Army Intelligence Veteran to Share Inside Story on Hussein’s Capture

Oklahoma congressman set to speak Oct. 17 at UM

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell

OXFORD, Miss. – U.S. Rep. Steve Russell will share details about his Army battalion’s intelligence-related efforts that led to the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein during a program Wednesday (Oct. 17) at the University of Mississippi.

Russell also plans to discuss how the U.S. Congress uses military intelligence during his talk, hosted by the UM Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, or CISS. The event, set for 3 p.m. in the School of Law’s Weems Auditorium, is free and open to the public.

Because the congressman has served both in the military and as a member of the U.S. House Committee on Armed Services, he can offer valuable perspectives on a host of sensitive issues related to the U.S. intelligence community and military, said Timothy Russell, CISS director.

“He is uniquely qualified to talk about how the intelligence community supports the warfighter and about how policymakers use intelligence products,” Russell said. “These are important components to the ISS curriculum, and we are excited to have the congressman provide an insider’s view on them for ISS and other students.”

The U.S. House Committee on Armed Service’s responsibilities include the annual defense authorization bill, the annual national defense budget and contingency operations related to the war on terrorism.

Ken Pope, an instructional assistant professor at the CISS and a U.S. Army veteran, asked Steve Russell to speak at Ole Miss.

“Congressman Russell’s discussion will focus on how the various military units in Iraq functioned independently and together to achieve a goal,” Pope said. “It’s important for our students to see how this process works in the military and in the intelligence community and how those functions are used and understood in Congress for policy decisions.”

Steve Russell has served as a Republican representative for Oklahoma’s 5th District since 2015. He served in the Oklahoma Senate from 2008 to 2012 and in the U.S. Army from 1985 to 2006.

For more information on the event, visit

MFA Ceramics Student Selected to Represent University in China

William McKinney is among seven artists chosen for fair

William McKinney

OXFORD, Miss. –William McKinney, a Master of Fine Arts student in ceramics, is representing the University of Mississippi this month at the Taoxichuan Creative Fair in Jingdezhen, China.

Selected by the National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts, McKinney is among seven students chosen to represent universities in the United States.

“It’s a huge honor … it was pretty amazing I got this opportunity to do this,” said McKinney, who received his bachelor’s degree in ceramics from West Virginia University. “It will be good to get out of my comfort zone. I’ve been at Ole Miss for two-and-a-half-years, and this trip is going to challenge me.”

His work in ceramics is experimental in nature and investigates function versus abstraction, and explores environmental changes that are happening across the country, specifically in his home state of West Virginia.

McKinney is looking forward to new artistic ideas and perspectives and hopes that his experimental approach to ceramics will bring something special to the fair.

“I’m hoping to show people that this is a traditional material for pottery, but it can be adapted into very sculptural means and push those boundaries,” McKinney said.

Symposium on Opioid Crisis Brings Law and Pharmacy Together

UM students from both schools learn about interprofessional approach to challenge

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood speaks to law and pharmacy students during the interprofessional symposium regarding the opioid crisis in the state. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

OXFORD, Miss. – More than 115 people die each day in the United States from opioid overdoses, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

These statistics constitute a crisis, and the University of Mississippi schools of Law and Pharmacy are working together to combat that crisis in an interdisciplinary manner.

Last week, the schools collaborated for an education symposium on “An Interprofessional Approach to the Opioid Crisis in Mississippi.” More than 300 law and pharmacy students attended the event, which included a mock trial in front of Roy Percy, magistrate judge for the Northern District of Mississippi, and a keynote speech by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

“A multidisciplinary approach is great and our university here is the first I’ve seen do this, so y’all are on the front end of addressing the crisis,” Hood said. “These epidemics come and go, but we have yet to see an epidemic affect such a broad cross-section of people.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter provided opening comments at the symposium and commended the schools for proactively addressing the opioid epidemic.

“By working together, we are more likely to understand the full breadth of this challenge and to find innovative solutions,” Vitter said.

Symposium panelists discuss the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to the opioid crisis. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The afternoon panel featured Lauren Bloodworth, clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice; Dr. Kenneth Cleveland, executive director of the Mississippi State Medical Board of Licensure; Amanda Criswell, nurse practitioner and instructor of nursing at the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and Julie Mitchell, an attorney at Mitchell Day Law Firm in Ridgeland.

Law professor Larry Pittman and pharmacy practice professor Kim Adcock worked over the last year to organize the event to ensure that both professional schools developed an understanding of how different professions are navigating the opioid crisis.

“This interprofessional mock trial and symposium exemplified the importance of interdisciplinary interactions and provided a springboard for our students to begin working together to learn from, about and with each other,” Adcock said.

The goal of the event was to provide students and future practitioners a foundation to make the best professional decisions related to pain management.

“Interprofessional education and collaboration are very important because such efforts are necessary for resolving many of the pressing issues that we as a nation will continue to encounter,” Pittman said.

UM law student Sammy Brown serves as an attorney during the mock trial portion of the interprofessional collaboration between the schools of Law and Pharmacy. Photo by Christina Steube/School of Law

The School of Pharmacy engages in regular interprofessional education with many of the health sciences schools on the UMMC campus, where upper-level pharmacy students receive training, and the School of Law engages in interdisciplinary endeavors with undergraduate programs and other legal entities. However, this is one of the first such events where the two schools collaborated to address a national crisis.

“Law is inextricable from the profession of pharmacy,” said David D. Allen, UM pharmacy dean. “This is an incredible way to demonstrate to our future pharmacy, nursing and law professionals that together they have the power to make real contributions that can lessen or end the opioid crisis.”

Allen and Susan Duncan, dean of the law school, both expressed hope that the seminar would show students that interprofessional collaboration has potential to create solutions for any number of professional issues.

“We are educating future leaders, and it’s so important that they understand the importance in collaborating with those of other disciplines,” Duncan said. “Students in professional schools work well with each other, but it is vital for them to learn from their peers in other schools who can provide a different perspective.”

M Partner Deploying Volunteers Across Mississippi

Charleston, Lexington, New Albany focus of ambitious initiative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information about the M Partner program is available at

Archaeology Researchers Searching for Civil War Graves in Columbus

Public invited to observe search for resting places of soldiers

A search using ground-penetrating radar will attempt to locate the lost graves of Union soldiers. Photo courtesy of Tony Boudreaux

OXFORD, Miss. – This weekend (Oct. 12-13), representatives of the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Mississippi will be at Friendship Cemetery in Columbus as part of an effort to locate the unmarked graves of Union soldiers who died during the Civil War.

On Friday (Oct. 12), classes of students are invited to observe the search that will be led by Tony Boudreaux, director of the UM center. Classes are welcome to visit the cemetery between 9 a.m. and noon, and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. to watch and learn about the archaeological technology used in the search.

On Saturday (Oct. 13), the public is invited to the cemetery, also between 9 a.m. and noon and 1:30-4 p.m., to learn about the use of noninvasive technology during a day of public archaeology.

All that is known of the soldiers’ location is that they are in the southwest corner of the cemetery grounds, according to information that dates to 1919. The soldiers probably fought under the command of Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and died after the Battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, in 1862.

Visitors who come by this weekend to watch the efforts will have an opportunity to learn about the technology being used to find the graves, Boudreaux said.

The Ole Miss team will use different kinds of noninvasive, remote sensing technology, chiefly ground-penetrating radar, to send electronic pulses up to 20 feet into the ground. The pulses are used to generate images of what the area beneath soil looks like.

The team also will use a magnetometer, which can pick up localized differences in underground magnetic fields. 

Other organizations involved in the project include the U.S. Grant Association and the U.S. Grant Presidential Library at Mississippi State University, the Billups-Garth Foundation of Columbus, with assistance by the city of Columbus and the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“If we can hopefully get some results that will be important to people of Columbus and people of Mississippi, I’ll enjoy that,” Boudreaux said. “And if we get folks that show up because they’re interested in history and archaeology, it’s always good to share what we know in our profession with others who are interested.”

To schedule a time for a class to visit the project and observe the remote sensing technology, contact Visit Columbus at 662-329-1191.

UM, JSU Join Accelerator Hub for Biomedical Technologies

Group includes consortium of academic institutions in Southeast

The University of Mississippi has joined a consortium of Southeastern academic institutions to create a technology transfer accelerator hub for biomedical technologies. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. and JACKSON, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Jackson State University have joined a consortium of academic institutions to create a technology transfer accelerator hub for biomedical technologies in the Southeastern U.S.

The consortium is led by the University of Kentucky in partnership with the University of Louisville and West Virginia University, along with XLerateHealth, a Louisville, Kentucky-based health care technology accelerator that focuses on startups and commercialization. XLerateHealth is the primary awardee of $491,840 for the first year of a potential three-year, $3.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The grant creates the accelerator hub in the Southeast Institutional Development Award region, or IDeA, which includes Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and West Virginia.

The hub will be one of four funded hubs around the country to help IDeA states accelerate early-stage biomedical technology from the laboratory to market. The goal is to enhance the capacity to move scientific results from academic institutions into commercialization and to promote a sustainable culture of biomedical entrepreneurship.

“We are thrilled to partner with Jackson State University on our commercialization and entrepreneurship efforts,” said Allyson Best, director of the UM Office of Technology Commercialization. “There are many opportunities for collaboration among our biomedical research programs, and we look forward to coordinating Mississippi’s contributions to the accelerator hub.”

UM and JSU are part of the Mississippi Research Consortium, which also includes Mississippi’s two other research universities, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi, in the aim of developing and sustaining nationally competitive research programs in the state.

Allyson Best

“This grant is the first of its kind at JSU and we are pleased to partner with the University of Mississippi, XLerateHealth, the University of Kentucky and the other partnering institutions in accelerating biomedical technologies in the Southeast,” said Almesha L. Campbell, director of technology transfer and commercialization at JSU. “This partnership will also help to enhance the tech transfer operations at JSU and provide our faculty and students with the tools to commercialize their ideas.”

The grant will fund the creation of an online “virtual hub” through which XLerateHealth, the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and West Virginia University can connect and coordinate programming, resources and commercialization tools for utilization across the network of participating institutions. The hub will develop and share educational curriculum at participating institution sites across the region.

A focused intellectual property and technology transfer support services component for regional and historically black colleges and universities will be available to assist where those services are not otherwise available.

“This accelerator hub is timely and will make a huge impact on the acceleration of biomedical technologies in Mississippi and the Southeast,” said Joseph A. Whittaker, JSU associate provost and associate vice president for academic affairs. “We are currently making strides in our technology transfer, innovation, commercialization and entrepreneurship activities at JSU, and this grant will only help to increase our capacity to support our faculty and students.”

The UM School of Engineering launched a new biomedical engineering degree program in fall 2017. Biomedical engineering is the application of principles and design concepts in engineering to problems in medicine and biology for health care purposes.

“This is an important grant not just for the two named campuses, but the entire state,” said Josh Gladden, UM vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “The objective is to network as many resources as possible in order to catalyze biomedical innovation out of the state’s academic institutions.”

Josh Gladden

The IDeA program was established in 1993 to broaden the geographic distribution of National Institutes of Health funding and builds research capacities in states that historically have had low levels of NIH funding by supporting basic, clinical and translational research; faculty and student development; and scientific infrastructure improvements.

The institutions in the consortium who have pledged their support and who will be participating in managing the program’s various committees and initiatives include: the University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, West Virginia University, Benedict College, Clemson University, Coastal Carolina University, Eastern Kentucky University, Jackson State University, Louisiana State University Health Sciences, Medical University of South Carolina, Northern Kentucky University, Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust and University of Puerto Rico, Southern University, Tulane University, University of Arkansas, UM, Western Kentucky University and Winthrop University.

About Jackson State University

Jackson State University, founded in 1877, is a historically black, high-research activity university in Jackson, the capital city of Mississippi. Jackson State’s nurturing academic environment challenges individuals to change lives through teaching, research and service. Officially designated as Mississippi’s urban university, Jackson State continues to enhance the state, nation and world through comprehensive economic development, health care, technological and educational initiatives. The only public university in the Jackson metropolitan area, Jackson State is located near downtown, with five satellite locations throughout the area.

About the University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is the state’s flagship university. Included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, it has a long history of producing leaders in public service, academics and business. With more than 23,000 students, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university and is ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing institutions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school, nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy, and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

Anchorage to Oxford: Student Travels 4,500 Miles for Graduate School

Son, father drive eight days to begin Ole Miss IMC program

Chris Lawrence saw stunning scenery, such as Destruction Bay, Yukon, during his drive to Oxford. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Chris Lawrence and his father spent eight days on the road from Anchorage, Alaska, to Oxford, going through a CD case full of classic rock, telling stories and taking in diverse landscapes on a 4,500-mile adventure to start a new journey as a graduate student at the University of Mississippi.

At the end of the voyage, Chris Lawrence enrolled this fall as an integrated marketing communications graduate student at Ole Miss. Jay Lawrence got to see the town before heading back to Alaska by plane.

“I was able to show him Oxford and Ole Miss a little bit, and that meant a whole lot,” Chris said.

After Chris earned his undergraduate degree in journalism and public communications at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, he decided he would go to graduate school and continue his education in Mississippi. His mother, Kelly Lawrence, lives in Amory, and growing up, he spent summers in the Magnolia State with her.

“I thought, well, why not see what Mississippi has to offer so I could be close to my mom while continuing my education,” he said. “I did a little research and discovered Ole Miss had a great IMC program, and decided it was for me.”

Once the decision was made to enroll at Ole Miss, the daunting 600-mile-a-day, eight-day trip lay ahead of the father-and-son team. They stuffed Chris’ Dodge Caliber full of moving essentials and mementos and drove in five-hour shifts each day.

Jay enjoyed the long trip with his son and the ability to spend so much bonding time with him.

“We had a good time,” Jay said. “It was an opportunity to spend more time with him.”

The many different types of landscapes and wildlife between Anchorage and Oxford served as the main source of entertainment for the pair.

“We unfortunately didn’t spend a lot of time at places, but we definitely took in the sights and wonders of nature,” Chris said. “Just to be able to have a piece of a place and kind of know a little about what it’s like was nice.”

Some of the places the two stayed were the Canadian cities of Destruction Bay, Yukon; Fort Nelson, British Columbia; and Edmonton, Alberta. Cities in the United States included Bozeman, Montana; Scottsbluff, Nebraska; St. Joseph, Missouri; and Forrest City, Arkansas.

Lethbridge, Alberta, was a particular favorite.

Kelly, Chris and Jay Lawrence take a picture with the statue of William Faulkner upon their arrival to Oxford. Submitted photo

“We drove through there and saw a 100-year-old steel viaduct and rolling hills all around town,” Chris said. “Lethbridge seemed runner- and biker-friendly, too. It was really, really cool.”

Bozeman, Montana, on the other hand, was bustling with tourists there to take in Yellowstone National Park. Besides the traffic and crowds there, Montana was lovely.

“We went over a bunch of rivers,” he said. “There was also a lot of open areas where you could see nothing but the sky. You could see for miles and miles.”

He enjoyed Montana and British Columbia for the scenery that the two places offered.

“British Columbia had a lot of open views,” he said. “You could see the gorgeous trees, rivers and lakes, so that was really awesome and majestic. We saw six black bears on the side of the road alone through B.C., and about 10 wild horses in Montana.”

To pass the time during the trip to Ole Miss, Chris and his father had conversations about past times and what lies ahead, while jamming out to rock bands such as Pearl Jam and Tom Petty.

Luck was also on their side. The two encountered few problems that slowed them down along the journey. They even said they were always ahead of bad weather.

“Surprisingly, we only saw two or three accidents the entire way so that was good traffic didn’t hold us up,” he said. “I’d say we drove through only 60 minutes of rain combined along the way.”

Once they reached Forrest City, they knew they were close to their final destination. The food was a dead giveaway.

“I had catfish with the bone-in, slaw and baked beans,” Chris said. “So I definitely knew I was home in the South.”

Chris Lawrence stands at mile 0 of the Alaska Highway (ALCAN Highway) in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. Submitted photo

The father-son team was relieved to get to Oxford after that. Before Jay flew back to Anchorage, Chris and his mom showed Jay around Oxford and Ole Miss, which was special to all of them.

Chris is familiar with Oxford because he used to visit the town with his mom during summers.

“I always really liked it,” he said. “I thought it was a beautiful place.”

His mom was relieved the trip went well, and she was elated to see her son.

“When he got here, I was so happy to see him and am so excited knowing he’s at Ole Miss now,” she said.

The Lawrences made unforgettable memories over those 4,500 miles.

“It was one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences saying you could do a cross-country trek like that,” Chris said. “It was the end of my Alaska chapter and the beginning of my chapter here in Mississippi.”

‘Same Rivalry, New Game’: UM to Host Inaugural Esports Egg Bowl

Ole Miss and MSU teams to compete in gaming competition at Pavilion

Cray Pennison, president of Ole Miss Esports, Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor, and Jason DeShong, president of Mississippi State University Esports, speak at a press conference to announce the Esports Egg Bowl. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD – The lights of The Pavilion at Ole Miss will shine brightly on esports athletes from the University of Mississippi as they take on a team from Mississippi State University in the inaugural Esports Egg Bowl on Saturday (Oct. 13) in Oxford.

Teams of gamers will face off in a variety of video games projected on the arena’s video screens in front of friends, family and esports fans. Doors open at 10 a.m., with gaming action set to begin following an opening ceremony featuring Noel E. Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor.

The event is free and open to the public.

“I’m so excited,” said Ole Miss Esports founder Cray Pennison, a junior from Mandeville, Louisiana. “I’m excited to see everyone up on the stage for the first time.

“I’ve only been told things, like, ‘Imagine what this will be like.’ But I’m excited to really see it for myself. An event like this is one of the reasons I started the esports club.”

The Esports Egg Bowl will feature some 70 players combined from Ole Miss and MSU displaying their talents to the audience, with fast-paced gaming, thumping music and all the sights and sounds of a major entertainment event.

“We want it to have that ‘ready to rumble’ feeling,” said Carrie Long, administrative assistant for the UM Department of Computer and Information Science and close supporter of the club. “We want it to be a show.”

Interested fans who cannot attend the event can watch live on Twitch using the search OleMissEsports.

The popularity of esports is booming, with televised competitions on ESPN and other platforms and millions of players and viewers worldwide.

At Ole Miss, the team is just hitting its stride. Pennison, an English major, founded the Ole Miss Esports team in early 2017. Since then, interest has grown and the club has spiked from fewer than 10 participants at its first meeting to approximately 170 current members.

Pennison said he has received emails from graduating high school seniors asking how to join the group, even before they enrolled at the university.

“When we started the club, that was the goal, to get here eventually, but not this soon,” he said. “That we got here in this amount of time is unbelievable and speaks to all the people involved in the club and shows the craze of esports across the nation.”

The Esports Egg Bowl began this summer as a pipe dream, but quickly grew into reality thanks to buy-in from a variety of people and departments at the university, Pennison said.

“It started over the summer as maybe a fun idea we could do in maybe a year or two,” he said. “We talked to more and more people, and we didn’t expect to get a lot of ‘yesses.’

“But when people didn’t say ‘no,’ we kept asking and eventually we got entire departments involved and were able to collect a supergroup of people to put this together.”

Pennison worked alongside his Bulldog counterpart Jason DeShong, president of MSU Esports.              

“I’m glad that we are able to push something like this – that is really only happening in California – down to Mississippi,” said DeShong, a second-year MSU student. “We hope to legitimize esports in the Southeast to our schools, doubters and fans to show that this is something that is rising, and we are willing to lead the pack in esports to pave the way for people who come behind us.”

Ole Miss Esports president and junior English major Cray Pennison speaks to reporters at the announcement press conference for the inaugural Esports Egg Bowl with Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The spirit of friendly competition and the thrill of victory and recognition will be palpable during the event, but Wilkin said there is more to esports than winning and losing.

“It is about embracing the future, the future of online gaming, the future of sports and the future of understanding how the online world brings society together,” he said during a press conference to introduce the event. “And the real beneficiaries are the students. This will help them to develop and refine soft skills of leadership, teamwork and communication in task environments.”

Wilkin said the esports program is still in its early stages and his goal is to see it grow.

“We plan to establish sites where Ole Miss gamers can gather, practice and connect with expert gamers recreationally and in preparation for tournaments,” he said. “We will work toward establishing a competitive program that will enable our Rebel gamers to compete against the best collegiate gamers in the country.”

Plans are already in the works for a 2019 Esports Egg Bowl hosted by MSU.

“Mississippi State has expressed their (desire) for it to become an annual event,” DeShong said. “We want this to be a yearly thing that heightens our rivalry and brings more attention to esports.”

The Esports Egg Bowl is a way to showcase the excitement and social significance of the gaming community and bring these students “out of the dark,” Pennison said.

“Hopefully, this one-of-a-kind event will get new people to start participating,” he said. “We really hope players and audience members can see this is a real thing. It’s not just a bunch of people sitting in dark rooms; this is an event on this campus.”

Both Pennison and Long see the Esports Egg Bowl as the catalyst for growing esports programs at UM and across the region.

“Big picture, we would like to create a university-sponsored esports program, much like the athletics programs,” Long said.

But before the days when stadiums fill to watch Ole Miss battle other SEC foes with scholarship esports athletes, Pennison said his team will focus on the now. And that means putting the finishing touches on preparation for the Esports Egg Bowl and spending time together practicing to defeat their first major adversary from the other side of the state.

Units across the university have come together to make this event a reality, including the Office of the Provost, the departments of Computer and Information Science,  Intercollegiate Athletics and Student Housing, the Ole Miss Student Union and Division of Outreach and Continuing Education.

Professors, Students Continue Collaboration with Marks Residents

Recent summer program yielded useful insights for future projects

Anne Cafer (left), principal investigator of the Marks Project, conducts research with community members of the Mississippi Delta community. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Two years ago, three University of Mississippi faculty members became aware of efforts by several Marks residents to improve living conditions in their community. With a commitment to support these endeavors, the trio began recruiting undergraduate students to assist them.

Recently, the faculty members and five UM undergraduate students conducted a summer study of community renovation in the Mississippi Delta.

Anne Cafer, assistant professor of sociology and coordinator of the Community Based Research Collaborative via UM’s Center for Population Studies; Kimberly Kaiser, assistant professor of legal studies; and Georgianna Mann, assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management, received funding to conduct research in Marks from May through August.

Cafer and Mann, who have worked on a number of different initiatives related to health and nutrition in Marks, identified a need for more concrete data on how people are navigating their food environment, which has led to this particular project. All three faculty supervise students who routinely sign up for classes to be able to work on real-world problems.

“I think this project speaks to a larger desire by faculty on this campus to engage community stakeholders and use our academic skills in ways that benefit others,” Cafer said. “I’ve had a number of faculty express a desire to work in communities, particularly in the Delta, and not for one-off projects, but with the idea that their involvement would be long-term.”

As part of an ongoing relationship with this community, the UM team worked with a local food pantry to recruit participants to share information about the major barriers to individual and community well-being. The group used an innovative combination of methods to investigate these barriers and worked with 34 adults and children,

“We walked students through the research questions and design components, then worked with them to collect data in the Mississippi Delta,” said Cafer, principal investigator for the project. Kaiser and Mann are both co-principal investigators.

“This involved mentoring students in qualitative interviewing and an innovative method, fuzzy cognitive mapping.”

Students working on the project were Sydney Mitchell, of Raymond; Payton Meadows, of Goldsboro, North Carolina; Cole Borek, of Senatobia; John Haynes, of Booneville; and Alan Cuff, of Mandeville, Louisiana.

The partnership is making a positive impact on the community, said Judy Bland, executive director of the Marks Project.

Judy Bland (center), executive director of the Marks Project, meets with UM students (from left), Sydney Mitchell, Payton Meadoes, Kym Gordon, Cole Borek, John Haynes and Alan Cuff. Submitted photo

“They have worked many hours in our communities to determine the underlying issues and find some solutions, especially in the areas of health and nutrition,” Bland said. “Their presence here in Marks and Quitman County is making a difference in the lives of our residents.”

Mitchell, a biochemistry and Spanish major, said the work has been rewarding for her as well.

“The most meaningful part about the project was getting to know the community and also the people that made up this unique community,” she said. “From this experience, I was able to hear their stories and better understand where they were coming from.”

Students interviewed parent-child pairs about their physical, spiritual and mental well-being and how their community supported it. They also discussed barriers present in their community to achieving well-being in each of these dimensions.

After data collection, students analyzed results and wrote up their reports.

The data will be used for three student publications and to apply for additional grant support through the National Science Foundation and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“The data will also be used in piloting a new method in the social sciences and a report being developed for community stakeholders, including a public meeting to be held for feedback and to help prioritize next steps,” Cafer said.

Cafer’s proposal was one of two inaugural awards given by the UM Office of Research and Sponsored Programs for 2018 for Summer Undergraduate Research Group Grants. Program funding was provided by the Office of the Provost, with additional contributions coming from the College of Liberal Arts.

The Summer Undergraduate Research Group Grants program has three goals: to encourage the submission of proposals for external grants that support undergraduate research projects; to allow faculty to gain experiences facilitating undergraduate research programs, experience that helps make external proposals more competitive; and to engage undergraduate students in research or creative scholarship.

Film Festival Offers Screenings, Educational Opportunities

New date paves way for collaboration with Oxford Film Festival

UM film students Sam Cox (left) and Emily Faye Cobb make camera adjustments between takes during the recent UM Department of Theatre and Film production of ‘MANGRY.’ Pictured on the monitor is actor Mike Dolan, who plays real estate agent Gus Davis in the film, which is written and directed by Ole Miss assistant professor Harrison Witt. Photo by Chris Floyd

OXFORD, Miss. – If the words “2018 UM Film Festival” inspire in you a sense of history repeating itself, you’re not going crazy. In fact, the weekend of Oct. 12-13 marks the second time the University of Mississippi Department of Theatre and Film has held the festival this year.

Previously held in April, the festival is moving to October so that it can take place before the Oxford Film Festival, which unspools annually in February.

The change in schedule allows filmmakers to use the Ole Miss festival as a proving ground for films they might like to submit to the larger Oxford Film Festival.

“Now the festival serves as an opportunity for filmmakers to receive feedback in advance of the Oxford Film Festival,” said Alan Arrivée, head of the university’s BFA in Theatre Arts emphasis in film production and one of the festival’s organizers. “This way, if they want to make edits or enhancements in order to have a better chance of getting screened at OFF, they’ll have time to do so.”

The free festival will take place in Fulton Chapel. It kicks off with a block of film screenings at 7 p.m. Friday (Oct. 12) and continues Saturday, with another set of screenings beginning at 7 p.m. Both days’ programs run about an hour.

For a full schedule and more information on the 36 films being screened, click here.

All the films screened will be shorts created by UM faculty, staff, students and alumni, as well as top-finishing submissions from the festival’s first-ever One-Minute Film Competition, which is the only portion of the festival open to high school students. The festival includes 10 films submitted by high school filmmakers

Style-wise, films run the gamut from experimental and narrative to animation, documentary and even music video.

Besides the film screenings, a new program Saturday will include a workshop in lighting and cinematography and a panel discussion on film festivals and the process of submitting and screening films.

The workshop, named “Dark to Camera,” will cover an approach that Harrison Witt, assistant professor of film production, said a lot of people already use.

“It’s very important for indie and student filmmakers because it’s all about going into a place and using what’s there,” Witt said. “It’s using lighting in the smartest way possible.”

A technique called three-point lighting – where two lights are placed at 45-degree angles on either side of the subject and a third light is used behind the subject – is a primary technique taught in most film programs, despite the fact that it’s not used in most modern filmmaking, Witt said.

“It’s a reaction against the foundational teaching of three-point lighting,” he said.

The workshop is set for 10:30 a.m.-noon in Fulton Chapel.

A panel discussion, titled “Film Festival Survival Guide,” brings together four festival experts, two filmmakers and two programmers. UM faculty members Sarah Hennigan and Alan Arrivée will speak from the perspective of filmmakers; Melanie Addington, executive director of the Oxford Film Festival, and Morgan Cutturini, who heads the High School Film Competition for the Tupelo Film Festival, will represent the programming side. The panel runs from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in Fulton Chapel.

Hennigan, a Dallas-born Cherokee filmmaker who is new to the Department of Theatre and Film this year as assistant professor of film production, has ushered films through the festival process as a writer-director, a cinematographer and a producer, so she can speak to the different experiences a filmmaker might have relative to the role played in creating a film.

“The goal is really just to help new filmmakers begin to navigate film festivals,” Hennigan said. “It’s the world we live in as indie filmmakers; it’s the backbone.”

Addington, who in addition to leading the Oxford Film Festival and serving as president of the Mississippi Film Alliance is a filmmaker herself, welcomes the collaboration with the UM Film Festival and the opportunity to sit on Saturday’s panel.

“I’m excited to be a part of it and to talk about the importance of film festivals, for so many different reasons, particularly for networking and getting audience feedback,” Addington said.

This collaboration will continue during the Oxford Film Festival next February with a special showcase of Ole Miss alumni films curated and presented by the UM Film Festival. The Oxford Film Festival will also offer a special student VIP pass for the first time, and top finishers in the UM Film Festival will receive waivers to the OFF.

Overall, the two festivals working together serves to support a broader goal of increasing Oxford’s appeal to filmmakers.

“We want to create a destination for filmmakers not only to get a great education, but to be part of the growing film community of the Mid-South,” Witt said.