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

Class project yields solid investing experience for group

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both his stock picks recorded gains during the competition.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Billion Dollar Buyer’ Tilman Fertitta to Speak at UM

Restaurant mogul set for May 5 event at Pavilion

Tilman Fertitta

OXFORD, Miss. – Businessman Tilman Fertitta, CEO of Landry’s Inc. and star of the CNBC reality show “Billion Dollar Buyer,” will share insights and advice Friday (May 5) at the University of Mississippi.

The 11:30 a.m. event at The Pavilion at Ole Miss is free and open to the public. The first 1,000 guests get a complimentary lunch and poster from the event, and will have an opportunity for Fertitta to autograph it personally.

The event is a collaboration between the university’s School of Business Administration, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, with assistance from Blake Tartt III, president and CEO of New Regional Planning, a real estate consulting firm in Houston, Texas.

“When we built The Pavilion at Ole Miss and opened the doors in January of 2016, our vision was to continue to make our university community the place to be for big-time events,” said Ross Bjork, vice chancellor of intercollegiate athletics. “Mr. Fertitta’s message about self-made success will be inspiring for our students and community leaders so they can see firsthand that anything is possible if you take the right approach and have a plan.

“We are grateful to be in a position to host these top-flight events and partner with the School of Business, Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and our friend Blake Tartt.”

Fertitta, whose company owns and operates more than 500 properties with more than 40 brands, including Landry’s Seafood, Chart House, Saltgrass Steak House, Bubba Gump Shrimp Co., Claim Jumper, Morton’s The Steakhouse, McCormick & Schmick’s, Mastro’s and Rainforest Cafe, will talk about his success and how others can apply what he has learned.

“For our students to be able to interact with one of the major business leaders in the United States is enormously satisfying,” said Will Norton, dean of the UM journalism school. “We are grateful to Blake Tartt III for making the arrangements to have Tilman Fertitta at Ole Miss.”

With a reported net worth of nearly $3 billion on Forbes’s list of the “world’s wealthiest people,” Fertitta is a self-made success. He started in the food business in Galveston, Texas, where he worked at his father’s restaurant after school.

He began selling Shaklee vitamins before following his dream of owning restaurants. The second-youngest inductee into the Texas Business Hall of Fame, Fertitta began as a partner in the first Landry’s restaurant in 1980 and bought a controlling interest in the company in 1986. Landry’s went public in 1993, and he took it private again nearly 20 years later in a $1.4 billion deal.

“We are excited to have Tilman Fertitta coming to campus to speak to our students, faculty, alumni, and friends,” said Ken Cyree, UM business dean. “Tilman is an outstanding example for our stakeholders of what hard work, ingenuity, business acumen, recognizing opportunity and executing business strategies can create in a company.”

This is the second year the Ole Miss business and journalism schools and athletics department have collaborated for a significant event to cap the school year. Last year’s event brought urban visionary Joel Kotkin to campus for a message on the importance of planning in urban environments and creating quality of life in dense development settings.

“We wanted to top last year with a personality who was both entertaining and enlightening,” said Tartt, a UM alumnus and chairman of the business school’s real estate advisory board. “Who better to captivate our audience than a market leader with a perspective that no one else has?

“I’ve known Tilman since childhood and have worked with him on real estate developments for over 30 years. He’s a rare blend of creativity and candor, vision and veracity.”

Besides his business ventures, Fertitta is the chairman of the University of Houston’s board of regents, and he recently donated $20 million to renovate the Cougars’ basketball arena at the Fertitta Center.

“I’m eager for the attendees to have the opportunity to experience Fertitta’s rare blend of wit and wisdom,” Tartt said.

Lunch is provided by sponsors Renasant Bank, Evans Petree P.C., White Construction and

UM Sophomore Wins Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship

Mary Eveleen Brown honored for accomplishments, involvement with $2,500 award

UM sophomore Mary Eveleen Brown (center) is presented with the 2017 JAMAS Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship by (from left) Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration; Madison Turnage, daughter of JAMAS CEO Ben Turnage and an Ole Miss senior; Karen Turnage, Ben Turnage’s wife; and Don Duckworth, senior adviser with JAMAS Capital Management. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – JAMAS Capital Management, a private investment firm based in Jackson, has named University of Mississippi sophomore Mary Eveleen Brown as the recipient of the 2017 JAMAS Capital Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship.

A native of Brentwood, Tennessee, Brown got an early start in entrepreneurship at age 12, when she made and sold purses to raise money for a charity that provides plastic surgery to burn victims. In high school, she started an online business making and selling headbands to raise funds to attend camp.

Most recently, Brown immersed herself in a start-up jewelry business, which was “transformative in my understanding of the business environment of today,” she said.

“I discovered that the most crucial question in today’s business environments is, ‘Why do we do things this way?’ It encourages people to look at their business from a different point of view.”

Brown is majoring in integrated marketing communications with a minor in business administration. She has become involved in the Ole Miss community, serving on the Student Activities Association Executive Council, the Associated Student Body Marketing and Engagement Board, and the Student Alumni Council.

She recently served on the sponsorship committee for RebelTHON/Children’s Miracle Network annual fundraiser, which raised more than $100,000.

“Mary Eveleen has demonstrated the motivation to create and succeed in new business opportunities while also serving her community,” said Ben O. Turnage, founder and CEO of JAMAS Capital Management. “We at JAMAS are proud to contribute to the success of this impressive young woman, who has a bright future as a pioneering business leader.”

Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration said, “We are very proud of Mary Eveleen’s accomplishments so early in her college experience and are confident she will continue to build on this success at Ole Miss and well beyond graduation.

“We are also thrilled that JAMAS Capital Management is funding this important scholarship that supports our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and our entrepreneurship major.”

The $2,500 JAMAS Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship helps Ole Miss students pursue their education and goals to create successful businesses after graduation. For more information, visit

UM Students Help Manage Investments for Tennessee Valley Authority

Ole Miss team places fourth in investment competition, gains real-world experience

UM students Christian May (left), Ian Soileau, Claire Fulkerson, Lamar Norsworthy and Makail Johannesson presented the team’s strategy and results to TVA officials at the Tennessee Valley Authority Investment Challenge in Nashville, Tennessee. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Twelve students from the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration’s portfolio management team recently represented the university in Nashville, Tennessee, for the Tennessee Valley Authority Investment Challenge.

The TVA’s investment program is one of the nation’s largest student-managed investment plans. It allows student teams to manage stock portfolios for the agency, giving them better understanding of investments through experience. Based on the portfolios’ performances, students are awarded prizes by the TVA.

For calendar year 2016, the Ole Miss portfolio team earned a return of 11.95 percent, which placed them fourth among the 23 participating schools. Only Trevecca Nazarene University, at 18.7 percent; East Tennessee State University, 18.6 percent; and the University of Tennessee, 16.7 percent, earned better returns over the year.

“It was a cool experience to immerse ourselves in a professional environment like the TVA conference,” said Makail Johannesson, a junior economics major from Red Lake, Ontario. “We learn a lot of content and fundamentals in the classroom, but there is no better way to grasp corporate culture than being a part of it.”

The strong performance was supported by Ole Miss’ portfolio holdings in T-Mobile, Chevron and AT&T, stocks which recorded gains of 65 percent, 35 percent and 34 percent, respectively, during 2016.

The students managed approximately a half-million dollars of the TVA’s funds by designing long-term investment strategies, making trades and providing performance reports to the agency.

The real-world experience will be valuable in helping the students compete professionally, said Ken Cyree, dean of the business school.

“We are pleased that these students have an excellent experiential learning opportunity through the TVA,” Cyree said. “We are also thankful that the competition provided an opportunity for the students to hone their presentation skills.

“The use of real funds helps add to the importance of decision-making, and the presentation of the results adds to the importance of being accountable for our decisions.”

Besides Johannesson, the team included Jocelyn Cropper, a junior managerial finance major from Cypress, Texas; Claire Fulkerson, a junior majoring in accountancy from Dallas; Ashely Glennon, a senior managerial finance major from Austin, Texas; Boyce Holleman, a senior from Jackson majoring in managerial finance and banking and finance; Blake Maum a senior from Chattanooga, Tennessee, majoring in banking and finance; Christian May, a senior managerial finance major from Memphis; Lamar Norsworthy, a junior accountancy major from Memphis; Kyle D. Snyder, a junior marketing major from Keller, Texas; Ian Soileau, a sophomore from Hernando majoring in mathematics and managerial finance; Tyler Whitmore, a senior in accountancy from Sherwood, Arkansas; and Grant A. Wiley, a junior from Dallas majoring in banking and finance.

Five of the team members – Fulkerson, Johannesson, May, Norsworthy and Soileau – presented their performance results and explained their strategy to the TVA executives.

Travis Box, UM assistant professor of finance, and Jonathan Daigle, adjunct instructor of finance, organized the team and serve as faculty advisers.

“The students studied the markets and conducted meetings all year,” Box said. “They presented their research, fought for their ideas, and it paid off.

“There is so much talent in this group, and I can’t wait to see what they are able to accomplish going forward.”

The money used for the challenge comes from the TVA’s Asset Retirement Trust Fund, established in 1996 to meet the financial obligations of decommissioning the agency’s non-nuclear power units. The Investment Challenge is part of a larger strategy to diversify the financial management of the Trust Fund.

When the program began, 19 universities received investment funds of $100,000 each, totaling $1.9 million. The program has expanded to include 25 universities, with some $10 million being invested.

“The Investment Challenge is another example of the many great things the TVA provides people,” said Richard Howorth, an Ole Miss graduate, owner of Square Books in Oxford and chair-elect of the TVA’s board of directors. “This program is especially meaningful because it is an opportunity for the organization to help young people learn about the world of financial investment as well as broaden their interest in potential career paths.”

Tutoring Startup Takes Top Prize at UM Business Competition

12th annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition celebrates another successful year

Winners of the Gillespie Business Plan Competition are pictured with the judging panel: (front row) William Yates III, CEO of Yates Construction; Sam Bertolet, partner with Pontus Andersson in Myra Mirrors, the second-place winner; Lee Ingram, first-place winner; Austin Darnell, third-place winner; John Oxford, director of external affairs for Renasant Bank; and Lawrence Adams, Jimmy John’s franchise owner in Jackson; and (back row) Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration; Emmet Seibels, co-founder of Versus Health in Nashville; Johnny Maloney, co-owner of Cowboy Maloney’s; Clay Dibrell, professor of management and CIE co-director; Richard Gentry, associate professor of management and CIE co-director; and Josh Mabus, owner of the Mabus Agency. The competition finals were April 7 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. UM photo by Cobie Watkins

OXFORD, Miss. – An online enterprise that helps University of Mississippi students find tutors for their college studies took first place in the 12th annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition, hosted by the UM Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Lee Ingram, a master’s candidate in accountancy from Madison, wowed judges with his presentation for Collegiate Tutoring, a tutoring matchmaking service he started in 2014. Its largest clients are two Greek organizations, and the service has assisted more than 200 students, bringing in revenues of more than $50,000 to date.

“Ole Miss is such a fantastic place for students to pursue entrepreneurship,” Ingram said. “There is so much support available from people like Owens Alexander at the CIE, as well as professors like Clay Dibrell and Rich Gentry.

“My goal with Collegiate Tutoring is to help students see that entrepreneurship is a viable career option. I hope to set an example for students looking to take a risk and bet on themselves and their business idea.”

Ingram won $10,000 and a year of free office space at the Innovation Hub at Insight Park, the university’s business incubator.

Pontus Andersson, a senior from Ridgeland, took second place and $5,000 for his company, Myra Mirrors, which developed a software system that integrates apps into surfaces and mirrors. Third place and $2,500 went to Manalsu Athletics, founded by Austin Darnell, a junior from Wake Forest, North Carolina.

“We looked at other smart home spaces,” Andersson said. “We realized that while home automation had been covered by the likes of Nest, Google, Apple and Amazon, few companies had attempted it with furniture.”

Darnell founded Manalsu Athletics in September 2015 with a theme of “Designed for a Life in Motion” after raising $11,000 on Kickstarter for his first product, a high-end style of men’s underwear. He hoped to place in the competition to receive additional funding to expand into other styles of durable men’s activewear.

“We are so proud to be able to provide this unique opportunity for our students,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has quickly become one of the many great programs in the business school, and we look forward to seeing what these students are doing to meld together creativity and business.”

The Gillespie Business Plan Competition is the center’s signature event of the year, said Rich Gentry, associate professor of entrepreneurship and strategy and CIE co-director.

“We saw students who have put in a tremendous effort to develop their business and their pitch,” Gentry said. “As in years past, the winner is a successful student we are excited to see benefit from our program.”

The competition is conducted in three rounds. This year’s first round was a review by doctoral candidates of 48 proposals for student businesses.

The second round included 15 participants who gave eight-minute presentations to a committee of 16 local and regional business owners and community leaders, and the final round featured six participants who each gave an eight-minute presentation to a panel of nine judges. The final round was conducted April 7 at The Pavilion at Ole Miss.

Besides the winners, the final six competitors also included Sujit and Sangeet Adhikari of Dhading, Nepal, whose company, Adhikari Brothers, would produce bamboo as a substitute for wood; Alicia Hydeman a sophomore from Dallas, whose company, Lulu Jax, focuses on women’s apparel for extremely petite women – Hydeman is 4 feet 10 inches tall – and Nathaniel Snyder, a senior from Elburn, Illinois, whose company, Purifico, produces a super-hydrophobic chemical coating designed to improve sanitation on bathroom surfaces.

UM alumnus Hunter Carpenter (second from left), is congratulated by Jan Farrington (left) Lawrence Farrington and Dean Ken Cyree upon being announced as recipient of the Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year Award. The presentation came after the Gillespie Business Plan Competition at The Pavilion at Ole Miss. UM photo by Stella Connell

Following the announcement of the winners, Lawrence and Jan Farrington presented Hunter Carpenter, a partner in Redbird Capital Partners in Dallas, with the Farrington Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year award.

“Lawrence and I are both interested in encouraging young entrepreneurs in Mississippi, especially those associated with the University of Mississippi,” Jan Farrington said. “This yearly award provides the opportunity to honor successful entrepreneurs, and also to provide encouragement and inspiration to our students with an entrepreneurial spirit.

“Hunter’s career grows more impressive each year. He not only exemplifies a very successful entrepreneur, but also a person who shares his time and talents to help others. He has served on the UM Foundation Board for many years and is currently the chair of its investment committee.”

A four-year letterman on the Ole Miss men’s basketball team, Carpenter earned his bachelor’s degree in 1999 from the UM Patterson School or Accountancy, his master’s in accountancy in 2000 and a Juris Doctor from the UM School of Law in 2003.

“It is an honor to receive the award from the Farringtons,” Carpenter said. “They are special people to Ole Miss and to me, and have long carved a path as special entrepreneurs and investors in the South.”

Ole Miss Insurance Symposium Tackles Critical Issues

Risk Management and Insurance program hosts 22nd annual meeting of industry leaders

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Andre Liebenberg (right), associate professor of finance, congratulate Bill Bryson of Jackson, a member of the first class of Ole Miss risk management and insurance graduates in 1947, at the Ole Miss Insurance Symposium. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Key industry issues, including the Affordable Care Act and catastrophe management, were examined in depth at the annual Ole Miss Insurance Symposium, hosted for the 22nd consecutive year by the University of Mississippi’s risk management and insurance program.

The event, held March 22-23 at The Inn at Ole Miss, continues to attract industry leaders to campus and is one of the hallmark events of the School of Business Administration.

Andre Liebenberg, associate professor of finance and the university’s Gwenette P. and Jack W. Robertson Chair of Insurance, praised the Ole Miss Insurance Advisory Board for developing this year’s program.

“We are proud to host over 200 industry guests on our beautiful campus and to showcase our nationally ranked program and, more generally, our exceptional university and town,” Liebenberg said. “In addition to being our largest fundraiser, the symposium provides us an opportunity to serve the industry by providing continuing education.”

Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration, praised the dynamic lineup of presenters.

“We are thrilled that the RMI program is able to attract first-rate speakers (and) attendees and provide such an extraordinary experience for leaders in the insurance industry,” Cyree said.

Leigh Ann Pusey, president and CEO of the American Insurance Association, opened the symposium with a discussion of critical issues facing the industry in 2017. She noted the need for talent in the insurance industry and commended the RMI program on the strength of its students.

“Life is full of ethical dilemmas, and we have to make decision,” said Lance Ewing, executive vice president of risk management for Cotton Holdings Inc., who led the large audience through a myriad of situations where their judgement would be called into action.

Using leadership examples of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler, along with corporate policies of Caesars Casino and Wal-Mart, Ewing weaved through complicated situations and philosophies RMI industry professionals deal with often.

“We are in the business of ethics,” he said. “Our word is our bond.”

Introduced by his daughter, Isabelle, a sophomore from Southlake, Texas, David Repinski, CEO for the Americas of Cunningham Lindsey and a self-admitted “claims guy,” discussed catastrophe management.

“Plan when the skies are blue,” Repinski said. “Make sure your team knows what to do when a cat happens.

“Run drills. Find out who is available to be on site when it happens, and who is around to rapidly process 5,000 claims if necessary.”

The worst catastrophes of the past 15 years were the 2011 flood in Bangkok, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, followed by Hurricane Katrina in the U.S. in 2005, Repinski said.

Cunningham Lindsey is the second-largest insurance concern of its kind in the world, with offices in 63 countries and annual revenue of nearly a billion dollars.

In a concurrent session, Aaron Sisk, president and CEO of Magnolia Health Plan, spoke about the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the implications of the potential changes in health insurance legislation for insurers and citizens of Mississippi.

“The two biggest challenges in our industry are lack of human capital and technology,” said Glenn Spencer, COO and president of Lockton U.S., who spoke to a packed room of industry practitioners and Ole Miss students.

“If we aren’t growing, we can’t award and retain our people. We want to be the best place in the world to work.”

In an address to the group, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulated the insurance program on its 70th anniversary and recognized alumnus Bill Bryson, a member of the first class of graduates in 1947.  He acknowledged the program’s high job placement rate for graduates and noted that its rank has risen to the ninth-largest RMI program in the country.

“It is a common will and drive to always get better,” Vitter said. “Nothing is more important than higher education. It inspires innovation and allows people to improve their lives.”

The chancellor emphasized the UM community’s commitment to service locally and around the globe.

“We focus on the people and resources of our state to make a difference around the globe,” Vitter said.

Hank Watkins, president of North American operations for Lloyd’s of London, presented a brief history of the company, which was founded by Edward Lloyd in 1688, and explained that few new insurance companies are being launched because start-up costs and risks are intimidatingly high.

Many new industry professionals use Lloyd’s as a start-up incubator to grow their own businesses underneath the Lloyd’s umbrella. The firm has a franchise board to make sure compliance issues are met, he said.

The symposium concluded with a panel featuring Mike Chaney, Mississippi insurance commissioner, and Joel Wood, senior vice president of government affairs for the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers.

Chaney and Wood led the audience through a lively discussion of insurance concerns in Mississippi under the Trump administration, regarding flood issues and the low tax rate the state receives. They examined efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which failed the day after the symposium concluded.

The UM School of Business Administration was established in 1917 and the insurance major was introduced in 1947. For more information on the RMI program, go to

UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among public doctoral institutions in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

Applicants Sought for Entrepreneurial Spirit Scholarship

JAMAS Capital Management created award to encourage pursuit of innovative business careers

The $2,500 Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship is intended to help UM students become the entrepreneurial business leaders of the future. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Students in the University of Mississippi’s School of Business Administration are encouraged to apply soon for a new scholarship funded by JAMAS Capital Management, a private investment firm based in Jackson.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship, worth $2,500, is intended to help UM students become the entrepreneurial business leaders of the future by easing the financial burden of a college education. Applications must be received by Feb. 28. For more information and to apply for the scholarship, visit the JAMAS website.

Young leaders are capable of innovation and creative new approaches to all aspects of business, including innovative start-ups, said Ben O. Turnage, founder and CEO of JAMAS.

“We know that these young leaders have a unique, fresh perspective not always seen in the business world, as well as their own personal experiences to draw upon,” Turnage said. “Our hope is that by easing the financial burden of secondary education, we will see new UM graduates developing more innovative business start-ups in Mississippi.”

The JAMAS Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship is open to all students who are enrolled or have been accepted at Ole Miss. To be considered, applicants must have at least a 2.8 grade-point average and must submit a 500-to-1,000-word essay from their choice of three topics.

“We are thrilled that Ben, one of our outstanding entrepreneurs and investor in many Mississippi businesses, is funding this important scholarship,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “Through this generous gift, we are able to enhance our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and our entrepreneurship major, thereby encouraging our students to create new businesses and innovate in existing businesses. 

“This scholarship will allow us to have a long-term impact that enhances the economic value of businesses in Mississippi, the Southeast and throughout the world.”

The scholarship is a timely partnership with the Ole Miss entrepreneurship program because the full entrepreneurship major goes into effect this year, Cyree said.

Also, the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which received the Emerging Entrepreneurship Award in 2015, provides opportunities for budding entrepreneurs to hone their start-up business ideas through the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, Pitch Night and Land Shark Tank Pitch programs. Interested students should contact the CIE for more information about how to get involved in programs that foster innovation and entrepreneurship for all businesses.

JAMAS Capital Management is a private investment firm providing a unique source of strategic capital to a broad spectrum of industry sectors. For more than 30 years, Turnage has founded, invested in and profitably grown companies across a variety of businesses, including enterprises in construction, residential/commercial real estate, oil field services and agri-foods.

For more information about JAMAS Capital Management or the Entrepreneurial Spirit of Mississippi Scholarship, contact Susan Segars at 404-808-0075 or by email at

For more information on programs in the UM School of Business Administration, go to

Texas Couple Looks to Expand UM Student Recruiting

Crosswells underwrite student recruiter position for Lone Star State

Allen Crosswell and his wife, Leah, (center) enjoy a recent visit with UM administrators (from left) Provost Morris Stocks; Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents leadership; Chancellor Jeff Vitter; and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – With a recent $400,000 gift to the University of Mississippi, Allen and Leah Crosswell of Houston, Texas, have provided the means to hire and support a new recruiter whose goal will be to get more high-achieving Texas students to choose Ole Miss for college.

Crosswell, a 1989 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration, agreed to underwrite the expenses that will support a senior-level admissions counselor in Houston. The university has only one other Texas admissions counselor, who recruits out of Dallas.

“The Crosswells graciously offered a solution to an identified need, and for this gift we are very grateful,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “The Crosswells’ generous philanthropic investment in our university reveals their passionate belief in the power of education and their vision for improving opportunities available to young people.”

Though Texas recently has taken Tennessee’s place as the second state after Mississippi with the most students at Ole Miss, too many outstanding Texas high school students are enrolling elsewhere, Crosswell said.

“We’re primarily trying to increase the awareness of the value of a degree from the University of Mississippi,” said Crosswell, whose businesses are active in retail development, industrial acquisitions and asset lending. “We’re not getting the students with the upper grade-point averages and upper ACT and SAT scores. They’re going to the other competitive colleges primarily because they don’t know what we have to offer.”

Crosswell believes these high-achieving prospective students would be more likely to choose Ole Miss if they knew of its many benefits: the curricula, faculty and culture that made a difference in his own values and life views, so much so that he felt compelled to give back.

“Most of them don’t even know we have the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Crosswell said. “They’re not hearing about the national ranking of our schools or that our Patterson School of Accountancy is ranked in the Top 10, for example.”

And it’s just a matter of spreading the word, said Crosswell, who has worked with the Office of Admissions to develop a program that will get these students’ attention.

“We’ll make sure they know what we have to offer, make sure they get set up to come visit here, make sure they can meet other Ole Miss students from the major metros of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and also visit with some of our professors,” Crosswell said, adding that the whole experience will be prearranged by the recruiter. “I think it will help us build awareness for what we have to offer.”

It will also provide a personal touch, Leah Crosswell said.

“Everybody wants to be wanted, so all of sudden they have somebody who wants them and who’s showing them a program that will have real value when they graduate,” she said.

“It’s going to be an eye-opener for some of these kids,” Allen Crosswell continued. “They’ll see that they can get the excellent academics they need in a really fun, Southern setting with fraternities and sororities and SEC football.

“You can’t find that in most places. We’ve just got to sell it. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and we believe a recruiter can show that culture to students in Texas.”

It’s a unique concept, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The Crosswells’ gift is unprecedented for the university as far as providing resources to our admissions office and is going to increase our exposure and give us an opportunity to be more high-touch in Texas, where we get a number of wonderful students,” she said. “It will allow us to continue to expand the wonderful Ole Miss brand and that feeling of being an Ole Miss family.”

Both LaBanc and the Crosswells hope the Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund will be an example to others who may want replicate the program throughout Texas and in other states.

“It says that people value the work of the Office of Admissions,” LaBanc said. “They are a staff that is always out all year long. If they’re not working on the incoming class, they’re working on the following year’s class.

“They’re such a hard-working group of individuals and for someone to recognize that and want to help them expand their scope and expand the impact that they already have is such a real blessing.”

The Crosswells, who have a home in Oxford, frequently visit the university, where their son Holcombe is a junior integrated marketing communications major. Their son Greyson is a high-school senior who plans to attend Ole Miss in the fall.

The Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the name of the fund noted in the memo line, can be mailed to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at http://www.umfoundation/makeagift.

For information on establishing a similar fund, contact Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents, at 662-915-2711 or

UM Online Master of Business Administration Program Ranked in Top 25

U.S News & World Report releases 2017 rankings for online MBA degrees

The UM Online Master of Business Administration program is ranked ahead of several respected national programs for providing a quality, flexible program for working professionals. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Online Master of Business Administration program has been named as one of the best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The rankings, released today (Jan. 10), place Ole Miss at No. 22 nationally.

“We are excited for the recognition of the outstanding education received in the online MBA program,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the UM School of Business Administration. “We strive to provide similarities of the on-campus experience, but with the flexibility of the courses needed while working or living in another location.

“We are grateful for the opportunities this program provides our graduates, and that we are receiving this type of recognition. We look forward to the continued success of the online MBA program.”

According to U.S. News & World Report’s briefing, “Master’s degree programs in business administration have greater enrollment, by far, than any other type of graduate business degree program. The 2017 ‘Best Online MBA Programs’ rankings evaluate schools based on data related to their distance education MBA programs.”

For the 2017 edition, U.S. News & World Report ranked online MBA programs using five criteria: student engagement, admissions selectivity, peer reputation, faculty credentials and training, and student services and technology.

“Our online program includes a 36-hour, challenging and comprehensive curriculum that allows professionals to further their education while maintaining ‘real life’ responsibilities, such as work and family,” said Ashley Jones, director of the university’s MBA program. “You can keep your job, stay where you are and earn a quality degree from Ole Miss.”

“Our faculty work very hard to provide an online experience that includes frequent, high-quality interaction between students and instructors,” said Walter Davis, faculty director of the online MBA program.

“We strive to provide opportunities for students to interact with one another, sharing their experiences from a variety of professional contexts. This is a vital part of the learning process and a strength of the program.”

UM placed ahead of several respected online programs, including Northeastern University and George Washington University. The program ranked third in the Southeastern Conference (tied with Mississippi State) behind the Hough Graduate School of Business at the University of Florida and the Harbert School of Business at Auburn University.

“Accreditation, reputation and name recognition led me to choose Ole Miss over the other schools,” said Ray Mathew, of Westchester County, New York, who received his degree in 2016.

“Other than talented faculty, the flexibility to complete the degree at my own pace while working full-time was the greatest strength of the online program.”

U.S. News & World Report collected the data between August and October 2016. Two hundred and fifty-five schools indicated they would be offering online MBAs, up from 228 in 2015.

The UM on-campus MBA program ranked No. 36 among American public universities and No. 68 overall by Bloomberg Business Week News Service in November.

The Ole Miss School of Business Administration was established in 1917 and awarded its first MBA degree in 1946.