Gift Supports UM Liberal Arts Faculty

Growing Ole Miss family inspires Morgans' gift

The home that Kirk and Shelly Morgan purchased in Oxford has kept them connected with campus and friends, renewed their love for the area and provided an excuse to visit. The whole family often meets here to enjoy Rebel sports and all that Ole Miss and Oxford have to offer. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Kirk and Shelly Morgan of Lexington, South Carolina, say their recent gift to the University of Mississippi’s College of Liberal Arts is, in a sense, simply supporting their family.

“Our Ole Miss family just gets bigger,” said Kirk Morgan, a native of Charleston, South Carolina, who knew no one when he arrived at UM his freshman year. But the relationships he formed on campus and beyond have inspired his desire to give back by establishing the Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence.

“All of these relationships stem from my graduation from the College of Liberal Arts,” said Morgan, a 1980 graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science.

During his sophomore year, Morgan met his wife, Shelly Stefoniak, a Dallas native who earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1981.

“I have been fortunate enough to realize that Ole Miss is as much an important factor in our entire family’s lives as any other group deserving of support,” he said. “I am hopeful that the College of Liberal Arts can utilize our financial assistance to continue improving the faculty and facilities and encourage other young students to attend.

“I have particularly enjoyed the fact that, like our family, many out-of-state students attend Ole Miss.”

The Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence supports the recognition of outstanding teaching, scholarship and service by a faculty member within the College of Liberal Arts as deemed appropriate by the dean.

“The Morgans’ generous gift is a testament to how much they care for the quality of instruction at the University of Mississippi as well as their desire to ensure that Ole Miss students continue to receive the very best higher education has to offer,” liberal arts Dean Lee Cohen said. “Their gift will have a significant impact for years to come.”

Besides meeting his wife on campus, Morgan’s ties to Ole Miss include an uncle, John Gainey, a former All-American Rebel baseball player.

“He encouraged me to visit Ole Miss to meet the coach so that I might get an invitation to join the team, which I got,” said Morgan, who also lettered in golf his sophomore year.

Family ties continued as both of the Morgans’ sons, Eddie and Sam, became UM graduates, as well as Eddie’s wife, Alaina McClain-Morgan of Houston, Texas.

And one person in particular is like family to the Morgans, even though she’s not a blood relative. Linda Spargo, coordinator of special projects in the chancellor’s office, became a friend and trusted educational counselor to both Eddie and Sam. Additionally, Spargo remained “on call” for the family when Eddie and Alaina were seriously injured in a car wreck their junior year.

“During Eddie’s convalescence, the support, friendship and practical advice we received from Dr. Linda Spargo was a prime motivation in my realization that Ole Miss was not just a great school but also a family,” Morgan said.

After graduating from Ole Miss, Morgan remained on campus for his first year of law school while his wife finished her senior year and graduated. They transferred to South Carolina, where he finished law school, then worked briefly in Dallas before returning to South Carolina, where Morgan has practiced as a trial lawyer ever since.

He recently served as president of the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association among other achievements.

Morgan found great value in his final year as a student in Oxford.

“We made many great friends who remain so today and are a big part of our continued involvement and commitment to Ole Miss,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our support of the College of Liberal Arts for the balance of our lives, to enjoying many new relationships and friends made as a consequence of our gift, and to watching the College of Liberal Arts have an impact on the lives of faculty and students because of this gift.

“It’s a chance for us to return the favor and make a difference in our university. We want to be a part of its future successes.”

Nikki Neely Davis, a UM development director, thanked the Morgans for their gift.

“We appreciate so much their vision in making this type of gift,” she said. “While scholarship endowments are crucial, endowments that provide support for faculty and programs are equally important to supporting the university’s future.

“The Morgans are gracious and generous people whom I’ve greatly enjoyed getting to know.”

The Shelly and Kirk Morgan Fund for Faculty Excellence is open to gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, send checks with the endowment name noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visit; or contact Davis at or 662-915-6678.

Pharmacy School Begins Cooperation with University of Chile

Agreement focuses on student exchange and collaborative research

David Allen (left), UM pharmacy dean, meets with Pablo Caviedes, director of the Center for Clinical Research and Studies at the University of Chile’s Faculty of Medicine. UM photo by Sydney Slotkin DuPriest

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has signed a memorandum of understanding with the University of Chile’s Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences to collaborate on graduate education and research.

Although details of the collaborations are yet to be finalized, the agreement will initially focus on research collaborations and graduate and post-doctoral student exchanges between the School of Pharmacy and the University of Chile’s Santiago campus.

Potential collaborations could include training on the School of Pharmacy’s state-of-the-art nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy instruments, sharing of the synthetic facilities and natural product resources, and select graduate level courses offered through the departments of BioMolecular Sciences and Pharmacy Administration, said Soumyajit Majumdar, associate dean for research and graduate programs at Ole Miss.

“This collaboration will tremendously benefit graduate students, research scientists and faculty from both institutions by exposing them to different technologies, culture and ways of thinking,” Majumdar said.

Since the formal agreement includes the entire university, other schools could benefit as well.

“This agreement will open up exciting opportunities for students and for faculty research,” said Blair McElroy, the university’s interim senior international officer and director of study abroad. “We anticipate hosting Chilean students in labs on campus, fostering intercultural exchange in the teaching and learning environment at UM and helping to expand the horizons of UM students who study in Chile.”

Pablo Caviedes, director of the Center for Clinical Research and Studies at the University of Chile’s Faculty of Medicine, was instrumental in establishing the partnership. He hopes the agreememt will set a foundation for a long-term cooperation between the two institutions, including a dual degree program and a robust cooperation between his university and the National Center for Natural Products Research.

“NCNPR has enormous expertise and infrastructure in the study of new molecules derived from natural sources,” Caviedes said. “Chile, due mainly to its geographical isolation, possesses a vast and unique flora, which represents a source for a largely unexplored number of novel compounds.”

David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy, hopes the agreement will allow members of each institution to learn from each other.

“This kind of agreement not only contributes to the depth of our research, but promotes a better relationship with our scientific partners around the world,” Allen said.

“Science is the main tool available to humanity in the search for the truth and the advancement of knowledge for the better of mankind,” Caviedes said. “Such an undertaking necessitates the joint efforts of researchers around the globe. We hope our efforts under this new program will further this goal.”

Pharmacy Group Earns ASHP Professional Development Awards

Students honored for work at clinic that serves needy clients

Third-year pharmacy students Allie Funderburk (left) and Mary O’Keefe present the award-winning work of the UM student chapter of American Society of Health-System Pharmacists at the the society’s midyear meeting. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy student chapter of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists has earned ASHP’s Outstanding Professional Development Project Award for its work at the Oxford Medical Ministries Clinic.

The group was among 28 national recipients of the award, which third-year pharmacy students Allie Funderburk and Mary O’Keefe accepted at the ASHP Midyear Student Showcase in Orlando in early December.

The student chapter volunteered at Oxford Medical Ministries every Tuesday of last year, with two students assisting in filling prescriptions each week. Oxford Medical Ministries provides services to uninsured and employed patients, and is regularly staffed with volunteer physicians and nurse practitioners from the community.

“It was very rewarding to experience a different aspect of ‘health-system’ pharmacy and know that we were helping the underserved community,” said Funderburk, a native of Southaven.

O’Keefe, originally from Oxford, and Funderburk heard about Oxford Medical Ministries from their professor, Rachel Robinson. They saw it as a great opportunity to help the community and learn about pharmacy in a new setting.

“The ASHP award brought the experience full circle and put into perspective what our goal should be as health care providers, which is to better improve our patients’ care and lives,” O’Keefe said. “We do not have to be confined to one practice setting, such as a hospital, but rather we have the ability to impact patients at multiple levels of care.”

Funderburk and O’Keefe agreed that working at the clinic has helped them develop into better future pharmacists and given them valuable experience in closed-door clinic.

“I will always hold OMM and its work close to my heart,” Funderburk said. “This project opened my eyes to the need for health care professionals to volunteer their time to improve the health of their community.

“In my future practice, I will continue to take time to volunteer at a local free clinic and do everything in my power to enable the underserved with access to health care services.”

UM Student Helps Batesville Mounds Open as Public Education Site

Nikki Mattson worked on the park as part of her thesis

UM graduate student Nikki Mattson worked as a consultant on signage to help explain the significance of the Batesville Mounds site to visitors. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The city of Batesville has opened the Batesville Mound Site as a public park, partially thanks to the efforts of Nikki Mattson, a University of Mississippi graduate student in anthropology who has worked to develop signage and content for the site.

The Batesville Mounds are a Native American mound complex consisting of four mounds and two village areas. The park opened Nov. 21 with informational signs, walking trails around the mounds and nature trails through nearby wooded areas. The mound portion of the site is 35 acres, situated within 90 scenic acres that constitute the entire park.

Mattson has been working on the project, which began more than 30 years ago, as part of her master’s thesis. She partnered with the city and the Panola Partnership economic development organization to conduct surveys aimed at gauging previous knowledge of the site and getting ideas about how community members would like to see it utilized for educational opportunities.

“I believe learning about the people who lived on and from the land that is practically right in our own backyards will help raise awareness of the importance of preservation, conservation and stewardship,” Mattson said. “We are a part of this land now, too, and being aware of its full history can and will foster a sense of respect and protection, not only for the past but also as we move into the future and pass the knowledge on to future generations.”

The site dates to the Early to Middle Woodland Period between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500. Archaeological surveys and excavations conducted at the mound site indicate that the Batesville Mounds were used by Native Americans approximately 2,000 years ago for ceremonial and feasting activities.

Although it is not possible to directly trace the relationship between the builders of the Batesville Mounds and late Native American groups, the people who built and used the mounds clearly were ancestral to the different groups of native peoples who were living in north Mississippi at the time of European contact, Mattson said.

The site was first recorded in the 1950s by UM professor William Haag, who submitted the site card to the state. Researchers from the university’s Center for Archaeological Research and Ole Miss graduate students have conducted archaeological excavations there since the early 1990s in preparation of opening the site for public use.

“Native Americans were living in what would become Mississippi for over 10,000 years before they were contacted by Europeans, and many people today are not aware of the full diversity of how Native Americans lived prior to contact,” said Tony Boudreaux, the center’s director.

“Making the Batesville Mounds accessible as a park is an opportunity for many people today to learn about this place that was very important to a community of people who lived there and hosted ceremonial gatherings there around 2,000 years ago. It is great to see this important part of Mississippi’s Native American heritage being conserved and celebrated.”

UM graduate student Nikki Mattson celebrates at the grand opening of the Batesville Mounds to the public. Submitted photo

Mattson also has worked as a consultant on signage with the city engineer and architect in addition to attending events and engaging with community members. She is working to inventory and catalog artifacts from the site in the university’s collection to add more information and context to the mounds.

“Ole Miss has been a part of it from beginning to the end,” Mattson said. “I am so excited and honestly beyond humbled to see my words on the first signage designed for the site.”

The city plans to build a museum, a covered pavilion and public restrooms at the site, Mattson said.

The Batesville Mounds, at 515 Highway 35 North, are part of the Mississippi Mound Trail, which consists of more than 30 Native American mound sites throughout the state.

For more information about the Center for Archaeological Research, visit

UM Students and Faculty Help Children Develop to Their Potential

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders offers assessments and in-home services

Lauren Stantz, of Houston, a graduate student in communication sciences and disorders, conducts a play therapy session, which regularly helps address a variety of speech, language, cognitive or physical developmental delays for clients in the Early Intervention Program. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – As children progress through infancy and early childhood, parents rely on health care professionals to determine if they are meeting normal developmental milestones. The earlier a delay is detected in cognitive, speech, language or physical development, the sooner practitioners and parents can implement strategies and therapies to help children achieve their potential.

Graduate students in the University of Mississippi’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders have an opportunity to see firsthand how critical early intervention can be.

Through the Mississippi Department of Health’s Early Intervention Program grant, CSD graduate students and certified speech and language pathologists provide in-home, individual assessment, evaluation and treatment for children with developmental delays or diagnosed physical or mental conditions.

“We will see anywhere from one to five evaluations in one day,” said Gina Keene, a certified speech and language pathologist and UM clinical supervisor. “We see such a variety of children – babies as young as less than a month old, up to toddlers – for a variety of reasons.

“Some aren’t talking yet, some with Down syndrome, swallowing problems, complicated medical histories or extreme prematurity.”

Participation in the program helps graduate students get the 400 clinical hours required to become a certified speech and language pathologist, including 25 observation hours and 375 hands-on hours, under the direction of Keene.

“They’re a part of a multidisciplinary team of speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists and special education instructors that conducts in-home, individual assessments of the infants or toddlers and their families to develop an individualized family service plan,” said Michele Masterson, district coordinator for the Early Intervention Program.

Through an open referral system, cases of infants or toddlers with diagnosed physical or mental conditions, or those who exhibit a 33 percent delay in one area of cognitive, physical, social or communication development or a 25 percent delay in two or more areas of development, are routed to the Mississippi Department of Health, where district coordinators assign evaluation teams.

“Catching delays early can be critical,” Masterson said. “That is our purpose – catching it early – so when they begin Head Start or a preschool program, they’re caught up and their delays are being addressed.”

As service providers and evaluators for the Northwest Public Health District, Ole Miss students and certified speech and language pathologists serve 323 children across a nine-county district, Masterson said. The most successful interventions occur in a natural, home environment, so teams travel throughout the district to provide in-home services, she said.

Teams coordinate services including family-centered programming, nutrition counseling, behavioral services, vision and hearing assessment, physical therapy, occupational therapy and/or language development. The services are free for families, with payment being processed through insurance or Medicaid first, with the MSDH grant-funded program serving as payer of last resort.

“Not only are the Ole Miss students getting an understanding of the first piece of the intervention, they’re actually getting to see the services and carry out the services with the babies,” Masterson said. “They can see the changes in the child when they follow the case for year. They can see the difference in the child from the time they met them to the time they leave.”

Graduate student Lauren Stantz, of Houston, understands firsthand the importance of early intervention.

“It is really interesting to go into the homes and include the caregivers in the therapy session,” Stanz said. “They are able to see firsthand strategies they can use to continue progress when the SLP’s aren’t around.

“I also love getting to be in the child’s everyday environment and incorporating activities and toys they are familiar with. It is helpful in communicating with them and building language skills.

“I’ve had a few clients who I’ve seen make some really great progress in sessions, and it’s been very heartwarming. I have definitely learned things I feel like I wouldn’t have in any other setting. It has been wonderful, and I’m extremely thankful for this opportunity.”

Rebecca Lowe, CSD clinical assistant professor and coordinator of the Early Intervention Program, praised the program for providing service-learning opportunities for her students and providing job opportunities.

“We really look at this as a feeder program, since our graduate students who participate can become professional service providers in the state network after graduation and licensure,” Lowe said.

Lowe and Masterson are working to further develop the university’s involvement in the grant by tapping other disciplines across campus for help, such as education, exercise science and health professions.

“We want to eventually expand our work with other programs from the university,” said Masterson, indicating a need for special instructors in early childhood and special education, physical therapy and occupational therapy.

“We have a mission to improve human health and well-being, first and foremost, in Mississippi,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of the School of Applied Sciences. “Through research and service-learning, our departments seek to solve problems for individuals, families and communities in need, and children are chief among the most vulnerable populations.”

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders within the School of Applied Sciences provides an accredited program to educate and train graduate students in the discipline of communication sciences and disorders specific to the field of speech-language pathology. The department also houses a Speech and Hearing Clinic for training students and for service to the community and university consumers.

Visit for more information about the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders or email For more information about the Early Intervention Program, visit

Professor Sheds Light on Overlooked Artistic Side of Vikings

Nancy Wicker is completing a book about the art and culture of ancient Norsemen

Nancy Wicker, UM professor of art history, is working to shed light on the artwork Vikings made, including pieces like the replica jewelry she is wearing. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Vikings are often portrayed as brutish, violent Norse conquerors, but a University of Mississippi professor wants to shed light on the often-misunderstood peoples’ artistic side that led them to make intricate golden jewelry and impressive wooden carvings on the prows of their ships.

Nancy Wicker, a professor of art history, is involved in projects that aim to broaden what the world knows about the early Scandinavians, who continue to capture the public imagination through TV shows such as “Vikings.” She hopes to shift some of the focus from stereotypical characteristics to the art they made, as well as how they traveled like no group before them.

“I ask people who are interested in Vikings, ‘Do you know about Viking art?'” Wicker said. “They say, ‘Did they have art? They were a bunch of barbarians. Would they have had art?’ Of course they had art. All cultures produce art.”

Her goal is ambitious, given that the public’s basic understanding about the group is often oversimplified or just plain inaccurate. Even the iconic “Viking helmet” with horns protruding from the sides isn’t historically correct. They didn’t wear them. But, misperceptions aside, the public has a longstanding fascination with the Norse warriors and explorers.

“People are fascinated,” Wicker said. “We art historians and museum curators laugh about it. Everyone is interested in Vikings, mummies and dinosaurs. If museums have any of those three, they’re golden.”

During the 2016-17 academic year, Wicker was on sabbatical to write a book about art of the Viking Age. She was a fellow-in-residence at the National Humanities Center at Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. The experience provided her with access to some of the world’s best library collections and also gave her a work site very conducive to writing, she said.

She gave a public lecture there in April about Viking art, but the room full of scholars quickly shifted the discussions back to the darker aspects of folklore.

“The first question I got was, ‘What about the moral compass of the Vikings?'” Wicker said.

She’s committed to broadening understanding of the misunderstood group. Many people have a simplistic view of them that is mostly portrayed as violent.

Yet Vikings even produced art on their ships, which featured impressive carvings in their own distinctive style. They also made metal objects, most of them very small, featuring likenesses of various animals and people.

“You may have seen the Viking ship woodcarvings,” Wicker said. “They made the jewelry they wore. They had arm rings, neck rings and pendants. … You will see lots of animals, very, very abstracted animals on brooches and pendants that hold clothing together.”

 Metal detecting is very popular and legal in Denmark and the United Kingdom. 

There’s a TV show in the UK called “Detectorists” about hobbyists who hope to find treasure. The show may have boosted the popularity of the avocation.

Metal detecting also has led to new discoveries of Viking art that differs somewhat from what’s traditionally been uncovered in graves.

“In addition to animal art, small figurines are now being found,” Wicker said. “My argument is that the newest discoveries of human figures are changing our view of Viking art. We can’t say it’s all just animal art.”

This small silver pendant, which is around an inch high, found in Sweden, is interpreted as a Valkyrie offering a cup of mead to welcome a fallen warrior to Valhalla, the hall of the slain, according to Norse mythology. Submitted photo by Creative Commons

Besides their artistic endeavors, the great distances Vikings traveled for trade and exploration are worth scholarly treatment. They traveled from Scandinavia to Spain, North Africa and Italy, and in the other direction to Russia, the Black Sea, Istanbul, Greece and Baghdad, among other places, Wicker said.

“There are many theories about why they expanded,” she said. “They were already traveling before the Viking Age – not as far, not to Spain, not to Russia, but certainly across the Baltic and to England.

“They were already on the move, and there was a population boom. What do the second and third sons do when the first son inherits the farm?”

Around the eighth century, just before the beginning of the Viking Age, Scandinavians developed ships that were faster than the vessels that came before them due to use of sails, but they still had a shallow draw. The innovation enabled them to conquer both the seas and rivers with relative ease.

“The new ships were very adaptable, which really allowed them to be on the move and go all around the coast of France and Spain, and across the Atlantic to Greenland, North America and Newfoundland, as well as down the rivers of Russia,” Wicker said. “The development of ships is very important in the eighth century, just on the cusp of the Viking Age.”

Despite their creativity and nautical ingenuity, Vikings suffer from perceptions based on inaccuracies.

Many people who are most fascinated by the idea of pagan Nordic Vikings don’t realize that their world was multicultural. Vikings – both Christian and pagan – were in contact with Christians in Western Europe, Muslims and Jews in Spain, Slavs in Russia and Eastern Europe, and Byzantine leaders in Constantinople, as well as Turkic and Jewish groups in Central Asia.

These people also traveled to Scandinavia to trade and sometimes stay, as indicated by grave finds where Wicker excavated at Birka, in Sweden, for instance, she noted.

“The art of the Viking world fascinates me because it reflects these wide-ranging interactions,” Wicker said. “With my research, I want to show others how these diverse peoples influenced each other’s cultures.”

Wicker is also studying how pre-Viking gold jewelry reveals wear and breakage. She’s lending her expertise in this area to collaborate with Dr. Jason Griggs, associate dean for research in the School of Dentistry and professor and chair of the Department of Biomedical Materials Science at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Gold is an important metal in dental work because it is sturdy, malleable and noncorrosive.

She made impressions of jewelry breakage at the Swedish History Museum in Stockholm, and Griggs will analyze the fractal geometry of her impressions as part of his analysis of material fatigue and failure.

The department is fortunate to have Wicker, who has achieved national and international recognition, said Virginia Rougon Chavis, chair of the Department of Art and Art History and professor of art.

“To say that Dr. Wicker is actively engaged in scholarly activity would be an understatement,” Chavis said. “Dr. Wicker is not only interested in her own scholarship, but in the advancement of her field as a whole.

“She is well-connected across the globe with other members at the top of her field. She has been an essential collaborator on various projects and is one of the most rigorous of colleagues I have known. She is a truly devoted scholar, and it is an honor to have her as a member of our faculty.”

Legal Studies Offers 3+3 Option with School of Law

Paralegal studies enhances program, adds new fast-track to Juris Doctorate

Susan Duncan, UM law dean (center) and Macey Edmondson, interim assistant dean for admissions and scholarships (left) join Linda Keena, interim chair of legal studies, to announce the launch of the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies 3+3 emphasis. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is offering a new fast-track to the School of Law through a Bachelor of Paralegal Studies 3+3 emphasis in the Department of Legal Studies, reducing the time and tuition dollars needed to complete a bachelor’s and law degree.

Under this new pre-law emphasis for paralegal studies majors, a student’s fourth-year requirements for the B.P.S. are satisfied by completing first-year law school classes. The student must meet the law school’s admissions requirements, which are established each year based on the previous year’s data on grade-point averages and Law School Admission Test scores for students admitted to the school.

While there is no guaranteed entry to law school, students who designate this new emphasis of study are signaling their passion for the field.

“The fact that they picked an undergraduate degree that closely aligns with the legal profession shows us they have a strong interest in law,” said Susan Duncan, UM law dean.

In their first three years of study, students take courses in legal research and writing, civil litigation, and criminal law and procedure, providing them with a critical understanding of the total system of justice and the society in which it functions. An extensive internship program enables students to link classroom learning with practical experience.

In their fourth year, students will begin taking classes offered to first-year law students, including contracts, torts, civil procedure, property and constitutional law.

“We have students tell us, ‘I’m interested in law school. What should I major in?'” said Linda Keena, interim chair of legal studies. “Paralegal studies, if you look at the curriculum, is a perfect entree to law school. If you look at how the curriculum is set up, the focus is on critical thinking in every course, which is so beneficial in law school.”

Recruiting the best and brightest students to law school is a priority for Duncan and Macey Edmondson, the school’s interim admissions director.

“This program allows us to get strong students from our own institution,” Edmondson said. “We can work with them earlier and help them map out their law school path.

“I think students who engage in the 3+3 program are a little ahead of the curve because they will have had some experience with law firms and different legal backgrounds, so we can meet them where they are and guide them on their path.”

A student who chooses this emphasis but does not meet law school admissions requirements or elects not to attend law school can switch to legal studies’ paralegal emphasis and complete a fourth year of undergraduate study to earn their B.P.S.

“If a student decides not to go to law school, they will still have the expertise to do most of the legal research and work done in a law office under the supervision of a licensed attorney,” said Whitman Smith, UM admissions director. “This will be a major attraction to students interested in the legal profession.”

Campus leaders concerned about overall affordability point out the program’s cost savings for students.

“I think we have an obligation to try and hold down student debt,” Duncan said. “This is really attractive, because the students can take a whole year off the process and get into the workforce faster.

“These people know what they want to do, so let’s help them get there quicker and eliminate part of the tuition burden.”

The new emphasis is the brainchild of now-retired legal studies professor, Robert Mongue, who recently returned to Ole Miss as an adjunct faculty in legal studies.

“Once I began discussing this type of program with faculty from other institutions, it became clear that we owed it to our students, the university and the state of Mississippi to implement a 3+3 option for qualified students,” he said.

Several similar programs exist across the nation and seem to being doing well, Mongue said. In fact, the 3+3 concept appears to be a trend in legal education.

“My alma mater, the University of Maine, has one initiated by the law school,” Mongue said. “It has agreements with three undergraduate educational institutions, so some of my initial investigation was based there.

“However, since our model is a UM undergraduate-to-UM School of Law only, it is closer in operation to those at Fordham University, University of Central Florida, Florida State University and the University of Iowa, a top-50 law school that started its program in 2013.”

Before his retirement, Mongue created a supervisory board, soliciting help from legal professionals, educators and alumni to modify the paralegal studies curriculum, get valuable input about trends in the field and promote the program. He worked to enrich the curriculum with more critical thinking by adding courses such as logic and LA 440: Access to Justice.

Heather Joyner, paralegal studies coordinator and instructor. Submitted photo

Students who take Access to Justice can work for legal organizations, such as North Mississippi Rural Legal Services, that help populations without appropriate access to legal representation or services, said Heather Joyner, paralegal studies coordinator and instructor. Students get hands-on experience doing intakes and writing legal document, such as wills, for people with financial need.

Program internships also are available, ranging anywhere from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to private law firms, during students’ junior or senior year of undergraduate study.

“If a student wants to have part-time employment while they’re in law school, these internships and classes that give them real-world experience open doors for jobs in the legal profession,” Joyner said.

Previously an adjunct professor at UM and Northwest Mississippi Community College, Joyner served as assistant district attorney for the 1st Judicial District from 2002 to 2011 and public defender for Lee County Youth Court in 2000-02. She earned her Juris Doctor from the University of Alabama and her master’s degree in political science from Mississippi State University.

“The students entering higher level courses have shown marked improvement in being able to apply foundational knowledge in the upper-level courses since Heather started teaching,” Keena said. “Her contacts in law offices, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, state prosecutors’ offices and the like strengthen her credentials. We are very excited to have her join our faculty on a full-time basis.”

Stakeholders are optimistic that compressing the amount of time and money involved will provide opportunities for students to earn law degrees and apply that knowledge in a variety of fields outside of the courtroom.

“There is so much more you can do with a law degree other than being a litigator,” Keena said. “Many of our students are interested in homeland security, and there are things they can do with a law degree in that capacity.

“Entrepreneurially thinking, it is so helpful to have that law degree, so if at this stage, as freshmen and sophomores, they can start to see that there are options for them beyond being a litigator, I think we’ll see this 3+3 program blossom.”

For more information about the Bachelor of Paralegal Studies 3+3 emphasis, email

UM Honors College Welcomes 15 Scholarship Recipients this Fall

Freshmen awarded some of the university's most prestigious scholarships

Fifteen freshmen in the UM Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College have received a total of $466,000 from five of the university’s most distinguished scholarships. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – One is an award-winning poet. Another is an archer with a love of biology. And one is a violinist who also runs cross country.

These are just three of the 15 freshmen this fall at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi who received a total of $466,000 from five of the university’s most distinguished scholarships.

Four of the freshmen earned McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships, six were recipients of Doris Raymond Honors Scholarships, two were awarded Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships, two were honored with Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships and one was presented with an Everett-Williams Memorial Scholarship.

“These citizen scholars represent some of the best and brightest students not only at the University of Mississippi but also in the country,” said Douglass Sullivan-González, Honors College dean. “We can’t wait to see what they will accomplish.”

Those students receiving McDonnell Barksdale Scholarships are Anahita Behrouz of Ridgeland, William Ray Bradford of Tupelo, Lawson David Marchetti of Jackson and Robert Cade Slaughter of Hattiesburg.

Doris Raymond Honors Scholarship recipients are Ainsley Parker Ash of Meridian; Nathan Lancaster of Ridgeland; Madeleine Louise McCracken of Austin, Texas; Tyler Jesse Moore of Little Falls, Minnesota; Kylie Elizabeth Rogers of Texarkana, Texas; and Alexander Lawrence Watts of Columbia.

Receiving Harold Parker Memorial Scholarships are Margaret Lee Baldwin of Birmingham, Alabama; and Sarah Marie Peterson of Fenton, Missouri.

Laurel Ashley Lee of Canton and Gloma Marie Milner of Boaz, Alabama, are recipients of Annexstad Family Foundation Leaders for Tomorrow Scholarships.

Receiving the Everett-Williams Memorial Scholarship is Yasmine Malone of Clarksdale.

Ash is a graduate of West Lauderdale High School, where she was president of the student council (and four-year member of the council) and received awards in AP biology, Spanish and personal finance while being named to the National Honor Society. She also graduated from Leadership Lauderdale Youth and the Mississippi Governor’s School, and was an all-district cross country runner. She is majoring in psychology.

A graduate of Spain Park High School, Baldwin was a National Merit Semifinalist; National Honor Society president; member of Mu Alpha Theta, Rho Kappa and National Spanish Society; and earned awards in English, chemistry, algebra, pre-calculus and U.S. history. She also volunteered at Children’s of Alabama hospital and the Birmingham Zoo, and was a math tutor. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Behrouz is a graduate of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal School. She was a member of the National Honor Society and received summa cum laude and maxima cum laude honors on the National Latin Exam. She is an archer, and she served as a youth ambassador at the Mississippi Children’s Museum and as an educator at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. She is majoring in biology.

Bradford, a graduate of Tupelo High School, was the valedictorian of his class and also president of the student body. He was a National Merit Semifinalist, an AP Scholar with distinction, twice chosen as student of the year and a member of the National Honor Society, which he served as vice president. A violinist, Baldwin also participated in cross country and track and field. He is majoring in biology.

Lancaster graduated from Saint Joseph Catholic School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and twice earned summa cum laude on the National Latin Exam. A Questbridge Finalist and Scholar, he was a member of the varsity football and bowling teams, along with the Gaming Club and the Astronomy Club. He is majoring in civil engineering.

Lee won awards in Mississippi studies, Spanish, geometry, zoology, world history, human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, nutrition and wellness, and algebra during high school. She also was a member of the All A’s Honor Roll for four years, was captain of the Germantown High School dance team, and was a member of the Beta Club, Spanish Club and Art Club. She is majoring in biology.

A Clarksdale High School graduate, Malone was a member of the school’s marching/concert band, student council and newspaper, and sang in her school and church choir while serving on the principal’s advisory committee. She also was a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. She was on the Delta Innovative Youth Council. She is majoring in political science.

Marchetti, an Eagle Scout, is a graduate of Jackson Preparatory School, where he was a member of the National Honor Society, Cum Laude Society and Mu Alpha Theta, and served as Patriot Man, the school’s mascot. A poet, he was a Poetry Out Loud state finalist and Poetry Out Loud state champion, earning a national honorable mention. He co-founded the Jackson Prep Film Club. He is majoring in music.

A Veritas Academy graduate, McCracken was a member of the National Honor Society and earned multiple awards in English and Latin, maxima cum laude honors on the National Latin Exam and was selected as an AP Scholar. She was a member of the Veritas Academy Speech and Debate Team, where she was a state finalist. She also played on the varsity soccer and tennis teams. She is majoring in classics.

The salutatorian of her class at Albertville High School, Milner was a National Merit Commended Scholar, AP Scholar and a member of the National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta. An Alabama All-State Chorus participant and member of the show choir, serving as president and section leader, Milner also was a member of the Math Team and captain of the Scholars Bowl team. She is majoring in pharmaceutical sciences.

Moore graduated from Little Falls Community High School, where he was valedictorian and a member of the National Honor Society. He earned academic all-state honors in cross country and track and field – also serving as captain of the teams – and was twice named the St. Cloud Times Runner of the Year. He also played in the school’s jazz band and brass quintet. Moore is majoring in engineering.

Peterson is a graduate of Rockwood Summit High School, where she was a member of the National Honor Society and a Gold Scholar. Captain of her varsity golf team, Peterson earned all-conference and all-district honors in the sport while being a state golf qualifier her senior year. She also served as a counselor at Camp Rainbow, an overnight camp for children with cancer. She is majoring in biochemistry.

Rogers is a graduate of Pleasant Grove High School, where she was the salutatorian and an AP Scholar, while also being a University Interscholastic League Prose and Poetry Medalist and Literary Criticism Medalist. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Quill and Scroll Society, Science Club, student council and yearbook staff. She also was a varsity soccer player, serving as captain. She is majoring in English.

The valedictorian at Sacred Heart Catholic High School, Slaughter was a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Future Business Leaders of America and Hattiesburg’s Dream Youth Leadership Council. He also was a member of the yearbook staff and student council, serving as president his senior year, and played on the school’s varsity tennis team. He is majoring in public policy leadership.

A graduate of Presbyterian Christian High School, Watts was a member of the Key Club and Mu Alpha Theta, and was a district and state winner at the Academic Betterment Competition. He also participated in the show choir and in drama, and was a member of the annual staff, chemistry club and Beta Club. He played in the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir and Orchestra. He is majoring in public policy leadership.

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit

Ten UM Freshmen Named 2017 Stamps Scholars

Students exemplify best of scholarship, community service and leadership

Stamps freshmen 2017 are, from left: Tyler Yarbrough, Madeline Cook, Robert Wasson, Tori Gallegos, Eleanor Schmid, Matthew Travers, J.R. Riojas, Kennedy Cohn, Harrison McKinnis and Chinwe Udemgba. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation.

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten members of the 2017 freshman class at the University of Mississippi’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College have the distinction of being Stamps Scholarship recipients.

This year’s cohort consists of Kennedy Cohn of Incline Village, Nevada, Madeline Cook of Flowood, Victoria “Tori” Gallegos of Chicago, Harrison McKinnis of Madison, J.R. Riojas of the Wool Market community of Harrison County, Eleanor Schmid of Cincinnati, Matthew Travers of St. Louis, Chinwe Udemgba of Natchez, Robert Wasson of Jackson and Tyler Yarbrough of Clarksdale.

For a second straight year, UM was among only four universities to award 10 or more Stamps Scholarships to incoming students. The Stamps Scholarships at Ole Miss have become the most comprehensive, full scholarship packages for in-state and out-of-state students.

“We are so pleased to be welcoming another tremendously gifted cohort of Stamps Scholars to the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter said. “Through our partnership with the Stamps Family Charitable Foundation, we are able to attract truly remarkable students from Mississippi and all over the country.

“We look for great things from our Stamps Scholars as they pursue unique and exciting educational opportunities and contribute to the academic excellence on our campus.”

With its partner universities, the Stamps Foundation seeks students who demonstrate academic merit, strong leadership potential and exceptional character. Through the foundation, students have access to funding to engage in internships, undergraduate research or other professional development activities.

Potential Stamps Scholars are invited to campus for a special weekend visit to get an in-depth look at the university’s academic programs, as well as opportunities to interact with campus administrators and students.

“As a Stamps Scholar, I felt like I would have the ability to fully take advantage of my education by pursuing educational opportunities outside of the classroom,” said Cohn, a double major in international studies and Spanish who also is working on pre-med requirements. She is also a member of Global Brigades, Freshman Council and the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

“I think that one of the best ways to learn is through travel because it’s such an immersive, hands-on learning experience,” she said. “With the Stamps Scholarship, I would love to study abroad and possibly do an internship overseas.”

Cohn’s focus on global health through the Croft Institute gives her a better understanding of how health care works in other countries.

“I would love to use part of my enrichment fund to shadow a doctor in another country,” Cohn said. “I am hoping to apply to medical school after I graduate and eventually work with an organization like Doctors without Borders.”

Stamps Scholars are ambitious and goal-oriented, with leadership skills and hefty visions, but who, above all, love learning and doing extraordinary things with confidence, Cook said.

“I love being in a community of confident, incredibly capable and smart students, who all have big plans and small egos,” said the international studies, sociology and Spanish major who has concentrations in global health and Latin America. Cook also is a member of Mississippi Votes, College Democrats, Global Ambassadors and Rebels Against Sexual Assault, and is an announcer for Rebel Radio.

Her goals are to complete a language immersion program in Spain and volunteer with the Mississippi Immigrants’ Rights Alliance in Jackson.

The 2017 freshman class of UM Stamps Scholars explore a river during their ‘bonding excursion’ last summer in Ecuador. The group includes (front, from left) Tyler Yarbrough, Chinwe Udemgba, Tori Gallegos and Kennedy Cohn; (middle) Matthew Travers, Harrison McKinnis and J.R. Riojas; and (back) Eleanor Schmid and Robert Wasson. Submitted photo

“I’m extremely interested in the intersection of human and labor rights and public health, and in the future, I’d like to do work with NGOs in Chile, Bolivia or Argentina doing research on indigenous rights-justice movements and access to health care,” Cook said. “I can see myself working full-time for some kind of social rights and justice-oriented nonprofit or policy coalition, or an analyst for the State Department or even (as) a Foreign Service officer in Latin America.”

The Stamps Scholarship is an amazing opportunity, said Gallegos, who is majoring in international studies with a Russian minor. She is a member of the Associated Student Body Freshman Forum, Delta Gamma sorority and Russian Club.

“Everyone is unique and has a story to tell,” she said. “The additional enrichment funds allow me to pursue research and travel outside the classroom without adding financial burdens.”

Gallegos said she plans to study in Russia multiple times, as well as in France and Latin America.

A chemical engineering major, McKinnis is a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He also participates in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence.

McKinnis said he was grateful to be considered for the scholarship.

“I felt that every candidate was worthy of the scholarship, and I was shocked to find out I was chosen,” he said. “At that point, my college decision process ended, and I knew that I had found my new home, one that wants to support me just as I want to support it.”

McKinnis hopes to participate in a co-op or internship with an engineering firm at some point in his undergraduate education to gain experience and knowledge to become a professional engineer.

Riojas said he sees the Stamps Scholarship at Ole Miss as the perfect balance between a fantastic, focused education and a big public school experience.

“The most important part of being a Stamps Scholar is the community I am surrounded with,” said the public policy major who is a member of the debate team, ASB Freshman Council and the mock trial team. “I am surrounded by the best of the best, and this pushes me to be the best that I can be.”

Riojas’ goals are to learn the policies of the world, graduate from law school and become an international lawyer.

“Stamps will help me because the scholarship helps fund trips all around the world, allowing me to study the judicial systems of foreign countries,” he said. “It will also connect me with people who can help me in the future.”

An international studies major who is minoring in Russian, Schmid is a member of the university’s debate team and a sorority, as well as the Associated Student Body’s freshman forum. Her goals include studying abroad at least twice in Russia, France and Spain.

Following either graduate or law school, she hopes to serve her country by working in the Department of State or another governmental agency.

“Being offered the Stamps Scholarship signaled to me that Ole Miss saw potential in me, and wanted to invest in my education to the greatest extent,” Schmid said. “Furthermore, being a Stamps Scholar brings me an amazing community of peers who also have great aspirations to change the world.”

Travers, pursuing a double major in international studies and Chinese, is a student of the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Chinese Language Flagship Program. He also is on the Diversity Recruitment Committee for RebelTHON, a peer educator for Rebels Against Sexual Assault, a UM Flagship Ambassador, a Chinese tutor and member of the Black Student Union and the Swahili Club.

Eleanor Schmid (left) and Tyler Yarbrough, both members of the 2017 freshman class of Stamps Scholars at the University of Mississippi, prepare to try zip lining during a ‘bonding excursion’ in Ecuador before beginning the fall semester of college. Submitted photo

“To me, being a Stamps Scholar means looking toward the future like a blank canvas, brush in hand, and with all the colors waiting at my fingertips,” Travers said. “The Stamps Scholarship gives me the incredible opportunity to learn for the sake of learning, to study what piques my interest, not what will necessarily secure a good job.

“With all the opportunities and attention given to me, I can’t help but feel like one of the most fortunate students on campus.”

Travers plans to return to China to study next summer. After that, he hopes to travel to Tanzania or another African country on a mission trip and practice the Swahili he is learning in the classroom.

A chemical engineering major, Wasson also was excited to learn that he had been awarded a Stamps Scholarship and ready to take advantage of the unique opportunities it offers.

“When I learned of my selection as a Stamps Scholar, I was deeply humbled and honored to be chosen out of such a competitive field full of great applicants,” he said. “I then realized the tremendous charge I had been given to do great things with such an amazing opportunity.”

Wasson hopes to take full advantage of the opportunities available via the scholarship and plans to attend medical school after graduation.

Udemgba is a graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. Her major is chemistry with an emphasis in biochemistry. She is part of IMAGE, Student Members of the American Chemical Society, Minority Association of Pre-Med Students and Campus Catholic Ministries.

“Being a Stamp Scholar makes me feel as if I should take advantage of the opportunities given to me,” Udemgba said. “I have no excuse to be anything but an exceptional student with exciting experiences.

“Being a Stamps Scholar opens me up to so many connections to people in different colleges across the nation. Stamps is more than just a full ride to college; it is a community of students with the common goal of succeeding and pushing each other forward.”

Udemgba’s short-term plans include study abroad, conducting research and pursuing other opportunities presented. Her long-term plan involves graduating from higher education and working in a lab.

A public policy leadership major, Yarbrough is a member of the Debate Team, ASB Freshman Forum and Mississippi Votes. He’s also an advocate with the Mississippi Youth Council, an organization advocating for comprehensive sex education in public schools.

“I had great interest in Ole Miss after attending the Trent Lott Institute for High School Students summer program,” he said. “The Stamps Scholarship’s enrichment fund ultimately led me to attend Ole Miss.

“The generous scholarship package will allow me to pursue internships and travel, which will enhance my learning experience while at the university.”

Yarbrough’s plans include getting students registered to vote in Oxford, bringing a voting precinct to campus and engaging students in the push for comprehensive sex education in public schools.

Launched in 2006 by Georgia native Roe Stamps and his wife, Penny, the program has grown to include nearly 40 partner schools throughout the country with more than 1,600 current and alumni scholars.

To learn more about the Stamps Foundation, visit

UM Students Place in International Robotics Contest

Mechanical engineering teams win second and third prizes

Members of the award-winning UM team are Jonathan Brown (left), Eli Schuette, Turner Wharton and Ryan Steele. Submitted photo by Arunachalam Rajendran

OXFORD, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi mechanical engineering student teams have brought home top prizes from an international robotics competition in Tampa, Florida.

The 2017 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Student Design Competition (The Robot Pentathlon: Citius, Altius, Ingenious) challenged each team to create a fast, strong and agile robot. Each team was also expected to build a device to remotely control its robot and compete against others in five different events – a robot pentathlon.

This competition is based on design requirements and a set of rules that change annually. This year, the requirement was to design a robot that could accomplish five objectives: a 10-meter sprint, a stair climb, a tennis ball throw, a golf ball hit and a weight lift.

“Ole Miss had two teams that not only won first and second place in the regional competition in Tennessee, but also those teams went on to win second and third place in the finals, which included teams from around the world,” said Arunachalam Rajendran, chair and professor of mechanical engineering, who accompanied the teams.

The original regional competition, held at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville, Tennessee, last April, included such universities as Virginia Tech, Clemson University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and several SEC universities. After their victory, the UM students graduated and began their careers. However, the robots they left were eligible to compete in the international competition, held in mid-November.

“After the competition was completed, the first-place award went to the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, second went to the Ole Miss Red team with Ryan Steele of Southaven and Turner Wharton of Fairfax, Virginia, and third went to the Ole Miss Blue team with Jonathan Brown of Ecru and Eli Schuette of Ocean Springs,” Rajendran said. “Overall, the Ole Miss students won $1,500 in prizes, plus an additional $750 to the ASME student group on campus.”

Matt Lowe, machine shop supervisor in UM’s mechanical engineering department, said the teams can be very proud of their placements in the competition.

“They took a cost-effective approach to complete a very engineering-effective design,” Lowe said. “For example, the manufacturing cost for the Ole Miss robot was less than $500, and it outperformed a robot from a rival institution that costs more than 10 times as much to create.”

“We couldn’t have won the top two places without the hard work and dedication of the machine shop supervisor, Mr. Matt Lowe,” Rajendran said. “The team members worked very hard under the supervision of Mr. Lowe and utilized all resources in our machine shop for exceptional cost savings. I am so proud of them all.”

Ryan Steele (left) and Turner Wharton pose in front of the ASME official display. Submitted photo by Arunachalam Rajendran

The ASME competition provides a platform for engineering students to present solutions to design problems ranging from everyday household tasks to groundbreaking space exploration. Each team is required to design, construct and operate a prototype that meets the requirements of an annually determined problem statement.

“This experience not only allowed students to learn more about robotics, design and engineering, but it also showed engineers from around the world the fantastic capabilities that Ole Miss has in engineering,” Rajendran said. “Several hundred schools enter the regional competitions each year, yet Ole Miss teams held two victorious positions.

“This not only shows the amazing growth and engagement that Ole Miss engineering has had in recent years, but it is also a testament to the opportunities that are possible with incredible faculty support.”