent and beneficial trip was to San Antonio for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics annual conference,” he said. “At NCTM, I was able to spend three days in professional development that undergraduate students do not typically participate in, where I learned about cutting-edge tools, technology and resources in math education as well as innovative teaching practices.”

Each student agrees to teach for five years in a Mississippi public school after graduation. Many already have signed contracts to begin jobs as new teachers this fall.

In August, Wheeler is to begin teaching Algebra I at Northwest Rankin High School in Flowood, where two other METP teachers will join him.

“I hope to bring some of the teaching practices I have learned to Northwest Rankin to help my students meet their educational goals,” Wheeler said. “I hope to join or start a strong community service organization at NWRHS to benefit the Flowood community and the Jackson area as a whole. 

“I hope to get myself and my students invested in helping the community become as beautiful and productive as it can be.”

Anna Claire Kelly, another new graduate of the program, always knew she wanted to be a teacher and this program suited her and her goals perfectly. This fall, she begins her new teaching career at Tupelo High School.

“METP was one of the best decisions I could have made during my college career,” she said. “The program expanded our horizons and has given us more opportunities than we could have ever imagined.

“As I begin my teaching career in the fall, I can only hope to impact my students’ lives the way so many of my teachers did mine. I want to be the teacher that doesn’t make school all about academics, but about life, too.”

Archive of Theatrical Memorabilia Created in UM Library

New collection honors actress Marian Seldes and the Actors Fund of America

Jennifer Ford (left), head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections, and Cecilia Botero, UM dean of libraries, share an autographed poster from ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ with Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon. The poster is a gift from the Actors Fund of America. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Curators of the Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment Collection at the University of Mississippi have created a unique archive to honor the late actress Marian Seldes and the Actors Fund of America, the latter for its generous donations of theatrical memorabilia. 

The Marian Seldes/Actors Fund Archive, housed in the J.D. Williams Library’s Department of Archive and Special Collections, includes signed Broadway posters and other materials.

To mark its establishment, the Actors Fund donated a framed poster signed by the original cast of Broadway’s longest-running musical, “The Phantom of the Opera.” Representatives of the fund also gave a commemorative Actors Fund 125th anniversary ornament to Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and his wife, Sharon, for use at Carrier House, the UM chancellor’s residence.

“At the University of Mississippi, our arts and cultural programs are among the best, and one of our most passionate supporters is alumnus Ellis Nassour,” Vitter said. “We are extremely grateful to Ellis and to the Actors Fund for their gifts to Ole Miss.

“These donations enhance our Department of Archives and Special Collections and are a great resource for our students, faculty and staff.”

In celebration of the gift, the Department of Theatre Arts staged a reading with Ole Miss students John Brahan, a senior acting major from Hattiesburg and Ole Miss Hall of Fame inductee, and Rachel Staton, a senior musical theatre major from Atlanta who won and Outstanding performance award from the Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival.

Brahan and Staton performed excerpts from Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee plays in which Seldes starred. The performance was directed by Rory Ledbetter, associate professor of theatre arts.

Co-founded in 1882 by classical actor Edwin Booth, the Actors Fund of America is a nonprofit human services organization that serves professionals in theater, film, television, music, opera and dance through programs that address their unique and essential needs. Joseph Benincasa is president and CEO of the fund, and Tony Award-winning actor Brian Stokes Mitchell is board chair.

With offices in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, the Actors Fund directly serves more than 8,000 entertainment and performing arts professionals, and approximately 300,000 more through web resource programs.

“We were happy to support this archive and the memory of Ms. Seldes, who was an ardent supporter of the Actors Fund,” Benincasa said.

The Actors Fund gifts, which began in 2015, include framed and signed Broadway posters from noteworthy performances and annual Actors Fund all-star fundraising galas.

Joseph Benincasa (right), president and CEO of the Actors Fund of America, and Ellis Nassour with photo of actress Marian Seldes. Submitted photo

Ellis Nassour, a Vicksburg native and member of the Ole Miss Class of 1964, suggested that the archive be named for Seldes, his longtime friend.

“Marian was among the most admired and hardest-working actors on any stage,” Nassour said. “Her 60-year career covered theater, television, film and radio. Her conversational abilities are still legendary. She was indefatigable until the very end.”

Seldes was honored with Tony and Drama Desk awards, as well as numerous nominations. She was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 1995 and presented a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2010. She died in 2014.

The Mamie and Ellis Nassour Arts and Entertainment Collection, dedicated in 2004, was donated by Ellis Nassour in honor of his parents.

The collection includes posters, bound film and theater scripts, photos, caricatures, circus posters, show souvenir books and theatrical memorabilia. It also includes an impressive assortment of playbills, many of which are autographed, from performances worldwide.

A third of the collection is designated for exhibition display, and another third is archived for research. The most important third, Nassour said, is a growing collection of DVDs of film, opera and dance and CDs, ranging from country and pop to Broadway, classical and opera, that is available for circulation.

“We are extremely grateful to both Mr. Nassour and the Actor’s Fund of America,” said Jennifer Ford, the library’s head of special collections. “Donations such as these help to ensure the outstanding nature of the unique archival collections at the University of Mississippi.”

The collection is an amazing resource, said Ed Meek, an Ole Miss classmate of Nassour, former UM assistant vice chancellor and founder of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“When he was director of social affairs for the Associated Student Body in the ’60s, the innovations he brought to revamping campus entertainment were impressive. He went on to establish a niche in New York among his news and public relations peers.

“This is another first for the university that could only be made possible by an alumnus who loves Ole Miss.”

Nassour points out that he had help from ASB presidents Douglas Abraham, Dick Wilson and Tom Cleveland, volunteers on various committees and the late Tom Hines, dean emeritus of students.

Early in his life, Nassour developed an interest in the performing arts. At UM, he was a contributor to The Daily Mississippian, where his first interview was Bob Hope, who was performing on campus.

Nassour began collecting materials related to the entertainment industry while at The New York Times, where, under the tutelage of Mississippian Turner Catledge – at the time the newspaper’s managing editor – he climbed the ranks.

He later became director of artist relations of MCA Music/Universal Pictures, where he worked with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber on their landmark studio album “Jesus Christ Superstar,” and artists Elton John, Neil Diamond, The Who, Brenda Lee, Clint Eastwood, Dean Martin, Shirley MacLaine, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

Nassour has written two biographies of Patsy Cline: the first, “Patsy Cline, An Intimate Portrait,” in 1981 and “Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline,” in 1993. The entire spoken portion of the revue “Always, Patsy Cline” is taken from four pages of Nassour’s biography.

Horizons Seeks Support for Wednesday Fundraiser

Innovative summer program at UM boosts achievement among underserved students

Camp Best, a regular volunteer in the Horizons summer program, teaches social skills to elementary school students. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the Lafayette-Oxford-University community have an important opportunity Wednesday (May 17) to support an innovative summer learning program operating on the University of Mississippi campus.

Horizons, a key initiative in the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement’s mission to fight poverty through education, is a six-week, full-day summer learning program that provides academics, enrichment and recreation to underserved students from the community.

Horizons aims to raise $20,000 to support its mission to eliminate summer learning loss. The UM affiliate will join other Horizons affiliates across the country Wednesday to raise money to expand existing programs and bring Horizons to more communities nationwide.

“UM’s Horizons program is creating summer learning opportunities for students in Oxford and Lafayette County school districts who otherwise might not have it,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute and executive director for Horizons. “For six weeks, students are afforded an opportunity to be Ole Miss students on campus.

“UM students are also making a difference in the lives of these schoolchildren through their volunteer efforts in the program.”

Horizons offers a quality learning experience outside the traditional school year that supports academic achievement and healthy youth development.

Children who begin Horizons after kindergarten are invited back every summer for at least nine years. This long-term commitment means that children in Horizons will accumulate learning gains that will prepare them for success in college and their careers.

“Research shows that students not reading at grade level by third grade are unlikely to graduate from high school, and low-income students enter kindergarten already behind in literacy skills due to disparities in opportunity, vocabulary and nutrition,” said Laura Martin, assistant director of the McLean Institute.

First-grade teacher Raven King helps Horizons program students with their reading skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“Summer learning loss compounds over time, so without programs like Horizons, students who experience summer learning loss can be as much as three years behind by the fifth grade. Horizons exists to eliminate summer learning loss and, over time, close the achievement gap in our community.”

Horizons will host 90 kindergarten-to-fifth-grade students from the Lafayette County and Oxford school districts this summer. On average, students who participated in the previous four summers started the school year at or above where they ended the previous year.

Horizons is a community-based program with a number of campus and community partners contributing students’ success.

For Horizons Giving Day, all Horizons’ staff, board members, partners, alumni, volunteers, donors, corporate partners, sponsors and supporters will come together for a friendly, yet competitive, race to raise $1 million for Horizons programs across the nation, with all money raised locally remaining with the local affiliate.

This one-day fundraising event has the potential to bring crucial resources to the children served by Horizons at UM. For more information, go to or like Horizons on Facebook at

Three Receive UM College of Liberal Arts Teaching Honors

Faculty members lauded for excellence in challenging and guiding students

Lee Cohen (second from left), dean of the UM College of Liberal Arts, congratulates (from left) Matt Long, Carey Bernini Dowling and Steven Davis on their teaching honors announced Friday. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi recognized three faculty members Friday (May 13) for their excellence in teaching.

The Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year award went to Matt Long, associate professor of art. Steven Davis, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, was given the Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of Freshmen. The Liberal Arts Outstanding Instructor of the Year honor was presented to Carey Bernini Dowling, instructional assistant professor of psychology.

The recipients were recognized at the university’s spring faculty meeting. They also will be honored Saturday at the university’s 164th Commencement. They each receive a plaque and $1,000, and their names are added to award plaques in the dean’s office.

“The recipients of this year’s outstanding teaching awards join the cadre of past honorees recognized as the best and most accomplished faculty within the University of Mississippi,” said Lee Cohen, dean of liberal arts. “We commend each of them for dedication, excellence and service to our students and their educational pursuits.”

Each recipient reflected upon the meaning of his selection for the prestigious honors.

“Clearly, I was more than flattered to be even nominated for such an award,” said Long, who completed his Master of Fine Arts at Ohio University. “What a wonderful feeling to be told by your colleagues and students that what your doing is worthy of recognition. I am honored!”

Long, who has worked at UM for 12 years, received the University Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring last year.

Davis said he is pleased and honored that his students and the college have chosen to recognize his commitment to teaching.

“It is a great honor to be included in the list of awardees,” said Davis, who received his doctorate from the University of Virginia and has been on the UM faculty for 28 years. “I really enjoy working with freshman students as they adjust to college and begin their academic training here.

“Ultimately, I hope my students view my class as gaining skills to be used throughout their careers, not just as a grade to move onto the next class in their majors.”

Winning the teaching award makes Dowling, who joined the faculty five years ago, feel gratified.

“It is difficult to express how much this nomination and award mean to me,” said Dowling, who earned her doctorate from Stony Brook University of State University of New York. “To receive recognition for something I care so deeply about is truly an honor.”

Criteria for Teacher and Instructor of the Year awards include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students and concern for students’ welfare.

Established 30 years ago by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, the Graham award aims to help retain better professors who teach freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts. Criteria for this annual award also include excellence of class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare.

Administrators said all the honorees are worthy of the recognition.

“Matt is one of those teachers that makes such an impression, students take one class with him and then change their major,” said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair and professor of art. “He is one of those teachers who is informative in the classroom and raises the bar without the students realizing they are working.

“He is recognized at the top of his field by his contemporaries with celebrity-like status and is sought after by institutions across the country to have him lecture or give a workshop.”

Greg Tschumper, chair and professor of chemistry and biochemistry, said Davis is one of the most enthusiastic and dedicated teachers he’s ever worked with.

“He has become one of the department’s most effective instructors for our first-year general chemistry sequence, aka Freshman Chemistry,” Tschumper said.

“This course is the source of much anxiety for many freshman students. Yet Dr. Davis has consistently been able to maintain a perfect balance between maintaining high standards and still making some challenging material very accessible to the university’s newest family members.”

Similar praises for Dowling came from Rebekah Smith, chair and professor of psychology.

“Dr. Dowling provides intellectual challenges and meaningful contributions to supporting student success in the classroom and beyond,” Smith said. “Dr. Dowling is an ideal instructor who takes teaching very seriously and is always exploring ways to build upon her already superior performance.”

Six Inaugural Stamps Scholars Reflect Upon UM Experience

Grateful recipients ready for graduation and chance to change the world

The university’s inaugural Stamps Scholars recently gathered to re-create their class photo from four years ago. They are (front, from left) Madeleine Achgill, Kate Prendergast and Eloise Tyner, and (back, from left) Dylan Ritter, Kathryn James and Ben Branson. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Four seniors graduating Saturday (May 13) from the University of Mississippi have the distinction of being among the first six UM students to have benefitted from the prestigious Stamps Scholars program.

Funded by the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, the awards are the university’s most comprehensive, full scholarship packages for in-state and out-of-state students. Each package covers the full cost of attendance, along with a generous stipend for unique educational pursuits, including study abroad, research internships and academic conferences.

Inaugural Stamps Scholars graduating this weekend are Madeleine Elena Achgill, a Mandarin Chinese and international studies major from Indianapolis; Kathryn Elsa James, a public policy leadership, economics and Southern studies major from Mandeville, Louisiana; Dylan James Ritter, a chemistry major from Somerset, New Jersey; and Eloise Wright Tyner, a public policy leadership and Arabic major from Oxford.

The two other inaugural Stamps Scholars will receive UM degrees at later dates. They are Kate Louise Prendergast, a psychology and theater arts major from Luling, Louisiana, on track to graduate in December; and Benjamin Carter Branson, a mechanical engineering major from Madison scheduled to graduate in spring 2018. All six are members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Our first generation of Stamps Scholars has set a high bar with their scholastic achievements and their ethic of excellence,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “They created a spirit of collegiality and they pushed each other to excel, to imagine and to push through to the conclusion. We could not be luckier to have landed such an outstanding group for our first cohort of Stamps Scholars.”

UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter also praised the exceptional seniors.

“With the graduation of our inaugural cohort of Stamps Scholars, we are so pleased to be seeing the first fruition of our tremendous partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation,” Vitter said. “These gifted, talented students have spent the last four years leaving their mark of excellence on our campus and in our community.

“We are proud to call them Ole Miss Rebels and send them out into the world so that they can continue to impact lives and communities, from across the street to around the globe.”

Grateful and optimistic, each of the scholars reflected upon his/her most memorable experience and shared future plans.

Achgill came to UM to become fluent in two foreign languages by the time she graduated college. Her Spanish and Chinese scores show that she is highly professionally proficient in both languages.

The university’s 18th David L. Boren Scholar, Achgill will attend Nanjing University in China this fall, followed by an internship in a Tier 1 city next spring. Due to Capstone and Boren requirements that she remain a degree-seeking student until the completion of her China program, Achgill will not receive her diploma until August 2018.

“Because of my interests in China and Latin America relations, I’m hoping to intern with a Chinese company with business, cultural or research ties to Latin America,” she said. “After the year in China, I hope to fulfill the Boren federal government service requirement through a job that combines my interests, perhaps through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.”

The inaugural cohort of Stamps Scholars at UM entered as 2013 freshmen. They are (from left) Madeline Achgill, Dylan Ritter, Kate Prendergast, Kathryn James, Eloise Tyner and Benjamin Branson. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

James said she found her niche in education working with Mississippi First, a nonprofit organization specializing in education policy research and advocacy, during her freshman year. Her commitment was reaffirmed while teaching with the Sunflower County Freedom Project in the Mississippi Delta after her junior year.

Her plans are to ultimately work in education policy, deconstructing opportunity gaps so that all students are equipped to achieve.

“My most transformative moments in college – working for Mississippi First, Mississippi’s leading education advocacy group, teaching at a nonprofit in the Delta, experiencing public conceptions of religion in Europe and traveling through eastern and southeastern Asia – have all been supported by the Stamps enrichment fund,” said James, who will join the Mississippi Teachers Corps this fall to begin work on a UM master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

“Attending Ole Miss, and having the flexibility Stamps provides, has been absolutely pivotal to my career path. I came to UM planning to work in international development, but quickly learned about the educational inequity present in Mississippi, which led me to learn about opportunity and achievement gaps in this and every state.”

Since enrolling at Ole Miss, Ritter has spent summers conducting research at both Texas A&M University and in Ireland for five weeks at a pharmaceutical lab, where his performance earned an opportunity to perform independent research for the multinational company. He worked last summer in a lab associated with the University of California at Davis that integrated his earlier research from Texas A&M.

“Getting to travel to Texas A&M during my freshman and sophomore summers gave me a great chance to see a new career path in the sciences,” he said. “During those summers, I realized how much I enjoyed research.

“The experience was so rewarding and fulfilling that it shifted my post-undergraduate plans from medical school to graduate school.”

Ritter’s post-graduation plans include going to Ireland to visit a host family from high school and to travel around.

“The Stamps Scholarship has given me the financial freedom to plan trips like this in order to see new perspectives in the world and learn about different ways of living,” he said. “Long term, I will be going to Vanderbilt University for a Ph.D. in the biomedical sciences as part of their interdisciplinary graduate program.”

Tyner’s service projects have included a Cherokee mission trip and work with the Oxford Food Pantry and Operation Christmas Child.

“I spent four months in Amman, Jordan, working on proficiency in Arabic and returned for an action-packed summer with the Sunflower County Freedom Project in Mississippi,” Tyner said. “My time abroad and work in the state enabled me to pursue my thesis interest in racial reconciliation.”

Prendergast said her most fulfilling experience as a Stamps Scholar has been serving on the leadership team at the Ole Miss Wesley Foundation, the campus ministry of the United Methodist Church.

“The Stamps Scholarship has afforded me the opportunity to engage in clinical psychology research at Ole Miss, focusing generally on the mechanisms of anxiety and disgust reduction, and the presentation of psychiatric symptoms in pregnant women,” she said. “These experiences have led to my passion and excitement to work in this field and tap into the resources it offers for improving mental health care.”

Prendergast’s short-term plans include conducting research with a clinical psychologist at the University of Hawaii this summer, working at a mental health clinic and applying for doctoral programs in clinical psychology. Her long-term plan is to complete a Ph.D. and work in a university medical center where she can research, teach and see patients.

A student in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence, Branson led a Capstone design team throughout the year designing, prototyping and manufacturing wooden sunglasses. He continued his work with Outward Bound during a January expedition in the Florida Keys.

“This summer, I will be leading sailing expeditions in coastal Maine for (Hurricane Island Outward Bound School) and performing thesis research there as well,” Branson said. “For my thesis, I’m thinking of taking what we learn in the CME about efficiency and manufacturing and organization and applying it to the sailing base, to see if I can’t make it more efficient and easier to understand.”

The partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation was established in 2012, when Ole Miss alumnus William Dunlap of McLean, Virginia, brought his alma mater to the Stamps family’s attention. After reviewing a proposal, the foundation chose to partner with the university.

For 2016-17, 12 incoming UM freshmen were selected as Stamps scholars, making the university one of only four to award more than 10 Stamps Scholarships to incoming students.

“We couldn’t be more proud of our first class of graduating Stamps Scholars at Ole Miss,” said Roe Stamps, founder of the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation. “These amazing young men and women have proven to be well-equipped to continue making a positive impact in their communities and abroad, and I am confident they will achieve true greatness as Stamps Scholar alumni.”

The foundation supports more than 400 Stamps Scholars through partnerships at more than 40 outstanding universities and colleges. As one of the country’s most prestigious awards for high school seniors, the Stamps Scholarship typically provides four years of generous support, with additional funding available for enrichment experiences.

The awards are made on the basis of leadership, scholarship, perseverance, innovation and service.

For more information about the Stamps Scholars program at Ole Miss, visit To learn more about the Stamps Foundation, visit

Journalism Students Win Awards in Three Separate Contests

The Daily Mississippian and NewsWatch Ole Miss take first place in regional competition

Multiple Ole Miss students received journalism awards at three separate conferences this spring. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi journalism students working in newspaper, television and radio won more than 50 awards in three separate regional contests this spring.

The Daily Mississippian, led by Editor-in-Chief Clara Turnage and advised by Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, was named best daily newspaper in the Society of Professional Journalists Region 12, competing against college newspapers at the largest universities in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

NewsWatch Ole Miss, under the leadership of station manager Payton Green advised by journalism professor Nancy DuPont, won first place for best newscast.

“What a spectacular year for our student journalists,” Thompson said. “Our students have been honored so often in the past few weeks, it has been hard to keep track. Students work many hours each week to provide information for the campus and community, and they are getting great experience that has helped them land jobs and internships.”

The Daily Mississippian and NewsWatch will compete against winners in the other 11 regions for national titles. National winners will be announced later this month.

Patricia Thompson (left), assistant dean for student media in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and students (top row) Bill Rainey, Jake Thrasher and Clara Turnage, and (front, from left) Lauren Layton, Madison Heil and Abbie McIntosh accept awards at the Mississippi-Louisiana Associated Press Awards ceremony in Jackson. Submitted photo

The Daily Mississippian won first place for public service in the “Best of the South” awards at the Southeast Journalism Conference for its “Red Zone” special section focused on sexual assault issues, published Oct. 27, 2016. The SEJC includes competitors from more than 40 universities in seven Southeastern states and was hosted on the Ole Miss campus this year.

The DM won numerous first-place awards at the Mississippi-Louisiana Associated Press contest as well, including general excellence, breaking/spot news and for its website. NewsWatch also won a first-place award in this contest for best sportscast.

Several students, including Turnage, took home individual awards. The senior from New Hebron was honored with eight awards in three contests, including first-place honors for feature writing, general news reporting and enterprise-investigative reporting. She won a newspaper “Best of Show” award from the Associated Press and finished second in SEJC’s prestigious College Journalist of the Year competition.

Turnage said she is thankful for her time at the DM.

“This has been an incredible year,” she said. “I’ve dreamed of being editor-in-chief since I came to Ole Miss and it was everything I wanted it to be.

“I think we got the opportunity to work on difficult, important subjects for the community, and that’s what we wanted to do. The awards the DM staff won are an important marker of the hard work we put into our publication. They’re not the reason we work hard, but I love seeing the editors and reporters get recognition for their efforts.”

Turnage has accepted a summer internship with the Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C. She is among only three interns hired, along with a student from UC-Berkeley and another from Columbia University.

Other students who won first-place awards in the Associated Press, SEJC and Society of Professional Journalists contests are:

Italiana Anderson, a senior from Ridgeland, for radio documentary in the AP competition

Cameron Brooks, sophomore from Houston, Texas, sports photos, AP

Ariel Cobbert, junior from Hattiesburg, breaking news photos, SPJ

Lana Ferguson, junior from Mechanicsville, Virginia, magazine writing, SEJC

Payton Green, December graduate from Pascagoula, TV breaking news, SPJ

Lauren Layton, junior from Huntsville, Alabama, TV breaking news, SPJ

Sara McAlister, sophomore from Potomac, Maryland, radio sports, AP

Zoe McDonald, senior from Brandon, feature writing, SEJC

Billy Rainey, senior from Jackson, radio news and radio Best of Show, AP

Brian Scott Rippee, senior from Jackson, sports enterprise/feature, AP

Jake Thrasher, junior from Birmingham, Alabama, personal column writing, AP

The UM journalism school’s advanced reporting and television documentary classes also were honored with a first-place award from the AP for Best Student Documentary. Led by journalism professors Brad Schultz and Kathleen Wickam, the classes produced a half-hour documentary titled “Mississippi Votes: Looking Back, Moving Forward,” focused on Mississippi’s role in the 2016 general election, specifically in regards to voter identification, immigration and young voters.

“Having now won this award three years in a row, it’s a reflection of the hard work our documentary and reporting students have put in,” Schultz said. “To start a documentary project in late August and have an award-winning product finished by early December shows the quality of our students.”

The documentary can be seen here.

“Mississippi Miracle,” a depth report about the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, was named a finalist in the SPJ contest. The report was produced by student journalists in a class led by instructor Bill Rose, assistant professor Mikki Harris and instructor Emily Bowen-Moore.

Second- and third-place winners and finalists representing Ole Miss are:

Hayden Benge, a sophomore from Tulsa, Oklahoma, for page layout and design

Chandler Morgan, senior from Kennesaw, Georgia, TV news

Marisa Morrissette, junior from Oxford, graphic design

Riley Mueller, junior from College Station, Texas, radio sports

Daniella Oropeza, senior from Clinton, TV hard news

Megan Peoples, freshman from Columbus, radio sports

DeAndria Turner, freshman from Gautier, radio feature

UM-Tupelo Students Hit Top 10 in Bloomberg Stock Trading Challenge

Class project yields solid investing experience for group

Finance students at the UM-Tupelo campus placed in the top 10 among 265 teams from colleges around the country in the Bloomberg Business Stock Trading Challenge. The winning team includes (from left) Daniel Patterson, Zack Marcinek, faculty adviser Ivonne Liebenberg, Candy McDonald and Heather Couture. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Managerial finance students at the University of Mississippi at Tupelo regional campus have been busy this spring managing a $10 million investment for the Bloomberg Business Corp.

Although the money existed only in theory, the students who participated in the 2017 Bloomberg Trading Challenge gained a real-world knowledge of financial trading principles that helped them bridge classroom theory with actual stock marketing trading.

“I had never participated in anything like this before,” said Zack Marcinek, a senior at UM-Tupelo from Corinth. “I enjoyed it so much that I’ve switched my career goals a bit from wanting to be a financial adviser specifically for individuals to now being more interested in becoming a corporate financial analyst for a larger corporation.”

Ivonne Liebenberg, UM instructional assistant professor of finance, said that when Bloomberg representatives reached out to her in fall 2016 about participating in their new collegiate stock market competition, she jumped at the opportunity for her students to garner investing experience.

“I knew this would be an exciting, interactive way for students to apply what they were learning in class,” she said. “They had the opportunity to learn more about how the stock market works, handling orders, learning about transaction costs and analyzing the outcomes.”

The Tupelo students named their trading team “I. Liebenberg & Co.” in honor of their instructor. Team members included Heather Couture of Mooreville, Zack Marcinek of Corinth, Candy McDonald of Guntown, Daniel Patterson of Pontotoc and Katie Watson of Shannon.

“We started out letting the students pitch their stock ideas,” Liebenberg said. “They had to give me a good reason to add their stock pick to the portfolio. Once we made our decisions, the students began analyzing and following their investments.”

To diversify their portfolio, each student focused on different stock areas to create a balanced investment. Marcinek said he focused on technology stocks and ultimately recommended Netflix and Adobe Connect.

“Both companies are tried-and-true,” Marcinek said. “Most of my friends use Netflix. It seems to be cannibalizing regular television.

“The university uses Adobe Connect in several of my classes. I think it’s only going to progress.”

Both his stock picks recorded gains during the competition.

The trading challenge introduced students to Bloomberg’s Stock Terminal, which is used to define market assumptions, develop a return-generating strategy and execute trades over a closed network.

“It was interesting seeing all of the tools that were part of the trading terminal and how they helped you assess your trades,” Marcinek said. “It wasn’t too complicated and coached us through.”

The competition continued for eight weeks, with students having opportunities to buy and sell stocks throughout that timeframe. The teams that generated the highest return and presented the best investment methodology at the end of the challenge were named among the top 10 finalists.

“We decided to go invest Warren Buffett-style, that is, to buy and hold,” Marcinek said. “We thought by diversifying well and staying patient, our strategy would pay off.”

The students had to keep a close eye on their stocks, but Liebenberg said she felt that trading too much might not garner the greatest return in the competition’s short eight-week timeframe.

In mid-April, Bloomberg representatives informed Liebenberg that the team was came in ninth among the 265 competing teams from 81 colleges around the country.

“I’m very proud of the students’ work, especially since this was their first time competing,” Liebenberg said. “I think they learned a great deal and came up with solid strategies to guide their trading.”