Professor Uses NSF Grant to Study Interpersonal Communications

Graham Bodie and colleagues study conversations about everyday stressors, levels of support

Graham Bodie

OXFORD, Miss. – Graham Bodie believes that if people can feel that they’re being heard during times of stress, their lives will improve. With that in mind, he is working to find the best way to teach critical listening skills that could enhance lives.

A visiting professor of integrated marketing communications at the University of Mississippi, Bodie is conducting his research through a three year-grant from the National Science Foundation.

UM received the grant from the NSF’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences as part of a collaborative effort to study what happens during conversations about everyday problems. Penn State University and the University of Minnesota also were awarded grants in support of the collaboration, which seeks to clarify how discussing everyday stressors with others conveys support and leads to different emotional outcomes.

Bodie’s work will look at how a listener’s supportive comments influence the way a person talks about their stressful experience.

“My academic background is in how humans process information and how they behave as listeners, particularly within the context of talking about stressful events,” Bodie said. “What do we say that allows others to better understand their unique stressors and ultimately to cope with those events?

“How should we best train people in this capacity? What can listening to others teach us about ourselves, our society and our world?”

Bodie previously conducted research on listening and the social cognitive foundation of human communicative behavior. This project will expand on the nuances of what people do when they offer support to others, a facet that he said has not been thoroughly explored.

“Although there is work on specific features of supportive messages, it tends to be hypothetical, asking participants to imagine they receive support,” Bodie said. “Likewise, although there is work that pairs people together to talk through stressful events, most of this work explores general impressions of the conversation – how supported they felt after the conversation.”

This grant will allow Bodie to work with data from four previous studies, which includes more than 450 videotaped conversations of a person describing a stressor to another, while the listener provides support.

The research conducted with this grant fits in with the university’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation research initiative, where researchers identify factors that impair the well-being of individuals and work to implement programs to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Dr. Bodie and his team’s recent National Science Foundation grant award demonstrates the opportunities we have to increase knowledge and improve practice and policy through cutting-edge research,” said John Green, constellation team leader and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “As an active part of the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation and a committed member of the steering committee, Dr. Bodie is contributing to the University of Mississippi’s leadership in scholarly endeavors that will improve people’s lives.”

The research will examine how variations in these particular types of interactions result in differences in how the distressed person continues to express their thoughts and feelings throughout the interaction.

“What is missing is an understanding of how messages unfold over the course of a conversation to regulate the emotions of a person in distress,” said Denise Solomon, principal investigator and professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State. “Our project will focus on studying the conversation linkages between one person’s supportive messages and the other person’s cognitive and emotional responses in an effort to map those dynamic patterns.”

The investigators will analyze every element of these conversations and develop strategies to show how emotion and cognitive processing are affected during the course of an interaction. The researchers have predicted that distressed individuals who are responsive to high-quality supportive messages during an interaction leave the conversation with an improved emotional state and a new understanding of their issue.

“The main prediction is the interaction between support quality and how disclosers talk about their event,” Bodie said. “I feel like if people can feel heard in times of stress, their lives will improve, and I want to know how we can best teach these skills toward bettering our lives.”

The researchers hope their findings will ultimately be able to assist support providers and counselors, while also leading to additional research to determine why some individuals or relationships show different levels of responsiveness during supportive conversations.

“The novelty in this research is mapping responsiveness within interactions onto important conversational outcomes, which opens the door to new questions about why those patterns differ between people and between relationships,” Solomon said.

“We also envision that the tool kit we develop can be used to illuminate the dynamics of other types of consequential conversations, such as in conflict negotiations or attempts to influence a partner’s health behavior.”

Other investigators on the project include Susanne Jones, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, and Nilam Ram, professor of human development, family studies and psychology at Penn State.

Funding for this research was provided through grant no. 1749474 from the NSF Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences.

Archives and Special Collections Displays Jack Reed Sr. Gift

Aug. 23 event spotlights artifacts of the late Tupelo business leader, civil rights movement icon

The papers and memorabilia of the late Jack Reed Sr. of Tupelo have been donated to the UM Department of Archives and Special Collections. A public preview and announcement is scheduled Aug. 23 on campus. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Selected memorabilia and artifacts belonging to the late Mississippi business leader and civil rights movement icon Jack Reed Sr. will be displayed this fall at the University of Mississippi.

A display prepared from a larger collection of Reed’s papers opens Aug. 23 on the third floor of the J.D. Williams Library. Scheduled presenters for the 5 p.m. event include Scott Reed, Jack Reed’s youngest child; Andy Mullins, the UM chancellor’s chief of staff emeritus; Vaughn Grisham, professor emeritus of political science and founding director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement; and Jennifer Ford, the library’s head of archives and special collections.

Other members of the Reed family expected to attend include children Jack Reed Jr., Camille Reed Sloan and Catherine Reed Mize, and several grandchildren and cousins.

“Special Collections is extremely honored to house the papers of Jack Reed Sr., and we are indebted to the Reed family for this gift,” Ford said. “Work has already begun to catalog the extensive collection to make it available for scholarly use by early 2019.

“We wanted to take this opportunity to announce the recent donation, as well as draw attention to the significance of Mr. Reed’s life and work.”

Reed was a Tupelo retail owner who became a strong voice and guiding light that significantly affected the peaceful integration of Mississippi schools in the 1960s.

“Our father was chairman of the Blue Ribbon Committee that created the Mississippi State Board of Education and served as its chairman for most of the 1980s,” Scott Reed said. “He was also a part of the Methodist Church National Committee on Religion and Race that charted the course for the Methodist response during that time.”

Reed Sr. served as chairman of President H.W. Bush’s National Advisory Committee on Education Research and Improvement. He was known for his excellent public speaking skills and his ability to combine humor, wit and insight into very serious subject matter.

In 1987, Reed ran as the Republican nominee for governor, using his staunch support of public education as a major platform for the election, which he eventually lost to Ray Mabus. He also was active throughout his career in the Mississippi Economic Council, serving as president in 1964.

Throughout his career, Reed’s contributions in the realms of public education, economic and community development, and race relations spanned the state and region.

For more information on the Jack Reed Sr. Collection, call Jennifer Ford in the Department of Archives and Special Collections at 662-915-7408 or email archivesdept@olemiss.edu.

UM Graduate Earns Top Recognition for Editorial Cartoons

Jake Thrasher won first place in SPJ's Mark of Excellence Competition

Jake Thrasher, a 2018 UM graduate and Hall of Fame inductee, won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence competition for his editorial cartoons in The Daily Mississippian. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Many people have diverse interests, but to be highly skilled in several areas is a rarer quality.

Jake Thrasher, of Birmingham, Alabama, graduated from the University of Mississippi in May with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, but he recently earned national honors in an entirely different field: editorial cartooning. He won first place in the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence competition.

Thrasher has always been interested in art. He attended high school at Shades Valley Visual Arts Academy, which gave students preparation for creative problem-solving in visual art for those interested in pursuing a creative career. He began working for The Daily Mississippian as a freshman at Ole Miss.

“I’d always created what would be considered fine art and I was always interested in making something meaningful,” he said.

While at a social event, an editor approached him to ask that he begin drawing editorial cartoons.

“I had never created cartoons before and I wasn’t big into politics, but I immediately fell in love with it,” he said.

It quickly became more than just art for Thrasher and developed meaning.

“I realized early on as an editorial cartoonist that I’d been given a position that gave me a platform to speak out,” he said. “It would be irresponsible of me to not use that platform to change the state, the nation and our campus for the better.”

Thrasher drew his inspiration from political and social issues. He created two or three originals cartoons each week for The Daily Mississippian during his undergraduate career.

“I tried to stay constantly up to date politically, socially and on current campus issues,” he said.

Each cartoon took Thrasher a minimum of four to five hours to complete for a more simplistic drawing, or up to eight or 10 hours for a detailed drawing that involved the use of watercolor and other elements.

Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, said Thrasher’s work for The Daily Mississippian has been “nothing short of stunning.”

“The quality of his editorial cartoons rivals that from top professionals,” she said. “He has the ability to zone in on important issues and capture the essence of his opinion in artistic ways. His illustrations gracing the DM’s pages were creative, eye-catching and beautifully drawn.”

Thompson said he also went above and beyond his role by hiring and helping develop the skills of younger cartoonists and staying involved with student media.

“He wasn’t required to attend daily news meetings, but he often did so to learn what stories the staff was pursuing so he could make his work more timely and relevant,” she said.

Thrasher submitted three drawings to the competition, and the one featured on the SPJ website is titled “GOP Operation,” which is a satire of the children’s board game that also combines several issues.

“I’d have to say that was one of my favorites,” he said. “I spent a long time on that cartoon and it was one of my last drawings for the DM during my fall semester. I was happy to see it featured.”

Thrasher has a passion for helping others, and he served as president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault during his undergraduate career. He plans to attend Yale University this fall to pursue a doctorate in biology and biological sciences while conducting cancer and HIV research.

This spring, he was among 10 students inducted into the university’s 2017-18 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors afforded Ole Miss students. He was also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Jake exemplifies what it means to be citizen scholar for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Dean Douglas Sullivan-González said. “He took the challenges and the risks to explore both the arts and the sciences during his tenure, and these national awards represent an acknowledgement of his great risks to live the answers to the tough questions of the day. We are proud of Jake.”

Coker Accepted into Rural Dental Scholarship Program

UM student selected for prestigious academic opportunity

Kaitlin Coker

JACKSON, Miss – Kaitlin Coker, a recent graduate of Northwest Mississippi Community College and a junior at the University of Mississippi, has been selected to participate in the undergraduate portion of the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program.

She is the daughter of Tray and Stephanie Coker, of Charleston.

Created in 2013 by the Mississippi Legislature, the Mississippi Rural Dentists Scholarship Program identifies up to seven college sophomores and juniors who demonstrate the necessary commitment and academic achievement to become rural pediatric or general dentists in the state. The program offers two years of undergraduate academic enrichment, including Dental Admission Test preparation and clinical experience in a rural setting.

Upon completion of all dental admissions requirements, the student can be admitted to the UM School of Dentistry.

During dental school, each MRDSP scholar may receive $35,000 per year, based on available funding. The program will award nine scholarships in 2018-19, totaling $315,000. With continued legislative support, administrators hope to grow the program to 12 scholarship totaling $420,000 by 2019.

Additional benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural dentists and academic support. 

After completing dental school, the scholars must practice general or pediatric dentistry in a rural, medically underserved community. The program scholar must provide dental services in a full-time clinical practice in an approved Mississippi community of 10,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

The program provides a means for rural Mississippi students to receive Dental Admission Test preparation, benefit from mentoring, learn the art of oral health care from practicing rural dentists and earn a $140,000 dental school scholarship in return for four years of service.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRDSP associate director, at 601-815-9022 or  jdcoleman@umc.edu, or go to http://www.umc.edu/mrdsp.

UM Student Broadens Horizon with Year in Japan

Gwenafaye McCormick wraps up studying abroad as Bridging Scholar

UM student Gwenafaye McCormick spent the 2017-18 academic year studying at Waseda University, a private, independent research university in central Tokyo. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – For the past year, University of Mississippi student Gwenafaye McCormick started her school day about 6,600 miles and 14 time zones from Oxford – in Japan.

McCormick, a rising senior international studies major from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, spent the 2017-18 school year studying at Waseda University, a private, independent research university in central Tokyo.

The distance and time from home meant that while McCormick was headed to Friday morning classes, Ole Miss students were gearing up for a Thursday evening.

“I grew up interested in Japan and Japanese culture, so of course I had some idea of what to expect, but getting to see places in real life that I had only ever seen in photos before was almost breathtaking, even for sort of silly things, like lines of vending machines lighting up a neighborhood street at night,” she said.

“Getting to experience everyday life in Japan has been the best part, in my opinion. I’ve made great friends at my university from Japan and from all over the world, and have had so many wonderful experiences with them.”

The “dream-come-true” experience has ended as McCormick’s Japanese school year came to a close. That means McCormick, the inaugural recipient of the Ira Wolf Scholarship from the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation, will be home for two weeks of “summer vacation” before UM classes start Aug. 20.

McCormick brought back experiences and memories from her Japanese sojourn that stretch beyond the classroom and her studies, such as eating “real sushi” for the first time on her 20th birthday surrounded by new friends, singing karaoke for the first time and playing games such as Janken, the Japanese version of rock-paper-scissors.

A member of both the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Croft Institute for International Studies, she even met U.S. Ambassador to Japan William Hagerty IV at the ambassador’s residence, where McCormick represented the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation at a reception.

McCormick’s year of Japanese studies came through the foundation, a nonprofit organization created in 1998 at the recommendation of the Japan-US Friendship Commission to strengthen the two countries’ relationship.

Her Ira Wolf Scholarship is named after a U.S. trade representative and, most recently, an employee of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America trade group in Tokyo. Wolf died in January 2016 after spending half his adult life in Japan.

Gwenafaye McCormick’s studies in Japan included several cultural opportunities, such as eating ‘real sushi’ for the first time and visiting Japanese temples and gardens. Submitted photo

“Gwenafaye has a global perspective, similar to Mr. Wolf,” said Jean M. Falvey, deputy director of the U.S.-Japan Bridging Foundation. “Gwenafaye has carried on Mr. Wolf’s legacy with poise, intelligence and humility. She was chosen to represent the Bridging Scholars at a reception that U.S. Ambassador William Hagerty IV hosted at his residence in Tokyo, in honor of the Bridging Foundation’s 20th anniversary.

“Her articulate, grateful remarks were a huge hit among the major donor and government officials in attendance, and exemplified the value of study abroad to building the U.S.’s pipeline of next-generation workforce and global leaders.”

Thankful for the foundation’s encouragement and support, McCormick said it has been “incredibly rewarding to know that established members of the field I am entering see me as an active member as well and want to help me succeed.”

McCormick’s studies at Waseda University were focused on Japanese culture and history. Her courseload in Japan included classes such as one on paternalism and Japanese society, which focused on the differences between and complexities within Western and Japanese business cultures.

“It’s been really exciting to learn about Japanese culture and history from a Japanese perspective, especially since I have some background knowledge on events, given previous research and study I did at Ole Miss,” McCormick said. “In some ways, it’s very similar to what I’ve learned through my international studies classes (at UM) since the department I’m in is international studies/relations-oriented, teaches most of their courses in English and is a magnet for international students coming to Japan.

“But given that most of my teachers have been Japanese, I’ve had the chance to hear a real-life and modern-day Japanese perspective on many issues, which has been such a great opportunity.”

McCormick is the daughter of Paige McCormick, an associate professor of English literature at the Stillman College, and Mark McCormick, Stillman’s vice president of academic affairs. While she briefly visited Switzerland, Paris and London in high school, her love for Japan and Japanese culture arose through watching and reading Japanese cartoons, respectively called anime (animation) and manga (comics).

“I was completely enthralled by their variety of artistic styles and the difference in set storylines, humor and focuses,” she said. “I was always interested in the editor’s notes in the back of my manga volumes, where untranslatable jokes were explained, given that they relied on some knowledge of the kanji (Chinese characters) used to write characters’ names, or how two words sounded similar in Japanese but were written/pronounced differently. I wanted so badly to be able to be in on the joke.

“So I knew I had always wanted to learn Japanese, but it wasn’t until high school when a Japanese-American friend of mine encouraged me after I told her about my interest that I decided to really go for it. I’ve always loved learning languages, and Japanese was no different. I fell completely in love with it and knew I wanted to become fluent, so I pursued it wholeheartedly at Ole Miss.”

McCormick’s extended time living, traveling and studying in Japan provides a much deeper understanding of her target culture than the more typical semester stay, said Noell Wilson, chair of the university’s Arch Dalrymple III Department of History and Croft associate professor of history and international studies. Wilson also serves as McCormick’s senior thesis adviser.

“This more complex engagement with all things Japanese – from pop culture to history to food – will make her scholarly analysis of Japan on return to Oxford both more authoritative and more authentic,” said Wilson, whose background is in East Asian studies.

Following a brief vacation, McCormick will turn to her senior year at UM. Her tentative plans following graduation include entering the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, a competitive employment opportunity that allows young professionals to live and work in Japan, whether in rural villages or brightly lit metropolises.

She would like a locale a little more rural than the center of Tokyo but is interested in the challenge of teaching her native language in her chosen, learned language, as well as having more of an immersive Japanese language experience.

Still, with a year left at Ole Miss, McCormick said nothing is set.

“I am keeping my mind open to all possibilities,” she said. “I’ve learned that a lot can happen in just one year.”

Three Graduates Receive Rural Physician Scholarships

Funding supports medical training at UM School of Medicine

Three recent graduates of the University of Mississippi (from left), Cal Wilkerson, Alison Redding and Kaleb Barnes, have been awarded Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarships. Submitted photo

JACKSON, Miss. – Three recent graduates of the University of Mississippi have been awarded Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarships valued at $30,000 per year for their medical training at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine in Jackson.

Cal Wilkerson, Alison Redding and Kaleb Barnes were honored at the annual ceremony for the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program.

Wilkerson is the son of Mr. and Mrs. David Wilkerson, of Woodville. Redding is the daughter of James and Carolyn Cegielski, of Laurel. Barnes is the son of Rodney and Melissa Barnes, of Booneville.

Created in 2007, the Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program is designed to provide more primary care physicians in rural areas of Mississippi. During medical school, each scholar receives $30,000 per year, based on available funding. Consistent legislative support of the scholarship program translates to 60 medical students receiving $1.8 million to support their education this fall.

“The Mississippi Legislature celebrates with these Mississippians from across the state in their commitment to improving health care for rural Mississippians by becoming rural primary care physicians,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Buck Clarke said.

Besides the legislative support, three privately funded scholarships were also awarded this year.

Other benefits include personalized mentoring from practicing rural physicians and academic support. 

Upon completion of medical training, the scholars must enter a residency program in one of five primary care specialties: family medicine, general internal medicine, medicine-pediatrics, obstetrics/gynecology or pediatrics. The scholar must provide four years of service in a clinic-based practice in an approved Mississippi community of 20,000 or fewer population located more than 20 miles from a medically served area.

The Mississippi Rural Physicians Scholarship Program provides a means for rural Mississippi students to earn a seat in medical school and to earn a $120,000 medical school scholarship in return for four years of service and learn the art of healing from practicing rural physicians.

For more information, contact Dan Coleman, MRPSP associate director, at 601-815-9022, jdcoleman@umc.du or http://mrpsp.umc.edu.

Four UM Students Awarded Scholarships by U.S. State Department

Students majoring in international studies and modern languages studying abroad this summer

Biloxi native Olivia George is studying the Korean language and culture this summer in South Korea. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Four University of Mississippi students are spending their summer overseas immersed in a variety of cultures and languages.

These students will put their linguistic knowledge to the test across the globe after being awarded the 2018 Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

International studies majors Olivia George, a rising junior from Biloxi; Paul Hunt, a rising senior from Madison, Alabama; Isabel Spafford, a rising sophomore from Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Emily Wang, a rising junior from Randolph, New Jersey, each received the award to study critical languages this summer. All four are members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute of International Studies.

“I cannot begin to describe what an amazing opportunity it is to be a part of the CLS Korean program this summer,” said George, who is studying Korean in Gwangju, South Korea. “Studying Korean at Ole Miss and interacting with the Korean exchange community there has taught me so much about cultural exchange, a process in which you learn not only about the world you live in but also about yourself – your aspirations, your values and even your limits.”

The Critical Language Scholarship program gives undergraduate and graduate students an opportunity to study and master one of 14 critical languages: Arabic, Azerbaijani, Bangla, Chinese, Hindi, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Swahili, Turkish or Urdu. These languages are not taught as often in U.S. schools as some other languages.

Emily Wang is spending the summer in Amman, Jordan, studying the Arabic language as part of the Critical Language Scholarship Program. Submitted photo

More than 550 students across the country received the scholarship this year. The goal of the program is to encourage U.S. citizens to learn critical foreign languages and to prepare students for a globalized workforce, ultimately allowing them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.

Each student spends eight to 10 weeks in the country of his or her chosen language living with host families. The program includes intensive language instruction combined with cultural enrichment activities to provide students with opportunities to master the language.

Hunt is spending the summer in Lucknow, India, learning Urdu; Spafford is traveling to Ibri, Oman, to study Arabic; and Wang is learning learn Arabic in Amman, Jordan.

George hopes to use these language skills to work with Korean companies or organization and conduct research about Korean society in the future.

“Through this program, I hope that I can improve my language skills and better my understanding of Korean culture,” she said.

Wang hopes to improve in Arabic through the program.

“Language learning is a means to gain new perspectives and eyes upon the world, so I am very ecstatic and honored to have received the CLS award in Jordan,” Wang said. “Since intensive and immersive language-learning goes hand-in-hand with linguistic success, more time I can spend immersing myself abroad will correlate with my success.”

Spafford is excited to study Arabic in a country where the language is spoken.

“Being able to see how Arabic is used by those who think and dream in it adds a dynamic to my studies that deepens both my ability and my desire to learn the language,” Spafford said. “In addition, learning alongside intelligent, like-minded students from across the country affords me connections that will be valuable to me across my career and friendships that make this this intense program a joy.

“I hope to use Arabic to work with refugees, ideally through the foreign service.”

Paul Hunt

Although this program does not require any previous language experience, nearly all Ole Miss students who receive the scholarship are committed to their chosen language and have studied it for several semesters or years, said Tim Dolan, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement. The ONSA office is housed in the Honors College but works with all Ole Miss students.

“CLS builds upon the students’ prior language skills and gives them an unparalleled immersion in and exposure to the nuances of culture that can only come from living with native speakers and exploring places with historical and cultural significance,” Dolan said.

Faculty in the Department of Modern Languages, Croft Institute for International Studies, Chinese Language Flagship Program and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College all work to recruit and prepare students to be competitive in education and the work force.

Isabel Spafford is studying Arabic this summer in Ibri, Oman, as a Critical Language Scholarship recipient from the U.S. Department of State. Submitted photo

“The CLS program takes the best and the brightest of young people and helps them achieve a high degree of linguistic and cultural competence in areas of the world that are vital for our country’s political and economic future,” said Dan O’Sullivan, chair and professor of modern languages. “We couldn’t be prouder of the University of Mississippi students that have been accepted into the program.”

The university has a reputation of attracting students who are serious about studying another language, which provides the program with many qualified candidates, Dolan said.

“The Critical Language Scholarship program encourages students from diverse backgrounds and from a wide range of majors to apply,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for science, engineering, math and computer science students to learn a vital language and explore professional opportunities abroad.”

The CLS program began in 2006 and has awarded scholarships to more than 5,700 American students. Students interested in learning more about the program or other national scholarships should contact Dolan at tadolan@olemiss.edu.

Language Instructor Takes Experiential Learning Workshops Abroad

Dinorah Sapp also developed institutional relationships while in South America

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and coordinator of professional development for the university’s Intensive English Program, visits Argentina to conduct an experiential learning workshop. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is leaving an international footprint by educating people around the world with the latest practical information.

Dinorah Sapp, lecturer and coordinator of professional development for the university’s Intensive English Program, conducted workshops on experiential learning to improve English language skills in Chile and Argentina earlier this summer.

The IEP provides English-language instruction to non-native English speakers through differentiated language instruction, cultural activities and community service projects to promote and educate global citizens. The workshop was designed for kindergarten teachers all the way up to university instructors.

At her first workshop at the Chilean North American Institute of Culture in Santiago, Chile, nearly 30 teachers attended the workshop in person, but the Chilean Ministry of Education broadcast the workshop through Facebook Live, reaching more than 1,000 educators across Chile who teach English as a second language or as a foreign language.

“I wanted to show teachers how they could take a lesson and make it come to life beyond the textbook,” Sapp said.

She offered handouts and rubrics so the educators can incorporate effective strategies in their English lessons.

“I was really pleasantly surprised how much ESL teachers want resources,” she said. “They were thirsty for tips and really want to engage their students. I was happy to see such a warm welcome and the extra steps they took to receive me.”

Sapp organized the workshop through the U.S. Department of State’s Education USA program, designed to promote educational and research opportunities at institutions in the U.S. She also spoke with representatives from the Chilean Ministry of Education about the teacher training, graduate work and research opportunities at UM.

“It is a great way to have UM’s name out and to tell people about the IEP program we have,” Sapp said. “Many teachers were asking questions and wanting to come to Mississippi where they can learn English and the American culture of the South.”

Following her visit to Chile, Sapp facilitated another workshop at the Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages conference in Mendoza, Argentina. She shared her teaching experiences with other educators and continued to build relationships with academic programs.

This opportunity was funded by a professional development grant administered by the Office of the Provost to help with expenses related to enhancing international connections, facilitating global partnerships and conducting specialized workshops.

Sapp’s trip was largely funded by the grant with additional support from the Department of Modern Languages and the Office of Global Engagement. She was able to connect TESOL attendance with presenting at different educational venues in Chile, said Whitney Sarver, senior director of IEP.

“These types of opportunities and workshops are so important for individual professional development, but also for our profession as a whole,” Sarver said.

The feedback Sapp received in Chile was largely that educators did not have as many professional development opportunities available, so her presentations on teaching and teacher training were valued.

Dinorah Sapp (front, second from left) visits with teachers in Chile as part of an experiential learning workshop that was live-streamed to more than 1,000 educators in that country. Submitted photo

“She is exceptionally good at what she does, and she was able to share her innovative teaching practices with fellow teachers,” Sarver said. “This sharing of ideas is what teachers really value. It is a way to learn about what others are doing and to reflect on what they do in their own classrooms.”

Sapp also can benefit the UM faculty by sharing her experiences with IEP colleagues at the faculty meeting before the fall semester, she said.

“She really went beyond what I expected of her by seizing opportunities and chances to meet with a wide variety of people in the field of English language learning,” Sarver said.

One of the most valuable aspects of Sapp’s visit to South American was the opportunity to introduce the university’s IEP program to international audiences.

“The field of international education has always been one that fluctuates wildly in terms of student mobility, but for the past few years, schools all over the world, and particularly the U.S., have seen a drop in enrollment,” Sarver said. “These trips and opportunities give us a chance to share our university and our programs to students and teachers who might not have heard of us already.

“The international community is often unaware of where Mississippi is and what it has to offer, so when we get the chance to educate the world about how great Mississippi and Ole Miss are, we are happy to take them.”

For more information about the Intensive English Program, visit https://iep.olemiss.edu/.

‘Where the Roots Rise’ Reflects Connection of Humanity to Natural Life

Latest UM Museum exhibit showcases creative photographs from alumna Jaime Aelavanthara

‘Mother Moth,’ a photograph by Jaime Aelavanthara, is among many of her pieces in the ‘Where the Roots Rise’ exhibit at University Museum. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The distance between humanity and nature is much smaller than we realize, and the latest exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum serves as a reminder of that perception.

“Where the Roots Rise” by photographer Jaime Aelavanthara is a series of photographs that have undergone photochemical blueprinting known as the cyanotype process. The photographs are set in natural areas of life, death, growth and decay in the natural landscapes of several Southern states.

“Experiences outdoors lend me an awe-filled view on the world, which is a feeling I am interested in the viewer experiencing when they see the exhibition,” she said. “As children, we tend to see the world as a magical place, an outlook that is often lost in adulthood.”

Aelavanthara’s work chronicles the relationship of a woman and her natural environment. The cyanotype process transforms the colorful landscapes and subjects of the photos into patterns and textures in the images. Her addition of tea staining dulls the blueness of the images, adding warmth.

The combination of these processes with the printing on Japanese Okawara paper, which is vulnerable to tears and wrinkles, displays the deterioration and impermanence of nature.

The exhibit opens to the public today (July 24) in the museum’s Lower Skipwith Gallery, in conjunction with the Oxford Arts Crawl. It will be available for viewing through Dec. 1.

Aelavanthara, an Ole Miss alumnus, earned her bachelor’s degree in imaging arts in 2011. She grew up in rural Mississippi, which inspired her creative work and illustrates the connection she formed with nature.

From 2015 to 2017, she was an instructor of art in the UM Department of Art and Art History. Aelavanthara is an assistant professor of art and design at the University of Tampa.

The fine art photographer specializes in alternative photographic processes, which she learned at UM.

“The photographs capture a sense of place while exploring how we are all connected – plants, animals, humans,” she said. “A lot of the photographs are self-portraits, constructed with various found objects collected from nature. I am contemplating metaphor and how I can give new life to an ordinary object we might encounter in the everyday: a turtle shell, plant life, an animal bone.

“Ultimately, I’m interested in the human condition and what it is that connects us. There is also an element of myth and a lyrical nature to the photographs, an influence I attribute to the vibrant literary community of Oxford and Ole Miss.”

Her work has been exhibited around the country at venues including the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, the Center for Fine Art Photography in Colorado and the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson. This exhibit showcases work that has never been previously displayed.

“It is rewarding to know I’m showing work at the place where it all started, remembering the quality experience I had in the art department at Ole Miss and the late nights spent in the darkroom or meandering Meek Hall,” she said.

“The University Museum is thrilled to welcome back to Oxford Jaime Aelavanthara, whose ethereal photography in ‘Where the Roots Rise’ consists of exquisite tea-stained cyanotypes, set in the swamps and woods of Mississippi, Louisiana and Florida,” said Robert Saarnio, the museum’s director.

“Our University Museum is in a period of celebration and exploration of the imaging arts, whether from our permanent collection or the work of a notably experimental and nationally emerging photographer such as Ms. Aelavanthara. We welcome our campus and regional community to experience this innovative assemblage of photographic prints.”

The museum will host Aelavanthara for an artist talk at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 22. An opening reception of the exhibit and an artist-led gallery walkthrough is set for 6 p.m. Aug. 23.

CSI Camp Creates Forensic Summer Fun

Students use tools, techniques on imaginary case for learning experience

Participants in CSI summer camp practice lifting fingerprints from objects. The camp, for middle and high school students, is hosted by the forensic chemistry program in the UM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – A dead body, blood spatter, guns, bullets and DNA samples – all fake – offered gifted high school students opportunities to test their forensic skills recently at the University of Mississippi.

Thirty-six 10th- through 12th-graders visited Ole Miss as part of a weeklong camp on forensic science. The event drew students from Mississippi, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Canada.

Led by Murrell Godfrey, director of the university’s forensic chemistry program, and his graduate and undergraduate students, the group spent a full day honing detective skills while examining the “evidence” throughout select classrooms and labs in Coulter Hall.

“The case this week involves a murder that has taken place in a clandestine drug lab,” Godfrey said. “At the crime scene, the students learned about the proper techniques for collecting evidence, the proper protective equipment to wear to prevent contamination, and how to document and take notes at a crime scene.”

The students collected multiple pieces of evidence including: blood from bloody footprints believed to be left by the suspect that could contain the suspect’s DNA, duct tape used in the crime to test for fingerprints, a threatening note left by the suspect for ink analysis, a gun to test for fingerprints, bullets to perform ballistics comparison with a bullet from the suspect’s gun and drug samples found at the scene that were tested using analytical techniques to determine their identity.

“Throughout the week, forensic experts, graduate students and UM faculty lectured on the procedures for analyzing the evidence found at the crime scene,” Godfrey said. “Students then attended various laboratories where they had the opportunity to analyze their samples and learn more about high-tech instrumentation firsthand.

“We had a mock trial Friday morning where students had to defend their evidence/analysis in court. Students served as expert witnesses, prosecutors, defense attorneys, jury and so forth.”

At the conclusion of the camp, participants received certificates of completion from the American Academy of Forensic Science and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, T-shirts and bags from AAFS.

Graduate student Caroline Spencer of Decatur, Alabama, coordinated the camp. Other staff included Ann-Elodie, of Ocala, Florida, and Kardazia Murry, of Houston, as camp counselors; Brandon Stamper, of Brandon, camp teaching assistant; Mina Brandon of Wood Dale, Illinois, Daj’ai Ashford, of Choctaw, Beau Black, of Weatherford, Texas, and Austin Scircle, of Knoxville, Tennessee, camp volunteers.

Speakers and forensic experts included Jim Cizdziel, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; Ken Winter, adjunct instructor of legal studies and former director of the Mississippi Forensic Laboratory; Leslia Davis, forensic biologist from MFL in Pearl; Velveda Harried, drug chemist from MFL in Biloxi; and Don Stanford, assistant director of the UM Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, who gave a double-decker bus tour of the marijuana field and medicinal garden.

This forensics summer camp, which was sponsored by AAFS, the Council of Forensic Science Educators, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, Department of Legal Studies, the National Center for Natural Products Research and the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was the fifth hosted at the university.

“Our goal is always to encourage these gifted young minds to become STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors once they enter college,” Godfrey said.

Several students said they’ve learned a great deal through their experience.

“This whole week has been amazing,” said Luke LeBlanc, a 10th-grader from Lafayette, Louisiana. “My favorite thing has been learning blood analysis and ballistics in the labs. I’m definitely planning on returning to CSI camp here next year.”

Kalen Klatte, a sophomore from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said she was expecting only a few females to attend.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I found that there are more girls than boys,” said Klatte, who has been interested in forensics since she was age 11. “This has been a great experience for me and I hope I can do it again.”

Junior Kaitlin May Wong, of Montreal, Quebec, said the camp helped her cement her future career path.

“There aren’t a lot of opportunities to study forensics in Canada,” she said. “Being here this week has solidified in me that a career in this field is definitely what I want. I’m returning home with a lot more knowledge of forensics and memories of my new friends made this week.”

Caliah Cope, who was an “expert witness” in presumptive drug analysis for her forensic team, said she was excited to see how all the aspects of crime scene investigation come together to solve their case.

“I’m really looking forward to giving my testimony and seeing the suspect be convicted for the crime committed,” said Cope, a junior from Grand Prairie, Texas.

Other students in the camp included Michaela Anderson, of Tupelo; Carrington Carter, of Batesville; Alexia Hartley, of Hazlehurst; Dani Janus, of Starkville; Brennan Teeter, of Madison; Jasmine Van Velkinerg, of Clinton; Lauren Barrouquere, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jacqueline Schlamp, of Sulfur, Louisiana; Ashlyn Belcher, of Marietta, Georgia; Madeline Cusick, of Atlanta; Victoria Buckley, of Dayton, Maryland; Jazmyn Cameron, of Houston, Texas; Rachel Ledington, of Austin, Texas; Marisa Chapa, of Dallas; Mi’Kayla Cornelious, of Marianna, Arkansas; Tiernan Dautle, of Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Andra Durgee, of Boca Raton, Florida; Julia Ann Kepley, of Tampa, Florida; Emma Stovall and Erin Stovall, both of Ft. Myers, Florida; Grace Gibson, of Teustin, California; Jerry Gutierrez and Itzel Medina, both of Healdsburg, California; Katie Martell, of Irving, California; Raychael Gross, of Memphis; Sierra McLaurin, of Nashville, Tennessee; Karen Guo, of St. Louis; Colin O’Connor, of Louisville, Kentucky; Lakadar Quelhaci, of Detroit; and Abby Wannamaker, of Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

By allowing the students to visit the department and experiment with the equipment, UM faculty said they hope to pique their interests in forensic chemistry and possibly recruit them to the university. The strategy appears to be working.

“I’m definitely considering coming to Ole Miss and studying forensics,” said De’Monica Dumas, of Shreveport, Louisiana, who attended the 2017 CSI camp. “As a result of the first camp, I came back wanting to learn more about fingerprinting. And this week, I did.”

For more information about the forensic chemistry program within the UM Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, visit http://chemistry.olemiss.edu/undergraduates/forensic-chemistry/.