Mechanical Engineering Alumnus Shows He’s a Team Player

Justin Carrillo works for US Army Corps of ERDC in Vicksburg

Mechanical engineering alumnus Justin Carrillo is part of an award-winning division at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Economic Research and Development Center in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

Five years ago, Justin Carrillo (BSME 13) was only beginning his career as a professional engineer. Today, the University of Mississippi alumnus works as a research mechanical engineer and is one of the award-winning team members in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg.

“The U.S. Army ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort is one of the most fulfilling achievements in my professional career,” Carrillo said. “Personally, the best measure of success of any organization is the ability of teams to work together to accomplish overall objectives and goals of an organization. I firmly believe a successful team is greater than the sum of its parts. This award highlights the most important goal of my career.”

A Raymond native, Carillo decided to attend UM for several reasons.

“First, I had family members that graduated from Ole Miss as well as family that was currently attending Ole Miss at the time,” he said. “Second, the trips that were taken to view the engineering program made a big difference in deciding to be involved in Ole Miss’ engineering program and thus lead me to attending Ole Miss.

“Lastly, the amount of opportunities that Ole Miss provided both in and outside of the classroom played a major role.”

As an undergraduate, Carrillo gained practical experience by participating in the Student Temporary Employment Program at ERDC and in Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society. He graduated magna cum laude.

“My favorite professors were Dr. Jeffrey Roux, Dr. Tyrus McCarty, Dr. Ellen Lackey, Dr. Alexander Yakovlev and Dr. James Chambers,” Carrillo said. “All of the professors listed were without a doubt passionate, although expressed in different ways, about teaching and devoted to the success of their students even beyond the classroom. They were the professors in my eyes that made the biggest difference in the future of their students.”

Carrillo’s favorite engineering courses typically required heavy use of mathematics or use of some form of programming.

Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, said he knew Carrillo would have a successful career one day.

“Justin graduated in the top 5 percent of his class in terms of overall GPA, with a unique talent to excel in all academic studies, including undergraduate research,” Rajendran said. “As I always believed that Justin would pursue his graduate degree, he is obtaining his master’s degree from the Purdue University under ERDC sponsorship. I am indeed very proud of our graduates like Justin who always bring laurels to Ole Miss as alumni.”

While working for the Mobility Systems Branch, Carrillo specialized in the area of high-performance computing for computational modeling of sensors, vehicle-terrain interaction and vehicle dynamics, as well as vehicle and sensor field testing.

He is a principal investigator and work unit manager on various programs related to the off-road performance of manned/unmanned ground vehicles, manned-unmanned teaming, and development of high-performance computer-based simulations for testing and evaluation of autonomous systems through sensor-environment interactions.

Justin Carrillo stands beside two of the vehicles he drives when at work with the Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

“My Ole Miss engineering education has given me the academic background that is needed to become successful in my career combined with additional broad-based skills that have played an even bigger role in the success of my career,” said Carrillo, who is working on receiving his master’s degree in computational engineering from Purdue University in 2019. “An Ole Miss engineering education comes with both academic and in-the-field knowledge, communication skills, leadership skills and, most importantly, teamwork skills that are critical for being successful in any career.”

A published author, Carrillo has written articles for numerous professional journals. He holds membership in the International Society for Terrain-Vehicle Systems and has received both the 2015 ERDC Award for Outstanding Team Effort and the 2014 Department of the Army Achievement Medal for Civilian Service.

Carrillo lives in Raymond, with his wife, Carra, and children, Lillian and Walter. When not working, he likes to play baseball, basketball and golf.


UM Professor’s Research Highlighted in Ship Technology Publication

Waheed Uddin shares insights into how infrastructure improvements can protect ports during coastal disasters

Waheed Uddin is a civil engineering professor and director of the Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

A University of Mississippi civil engineering professor’s research about how infrastructure improvements can help protect ports from the effects of coastal disasters such as hurricanes and tsunamis was featured in a technology publication recently.

Waheed Uddin, director of UM’s Center for Advanced Infrastructure Technology, was featured in a story appearing in the digital magazine Ship Technology on Nov. 9, 2017. Uddin conducted a study that uses computer modeling and geospatial analysis of natural disaster risks to identify the priority measures that ports can take to build a comprehensive resilience management strategy. Two of Uddin’s civil engineering graduate students assisted in his study: Quang Nguyen (PhD 17) and W. Tucker Stafford (MS 17). Uddin and Nguyen presented the results for Vietnam’s port city at an international infrastructure and disaster resilience conference in Seoul, Korea, in July 2017.

To read the Ship Technology article, visit


5 Students Selected for Outstanding Senior Leadership Awards

All are members of Center for Manufacturing Excellence or Honors College

Five seniors have been named recipients of the 2017-18 Outstanding Senior Leadership Award from the University of Mississippi School of Engineering.

Honorees are William Garrett of Greenfield, Indiana; Harleigh Huggins of Oxford, Colbert Lehr of Brandon, Zachary Mitchell of Moss Point and David Rozier of Oxford. Each recipient was selected through a competitive nomination process in his or her respective department.

Nominations are based on the students’ records of academic achievement, leadership, professional development and community service. The students also delivered a presentation to the selection committee about their undergraduate experiences while pursuing their engineering degrees.

“This year’s selection process was particularly difficult for the review committee,” said Dean Alexander Cheng. “These five students rose to the top of an exceptional group of nominees from the senior class, and we are always excited to celebrate the accomplishments of our students.”

A mechanical engineering major, Huggins has maintained a 4.0 GPA while also being a part of the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She has been extensively involved in engineering student organizations, having served as president of Tau Beta Pi engineering honor society, the Collegiate Automotive Manufacturing Society and the Society of Women Engineers.

Huggins also served as co-chair of the CME student advisory board and was selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi and Mortar Board societies. She also held two separate internships with ABB Inc. and completed co-ops with BorgWarner and Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing.

“I am honored and proud to be receiving this award, especially with all of the amazing students we have graduating from the School of Engineering this year,” Huggins said. “I am grateful for all of the opportunities that the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the mechanical engineering department have afforded me during my collegiate career. I look forward to representing the School of Engineering, and I will do my best to reflect its excellence.”

In addition to the leadership award, Huggins was named the university’s representative to the Mississippi Engineering Society’s Outstanding Senior award program in Jackson. After graduation, she will assume a full-time position with ABB Inc.’s Manufacturing Engineering group in Senatobia.

Garrett, who is also pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, is a member of the CME and has maintained a 3.98 GPA. He has been an active member of Engineers Without Borders and Tau Beta Pi. Garrett has also been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, and served as house manager and chaplain of his fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha.

He held internships with Ingersoll Rand and Rolls Royce North America, and completed two separate co-ops with South Mississippi Electric Power Association in Batesville and Viking Range in Greenwood. Garrett has accepted a full-time position with Milwaukee Tool at one of its Mississippi locations.

An electrical engineering major, Lehr served as Engineering Student Body president during the 2016-17 academic year and has served as a member of the ESB Leadership Council for four years. He also represented the School of Engineering at the National Association of Engineering Student Councils Conference, as well as the PULSE Leadership Conference in 2016.

Having maintained a 3.98 GPA, Lehr has been selected for membership in a variety of honor societies, including Omicron Delta Kappa, Lambda Sigma, Mortar Board, Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi. He has volunteered extensively with the FIRST Robotics program, serving as a team mentor and referee for the event. Lehr also completed two internships with Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems in Forest.

He plans to return to Raytheon full time after graduation and to complete a master’s degree in electrical engineering while employed.

Mitchell, a general engineering major, is a member of the Honors College and has maintained a 3.91 GPA. He serves as vice president of the Biomedical Engineering Society and the Youth Movement Against Alzheimer’s. Mitchell is also a member of the Engineering Student Body Leadership Council and active with Sigma Nu fraternity. He has been selected for membership in Tau Beta Pi and Phi Kappa Phi and has volunteered in the emergency room at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford.

Mitchell has also served as both a teaching assistant and a research assistant in the Department of Biology. He is working on his honors thesis, titled “Nonlinear Analysis of Postural Stability in Postmenopausal Women and Its Relationship to Estrogen Deficiency.” After graduation, Mitchell plans to attend medical school.

A member of the Honors College and the CME, Rozier maintained a 4.0 GPA in chemical engineering and completed his honors thesis in 2017. He was named a Taylor Medalist in 2016 and received Who’s Who honors in 2017. Rozier also received the Outstanding Chemical Engineering Student Award in 2015, 2016 and 2017. He serves on the CME student advisory board and has been selected for membership in Phi Kappa Phi, Omicron Delta Kappa and Tau Beta Pi. He is also an active member of Sigma Nu.

Rozier completed three summer internships: two with International Paper in Vicksburg and one with 3M in Decatur, Alabama, as well as a co-op with ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After graduation, he will return to International Paper as a full-time process engineer.



Dwight Waddell Directs Successful, New Biomedical Engineering Degree Program

With 51 students in the inaugural class, the number of applicants continues to increase

Electrical engineering assistant professor Dwight Waddell continues teaching courses while leading UM’s new biomedical engineering degree program. Submitted photo

Years ago, a biomedical engineering degree program in the University of Mississippi School of Engineering was only a dream. But with 51 students accepted into the inaugural class last fall, the dream is now a wonderful reality.

“The word is apparently out,” said Dwight Waddell, BME program director and associate professor of electrical engineering. “Our current BME class has representatives from states across the country. Twenty-six are new freshmen, and we had a fair number of transfers from other departments on campus after we got started last August.”

The idea and initial work for the new program were initiated by Ramanarayanan “Vish” Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering, with support from Alex Cheng, engineering dean. Waddell, who was a UM associate professor of health, exercise and recreation management, joined the engineering faculty in 2013 to facilitate program development.

“I was responsible for newly created courses, including Physiology for Biomedical Engineers, Biosignal Analysis, Introduction to Biomedical Engineering and a lab-based course to teach bio-measurement techniques,” said Waddell, who worked with Paul Scovazzo, associate professor of chemical engineering, to launch the emphasis. “Prior to this, I taught courses in biomechanics, electromyography and neuromotor control.”

Waddell said the inaugural class is exceptional.

“In truth, it is a hard curriculum, but the inaugural class was notable in their academic preparation before university,” he said. “The average ACT score and high school GPA of the applicants were quite high, which was very exciting for everyone involved. The students are very proactive. They are hungry.”

Last semester, the charter for UM’s Biomedical Engineering Society student chapter was established.

“It was really two students who did the lion’s share of work getting national approval,” Waddell said. “A big shoutout to BME students Justin Reynolds and Juliana Davis for making it happen and recruiting over 20 inaugural student members. It is an exciting time around here.”

If preliminary fall 2018 enrollment figures are any indication of what’s to be expected, the BME program is just getting started.

“The number of admitted applicants for the upcoming fall term is impressive,” Waddell said. “As of Feb 12, we have already admitted 142 biomedical engineering first-year students. This is a substantial increase in admitted students over the same time last year.”

While Waddell said not all of these students will decide to attend the university, he is confident that the number of incoming students will match and exceed expectations.

“Our number of retained students (admitted versus actual attendees) last year was above 50 percent,” he said. “We estimated 30 freshmen for the second year, and I am confident we will meet and exceed that number.”

Chairs in both the electrical and chemical engineering departments said Waddell’s leadership has exceeded their expectations.

“Dwight is extremely busy this academic year,” Viswanathan said. “In addition to advising all (biomedical engineering) students, he’s juggling teaching two courses each semester, advising students’ research, conducting a search for two tenure-track faculty positions and serving on several university committees.”

“Dwight has done an outstanding job of moving the BME program forward,” said John O’Haver, chair and professor of chemical engineering. “His passion for the program, for the students, and his ability to work well with the departments that are involved in the program have caused it to progress rapidly and well.”

A former postdoctoral researcher at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Waddell has a master’s and a doctoral degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Texas and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Louisiana State University.

The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees approved the biomedical engineering program in 2016. Biomedical engineering prepares students for rapidly growing opportunities in three primary job markets: biomolecular engineering, biomedical systems engineering and bioinformatics.

For more information about UM’s biomedical engineering program, visit


Former Pharmacy Chair Remembered for Integrity, Leadership

Frank Gilmore called 'the conscience of the school'

Frank Gilmore

OXFORD, Miss. – Frank Gilmore, former chair and professor emeritus in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy’s Department of BioMolecular Sciences, died Feb. 14 after a lengthy battle with lymphoma.

A visitation for Gilmore is scheduled for 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 24) at Coleman Funeral Home of Oxford, where a celebration of his life will immediately follow.

Gilmore is remembered as a pragmatic and honest leader, known for his integrity and willingness to help others. He came to the School of Pharmacy as an assistant professor of pharmaceutical chemistry in 1967 and became the chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, later renamed to medicinal chemistry, only two years later. He served the department as chair from 1969 to 1979 and again in 1988-1993.

“I think what most distinguished my father was his honesty, his hard work and his generosity,” said Gilmore’s son, Paul. “He truly enjoyed his time at the School of Pharmacy. He was always ready to share any accomplishments with others and he truly put his students above all else.

“I think the impact he had was due to the pleasure he took in helping others, whether in the lab, helping with a building project or cutting firewood for someone. If anything, he was generous with his time and energy to a fault.”

Gilmore’s life began in the Lauderdale County community of Bailey, where he was born in 1935. His son credits his father’s upbringing in the Depression-era South with imparting in him a sense of determination and work ethic.

He graduated from Virginia Military Institute in 1957 and earned a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1961. Following his doctorate, he served in the U.S. Army, where he met and married his wife, Ann.

After finishing his military service as a captain, he completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Florida State University and worked at Midwest Research Institute in Kansas City before coming to the School of Pharmacy in 1967. During his time at the school, he won its Teacher of the Year award twice.

John Williamson, professor emeritus of medicinal chemistry and former colleague of Gilmore, remembers him as “the conscience of the school.”

“No one would disagree that he had the highest level of integrity of all of us,” Williamson said. “Frank was always the one to point out right from wrong, regardless of internal politics. I am blessed to have been his friend and to have seen what the man with the most integrity is actually like.”

As a scientist, he pioneered explorations in peptidomimetics – a term that Williamson credits Gilmore with coining – as that study was just beginning to emerge, and conducted research in phosphorus chemistry and immunology.

Gilmore went on to become vice president for academic affairs at West Virginia University Institute of Technology before finishing his career as chancellor of Montana Tech at the University of Montana from 1998 to 2011. After retirement, Gilmore and his wife remained part-time residents of Oxford, spending the rest of their time at their home in Montana.

“Dr. Gilmore was a remarkable mentor and colleague who had a great impact on our school and those lucky enough to know him,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He will be sincerely missed.”

He is survived by his wife, Ann; children Kristin Newman and Paul Gilmore; three grandchildren; and his loving, extended family. 

UM to be Well Represented at Natchez Literary Celebration

Seven UM faculty and a student to be featured at 29th annual event

Charles Reagan Wilson

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi will be well-represented at the 29th annual Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration this week.

Besides the four William Winter Scholars from UM who will be recognized, two history professors will be honored and two additional professors will give presentations at the event, set for Thursday-Saturday (Feb. 22-24) at the Natchez Convention Center. Organized annually by Copiah-Lincoln Community College, the festival is free and open to the public.

As part of this annual event, students and faculty of the liberal arts departments from schools around Mississippi are recognized as William Winter scholars, in honor of former Gov. William Winter. Each winner will be recognized during the opening ceremony on Friday.

Harrison Witt

Attending as William Winter scholars from Ole Miss will be three faculty members: Beth Spencer, lecturer in English; Simone Delerme, McMullen assistant professor of Southern Studies and assistant professor of anthropology; and Harrison Witt, assistant professor of theatre arts. Laura Wilson, a graduate student in English, rounds out the William Winter scholars.

While one student and one faculty member from each university is typically recognized as a William Winter Scholar, UM was granted four representatives, said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics.

“I contacted the Department of English, theater arts, anthropology, sociology and Southern studies back in December asking for nominations,” Dyer said. “I explained that we would like the College of Liberal Arts to be represented in this.

“I was overwhelmed with the number of nominees I received from each department. Therefore, I emailed the head of the community college asking if Ole Miss could sponsor more than two individuals as this year’s William Winter scholars.”

Receiving the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence will be Charles Reagan Wilson, professor emeritus of history and Southern studies. The award, established in 1994, is named in honor of the famed Mississippi author and goes each year to outstanding writers and scholars with strong Mississippi ties.

Simone Delerme

Wilson, who recently retired as the Kelly Gene Cook Chair of History and Southern Studies at UM, is the author of many works of Southern history, including “Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause” and “Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis.”

Previous winners of the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence include Shelby Foote, Curtis Wilkie, Greg Iles, Barry Hannah, Beth Henley, Kathryn Stockett, William Raspberry, Rick Cleveland, Jerry Mitchell, James Meredith and Stanley Nelson.

The Thad Cochran Award for Achievement in the Humanities will be presented to David Sansing, UM professor emeritus of history and the author or co-author of several acclaimed history books, including “The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History,” “A History of the Governor’s Mansion” and “Mississippi Governors: Soldiers, Statesmen, Scholars, Scalawags.”

The Thad Cochran Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Humanities, established in 2009, honors U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran for his support and tireless efforts on behalf of the humanities in the state. Lauded as “a driving force in supporting the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mississippi Humanities Council and the Mississippi Arts Commission,” Cochran has been key to the success of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration and a member of the events’ steering committee, organizers at Copiah-Lincoln Community College said.

Beth Spencer

This award is presented to someone who, “like Sen. Cochran, has dedicated years of time, talent and expertise to the field of humanities in Mississippi and the surrounding region,” they said.

The theme of this year’s festival is Southern Gothic, and it will feature many different speakers touching on related topics. Among those giving presentations at the event are Jay Watson, the UM Howry Chair in Faulkner Studies and professor of English, who will discuss “William Faulkner and the Southern Gothic Tradition,” and Kathleen Wickham, professor of journalism, who will discuss “The Journalism of the Ole Miss Riots.”

Dyer encourages UM faculty, staff and alumni to join the families and friends of the Ole Miss representatives who will be a part of this year’s Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. For more information, call 601-446-1208, email or visit

Two Honors College Students Receive Barksdale Awards

Bethany Fitts and Gabrielle Schust each given $5,000 to fulfill dream projects

Gabrielle Schust (left) and Bethany Fitts are congratulated by Dean Douglass Sullivan-González after receiving Barksdale Awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With $5,000 awards to support separate creative projects, two students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi have been named 2018 Barksdale Award winners.

Bethany Fitts, a junior English and history major from Tupelo, and Gabrielle Schust, a junior international studies and Spanish major from Columbia, Missouri, were presented the awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation Tuesday (Feb. 20).

The Barksdale Awards were established in 2005 to encourage students to test themselves in environments beyond the classroom, teaching lab or library. Fitts and Schust are the 23rd and 24th recipients of the honor.

“Our Barksdale Award winners have proposed tasks that will help them help us push our understanding of being human and being in this world,” said Douglas Sullivan-González, dean of the Honors College. “Bethany and Gabrielle are each taking on both a troubled past and a troubled present, seeking the connections that give hope and ways forward. I am proud that the Barksdale Award can fund such visions.”

Fitts will spend time in Washington state and in Hawaii, gaining ground-level experience with several kindred topics: poetry publication, conservation and W.S. Merwin, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a founder of a conservancy housing more than 400 species of endangered palm trees.

In Washington, with the well-respected Copper Canyon Press, she will gain hands-on experience with everything about poetry publication, from helping to organize community events to editing and marketing. At the Merwin Conservancy in Maui, Fitts will work in its education program and alongside the conservancy’s gardener. As a follow-up, she hopes to promote similar poetry/ecology work in all 50 states and to write her own collection of poems drawn from her experiences.

“As a writer and lover of words, I have always been curious about the ways in which literature, particularly poetry, intersects with real people and the world’s concerns,” said Fitts, who expects to graduate in May 2020. “Many people view poetry as separate from the world, and while this view does not necessarily diminish poetry’s value, I simply think that it is wrong. I think that, now more than ever, our country and our world must wake up to the political, social and environmental concerns that we have allowed to develop, and one way to engage with this waking process is poetry.”

Fitts serves as editorial assistant for the Ole Miss Alumni Review and as creative content editor for the undergraduate Populi Magazine. Last year, she won the English department’s Campbell Award. Fitts volunteers with Mississippi Votes and, last summer, was an intern with the Sunflower County Freedom Project, where she taught literacy, gardening and creative writing to students. Her questions have to do with the poet’s role in today’s chaotic society, and her own identity as a poet in that world and in Mississippi as it exists today.

Fitts has worked with Daniel Stout, associate professor of British literature.

“Bethany is a student of particular academic gifts, but her truly distinguishing quality is the depth and energy of her commitment to an interdisciplinary life of the mind,” Stout wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She is the true model of the citizen scholar, interested in how literature helps people interact with their surroundings, in literature as a form of social enrichment.”

Schust will travel to England to collect oral histories of older women in religious orders whose charitable works in the 1960s and early 1970s (pre-National Health Service) focused on medical care for the poor, especially for women or children. She has already contacted three such orders and arranged interviews with eight sisters, the eldest of whom is now 103.

By collecting their stories, Schust hopes to gain insights into any changes over the past 70 years in how women in religious life had provided social services for the poor. She plans to capture the interviews on camera and create a mini-documentary, so that there will be a “window into the world of these women and the communities in which they worked.”

During an academic year in Lima, Peru, next year, Schust will conduct research into similar work being conducted in the Andes by women in religious orders.

The statistics about poverty, maternal/fetal mortality rates and life expectancy in today’s Andes and England before the National Health Service are “striking,” Schust said. She hopes to determine how today’s efforts compare and provide an assessment for how the Andean practices might be improved upon.

Schust has volunteered as an ACT Prep Class instructor and with the Oxford Film Festival, as well as for various local and national political campaigns. She is a member of Model UN and involved with UM’s Ghostlight Repertory Theatre and participates in youth and community theatre at home in Missouri.

Schust spent a summer in Bolivia in the field school of Kate Centellas, Croft associate professor of sociology and anthropology.

“I remember Gabrielle sitting and talking with her host family for hours, as she heard their stories and learned more about them and their perspectives,” Centellas said. “That time helped her understand the power of oral histories in the context of social science research. Her project is timely and innovative, and it needs doing.”

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit

UM Center Hosts Symposium on Southern Music

Panelists to explore themes of culture, religion and regional identity in musical works

Wu Fei

OXFORD, Miss. – Music from the American South has made an indisputable impact on culture and politics in the U.S. and around the world, and an upcoming symposium at the University of Mississippi will examine the South’s most prominent and influential musical voices.

The Southern Music Symposium will address questions such as how musicians are creating “Southern” in their sounds and speaking to broader matters of national and international importance, and in what ways they build on the sounds of the past or provide the soundtrack for our common and divided present.

The Feb. 26 event in the Overby Center Auditorium is free and open to the public. Hosted by the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture, the symposium highlights musicians and feature presentations by prominent and emerging scholars of Southern music.

Randall J. Stephens, reader and associate professor of history and American studies at Northumbria University, will give a keynote address on religion and rock ‘n’ roll at 5:30 p.m. A Kansas native, Stephens writes and teaches about the American South, religion in the U.S., religion and politics, conservatism and popular music.

His lecture focuses on the interesting and surprising connections between rock ‘n’ roll music and Christianity.

“Many of the first-generation performers had roots in tongues-speaking churches or attended these regularly,” Stephens said. “Some of those are well-known performers like Elvis, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and many more.

“I also will talk about how evangelicals, Catholics and others took aim at the new, wild genre and demonized its ‘savage jungle rhythms.'”

From Stephens’ perspective, this makes the advent of Christian rock in the mid- and late-1960s all the more peculiar. 

Brian Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies, discusses his research at the recent TEDxUniversityofMississippi event at the Ford Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/University Communications

“I ask: How did believers go from railing against the devil’s music to sanctifying it for youth outreach and holy entertainment?” he said. “How did hippie Christians infuse loud, plugged-in music with the message of redemption, the apocalypse and final judgment?”

Stephens is the author of “The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South” (Harvard University Press, 2010); “The Anointed: Evangelical Truth in a Secular Age,” co-authored with Karl Giberson (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2011); and editor of “Recent Themes in American Religious History” (University of South Carolina Press, 2009).

He is completing his third book on religion and rock music for Harvard University Press. Stephens earned his doctorate in American history from the University of Florida, and master’s degrees in history from Emporia State University and theological studies from Nazarene Theological Seminary.

Brian Foster, UM assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies, will welcome attendees at 1 p.m., followed by a panel with student researchers. He then moderates the 2:30 p.m. scholars roundtable with Zandria Robinson and Charles Hughes.

Robinson, assistant professor of sociology at Rhodes College, is the author of “This Ain’t Chicago: Race, Class, and Regional Identity in the Post-Soul South” (University of North Carolina Press, 2014) who also wrote a 2016 Rolling Stone magazine article about how Beyonce’s “Lemonade” exposes inner lives of black women, as well as a New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture entry on “Southern Crunk and Hip-Hop Culture.”

Marco Pave

Hughes is director of the Memphis Center at Rhodes College, and his acclaimed book, “Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South” (University of North Carolina Press, 2015), was named one of the Best Music Books of 2015 by Rolling Stone and No Depression magazines.

The Southern Music Symposium gives people a chance to both celebrate and turn a critical eye toward Southern music cultures, Foster said.

“I am especially interested in hearing how Drs. Robinson and Hughes are thinking about the contemporary landscape of Southern music, both in terms of new and emergent sounds and in the evolution of Southern visual arts,” Foster said.

Darren Grem, UM assistant professor of history and Southern studies, moderates a 4 p.m. panel with musicians from several genres, including rocker Lee Bains III, rapper Marco Pave and composer and instrumentalist Wu Fei.

“Like the broader symposium, we see this as a rare opportunity to bring together working musicians, scholars and the broader public to have a conversation about the past, present and future of popular and underground music,” Grem said. “We also see it as a chance to investigate notions of the ‘Southern’ and how musicians have constructed and challenged that regional identity while claiming it for themselves – as well as the social and political impact of doing so.” 

Bains, Pave and Fei will conclude the symposium with a free 8 p.m. concert at Proud Larry’s, at 211 S. Lamar Blvd. in Oxford.

For more information, go to

Tech Firm Official to Discuss New Technology’s Effect on Health Care

UM alumnus Jim St. Clair to present information on blockchain's potential to secure records

Jim St. Clair

OXFORD, Miss. – A technology called blockchain has drawn attention for its use of digital currencies, such as bitcoin, and for its potential to help identify and discredit “fake news” online. More recent discussions focus on its use to enhance security and operations in the health care industry.

Jim St. Clair, chief technology officer of the Dinocrates Group, will present “Blockchain: Separating Hype from Opportunity” at 7 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) in the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center Auditorium. Free and open to the public, St. Clair’s presentation will focus on how blockchain technology affects the creation, storage and transfer of health care documentation.

The discussion, sponsored by the UM interdisciplinary minor program in digital media studies, is a timely one, said Robert Cummings, the university’s executive director of academic innovation and associate professor of writing and rhetoric.

“Jim St. Clair will be promoting the use of blockchain technology for the secure sharing of health care documentation,” Cummings said. “The technology presents interesting affordances around security and authentication, which have received a lot of attention as applied to cryptocurrencies.

“However, there are additional applications of blockchain beyond bitcoin, which ultimately may prove more transformative.”

Blockchain involves a distributed database stored on multiple servers that provides a secure, traceable means of recording transactions, storing information and more.

St. Clair, who earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ole Miss, is also the founder of the Institute for Healthcare Financial Technology, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health care value chain to reduce costs and streamline access and delivery of health care. The institute builds on the innovations of financial, insurance and health care technology, especially in such concepts as distributed ledgers, blockchain, robotic process automation and artificial intelligence.

At Dinocrates, a boutique strategy and technology consulting firm, he leads the company’s transformation technology initiatives in the adoption of blockchain, robotic process automation and addressing ongoing challenges in security and compliance.

St. Clair’s talk will allow Ole Miss students and other attendees to learn more about blockchain technology and how it can affect the future of health care records.

For more information about the UM interdisciplinary minor program in digital media studies, go to


Fisk University Singers Coming to UM for Black History Month Concert

Thursday performance at Ford Center free to the public

The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform Feb. 22 for the first time at UM for the 2018 Black History Month Concert at the Ford Center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Music is bringing the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers to campus this week for the university’s 2018 Black History Month Concert.

The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free and open to the public.

The concert is billed as “Be a Harmonizing Voice for Diversity” and also will feature the UM Concert Singers in a joint performance on the closing numbers. The Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble will perform as stage warmers before the show. The event is coordinated by George W.K. Dor, UM professor of music and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology.

“We use the Black History Month Concert to promote and celebrate diversity,” Dor said.

“The concert will feature two ensembles, one from a predominantly black institution and the other from a predominantly white university. The optics of symbolic interaction can send a powerful message of the determination of these two universities, taking their diversity projects to another level.”

Paul Kwami, Fisk University professor and the director of the choral group, will present “The History of the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” at 1 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Established in 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are credited for popularizing “Negro spiritual” music in the United States and Europe. In the late 19th century, the group traveled all over the Northeast and ventured to England, Germany and other European nations, performing this unique American genre to help raise funds to prevent Fisk University’s closure.

By the end of the group’s tours, it had raised enough money to guarantee the school’s survival and build Jubilee Hall, the university’s first academic building.

Fisk University, founded in 1866, is a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, and was a leader in ensuring education for African-Americans following the Civil War. Notable alumni include sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Dubois, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and acclaimed pianist Matthew Kennedy.

Karen Davidson Smith, UM clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, attended Fisk University and was a member of the Jubilee Singers from 1990 to ’94. The Oxford native said she is excited “beyond words” to have the celebrated choral group at Ole Miss.

More than 150 years after the group’s founding, “the Jubilee Singers are still spreading magic through music that is both enchanting and thrilling,” Davidson Smith said.

“As a graduate of an historically black college who now teaches at a predominantly white institution, I have often felt that no one here is really interested that my culture is in full existence,” Davidson Smith said. “I am excited that both majority and diverse students have an opportunity to learn about the rich history of the Jubilee Singers and Fisk University.”