UM Recognizes Three Employees with Frist Service Awards

Honorees are modern languages and political science professors and admissions director

Robert Brown, who teaches in the Department of Political Science and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, shares this year’s Frist Award for UM faculty. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Following glowing letters of recommendation from students, fellow faculty members and parents, three University of Mississippi employees have been chosen to receive prestigious honors for their exceptional service.

The Thomas Frist Student Service Awards are presented annually to Ole Miss faculty and staff members who have “gone the extra mile” in unwavering dedication and service to students.

Two faculty recipients share this year’s honor: Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and professor of Russian and linguistics, and Robert Brown, professor of political science. Whitman Smith, director of admissions, is the staff award recipient.

“The Ole Miss family is fortunate to have so many outstanding individuals who go above and beyond to serve our students,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “All three of this year’s Frist Award recipients exemplify this core value.

“We applaud their unwavering commitment to student engagement and exceptional level of personal attention to student success. These three are very deserving of this special honor.”

Examples of exemplary service include student guidance and mentorship above and beyond those expected of faculty and staff as part of their job responsibilities. Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque. The winners also are acknowledged during the university’s overall Commencement ceremony.

Each recipient said he was surprised to receive news of his honor.

“I was also humbled and a little bit embarrassed by it,” Smith said. “I am honored to be recognized as someone who serves students. I have nothing I can compare it to.”

Both Dyer and Brown expressed similar feelings.

“When he (Vitter) gave me the news about the Frist Award, I felt incredibly honored … and humbled,” Dyer said. “This (honor) means that my interaction over the years with students has positively influenced someone.

“The success of the students I have been privileged to teach and to advise has always been as important to me or more important than anything else I have achieved as a professor.”

Brown said he is grateful to know students who have made him want to be a better teacher and better person.

Whitman Smith, UM director of admissions, is this year’s staff honoree for the Frist Award. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

“This award is a reminder of how lucky I am to be a teacher, and to work with and care about the students I teach,” Brown said. “They have given me so much, and I am glad to be able to give back to them if I can.”

The decision to choose a faculty recipient was difficult due to the stellar praises expressed for each in the nomination letters, said Luca Bombelli and Anne McCauley, both previous Frist winners and co-chairs of the selection committee.

“Reviewing nomination letters for the Frist Award is an inspiring and uplifting task because all the letters express heartfelt gratitude for faculty and staff members who have really made a difference in a student’s life,” said McCauley, assistant director of the Office of Sustainability.

“Both were so equally deserving that selecting one over the other would have involved a degree of arbitrariness that most did not feel comfortable with,” said Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy. “Therefore, we made the unusual move to recognize both of them.”

Brown, who has been nominated for the award in previous years, teaches in both the Department of Political Science and at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

In a nomination letter for him, one student wrote, “He has gone above and beyond as a professor, his dedication to his students shining every step of the way. Dr. Brown has visited sick students in their hometowns, gifted books to other students just because he thought they would enjoy, and has become a faithful campus voice outspoken against sexual assault.”

Don Dyer, professor of Russian and linguistics, is a faculty recipient of a 2017 Frist Award. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

When the student had doubts about her career path, “He sat with me and compiled a list of possible majors, helped me schedule appointments with deans and professors in each department, showing up to introduce me to each of them.”

Dyer, who had multiple nomination letters written by both students and faculty, was commended by a colleague for “having taken the language and linguistics programs to exceptional heights.

“He has always been supportive of new ideas and innovations in teaching languages, including less commonly taught languages, such as Russian, Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. Thanks to his hard work, professional and personal skills, the Department of Modern Languages has achieved great success, national and international recognition and respect.”

A student wrote that Dyer’s service has included funding graduate students’ trips to conferences in Idaho and New Mexico, teaching more than his required number of courses when necessary and even teaching a much-needed summer course for free as a gesture of good will.

“Dr. Dyer leads by example; he is ready to do what is best for the students and the university,” the student wrote.

In a nomination letter for Smith, written by the parents of a UM student, he was praised for having “rewritten the playbook” for the role of admissions director.

“Whitman went well beyond introducing students to the university and helping them acclimate to the college environment,” they wrote. “He built a relationship with (our son). Had it not been for Whitman and his ceaseless encouragement and open door, he may not be graduating in May.

“Whitman’s voice of reason and understanding encouraged him when it seemed nobody else could.”

The parents noted Smith has “a deep passion” for working with Ole Miss students.

“More than once, we have phoned Whitman at home and on his cell number after office hours. Whitman consistently goes beyond the role of a director of admissions, providing guidance and mentorship that serve students like our son every single day.”

All three recipients said they plan to give their stipends back to the university.

“I will donate half to the Larry Ridgeway scholarship fund and half to the Max Miller scholarship fund,” Smith said.

“I plan to give it to the Department of Modern Languages to help students in need of financial support to study abroad,” Dyer said.

“Half will go to the Department of Political Science and half will go to the Honors College to use for student projects and development,” Brown said.

The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate. Past winners of the Frist Award include faculty members Brett Cantrell, Denis Goulet, Aileen Ajootian, Don Cole, Charles Eagles, Ellen Meacham, Terry Panhorst, Ken Sufka and Eric Weber, and staff members Lindsey Bartlett Mosvick, Carol Forsythe, Thelma Curry, Dewey Knight, Valeria Ross, Marc Showalter and Linda Spargo.

UM Honors College Dedicates Expanded Facility

Campus, community celebrate program's 20th anniversary with new building

UM alumnus and donor Jim Barksdale (left) is welcomed Thursday by Chancellor Jeffery Vitter during dedication ceremonies for the expanded Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A line of blustery, threatening weather moving through the area didn’t stop more than 100 University of Mississippi students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni from celebrating the successes of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College on Thursday (March 30) afternoon.

The crowd squeezed into the Honors College’s great room to dedicate the expanded and renovated building, putting the cap on a two-year project. The ceremony, which was relocated from outdoors because of the weather, also marked the 20th anniversary of the Honors College and was followed by a reception and open house.

“The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College is an incredible asset to our university,” Chancellor Jeffery Vitter said. “It distinguishes us among peer institutions and allows Ole Miss to offer exceptional personalized opportunities to extremely talented students. I am very excited to be celebrating its expansion and renovation today.”

Others making remarks during the ceremony were Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez; David Buford, director of risk management for the State Institutions of Higher Learning; Honors College alumni Dr. Marc Walker and Christin Gates Calloway; and Jim Barksdale, who helped launch the Honors College when he and his late wife, Sally McDonnell Barksdale, donated funds to expand the university’s Honors Program in 1997.

Moving into the new space was “a 10-year dream come true,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“The new building represents a great blend of classroom and study space to go deep into conversation with peers on the tough questions of the day,” he said. “We are grateful for the new and renovated space at the SMBHC.”

The $6.9 million project added 15,000 new square feet to the existing building, bringing the total to 32,290 square feet. The renovated section includes seven new classrooms, a new kitchen, study area, a great room, computer lab, three new study rooms and new faculty offices.

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter welcomes the crowd at the dedication of the new and renovated Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“This is great and I’m so proud of what has been accomplished here during the past 20 years,” Barksdale said. “In life, you always want the chance to do something significant and different.

“This opportunity came along at the right time, the right place and with the right people. What a wonderful return upon our investment.”

Both Calloway and Walker said their Honors College experiences have proven invaluable to their careers.

“My professional path for the past 11 years has been built upon my Freshman Ventures at Weyerhaeuser Paper in Seattle and my medical missions trips to Bolivia, all made possible through the Honors College,” said Walker, a 2006 alumnus who earned his bachelor’s degree in biology with minors in chemistry, religion and philosophy. He earned degrees from both Harvard Medical School and Harvard Business School and is set to become chief resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery at Yale-New Haven Hospital next year.

“I’ve learned that surgery is a lot easier with the right tools and a committed team. That’s exactly what the Honors College offers.”

A Kosciusko native who earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology in 2011, Calloway said the Honors College is where she “grappled with some of the toughest social, educational and political challenges of our time.”

“The Honors College is one of the most unique and enriching opportunities I’ve ever experienced,” said the doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Had I not attended here, I wouldn’t have had the courage, determination and tenacity to continue my education at some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning.”

The Honors College has grown tremendously from its humble beginnings. Opening with an initial class of 121 students in 1997, its student body has grown to more than 1,400.

The program annually attracts high-performing students from across the state and country. The average ACT score for incoming scholars last fall was 30.9, and their average high school GPA was 3.92.

For the last two years, more than 400 freshmen have joined the SMBHC each year. To accommodate the growing student body, the Honors College broke ground on its expansion in 2014, and the new addition opened in March 2016. The original building was then renovated, and work was completed in December.

“Our students enjoy deep conversations, and this is a welcoming space that encourages us to take time to engage in meaningful discussion,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “This provides the needed infrastructure to assure that this program will be the ‘tip of the spear’ to lead the university’s academic charge for years to come.”

The Barksdales made the idea of an Honors College possible, enabling the purchase and renovation of the Alpha Delta Pi sorority building to house the new program. That first gift also endowed 16 scholarships and provided funding for operating expenses.

Other generous donations include endowments from the Parker estates to fund scholarships, and from Lynda and John Shea to support study abroad fellowships.

With the death of Sally McDonnell Barksdale in December 2003, the Honors College was renamed in her memory in spring 2004.

“The University of Mississippi and, indeed, all of the state’s citizens are indebted to the Barksdales for their continued and transformative support,” Vitter said. “For 20 years now, the impact of the Honors College has been far-reaching, helping create a vibrant legacy of attracting the best and brightest to Ole Miss.”

For more information on the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, go to http://www.honors.olemiss.edu.

UM Student Wins Phi Beta Kappa Writing Internship

Kathryn James will submit articles for academic honor society's online newsletter

Triple major Kathryn James is a 2017 Phi Beta Kappa writing intern. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Kathryn James may not make a penny on any of the articles she writes for The Key Reporter, Phi Beta Kappa’s online newsletter, but the University of Mississippi student is grateful to have been awarded a writing internship from the prestigious academic honor society.

“I was surprised, as I didn’t know the position existed, honored that Dr. (John) Samonds thought of me to represent the university in the competition, and humbled to be chosen,” said James, a senior triple majoring in public policy leadership, economics and Southern studies from Mandeville, Louisiana.

“While I do not endeavor to write professionally, earning this position testifies to my ability to engage with other nationally recognized undergraduates.”

PBK’s writing internship program is primarily for juniors and seniors majoring in liberal arts or sciences who attend institutions where chapters are sheltered. Interns must make a five-month commitment to the program and prepare a minimum of six publishable articles for The Key Reporter.

Interns write and conduct research from their home campuses. Besides being good writers, interns need to be able to work independently and meet deadlines with a minimum of oversight and supervision. They must accept assigned topics and/or pitch their stories to the editor for approval before a completed article is submitted.

“I submitted my first piece on March 1 and have submitted two more since,” James said. “My writing has, thus far, profiled members of Phi Beta Kappa who break barriers in their membership, scholarship and/or professional lives.

“I have profiled the first African-American woman to gain membership in Phi Beta Kappa, a recent graduate and national scholarship winner – Truman and Mitchell scholarships – working in racial opportunity gaps, and a woman pioneer of computing language.”

James’ first published article is available at http://www.keyreporter.org/PbkNews/PbkNews/Details/2202.html.

The organization does not guarantee that every submitted article will be published. But even with no pay or guarantee of publication, it is an honor for James to have been chosen as an intern, said Luanne Buchanan, UM instructional associate professor of Spanish and secretary-treasurer of the campus PBK chapter.

“Kathryn earned the honor,” Buchanan said. “Dr. (Sandra) Spiroff encouraged her to apply for it.”

Spiroff, associate professor of mathematics and chapter vice president, was made aware of James’ writing talents by John Samonds, associate dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“After she expressed interest in the internship, I solicited writing samples from her, offered some small critiques and put her name forward to the society,” Spiroff said. “I was very impressed with Kathryn’s writing ability.

“I was hopeful that she would receive the internship since I have rarely seen a student write so well, engaging the interest of the reader.”

Each intern receives full credit for his/her work. Those who complete the program receive a formal certificate from Phi Beta Kappa and may request a letter of recommendation from the program.

“I see this opportunity as an extension of the honor that is Phi Beta Kappa,” James said. “It speaks to the confidence my university community has in my academic ability.”

For more information about the Phi Beta Kappa writing internship program, visit http://keyreporter.org/PbkNews/PbkNews/Details/912.html or email Spiroff at spiroff@olemiss.edu. The next deadline for applications is April 21 and the chapter is seeking interested students.

UM Honors College to Dedicate Expanded Building Thursday

Project added classrooms, study areas and space to 'dive deep' into discussions

UM officials will dedicate the expanded and renovated Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College during ceremonies Thursday afternoon. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Students, faculty and administrators will gather Thursday afternoon (March 30) at the University of Mississippi to celebrate the dedication of the expanded and renovated home of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

The ceremony, set for 3 p.m. in the building’s great room just inside the west entrance, officially concludes a project that doubled the size of the Honors College’s physical space and renovated the existing structure.

The expansion added 15,000 square feet, including new classrooms, study areas, offices and student lounges. Moving into the new space was “a 10-year dream come true,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.

“The gift of the new and renovated building provides extraordinary public spaces for our students to dive deep into the questions that challenge us all,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “Our students enjoy deep conversations, and this is a welcoming space that encourages us to take time to engage in the thorny issues of the day.”

The ceremony is to feature remarks by Marcus Thompson, chief administrative officer and chief of staff for the State Institutions of Higher Learning; Honors College alumni Dr. Marc Walker and Christin Gates Calloway; and Jim Barksdale, who helped launch the Honors College when he and his late wife, Sally McDonnell Barksdale, agreed to invest $5.4 million to expand the university’s Honors Program in 1997.

A public reception follows the program, and student ambassadors will conduct tours of the facility.

The program has grown tremendously from its initial class of 121 students in 1997 to a student body of more than 1,400 this year. The Honors College annually attracts high-performing students from across the state and country; the average ACT score for incoming scholars last fall was 30.9, and the average high school GPA was 3.97.

Praised as one of the nation’s best honors programs, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College attracts acclaim for its blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

“The Honors College is an example of the extraordinary personalized opportunities available to students at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “Across our campus, faculty and staff are dedicated to transforming lives through education and service to the community, and this program helps us attract the ‘best and the brightest’ to Ole Miss.”

The $6.9 million expansion and renovation project positions the Honors College to continue its leadership role on campus and across the region, Sullivan-Gonzalez said.

“This provides the needed infrastructure to assure that this program will be the ‘tip of the spear’ to lead the university’s academic charge for years to come,” he said.

For more information on the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, go to http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/.

Two Honors College Students Receive Barksdale Awards

John Chappell and Elizabeth Taylor each given $5,000 to fulfill dream projects

Barksdale Award winners (from left) Elizabeth Taylor and John Chappell are congratulated by Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzales during the Sally McDonell Barksdale Honors College’s annual spring convocation. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With $5,000 awards to support separate creative projects, two students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi students have been named 2017 Barksdale Award winners.

John Chappell, a sophomore Arabic and international studies major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Elizabeth Taylor, a junior sociology major from Sherman, Texas, were presented the awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation earlier this month.

The Barksdale Awards were established in 2005 to encourage students to test themselves in environments beyond the classroom, teaching lab or library. Chappell and Taylor are the 21st and 22nd recipients of the honor.

“I am very proud of these two citizen scholars,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “They demonstrate what is possible when you confront a question with both mind and heart, and a willingness to risk failure. Good for both of them. We can’t wait to see what comes from their efforts.”

Chappell is planning a comparative study of local water politics in Morocco and New Mexico. Taylor will spend a month in Dublin, Ireland, in association with Ruhama, a nongovernmental organization that has been successful working with those affected by sex trafficking and prostitution.

“I suspect that the water politics or irrigation systems in both Morocco and New Mexico show the influence of Arab institutions,” said Chappell, who expects to graduate in May 2019 with a focus in Middle East and international governance and politics. “I hope to test this hypothesis and also to learn more about the socio-political structures at work in water-scarce environments in general.”

A Croft Scholar and the winner of UM’s 2016 Arabic Language Award, Chappell spent last summer in Morocco. There, he used his Arabic to communicate with Moroccan artisans in arranging for high-quality, fair trade art for sale internationally.

He is former president and founder of Rebels for Global Opportunity, an international advocacy group focusing on U.S.-international development policy. He is also president and board member of Rebel Global Connections, which seeks to introduce elementary students to world cultures through intercultural events in schools.

Chappell has worked as a research assistant to Vivian Ibrahim, Croft associate professor of history and international studies.

“John possesses proven research, language and interpersonal skills,” Ibrahim wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He is dynamic. More than that, he is genuinely inquisitive.”

The first person to receive a Barksdale Award through the Honors College’s junior entry program, Taylor transferred to Ole Miss after completing her associate’s degree from Grayson College in Denison, Texas, graduating summa cum laude. She was president of the Grayson Honors College, a delegate to Model UN, a Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Scholar and a District Two Hall of Honor member.

Taylor was also an All-USA Scholar, Pierce Scholar, Guistwhite Scholar and a New Century Scholar.

“By creating an organizational ethnography of Ruhama, I want to figure out how to create similar nonjudgmental social, psychological and infrastructure support in the U.S.,” she said.

Taylor understands firsthand about food pantries, being hungry and surviving sexual assault.

“By the age of 9, I had lost my father and both grandmothers to cancer,” she said. “My mother, who struggled with drug addiction, was in and out of prison before being diagnosed with leukemia.”

Defying the odds, Taylor continues to achieve at the highest levels. At UM, she is involved with both McLean Mentors and Rebels Against Sexual Assault. She was also 2015-16 Phi Theta Kappa International vice president of Division ll.

Taylor also worked with James Thomas, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, in exploring how water policy is formulated and how it impacts disadvantaged communities.

“Elizabeth’s proposal is bold, ambitious and has the potential to shape important social policies at the national and international levels,” Thomas wrote in a letter of recommendation. “When Elizabeth sets her mind to something, the sky is the limit for her.”

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, visit http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/.

UM Pharmacy Student Accepts Internship at Mayo Clinic

Anna Crider hopes to use experience to move into critical-care role

Anna Crider, a UM senior and first-year pharmacy student, has accepted an offer to intern this summer at the Mayo Clinic in its clinical pharmacy department in Rochester, Minnesota. Photo by UM School of Pharmacy.

OXFORD, Miss. – Anna Crider, a first-year pharmacy student at the University of Mississippi, has accepted a pharmacy inpatient internship through the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences in Rochester, Minnesota.

Mayo Clinic and St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester partner to give interns exposure to clinical pharmacy while they gain a better understanding of the pharmacist’s role and intervention in the hospital setting.

“The coursework and the rigor of it at our pharmacy school have really made me confident in my ability to say ‘Yes, I can compete on a national level across all pharmacy schools,'” said Crider, a native of Brentwood, Tennessee.

During the 10-week internship, Crider will spend time collecting medical histories of patients and work under pharmacists in the central dispensing unit.

Crider’s academic and thesis adviser, Erin Holmes, credits this internship offer to the extensive education at the UM School of Pharmacy.

“The Mayo Clinic pharmacy internship is, without question, one of the most prestigious summer internship programs in the country,” Holmes said. “For one of our students to be selected for this internship validates the high standards expected in our program and quality of our training.

“Anna is truly deserving of this opportunity, as she is extremely bright, very hardworking, has a passion for learning and is always seeking ways to grow professionally.”

Crider is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where she is working on her thesis, “Mississippi Pharmacists’ Perceptions and Knowledge of ADHD in Children.”

Aside from her role as a first-year pharmacy student, Crider works as a pharmacy technician in the Oxford community. She is also active in community service organizations such as Relay for Life and RebelTHON.

A senior, Crider is on track to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical sciences in May. She plans to pursue a critical-care pharmacy role in a clinical setting after completing her residency.

“I hope to be able to serve patients and be an advocate for them in their time of need,” she said.

For more information on the UM School of Pharmacy, call 662-915-7267 or visit http://pharmacy.olemiss.edu/.

Spring Honors Convocation Features Evening of Music and Cinema

Event brings acclaimed film artists to UM

Animator Brent Green (left) performs with musicians in a production of ‘Live Cinema.’ Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – This year’s Spring Convocation for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College will bring a live cinematic experience featuring acclaimed artists to the University of Mississippi.

Titled “Live Cinema,” the event features a series of short films along with live narration and music. It includes Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Green; acclaimed animator Brent Green; Dan Nuxoll, artistic director of New York City’s Rooftop Films; and Bruce Levingston, the university’s Chancellor’s Artist-in-Residence. 

The performance is set for 7 p.m. March 8 at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. The free event is open to the public. 

“We are so thrilled to have these renowned artists join us for a wonderful evening of cinema and music,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “Bruce Levingston has assembled an incredible team of gifted artists for our SMBHC Spring Convocation.

“This performance will cast an imaginative light on many of the emotions just below the surface of our day-to-day lives. We are grateful to these extraordinary artists for this opportunity to explore fundamental questions through the arts.”

For “Live Cinema,” Sam Green has created what is known as a “live documentary,” where a video clip and photos are narrated live by him and accompanied by musical performances. 

“Sam Green and Brent Green, though not related, are both known for their unique performances that combine cinema, musical accompaniment and live narration,” Levingston said. “These two celebrated and incredibly innovative artists tell stories about families, rural America, the woman who sewed a spacesuit for the first dog sent into space, music legend Louis Armstrong and even the last person listed in the San Francisco phone book.”

This special collaboration also features live performances by musicians Brendan Canty, James Canty, Becky Foon and Kate Ryan, along with Levingston, in conjunction with cinematic shorts. 

“It is so elastic and so sensitive,” Sam Green said in an interview with The Observer. “If you make a movie, a traditional movie – and I’ve made a lot of them – you put it out in the world and it is done.

“The world changes and your movie doesn’t, and suddenly it just doesn’t work in the same way that it did. I like doing it this way because it is very nimble. It is a sensitive and organic kind of work.”

‘Live Cinema’ has been performed at theaters and halls across the country, including this 2016 show at the University of California at San Diego for its ArtPower Event. Photo by Alex Matthews/Qualcomm Institute/UC San Diego

Sam Green said his performances have been well-received and he feeds off the energy from the crowd, which doesn’t often happen for filmmakers. After debuting his style in 2010, he booked about 50 shows over the next two years. 

In an interview with The New York Times, Green said he discovered the live cinema style accidentally. While editing a documentary, he realized he needed more explanation for visuals. He wanted to avoid using on-camera interview clips, so a friend suggested showing it to an audience and narrating it. 

His collaborations with Brent Green and other artists have been met with tremendous critical success. 

Sam Green said he and his colleagues are looking forward to coming to Oxford for the first time and exploring the literary, musical and historical haunts of the town’s illustrious past, particularly a visit to William Faulkner’s home, Rowan Oak. 

Texas Couple Looks to Expand UM Student Recruiting

Crosswells underwrite student recruiter position for Lone Star State

Allen Crosswell and his wife, Leah, (center) enjoy a recent visit with UM administrators (from left) Provost Morris Stocks; Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents leadership; Chancellor Jeff Vitter; and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – With a recent $400,000 gift to the University of Mississippi, Allen and Leah Crosswell of Houston, Texas, have provided the means to hire and support a new recruiter whose goal will be to get more high-achieving Texas students to choose Ole Miss for college.

Crosswell, a 1989 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration, agreed to underwrite the expenses that will support a senior-level admissions counselor in Houston. The university has only one other Texas admissions counselor, who recruits out of Dallas.

“The Crosswells graciously offered a solution to an identified need, and for this gift we are very grateful,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “The Crosswells’ generous philanthropic investment in our university reveals their passionate belief in the power of education and their vision for improving opportunities available to young people.”

Though Texas recently has taken Tennessee’s place as the second state after Mississippi with the most students at Ole Miss, too many outstanding Texas high school students are enrolling elsewhere, Crosswell said.

“We’re primarily trying to increase the awareness of the value of a degree from the University of Mississippi,” said Crosswell, whose businesses are active in retail development, industrial acquisitions and asset lending. “We’re not getting the students with the upper grade-point averages and upper ACT and SAT scores. They’re going to the other competitive colleges primarily because they don’t know what we have to offer.”

Crosswell believes these high-achieving prospective students would be more likely to choose Ole Miss if they knew of its many benefits: the curricula, faculty and culture that made a difference in his own values and life views, so much so that he felt compelled to give back.

“Most of them don’t even know we have the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Crosswell said. “They’re not hearing about the national ranking of our schools or that our Patterson School of Accountancy is ranked in the Top 10, for example.”

And it’s just a matter of spreading the word, said Crosswell, who has worked with the Office of Admissions to develop a program that will get these students’ attention.

“We’ll make sure they know what we have to offer, make sure they get set up to come visit here, make sure they can meet other Ole Miss students from the major metros of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and also visit with some of our professors,” Crosswell said, adding that the whole experience will be prearranged by the recruiter. “I think it will help us build awareness for what we have to offer.”

It will also provide a personal touch, Leah Crosswell said.

“Everybody wants to be wanted, so all of sudden they have somebody who wants them and who’s showing them a program that will have real value when they graduate,” she said.

“It’s going to be an eye-opener for some of these kids,” Allen Crosswell continued. “They’ll see that they can get the excellent academics they need in a really fun, Southern setting with fraternities and sororities and SEC football.

“You can’t find that in most places. We’ve just got to sell it. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and we believe a recruiter can show that culture to students in Texas.”

It’s a unique concept, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The Crosswells’ gift is unprecedented for the university as far as providing resources to our admissions office and is going to increase our exposure and give us an opportunity to be more high-touch in Texas, where we get a number of wonderful students,” she said. “It will allow us to continue to expand the wonderful Ole Miss brand and that feeling of being an Ole Miss family.”

Both LaBanc and the Crosswells hope the Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund will be an example to others who may want replicate the program throughout Texas and in other states.

“It says that people value the work of the Office of Admissions,” LaBanc said. “They are a staff that is always out all year long. If they’re not working on the incoming class, they’re working on the following year’s class.

“They’re such a hard-working group of individuals and for someone to recognize that and want to help them expand their scope and expand the impact that they already have is such a real blessing.”

The Crosswells, who have a home in Oxford, frequently visit the university, where their son Holcombe is a junior integrated marketing communications major. Their son Greyson is a high-school senior who plans to attend Ole Miss in the fall.

The Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the name of the fund noted in the memo line, can be mailed to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at http://www.umfoundation/makeagift.

For information on establishing a similar fund, contact Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents, at 662-915-2711 or bmbarefo@olemiss.edu.

Honors College Senior Named Rhodes Finalist

Austin Powell interviews Nov. 18-19 for prestigious international fellowship

UM ASB President Austin Powell is a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

ASB President Austin Powell is a finalist for the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Austin Powell has long dreamed of winning a Rhodes Scholarship. Now, the University of Mississippi senior is just one step away from achieving that goal.

The Corinth native goes to Birmingham, Alabama, this weekend to interview as a Rhodes finalist and will learn Saturday whether he is selected for one of the prestigious scholarships. A public policy and philosophy double major in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Lott Leadership Institute, Powell said he was excited when he heard the news.

“My ultimate goal is to come back and raise the quality of life for Mississippians by developing an in-depth understanding of the criminology and the criminal justice system, how different entities can become community partners in Mississippi, and how the state can take partial ownership of the solution,” said Powell, son of former state Sen. Eric Powell and Gwen Salters Powell.

“When combined with my interests in correctional systems policies and the offender’s relationship with race, poverty and education, the Rhodes experience will offer professors, like Mary Bosworth, to guide my research on the disconnects that lie between empowering offenders in the entrepreneurial class and the reality of the low post-release employment opportunities.”

The Rhodes Scholarships, the oldest international fellowships, bring outstanding students from many countries to the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Besides “intellectual distinction,” the selection committee seeks excellence in qualities of mind and of person, which combined offer the promise of effective service to the world in the decades ahead. Rhodes Scholars are elected for two years of study at Oxford University, with the possibility of being renewed for a third year.

Powell’s selection as a finalist is an honor for him and an important distinction for the university, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.

“Austin Powell is a citizen scholar, actively seeking solutions for racial injustice and inequality,” he said. “The Rhodes Scholarship will allow him to continue his development at the University of Oxford as a leader and a scholar. He is investing his talents into his home state and tackling economic and justice issues with broad implications.”

Powell has put together a long list of accomplishments during his four years at UM. He is Associated Student Body president, was assistant director for the Ole Miss Big Event, social chair for the Columns Society and co-philanthropy chair and tribune for Sigma Chi fraternity. Powell is also a member of Omicron Delta Kappa, a McLean Innovation Scholar, a Trent Lott Institute Scholar and a Coca-Cola Scholar.

While teaching entrepreneurial and leadership development at the Marshall County Correctional Facility, Powell gained insights for the subject of his honors thesis, being directed by Jody Holland, UM assistant professor of public policy leadership.

“I have not met another student who has impressed me as much as Austin has in combining creativity, hard work, initiative and courage,” Holland said.

Associate Dean of Students Valeria Ross agreed.

“Austin is a rare find,” she said. “There is a genteel goodness about Austin that allows him to get things done and at the end of the day, the entire team is still intact and the relationships are stronger. He finds the good in whatever has taken place, and he never takes the easy way out.”

Powell begins a two-day interview process Friday (Nov. 18) before the District 7 selection committee. Finalists are chosen from each state to interview by district, and District 7 includes Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This process leads to the selection of 32 scholars nationally, from roughly 900 applications.

To prepare for the interview, Powell said he has been reading The New York Times and listening to National Public Radio every day, researching correctional education and poverty studies, and mapping out answers to probable questions.

UM’s last Rhodes Scholar was Shad White, selected in the 2008 competition.

Powell has a healthy outlook about the interview process.

“I’m humbled and excited at the potential chance to represent Ole Miss and the state of Mississippi,” Powell said. “I know many people don’t have this opportunity, so I want to enjoy this experience and the interview process.”

Levingston Named to Fant Chair

Donor celebrates lives of family members through endowed chair

Lester 'Ruff' Fant III (left) chats with Bruce Levingston at a reception on the UM campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Lester ‘Ruff’ Fant III (left) chats with Bruce Levingston at a reception on the UM campus. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Part of the attraction of a college town is enjoying nationally- and internationally-known speakers and musicians. Acclaimed concert pianist Bruce Levingston, the Chancellor’s Honors College Artist-in-Residence, brings many eminent guests to the University of Mississippi, such as a recent visit by noted philanthropist and conservationist David Rockefeller Jr.

The educational and cultural opportunities Levingston has added to the Oxford campus have prompted another title to be added to his name: He has been selected as holder of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair endowed by Lester “Ruff” Glenn Fant III of Washington, D.C.

A longtime benefactor, Fant committed a major gift to create the endowed faculty position in memory of his father and grandfather. Ruff Fant’s father was a law professor at Ole Miss for three decades.

“Bruce Levingston is truly a treasure for our university and for our state,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “I cannot think of a more fitting person to serve as the inaugural recipient of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair. Both the Fant family and Bruce play a significant role in helping our university achieve the highest levels of excellence.

“We are extremely appreciative of the ongoing support of the Fant family. And we applaud Bruce’s tremendous talent, teaching excellence, national stature and the extraordinary opportunities he brings to our university community.”

Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, has observed the impact of having Levingston on campus.

“Bruce Levingston exudes excellence in his teaching and concert performances,” Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “He drives our students to compete intellectually with the best in the world. Bruce knows how to instill confidence without backing away from the highest standard. They, in turn, perform beyond their wildest expectations.”

A leading figure in classical music, Levingston expressed gratitude for the expanded faculty title and the support of Fant and his wife, Susan, who also have endowed a faculty chair in English at Ole Miss honoring their friend Hubert H. McAlexander.

Holding an undergraduate degree from Vanderbilt University and a juris doctorate from Harvard Law School, Ruff Fant founded and chairs TowPath Partners, a specialty finance company that invests in mature renewable energy projects.

“I am deeply honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Lester Glenn Fant Chair,” Levingston said. “The family for whom this chair is named, and particularly donor Ruff Fant, represent the highest standards of excellence in every endeavor. I am both humbled and inspired to have been named to this distinguished position at the university.

“As holder of the Fant Chair, I plan to continue to teach, serve and mentor the many gifted students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College as well as continue to bring leading figures in the arts and humanities to Ole Miss. My goal is to share with students not only what people in other parts of the country are doing and thinking, but also to help them understand how to be a part of that national and international dialogue as they go out into the world.”

The latest visit by Rockefeller – director of Rockefeller & Co., former board chair of the Rockefeller Foundation, leading conservationist of ocean and water resources, and a passionate music supporter – expands the growing list of prominent figures Levingston has hosted at the university, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, and international ballet stars Alessandra Ferri and Herman Cornejo.

Levingston joined the university as artist-in-residence in fall 2014. Eleanor Anthony, who was influenced by Levingston while an undergraduate at Ole Miss, is earning a degree from the Stanford University School of Law.

“Bruce’s ability to inspire and challenge students is matched only by his deep dedication to their growth and education,” Anthony said. “By bringing some of the most influential voices of our time to this university, and by sharing his own music and voice with us, Bruce empowers students to realize the impact our own voices may have.

“He represents what teaching is at its best, and the incredible mark he has already left on this university takes shape in the lives and minds of each of his students.”

Levingston holds degrees from the University of Texas and the Aaron Copland School of Music and studied in Sion, Switzerland, at the Royal Conservatory of Toronto and the Aspen School of Music. He enjoys extraordinary experiences and wants Ole Miss students to have the same caliber of opportunities.

“My hope is that whether or not students pursue a career in the arts, they will learn to be thoughtful, innovative and resourceful, so that they may build fulfilling and meaningful lives for themselves and for the communities in which they live and work,” Levingston said.

Many important composers have written works for Levingston, and his Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center world premiere performances have won critical acclaim. The New York Times has praised his “mastery of color and nuance” and The New Yorker has called him “a force for new music.”

Levingston’s recordings have also received high critical praise. His album “Heavy Sleep” was named one of the Best Classical Recordings of 2015 by The New York Times. Levingston’s most recent album, “Dreaming Awake,” featuring the music of Philip Glass and actor Ethan Hawke, was selected as Album of the Week by WQXR/ WNYC, calling the disc a “passionate and spontaneous portrait of the composer” and “a boldly individual approach to the keyboard works of an American master.”

In addition, Levingston is the author of “Bright Fields: The Mastery of Marie Hull,” a comprehensive biography and survey of the work of the prominent Mississippi painter. He collaborates with respected cultural institutions on programs, including American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Alliance Française/French Institute, The Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival.

The Lester Glenn Fant Chair is open to accept gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks can be made out to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the Fant Chair noted in the memo line, and mailed to 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS, 38655; or by visiting online at http://www.umfoundation.com/makeagift/.