University of Mississippi Instructor Wins Blackboard Catalyst Award

Marc Watkins recognized in the Teaching & Learning category

Marc Watkins

OXFORD, Miss. – Marc Watkins, an instructor in composition and rhetoric at the University of Mississippi, has been named the winner of the 2018 Blackboard Catalyst Award in the Teaching & Learning category, which honors those who have adopted flexible distance and online delivery, including using mobile technologies, to have a positive impact on the educational experience.

Watkins is being recognized for demonstrating innovative use of the Blackboard platforms, increasing flexibility, furthering learner and instructor effectiveness and efficiency.

Founded in 2005, the annual Catalyst Awards recognize and honor innovation and excellence in the Blackboard global community of practice, where millions of educators and learners work every day to redefine what is possible when leveraging technology. Winners are selected by a cross-functional team of Blackboard experts.

Watkins used Open Educational Resources and new technology to modify his Writing 102 online Blackboard course to replace traditional textbooks and increase student engagement. Open Educational Resources reduce student expenses by eliminating or reducing textbook costs.

He received grants from Z-Degree Mississippi and Academic Outreach (formerly called Online Design and eLearning) to develop an online resource through Lumen Learning and help students use innovative techniques to navigate digital spaces.

Stephen Monroe, chair of the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric , described Watkins as “an innovative teacher who cares about his students.”

“We are very pleased that his energy and commitment are being recognized through this award,” Monroe said.

“I’m very honored to receive the award,” Watkins said. “I also know I wouldn’t have received it if not for the culture of openness and support in the Department of Writing and Rhetoric. I especially appreciate that I received encouragement from Stephen Monroe, the department’s chair, and Bob Cummings, our previous chair, to investigate ways to implement OER and other low-cost materials in the classroom.”

Watkins attended the University of Central Missouri as a nontraditional student, earning a GED diploma instead of a traditional high school diploma and attending community college before transferring to the four-year institution. He later received his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Texas State University and published award-winning fiction. He credits his experience as a nontraditional student with giving him insight into the struggles faced by many nontraditional first-year writing students.

“I try to be an ally for those students who come to college a little bit older, work more than one job or may already have a family,” he said. “Blackboard is a platform we use campuswide, so it’s a great place we can implement changes to reach out to those students and offer them resources that can help them succeed.”

“I’m proud to recognize this year’s Catalyst Award winners for their dedication to using technology to enhance the learning experience and sharing their best practices with the larger community,” said Bill Ballhaus, chairman, CEO and president of Blackboard Inc. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the winners and their institutions to support learner success.”

Watkins will be honored alongside other Blackboard Catalyst Award winners during BbWorld 2018, Blackboard’s annual user conference to be held July 16-19 in Orlando, Florida.

For more information on the Blackboard Catalyst Awards, visit:

About the University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is the state’s flagship university. Included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, it has a long history of producing leaders in public service, academics and business. With nearly 24,000 students, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university and is ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing institutions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school, nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy, and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

About Blackboard

Our mission is to partner with the global education community to enable learner and institutional success, leveraging innovative technologies and services. With an unmatched understanding of the world of the learner, the most comprehensive student-success solutions, and the greatest capacity for innovation, Blackboard is education’s partner in change.


Mississippi Encyclopedia Debuts Online

Online version made possible through partnership with Mississippi Humanities Council

OXFORD, Miss. – As of this summer, if you don’t want to lug around the 9-pound Mississippi Encyclopedia, just grab your laptop, and you’ll find the wonders of the state at your fingertips.

The online version of the 1,451-page Mississippi Encyclopedia, a project that began at the University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture in 2003 and concluded with publication in 2017, is now available at

The Mississippi Encyclopedia offers a breadth of topics unavailable anywhere else, with entries on every county, every governor, and numerous musicians, writers, artists and activists in the state. It is the first encyclopedic treatment of the state since 1907.

The volume, published by the University Press of Mississippi, appeals to anyone who wants to know more about Mississippi. It’s especially helpful to students, teachers and scholars researching, writing about or otherwise discovering the state, past and present.

Stuart Rockoff, executive director of the Mississippi Humanities Council, is familiar with the encyclopedia because he wrote the “Jews” and the “Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life” entries. He said he is pleased that the MHC has been able to help make an online version a reality.

“I was excited to learn that the book would finally be published, but was especially interested in creating an online version that would be accessible to students across the state and people all over the world,” Rockoff said. “I later learned that during the early stages of the encyclopedia project, there were discussions about creating an online version. I wanted to bring that idea back and offer the Humanities Council’s resources to help make it happen.

“The online encyclopedia would not be possible without the commitment of the center and its staff, not to mention their incredible work compiling and editing all of the entries that went into the book.”

Rockoff added that the online version enables the encyclopedia to be a living document, with new entries being added and old ones being updated.

“For people outside of our state but interested in our rich history and culture, the online encyclopedia will offer them a wealth of information and analysis,” he said. “For middle school and high school students taking Mississippi history, the online encyclopedia will be an incredible and accessible resource.”

Ted Ownby, director of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, used the print version of the encyclopedia in teaching a HST 452: History of Mississippi course at UM, and echoed the importance of an online version widening availability for learners.

“Using the encyclopedia as a reference in teaching Mississippi history this spring enabled me to make the course much more distinctive because it made teaching more about the specific individuals – people and places – rather than generalities, so the online version will be more useful for schools and students doing projects,” Ownby said.

“We love the fact that a hard copy encourages browsing and surprise, and we hope the online version holds the same possibilities for searching for one thing and finding a dozen things that are equally interesting.”

Ownby said the online version allows for updates of the print version, as well as a chance to make any corrections.

“It will have more illustrations because there are no limits on page count, and the online version will have a few original documentary films,” he said. “Since the print version came out a year ago, a number of things have changed. Sen. Thad Cochran retired, people published new books and received recognition, and several subjects of the entries have died.”

The Mississippi Encyclopedia has not gone unnoticed. It won a special achievement award from the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters and awards of merit from the Mississippi Historical Society and the Mississippi Heritage Trust.

The encyclopedia is the successful result of numerous collaborations – between the University Press of Mississippi and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, among the numerous supporters who contributed to or helped organize the project, among the 30 topic editors from around the state and far beyond it, and among the authors, an intriguing mix of scholars.

The Mississippi Humanities Council and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History also contributed their resources, and UM’s Arch Dalrymple III Department of History and School of Law joined the Southern studies program in encouraging advanced students to write for the project. Early support came from UM and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Each entry in the Mississippi Encyclopedia provides an authoritative but accessible introduction to the topic discussed. It also features long essays on agriculture, archaeology, the civil rights movement, the Civil War, contemporary issues, drama, education, the environment, ethnicity, fiction, folk life, foodways, gender, geography, industry and industrial workers, law, medicine, music, myths and representations, Native Americans, nonfiction, poetry, politics and government, the press, religion, social and economic history, sports, and visual art.

Grenada Graduate Earns UM Student Teacher of the Year Award

School of Education recognizes Mary Courtney Self for outstanding work

Mary Courtney Self of Grenada (left) is honored by UM education Dean David Rock with the 2018 Robert W. Plants Student Teacher of the Year Award. Self worked this spring as a student teacher in Diane Brewer’s first-grade class at Grenada Elementary School. UM photo by Bill Dabney

GRENADA, Miss. – Mary Courtney Self, of Grenada, was caught off-guard when her name was called for a special award during the University of Mississippi at Grenada’s annual graduation celebration earlier this spring.

“I was shocked,” Self said. “I had no idea I was being considered for this honor.”

During the evening’s program, Karen Davidson-Smith, assistant clinical professor of education, announced Self as the recipient of the 2018 Robert W. Plants Outstanding Student Teacher of the Year award. She was chosen for the award from hundreds of senior education majors graduating from five different Ole Miss campuses.

“Mary Courtney excelled at every opportunity to make and extend connections between teaching theory and teaching practices,” Davidson-Smith said. “She used a variety of teaching methods and techniques this semester that helped her students learn in the ways that suited each student best.”

The annual award is named for longtime UM faculty member Robert W. Plants, a former chair of the curriculum and instruction department. Each year the School of Education recognizes an exceptional student who stood out during their semester-long student-teaching practicum with the award.

“Ever since I was little, I knew I wanted to be a teacher,” Self said. “I felt like my instructors were invested in me and my future, and I wanted to do the same for others.”

While student teaching and completing classes at the University of Mississippi at Grenada, Self also was caring for her 2-year-old daughter, Sawyer Grace. Submitted photo

Self graduated from Grenada High School in 2013 and enrolled at Holmes Community College’s Grenada campus. In fall 2014, she took a break from her studies and spent a semester working in the Disney College Program at Walt Disney World in Florida.

“I wanted to have an experience,” she said. “I worked at different restaurants and had the opportunity to meet a lot of different people from all over the world.”

Upon her return to Mississippi, Self enrolled in the junior year of the Bachelor of Elementary Education program at the university’s Grenada regional campus.

“Going to UM-Grenada was the best thing for my daughter and myself,” she said.

Diane Brewer, a teacher at Grenada Lower Elementary for more than 20 years, served as the lead teacher and clinical instructor in the first-grade class where Self interned this spring.

“Mary Courtney has the natural instincts to be a great teacher,” Brewer said. “She would see a few students lagging behind in a concept we were teaching, and she would spend the extra time working with them until they understood.”

Self said she will be fulfilling her lifelong dream when she begins teaching sixth-grade English at Grenada Middle School this fall.

“I’m not just teaching English and grammar,” Self said. “I’m helping to mold students into the people they are going to become.”

Couple’s Gift Honors Late Professor Charles Noyes

Harvey and Di Ann Lewis make donation to support UM libraries

The late Chuck Noyes (right) and his close friend and colleague, John Pilkington, senior professor of American literature, examine documents in the Archives and Special Collections department of the J.D. Williams Library. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Harvey and Di Ann Lewis, of St. Petersburg, Florida, are supporting the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library while honoring the late Charles E. Noyes, professor emeritus of English.

“Dr. Noyes and I had a very professional and personal relationship while I was executive vice chancellor and he was my associate vice chancellor,” Harvey Lewis said. “His in-depth knowledge of the university and long years of managing the Friends of the Library membership and fundraising with Dr. John Pilkington (distinguished professor emeritus of English) were noteworthy.

“Di Ann and I grew to love Chuck and Ruthie (his wife), and we appreciate Chuck’s great sense of humor and ability to write.”

The Lewises married in 1961 when Harvey Lewis also graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in banking and finance. He continued his education at the University of Arkansas, where he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees. He worked in leadership at the University of Central Florida, UM and MSU.

Di Ann Lewis earned her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from Mississippi State University. She was director of special education, gifted and reading for the Lafayette County School District and later joined Mississippi University for Women as an assistant professor of education.

She also served eight years as executive director of Gear Up Mississippi with the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

The Lewises hope their gift to the Charles E. Noyes Library Endowment Fund will provide a steady stream of income that library Dean Cecilia Botero can use to enhance the library’s collections and update its technology.

“Generous gifts such as this one allow the library to provide our students and faculty with exciting new resources that further advance their studies and research activities,” Botero said.

Noyes, a Natchez native, spent most of his youth in Memphis, Tennessee, where he attended Rozelle Grammar School and Central High School. He completed both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Missouri and earned a doctorate at the University of Texas. He was a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi honor societies.

Noyes served in the U.S. Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1946, attaining the rank of major. His service included the post of assistant chief of staff of the Third Army Airways Communications Wing, headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska.

Before joining the Ole Miss faculty, Noyes taught at the University of Missouri and the University of Tennessee. His career in the classroom focused on Restoration and 18th century English literature.

He also served UM in the roles of provost, acting vice chancellor, associate vice chancellor and director of the summer session.

Noyes, who died in 2008 at age 91, is widely credited with providing invaluable assistance within the UM administration during and after the university’s tumultuous integration in 1962, when he composed speeches for then-Chancellor J.D. Williams.

Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat described Noyes as being “among the most loved people at Ole Miss.”

“Chuck Noyes established extraordinary relationships with students, staff, faculty and alumni for more than 50 years,” Khayat said. “Blessed with a keen mind and a clever wit, he was known among his students for his life-enriching teaching style and within the community for his remarkable personal relationships.

“He devoted most of his retirement years to attracting financial support for the library. He was a bright, funny man who quietly gave most of his personal resources to the university. He will be missed and fondly remembered as a loyal son of the university.”

Noyes remained faithful to Ole Miss throughout his retirement years. In 2006, he notified UM officials that he had designated a bequest to benefit the university. He was a noted benefactor of the J.D. Williams Library and was for many years membership chair of the Friends of the Library.

The Ole Miss Alumni Association honored Noyes with membership in its Hall of Fame in 1991, and former student David Arnold and his wife, Barbara, of Yazoo City, honored him by establishing the Noyes Library Endowment.

To make a gift to the Friends of the Library or the Charles E. Noyes Library Endowment Fund, send a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit; or contact Angela Barlow Brown at 662-915-3181 or

UM Graduate Juggles Life as a CPA, Trading Card Artist

Gordon Wills' second set of Marvel trading cards recently released

University of Mississippi alumnus Gordon Wills designs Marvel-licensed art for Upper Deck trading cards. Images courtesy of Gordon Wills

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumnus Gordon Wills (BAccy 07, MAccy 08) is like a superhero in some ways. By day, he has a desk job, but by night, he finds himself in a world full of characters battling evil for the good of mankind. 

He isn’t Superman though. He’s a husband, dad and CPA, but he’s also been working as a sketch artist for the Upper Deck Co. on Marvel trading cards, drawing characters he grew up admiring. Wills, a Memphis native, had drawn for fun during his childhood but laid down his art supplies until he was finishing his master’s in accountancy at Ole Miss. Most of his friends had already graduated and moved on, so he found he had more time to draw. 

He and another Ole Miss graduate, Megan Sellers Wills (BAEd 07, MA 08), married, settled in Metairie, Louisiana, and started a family. The family would watch TV shows on Disney Junior, and Gordon Wills became fascinated with the animation he saw on the screen. Spreading a large piece of butcher paper on the kitchen table for art time became something fun he and his daughter could do together. 

“She would follow me around the table and color it in,” Wills said. “It kind of got me used to the drawing the muscles again. It was something I could do with her that nobody else could do.”

He also found that drawing helped him decompress from the stress of daily life. This outlet was extremely valuable to him while he was studying for the CPA exam. He was also using social media sites to connect with other artists. He posted short animation and other artwork to his Instagram page, and his profile was getting noticed.

He’d had Marvel comic trading cards during his childhood and started drawing his own Marvel cards for fun. He began talking to other artists on social media about finding opportunities to draw them professionally and came across an online form for submissions to be considered. The decision wasn’t easy though. 

“I was nervous about submitting to this for fear of failure,” Wills said. “It took a while to take that step out there, but it was good for me to get the positive reinforcement to get the confidence.”

His submission was well received. He was commissioned to do his first set of cards in August. In November, he delivered his first set, which featured Thanos, Spider-Man, Cyclops and Avengers characters. He was proud of how it turned out.

Gordon Wills

Earlier this year, Upper Deck ordered another set of Marvel characters from him. This time, the subject was “Black Panther,” the international blockbuster movie that has smashed box office records and drawn critical praise for offering the world one of the first black superheroes. His “Black Panther” set was recently released. Wills joins Ole Miss alumnus Jesse Holland Jr. (BA 94) in having a connection to the film. Holland was commissioned by Marvel to author an origin story novel ahead of the film’s release. 

Wills continues to look for opportunities to draw professionally and has enjoyed networking with the community of comic book artists, editors and other creative professionals. One of those people was familiar. Trey Treutel (BBA 07), editor at The Cardboard Connection, a website about sports cards, entertainment cards and other collectibles, had also graduated from Ole Miss. The two had known each other from living in the same residence hall. 

Treutel’s website has checklists and other resources for artists such as Wills to use. Treutel said he’s been impressed with his friend’s success. 

“I appreciate how he can capture the essence of these iconic Marvel characters but still maintain a style that is uniquely his,” Treutel said. “I think it is very cool that my dorm neighbor from freshman year supplies drawings for Upper Deck and Marvel.”

Wills will continue to work on art projects, in addition to his job at a bank in Covington, Louisiana. He’s hoping to start selling his art at conventions. As a father of a young daughter and son, he’s also hoping to get involved in a children’s book project at some point. 

He said his wife, family and friends have been supportive of him and his art, which brings him joy. 

“It doesn’t feel like work,” Wills said. “It has really been a neat experience for me, and it kind of opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me.”

UM Doctoral Student, Graduate Named US Fulbright Finalists

Eric Rexroat headed to Belgium, Andrew Hayes going to Spain

Eric Rexroat, a doctoral history student, will study at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi doctoral student and a recent graduate will study in European countries this fall, thanks to the 2018 Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Eric Rexroat, a Ph.D. candidate in the university’s Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, and Andrew Hayes, a graduate of the Croft Institute for International Studies and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, are both finalists in the prestigious awards program.

A St. Charles, Missouri, native, Rexroat will be at the University of Antwerp, Belgium, from this September until March 2019. He will conduct research at the Royal Library of Belgium and National Archives of Belgium, both in Brussels, as well as work under the direction of professor Hilde Greefs and some of her colleagues.

Hayes, a Tupelo native who planned to pursue a master’s degree at the London School of Economics before receiving his Fulbright notification, will teach English at a public high school in Madrid, Spain, during the 2018-19 academic year.

The highly selective program chooses undergraduate seniors, and graduate and terminal-degree students from the U.S. to study at select colleges around the globe.

“This year’s University of Mississippi awardees are exceptionally qualified as strong students and researchers,” said Tim Dolan, director of UM’s Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “They also all demonstrated their commitment to language and culture through their civic engagement, study abroad or language study. They had to think through and articulate their qualifications and goals, and to imagine ways to engage with the people and culture in their host community.”

Rexroat, who earned his bachelor’s degree at Southeast Missouri State University in 2012, vividly recalls how he received notification of his award.

“I learned while in Paris doing research that I had been chosen as an alternative (which he said he viewed as an achievement in itself), but my understanding was that there would be little chance of my being promoted to a finalist,” he said. “Obviously something changed, and it was a very pleasant surprise.”

Hayes, who earned his bachelor’s degrees in international studies (with a specialization in Spanish) and economics from UM this past May, said he had a similar reaction upon receipt of his notice.

“I was humbled to have received such a prestigious award and excited for the opportunity to work with students abroad,” he said. “I hope to possibly expand upon my senior thesis, which described trends of youth unemployment in Spain.”

Andrew Hayes, an international studies and economics graduate, will teach at a public school in Madrid, Spain. Photo by Kevin Bain/ Ole Miss Communications

For the past three springs, Rexroat has been recognized for his achievements. He received the Tenin-Alexander Prize from the history department for Best Graduate Student Paper in 2015, the Graduate Achievement Award from the College of Liberal Arts in 2016 and officially passed his comprehensive exams with distinction in 2017.

“My career goals include teaching European history at a college or university, as well as continuing my research and eventually publishing on 19th-century Europe,” Rexroat said. “Receiving this Fulbright award will enable me to work closely with and benefit from the feedback of my adviser at the University of Antwerp, as well as to expand my research by providing the opportunity to spend further time in Europe. The experiences I have during this stint abroad will be invaluable to my development as a scholar and a person.”

Hayes’ previous achievements include memberships in both Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi academic honorary societies.

“I plan to become a professor of economics,” Hayes said. “I hope that this opportunity will give me some experience in working with students across cultures.”

UM administrators and faculty members said both finalists deserve their awards.

“Andrew was a hardworking student who excelled in all the areas of the international studies curriculum: writing, critical thinking, quantitative analysis and language learning,” said William Schenck, associate director of the Croft Institute, who worked with Hayes on his senior thesis as a member of his committee. “The written thesis and his defense demonstrated the breadth and depth of his intellectual curiosity as well as his sense of humor.”

“Eric came as an M.A. student and has excelled ever since he stepped foot on campus, impressing faculty and colleagues alike with his seriousness of purpose and focus,” said Marc Lerner, associate professor of history and director of Rexroat’s dissertation.

“His dissertation research on free trade as ideology and political controversy in the mid-19th century is fascinating and important work. The comparative and international perspective is what makes this a particularly challenging and powerful dissertation topic. I am excited to see the results of his research.”

Hayes and Rexroat are the second and third UM students to be named Fulbright finalists during the 2018-19 academic year. Maria Mulrooney, a graduate student in higher education, was selected for the prestigious Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program to serve as an English teaching assistant in South Africa next year.

Established in 1946, the Fulbright program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries.

The primary source of funding for the Fulbright program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Fulbright awards allow the Croft Institute and the other participating units on the Oxford campus to deliver on the university’s commitment to educating and engaging global citizens and supporting experiential learning, two cores established in the university’s new strategic plan, Flagship Forward.

Students interested in applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program award are encouraged to contact the Office of National Scholarship Advisement at


Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Honors UM Center

Southern studies staff lauded for work on Mississippi Encyclopedia, foodways studies

Jimmy Thomas, Ann Abadie, Odie Lindsey and Ted Ownby accept the Special Achievement Award on behalf of the UM Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the MIAL banquet. Photo courtesy of Brian Hull

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture garnered two awards at this year’s Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters awards banquet, held June 2 at Two Mississippi Museums in Jackson.

MIAL presented Ted Ownby, Charles Reagan Wilson, Ann J. Abadie, Odie Lindsey and James G. Thomas Jr. with a Special Achievement Award for their work on the Mississippi Encyclopedia, published in May 2017 by the University Press of Mississippi.

Also receiving an award was John T. Edge, director of the center’s Southern Foodways Alliance. Edge is the winner of MIAL’s nonfiction award for his recent book, “The Potlikker Papers: A Food History of the Modern South.”

The Mississippi Encyclopedia, a 9-pound reference book, features 1,500 essays by nearly 700 authors on all things Mississippi, from academics and agriculture to Zig Ziglar. It is the product of more than a decade of work at the center.

“We are particularly pleased to get an award from MIAL both because it suggests the encyclopedia did a good job with creativity – coverage of art, architecture, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, drama, foodways and other topics – and also because we got to spend time with creative people on the night of the banquet,” said Ted Ownby, the center’s director and senior editor of the Mississippi Encyclopedia. “We appreciate any award, but this one is especially gratifying.”

MIAL, begun in 1978, supports, nurtures and recognizes Mississippi’s artists, including fiction and nonfiction authors, visual artists, musical composers, photographers and poets. Each year, the institute honors creative individuals with an award in their specific field.

The prestigious awards, first made in 1980, are presented in seven categories, and the institute’s juried competition is unique in the state.

Nancy Davidson LaForge, president of MIAL, said she was delighted with the winners and honored to have been able to recognize them this year. The Special Achievement Award has been given only five times in MIAL’s 39-year history, so it has particular significance.

“It is an award initiated by the board of governors of MIAL and may be presented to an individual or group for a significant and unique literary, artistic or other creative accomplishment,” LaForge said. “The board of governors recognizes the depth of achievement in this volume and that it is thorough in its details of our history and culture. 

“The entries, from the everyday to the extraordinary, tell the complex story of the state of Mississippi, her places and her people.”

For the second time in four years, MIAL honored the center for its work in publishing, and Ownby said he is pleased that the award recognizes the shared efforts of a large group of people.

“It’s an award for all the authors and editors because they were all part of a collaborative process, so we accept with all of the contributors in mind,” Ownby said. “So many people contributed to the book that it’s nice to win an award that recognizes all of their hard work.

“The online version also comes out this month so it was good to share with an audience who cares about Mississippi.”

MIAL presented the center with a Special Achievement Award for its work on The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture (University of North Carolina Press) in 2014. The Mississippi Encyclopedia has also won an Award of Merit from the Mississippi Historical Society and the Heritage Award from the Mississippi Heritage Trust this year.

Edge has written or edited more than a dozen books, including the Foodways volume of The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.

In the “Potlikker Papers,” he traces 60 years of how the food of working-class Southerners became a pivotal part of American cuisine. The book has been roundly praised by major news outlets and made National Public Radio’s list of 2017’s Great Reads.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review asks, “Is the ‘Potlikker Papers’ a history of the South by way of food stories, or a story about Southern food by way of our history? By the time you come to the end of this rigorous volume, you’ll know that the two are indivisible.”

“Edge manages to combine an appreciation of food as a measure of class and race in the post-World War II American South with a real zest for the comestibles themselves,” said Harold Selesky, this year’s nonfiction judge.  

The award recipients, chosen by out-of-state jurors prominent in their respective fields, were all honored at the recent awards banquet.

Other award winners with Ole Miss connections include the fiction award for “Eveningland” to Michael Knight, who was the 2005-06 John and Renee Grisham Writer in Residence; and the poetry award for “The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded: Poems” to UM M.F.A. graduate Molly McCully Brown.

For more information, visit the MIAL website at

UM ‘Corpse Flower’ Will Soon Bloom with Smell of Death

School of Pharmacy offering live stream of rare blooming event

A titan arum, a flowering plant known as the ‘corpse flower,’ is soon to bloom at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Faser Hall. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Just keep watching – that’s the best advice for witnessing the soon-to-blossom, towering titan arum housed in the atrium of the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Faser Hall. The odd-looking plant, which has the largest unbranched flower cluster in the world, is expected to bloom any hour now.

When it does, the 5-foot-tall flowering plant (Amorphophallus titanum) will appear even more otherworldly, with its now-lime-green spathe unfolding to display a dark burgundy. The species also emits a decomposing flesh odor when it blooms, a smell intended to attract pollinators but a putrid smell nonetheless that has earned titan arum the nickname “corpse flower” or “corpse plant.”

Lal Jayaratna, a research and development botanist with the Maynard W. Quimby Medicinal Plant Garden of the National Center for Natural Products Research, where the plant is usually housed, said he believes the plant will blossom Thursday or Friday.

On Thursday morning, a steady stream of onlookers viewed the titan arum in person in the UM School of Pharmacy, some even posing for pictures. A live stream of the titan arum is also available at the Ole Miss Pharmacy YouTube page

The plant, native solely to western Sumatra and western Java in Indonesia, is grown at the garden as a collection and also for research by NCNPR scientists on the chemistry of different parts of the plant. The garden is home to three mature titan arums and a few others.

The blooming of the plant is a rare sight, with the titan arum taking about five or more years to start flowering. It then subsequently blooms infrequently, once in three or four years, and even more rarely in cultivation. In 2014, UM housed two plants that bloomed within weeks of each other.

Bowlin Named Inaugural Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy

Distinction honors professor's excellence in teaching and research

Kendall Bowlin (at podium) teaches a class in the UM Patterson School of Accountancy. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Patterson School of Accountancy has named Kendall Bowlin as the inaugural holder of its Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy.

An associate professor and UM alumnus, Bowlin joined the faculty of the accountancy school in 2008 after earning a doctoral degree at the University of Texas. His primary teaching and research interests are in the field of auditing.

Before his doctoral studies, he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the UM School of Business Administration and a master’s degree in accountancy from the Patterson School in 1998 and 1999, respectively. He worked four years as an auditor with Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tennessee.

“Being named the first Ed Krei Chair of Accountancy is a tremendous honor, and I am grateful for Mr. Krei’s generous support of our school, faculty and students,” Bowlin said. “The success that our students and faculty have had, and continue to have, is a result of the wonderful financial support and friendship provided by Ed Krei and other alumni.”

Barbara and Ed Krei, of Edmond, Oklahoma, established the Edward Krei Lectureship in Accountancy in 2009. In 2015, they generously elevated their endowment to the chair level, with more than $1.5 million committed to sustaining and strengthening the school’s faculty.

The endowment provides salary supplements, research and creative activity support, and other funding deemed appropriate by the dean.

“We are deeply grateful to Barbara and Ed Krei for establishing the Krei Chair of Accountancy at Ole Miss,” Dean Mark Wilder said. “Ed has enjoyed an exceptional career, and we are proud to have him as an alumnus and also as a member of the Patterson School Hall of Fame.

“We are humbled by the Kreis’ generosity. Their vision to support our faculty will enable the Patterson School to continue building on its strong teaching and mentoring tradition, a trademark of our program and a key reason for the successes that we enjoy.”

All three degree programs at the Patterson School are among the top 10 in the 2017 annual national rankings of accounting programs published by the Public Accounting Report. The undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs are all ranked No. 8 nationally.

The master’s program leads the Southeastern Conference in the rankings and the undergraduate program is second in the conference. One or more Ole Miss accountancy programs have led the SEC in the rankings in each of the past seven years.

Bowlin’s appointment to the chair is well-deserved, Wilder said.

“Dr. Bowlin is enjoying an outstanding career at Ole Miss,” he continued. “He is one of the bright young minds in our profession and is a national leader in auditing research. His presence on our faculty has enabled us to attract other top faculty and doctoral students to the Patterson School.”

Bowlin’s research focuses on the strategic aspects of interactions between auditors and client managers. He is particularly interested in the ways in which institutional features of the audit environment affect the auditor’s ability to anticipate and respond to the manager’s possible tendencies toward financial misreporting.

Ed Krei

“I very much appreciate Mr. Krei’s and Dean Wilder’s confidence in appointing me to hold the Krei Chair, and I hope to justify their confidence through a devotion to our students, our alumni and my colleagues in the Patterson School,” Bowlin said.

“The establishment of the chair represents continued and growing faculty support from our alumni. This support allows the Patterson School to recruit and retain high-quality faculty, who will, in turn, commit to the development of our students and accounting leaders of the future.”

Krei enjoyed an outstanding career as managing director and board member for the Baker Group in Oklahoma City. The Baker Group is an institutional fixed-income firm that serves community banks throughout the nation. For 21 years, he has represented the Baker Group, helping client organizations develop strategies and plan for the future.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in accountancy from Ole Miss in 1973. He said the endowment is meant to provide an “eternal flame,” commemorating the education he received.

“I think the Patterson School is an excellent investment because of its faculty members,” Krei said. “Their passion is so evident, and they really excite students about their field. And now, with the speaking engagements I have, I find myself emulating what I learned from them.”

The Kreis met at UM as freshman members of the Pride of the South Marching Band. Barbara Krei graduated from what is now the School of Applied Sciences and has enjoyed a career as a speech pathologist in the Putnam City Schools in Oklahoma City.

“The Kreis’ investment in our faculty will provide benefits for many generations of future Ole Miss accountancy students,” Wilder said.

The Ed Krei Lectureship in Accountancy Endowment is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., University, MS 38655; or visit

For more information on ways to support the Patterson School of Accountancy, contact Denson Hollis, executive development director, at 662-915-5092 or

DéLana R.A. Dameron is UM Summer Poet in Residence

Brooklyn resident working on latest collection of poetry

De’Lana R.A. Dameron

OXFORD, Miss. – An award-winning poet is coming to the University of Mississippi this summer to work on her next collection of poetry.

DéLana R. A. Dameron, a writer and arts and culture administrator, is the 2018 Summer Poet in Residence in the university’s Department of English.

Dameron’s second collection of poems, “Weary Kingdom” (2017), is part of the University of South Carolina Palmetto Poetry Series. Her debut collection, “How God Ends Us” (2009), was selected the 2008 South Carolina Poetry Book Prize and was a finalist for the 2009 Foreword Review Book of the Year.

“Only lately have I been able to articulate, or understand, that I moved away in order to know how to love the South – and myself – better,” said Dameron, a South Carolina native who moved to Brooklyn, New York, a decade ago. “I’d like to know what my writing would look like in an extended time in the South, and this opportunity would provide such a chance.”

Dameron’s residency dates are June 15 to July 16. Her last such experience was in 2009.

Her plans include continuing to write “My ___ is Black” poems, which are meditations on what it means to be black and American. She also will work on a long poem about her paternal grandparents in Charleston, South Carolina, and go through another round of edits for her latest novel.

“Most of my writing for the last eight years has happened in the interstices of full-time work, full-time family and other pursuits,” Dameron said. “I felt immediately a sigh of relief and gratitude that there will be a place for me to read, breathe, write and be in a community of writers for an extended period.”

She also anticipates going fishing, an activity she hasn’t done since she was a child.

“I am looking forward to having the weight of a rod and reel in my hands, casting out into the water and seeing what comes back,” Dameron said. “Writing is not unlike this process.” ​

Dameron earned a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of North Carolina and a master’s degree in poetry from New York University. She has conducted readings, workshops and lectures all across the United States, Central America and Europe.

“DéLana’s poems are filled with arresting imagery and narrative arcs that are concerned with home, migration, black Southern life, history and traditions,” said Nadia Alexis, a graduate instructor and MFA candidate in creative writing who judged applications and is the SPiR administrator.

“We found her project incredibly compelling, and we’re excited about having her here for a month – writing poems and engaging with undergraduates, the MFA community and local community through class visits, an MFA salon and a reading at Square Books.”

Dameron’s June 28 appearance at Square Books begins with book signings at 5 p.m. and reading at 5:30. The event is free to the public.

“Graduate students in the English department are excited about the opportunity for undergraduate students from their summer courses to learn from DéLana,” said Helene Achanzar, a colleague of Alexis who is assisting with logistics and setting up class visits for Dameron. “During her class visits, DéLana will share her poetry, answer questions about the craft and content of her work, and deliver short presentations related to the course material.”

As a culture maker and arts administrator, Dameron founded Red Olive Creative Consulting in 2013 and brings over a decade of experience in nonprofit fundraising and program development in the areas of arts and culture and education. Besides consulting for small and mid-sized arts and culture organizations on building capacity and sustainability, she is the founder of Black Art Futures Fund and serves on the board of directors of Alice James Books.

“My relationship to the South has remained complicated and loaded, but there will always be reverence and love,” Dameron said. “I had to put distance between us to know how to love it, to appreciate what it gave me and to understand what it might have taken away.”

Beth Ann Fennelly, professor of English and Mississippi’s poet laureate, said that “it’s a blessing that the English department has been given the house formerly owned by John and Renee Grisham to support literature in Mississippi.

“Summers can be slow in Oxford, but because of this great house and the generous funding from the department, (Division of) Outreach and College of Liberal Arts, we’re entering our 11th year of inviting a promising young poet to live in Oxford for the month, visiting classes and meeting with students,” said Fennelly, founder of the SPiR program.

“We’re especially excited to have DéLana Dameron and grateful to our talented MFA student, Nadia Alexis, who did the hard work of bringing her here.”

For more about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit