Sharon Nichols Joins Small Business Center as State Director

New leader brings seven years' experience from Oklahoma center

Sharon Nichols

OXFORD, Miss. – The Mississippi Small Business Development Center has hired Sharon Nichols as the organization’s new state director.

The MSBDC state office is housed on the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus and is administered through a partnership with the School of Business Administration.

“We are thrilled to have Sharon join our team in the SBDC in this leadership role,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the Ole Miss business school. “We have an excellent center with experienced, capable and dedicated staff who fulfill the mission of helping transform Mississippi’s businesses, and Sharon brings experience and passion to help expand the success we have enjoyed.

“I believe the future is bright for the MSBDC under her leadership and I look forward to the impact we will have in the future on Mississippi businesses and the economy.”

Nichols brings more than seven years’ experience with the Oklahoma SBDC, where she served the last three years as assistant state director. She succeeds interim director Judy Forester, who resumes her position as associate state director.

“I am so grateful for the outstanding job Judy Forester did as interim director,” Nichols said. “Her leadership has been invaluable to the program and cannot be overstated.

“I truly believe in the mission of the SBDC, and I’ve witnessed firsthand the impact it can have on people’s lives. Mississippi has such a strong program and I am excited to be part of this team and help prepare our centers for a successful future.”

Nichols received a bachelor’s degree in general studies from the University of Central Oklahoma and an MBA specializing in organizational leadership and change management from Northeastern State University. Her certifications include Economic Development Finance Professional, Professional in Human Resources and Certification in Technology Commercialization.

Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, the MSBDC provides services and support at no charge to any Mississippian who wants to start a small business or is looking to grow an existing business.

Comprising seven regional centers across the state, the MSBDC offers a wealth of knowledge and information via trained counselors with backgrounds in banking, finance and business development. For a list of available workshops and counselors in your area, see or call 800-725-7232 in Mississippi.

Business School Launches Networking Program

Business Connect will link students with former graduates for employment

Alon Bee (left) of Regions Bank, Phil Dixon of R.J. Young and Tyler Meisenheimer, Business Connect director, gather at a Jackson reception to officially launch the UM Business Connect program. Photo by Caroline Stewart

OXFORD, Miss. – Gathering leaders from some of the state’s largest businesses for a high-powered reception in Jackson, the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration has kicked off a new networking program to connect students with alumni for employment.

The Business Connect program, founded this summer, seeks to determine the hiring/talent acquisition goals of employers and match them with the school’s “business-ready” students and graduates for placement with permanent career and internship opportunities.

The program officially kicked off Nov. 8 at a reception at the Jackson Yacht Club. Attendees included UM business Dean Ken Cyree, Business Connect director Tyler Meisenheimer and representatives of the school’s advisory board, alumni and potential employers.

“Business leaders have spoken about keeping a talented workforce in state,” Meisenheimer said. “The business school at the University of Mississippi has listened to their voices and acted quickly with the creation of this new program.

“My focus is to build relationships with industry leaders to discover their talent-acquisition goals that match our ‘business-ready’ graduates. Our students are benefitting from a multitude of career preparation resources with a dedicated team to prepare them for their respective careers.”

The purpose of the gathering was to bring industry leaders and university advocates together to learn about how the program can benefit their organizations with hiring top talent. Some 60 attendees representing 25 companies came to learn about the program’s goals and to connect with one other.

Chip Crunk (left) of R.J. Young, incoming president of the business school advisory board; Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration, and Melanie Dowell of Morgan Stanley, president of the school’s advisory board, chat at the Jackson reception. Photo by Caroline Stewart

“We were pleased with the response and the turnout for the event,” said Melanie Dowell, president of the school’s advisory board. “We were also particularly impressed by the number of businesses expressing a desire to learn more about the Business Connect program and hire our graduates.

“We are excited about this new program for the business school and appreciate Dean Cyree and Provost Wilkin’s support and enthusiasm as we move ahead.”

The participating organizations included: C Spire, Trustmark Bank, Butler Snow LLP, University of Mississippi Medical Center, St. Dominic Health Services, Baptist Memorial Healthcare Corp., Regions Bank, Sysco, Ergon, Morgan Stanley, Raymond James, Irby, the Molpus Group and BancorpSouth.

Hu Meena, C Spire president and CEO, discussed the uniqueness of Ole Miss business graduates who are highly-skilled in communication and networking and have excelled as C Spire employees.

Cyree discussed the university’s commitment to Business Connect, and Meisenheimer detailed how the business school is taking major strides to prepare students for future careers and internships.

“This is the first step in outreach to potential employers who will hire our graduates, and the success of the event was very encouraging,” Cyree said. “We are pleased to have had such a successful launch of this final piece of our career team to help our students get jobs and internships.

“We are delighted there was such an interest in Business Connect, and the impact it will have as employers engage with the business school and hire our students.”

Regional Bank Gives Business Students a Behind-the-Scenes Look

Trustmark hosted students from five Mississippi universities for a day of learning

Brooke Meeks, talent acquisition officer for Trustmark National Bank, speaks to a group of business students from around the state at Trustmark’s inaugural ‘Behind-the-Scenes’ event at its headquarters in Jackson. Photo by Kena Smith

JACKSON, Miss. – University of Mississippi business students gained insights into how banks make money, ensure positive customer experiences and connect with local communities, among other topics, at an inaugural “Behind-the-Scenes” experience hosted by Trustmark National Bank.

The event, held Nov. 2 at Trustmark’s Jackson headquarters, included students from five universities: UM, Alcorn State University, Jackson State University, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. The students were business majors with a minimum GPA of 2.5. 

“The goal of Trustmark corporate was to partner with universities to give students interested in corporate finance, banking and wealth management the opportunity to learn more about these roles in a corporate bank setting,” said Amy Jo Carpenter, career planning specialist at the Ole Miss School of Business Administration. “I believe that good information helps make good decisions, and this type of event offers firsthand knowledge about fields you cannot learn in the classroom.”

The event was conceived by Rita Floyd, director of organizational development for Trustmark, to better educate business students on how financial services companies operate and the various types of employment opportunities available after graduation.

“I recruit for our management training program and corporate internship program, and we have seen a decline in interest over the years,” Floyd said. “So I felt we needed this opportunity to showcase what we have to offer.”

The students, staff, and faculty received a glimpse of Trustmark’s culture, financial operations, core values and vision. The bank’s size and strength demonstrates a regional powerhouse – approaching $14 billion in total assets – with a broad scope of financial services offered and range of career options.

The day included speakers and panelists representing various lines within the banking industry, such as general banking, insurance, wealth management, mortgage, risk management and lending. Trustmark CEO Jerry Host joined the students for lunch.

UM business students take part in the inaugural Trustmark National Bank ‘Behind-the-Scenes’ event in Jackson. Participating students include (from left) Jeremiah Morgan, Winn Medlock, Amy Jo Carpenter, Aldyn Ewing, Meg Barnes, Kaylei Burcham, Jenny Nolan, Jared Tubertini and Wesley Dickens. Photo by Kena Smith

“Hearing personal experiences of associates and executives from Trustmark was extremely valuable,” said Jared Tubertini, a junior banking and finance major from Jackson. “I learned there are many facets of Trustmark that help the company perform at a high level.”

The industry experts who presented, all Trustmark associates, were Joe Gibbs, Brian Johnson, Heath Jordan, Brooke Meeks, Melanie Morgan, Chase Ogden, Jim Outlaw, Tom Owens, LaRoy Savage and Breck Tyler.

“In this eye-opening and educational experience, I learned that Trustmark is not just a bank, but a financial institution that provides many different services for its clients,” said Aldyn Ewing, a sophomore management major from Covington, Louisiana. “I can see myself working for this company because of the multiple opportunities for advancement and growth that they offer.”

“The Trustmark event was a great opportunity to pair classroom and professional knowledge,” said Jeremiah Morgan, a junior from Jackson majoring in management information systems and finance. “We learned about the application of solutions in business and how to effectively communicate the outcomes.”

Celebrating its 129th anniversary, Trustmark continues to expand with locations in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

“Based on the comments from students as they were leaving, I would say (the event) was a success and something that we will host again,” Floyd said. “We might even possibly try to do this twice a year: once in the fall and once in the spring.”

Female Entrepreneurs Look to the Future at Inaugural REDe Summit

Panel of Mississippi women advises a new generation of business leaders

Liza Cirlot Looser (left), Leigh Reeves, Gail Pittman, Donna Barksdale and Jan Farrington discuss women in entrepreneurship at the recent REDe Entrepreneurship Summit hosted by the UM School of Business Administration. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – An estimated 11.6 million women-owned businesses operated in the United States as of January 2017, employing nearly 9 million people and generating more than $1.7 trillion in revenues, an American Express report revealed.

And 62 percent of women entrepreneurs say their business is their primary source of income, according to Small Business Trends, an online data tracking source.

“It takes a special kind of person to become an entrepreneur,” said Robyn Tannehill, mayor of Oxford, opening the second day of the inaugural REDe Entrepreneurship Summit at the University of Mississippi. “Women who are leaders have a responsibility to aid in the success of other women.”

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship welcomed Ole Miss students and the general public for the panel discussion on Oct. 19, the second day of the conference. The discussion was followed by student mentoring sessions with the panelists and CIE-linked entrepreneurs.

The panel included some of the state’s most successful women entrepreneurs: Donna Barksdale, president of Mississippi River Trading Co.; Jan Farrington, executive director of Medical Support and Development Organization Inc.; Gail Pittman, CEO of Gail Pittman Inc.; Leigh Reeves, founder and CEO of Snapshot Publishing; and Liza Cirlot Looser, CEO of the Cirlot Agency.

Looser opened the discussion by asking each panelist to reflect on her college curriculum and what she might have done differently. All wished they had taken one course: accounting.

“I would have taken some accounting had I known I was going to be where I ended up,” Pittman said. “Accounting is what makes everything work.”

Most admitted to moments of discouragement at various points in their career but encouraged audience members to persevere and to always “bring your A game.”

Audience members at the inaugural REDe Entrepreneurship Summit listens as women business leaders discuss entrepreneurship in Mississippi and the importance of ‘bringing your A game.’ Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“We tend, as women, to minimize ourselves and our work and our accomplishments,” Barksdale said. “We are hard-wired to not appear too aggressive, too forward, but I encourage you all to not minimize yourself, ever.”

Farrington offered a different perspective based on her experience investing in businesses in Mississippi.

“I didn’t have anyone who didn’t support my ideas,” she said. “But I realized early on that it wasn’t about having people say ‘no,’ but finding people to encourage you. It’s important to find those people or the mentor who will be supportive of you.”

Reeves told participants that she tries to “hire my weaknesses.” She explained that she considers writing to be her weakness, but she doesn’t allow that deficiency to hurt her brand or slow her success.

“I hired an editor early on and they added much more to it,” Reeves said. “We worked together and learned from each other, pulling stories together and building content.”

The group concluded by providing words of wisdom to an audience filled with future entrepreneurs.

“Your dream is your dream, and you are the CEO of you,” Pittman said. “You’re in charge of your corporation, building your own dream, and Mississippi is a great place to start it.”

CIE leaders and others who helped organize the summit felt the panelists’ messages resonated with students and reinforced the objectives for the gathering.

“Our goal for the REDe Summit is to inspire students with varied academic backgrounds, such as the arts, engineering, pharmacy or business to engage in entrepreneurship,” said Clay Dibrell, CIE executive director. “This year’s summit theme focused on women’s entrepreneurship and change.

“There were several female and male students, from diverse backgrounds and majors, who are now thinking about the power of entrepreneurship to positively change not only their lives but those around them.”

The panel highlighted accomplished women in Mississippi, UM alumna and student-entrepreneurs who are trying to move forward with their own business ideas.

“It was wonderful to see so many students gather to learn from these successful women from across the world,” said Richard Gentry, CIE director. “The CIE was happy to have the opportunity to partner with members of our board and the Oxford community to put on such a well-attended and exciting program. We are looking forward to next year’s event.”

Investment Banking Workshop Prepares Students for Success

Professionals give an experienced perspective to eager upperclassmen

UM finance professors Ivonne Liebenberg (left), Andrew Lynch third from left) and Travis Box (right) gather with students who attended the Investment Banking Workshop hosted by School of Business Administration at the Jackson Avenue Center. Photo by Stephen Fier/School of Business Administration

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of business students at the University of Mississippi got career advice, interview tips and a crash course in the direction of the financial industry from professionals in the field at the recent Investment Banking Workshop, hosted by the School of Business Administration.

The two-day event connected students with professionals, who offered advice on how to prepare to land that first job and pointers on how to succeed in the workforce.

“Thanks to the generous donation of one of our sponsors, the Mississippi CFA Society, seven Tupelo students had the privilege of attending the investment banking workshop,” said Ivonne Liebenberg, instructional assistant professor of finance.

“It was an incredible opportunity for them to network, prepare for interviews, review what they have learned in an intensive eight-hour workshop and also get a glimpse of what their careers in the financial industry will look like in the future.”

The event kicked off with a panel discussion and Q&A session with Charles White, executive managing director of Stifel Financial Capital Markets; Britton Wilkins, senior vice president of Vining-Sparks IBG LP; and Sam Haskell, managing member of Colarian LLC.

White discussed changes in the markets since he began investing, emphasizing that “the markets continue to puncture, yet the markets are made of the people.”

“You just need to get your foot in the door,” White said. “Once you are in, that is where the opportunities come up. I wish I would have known that this is a very long race.

“You will always be learning with change and challenge.”

During the Q&A session, a student asked Haskell about the qualities he looks for in an analyst.

“Try to figure out how you will stand out,” Haskell said. “Job hires are looking for how long someone will stick with them before offering the job. Observe people around you and communicate a solid work ethic.”

The workshop included investment banking interview prep sessions where Jeff Schmidt, a financial analyst with extensive industry experience at Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. and Raymond James Financial, reviewed basic accounting and helped prepare students for potential interviews. This was an opportunity for students to consider challenging interview questions and formulate responses.

“Over the past few years, the finance department has worked to widen the career pathways for our managerial finance majors,” said Travis Box, assistant professor of finance. “The investment banking workshop as born out of these efforts, and our inaugural event was an overwhelming success.”

Students gave the workshop high marks.

“Being able to meet and network with professionals in the career field I am pursuing helped to alleviate some of the worry I was having about moving forward after graduating,” said Tianna Brand, a senior managerial finance major from Jackson. “With the information learned on Friday, I am much more confident to walk into a job interview.”

“Career development is not focused on as much in college,” said Jonathan Taylor, a junior from Diamondhead who has a double major in managerial finance and economics. “Ole Miss is doing a really great job with facilitating the transition between an educational environment and a work environment.”

“The University of Mississippi offers a variety of beneficial resources on and off campus, but what I experienced at the Wall Street Prep Investment Banking session was leaps and bounds above anything I have participated in thus far as a student,” said Cam Iadeluca, a senior accounting major from North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

“Having gone through recruitment at different investment banks and interning with a few firms this past summer, I know firsthand that technical questions during an interview can make or break your chances of landing a position.”

The workshop, conducted Oct. 4-5, succeeded in helping students bridge the gap between classroom theory and real-world practice, said Andrew Lynch, assistant professor of finance.

“We had 44 students come out to learn how to start a career from several incredibly successful finance professionals,” Lynch said. “The goal was to ensure these students start building their careers on as solid of a foundation as possible.

“By reinforcing concepts learned in the classroom, these students are now better prepared to show potential employers the skills they can bring to their jobs.” 

Family Gift Supports UM Business Students

Ririe family aims to help university recruit in St. Louis area

Shelley and Scott Ririe (center) have honored their sons James (left) and Mike by establishing the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment with a $300,000 gift to the UM School of Business Administration. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Like so many University of Mississippi students, Mike Ririe fell in love with Ole Miss during a campus visit.

As a high school junior in 2004, the St. Louis native and his dad, Scott Ririe, attended their first Rebel football game preceded by festivities in the Grove and a campus tour.

“We never visited another school after that day,” said Scott Ririe, founder and co-president of Control Technology and Solutions, an energy service company based in St. Louis.

Mike Ririe graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and is a commercial real estate agent in Chicago. His brother, James Ririe, of St. Louis, is on track to graduate from the UM School of Business Administration in 2020.

The Ririe brothers’ love for their university spread to their parents, who recently made a $300,000 gift to establish the Ririe Family Scholarship Endowment, which will award $6,000 a year for up to eight semesters to two St. Louis freshmen in the School of Business Administration.

The Riries designated the scholarship for students in their area because “the amount of local groundswell to attend Ole Miss in the St. Louis area is growing,” Scott Ririe said. “We viewed this as a way to give more kids the opportunity to attend the university when they may not have had the chance due to their financial circumstances.”

UM business Dean Ken Cyree thanks the Riries for their generosity.

“It’s always so encouraging to see parents of our students grow to value their children’s education so much that they want to help others have the same experience here,” he said. “We are very grateful to Scott and Shelley for their gracious support that will help generations of business administration students realize their dreams.”

Scott Ririe graduated from Cornell College in 1979 and his wife, Shelley, is a 1981 graduate of the University of Iowa. Yet now, they proudly support Ole Miss.

“Our family has become attached to Ole Miss through our boys and their love and loyalty to the university,” Scott Ririe said. The couple also has two other grown children: Andy, a paramedic studying to become a physician’s assistant, and Elise, who graduated from the University of Dayton (Ohio) and is a pharmaceutical sales representative living in Cleveland, Ohio.

Scott Ririe began his career working in sales for Honeywell International Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa. He became service sales manager in 1984 and moved to St. Louis, where he was soon promoted again to district general manager.

In 2000, he and a business partner founded CTS, which has grown to become the CTS Group, operating in nine states with more than 124 employees and revenue of more than $100 million a year.

Scott Ririe serves on the executive committee as treasurer for National Association of Energy Services Companies board of directors and the board of Midwest Easter Seals Association. He also has served on the advisory boards for General Motors and – along with his wife – Ranger Bass Boats.

His high school sweetheart and wife of 36 years, Shelley Ririe began her career with Revlon Inc., marketing cosmetics to retailers, before joining Ormco, an orthodontic supplier. She owns Branson West Marine and Powersports, which coincides nicely with the Riries’ favorite activities.

“We love the water,” Shelley Ririe said. “We have a home on Table Rock Lake in Branson (Missouri) and we enjoy boating, jet skiing and entertaining there.”

To make a gift to the School of Business Administration, visit or contact Tim Noss at 662-915-5932 or

UM Kicks Off First REDe Summit with a Powerful Message

Shiza Shahid addressed a packed ballroom on the importance of educating women

Shiza Shahid delivers the keynote address during the REDe Entrepreneurship Summit at UM. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – More than just an engine for economic development, entrepreneurship can be a potent tool for bringing about social change, prominent entrepreneur and women’s rights activist Shiza Shahid told participants at the inaugural REDe Entrepreneurship Summit at the University of Mississippi.

“I believe entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful vehicles we have to change the world,” Shahid said Oct. 18 in her keynote address kicking off the summit at the Ole Miss Student Union. “If we’re going to effect real change, we need entrepreneurship to be inclusive.”

Created by the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to encourage, celebrate and enhance entrepreneurial endeavors among Ole Miss students, the summit focused on supporting women entrepreneurs.

“Entrepreneurship is about ideas,” Shahid said. “When we invest in others’ ideas, that’s when we transform the world.”

Richard Gentry, CIE director, praised the inspirational message of Shahid’s address.

“It was wonderful to have her come and talk to the students and to see that kind of engagement,” Gentry said. “One of the students told me Shiza was her idol.”

A native of Islamabad, Pakistan, Shahid was raised by parents who encouraged her to go to school even though it is not popular for Pakistani women to seek an education. Pakistan is the fifth-largest country in the world and has the second-lowest rate of childhood education.

It was Shahid’s goal to change the system so all children – boys and girls – can have opportunities to learn, grow and prosper.

“I began showing up to the doors of nonprofits and asked to volunteer,” she said. “I first worked in a women’s prison and then a medical camp.”

Children born to inmates or patients had particularly dismal futures and are “never given a chance to a better life,” Shahid added. “They stay incarcerated, too.”

Clay Dibrell (right) thanks Shiza Shahid following her keynote address at the REDe Entrepreneurship Summit, which drew a packed ballroom at the Ole Miss Student Union. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

While a student at Stanford University, Shahid came to know Malala Yosafzai, a young, outspoken advocate for women’s education. Yosafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban but survived and went on to win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for her work on behalf of education.

Shahid came to know Yosafzai and helped establish the Malala Fund, which works to create access to high-quality education for all children around the world.

“We push for policy changes, urging to allow a higher part of the GDP to girl education,” Shahid said. “We also spend time to highlight issues that need awareness.

“Malala’s story made the statistics real. There are certain moments in our lives where we have to decide who we are.”

In August, Shahid launched NOW Ventures in Silicon Valley in partnership with AngelList, the world’s largest venture capital platform. She also invests in mission-driven technology startups that are solving pressing challenges through technology, innovation and high-grown business models.

“All of us are born in a particular place, take on a particular view of the world,” she said. “But if we want to truly transform the world, we have to suspend our judgments, biases and prejudices.

“We live in extraordinary times where we get to make choices beyond survival, a career that allows us a sense of meaning and purpose. And while it’s a privilege, it’s also a responsibility.”

That message has potential to take root in Mississippi, said Clay Dibrell, CIE executive director.

“Shiza’s message of equality, change, hope and empowerment strongly resonated with our students and community,” Dibrell said. “Her words have motivated several of our students to use entrepreneurship to create positive change for themselves and their communities.”

M Partner Deploying Volunteers Across Mississippi

Charleston, Lexington, New Albany focus of ambitious initiative

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter speaks at the M Partner announcement in March 2018. The university will send 150 M Partner volunteers to work Saturday (Oct. 13) in Lexington, Charleston and New Albany. Photo by Photo by Thomas Graning/ Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 150 volunteers will work Saturday in Charleston, Lexington and New Albany during M Partner Community Day to tackle some of each city’s major priorities. M Partner is the University of Mississippi’s hands-on new approach to addressing community needs in the state.

M Partner, which was unveiled in March, was outlined in the university’s comprehensive strategic plan, Flagship Forward. It is the result of a meeting of leaders from all UM campuses to create an ambitious new approach to the university’s longstanding commitment to improving quality of life in Mississippi.

M Partner Community Day engages students in the three partner cities through volunteer projects.

“This Community Day of Service embodies the tenets of M Partner and gets to the core of our university’s commitment to building healthy and vibrant communities,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “It is extremely rewarding to see our students so overwhelmingly and enthusiastically embrace this tremendous opportunity.

“I am excited about this community collaboration and the experiences our students will gain as well as the measurable impact this M Partner event will have upon our partner communities.”

Besides the day of service on Saturday, business development forums are set for Tuesday and Wednesday (Oct. 16 and 17) in New Albany and Charleston. These forums are hosted in partnership with the Entrepreneur Center at the Mississippi Development Authority, as well as the university’s Insight Park and McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement.

Transportation and lunch will be provided at the business forums. To register, email or

Vitter laid out the vision for M Partner in his November 2016 inaugural address, noting the considerable potential in channeling the talents of the university to support towns and cities as they work together to improve community life. Service efforts such as M Partner Community Day will be complemented by faculty members teaching academic courses that align with priority projects identified by community members.

The work to this point is only the beginning. M Partner will act as a pilot program for up to two years. The Division of Diversity and Community Engagement has a lead role in M Partner, and administrators have been working to find community goals for the program through ongoing discussions in each of the three cities.

M Partner programs began over the summer, when students in the McLean Institute’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development initiative worked with youth from each M Partner city to help them understand how the entrepreneurial mindset can be used to address challenges. Faculty members from the Ole Miss departments of Sociology and Anthropology and Management; the School of Law; and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College worked with those students.

Community partners including the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center, Mississippi Development Authority – The Entrepreneur Center and the Mississippi Main Street Association have pitched in as well.

Locals have spoken passionately about what they love about their cities, as well as their economic development, education, community well-being and beautification ideas in meetings the institute has conducted with partner cities over the last few months, said Laura Martin, M Partner director and associate director of the McLean Institute.

“We are thrilled that M Partner Community Day will be an opportunity to contribute to the beautification projects identified by each community,” Martin said. “And we are excited for our student volunteers to see how their efforts in this day of service are connected to a much larger community-university initiative.”

Volunteers will be sent to each community to help with beautification and landscaping, and they will even work Charleston’s Gateway to the Delta Festival, said Michaela Cooper, the AmeriCorps VISTA supporting M Partner.

Some Ole Miss students from these towns will talk with volunteers and leaders about life in their towns and the importance of this day to them personally to provide perspective to the helpers, Cooper said.

“On days of service, it is vital that we constantly think about how to maintain the sustainability of these partnerships and how to bring lessons learned from our partner communities back to our campus,” Cooper said. “We plan to accomplish this by making this not just a day of community service, but also a day of reflection and a call to action.”

More information about the M Partner program is available at

Retired FedEx Vice President Shows Unwavering Support for UM

Mike Glenn continues to mentor and provide opportunities for Ole Miss students

Rose Flenorl (left), Mike Glenn, Donna Glenn and Mary Haskell gather at the Ole Miss Women’s Council’s Rose Ceremony in 2017. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Organic chemistry was the game changer for Mike Glenn, retired executive vice president for market development and corporate communications at FedEx Corp. and a committed University of Mississippi alumnus.

The Memphis native came to Ole Miss in 1974 as a pharmacy major. He made it through his freshman year, but his attempt at organic chemistry as a sophomore made him realize pharmacy was not for him.

“I changed my major and entered the business school, which was a much better fit for me,” Glenn said. “Most of the classes, except for accounting, came fairly easily for me.

“It’s funny when you think about it. If it were not for the challenges I had with organic chemistry, I would have never had a career with FedEx.”

Glenn credits what he learned as a student in the business school with giving him the skills and knowledge he needed to move through the ranks at FedEx into senior leadership.

“My experience at Ole Miss, and specifically in the business school, provided an excellent academic foundation for my professional career,” he said. “The basic marketing principles I learned in the business school were the same ones we applied at FedEx to build the brand and grow the business.”

The importance of interacting well with people and treating them professionally and respectfully were also skills Glenn learned while in school, he said. In turn, he has served as a guest lecturer for the MBA program and presented FedEx case studies to undergraduate students.

“I served on the business school advisory board and also provided guidance to a number of students as they were preparing for their careers,” Glenn said. “The most fulfilling part has always been the interaction with the students.”

Glenn is an outstanding supporter of the school and the university, said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.

“He has given back in many different ways, including talking to students via programs and class, serving on search committees, hiring our graduates and providing financial support,” Cyree said. “Mike is a shining example of what it means to be an Ole Miss Business Rebel and the impact our graduates have in the world.”

FedEx is a publicly traded company with annual revenues of $60 billion. Many Ole Miss business students vie for positions within the company.

“When I spoke to our FedEx intern class each year, it was always fun for me to identify the interns from Ole Miss and let them know how proud I am to be an Ole Miss graduate,” Glenn said.

Glenn showed his partiality toward Ole Miss when asked what sort of advice he might offer a high school student considering the university.

“We have the most beautiful college campus in the country, outstanding academic programs, an increasingly diverse student population with a wonderful school spirit,” he said. “I continue to be impressed with our leadership, faculty and staff, and the school’s vision for the future.”

Because of his enthusiasm for the university and so many graduates have been or are employed by FedEx, Glenn said it is important for the company to have a visible presence on campus. This enthusiasm resulted in the company’s sponsorship of the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Support Center and additional financial support for other academic programs.

“Mike Glenn is a truly exceptional individual who has a tremendous impact on every endeavor he undertakes, from effecting change at a global company to nurturing the development of students,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Mike is to be commended for his deep commitment of time, energy, passion and resources that have contributed to the transformation of our university.

“We are so grateful for his leadership and his unwavering support as a fiercely loyal member of the Ole Miss family.”

An Ole Miss alumna and former FedEx employee reiterated Glenn’s influence as a leader.

“Mike is an extraordinary leader who always ignited confidence and pride in the employees who worked for him,” said Parul Bajaj, a Clinton native who received her MBA from Ole Miss in 2007 and worked for FedEx from 2007 to 2014 as a senior communications specialist. “Fed Ex is an internationally recognized and respected brand because of his leadership.”

Glenn’s love for Ole Miss is contagious. He and his wife, Donna, met over 30 years ago, as new employees at FedEx. She is a graduate of the University of Memphis. However, throughout their courtship, she came to learn how important Ole Miss is to Glenn and that she would be marrying into the “Ole Miss family.”

Over the years, she has come to love and appreciate the university as well – so much that Glenn often refers to his wife as a “walk-on alumna.”

In 2017, Glenn honored his wife by endowing an Ole Miss Women’s Council scholarship in her name.

“Donna has a degree in journalism, and she is a very talented communications professional,” he said. “After her career at FedEx, she has continued to use those skills in support of numerous charitable organizations in Memphis.

“The scholarship will support a student majoring in journalism, which seems appropriate given Donna’s degree and professional background.”

Glenn credits his education at Ole Miss with giving him the confidence he needed when he began his professional career as a sales representative in the elevator division of Dover Corp. in Memphis, and two years later began taking classes in the evenings to earn his MBA at the University of Memphis.

After completing his MBA, he went to work for FedEx, where he ultimately came to serve in the executive vice president position as well as one of five members of the company’s executive committee.

As a mentor to Ole Miss students, Glenn stresses the cultivation of strong communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

“Unfortunately, I have seen many very bright individuals fail to maximize their potential because they lacked the strong communication skills and could not be a productive member of a team,” he said. “Finally, it is never too early for a student to start developing his or her leadership skills.

“My undergraduate work in the business school really prepared me for the MBA program. Ole Miss provides an outstanding college experience, and I really enjoyed my time in the business school. I will never forget how much fun it was and the impact it had on my career.”

McLean Institute Grant Award to Fund Community Engagement

Hearin Foundation provides support for research and service efforts

The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement welcomed a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. First row from left, Albert Nylander, Hannah Newbold, Navodit Paudel, Kristina Fields, J.R. Love, Laura Martin; second row from left, Michael Mott, Allison Borst, Zachary Pugh, Joshua Baker, Kendall Walker, Curtis Hill; third row from left, Bryce Williams, Elena Bauer, Adam Franco, Arielle Rogers, Virginia Parkinson, Anna Katherine Burress, Ashley Bowen.

OXFORD, Miss – A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will fund research and service aimed at increasing community and economic development in Mississippi communities.

The McLean Institute welcomes a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. This scholarship opportunity serves to build actionable partnerships across the state to promote entrepreneurship and economic development.

Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute, professor of sociology and principal investigator for the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, program, said he is thankful for the approximately $500,000 provided by the foundation.

“The wonderful people at the Hearin Foundation continue their remarkable record of supporting university students through fellowships to make a difference throughout Mississippi,” Nylander said.

Fifteen students were selected this year to continue a nearly $2 million McLean Institute investment from the Hearin Foundation to bolster community and economic development in Mississippi. This grant will support UM students through 2021.

The CEED Initiative works with Ole Miss students and faculty to implement projects and conduct research that directly affects Mississippi communities. These students join a network of more than 50 UM students and faculty, as well as a collaboration of more than 400 community and business leaders in the state, who embarked on the first CEED project in 2014-18.

The annual entrepreneurship forums, business webinars, youth leadership programs and other activities are focused on spurring economic growth in the state.

“We are thankful to the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for providing the opportunity to continue working in Mississippi with business and community leaders in partnership with UM students to help move our state forward,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The program’s annual Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum, which helps strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, will take place March 8, 2019, at Millsaps College in partnership with other universities throughout the state.

The CEED program supports undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members to research poverty, education, asset building, and health care in Mississippi.

“As a McLean Institute innovation fellow, I am to think critically about the issues of poverty and development in Mississippi, in particular the Delta area,” said Ashley Bowen, a master’s student in computer science from Lambert. “Through sustained community engagement, and by applying strategies in community development, I have been able to positively impact the community and develop myself professionally.”

The McLean Institute also supports faculty research projects through the CEED Initiative. Cristiane Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering; Kate Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies; David Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management; Tejas Pandya, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Annie Cafer, assistant professor of sociology, all have received funds to conduct projects in Mississippi.

The 2018-19 CEED program includes students from the College of Liberal Arts and the schools of Accountancy, Applied Science, Business Administration, Engineering, Journalism and New Media, Law and Pharmacy.

Other students in the program are: Josh Baker, a junior majoring in economics from Katy, Texas; Elena Bauer, second-year law student, Freiburg, Germany; Allison Borst, junior in biological sciences and sociology, Madison; Anna Katherine Burress, junior in pharmaceutical science, Water Valley; Kristina Fields, junior in psychology, Belden; Adam Franco, senior in public policy leadership, Birmingham, Alabama; Michael Mott, junior in integrated marketing communications and Spanish, Chicago; Hannah Newbold, junior in integrated marketing communications, Roswell, Georgia; Virginia Parkinson, sophomore in marketing and corporate relations, Oxford; Navodit Paudel, junior in general business, Dhading, Nepal; Zach Pugh, sophomore in public policy leadership, Oxford; Arielle Rogers, sophomore in accountancy, Guntown; Kendall Walker, junior in communication sciences and disorders, Tupelo; and Bryce Williams, master’s student in exercise science, Ridgeland.

For more information on the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, visit or contact Albert Nylander at 662-915-2050, or