StartUp Camp Provides Training for Young Entrepreneurs

McLean Institute and CIE team to sponsor a week of activities for future business leaders

Participants in the UM StartUp Camp for young entrepreneurs (from left) Kevin Hernandez, of New Albany; Andrew Wharton and Tony Parks, of Memphis; and Verkeria Price, of Sardis, show off materials related to their businesses. Photo by Tong Meng

OXFORD, Miss. – Negotiation skills, competitive pricing, lunch etiquette, business plans, the importance of a proper handshake, proficiency in Excel, and commercial development and filming were just a few of the opportunities offered to a group of middle schoolers recently at the University of Mississippi.

The activities were part of StartUp Camp, sponsored by the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The students, all sixth- through eighth-graders, were from Como, Lambert, Marks, New Albany, Newton, Oakland and Sardis, as well as Lakeland and Memphis, Tennessee.

The young professionals kicked off the week learning the four basic types of businesses: manufacturing, wholesale, retail and service. After the students decided on the business they wanted to develop for the week, they quickly jumped into negotiations – the cornerstone of almost any business.

Jessica Clarke, a camp leader and recent UM graduate in integrated marketing communications from Nashville, entered into a negotiation about a calculator with Kevin Hernandez, a rising seventh-grader at New Albany Middle School. Ultimately, Hernandez agreed to pay Clarke $9.50.

“She started at $15 and I countered with $6,” said Hernandez, whose business is a 24-hour-day medical clinic and drugstore called “Life Saver Clinic and Drugstore” with free flu shots and price-matching minus 20 percent for B-12 shots – services to attract customers.

“She then said $10 and said she would go no lower,” he said. “So, I took a chance and offered her $9.50, and she took it. So, I won the challenge.”

“The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is so pleased to co-sponsor the very first StartUp Camp for young entrepreneurs,” said Tong Meng, the center’s director of student and alumni programs. “This is a great opportunity for us to connect our alumni entrepreneurs with the community and to promote entrepreneurship education in a fun way.”

Verkeria Price, a rising eighth-grader at North Panola Junior High, was chosen by her school’s guidance counselor to attend the camp along with classmates Shaniyah Brown and Sabria Henly. Price’s business, “Curl Me Crazy,” is a hair salon.

Price, who would like to be a registered nurse one day, said she chose a hair salon as a side business. Inspired by her mom, Price said “She knows how to do hair a little bit and she inspired me. I also watch a lot of YouTube videos on hair and make-up.”

“The McLean Institute is pleased to partner with the CIE to offer this entrepreneurial camp for secondary school students,” said Albert Nylander, the institute’s director. “Since 2014 McLean’s Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development program (CEED) has invested $1.6 million into the Mississippi economy and provided academic scholarships to more than 50 UM students.

“These university students are then leading K-12 students in developing a mindset of becoming an entrepreneur.”

Andrew Wharton, a rising seventh-grader at Grace St. Luke’s Episcopal School in Memphis, and business partner Tony Parks, a rising sixth-grader at Christ Methodist Day School in Memphis, were busy scripting the commercial for their business, “A&T Hangers,” a clothing hanger recycling business “kind of like eBay,” Wharton said.

“We pay for the containers, and then we pay a reduced cost for the hangers – depending on the condition – and then we sell them back to the cleaners,” Wharton said.

“I have learned teamwork and how to come up with a cool business idea that is also environmentally responsible,” Parks said as the two partners headed out to film their television commercial with Hernandez.

The judges for the camp were Clay Dibrell, UM professor of management and CIE co-director; Allen Kurr, vice president of Oxford-Lafayette County Economic Development Foundation; Robert Patterson, a graduate student in health promotion and a CEED Innovation Fellow; Armegis Spearman, learning specialist at the UM FedEx Student-Athlete Success Center; and Lynn Woo, research associate in the UM Center for Population Studies and the State Data Center of Mississippi.

“Leading these young entrepreneurs through the experience of starting a business has allowed me to witness a powerful transformation in these children,” said Ashley Bowen, program coordinator, a CEED Innovation Fellow from Lambert and an Ole Miss graduate student in computer science.

“They realize that their dreams can become a reality, and that it can be done right in their hometowns.”

Arianne Hartono Aces Academics and Athletics

After winning the NCAA singles tennis championship, the Ole Miss graduate is going pro

Arianne Hartono is the ultimate student-athlete, having graduated summa cum laude from Ole Miss this May and won this year’s NCAA women’s singles tennis championship. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi student-athlete Arianne Hartono has faced such challenges as recuperating from a broken wrist her freshman year and missing as many as three out of five days of classes during the weeks when she had to travel to away matches.

Considering such challenges, Hartono’s accomplishments are all the more impressive – excelling equally in athletics and academics, she won this year’s NCAA women’s singles tennis championship and graduated summa cum laude in May with a major in psychology and minor in business administration.

She is the first women’s tennis player in the Ole Miss program to win the NCAA singles championship (Devin Britton won it in men’s tennis in 2009) and is also the first student-athlete in any sport at Ole Miss to be named a Honda Sports Award winner and the second player in program history to be named to the 2018 ITA Collegiate All-Star Team.

Hartono is philosophical about her success and quite willing to share the glory.

“I think it’s the process of it all,” said Hartono, a native of Meppel, Netherlands. “Obviously, you can’t become a national champion from one day to the other. There’s so much work that went into it.

“I believe that everything happened for a reason, even that injury I had my freshman year. That was part of the road I had to go on to, to be where I am right now. So I think all the work, all the effort, not just from me but everyone else that’s worked with me, worked with the team, has led up to this.”

Everyone else includes professors, administrators, coaches, family, teammates, and tutors and counselors/advisers at the FedEx Student-Athlete Academic Success Center.

“We have a wide range of services available to student-athletes for continued success,” said Derek Cowherd, senior associate athletics director for student-athlete development.

Those services include scheduling of tutorial support for upper-level courses, assisting with four-year graduation plans, monitoring NCAA eligibility and assisting with busy spring travel schedules.

Hartono is a special student-athlete and a credit to Ole Miss, Cowherd said.

“Zvonimir Babic (a player on the men’s tennis team) tweeted that she is an inspiration to all student-athletes across the nation. And she should be,” Cowherd said. “Her demeanor, friendship to her teammates, her grace in which she carries herself, humble but confident nature, her wonderful spirit are all testaments to how her parents raised her … and she can play tennis, too.”

Hartono’s drive to excel comes partly from a sense of responsibility.

“Every year, we come together as a team, and we sit down and set up goals for ourselves,” she said. “… I’m just grateful for everything that’s been given to me, and I want to make the most of it. I think especially this year, knowing it was the last opportunity to represent Ole Miss for one more season, I’m not playing for myself but for this greater entity, so to speak. It just gives you more motivation to push harder.

“Our coaches and advisers, they all tell us that we student-athletes, we’re all leaders, so we have to act like them. We are held accountable for everything that we do. Keeping that in mind, we try to show the best of ourselves.”

As for her classes, Hartono took a no-nonsense approach.

“I just sit down and do the work that needs to be done. At the beginning of the semester, the teachers tell you what the semester is going to look like, and I think that’s like, just listen to the teacher! Just listen to the teacher, and basically you’ll do well.”

Hartono said time management was the greatest challenge in tackling her classes, because she had to miss so many classes due to her tennis schedule that included not only matches but also two hours of practice and one hour of fitness or strength and conditioning each day.

She said she was lucky to have taken classes taught by supportive professors and named three professors in particular as her favorites: Matthew Reysen, associate professor of psychology; Kate Kellum, associate director of institutional effectiveness and assistant professor of psychology; and Scott A. Gustafson, director of the UM Psychological Services Center.

“I’d be falling behind, especially in the spring when we were in season; we’d be traveling so much,” Hartono said. “I’d meet up with Dr. Reysen all the time. He was always willing to help me out. … I liked Dr. Kate’s class (Applied Behavior Analysis) because it was so interactive. … Definitely, one of my other favorite teachers is Dr. G.”

And the feeling is mutual.

“Arianne was one of those students that only come along every five to 10 years in a professor’s career,” said Gustafson, who taught Hartono in two advanced psychology classes. “She clearly had prepared for her classes and asked questions based on her readings that would be more expected in an advanced graduate seminar than an undergraduate lecture hall.

“On a personal level, Arianne is one of those students that made me, as a professor, feel like my job was rewarding. Rather than being a passive part of the crowd, her interest and competency and hard work made me look forward to the classes she was in, because I felt like I was making a difference.”

Reysen agreed that Hartono is bright, personable and a pleasure to have in his Cognitive Psychology class.

“Arianne was an outstanding student who was always able to maintain a high level of academic excellence despite the numerous obligations that came with being a student-athlete,” he said.

Hartono did a good job of using the skills she learned in class to make the atmosphere around her more fun, Kellum added.

“Her ability to take what she was learning in class out into the world was really good,” she said.

Classes, studying and tennis took up most of Hartono’s time, but she did manage to be on the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, composed of two or three representatives from each team on the Ole Miss campus.

“Our job was basically to keep up with NCAA rules, with regulations, whatnot, but also about student-athlete development, any areas that we could improve. … Another thing we were concerned with was community service. That’s one of the things I really enjoy doing because I believe it’s so important to give back for everything that we’ve been given here.”

Because she completed a lot of her classes and requirements in her freshman and sophomore years, Hartono had time in her last semester to do something else she truly loves.

“I love to bake, and especially knowing that I have a team of seven hungry athletes, it’s easy to get rid of stuff,” Hartono said. “Before a trip, I’d hop on the bus and have brownies, or Oreo balls and all this other stuff. They appreciate it, and it just makes me happy, and it’s relaxing at the same time.”

Path to the Win

Arianne Hartono

Hartono remembers a pivotal conversation she had when she was about 6 years old. She and her mom had stopped to pick up her 9-year-old brother, Adriaan, who was finishing his tennis practice, and she helped pick up the tennis balls.

“So, what do you do? What are you into?” her brother’s coach asked her.

“Well, I’m a ballet dancer,” answered Hartono, having just left a ballet lesson.

“Ballet? That’s nothing. Why don’t you try to play tennis?” the coach said.

And so she did, with support from her parents, Lieke and Okki Hartono, who had moved from Indonesia to the Netherlands in the 1990s. (Hartono speaks fluent Indonesian, Dutch and English, and took Chinese while at Ole Miss, reaching the conversational level. She also took French and German in high school.)

“(My parents) always told me, ‘As long as you love to play, we’ll support you in whatever you want to do,'” Hartono said. “With all the successes, they came to realize, ‘Oh, she’s actually good. She could be successful at it.'”

A love for tennis runs in Hartono’s family. Her uncle Deddy Tedjamukti and aunt Lukky Tedjamukti from Indonesia played professional tennis, and cousin Nadia Ravita played for the University of Kentucky women’s tennis team.

Hartono said her brother still enjoys tennis and is very supportive of her, though she has surpassed him in skill.

“I mean, he’s good, but he chose to focus more on his education instead, so he wasn’t practicing as intensely as I was. He would practice like twice a week, whereas I would practice four or five times a week. We were basically known as the Hartono tennis players around the region where we played. … I remember when I was younger, I tried so hard because I wanted to beat him so badly. But he’s a good sport, he can handle it,” she laughed.

Until college, Hartono trained at small clubs rather than tennis academies. She said she struggled to find sparring partners until she came to Ole Miss, where she suddenly had eight other women who were as good, if not better than her.

“I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for them,” Hartono said. “When you spend so much time with a group like them, they become family.”

Mark Beyers, Ole Miss women’s tennis head coach, who is also from the Netherlands, recruited her, Hartono said.

“He watched me play, and one of his former players – she was from the same hometown as I was, and so we kind of got in touch that way. That’s one of the main reasons I chose Ole Miss. I just loved the campus. I loved the team, just the entire atmosphere.”

Trying to win tennis matches in the NCAA, where all players are top-notch, is pressure-filled, but Hartono remembers a key moment that helped her de-stress.

“Grant Roberts, our assistant coach, was on my court most of the time whenever I was playing. … In times of trouble, so to speak, we’d sit down on the break, and he’d come and we’d talk about strategies or whatever, but for me it was important to keep things simple. I tend to overthink or make things overcomplicated for myself, and that’s not necessary.

“In the finals, (Grant) would ask me, ‘So, what is our one word this tournament?’

“Fun” is the word that popped up.

“Because at the end of the day, I’ll play my best tennis when I’m having fun, when I’m enjoying the challenge. And so I think that’s the most important thing that happened, not winning the national championship. Of course, that’s great. I’m not complaining,” she laughed. “But I think that was the result of me enjoying what I was doing.

“That’s a great achievement for myself. I was able to put winning and the result aside, for me to know I was doing what I love. In anything anyone does, I think that’s just so important because, otherwise, why are you doing it? And to know that I can succeed at that is mind-blowing, unbelievable and amazing.”

Arianne Hartono is the first Honda Sports Award winner in Ole Miss history. With a record of 37-6 this season, she finished the year winning 17 straight matches. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics

What’s Next?

Hartono is going pro. After graduation, she went back to the Netherlands for a short while to spend time with her family and enjoy her mom’s cooking. She was scheduled to play her first professional match in Portugal and one in Indonesia, where she also planned to visit family.

She said as long as she loves to play, she’ll keep at it.

“If not, then I’ll find something else to do. That’s why I have a college degree,” she laughed.

She also plans to return to Ole Miss in the fall to visit with the tennis team and friends.

“I can never say goodbye to Ole Miss. We (she and her teammates) always tell each other, ‘Once a Rebel, always a Rebel.’ I truly believe that.”

Whatever successes and challenges lie ahead for Hartono, she can always look back at her college days and feel joy.

“At the end of the day, it’s not just about winning or losing,” she said. “It’s not just about holding that trophy. I got to spend four years of my life doing what I love.”

Tutoring App Takes Top Prize at UM Business Contest

Annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition completes another successful year

Ken Cyree (left), dean of the UM School of Business Administration, and management professor Clay Dibrell (right) congratulate Will Tribble (second from left) and Sam Harres, founders of Shortwork LLC, on winning the annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – An online, captive business concept that connects high school students with college students for homework took first place in the 14th annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition at the University of Mississippi.

Shortwork LLC, conceived by Will Tribble and Sam Harres, is a tutoring app for high schoolers looking for solutions to homework questions. With this model, customers pay $3 to submit a photo of their homework problem, and Shortwork’s approved solvers claim the problems and respond with filmed explanations of the answers.

“We’ve been working on this since we came up with the idea in January,” said Tribble, a junior engineering major from Charlottesville, Virginia. “We’ve already started talking with tutoring companies and even high schools about partnering with them to expand our reach and connect as many students as possible with a new tool to get ahead in their studies.”

“We plan to use the Gillespie prize to create a significant social media presence while offering plenty of sign-up incentives for both customers and solvers,” said Harres, a junior accounting major from Columbia, Illinois.

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

“We are thrilled to have the Gillespie Business Plan Competition in the school of business since it provides not only an experiential learning opportunity for budding entrepreneurs, but also because it provides seed money to actually start the business they are pitching,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration.

Placing second in the contest, good for a $5,000 prize, was Lala Letter LLC, a daily planner and stationary company founded by Bella Gonzalez, a senior from Bay St. Louis with a double major in marketing and graphic design. She founded the business in Oxford in 2017, and it has grown into a successful startup with more than $3,000 in revenue in just one month of sales.

In May, the company plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to sell and manufacture its first round of mass-produced planners. 

“I’m so thrilled to have been a part of such a fun and helpful competition,” Gonzalez said. “I’m honored to have won second place and can’t wait to take on Lala Letter full-time after graduation.”

In third place was Fraze, winning $2,500. Founded last fall, Fraze sells custom, embellished sunglasses that are fun for parties, souvenirs and group trips. The frames typically feature bold colors and beads, and customers can customize their own glasses for any occasion to look unique on social media.

“I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the Gillespie competition,” said Elizabeth Lanford, a sophomore from Ridgeland who is majoring in integrated marketing communications and co-founded the company. “We have learned a lot about starting a small business. It has been so fun to get some hands-on experience, and we are excited to see what the future holds for our business.”

“It has been so fun watching Fraze grow, and competing in the Gillespie competition helped us gain skills that will be important in the future of our business,” said Lindy Goodson, a sophomore from Maryville, Illinois, majoring in integrated marketing communications and the company’s other co-founder.

“The opportunities and learning experiences we’ve received through the business school at Ole Miss are priceless.”

“The Gillespie Business Plan is our marquee event for the academic year,” said Rich Gentry, director of the Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Our event, now in its 14th year, is unique in that we provide such dedicated mentoring throughout the process, exposing students to different judging panels, who all have different experiences and areas of expertise that they make available to our students.”

This year, 38 student entrepreneurs entered the competition. An internal business school faculty panel evaluated all entries and selected 16 businesses to advance in the contest.

The semifinals featured 16 participants presenting eight-minute pitches to a panel of judges. The top six advanced to the final round on April 20.

Presentations were followed by 10 minutes of questions from judges. The judging panel was: Lawrence Adams, a Jimmy John’s Pizza franchisee; Jeff Conley of Conley Buick GMC in Florida; Jan and Lawrence Farrington; Mac Haik of Mac Haik Enterprises; Liza Cirlot Looser of the Cirlot Agency; Josh Mabus of the Mabus Agency; Johnny Maloney of Cowboy Maloney’s Electric City; John Oxford of Renasant Bank; Stuart Coleman of Chevron; and Benton Turnage of Gulf Point Advisors.

Besides the winners, others competing in the finals were Axiom Materials, a building demolition and material recovery firm; DeltaTech, a co-worker space that targets low-income Mississippi Delta communities; and Subly, an app for students interested in sub-leasing their apartments or rooms.

For more information about the Gillespie Business Plan Competition, go to

Ole Miss Women’s Council Gift Honors a Legacy of Generosity

Scholarship endowment is tribute to parents' life of grace and gratitude

Prescott Sherman

OXFORD, Miss. – A major gift to the Ole Miss Women’s Council will benefit young scholars while honoring the legacy of the late Prescott and Betty Sherman of McComb, both 1938 University of Mississippi graduates.

Betsy Sherman Shelton, of Covington, Louisiana, made a $125,000 gift to establish the Betty West Sherman Ole Miss Women’s Council Leadership Scholarship Endowment. The endowment, given to commemorate what would have been her mother’s 100th birthday, also serves as a memorial to her life.

“When asked throughout the years what has meant the most to me, I have come to realize that it was my mother’s life as seen through my 21 years of experiencing it as her daughter and the impact it has had on me 43 years since she passed away,” said Shelton, a McComb native who graduated in 1977 from the UM School of Business Administration.

“The journey of life as experienced through seeing the love of Christ lived out through my mother gave me the deepest desire for helping others find their way, which in turn brings forth a deep sense of contentment.”

The endowment will be combined with the Prescott Alden Sherman Leadership Council Scholarship Endowment, established by Shelton with a $100,000 gift in 2004 to honor her father and commemorate his retirement.

“My hope is to honor my parents’ legacy of valuing education and cultivating the ideas that God brought forth in their hearts that they so willingly shared with others,” she said. “May God deeply bless the recipients of the scholarship and help them find their way for Him.”

First preference will be given to students from Pike County. The scholarship may be received for a maximum of eight semesters, as long as the student maintains at least a 3.0 cumulative GPA.

OMWC scholarships are awarded to both male and female students based on academic achievement, leadership and a desire to give back to society through community service.

Betty Sherman

Two OMWC staff mentors meet weekly with each scholarship recipient. In addition, scholars are paired with peer mentors during their freshman years and in sophomore years, career and life mentors. These individuals help guide the students in their future careers, enhance life skills and network with alumni.

Scholars also participate in a series of leadership symposiums using the philosophy of servant leadership as the core curriculum.

Shelton said the OMWC’s philosophy aligns with her mother’s lifelong values: “My mother found true joy and personal fulfillment in sincerely loving others and in cultivating ideas to enrich the lives of others and then in working very hard to implement the ideas.”

Betty Sherman’s niece, Kim West, of Seattle, agreed.

“My aunt Betty was a true Southern lady, very dignified and full of grace,” West said. “She had a sense of caring for others in a quiet, gentle way.

“She was astute at discovering what others might need or want, what their struggles might be, and would find a way to help. She was very generous, and I would imagine way more generous than I was aware of. She did not want anyone to know that it was she who helped so many.”

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to either or both Sherman endowments by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, Miss. 38655; visiting or contacting Barbara Daush, OMWC development officer, at 662-915-2881 or

In its 18th year, the OMWC has attracted more than $13.1 million for scholarships. The $32,000 OMWC scholarships – $8,000 annually for four years – are among the largest on campus. Thus far, 119 OMWC scholars have benefited from the program, which features mentoring, leadership development and cultural activities.

For more information on the OMWC and its awards, contact Nora Capwell, program coordinator, at 662-915-2384 or Information on the Women’s Council can also be found at

UM Insurance Symposium Celebrates Another Year of Success

Risk management and insurance program hosts annual meeting of industry leaders

Andre Liebenberg (left), the university’s Robertson Chair of Insurance, presents an Ole Miss rugby jersey to Mike McGavick, CEO of the XL Group and keynote speaker for the annual UM Insurance Symposium. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Industry changes, ethical dilemmas and cyber insurance were just a few of the topics tackled at the University of Mississippi’s 23rd annual Insurance Symposium.

The event, hosted by the School of Business Administration’s risk management and insurance program, was March 21-22 at The Inn at Ole Miss. It welcomed industry thought leaders from across the country.

Mike Chaney, the state’s insurance commissioner, offered welcoming remarks with praise for the event and for the RMI program, noting the program’s national recognition and student job placement. The commissioner also discussed his department’s longstanding commitment to addressing rural fires.

“The funding of the rural fire truck program is important to all Mississippians,” he said. “Without proper funding, pocketbooks of residents of Mississippi could be affected.”

Michael McGavick, CEO of the XL Group, delivered the keynote address on the important role that the insurance industry plays in society.

“Our job is to make people’s lives more resilient,” he said. Part of McGavick’s message focused on the problem of underinsurance in the U.S., pointing out that only 50 percent of residents in Manhattan were properly insured when Hurricane Sandy made landfall in 2012.

Lisa Davis, executive vice president of Sompo Global Risk Solutions and president of JIA Business, addressed challenges affecting insurance and the ever-evolving industry. She discussed the importance of being innovative and how organizations that tap into the motivations of human behavior and design their customer experience accordingly will be the next industry leaders.

“You can’t do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow,” Davis said.

Joel Wood, senior vice president for government affairs with the Council of Insurance Agents and Brokers, led a panel that discussed the implications for the insurance industry following the second year of Trump’s presidency.

“Eighty million Americans received their insurance through their employer,” Wood said. “The No. 1 tax expenditure in the U.S. tax code is the exclusion from health insurance. We have problems from the left and the right.”

Besides serving as a moderator and speaker during the symposium, Wood also was named the recipient of the RMI program’s annual Outstanding Supporter Award.

Daniel Healy, partner with Anderson Kill PC, discussed the rapidly evolving technological standards of cyber insurance. He also stressed the importance of understanding laws governing the industry and having a response team in place.

Some businesses can go 200 days or more before realizing their data has been compromised, Healy said.

“If you’re not following the rules of the industry, you’re at risk of getting sued,” he said.

Charles Westmoreland, a sales consultant with Allstate Benefits, covered the importance and basic principles of employee benefits. Westmoreland discussed significant events that helped define the varying types of benefits available to employees and also addressed how Medicare and Medicaid affect health care and state budgets.

“The biggest item in health care is the cost shift from Medicare and Medicaid to private insurance,” Westmoreland said. “Medicaid is eating up most state budgets.”

Lance Ewing, executive vice president of Global Risk Management with Cotton Holdings Inc. and the incoming chair of the Ole Miss Insurance Advisory Board, addressed business ethics in the industry.

“You have to have ground rules for how your company operates,” Ewing said, noting that companies will often reward employees who display both honesty and integrity.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour delivered the event’s luncheon address, covering topics such as economic development, tort reform and vocational education.

“It’s the No. 1 job of the state government to give our people a good education,” Barbour said. “We need better workforce training.”

Ken Cyree, business school dean, said he is pleased with the symposium’s impact on the university and the surrounding community.

“We are proud of the impact that our RMI program has had with our students, industry and academic profession,” Cyree said. “The symposium is a wonderful venue to connect our students to industry leaders and our alumni to learn the latest trends, opportunities and challenges in the industry.”

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 and to engage with our students and fellow risk and insurance professionals.”

Community Bank Honors Thomas Colbert

Endowed fund, award at Ole Miss pays tribute to his 50-year career in business

Thomas Colbert (right), senior chairman of the board for Community Bank, greets UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and wife, Sharon, at a dinner celebrating Colbert’s 50 years of leadership in the banking industry. Community Bank has created two new funds in his name at the Ole Miss School of Business Administration to strengthen opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and students. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Fifty years is a long time to be at the forefront of an industry, but business visionary Thomas W. Colbert’s legacy began as Mississippi’s youngest bank CEO in 1968 and led to his founding the state’s first-ever bank holding company in 1977. And he keeps leading, now as senior chairman of the board for Community Bancshares of Mississippi Inc.

To mark Colbert’s golden anniversary in banking, Community Bank has expanded his legacy with a gift of $340,000 to the University of Mississippi School of Business Administration. New initiatives at his alma mater bearing his name will provide educational opportunities for emerging young entrepreneurs and business students.

The surprise announcement was made last night (March 21) at a dinner in Jackson.

“We are so honored to make this contribution to pay tribute to our visionary leader,” said Charles W. Nicholson Jr., president and CEO of Community Bank. “I always think of Thomas as an extraordinary entrepreneur who just happens to be a banker. He has done so much for the community, his friends, family and the entire staff at Community Bank.”

Colbert responded to the gift by sharing his family’s longtime relationship with UM.

“We go back to (wife) Ann’s great-great uncle, Dr. Christopher Longest, in the 1900s,” Colbert said. “He was head of the English department and interim chancellor. Obviously Ann and I are graduates; my daughter and son are graduates; my brother is a graduate.

“Our roots go deep at the University of Mississippi and we’re just delighted by this gift. I really cannot have asked for a higher honor than this being bestowed on me tonight.”

The Thomas W. Colbert Lectureship in Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Finance Endowment will provide funds to recruit and retain faculty members to the business school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Annual income from the endowment can be used for salary supplements, research and creative activity support, and more.

The Thomas W. Colbert-Community Bank Innovation Award Fund will underwrite an annual $5,000 prize to a student entrepreneur venture team for an outstanding venture driven by innovation in a product, process or service through the application or development of a technological change. The judging panel for the annual Gillespie Business Plan Competition, the marquee event for the CIE and business school’s academic year, will determine the winner.

Celebrating Thomas Colbert’s 50 years of leadership in the banking industry are (from left) Sharon Vitter, UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, Colbert, Community Bank’s Chairman of the Board Freddie J. Bagley and President-CEO Charles W. Nicholson Jr. Community Bank has created two new funds in Colbert’s name at the Ole Miss School of Business Administration to strengthen opportunities for emerging entrepreneurs and students. UM photo by Bill Dabney

Colbert, who was inducted into the Mississippi Business Hall of Fame in 2005, developed a successful model for Community Bank and, at the same time, became a great role model for business students and others who want to become entrepreneurs, UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. His model of creating separately chartered banks that operate independently but share services within a holding company has been a key to one of the South’s fastest-growing financial institutions.

“When our students look to Thomas Colbert’s professional life, they will see a visionary who has been driven by a strong entrepreneurial spirit and a deep commitment to customer service,” Vitter said.

“We want to equip Ole Miss students with problem-solving skills to achieve greatness, just as Mr. Colbert has always done. Having his name attached to funds that will elevate opportunities for our students is a great honor, and we are very grateful to Community Bank for this gift.

“In addition, Mr. Colbert has shown how leaders can also go beyond their industry to impact countless people. We appreciate the service Mr. Colbert devoted to the state Institutions of Higher Learning board as a member and as president. Having a stellar higher education system plays a crucial role in our state’s economic climate.”

With few acquisitions, Community Bank has grown from $6 million in assets and a couple of offices to more than $3 billion in assets, 47 offices and more than 785 staff members in four states. Community Bank has been named one of the “Best Places to Work in Mississippi” by the Mississippi Business Journal and included in the “Best Banks to Work For” by the American Bankers Association.

Formerly Farmer and Merchants Bank, Community Bank started more than 100 years ago in a small timber community in east central Mississippi. It has grown by employing innovative approaches to one of the nation’s most routine industries.

The generous gift from Community Bank was a fitting way to honor Colbert, given his record as a proven entrepreneur, said Ken Cyree, dean of the Ole Miss business school.

“Our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship has captured the attention of individuals who, like Mr. Colbert, are gifted with a vision of what can be created to add value and exceed expectations in the marketplace,” Cyree said. “We offer a major in entrepreneurship to business students and a minor in entrepreneurship to all students, and they will be prepared to either start their own companies or innovate in established companies.

“We are excited about the opportunities this gift provides and have high expectations that these graduates will help advance our state, region and nation.”

After earning an undergraduate degree at UM in 1962, Colbert attended the Senior Bank Management School at Harvard University and the School of Bank Public Relations and Marketing in Chicago.

Throughout his leadership of Community Bank, he has made community service a priority. Besides his IHL service, he is a former chair of the Mississippi School of Banking, a past president of the Forest Rotary Club, a past director for In Touch Ministries of Atlanta and a member of UM’s Lyceum Society and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame.

Colbert has received the National Community Service Award from the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

He is married to the former Ann Brand of Houston, an Ole Miss alumna, and they have one son, Thomas W. Colbert Jr., and two granddaughters, Anna and Claire.

The Colberts established an endowment in the UM Department of Music to memorialize their late daughter, Christy Colbert Butler.

Individuals and organizations can make gifts to the Thomas W. Colbert Lectureship in Venture Capital and Entrepreneurial Finance Endowment or the Thomas W. Colbert-Community Bank Innovation Award Fund by mailing a check with the fund’s name noted in the check’s memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

Gifts also can be made online by visiting or by contacting Nikki Neely Davis, executive director of development at 662-915-6678 or

UM Business Professor to Chair International Conference

Richard Gentry selected to lead 2019 entrepreneurship symposium

Richard Gentry

OXFORD, Miss. – The United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship has selected a University of Mississippi professor to chair its international conference for 2019.

The USASBE officers and board members selected Richard Gentry, associate professor of management and holder of the Mac Elliott Chair of Entrepreneurship, to chair the annual conference set for January 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida. Previously, the conference has attracted some 500 participants from all 50 states and around the world.

“I’m thrilled to participate and support such a huge conference focused on entrepreneurship,” said Gentry, who also is director of the Ole Miss Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Building the program here in Mississippi has been a tremendous experience, and it has benefited, in no small part, from our commitment to USASBE.

“Being given the opportunity to help lead and shape that effort for the 2019 conference means that we can give back and help other programs build entrepreneurship into their curriculum.”

Mark Schenkel, USASBE president and entrepreneurship professor at Belmont University, is among the team with whom Gentry will work in the months leading up to the conference. Schenkel hopes to bring together the best teachers, scholars, practitioners and center directors to engage and share best practices to further entrepreneurship in academia.

“I’m super-excited to work with Rich in developing an outstanding USASBE conference program and experience in St. Petersburg,” Schenkel said. “His leadership and expertise are clear and strongly reflected in his both his scholarly work and through is work at CIE.”

At Ole Miss, Gentry has helped create a culture of success in academics and entrepreneurship for nearly 10 years, as demonstrated in his publications and his role in creating the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

“Entrepreneurship is something that universities must pursue across their entire campuses: in the classroom, in center offices and beyond,” Gentry said. “USASBE embraces that reality by functioning as a big tent society where everyone is welcome.

“The conference is a big undertaking and having the support of the CIE and the School of Business will certainly help to make it more manageable.”

Gentry’s colleagues at the UM business school support him in this new role. Clay Dibrell, who works with Gentry as executive director of the innovation center, said he thinks Gentry will serve as an excellent ambassador for the university.

“We are excited Rich is chairing the 2019 USASBE Conference,” Dibrell said. “Rich is an excellent ambassador for the university’s entrepreneurship programs, and we look forward to him learning about innovative initiatives from other entrepreneurship scholars as we grow our student and university ecosystems.”

According to its website, the USASBE was founded in 1981 and is “an inclusive community advancing entrepreneurship educations through bold teaching, scholarship and practice.”

For more information on the 2019 conference or the USASBE, visit

UM’s Annual Pack-A-Thon this Weekend

Volunteers needed to help pack 200,000 meals for needy children

During the annual Feed the Hunger Pack-a-Thon, volunteers work to package meal kits that will help feed impoverished children around the world. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi student-led Feed the Hunger campaign to provide thousands of meals for impoverished children in Kenya, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Jamaica and rural Kentucky is once again counting upon the Oxford and Lafayette County community for support.

The eighth annual Feed the Hunger Pack-a-Thon will be held at Oxford Intermediate School gym on Martin Luther King Drive from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday (Mar. 2) and 9 to 11 a.m., noon to 2 p.m. and 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday (Mar. 3). Volunteers are asked to work two-hour shifts to pack the meal kits.

Money for the event is raised through donations from campus organizations, local businesses and churches.

“Our goal this year is to pack 200,000 meals,” said Claire Dutreix of Slidell, Louisiana, a sophomore forensic chemistry major and co-chairperson for the event. “To accomplish this, we must raise $56,000.

“While the bulk of these funds come from Ole Miss sororities and fraternities, we also rely heavily on the Oxford and Lafayette County community to help us reach our packing goals,” said Meredith Moore of Llano, Texas, a sophomore psychology major and the other co-chair.

UM was the first university in the nation to partner with the nonprofit organization in conducting pack-a-thon events, launching its event in 2010. At least six other universities have since launched Feed-the-Hunger programs.

Last year, the Ole Miss event packed 180,000 meals, putting UM just above its goal of packing 1 million meals in seven years.

“Over the years, it has been an honor to have the University of Mississippi partner with us to feed hungry children around the world,” said Melinda Staples, project manager at the organization’s headquarters in Burlington, North Carolina. “We hope that this relationship continues to grow, impacting thousands of lives everywhere.”

Four Kappa Kappa Gammas sorority members went to Kenya in January to deliver meals that were packed last spring.

“This program is extremely vital to not only impoverished countries, but to the Oxford, Lafayette, University community because it enables locals to give back without having to travel far,” said Emily Barnhouse of Dallas, Texas, a junior business marketing major and 2017 Pack-a-Thon chair. “This event is unique in that it brings the community together to make a large impact in places as far as Kenya or as near as some rural parts of Kentucky.”

Moore agreed, noting that churches, community organizations, businesses, students and volunteers all come together and give their money and time to feed hungry children by committing to a two-hour packing shift.

Pack-a-Thon meals, once boxed, will be sent to children in Kenya, Haiti, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Jamaica and rural Kentucky. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“In just these two hours, lives are changed as the meals being packed could be the only meal a child in China, Africa, Haiti, etc. receives,” she said. “It is over the course of one weekend and with the help of 800 volunteers that we are able to make such an international impact in the Oxford community.”

Participants also are asked to bring donations for Love Packs, a local program that provides meals for Lafayette County school students who may not have meals over the weekend. Items being collected include Beenie Weenies, pop-top soup or ravioli, apple sauce and granola bars.

“We’re showing the local community how passionate we are about this and how needy these children really are,” she said. “These people really need us. That’s the message we want to get across.”

Kim Phillips, academic counselor in the UM School of Business Administration and adviser for Feed-the-Hunger, said she is hopeful that this year’s event is successful.

“Our pack-a-thons have become a training ground,” Phillips said. “Several students from other universities have come and participated with us and then gone on to launch their own pack-a-thon events.”

UM alumna Mary Katherine Perry Phillips of Oxford, who as a student helped launch the first Ole Miss pack-a-thon and has participated in every one since, said she definitely plans to participate again this weekend.

“It’s amazing,” Phillips said. “I’m so proud of how committed everyone has been to this.”

To learn more about Feed the Hunger, go to To view video from the 2012 UM Pack-a-Thon, visit

Finance Executive Mentors Students to Land Jobs with Personal Approach

Blair Bingham returns to UM this month to present tips for acing job interviews

Blair Bingham

OXFORD, Miss. – Finance executive Blair Bingham returns to the University of Mississippi this month to educate, inspire and direct students on how to develop and tell their story to stand out in the job interview process.

Bingham will speak on this approach at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 22 in Conner Hall, Room 113, and at 11 a.m. Feb. 23 in Holman Hall, Room 30. All Ole Miss students are welcome to attend.

Bingham, chief financial officer for the Alabama Housing Finance Authority, helps college graduates develop their personal story for use in interviews. He guides clients through a process of examining their college and high school experiences to identify skills employers are looking for in job candidates.

He visited Ole Miss in September 2017 at the invitation of the business school’s advisory board, and his presentation was well-received. His talk last year was titled “Your Story and How It Gets You Hired,” and he received rave reviews from students who attended.

“More lectures like this one would be very helpful, not just for a business major, but for all majors, because it is beneficial for everyone to have good interviewing skills,” wrote one student in his/her evaluation.

“We are excited that Blair Bingham is coming back to enrich our students’ understanding and abilities in their career preparation,” said Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration. “Our students greatly benefit from Blair’s expertise and enthusiasm, and we are glad that he will continue to add value to our efforts in careers and job placement.

“The business school is delighted to offer all UM students the opportunity to benefit from Blair’s knowledge and wisdom.”

Developing a personal story to prepare for interviews is a solid approach for graduates in all fields, not just business, Bingham said.

“Every graduate entering the workforce has a story to tell: their own story,” he explained. “That story is much more than reciting a resume. This hour is designed to show how to take your own experiences and make you a much more attractive candidate in the interview.”

Bingham earned a bachelor’s degree accountancy and a Master of Business Administration from Millsaps College. He lived in Jackson for 37 years, working in finance for the Mississippi Home Corp., WorldCom and Regions Bank.

While serving as the CFO of Mississippi Home Corp. for 10 years, Bingham interviewed numerous candidates for corporate positions. This experience led to an avocation in mentoring and coaching students to enter the work force quickly and with great success.

“We know we have a great product in graduates and we want to help land their dream job,” said Melanie Dowell, president of the Business Advisory Board. “The board established several outreach programs we call ‘Rebel Connect’ to help connect our graduates land their dream jobs.

“Through the devotion to Rebel Connect board members Bill Andrews and Stan Viner, we have launched what we expect to be a very integral part of our students’ career paths.”

Mississippi Universities Provide Key Support for Automotive Industry

UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence praised by automakers for providing skilled graduates

Students in a Manufacturing 254 class present their designs for a class project on the floor of the UM Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The automotive industry serves as a key driver in the state’s economy. More than 200 automotive manufacturers employ 20,000 workers, with annual vehicle production in the state exceeding 500,000.

Several university programs are helping the industry grow and flourish in the state.

The Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence at the University of Mississippi has partnered with Toyota and other automotive manufacturing companies to develop training programs and provide unique opportunities for students.

The CME offers a unique undergraduate program that allows students to tailor academic experiences to match their career goals and life objectives, incorporating coursework from the schools of Accountancy, Business Administration and Engineering to give graduates a fundamental understanding of all the disciplines involved in modern manufacturing. This multidisciplinary approach has earned praise from several industries, and graduates of the program attract multiple job offers commanding higher pay than their counterparts from other programs.

Twelve Ole Miss students have formed a campus chapter of the Collegiate Automotive Manufacturing Society. The chapter began in fall 2015 as a result of an idea presented by Ryan Miller, programs manager for the CME and the group’s adviser.

A member of the Mississippi Automotive Manufacturers Association board of directors, Miller suggested to the CME students that they found a collegiate engineering-business-accounting honors society with the state group as the parent association, with a goal of connecting automotive manufacturers with millennials and trying to help the manufacturers better understand them through more direct contact.

At Mississippi State University, the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems remains a driving force in the growth and maturity of the U.S. automotive industry, pioneering the use of high-performance materials to design cars that offer a premium driving experience while maximizing travel distance from multiple sources of energy.

MSU researchers are pushing the limits of automotive engineering through the development of a self-driving, all-electric sport utility vehicle.

Engineered by a team at MSU’s Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems, the “Halo Project” supercar is designed to showcase MSU’s expertise in automotive engineering and the latest automotive technology. The supercar utilizes an on-board NVIDIA supercomputer that allows the vehicle to navigate on- and off-road terrain without human intervention.

The new vehicle and accompanying research have the potential to accelerate the societal benefits of autonomous vehicles through the creation of safer roadways and accessibility to independent automotive transportation for people with disabilities.

The project builds on a series of MSU automotive research projects, including the “Car of the Future,” an all-electric hybrid that combines superior efficiency, sporty handling and advanced technological features. MSU student, faculty and staff research teams have long been recognized for excellence in projects like “Car of the Future,” competitions such as EcoCAR, and other initiatives that have pushed innovation.

Besides research and development, MSU’s CAVS Extension works with manufacturers across the state such as Nissan, Toyota and their suppliers to make Mississippi manufacturing stronger and more competitive through technology assistance and professional development in areas such as lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. CAVS-E has been a part of every new model launch at both Nissan in Canton and Toyota in Blue Springs through modeling and simulation.

Clients of CAVS-E have reported nearly $6 billion in economic impact along with more than 4,000 jobs created or retained through CAVS and Mississippi’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership program.