Jaz Brisack Named UM’s 15th Truman Scholar

Oxford junior was among three Ole Miss finalists for prestigious award

Jaz Brisack (center) is congratulated by Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (left) and Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, on being named the university’s 15th Harry S. Truman Scholar. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Jaz Brisack, a junior at the University of Mississippi, has been named the university’s 15th Harry S. Truman Scholar. Brisack was one of three UM finalists for the coveted scholarship.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter surprised the Oxford native and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College student Wednesday (April 11) with the announcement in the Lyceum.

“Jaz Brisack is upholding our strong and distinguished tradition of student excellence and public service,” Vitter said. “We are so pleased to offer programs and learning opportunities that prepare our students to be competitive on a national stage.”

Brisack’s honors include having an article, “Organizing Unions as Social Policy,” published in the Global Encyclopedia of Public Policy, being a winner in the Creative Nonfiction division of the Southern Literary Festival and receiving the UM Outstanding Freshman award. A National Merit Scholar finalist, she is also a member of the UM debate team and a recipient of Honors College Extraordinary Research Funds and Penny Leeton Service Award.

Brisack’s plans include earning a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and later working with a small and independent union or network of unions to help empower workers to bring democratic processes to their workplaces. 

“I want to help create a network of independent locals with self-determination that retain nationwide leverage while maintaining a decentralized approach,” Brisack said.

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the federal memorial to the 33rd U.S. president, awards merit-based scholarships to college students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.

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

Ten Seniors Named UM Hall of Fame Inductees

Recipients honored for service, achievement and potential for success

The 2018 University of Mississippi Hall of Fame. Photo by by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi seniors have been inducted into the university’s 2017-18 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors afforded students at Ole Miss.

The inductees were honored Friday afternoon (April 6) in a ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. A campus committee chooses Hall of Fame members in accordance with policy developed by the Associated Student Body. Selections are based on outstanding contributions in all aspects of campus life.

This year’s Hall of Fame members are Allen Coon of Petal; Christopher Feazell of Mendenhall; Terrence Johnson of Shuqualak; Jiwon Lee of Oxford; Megan McLeod of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Savannah Smith of Corinth; Austin Spindler of Savannah, Tennessee; Elizabeth Taylor of Whitesboro, Texas; Jacob Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama; Ingrid Valbuena of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

“Each of the students selected for Hall of Fame has a record of scholarship and service to the university community and has impacted the Ole Miss campus in a positive way,” said Mindy Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “Hall of Fame is a fitting way to recognize the legacy that each of them leaves at the University of Mississippi.”

The 10 students were among 200 seniors recognized for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Students at the University of Mississippi.

“The Hall of Fame is a time-honored process that has identified students who have gone on to make a true difference in the world,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This year’s inductees have made a mark on our institution and have developed abilities that will serve them well in their careers.”

Allen Coon

Pursuing a double major in public policy leadership and African American studies, Coon is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. As an ASB senator, Coon worked with NAACP student organizers to remove the Mississippi state flag from campus and co-organized the #OccupytheLyceum protest, a spontaneous sit-in demanding an administrative response to campus racism. He previously served as president of UM College Democrats and UM Voters Everywhere. After graduation, he plans to attain both a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree and become a community organizer and civil servant. Coon’s parents are Kay Kolwe Coon and Howard Coon, both of Petal.

Christopher Feazell

Feazell, an accountancy major, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. He served in several roles over the course of his education, including vice president of programming for the National Association of Black Accountants, vice president of the Black Student Union, treasurer of the Accountancy ASB, Luckyday Scholar and the Columns Society. Fezell plans to pursue a master’s degree in taxation in the university’s Patterson School of Accountancy, pass the CPA exam and begin a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Atlanta upon graduation. His parents are Stephanie Berry of Mendenhall and Christopher Eugene Feazell of Mt. Olive.

Terrence Johnson

A journalism major, Johnson has served as president of the Men of Excellence, the largest male minority organization at the university. He also served as public relations director for the Columns Society, anchor for NewsWatch TV, co-president of the UM Association of Black Journalists, an orientation leader and coordinator. After graduation, Johnson plans to pursue a master’s degree in video storytelling and narrative writing at the University of California at Berkeley. His parents are George Lee and Angela Johnson of Shuqualak.

Jiwon Lee

Lee is a music performance major with an emphasis on flute and violin performance. She was drum major for the Pride of the South Marching Band, principal flutist of the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble and ensemble violinist for the LOU Symphony. A member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Lee was president of the Korean Student Association and recipient of the Marcus Guinn Spirit Award. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in music education and music performance at the university. Lee’s parents are Jongbok and Aeran Moon Lee of Oxford.

Megan McLeod

McLeod, an economics major with a minor in chemistry, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Columns Society, and founder of the Hotty Toddy Tutors LLC, a student-run tutoring company. She is founding vice president of the UM chapter of the American Medical Women’s Society, vice president of chapter development for Phi Mu fraternity and recipient of the Trailblazer Award from Fraternal Leadership and Learning. After graduation, McLeod plans to pursue a medical degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Her parents are Bill and Christine McLeod of Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

Savannah Smith

Smith is completing a double major in journalism and public policy leadership. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Trent Lott Leadership Institute scholar, she is Miss Ole Miss, executive director of the Big Event, vice president of the Columns Society, an orientation leader and an executive officer in Chi Omega sorority. After graduation, Smith will attend New York University to pursue a master’s degree in journalism with a magazine emphasis. Her parents are Tim and Tracy Smith of Corinth.

Austin Spindler

Spindler is a public policy leadership major in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. He has served as assistant director of the Big Event, senior executive assistant to the ASB president, ASB secretary, staffing director of the UM Food Bank and IFC vice president of public relations. Spindler plans to move to Washington, D.C., to pursue a career in consulting. His parents are Richard and Dana Spindler of Savannah, Tennessee.

Elizabeth Taylor

A sociology major, member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Taylor served as a mentor in the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. She also served as a peer educator for Rebels Against Sexual Assault and was the first junior-entry student to receive the Barksdale Award. After graduation, Taylor plans to pursue a doctorate in sociology at the University of Missouri. Her parents are Elizabeth A. Taylor of Sadler, Texas, and the late Marshall Lee Taylor.

Jacob Thrasher

Thrasher, a chemistry major in the biochemistry track, served as president of Omicron Delta Kappa, past president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault and a panelist for the Huffington Post’s Listen to America Tour. An editorial cartoonist for the Daily Mississippian and Oxford Eagle, he received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Region 12 Award for best political cartoonist. Thrasher has been accepted to graduate school at Yale University. Where he plans pursue a doctorate in biology and biological sciences. His parents are Christy Branton Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama, and the late Michael Aaron Thrasher.

Ingrid Valbuena

Valbuena is an integrated marketing communications major and a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She served as vice president of administration for Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and was an orientation leader and coordinator. A member of the Columns Society, Valbuena also hosted “sad girls, bad girls,” a weekly program on Rebel Radio. Her plans are to earn a master’s degree in IMC and advertising and become a college professor. Valbuena’s parents are Marcos Valbuena and Omarly Acina of Maracaibo, Venezuela.


Honors College Student Named Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow

Elizabeth Boyer among 16 chosen for prestigious summer program at George Washington's estate

Elizabeth Boyer, a junior economics major from Houston, is the first University of Mississippi student chosen to be a Mt. Vernon Leadership Fellow. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – A student in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi has been selected as a 2018 Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow.

Elizabeth Boyer of Houston, a junior economics major with a minor in intelligence and security studies, is among 16 university students nationwide chosen for the prestigious six-week summer institute at the estate of President George Washington. She is the first Ole Miss student to ever be admitted to the Mount Vernon program.

“My reaction was a mixture of emotions, but it was mainly composed of relief that my hard work had finally paid off,” Boyer said. “So often, we’re told that if we work hard for something and want it, we’ll get it. This is one of the first times I’ve been able to experience that.”

At Mount Vernon, Boyer will study Washington and the qualities he possessed that made him such a great leader. Because the nation’s first president was known for making change, fellows are encouraged to complete a capstone project on something they would like to see changed in their community.

“I would like to gear my capstone project towards education in Mississippi and the opportunities available for college students, specifically in making resources more available so that students can better succeed academically and professionally,” Boyer said.

During her fellowship, she will meet with some of the nation’s top leaders, engage with other fellows on leadership styles and skills, and collaborate with her assigned capstone mentor.

UM administrators praised Boyer’s honor.

“We are so pleased to have a student as stellar and accomplished as Elizabeth chosen for this distinguished, highly-selective opportunity,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “It is quite an honor and recognition of her leadership skills, her commitment to education and her passion for making a difference.

“This achievement is a wonderful example of the academic excellence we uphold at the University of Mississippi.”

“We are extremely proud of Elizabeth’s accomplishments and super-excited that she is our university’s first Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “She has become a leader on the national stage, and we look forward to watching her succeed in the years to come.”

Boyer credits Ashleen Williams, her honors instructor, mentor and adviser, for steering her toward applying for the leadership fellows program.

“Liza sets an incredible example for other young people, especially young women, in Mississippi and I feel recognition through this award is a step in improving her confidence and recognizing her achievements,” said Williams, a senior Barksdale fellow at the university.

“It’s rewarding to see your students recognized for their dedication, leadership and academic potential. This award feels like a milestone in her journey and will contribute to her ability to continue accomplishing great things.”

Boyer’s achievement attests to both her own academic excellence and leadership ability and that of the institution, said Tim Dolan, director of the university’s office of national scholarship advisement.

“The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows’ recognition of Liza’s accomplishments is a testament to the exceptional instruction and advising the University of Mississippi provides its students,” Dolan said. “I always encourage students to find opportunities to grow intellectually, both in and out of the classroom, and Liza has built an impressive resume by following her academic passions.”

Boyer is a graduate of Houston High School. Upon graduation from UM, she hopes to return to her hometown and make a difference in its conditions.

“I would like to know that I am making some sort of positive impact in my community and on those around me,” she said. “I believe that the Mount Vernon program will help me advance these goals.”

For more information about the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, go to http://www.honors.olemiss.edu/. For additional details about the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program, visit http://www.mountvernon.org/leadershipfellows/.

Living Music Resource Goes Live to Levingston’s Carnegie Hall Concert

Nancy Maria Balach and UM students to interview pianist on location in New York

Nancy Maria Balach, associate professor of music and founder of Living Music Resource, and Bruce Levingston, the Chancellor’s Artist-in-Residence of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, (seated, center) work with four of Balach’s top students as they prepare to travel to New York City where they will produce a special ‘LMR Live’ program. The students are (standing, from left) Lacey Hindman, Melanie Culhane, Ava Street and Jocelyn Sanabria. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – When Bruce Levingston, renowned concert pianist and Chancellor’s Artist-in-Residence of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College at the University of Mississippi, performs this month at Carnegie Hall, he will provide a unique educational opportunity for students involved in the Living Music Resource program.

Levingston and Nancy Maria Balach, UM associate professor of music and founder of Living Music Resource, are working closely together to give select students a chance to hear a great pianist in one of the world’s most prestigious concert venues and to assist with the production of an “LMR Live” program on location in New York City.

Balach, along with four of her top students, dubbed the “Dream Team,” will film and interview Levingston in New York as part of a special edition of “LMR Live,” an interactive web-based talk show series focused on “edutainment,” Balach said.

Living Music Resource was created as a vehicle to bring acclaimed professionals to Mississippi in general and UM in particular, as well as a way to showcase some of Mississippi’s finest artists, such as Bruce Levingston, who was born in the Delta,” Balach said. “LMR allows UM to be the portal for a 21st-century approach to musical experiences.”

LMR offers music majors exceptional educational experiences, links alumni with Ole Miss students and engages an international viewing audience.

Balach, a singer who has appeared throughout the U.S. and in Europe, is dedicated to bridging the musical traditions of the past with the resources of today, along with the latest technology, breaking boundaries between musical genres, redefining stereotypes of classical music, focusing on collaboration and inclusiveness, and being committed to community engagement.

LMR brings acclaimed artists and pedagogues, such as Grammy and Pulitzer Prize winners, Broadway and Metropolitan Opera stars, Ole Miss alumni and local artists, to Oxford. It allows students to interact with professionals in the music business through master classes, question-and-answer sessions and “LMR Live.”

The next “LMR Live” event will take place in conjunction with Levingston’s performance at Carnegie Hall on April 9, the date that Gov. Phil Bryant has proclaimed as “Bruce Levingston Day” in Mississippi. Levingston will perform the world premiere of new works of music he commissioned in honor of the opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Mississippi Museum of History and in celebration of the state’s bicentennial.

“It’s a joy for me to work with Nancy Maria and these gifted students during this special weekend in New York City,” Levingston said. “Nancy Maria Balach is a visionary and her founding of the Living Music Resource program is helping to lead these young musicians and the university music program into the highest level of artistic engagement with the musical world.”

The four student members of the LMR Dream Team scheduled to travel to New York next month are: Ava Street, a junior education major and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College scholar from Purvis; Jocelyn Sanabria, a senior vocal performance major from Atoka, Tennessee; Lacey Hindman, a senior vocal performance major who also is from Atoka; and Melanie Culhane, a graduate assistant from Memphis who is pursuing her master’s degree in vocal performance.

“LMR teaches students to market themselves, to discipline their lives and to continually better their craft through research and collaboration,” Street said. “Professor Balach has encouraged and inspired me to pursue greatness.”

Sanabria said Levingston’s rise to the top tier of internationally recognized pianist serves as an inspiration to her and other artists in the South.

“I am very excited to see Bruce Levingston perform in Carnegie Hall,” Sanabria said. “I hope that by being on location in New York City, we will be able to showcase what the University of Mississippi has to offer.

“I hope to return to UM a better musician with new connections for collaboration and methods for teaching.”

Besides having an opportunity to see Levingston perform at Carnegie Hall, Culhane said she is looking forward to working with her professor and fellow students to overcome whatever challenges may arise from producing a “LMR Live” program in an unfamiliar setting.

“It will be an experience that artistically minded individuals and people who appreciate art can enjoy,” Culhane said. “I think it’ll be a great experience for the LMR Dream Team to travel to New York City and to be working on location.”

Levingston, who is also the inaugural holder of the university’s Lester Glenn Fant Chair, said he is deeply moved by the students’ desire to come to see him perform in New York.

“These are incredibly talented students from the university who work with this wonderful LMR program, and I am inspired and honored by their interest in coming to this event,” Levingston said.

“They are the next generation of emerging artists who have much to give and much to teach. I know that I learn as much from them as they learn from me.”

Levingston’s enthusiasm in being a part of the “LMR Live” program illustrates the pianist’s heartfelt commitment to the university and its students, Balach said.

“I am truly fortunate to call Bruce Levingston a friend and a colleague at the University of Mississippi Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Department of Music,” she said. “He is a person dedicated to music, mentorship, education and public spirit.”

Many Mississippians are expected to attend the Carnegie Hall concert, and Balach encourages music lovers from the Ole Miss community to join them by securing tickets now.

“We cannot wait to be in the audience at Carnegie Hall and experience this Mississippi-born artist sharing musical excellence in New York City,” she said.

Everyone is invited to watch the “LMR Live” interview in real time from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. (CDT) Saturday (April 7) via the LMR website at http://livingmusicresource.com/. The program also will be archived at this website for those unable to watch it live.



Three UM Juniors Named Truman Scholar Finalists

Students interview for prestigious award March 13; winners to be announced April 18

Jarvis Benson

OXFORD, Miss. – Good news came for a trio of University of Mississippi juniors recently when they were named finalists for the prestigious Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

Jarvis Benson of Grenada, Jaz Brisack of Oxford and Allen Coon of Petal will each interview for the award March 13 before a regional review panel in Nashville. Winners will be announced April 18.

“This is the first time in history that the University of Mississippi has had three Truman finalists,” said Tim Dolan, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “It is rare for universities to have multiple finalists.

“Colorado State and the University of Pennsylvania each had four finalists this year, but for SEC schools, it is typical to have only one or two.”

The university’s most recent Truman recipient, its 14th overall, was Chelsea Caveny, a public policy leadership major from Hattiesburg, in 2010. The university’s nomination committee selected four juniors this year from a field of seven applicants.

“To have three of our four institutional nominees named as finalists is really amazing,” Dolan said. “For their final selection, the Truman Foundation will award one scholarship per state.”

Students selected as Truman Scholars are invited to participate in the Truman Washington Summer Institute following their junior year to deepen their understanding of the national policy-making process.

All three Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College students said they were thrilled when they received their notifications.

“That a foundation as prestigious as Truman would believe in and recognize me in such a way was incredible to realize,” said Benson, an international studies and Spanish major. “it still is.”

Benson plans to work with the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants during the Summer Institute, if he wins the scholarship.

Jaz Brisack

“I would love to have a look into the way the committee organizes to provide services such as shelter, food, clothing, health care, job development and legal representation to their clients,” he said. “I would like to work with the refugee crisis issue and work to educate lawmakers on the intricacies of the refugee crisis and advocating for policies that extend protections to those that have been displaced.”

Benson’s honors and awards include the Croft Scholar Scholarship, Outstanding Student in Spanish, the Honors College’s Penny Leeton Service Award, National Achievement Scholarship, Most Outstanding Freshman Award from the Black Student Union and 2016 Freshman Leadership Award from Omicron Delta Kappa honor society. He is a member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society.

His plans are to obtain a master’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University and to assist international communities as a foreign service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

A general studies major, Brisack said she was “excited and very nervous, but happy” to learn the good news. If selected, she would like to work with the Solidarity Center, an AFL-CIO-sponsored initiative in Washington, D.C., that works to achieve the right to unionize for workers around the world and help them gain a voice and rights at their jobs.

“Intersectionality is important to me,” she said. “The Solidarity Center attempts to address many forms of exploitation, from human trafficking to mistreatment of migrant workers to the unequal classification of domestic workers, through empowering those directly affected.”

Brisack’s honors include having an article, “Organizing Unions as Social Policy,” published in the Global Encyclopedia of Public Policy, being a winner in the Creative Nonfiction division of the Southern Literary Festival and receiving the UM Outstanding Freshman award. A National Merit Scholar, she is also a member of the UM debate team and a recipient of Honors College Extraordinary Research Funds and Leeton Service Award.

Brisack plans to earn a master’s degree in creative writing and then work as a labor union organizer to empower workers to bring democratic processes to their workplaces.

“It’s a privilege to represent the University of Mississippi and our state in this national contest,” said Coon, a public policy leadership and African American studies major with a minor in sociology. During the Washington Summer Institute, he would like to prepare to become a state representative and local community organizer.

“Generations of inequitable education access and allocation have exacerbated state racial income disparities, culminating in a chronically underfunded public education system that fails our poorest and most marginalized communities,” he said.

“I will push our state to sanction mandatory early education (kindergarten) and strengthen post-secondary vocational and trade programs through joint public-private funding mechanisms and a bipartisan, statewide grassroots campaign calling on citizens and officials to consider public and private investments in education as job creation and economic freedom programs.”

Allen Coon

Coon’s accolades include the university’s Lift Every Voice Award and the Andrew Goodman Foundation Hidden Heroes Award. He has worked with the NAACP, Mississippi Vote Everywhere and Young Democrats of Mississippi.

After graduation, he plans are to intern at the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation until fall 2021. Afterwards, Coon hopes to attend the University of California at Berkeley and pursue a concurrent degree in public policy and law at the Goldman School of Public Policy and the School of Law, respectively.

Coon would like to ultimately return to Mississippi to work on civil rights, voting rights and education.

Honors College Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said all three students are already winners just for being nominated at the same time.

“We are ecstatic with three Truman finalists for the University of Mississippi and for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” he said. “I rest well with the future of our republic knowing that these agents of change who have received this great accolade will take on the unknown challenges with gusto and aplomb.”

The candidates said they will remain friends no matter who – if any of them – wins.

“I’ve been blessed to attend alongside Jarvis and Jaz, whose dedicated voter engagement and union organizing work, respectively, have bettered our community and inspired my own work,” Coon said. “The other Mississippi candidate, Jack Hoda of the University of Southern Mississippi, is an old friend and fellow Petal School District graduate.

“I am proud that Mississippi can claim these change makers as its representatives.”

Brisack echoed Coon’s sentiments.

“I’ve been friends with Jarvis and Allen for years, and they are both exceptional young leaders who will represent our university and state well,” she said. “I’m glad they both advanced.”

Benson had similar praises for his peers.

“They are two of the most fierce fighters for good I have ever met,” he said. “For years, I have watched them rally, march and organize with humility and grace. They are the epitome of what it means to be a Truman Scholar.”

The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation, the federal memorial to the nation’s 33rd president, awards merit-based scholarships to college students who plan to pursue careers in government or elsewhere in public service. Truman Scholars receive up to $30,000 for graduate or professional school, participate in leadership development activities and have special opportunities for internships and employment with the federal government.

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

Clint Smith Reflects and Reveals at UM Black History Month Keynote

National Poetry Slam champion shares historic, personal insights through spoken word orations

National Poetry Slam champion Clint Smith shares his original ‘spoken word’ meditations during the keynote address for Black History Month at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With wit and wisdom, National Poetry Slam champion Clint Smith shared historic truths and personal meditations about being black in America with a responsive audience Monday (Feb. 26) at the University of Mississippi.

Using the popular “spoken word” format, Smith delivered the keynote address as annual Black History Month observances came to a close. Speaking before a capacity audience in Fulton Chapel, the World Poetry Slam finalist said America, and particularly the South, is filled with “complex dualities and multiple truths” that create an uncomfortable reality that will not diminish simply by motivational rhetoric and wishful thinking alone.

“We’re in a unique place when it comes to race and racism in this country,” Smith said. “In many ways, Oxford is a microcosm of what is happening nationwide.”

Citing the United States’ long and complicated history before, during and after the Atlantic slave trade, Smith offered his reflections on a myriad of subjects. Topics addressed in his poetry ranged from uncomfortable conversations African-American parents have with their sons to unflattering facts about past presidents who owned slaves and the real motives behind the New Deal.

“Oppression does not disappear just because you removed those chapters in our history books and refuse to talk about it,” he said. “Racial stratification is not an accident.”

While the recent removals of Confederate statues in cities around the national is a major victory, Smith said such milestones cannot and should not be the end of efforts to improve conditions for minorities.

“Things don’t change on their own, without pressure or quickly,” Smith said. “Often, significant change doesn’t occur until generations later.

“We must keep banging on the closed doors because we never know when opportunities will open – not just for ourselves, but for those who will benefit after us.”

Receiving finger snaps, a sign of approval among spoken word enthusiasts, and two standing ovations, the speaker’s passionate appeals for activism drew positive responses from those in attendance.

“Black History Month is important throughout the nation, but perhaps especially important here at the University of Mississippi,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We have taken many positive steps to recognize our past, embrace forward-thinking attitudes, and support inclusion and diversity.

Keynote speaker Clint Smith (second from right) is welcomed to the UM campus by (from left) Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement; Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter; Nekitta Beans, Black Student Union president; and Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

“We must keep doing so because embracing different ideas and perspectives makes us a stronger community, because it prepares our students to become engaged citizens and because it’s deeply tied to our central mission – our purpose – as an institution of higher learning.

Shawnboda Mead, director of the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, said the committee hopes Smith’s presentation provided a memorable experience for everyone in attendance.

“As our university strives to be a leader in racial reconciliation and inclusivity, this year’s keynote address is a continuation of our educational effort,” Mead said.

A published writer, award-winning teacher and doctoral candidate at Harvard University, Smith has taught high school in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He has spoken at the U.S. Department of Education, the IB Conference of the Americas and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, and has been featured on TED.com, Upworthy and TVOne.

Sponsors were the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, University Lecture Series, Office of the Chancellor, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Associated Student Body, Department of Student HousingSally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, School of Education, Arch Dalrymple III Department of History, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Department of African American Studies, National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Black Student Union.

Fulbright Scholarship Program Director Visits UM

Goal is to raise awareness of opportunities for study and research abroad, encourage nominations

Daniel Kramer, director of the Fulbright Scholarship program, visits UM Thursday. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Daniel Kramer, director of the Fulbright Scholarship program, will visit the University of Mississippi on Thursday (March 1) to speak with students and faculty members. 

Kramer will meet with students and faculty members as part of an overall effort by UM to raise awareness about scholarship opportunities through Fulbright and also other programs. The visit will also help students and faculty, who nominate applicants, learn more about what is expected to be accepted into the program. 

A workshop for potential Fulbright Student Program applicants is set for 3-4:30 p.m. at the Honors College, Room 331.

Oliver Dinius, director of the Croft Institute for International Studies, has been working to bring Kramer to campus. Administrators want more Croft students to apply for Fulbright scholarships, he said. 

“Dr. Kramer’s visit is a unique opportunity for our students to learn directly from someone overseeing the selection process what makes for a strong application,” Dinius said. “This is also an opportunity for faculty and administrators to learn more about how the Fulbright program can help us to strengthen the University of Mississippi’s international profile more generally.”

The Fulbright program is one of the most prestigious and generous aid programs available to students and professionals for an international exchange. The scholarship is named for the late Arkansas U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, who served more than 30 years in Washington. 

Fulbright earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Arkansas in 1925 and went on to Oxford University, where he earned a master’s degree. He was profoundly affected by the experience of learning overseas. In the U.S. Senate, he sponsored the legislation that created the Fulbright program in 1946.

The U.S. government supports the program, which also has partnerships with foreign governments to help sponsor U.S. and foreign participants for exchanges. They come from sciences, business, academe, public service, government and the arts. The goal is for them to continue to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and those of other countries. 

To date, there have been more than 250,000 Fulbright students, scholars and teachers. 

Each year, 15-20 Ole Miss students submit grant applications to conduct research, teach English or pursue graduate degrees supported by the Fulbright US Student program, said Tim Dolan, director of the Office of National Scholarship Advisement in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College

“We feel like we have many more qualified students who simply don’t yet know about the Fulbright and we’d like to encourage them to apply,” Dolan said. “Dr. Kramer will provide valuable insight into the mission of the Fulbright and how students can create competitive applications.

“Current students who are Fulbright semifinalists will be on hand to talk about the process they went through in choosing a grant and putting together their applications. We hope to build enthusiasm among University of Mississippi students so that more will take advantage of the opportunity to go abroad and promote peace and mutual understanding between people with different cultural traditions.”

Two Honors College Students Receive Barksdale Awards

Bethany Fitts and Gabrielle Schust each given $5,000 to fulfill dream projects

Gabrielle Schust (left) and Bethany Fitts are congratulated by Dean Douglass Sullivan-González after receiving Barksdale Awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation. Photo by Thomas Graning/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 have been named 2018 Barksdale Award winners.

Bethany Fitts, a junior English and history major from Tupelo, and Gabrielle Schust, a junior international studies and Spanish major from Columbia, Missouri, were presented the awards during the Honors College’s annual spring convocation Tuesday (Feb. 20).

The Barksdale Awards were established in 2005 to encourage students to test themselves in environments beyond the classroom, teaching lab or library. Fitts and Schust are the 23rd and 24th recipients of the honor.

“Our Barksdale Award winners have proposed tasks that will help them help us push our understanding of being human and being in this world,” said Douglas Sullivan-González, dean of the Honors College. “Bethany and Gabrielle are each taking on both a troubled past and a troubled present, seeking the connections that give hope and ways forward. I am proud that the Barksdale Award can fund such visions.”

Fitts will spend time in Washington state and in Hawaii, gaining ground-level experience with several kindred topics: poetry publication, conservation and W.S. Merwin, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry and a founder of a conservancy housing more than 400 species of endangered palm trees.

In Washington, with the well-respected Copper Canyon Press, she will gain hands-on experience with everything about poetry publication, from helping to organize community events to editing and marketing. At the Merwin Conservancy in Maui, Fitts will work in its education program and alongside the conservancy’s gardener. As a follow-up, she hopes to promote similar poetry/ecology work in all 50 states and to write her own collection of poems drawn from her experiences.

“As a writer and lover of words, I have always been curious about the ways in which literature, particularly poetry, intersects with real people and the world’s concerns,” said Fitts, who expects to graduate in May 2020. “Many people view poetry as separate from the world, and while this view does not necessarily diminish poetry’s value, I simply think that it is wrong. I think that, now more than ever, our country and our world must wake up to the political, social and environmental concerns that we have allowed to develop, and one way to engage with this waking process is poetry.”

Fitts serves as editorial assistant for the Ole Miss Alumni Review and as creative content editor for the undergraduate Populi Magazine. Last year, she won the English department’s Campbell Award. Fitts volunteers with Mississippi Votes and, last summer, was an intern with the Sunflower County Freedom Project, where she taught literacy, gardening and creative writing to students. Her questions have to do with the poet’s role in today’s chaotic society, and her own identity as a poet in that world and in Mississippi as it exists today.

Fitts has worked with Daniel Stout, associate professor of British literature.

“Bethany is a student of particular academic gifts, but her truly distinguishing quality is the depth and energy of her commitment to an interdisciplinary life of the mind,” Stout wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She is the true model of the citizen scholar, interested in how literature helps people interact with their surroundings, in literature as a form of social enrichment.”

Schust will travel to England to collect oral histories of older women in religious orders whose charitable works in the 1960s and early 1970s (pre-National Health Service) focused on medical care for the poor, especially for women or children. She has already contacted three such orders and arranged interviews with eight sisters, the eldest of whom is now 103.

By collecting their stories, Schust hopes to gain insights into any changes over the past 70 years in how women in religious life had provided social services for the poor. She plans to capture the interviews on camera and create a mini-documentary, so that there will be a “window into the world of these women and the communities in which they worked.”

During an academic year in Lima, Peru, next year, Schust will conduct research into similar work being conducted in the Andes by women in religious orders.

The statistics about poverty, maternal/fetal mortality rates and life expectancy in today’s Andes and England before the National Health Service are “striking,” Schust said. She hopes to determine how today’s efforts compare and provide an assessment for how the Andean practices might be improved upon.

Schust has volunteered as an ACT Prep Class instructor and with the Oxford Film Festival, as well as for various local and national political campaigns. She is a member of Model UN and involved with UM’s Ghostlight Repertory Theatre and participates in youth and community theatre at home in Missouri.

Schust spent a summer in Bolivia in the field school of Kate Centellas, Croft associate professor of sociology and anthropology.

“I remember Gabrielle sitting and talking with her host family for hours, as she heard their stories and learned more about them and their perspectives,” Centellas said. “That time helped her understand the power of oral histories in the context of social science research. Her project is timely and innovative, and it needs doing.”

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

Fisk University Singers Coming to UM for Black History Month Concert

Thursday performance at Ford Center free to the public

The Fisk Jubilee Singers perform Feb. 22 for the first time at UM for the 2018 Black History Month Concert at the Ford Center. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi Department of Music is bringing the world-renowned Fisk Jubilee Singers to campus this week for the university’s 2018 Black History Month Concert.

The performance is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. Admission is free and open to the public.

The concert is billed as “Be a Harmonizing Voice for Diversity” and also will feature the UM Concert Singers in a joint performance on the closing numbers. The Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble will perform as stage warmers before the show. The event is coordinated by George W.K. Dor, UM professor of music and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Chair of Ethnomusicology.

“We use the Black History Month Concert to promote and celebrate diversity,” Dor said.

“The concert will feature two ensembles, one from a predominantly black institution and the other from a predominantly white university. The optics of symbolic interaction can send a powerful message of the determination of these two universities, taking their diversity projects to another level.”

Paul Kwami, Fisk University professor and the director of the choral group, will present “The History of the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” at 1 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium. This lecture is free and open to the public.

Established in 1871, the Fisk Jubilee Singers are credited for popularizing “Negro spiritual” music in the United States and Europe. In the late 19th century, the group traveled all over the Northeast and ventured to England, Germany and other European nations, performing this unique American genre to help raise funds to prevent Fisk University’s closure.

By the end of the group’s tours, it had raised enough money to guarantee the school’s survival and build Jubilee Hall, the university’s first academic building.

Fisk University, founded in 1866, is a historically black university in Nashville, Tennessee, and was a leader in ensuring education for African-Americans following the Civil War. Notable alumni include sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Dubois, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and acclaimed pianist Matthew Kennedy.

Karen Davidson Smith, UM clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, attended Fisk University and was a member of the Jubilee Singers from 1990 to ’94. The Oxford native said she is excited “beyond words” to have the celebrated choral group at Ole Miss.

More than 150 years after the group’s founding, “the Jubilee Singers are still spreading magic through music that is both enchanting and thrilling,” Davidson Smith said.

“As a graduate of an historically black college who now teaches at a predominantly white institution, I have often felt that no one here is really interested that my culture is in full existence,” Davidson Smith said. “I am excited that both majority and diverse students have an opportunity to learn about the rich history of the Jubilee Singers and Fisk University.”

Applied Sciences Welcomes Inaugural Visiting Research Scholar

Cecile Guin to provide expert grant and publication counsel, mentorship to faculty

Cecile Guin

OXFORD, Miss. – Cecile Guin, director of the Office of Social Service Research and Development at Louisiana State University’s School of Social Work, will serve as the inaugural visiting research scholar for the School of Applied Sciences.

The school launched the Visiting Research Scholars Forum this academic year to help enhance research productivity, bringing meritorious research scholars to campus to facilitate discussion on best practices in research publication and grantsmanship. Renowned for their presentations, strong research publication record and national competitive grant award record, these scholars will provide lectures, small-group discussions and individual meetings for any interested faculty.

Guin will be on campus Feb. 26-27. After presenting a session on “Writing Grants to Support Your Research Agenda” to a universitywide audience and a lecture on “Pathway to Funding: Finding Support for Your Research Career” to the School of Applied Sciences faculty, the visiting scholar will lead a panel discussion, hold individualized mentorship sessions with faculty and meet with doctoral students.

“Dr. Guin has an impressive publication and grantsmanship record,” said Daphne Cain, the school’s interim associate dean. “She is nationally recognized for her teaching, her history of high-impact publications and her extramural funding. We are thrilled to have her share her experience and advice with our faculty.”

Guin began working for LSU in 1995 as a funding consultant and associate professor of research. Before moving to Baton Rouge in 1996, she operated a private business that provided grant writing, evaluation and consultation to nonprofit and governmental agencies.

As director of the LSU Office of Social Service Research and Development, Guin focuses heavily upon external fund development and actively solicits opportunities for various grants and contracts that address many of the social problems inherent to Louisiana. In particular, she develops programs and seeks funding aimed at interrupting the pathway to delinquency, crime and other forms of nonproductivity that claim many Louisiana children and youth, especially those considered “at-risk.”

Additionally, she has become an expert in truancy and death penalty mitigation and is court-qualified in the areas of adult criminality, development of a criminal personality, juvenile delinquency social work and poverty.

Office of Social Service Research and Development also continues to engage in the acute post-Katrina and Rita problems of those with behavioral health problems. Guin is the lead author for the recent publication “Health Care and Disaster Planning: Understanding the Impact of Disasters on the Medical Community.”

While she has served as the office’s director, it has obtained more than $50 million in grants and contracts for the school, LSU and the agency partners of the School of Social Work. All the grants deal with some aspect of social problems faced by Louisiana’s citizens.

“We are so pleased that our first visiting research scholar will benefit such a broad constituency of researchers in our school and across campus,” said Teresa Carithers, UM interim dean of applied sciences. “I truly believe she can spark ideas of interdisciplinary and interprofessional investigation, which is a large part of our research mission.”

For more information about the Visiting Research Scholars Forum, visit http://sas.olemiss.edu/scholarforum/.