Ten UM Freshmen Receive Omicron Delta Kappa Awards

Honor society recognizes outstanding young leaders and community servants

This year’s recipients of the Omicron Delta Kappa Freshman Leader Awards are (back row, from left) Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Abby Johnston and Harrison McKinnis, both of Madison; (front row, from left) Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi freshmen have been named recipients of Omicron Delta Kappa’s Freshman Leadership Awards.

The annual ODK Freshman Leadership Awards, which identify outstanding freshman leaders and community servants, were presented at the organization’s annual induction ceremony in April. Previous recipients have gone on to serve in roles such as Associated Student Body president and Student Activities Association director, and to be inducted into the university’s student Hall of Fame.

This year’s recipients of the ODK Freshman Leadership Awards are: Margaret Baldwin, of Birmingham, Alabama; Nicholas Crasta, of Vicksburg; Jacob Fanning, of Philadelphia; Kneeland Gammill, of Memphis; Asia Harden, of Greenville; Abby Johnston, of Madison; Swetha Manivannan, of Collierville, Tennessee; Harrison McKinnis, of Madison; Bridget McMillan, of Long Beach; and Ariel Williams, of Waynesboro.

“We created this award in 2010 to recognize the future leaders on our campus and to encourage their continued engagement in campus and community activities,” said Ryan Upshaw, ODK adviser and assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering. “Each year, the selection process becomes more difficult as the university attracts student leaders from all over the country.

“Our society is excited to be able to recognize their outstanding contributions during their first year on campus. We also look forward to their potential membership in our society later in their college career.”

McKinnis, a chemical engineering major and graduate of Madison Central High School, said he is honored to be a recipient of the award.

“I was very excited when I found out I would receive this award,” McKinnis said. “To be recognized alongside such talented student leaders is truly an honor. I hope more than anything that my actions here on campus will make the lives of students more enjoyable and that they will see Ole Miss with the same love that I do.”

Baldwin, a chemistry major, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, where she received the Parker Memorial Scholarship. As an incoming freshman, she attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference, and she is a member of the Student Activities Association, Ole Miss Running Club and the Baptist Student Union.

Crasta, a Provost Scholar, is studying biology and political science. He attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and served as a legislative aide for the Associated Student Body Senate. He is a member of Men of Excellence, the Black Student Union and Lambda Sigma. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

A biology and political science major, Fanning is a Provost Scholar and member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He serves on the Ole Miss Mock Trial Team and is a member of ASB Freshman Forum. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Gammill, a business and public policy leadership major, is a Provost Scholar and member of the Center for Manufacturing Excellence and the Lott Leadership Institute. He is a member of ASB Freshman Forum, the Ole Miss Cycling Team, Alpha Lambda Delta and Lambda Sigma.

Harden is a member of the Honors College and is studying integrated marketing communication. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and is a member of ASB Freshman Council. She was a team leader for the Big Event and is a staff writer for the Ole Miss yearbook and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class and Lambda Sigma.

A member of the Honors College, Johnston is studying public policy leadership as part of the Lott Leadership Institute and the Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program. She is an ASB senator and an ambassador for the Lott Institute. She also serves as a pre-college programs counselor for the Office of Outreach and a member of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

Manivannan is an international studies and Spanish major as part of the Honors College and Croft Institute. She serves as secretary of the Residential College Cabinet and the UM Collegiate DECA chapter. She is also a member of the Model United Nations team, the Indian Students Association and the ASB Freshman Council.

McKinnis is a member of the Honors College and the recipient of the Stamps Foundation Scholarship. He attended the MPOWER Leadership conference and is a member of the ASB Freshman Council, Lambda Sigma and the Chancellor’s Leadership Class. He is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

An accounting major, McMillan is a member of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence, where she serves on the Student Advisory Board. She attended the MPOWER Leadership Conference and serves on the ASB Freshman Council.

Williams is pursuing a degree in biomedical engineering as part of the Honors College. She is a member of ASB Freshman Council and Alpha Epsilon Delta, and participated in RebelTHON and the Big Event. She is serving as an orientation leader this summer.

Omicron Delta Kappa is a 104-year-old leadership honor society that has initiated more than 300,000 members since its founding. The society has more than 285 active chapters at colleges and universities across the United States.

Pharmacy Students Receive Gateway to Research Scholarships

American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education award encourages students to pursue careers in research

Mary Paige Thrash

OXFORD, Miss. – Austin Fitts and Mary Paige Thrash, both rising second-year professional students at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, have been named recipients of the Gateway to Research Scholarship by the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education.

The award provides students an opportunity to work on faculty-mentored research projects while improving their knowledge of clinical skills.

“I was extremely excited because this fellowship, quite literally, will be used as my gateway to research the topics which I am interested in, such as oncology,” said Fitts, a native of Myrtle.

Fitts has worked with Chalet Tan, UM associate professor of pharmaceutics and drug delivery, exploring the delivery of microRNA via exosomes to treat a variety of cancers. His interest in this area came after studying the isolation and characterization of exosomes at Jackson State University in summer 2016.

Fitts hopes this award will assist in his plan of earning a doctorate in biochemistry, cancer biology or medicinal chemistry.

“I am very proud of Austin for receiving this scholarship,” Tan said. “Austin has an inquisitive mind and unusually strong interest in cancer biology and drug delivery. His undergraduate research training was exceptional, which is the key impetus for the current project.”

Austin Fitts

Originally from Columbus, Thrash is studying new ways to target and defeat cancer cells along with forming new therapies. She said she believes this award will allow her to develop new laboratory skills.

“When I heard the good news, I was very excited,” Thrash said. “I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of the research community that is making strides to advance the field of medicine. I am honored to be given this chance to learn and work alongside faculty who have inspired and supported me throughout my research experience.”

Thrash recently helped design and create new molecules that could have potential therapeutic benefits for diseases such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s and based her Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College thesis on the research. She is a member of the research team of John Rimoldi, UM professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, who called Thrash’s commitment to research “extraordinary.”

“I was thrilled to learn that Mary Paige was awarded this highly competitive AFPE scholarship,” Rimoldi said. “She is most deserving of this award, and I am confident she will make significant and impactful contributions towards her proposed research in drug discovery and development.”

Walter Isaacson Urges UM Grads to Embrace Creativity, Collaboration

Renowned journalist and biographer delivers Commencement address to more than 15,000 in Grove

Walter Isaacson makes a point during his Commencement address Saturday morning at the University of Mississippi. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Under powder blues skies Saturday in the Grove, Walter Isaacson stressed to the University of Mississippi’s graduating class that being smart is only part of success, and that life’s greatest achievements come from collaborating to connect the arts and sciences with humanities and engineering.

Isaacson, acclaimed biographer, professor and historian who also was head of both CNN and Time magazine, spoke to the graduating class of more than 5,300, including more than 1,300 August degree candidates and nearly 700 who finished in December. 

His talk about the need to surround oneself with people from many backgrounds to forge innovation also was peppered with the refrain of “what we forgot to tell you” to impart wisdom he’s acquired since he graduated.

“You are hereby certified by this university as being very smart,” Isaacson said. “That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’re about to find out that smart people are a dime a dozen.

“Here’s what we forgot to tell you. Smart people often don’t amount to much. What really matters is being imaginative, being creative and being innovative and most important of all, just being good.” 

A crowd of more than 15,000 people gathered in the Grove to hear Isaacson, a professor of history at Tulane University in New Orleans, where he grew up. He’s a graduate of Harvard College and also Pembroke College of Oxford University in Oxford, England, where he was a Rhodes scholar.

He began his career at The Sunday Times of London and then the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He joined Time in 1978, working as a political correspondent, national editor and editor of digital media before becoming the magazine’s editor in 1996. In 2001, he became chairman and CEO of CNN, and then president and CEO of the Aspen Institute in 2003.


Besides having headed two of the world’s most important media organizations, Isaacson is a prolific biographer and nonfiction writer. He is the author of the best-seller “Steve Jobs” in 2011, as well as biographies of Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Kissinger.

His most recent work, “Leonardo da Vinci” (Simon & Schuster), released in October, offers new discoveries about the artist’s life and work, weaving a narrative that connects his art to his science.

He cited lessons from the figures he’s written about; most prominently that that they all found ways to innovate, not only through a tireless curiosity, but through bridging sciences, humanities and the arts.

Society has forgotten to tell students that creativity comes from working across disciplines, Isaacson said.

Loving everything from art and anatomy to geology and zoology and understanding the patterns across different disciplines of arts, sciences, humanities, social sciences and engineering just as da Vinci did is critical, he said.

The 165th Commencement ceremonies at the University of Mississippi honored a graduating class of more than 5,300, including more than 1,300 August degree candidates and nearly 700 who finished in December. More than 15,000 people gathered in the Grove for the main ceremony. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The late Steve Jobs, visionary leader of Apple, always ended his project launch presentations with slides of street signs showing the intersections of the liberal arts with technology, or the humanities with engineering. He said at those intersections is where creativity occurs.

“Steve Jobs made the iPod, which was a combination of art, design, beauty and engineering,” Isaacson said. “Whatever they were preaching about knowing STEM subjects, Steve also knew the true essence of creativity, which is that beauty matters.”

Passionate curiosity is a common trait of historical figures such as Jobs, da Vinci and others he’s written about, Isaacson said.

Both Einstein and Da Vinci, some 400 years apart, wrote the same simple question in their notebooks: “Why is the sky blue?” They wondered about it and did experiments to try to figure it out. They both were driven purely out of a sense of wonder.

“That’s what your education is about,” Isaacson said. “It is always remaining like a student, staring at the cosmos and the creation into which we were blessed and graced to live and having that childlike sense of wonder.”

Working with others, especially from diverse groups, is also important. He noted that for many, the university is the most diverse place they’ve ever been. People from many countries and economic backgrounds live and attend classes together, all learning ideas from across the academic spectrum.

He urged students to go about the rest of their lives seeking out opinions and ideas of others who aren’t like them.

“We told you this was a very exclusive place and you got into more and more and more exclusive realms,” Isaacson said. “What we forgot to tell you is it not about exclusivity in the real world. It is about inclusivity. It is about how many people you bring together.”

Graduates are also often told it’s time to “grow up” when they leave college. Not so, Isaacson said. The central point of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” was the benediction he gave the Commencement crowd.

“I want to give you that benediction today and I want you to do it right with humility and do good with wonder and curiosity at all times,” Isaacson said. “May you stay forever young.”

UM Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said it is an honor to welcome Isaacson, who played a major role in the success of the university’s inaugural Tech Summit in 2016, back to campus on such an important day.

Vitter, presiding over his third Ole Miss Commencement, stood before the graduates and paused to snap a panoramic photo of the crowd, which he posted to his Twitter account. It’s a tradition he’s carried on each year since 2016.

He noted the importance of the day to the graduates and wished them well in their future endeavors.

“Today you complete your work as students at the university – you graduate,” Vitter said. “You also begin the next chapter in your lives – you commence. Our collective prayer for each of you is a life filled with joy, good health, successful, meaningful careers and peace.”

The university’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College conducted its commissioning ceremony Friday afternoon, and recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony that evening, both in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

During Saturday’s ceremony, Ann Monroe, assistant dean and associate professor of education, was introduced as the 2018 recipient of the Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, the university’s highest campuswide honor for teaching.

Marc Slattery, professor of biomolecular sciences in the School of Pharmacy and research professor in the Research Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, was named the recipient of the university’s 11th Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award.

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter (center, in red) leads administrators and the crowd in applause of Walter Isaacson (left center) after the acclaimed journalist and biographer delivered the university’s Commencement address Saturday in the Grove. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Kerri Scott, instructional associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry and associate director of the university’s forensic chemistry program; Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs; and Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services in the School of Engineering.

The university also honored former U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran with its Mississippi Humanitarian Award, which is presented only rarely to exceptional figures who have shaped the state. Vitter noted that Cochran, who was unable to attend the ceremony, played a vital role in supporting the university’s research venture and also championed many programs that have improved life for Mississippians.

Bobby Bailess, of Vicksburg, president of the Ole Miss Alumni Association, welcomed the graduates as alumni.

“You will soon know that being an alumnus means being a member of the Ole Miss family,” Bailess said. “This is not just a place where you earned a degree.”

Guy Fortenberry Thornton, UM senior class president, talked about the senior class project, which raised $27,000 for the William Magee Center for Wellness Education as a defining experience for his time at Ole Miss.

He also challenged his fellow graduates to reflect on their own time on campus as they age. He told them that over the years, the wrinkles will come, but it’s nothing to worry about.

“In the wise words of Jimmy Buffet, the singer and songwriter, who once said, ‘Wrinkles will only go where the smiles have once been,’ I know I will have many of these wrinkles from all of the good times and the smiles I’ve had with all of you these past four years,” Thornton said.

Walk of a Champion: Stricken Student Gets Second Chance, Earns Degree

An aneurysm almost ended his life, but Seth Dickinson graduates Saturday at UM

Seth Dickinson (left), a graduating senior in public policy leadership, and Ryan Upshaw, an assistant dean in the UM School of Engineering, plan to remain friends after Commencement. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Three years ago, Seth Dickinson was just another University of Mississippi freshman enjoying time off for spring break. That is, until an unexpected hemorrhagic stroke left him comatose on his bedroom floor.

When Dickinson awoke from his coma nine days later, the Mantachie native was paralyzed and mute. Gone were his ability to read, write, speak and walk. Worst of all was being told that he would no longer be able to pursue his education at the university.

Fortunately, Dickinson’s story has a happy ending.

Through his own determination and with strong encouragement from a supportive university staff member, he recovered, returned to school and will be walking across the platform Saturday (May 12) in The Pavilion at Ole Miss to receive his degree in public policy leadership.

“I knew I was going to get back,” said Dickinson, who also will deliver the address at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College commissioning ceremony at 4 p.m. Friday (May 11) in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. After Dickinson was nominated by his peers, all four Honors College deans agreed he is the best person to deliver the address.

“I’m differently abled in a way that I am recovering still, but for the rest of my life I will never take the moniker of ‘disabled,'” Dickinson said.

Dickinson is the first person in his immediate family to attend and graduate from a four-year college or university. His decision to attend the university was a direct result of his initial meeting with Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean of student services in the School of Engineering.

As a high school senior, Dickinson participated in a Lott Leadership Institute summer program, and Upshaw traveled to Washington, D.C., with the group.

“I knew he was the type of student we needed here at the university,” said Upshaw, one of two staff recipients of this year’s Thomas A. Frist Award, which recognizes faculty and staff members for outstanding service to Ole Miss students.

“I was instantly drawn to Ryan,” Dickinson said. “He was the biggest salesman for the university I chose to call home.”

The transition from small high school to university life was difficult, Dickinson said.

“I remember one night in particular where I sat, crying, in my dorm because I thought I would never adjust,” he said. “Then it hit me: Ryan cares. So, I sent a text that just said, ‘Help Me.'”

Within minutes, Upshaw responded with a phone call that resulted in what seemed to be Dickinson’s clear path to student success.

“Thanks to Ryan Upshaw, I became heavily involved in applying for clubs and organizations,” he said. “With his help and encouragement, I became a member of ASB, Freshman Council, Ambassadors, the Honors Senate, Delta Psi fraternity and, eventually, the Columns Society,” Dickinson said. “It was a whirlwind of joy and happiness. Life was beautiful.”

Dickinson said Upshaw was his “ray of sunlight and hope” after the storm of his affliction.

“I’ll never forget what it was like to wake up from a coma in a hospital bed, surrounded by my parents, doctors and nurses, and none other than Ryan Upshaw,” he said. “Seeing him, a peace fell over me instantly.”

“While he is a student, I consider him a friend,” Upshaw said. “Two of my proudest moments with Seth were watching him be recognized with Who’s Who honors and seeing him be named ‘Greek Man of the Year.'”

Upshaw had been to the hospital numerous times, had painted signs for Dickinson with his friends and family, and consoled his distraught mother as she regretfully had to have her son de-enrolled.

“Ryan knew the pain it caused her and cared enough to be a part of the comforting process,” Dickinson said. “He also became part of my healing process.”

Upshaw continued to visit Dickinson in the hospital numerous times, bringing him well-wishes and reminders that his home was in Oxford.

“It was this encouragement that led me to fight so hard to recover,” Dickinson said. “Ryan was the first person I called to cry to after I was told that I would never walk again. He said, ‘It’s gonna be hard to get across the Grove if you aren’t walking. I know you can do it.'”

Upshaw’s words lit a fire within Dickinson. He entered physical therapy and gradually fought his way back to mobility.

“Ryan was the first person I requested my family send a video of me taking my first steps,” Dickinson said. “Because of him, I decided not to give up.”

The combined experiences of the past three years have reshaped Dickinson’s original life plans. Before the tragedy, he aspired to become “future governor of Mississippi.” While he still plans to go to law school, Dickinson’s goal has changed to become a “health care administrator in Mississippi.”

Before the stroke, he did not consider himself a champion of disability rights.

“I always had friends who were disabled, and I would think to myself, ‘Oh, poor them,” without thinking of the perspective, ‘What if that were me?'”

Now, Dickinson thinks of himself as someone who is, if not a champion of disability rights, someone “who is giving his damnedest.”

“Diversity to me, in this regard, is not just making sure everyone gathers at the same table, but everyone has a way to get to the same table,” Dickinson said. “That’s my mantra moving forward: giving everyone equal opportunity to have a voice.”

Upshaw said Dickinson is an inspiration to him and to many others.

“He set a goal of returning to this university after his stroke, and he came back stronger than ever,” Upshaw said. “He distinguished himself as a student leader through involvement in ASB, the Honors College, the McLean Institute and other groups.

“Anyone who knows him can sense the pride he has in the University of Mississippi. I am glad that he plans to stick around to attend law school here.”

Dickinson is the youngest son of Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson and Teresa Dickinson of Mantachie. His older brother is Chris Dickinson Jr., also of Mantachie.

Honors College Student Awarded Fulbright UK Summer Institute Grant

Freshman Ainsley Ash is first from UM to receive competitive honor

Ainsley Ash

OXFORD, Miss – Ainsley Ash has never been to Ireland, but the University of Mississippi freshman soon will be on her way there, thanks to a 2018 Fulbright Summer Institute grant to the U.K.

While dozens of Ole Miss students and faculty have received Fulbright Scholarships and Fellowships over the years, Ash, a psychology and public policy leadership major from Meridian, is the first from UM to receive this type of Fulbright grant. The highly selective program chooses college freshmen or sophomores from the U.S. to study for a summer at select colleges in the United Kingdom.

In a monthlong seminar called “Education for Transformation at Queen’s College in Belfast, Northern Ireland,” Ash will engage in lectures, seminars and study visits to examine methods of driving educational change.

“Ainsley invested many hours writing and revising her application,” said Tim Dolan, director of the university’s Office of National Scholarship Advisement. “She chose a seminar that will provide her with useful tools that will allow her to do comparative studies of education in Ireland to help her better understand the needs of students in Mississippi.

“I’m happy that the Fulbright commission recognized her as the dynamic student leader and change-agent that she is.”

Students in this Summer Institute will learn about Northern Ireland in terms of its political, economic and cultural relationships within the U.K., and with the Irish Republic and the world. UNESCO leaders facilitate sessions on curriculum in divided and conflict-affected societies, engaging participants with controversial political issues, models for promoting intercultural education and maximizing intergroup contact through schools in divided societies.

Ash vividly recalls how she received notification of her award.

“A few days after my interview, I checked my emails in bed after waking up,” she said. “The first email I clicked on was from Fulbright saying I had been selected to participate in a Fulbright Summer Institute.

“That woke me up. I was not expecting to find out so soon! I couldn’t believe it.”

Ash serves as an ambassador to the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and is involved with the Wise Women of Oxford, College Democrats and the International American Student Alliance. In March, she helped organize a student-led trip to Washington, D.C., for the March for Our Lives.

This summer, she will also be attending the N.E.W. Leadership program with politically diverse young women across the state at Mississippi University for Women.

“Just as Mississippi continues to recover from its painful history of race relations, Northern Ireland works to mend the divisions that arose from The Troubles,” Ash said. “By studying this parallel, I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the role that equitable education can play in the peace-building process. This exposure will be incredibly beneficial to conversations in and outside of the classroom.”

Ash plans on a career working on education policy in Mississippi.

“As an honor student in a foreign language class, Ainsley has demonstrated a true passion and curiosity towards foreign cultures,” said Irene Kaufmann, UM Spanish instructor. “She brought to the class a high level of talent, creativity and dedication.”

Ash’s mother is Michelle Ash of Meridian.

“We are extremely happy for Ainsley,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “We know that the Fulbright U.K. Summer Institute grant will open her to some incredible experiences in the U.K.”

Established in 1946, the Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Studying abroad is one way the university honors its commitment to educating and engaging global citizens and supporting experiential learning, two core established in the university’s new strategic plan, Flagship Forward.

Students interested in applying for Fulbright and other competitive awards that fund study abroad are encouraged to contact Tim Dolan in the Office of National Scholarship Advancement at tadolan@olemiss.edu.

UM Travel Fund Honors a Legacy

New effort in memory of late provost will broaden students' learning experiences

Marvin King, senior faculty fellow for Residential College South, admires a portrait of the late Carolyn Ellis Staton. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss – A recent gift to the University of Mississippi establishes a travel fund for students while honoring the late Carolyn Ellis Staton, a higher education trailblazer who became the university’s first female provost.

The Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund will cover expenses incurred by students who travel for learning opportunities within their field of interest.

“There would be no better way to honor Carolyn,” said Staton’s husband, Bill Staton of Oxford. “She would be thrilled to know that an effort like this is being made to ensure that students have enriching, extracurricular opportunities to broaden their knowledge base.

“Her love for traveling began at a young age and continued throughout her life.”

Bill Staton; Marvin King, senior faculty fellow for Residential College South; Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor and director of student housing; Laura Antonow, director of college programs; and other friends of Carolyn Staton established the fund as a tribute to the longtime educator. An Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding campaign continues the fundraising efforts.

“She had a tremendous impact at the university,” King said. “Throughout her career, she positively affected so many students, especially undergraduate students, that we wanted something that she and her family would appreciate.”

Carolyn Staton joined the Ole Miss faculty in August 1977. During her 32-year tenure, she served as a professor and interim dean in the School of Law, associate provost and provost before her retirement in 2009.

As provost, she facilitated the creation of the university’s residential colleges and Croft Institute for International Studies. She expanded on the ideas of others in building the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“She was truly remarkable in every way,” Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said. “Nobody ever had a better partner at work. She was straightforward, but always kind and treated people with respect.”

She was a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps, where she achieved the rank of captain. She served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in the 1990s at the Pentagon.

“Dr. Staton loved to travel,” King said. “Dr. Staton would be grateful of any effort allowing more UM students, especially those who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to travel to internships, Study USA, study abroad classes or conferences.

“These opportunities can materially change the educational experience of those students. Additionally, it can make our students more competitive upon graduation.”

Study USA is a domestic academic travel program operated through the Office of College Programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Studies that offers opportunities for students to participate in Ole Miss faculty-led courses, typically during intersessions, where they travel to a U.S. location and study a particular topic in the field.

“Experiential learning is a great way for students to really delve into a class and see their classroom learning applied in the real world,” Antonow said. “Some of the upcoming classes are Campaigns and Elections in D.C., Bridges of New York, and Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.”

The UM Internship Experience program gives students opportunities to travel, work and learn in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., during the summer. These are competitive programs that prepare and support students seeking internships in their field of study.

Students have interned at the White House, C-SPAN, various congressional offices, the American Red Cross, Scripps Network and the New York mayor’s office.

“Study USA and the UM Internship Experience programs are great opportunities, but the added expense of travel can make them challenging or impossible for some students,” Antonow said. “This fund will help make these programs affordable and accessible to more students.

“We are really excited to see this fund created and hope those who value these experiential programs will generously support the Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund.”

To make a gift to the Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund, visit Ignite Ole Miss or contact Sandra Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation, at 662-915-5208 or sguest@olemiss.edu.

UM Students to Intern this Summer in Eastern Asia

Placements made possible through Freeman Foundation grant

Freeman Foundation summer intern grantees include (front row, from left) Meredith Brown, Tyler Caple, Emily Rodriguez, Emma Scott, Tina Ng, Navodit Paudel, Sydney Bush, Jasmine Nguyen and Lucy De la Cruz, and (back row, from left) David Pfaehler, Jordan Holman, Sarah Berry, Mo Karzon, Stewart Eaton and Daria Herasymova. Submitted photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Miss. – Seventeen University of Mississippi students will be interns in East and Southeast Asia this summer, thanks to a substantial grant from the Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont.

The $100,000 program, “UM Experiential Learning in East Asia,” allows selected undergraduates to complete a summer internship of at least eight weeks in summer 2018. Each will receive $5,000 from the Freeman Foundation grant and an additional $2,500 provided by the university’s Office of Global Engagement and the students’ respective UM schools.

“The Croft Institute has been the campus leader in promoting engagement with East Asia for the last 20 years, and this generous grant by the Freeman Foundation allowed us to add another important dimension to those efforts,” said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies and program administrator.

Dinius worked with Joshua Howard, Croft associate professor of history; Minjoo Oh, associate professor of sociology; and Blair McElroy, the university’s senior international officer, to design the application process, select award recipients and assist students as they prepare for their internships.

Grant recipients include Meredith Brown and Emma Scott, both of Oxford; Sarah Berry, Stewart Eaton, Mo Karzon and Jasmine Nguyen, all of Brandon; Lucy De la Cruz of Southaven; Tina Ng of Walls; Sydney Bush of Gulfport; Jordan Holman of Petal; Tyler Caple of Huntsville, Alabama; Sarah Liese of St. Louis; Scott Givhan of West Hollywood, California; Emily Rodriguez of Portland, Oregon; David Pfaehler of Independence, Kentucky; Daria Herasymova of Ukraine; and Navodit Paudel of Nepal.

The program is universitywide and recipients come from diverse academic backgrounds. Two study at the Patterson School of Accountancy, four at the School of Business Administration, three at the School of Engineering, seven in the College of Liberal Arts and one at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Eight of the selected students are enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“The students will complete internships in seven countries,” said William Mahoney, coordinator of alumni relations and career planning in the Croft Institute. “Six will be in China, three in South Korea, three in Thailand, two in Japan and one each in Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam.”

The students have secured exciting internships. Rodriguez, a double major in accountancy as well as banking and finance, will be interning with Ernst & Young in Singapore. There, she expects to gain an understanding of compliance for banks, insurance organizations and wealth management firms and corporate tax as a whole.

“EY handles some of Singapore’s biggest financial service organizations, and the prospect of working alongside and learning from EY’s influential and insightful leaders is an outstanding opportunity,” she said. “My duties will vary significantly day-to-day, however some of the general responsibilities include project mapping for FSO compliance, general tax document processing and assisting in the sales strategy for corporate tax products.”

A general engineering major with an emphasis in pre-med studies, Berry will spend her summer shadowing and volunteering in Shanghai First People’s Hospital. She believes her internship will provide her with unique, yet essential, insights into health care tactics for treating patients beyond the scope of only their physical ailments.

“What I most admire about Chinese health care is its incorporation of tradition with modern practices,” Berry said. “I am very excited for this summer, and I look forward to furthering my knowledge of medicine, gaining invaluable experience as a health care provider, and immersing myself in the culture and tradition of China and its medical field.”

The Freeman Foundation grant furthers collaborative efforts to provide students with valuable experiences, Ole Miss administrators said.

“The Freeman Foundation scholarships supported in part by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College enable our students to experience the richness of culture to improve linguistic skills and to attune our scholars to the challenges in East Asian countries,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean. “I cannot think of a more profound way to enhance, even change, the life choices of our future graduates of the University of Mississippi.”

The goal of the Freeman Foundation’s grant is to help students gain real-life experience while interacting regularly with local populations. Established in 1994 by the estate of AIG co-founder Mansfield Freeman, the foundation’s general mission is “to strengthen the bonds of friendship between this country and those of the Far East” and “to stimulate an exchange of ideas in economic and cultural fields which will help create mutual understanding.”

Headed by Mansfield’s grandson, Graeme Freeman, the foundation donates approximately $50 million annually to programs such as study abroad scholarships for Asian and American students and the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, which has supported the Croft Institute’s efforts to strengthen teaching about East Asia for more than 15 years.

This grant lets the Croft Institute and other participating campus units deliver on the university’s commitment to educate and engage global citizens and to support experiential learning, two core principles in the university’s Flagship Forward strategic plan. Students chosen for UM Experiential Learning in East Asia will learn how a foreign culture affects the work environment and help prepare them to succeed.

“This is the first year for this program, and we are excited to be able to send such a diverse and motivated group of students to Eastern Asia,” Dinius said. “We look forward to hearing about their experiences upon their return and have them share their insights with the next generation of interns.”

The goal is to make the program a permanent feature at the university.

“We are optimistic that the Freeman Foundation will renew this grant for 2018-19, and we may even be able to increase the number of award recipients,” Dinius added.

Details about the next round will be available early in the fall semester.

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/.