Eight UM Students Earn Prestigious Croft Scholarships

Exceptional scholars receive $4,000 per semester to further studies

The 2018 UM Croft Scholars are (front, from left) David McDonald, Emma Lane, Akshaya Vijayasankar and Delaney Smith, and (back) Jess Cooley, Olivia Jaramillo, Reed Peets and Ava Cooper. Photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Miss. – Eight students at the University of Mississippi‘s Croft Institute for International Studies are recipients of this year’s distinguished Croft Scholarships.

The prestigious scholarships pay up to $32,000 over four years, and the funds can be combined with other scholarships. Croft Scholars retain the funds as long as they stay in the international studies major and maintain a 3.4 grade-point average both in the major and overall.

The eight students are Jess Cooley, Ava Cooper, Olivia Jaramillo, Emma Lane, David McDonald, Reed Peets, Delaney Smith and Akshaya Vijayasankar.

For their international studies major, Croft students typically select a regional concentration from among East Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, and a related foreign language before their first semester in the program. Students later select a thematic concentration from among global economics and business, global health, international governance and politics, and social and cultural identity.

“We are very excited about this group of Croft Scholars,” said Oliver Dinius, Croft executive director. “Their chosen foreign languages represent all of Croft’s four regions and they have already expressed broad thematic interests, although they will not have to declare that concentration until their sophomore year.

“Croft Scholars often are among the most dynamic and involved international studies majors, and they are an essential part of making the program special.”

Of more than 217 applicants to the Croft Institute this year, 128 were admitted, and from that pool, the admissions committee selected 29 prospective students to interview for the scholarships. They answered follow-up questions about their application essays and questions about current affairs, their intellectual interests and their motivations for pursuing a bachelor’s degree in international studies.

A native of Laurel and graduate of West Jones High School, Cooley is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“Being a Croft Scholar is a blessing and genuinely humbling because my cohort is full of outstanding students,” Cooley said. “The highly regarded Croft Institute is why I came to the University of Mississippi, and this is because Croft provides so many opportunities for me to pursue my passion of studying cultures, global economics and business, and language.”

Cooper, a native of Knoxville, Tennessee, graduated from Berean Christian High School and is studying Chinese with a concentration on East Asia.

Jaramillo is a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and a graduate of Central Magnet School who is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“As a recipient of the Croft Scholarship, I have the opportunity to become a more educated global citizen and continue on the path to fluency with Spanish,” Jaramillo said. “I feel very blessed to have received a fully funded undergraduate education in such a prestigious organization.”

Lane is from La Grange, Kentucky, and a graduate of Oldham County High School who is studying Arabic with a concentration on the Middle East.

“For me, my college experience depended on this Croft Scholarship,” Lane said. “It has allowed me to live in Pittman (Hall) among my other Honors College peers, and it allowed me to attend Ole Miss without taking out any loans.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to graduate from college without any debt, and this provides me the means to travel abroad during and after my time here at Ole Miss.”

From Madison, McDonald graduated from Madison Central High School and is studying Russian with a concentration on Europe.

“I felt very honored to receive a scholarship from the Croft Institute,” McDonald said. “I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to study what I’m passionate about at Croft, and this scholarship is what helped make all of that possible.”

A graduate of Jackson Preparatory School and native of Jackson, Peets is studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“It is an awesome honor to be recognized by such an outstanding institution,” Peets said. “To have my name among the top scholars of the Croft Institute is a humbling responsibility.

“I see this award as an opportunity to become a leader among leaders – to strive for further growth within a group of diverse students ripe with a passion for exploration.”

Smith is from Overland Park, Kansas, and graduated from Saint Thomas Aquinas High School. She is studying German with a concentration on Europe.

“I’m so honored to be a student of the Croft Institute and to have been chosen as a recipient of the Croft Scholarship,” Smith said. “The Croft Institute allows me to study a subject that I’m passionate about alongside incredibly gifted classmates.

“Being named a scholar within my cohort is very humbling, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities to further my education that this scholarship will provide me.”

An Oxford native, Akshaya Vijayasankar is a graduate of Oxford High School studying Spanish with a concentration on Latin America.

“I am extremely grateful and humbled to be a recipient of this award,” Vijayasankarsaid. “The Croft Institute of International Studies has allowed me to pursue my passion for studying global health care and Spanish, and receiving this scholarship has put me one step closer to achieving my dream.

“This scholarship made it possible for me to attend this prestigious institution, where I’m surrounded by peers who are just as ardent (as I am) about learning new cultures, languages and politics.”

Concert Celebrates Life and Music of Leonard Bernstein

Son Alexander Bernstein and guest artists join the UM Chorus for 'Bernstein at 100'

Leonard Bernstein

OXFORD, Miss. – The life and music of the legendary Leonard Bernstein will be celebrated with a concert of his music Tuesday (Nov. 6) at the University of Mississippi’s Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Alexander Bernstein, the maestro’s son, will be in attendance, joined by guest conductor Dennis Shrock, several soloists, the Bernstein Festival Orchestra and the UM Chorus, directed by Donald Trott.

Leonard Bernstein would have turned 100 years old in 2018, and the Ole Miss concert is part of a global celebration, with thousands of events planned over a two-year period to celebrate this giant composer, conductor, pianist, educator and activist. Organized by the UM Department of Music, the observance also will include two public lectures on Bernstein’s life and work.

“Leonard Bernstein was the flamboyant and charismatic music director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for 11 years beginning in 1958, after which he was active as guest conductor with most of the leading orchestras in the world,” said Robert Riggs, UM music department chair. “He is perhaps best known now for having composed the music for the Broadway shows ‘On the Town’ and ‘West Side Story.’

“However, he was a prolific composer, and I recommend our concert as a wonderful opportunity to hear several of his other beautiful works.”

“Bernstein at 100: A Musical Celebration,” set for 7:30 p.m., includes several works, including “Chichester Psalms,” which Bernstein composed 1965 for the Chichester Cathedral in Sussex, England. The work is based on texts from Psalms 23, 100, 108 and 131. Written in three movements, it features a full orchestra, a full chorus and a boy soprano, guest soloist Emmanuel Tsao, of Memphis.

The concert also includes selections from two of Bernstein’s best-loved works, “Peter Pan” and “Candide.”

“Peter Pan” was completed in 1950 and opened that same year on Broadway, but the show did not include Bernstein’s full score. In 2000, conductor Alexander Frey created a new production after finding the original full score, which included several never-performed songs, including “Dream with Me,” which will be part of the Ford Center program.

Soprano Stefanie Moore, of Santa Monica, California, will sing Wendy’s role, and Bradley Robinson, UM associate professor of music, will be Captain Hook.

Based on Voltaire’s novella, “Candide” was originally conceived by Lillian Hellman as a play with incidental music. Bernstein’s enthusiasm for the idea of expanding the piece into an operetta persuaded her to rework it as a libretto.

Many lyricists reworked this piece through the years, and it remains a Bernstein fan favorite. For the Ford Center performance, the chorus and orchestra will present “Best of All Possible Worlds” and “Make Our Garden Grow.”

Besides the concert, two related lectures will offer glimpses into Bernstein’s career. They are free and open to the public.

The first, set for 1 p.m. Monday (Nov. 5) in Nutt Auditorium, features guest conductor Shrock discussing “Chichester Psalms.” The second, at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 6) in Nutt Auditorium, features Alexander Bernstein speaking about his father in “Leonard Bernstein and Artful Learning.”

“For our Bernstein celebration, I am thrilled that Alexander Bernstein is able to join us,” said Trott, Ole Miss director of choral activities. “He and his two sisters, Jaime and Nina, have been traveling the globe attending many, many events.

“We are so fortunate to hear about his father from this unique perspective and, in addition, to hear about Bernstein’s educational legacy, as Alexander is the current president of Artful Learning (an interdisciplinary educational model that uses fine arts to strengthen learning in all academic areas).”

Tickets for “Bernstein at 100: A Musical Celebration” are available from the UM Box Office at 662-915-7411 or https://olemissboxoffice.com/. Reserved seats range from $18 to $25 for the general public and $10 for Ole Miss students.

UM Professor Part of Upcoming American Chemical Society Webinar

Presentation puts astrochemistry research program in spotlight

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi chemistry professor is offering a glimpse into interstellar molecules and the mysteries of life in space during a free interactive webinar on Thursday (Nov. 1).

Ryan Fortenberry, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry at UM, will open the discussion, moderate and field questions for the American Chemical Society webinar “An Evolutionary Mystery: Mirror Asymmetry in Life and in Space.” 

Joining Fortenberry for the 1 p.m. webinar is the main speaker, Brett McGuire, a Hubble Postdoctoral Fellow at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“Life uses molecules of only one type of handedness, including amino acids, sugars and most anything with carbon atoms in it,” said Fortenberry, who joined the Ole Miss faculty in July and serves as chair-elect for the American Chemical Society’s Astrochemistry Subdivision. “If placed in a mirror, your right hand will become your left hand. However, without that mirror, your right hand and your left hand will always be different, opposites in fact.

“Some molecules, especially those involved in life, have a similar property. Can this property be used to find life in space or is it just a fluke that life did this here on Earth?”

Ryan Fortenberry

The single-handedness of life using only one side of the mirror is a geometric property in chemistry known as homochirality, but questions remain, such as how and why this single-handed world emerged.

The webinar will explore this question along with the impact of homochirality on biology and chemical evolution, the potential origins of homochirality and the challenges in studying possible interstellar origins, and the first detection of a chiral interstellar molecule and challenges associated with measuring a potential chiral excess in space.

One of the biggest challenges in studying possible interstellar origins is that conditions of space and even the best conditions of a laboratory are still pretty different, Fortenberry said.

“What we’re studying in space is really far away, making small concentrations of molecules really hard to distinguish from any noise we get in our instruments,” he said. “Also, there’s a lot of stuff in space, since it’s so big.

“Hence, you may think you’re looking at a faraway star, but it’s really just a cloud of molecules between here and there.”

A Clinton native, Fortenberry runs the Computational Astrochemistry Group (Fortenberry Lab) at UM. Computational astrochemistry is the application of quantum chemical techniques to molecules of astrophysical significance.

Fortenberry runs computer programs to simulate the way electrons and nuclei interact within a molecule. This then delivers information about chemical reactions, data for remote sensing and how molecules may evolve.

“The chemistry department is very excited about this event,” said Greg Tschumper, professor and chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. “Dr. Fortenberry is our newest faculty member, and this webinar will effectively put a large spotlight on the strong astrochemistry research program he is establishing here at the University of Mississippi as he shares a virtual stage with Dr. Brett McGuire in front of a national and international audience.”

Astrochemistry is one of the purest forms of chemistry available to study that still has an application, Fortenberry said.

“The Earth is such a small subset of conditions that we often pigeonhole our creativity,” he said. “By exploring questions that force us to get out of our Earth-centered mindset, we can find all kinds of new science that we wouldn’t otherwise.

“My favorite example is nanotechnology, which largely arose from the late Sir Harry Kroto, who won a Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of a new form of carbon called fullerene. This has revolutionized materials science, but it wouldn’t have happened if an astrochemist hadn’t wondered what types of molecules could be made in the atmospheres of carbon-rich stars.”

9/11 Survivor to Speak to UM Student Veterans, Alumni

Inaugural Veterans Alumni Gala fosters community and student opportunities

Will Jimeno

OXFORD – Faith, hope and love will be the message from World Trade Center survivor Will Jimeno as he speaks at the University of Mississippi’s inaugural Veterans Alumni Gala, set for Nov. 2 at The Inn at Ole Miss.

The event, hosted by the Ole Miss Student Veterans Association, is designed to let student veterans network with alumni, build relationships and develop a community better suited to helping its members once their college careers conclude.

Jimeno, who was an officer with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in 2001 and was buried under the rubble of the World Trade Center for 13 hours, plans to challenge attendees to live life to the fullest after serving their country.

“What I always share, whether I’m speaking to veterans or anyone else, is faith, hope and love,” Jimeno said. “That’s what helped me survive on 9/11 and that’s what helps people survive every day.

“Speaking to a group of veterans – there are many people in that room that have had their own World Trade Center, be it in combat or seeing a comrade fall next to them. Faith, hope and love is what we do with ourselves after we were hit with our World Trade Center analogy.”

Before becoming a Port Authority officer, Jimeno served four years in the U.S. Navy.

“Events like (the alumni gala) are a great honor to speak at,” Jimeno said. “I get to spread the message about what my team did on 9/11 and what we as Americans overcame.

“But it also allows me to honor veterans that serve and protect us. I always had a deep desire to serve our country. The military taught me a lot, and my military service runs deep.”

The ultimate goal of the black-tie gala is to build relationships between current student veterans and Ole Miss graduates, said Andrew Newby, assistant director for Veteran and Military Services and organizer of the event.

“I want our students to have allies when they graduate, those who’ve seen their progression from veteran to student to graduate. I want them to impart wisdom by making an investment in the student veterans who’ve already given of themselves in their call to service.”

Newby will present awards to five student veterans chosen from an application and essay process. Each award is different and reflects the essays written by applicants.

The Initiative, Spirit, Perseverance, Genius and Leadership awards will be chosen by the executive committee of the Student Veterans Association based on how each applicant’s essay portrays one of the traits represented by the award.

Besides connecting with alumni, student veterans will have an opportunity to meet state and national dignitaries, including Robert Wilkie, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs; U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker; U.S. Rep. Trent Kelly; and Gov. Phil Bryant.

Proceeds from the gala will go toward the Welcome Home Campaign, which creates initiatives and programs for student veterans at Ole Miss. The gala, which is sold out, begins at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour, followed by dinner and speakers.

“By connecting student veterans to our alumni within their current fields, students can engage them with questions and receive guidance on how to succeed in their chosen degree path,” Newby said. “If, at the end of the night, a young engineering student veteran is able to make a meaningful connection with an engineer from Ole Miss, the night has been successful.”

Phi Beta Kappa Chapter Receives National Recognition

Campus organization among nation's best at a public university

The UM chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society has been recognized as one of two outstanding chapters nationwide administered at a public university. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honor society has been recognized as one of two outstanding chapters nationwide administered at a public university.

A Certificate of Recognition is given to just six “outstanding chapters” nationally every three years: two public universities, two private universities and two liberal arts colleges. Only 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities shelter PBK chapters.

Officers of the UM chapter attribute the award to high levels of faculty participation, as well as a strong website. 

“Receiving this certificate, being honored as an outstanding chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, really shows how great a job our chapter is doing,” said Luanne Buchanan, instructional associate professor of Spanish who serves as the chapter’s secretary and treasurer.

“One thing we have is a really committed group of faculty. Our faculty involvement in the chapter, I think, is very high compared to other universities.”

Sandra Spiroff, associate professor of mathematics who serves as the chapter’s president, echoed Buchanan’s statement.

“The diligence of former President William Schenck and Secretary-Treasurer Luanne Buchanan in identifying and following up on students who qualify for membership has given us one of the highest acceptance rates among chapters nationally,” Spiroff said. “And (College of Liberal Arts program manager) Elaine Abadie’s assistance with our website and promotional material earned us praise at the recent Triennial Council meeting in Boston.”

Schenck, retiring president of the Ole Miss chapter who was on hand to receive the award in August at Phi Beta Kappa’s Triennial Council, said he was pleasantly surprised by the honor.

“I watched as the liberal arts chapters went up to accept their honors, and I wondered if these people had already been informed that they were receiving the award,” he said. “When I heard them call the University of Mississippi, I thought ‘Well, I guess they didn’t know!'”

Phi Beta Kappa, the country’s oldest undergraduate honors organization, was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. Since 2001, Ole Miss has been home to the organization’s Beta of Mississippi chapter.

Students cannot apply for membership; instead, they are identified by faculty for nomination based on their outstanding academic records in liberal arts classes.

“It helps that we’ve received tremendous support from the chancellor’s office and the College of Liberal Arts,” Buchanan said. “It’s an indication of the value that the university places on academics.”

Famed Mississippi Author to Share Inspiring Message with UM Students

Clifton Taulbert on campus to speak with CEED Innovation Scholars

OXFORD, Miss. – The McLean Institute of Public Service and Community Engagement will host “An Evening with Clifton Taulbert” from 5 to 7 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Bryant Hall gallery to discuss his career as an entrepreneur, businessman, Pulitzer-nominated author and U.S. Air Force veteran.

Taulbert’s books illustrate the power of incorporating community engagement into education and workforce development. The Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development program at the McLean Institute uses Taulbert’s book “Who Owns the Ice House” as a framework in the classroom to teach entrepreneurial lessons and how to foster an entrepreneurial mentality.

Taulbert has a direct link to the work at the McLean Institute and the CEED program because of his experience of taking entrepreneurial opportunities that were presented to him in the Washington County community of Glen Allan, said J.R. Love, project manager for CEED at the McLean Institute.

“Clifton will provide insight into the power of our individual mindset and how that connects to building community,” Love said. “CEED students will have the opportunity to engage and learn from an entrepreneur from Mississippi who shares a similar philosophy of the McLean Institute regarding the power of community and economic development.”

Joshua Baker, an Ole Miss sophomore math and economics major and CEED Innovation Scholar, said he is looking forward to Taulbert’s keynote discussion on entrepreneurship and economic advancement in Mississippi’s low-income regions.

“As an entrepreneurial-focused organization, when given the opportunity to host Mr. Taulbert, we agreed immediately,” Baker said. “(Taulbert) embodies many of the community-centered values we hold, all while being a phenomenal example of the talent Mississippi possesses.”

The event is hosted for CEED Innovation Scholars, the chancellor, vice chancellors, department heads across campus and community partners.

The McLean Institute’s mission is to advance transformative experiences for university students and to fight poverty through education in Mississippi.

The CEED program works with Ole Miss students and faculty to build actionable partnerships with Mississippi communities to increase entrepreneurship and promote economic development.

To learn more about the event, call the McLean Institute at 662-915-2052 or email mclean@olemiss.edu.

American Politics Focus of New Center Named for Haley Barbour

First classes of Center for the Study of American Politics to be taught in upcoming term

UM soon will be home to the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics. Celebrating the creation of the center are (from left) John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science; Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; Haley Barbour, former governor of Mississippi; Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter; and Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi soon will be home to a bipartisan center named after alumnus Haley Barbour, a major architect of national politics who served two terms as governor of Mississippi.

On Thursday (Oct. 18), the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning approved the creation of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics, which will be part of the Department of Political Science. The center will focus on the study of American campaigns and elections, and its first class will be taught in the upcoming winter term.

Barbour, who holds a Juris Doctor from the university, said he is honored to have a second center at his alma mater named after him, in addition to the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. The Center for the Study of American Politics will be designed to attract students who will enter many fields and will provide opportunities to learn about American politics and civic responsibility through classes, work with advocacy groups and internships, he said.

“We don’t think that everyone who comes out of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics will become a congressman, or even an alderman,” Barbour said. “There will be campaign managers, but also a lot of physicians, lawyers, nurses and accountants who will understand the importance of government and become hard and effective workers for good government.”

The Barbour Center will draw from the faculty of the Department of Political Science, College of Liberal Arts and the rest of the university, as well as connections to those working in politics. The goal is to eventually have a dedicated space on campus, and the IHL board has also approved the university’s plan to create a department chair for the center. 

“The Haley Barbour Center will broaden and deepen our strengths in political science and deliver new opportunities for our students that reflect our commitment to academic excellence,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “We’re honored the center will be named for Gov. Barbour, whose leadership and contributions to the state of Mississippi and American politics are lasting and so highly respected.”

Students will participate in a range of topics and experiences to prepare them for engagement in the American electoral process as citizens or as political party activists, paid campaign advisers or electoral process managers.

The university soon will be home to the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics, which is named after the former governor (third from right). Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The Barbour Center’s mission will be two-pronged. The first focus will be academic, including an endowed chair and a series of courses to advance students’ knowledge and interest in campaigns and elections. A second focus will be on outreach, including bringing high-profile speakers to campus as well as hosting national conferences and summer outreach programming. The center will also provide some funding for graduate students.

“The center and others involved will find out about students who want to be involved in elections and help them find a job with a campaign, their state party, a national party, or a trade association or an advocacy group,” Barbour said. “Students will decide which kinds of groups they want to work for; we won’t assign them to one. This is very bipartisan.” 

The Department of Political Science has seen an increase in majors, which is counter to national trends where majors in this field are on the decline, said Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. He believes the addition of this center will lead to even more interest.

“The current climate of American politics suggests the need for young people to engage in the election process and be prepared for the reasoned, respectful political debate that supports a healthy democracy,” Cohen said.

“The University of Mississippi is already producing these kinds of engaged, knowledgeable citizens, and the addition of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics will provide more unique, focused experiences and courses of study to take this training to the next level.”

John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science, said there is not a more fitting namesake for the center at the university to study elections than Barbour, whom he said has had “a long arc in American politics.”

“He started working in national politics his last year as an undergraduate, and has pretty much never left,” Bruce said. “His two most prominent roles have been as chair of the Republican National Committee, and as a two-term governor of the state of Mississippi. In both of those roles, he is credited with successful records. 

“A thread running through most of his career is activity in campaigns and elections, and it is this aspect of his career that we hope the Barbour Center will reflect.” 

Barbour began his life in politics in 1968, when he went to work as a field organizer on Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign. From 1973 to 1976, he was executive director of the Mississippi Republican Party.

Former Gov. Haley Barbour (left center) and UM Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter celebrate the announcement of the Haley Barbour Center for the Study of American Politics. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Presidents Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were among the many Republican candidates who received his advice. He also served as political director of the Reagan White House and cofounded BGR Group, a prominent Washington government affairs firm. 

From 1993 to ’97, Barbour served as chairman of the Republican National Committee and managed the “Republican wave” in 1994, which led to Republican control of both the Senate and House of Representatives.

In 2004, Barbour took office as Mississippi’s 63rd governor. The following year, after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, he earned national recognition for his quick and decisive response to the disaster.

In 2015, Barbour’s memoir was published. “America’s Great Storm: Leading through Hurricane Katrina” gave his perspective on leadership lessons that came from the storm.

The department’s alumni advisory board first raised the idea of creating an endowed faculty chair named after Barbour. The board and the former governor came together to design the center in a way that benefits students, faculty and the university. 

The center will be funded by private donors and external funding grants. So far, the Governor Haley Barbour Endowment for the Study of American Politics has raised almost $1.5 million. Plans are in place to pursue additional funding from individuals, corporations and foundations, as well as state and federal grants.

“The timing and exact shape of all the programming will be determined by the timing and scope of available funds, but this is a large endeavor and will ramp up over the course of years,” Bruce said. “We will have some programming in the very near future, and expand with time.”

Barbour said one great long-term benefit of the center is that it will promote a more engaged citizenry and inspire students to take an active role in their government for generations to come. 

“This is something we believe will be attractive to Ole Miss students,” Barbour said. “We think they’ll enjoy it and be better citizens because of their time here.” 

Political Science Professor Wins Second Award for Book

Conor Dowling, co-authors receive national praise with Louis Brownlow Book Award

Conor M. Dowling

OXFORD, Miss. – A book exploring the weaknesses of modern health care policy, co-authored by University of Mississippi political science professor Conor Dowling, has won the Louis Brownlow Book Award, a prestigious honor for scholars in the public administration field.

This is the second award for “Unhealthy Politics: The Battle over Evidence-based Medicine” (Princeton University Press, 2017). This summer, the book received the Don K. Price Award from the Science, Technology and Environmental Politics Section of the American Political Science Association.

“I wanted to contribute to ‘Unhealthy Politics’ because health policy is an area of scholarly interest of mine, and what to do about wasteful medical spending and the medical evidence problem are issues in need of solutions,” Dowling said. “I was incredibly humbled and honored to receive the Louis Brownlow Award with my co-authors.”

“Unhealthy Politics” explores how partisanship, polarization and medical authority hinder evidence-based medicine by analyzing surveys, case studies and political incentives. The book offers insights not only into health policy, but also into the limits of science, expertise and professionalism as political foundations for pragmatic problem-solving in American democracy.

John Bruce, chair and associate professor of political science, said he is proud Dowling’s contributions to the department.

“Any time faculty are recognized externally, (it) produces a positive benefit for the department,” Bruce said. “We know we have strong faculty here, and that they are doing good work. When one of them is recognized nationally for their work, it helps remind others of what we already know.”

The National Academy of Public Administration awards the Louis Brownlow Book Award to an outstanding contemporary piece that accurately analyzes a problem or the performance of a government institution in the public administration field.

Dowling is also co-author of “Super PAC! Money, Elections and Voters after Citizens United” (Routledge Press, 2014)  and has written more than 30 articles published in peer-reviewed journals.

For more information about the Department of Political Science, visit http://politicalscience.olemiss.edu/.

Students Starting Careers with Help from Internship Experience Program

Program supports students interning in Atlanta, D.C., and New York

UM students participating in the Internship Experience Program this summer in Washington, D.C., are (from left) senior public policy and political science major Jarrius Adams, of Hattiesburg, who worked with the Congressional Black Caucus in U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office; senior public policy and journalism major Hailey McKee, of Dyersburg, Tenn., who interned at the Newseum and U.S. Rep. David Kustoff’s office; Justin Cowling, a political science major from Yazoo City, who worked at the Washington Intern Student Housing organization; and Sheranidan Burton, an accounting and criminal justice major from Gulfport who worked at the United States bankruptcy court clerk’s office. Photo by Gabby Coggin/Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Life changing.” “Incredible.” “Eye-opening.” “Extraordinary.” A group of University of Mississippi students recently used these words to describe the unique experiences they had this summer that not only enhanced their career skills but also opened doors for their future.

Last month, students met with UM administration, faculty and staff to discuss their experiences as participants in the Internship Experience Program, a special program that prepares and organizes cohorts of Ole Miss students to participate in career internships in Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C.

Sara “Cookie” White, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Houston, Texas, was among the students who presented at the event.

“This program taught me how to create my own path,” White said. “I feel like I gained a lot of confidence in myself. It really pushed me to be my best and learn on my feet.”

The UM Internship Experience Program offers Ole Miss juniors and seniors an opportunity to gain professional work experience in these major cities while earning academic credit in their fields of study. Students work, with the assistance of university staff, to secure an internship that will give them important professional experience for future job opportunities.

“We envision these programs as a two-way pipeline between these amazing cities and the University of Mississippi,” said Laura Antonow, director of college programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. “This is a way to aid our students in their transition into successful professional careers after college.”

Students interested in learning about internship opportunities for summer 2019 can stop by an information session anytime between noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the UM Career Center in Martindale Hall.

In summer 2018, 12 students were selected to participate in the program, with two going to New York, four interning in Washington and six working in Atlanta.

“We start by selecting students that we believe are going to be competitive in these fast-paced cities, those who have a good combination of work experience, academic success and then extracurricular and leadership experience,” Antonow said.

White said she wanted to go to New York to try something new and feel the specialness of the city. As an intern with Allied Integrating Marketing, she got to help major motion picture studios promote upcoming films through screenings and special events.

“I had so many interesting projects and tasks,” White said. “I knew my IMC classes were preparing me for the future.

“When I started the summer, I felt like I had all of this knowledge, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it yet. Participating in this internship was a great way for me to apply everything that I have been learning during my time at Ole Miss.”

Shelby McElwain, of Corinth, is a senior art history major who interned this summer with nAscent Art in New York. She was able to help the company research art buys and designs for some of the country’s newest hotels.

“I felt like I was making a difference in the projects that my employer was pursuing this summer,” McElwain said. “They wanted my assistance and opinion. I learned so much.”

Jarrius Adams, a senior public policy and political science major from Hattiesburg, interned with the Congressional Black Caucus in U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Washington office.

“My time in D.C. changed my perspective going forward,” Adams said. “I learned a lot. I know that I love politics, but I think I can make a greater impact in my community by participating more at the local level. I saw how local politicians make the laws that really affect everyday lives.”

Sara ‘Cookie’ White, a UM senior from Houston, Texas, takes in the Manhattan skyline while taking part in the Internship Experience Program with Allied Integrated Marketing. Students interested in learning about internship opportunities for summer 2019 can stop by an information session anytime between noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the UM Career Center in Martindale Hall. Photo by Gabby Coggin/Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

Hailey McKee, of Dyersburg, Tennessee, is a senior public policy and journalism major who had positions in two different offices this summer in Washington, serving as an intern at the Newseum and with U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee.

During the presentation, she shared more about some of the more interesting events, hearings, and tasks she participated in over the summer.

“I looked up, and I was taking notes during a Senate hearing about putting American boots on the ground on Mars by 2030,” McKee explained. “There were astronauts in the room who have left the Earth. It was surreal.”

She said she was awestruck passing the Supreme Court and Library of Congress each day on her way to work.

“I wanted to appreciate all the history and significance of the places I was around daily.”

Ryan Granger, a senior IMC major from Pearl, said he chose to intern this summer in Atlanta because of the big city feel that wasn’t too far out of his comfort zone.

As an intern with the Atlanta International Fashion Week organization, he had the chance to help roll out a new collaboration between AIFW and Microsoft Corp. that is providing educational opportunities for Atlanta youth.

“I was working on press releases, preparing media kits and event planning,” he said. “It was cool to get all this real-world exposure to activities that I’ll be doing in my field.

“I learned so much about being able to adapt to the world around me and correctly adjust to whatever I needed to do.”

Granger is hoping that his summer internship will turn into a full-time job after graduation in May.

“Working in this industry would be a great pathway that could open a lot of career opportunities for me,” he said.

Granger said one of his favorite parts of the program was getting to know Ole Miss alumni in the area.

“It was great to hear their perspectives of living in Atlanta versus living in Oxford and appreciating the differences,” he said. “They helped us students see that living in this major city is definitely manageable when you learn the ropes.”

Antonow said the UM Internship Experience program is a special way for alumni to stay connected or to get more connected to the university.

“We’ve been steadily building our relationships with alumni and employers in these cities, and now we are receiving phone calls from past employers asking us when the new batch of Ole Miss interns will be selected,” she said.

The priority application deadline is Nov. 9 for juniors and seniors who are interested in being a part of the summer 2019 cohort of Internship Experience participants.

For more information or to start an online application, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/internships.

Biology Professors Receive NSF Award to Study Biodiversity

Funds support research into ecological, evolutionary processes

Ryan Garrick (left), UM associate professor of biology, and Colin Jackson, professor of biology and associate chair for graduate studies, are recipients of a National Science Foundation award to explore the Earth’s biodiversity. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi biology professors have received a National Science Foundation award for nearly $800,000 to explore interactions between microorganisms and freshwater mussels in an effort to better understand the Earth’s biodiversity, focusing on how ecosystems function.

Colin Jackson, professor of biology, is principal investigator for the award, and Ryan Garrick, associate professor of biology, is co-principal investigator. The pair is working in tandem with Carla Atkinson and Jeff Lozier, two University of Alabama biological sciences professors who received their own NSF award.

The $799,456 award to Jackson and Garrick is titled “Processes that generate and maintain phylogenetic, genetic, and functional diversity of the freshwater mussel holobiont across multiple scales.”

Holobiont is the term referring to the idea that animals contain a diverse community of microbes, their microbiome, which interacts with them. To better appreciate how an animal functions in its natural habitat, scientists need to consider not only the animal itself (the host) but also all its associated microorganisms (the microbiome).

What is little known is how variation among hosts influences their microbiome, Jackson said.

“What we will be researching is how different types of genetic variation interact and relate to the microorganisms that are found within an animal – the microbiome – and how these microorganisms affect how the host functions,” he said.

“Freshwater mussels are an ideal group of animals to investigate such questions. In their natural habitats, mussels are constantly taking in water, so they are surrounded by and exposed to many different species of microorganisms.”

Freshwater mussels are important contributors to how aquatic ecosystems function, serving as “ecosystem engineers” as they can modify aquatic habitats to make them more suitable for themselves and other organisms. The Southeastern U.S. is regarded as a global hot spot for mussel species diversity.

Mussels clean water by removing particles; reduce erosion by anchoring themselves to lake or stream beds; provide a location for algae and aquatic insects to attach, creating habitats for fish; and serve as food for aquatic birds, such as herons and egrets, and mammals, such as raccoons and otters.

“Because they filter feed and pass large volumes of water through their bodies, mussels are also great indicators of the health of freshwater environments,” Jackson said. “The presence of a diverse community of mussels usually indicates a healthy aquatic habitat that can support good fisheries and waterfowl.”

But freshwater mussels are imperiled because of changes in river patterns associated with human activities, such as damming and channeling rivers, and increased erosion and runoff from agriculture and urban development.

“Because mussels are important in helping clean aquatic ecosystems and provide habitat for other organisms, understanding their genetic diversity and how mussels function is important for restoration and conservation of these organisms and the ecosystems they inhabit,” Jackson said.

Two UM professors, Ryan Garrick (left) and Colin Jackson (third from left), are working in tandem with University of Alabama biological sciences professors Carla Atkinson (right) and Jeff Lozier on National Science Foundation awards studying the Earth’s biodiversity. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“If the mussel’s microbiome helps the organism function – such as by helping to remove pollutants or helping the mussel acquire nutrients – then conservation efforts can’t just focus on the host organism; they have to consider the whole holobiont, the host and its microorganisms. Even having the increased amount of genetic and ecological data on different mussel species that this research will generate will be helpful in their conservation.”

The researchers also will be training students in approaches to studying biodiversity and creating materials to educate the public about the importance of mussels and freshwater biodiversity in general.

The research will involve a combination of field research and laboratory analyses, with mussels being collected from Southeastern U.S. rivers and streams, mainly within the Mobile and Tennessee River basins in Alabama and Tennessee.

“At UM, we’ll primarily be focusing on laboratory work, using modern DNA sequencing approaches to characterize the microbial community, or microbiome, of mussels that the UA team collects, and to determine the genetics of different mussel species,” Jackson said.

The research team already has some mussel samples for genetic and microbiome work but will begin collecting more mussels in summer 2019. The award, No. 1831531, runs through August 2022 and includes funding for graduate students and a postdoctoral scientist to work with Jackson and Garrick.

The award is among 10 awards from the NSF to fund $18 million in research examining processes in nature and their complex interactions with climate, land use and invasive species at local, regional and continental scales. The awards are funded through NSF’s Dimensions of Biodiversity program in the agency’s Division of Environmental Biology.

The goal of the Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign is to transform how the scope and role of life on Earth are described and understood.

“This research is unique in that multiple dimensions of biodiversity are addressed simultaneously,” said Joanne Tornow, acting assistant director for NSF’s Directorate for Biological Sciences. “These are novel approaches that intend to get at synergistic roles of critical ecological and evolutionary processes.”