UM Social Work Students Discuss Justice with Lawmaker

Rep. Jay Hughes discusses policy affecting social work practice with students

State Rep. Jay Hughes urges undergraduate and graduate social work students to help the marginalized populations they represent by staying informed and engaged with local and state politics. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Dozens of social work undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Mississippi recently joined state Rep. Jay Hughes to discuss issues of social justice in social work in Mississippi and beyond.

“One vein of social work that does not get as much attention as direct social work practice with individuals, families and groups is macro social work practice,” said Daphne Cain, UM chair of social work.

“Macro practice includes social advocacy and policy development that advocates for individuals who find themselves among the most vulnerable in society. Social work advocacy engages not only in reflecting on the policies and decisions that are being made that impact the most vulnerable members of our communities, but also demands action when policies and decisions negatively impact marginalized groups disproportionately.”

The students were introduced to Hughes at Social Work Advocacy Day last semester, said Claire Griffin of Decatur, one of two students in the new doctoral program in social welfare.

“We were able to meet him and get a little insight into what is going on at the Capitol,” Griffin said. “He plays a big role in advocating for our social service agencies and their funding.

“When I’ve gone to the Capitol and listened to them discuss bills to be passed or not, he is an advocate for us, so to have him here is a blessing, really.”

Many people don’t understand social work’s commitment to advocacy for social justice, said Amy Fisher, assistant professor of social work and moderator for the event.

“You’ll find social workers proposing, lobbying and protesting all manner of policy and serving in all levels of government, employed at policy institutes and involved with legal advocacy, too,” Fisher said. “We’re really everywhere.”

Hughes emphasized to the students that state legislation and local ordinances, more often than federal legislation, affect the vulnerable populations social workers serve every day. Federal issues that politically divide the nation, such as immigration and abortion, distract voters from issues in their state and city that can be solved in a bi-partisan manner, he said.

“We tend to lose focus of civics and policy,” Hughes said. “Because of party identity, we fail to see that 99.9 percent of what affects us happens after Election Day, and it’s not in Washington by any stretch of the imagination.

“Policy is not at a federal level. It is what happens in Jackson, Mississippi, and Oxford, Mississippi.”

To illustrate, Hughes explained that 183 bills were signed into law last year in D.C., compared to 22,000 enacted on the state level and 500,000 signed into city ordinances.

The students discussed bills from the last legislative session that were defeated, in part, because of their professional organization’s vocal opposition, including House Bill 1425.

H.B. 1425 would have granted the governor power to make appointments to an Occupational Licensing Review Commission, affecting 26 state licensing boards, including the Mississippi Board of Examiners for Social Workers and Marriage and Family Therapists.

Hughes joined the National Association of Social Work-Mississippi Chapter in opposing the bill and met with Ole Miss student members during the annual Social Work Advocacy Day in February at the state Capitol to discuss the bill’s potential ramifications.

“What is going to work is dealing with the problem – putting educated, trained social workers in charge of educating and training social workers who understand the root of poverty and the consequences of poverty,” Hughes said.

The group also discussed bills, such as H.B. 1523, that passed despite the professional organization’s opposition.

“H.B. 1523 is of great concern to social workers because the profession is focused on creating and advocating for social justice for all, regardless of age, race, color, gender, sexual orientation, physical ability or national origin,” Fisher said.

Hughes encouraged students to not be discouraged when bills are passed that they disagree with, but to instead get more engaged in local politics by attending Board of Aldermen meetings and writing their representatives when issues arise that affect their profession and the people they serve.

“Be informed, be engaged and be registered to vote,” he said.

Hughes explained that to make a difference in policy and be agents of change, students should share real, genuine, direct and brief concerns with their lawmakers, using social media and personal emails.

“Make it personal,” he advised. “Let me assure you, you will get a blanket response, but after a few people keep sending those kinds of emails, the politicians start having an ‘a-ha moment.’

“It is very difficult for a policy maker to appreciate (your client’s experience) if they’ve never dealt with it, unless you share it with them, and share it with them in a civil way; that is critical. No matter which side of the political spectrum you fall, or if you fall in the middle, attacks result in closed ears, whether you are in your political, personal or religious life.”

Hughes warned students to pay close attention to local policy on the agenda ahead of city meetings to express concerns for their constituencies before it is too late.

He recounted a recent Board of Aldermen meeting where the lease for the only food pantry in Oxford was not renewed, resulting in The Pantry’s need to find a new home.

“The board had to vote because of growth issues, but that is affecting real life,” he said.

Hughes left the students with the charge to be a voice for the vulnerable populations they serve.

“No one will look out for the children you try to help unless they know the reality,” he said.

For more information about the UM Department of Social Work, visit or email

Nutrition and Hospitality Management Lauded for Research Excellence

UM faculty-student collaborators produce record number of award-winning abstracts at conference

Students and faculty from the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management celebrate winning the greatest number of Outstanding Abstract awards among universities participating in the 2017 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago. Submitted photo

Students and faculty from the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management celebrate winning the most Outstanding Abstract awards among universities participating in the 2017 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Students and faculty from the University of Mississippi’s Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management were recognized for more award-winning abstracts than any other university participating in the recent 2017 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo in Chicago.

With more than 12,000 participants registered for the Oct. 21-24 event, FNCE featured more than 130 nutrition science research and educational presentations, lectures, panel discussions and culinary demonstrations. NHM faculty and students presented 15 abstracts, with five receiving outstanding abstract awards, on topics ranging from sustainability to food insecurity and nutrition perception.

“The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrated 100 years as a professional organization for registered dietitians at the FNCE conference,” said Mary Roseman, professor of nutrition and hospitality management.

“The high number of student-faculty collaborated research abstracts presented and record number of awards received this year are testament to the accelerated research efforts occurring in the department. NHM has young and growing master’s and doctoral programs where our students are already successfully competing on the national stage.”

Graduate students Kelsey Dismukes, Michelle Weber and Sydney Antolini, along with professor David H. Holben, were recognized for their abstract, “Food insecurity and physical and mental health of elementary school children in a rural, Appalachian Mississippi community.” Funding for the study came from the UM Foundation’s Nutrition Security Support Fund, made possible with donations from Monsanto.

“Attending FNCE as a poster presenter for the Farm-to-YOUth! project was so meaningful,” Dismukes said. “Presenting the research at FNCE allowed me to raise awareness of household food insecurity and its consequences with the goal of creating conversations around potential avenues to alleviate household food insecurity and its effects.”

Graduate student Katie Halfacre and faculty members Yunhee Chang, Roseman and Holben were recognized for their abstract, “Financial Strain and Food Preparation Ability May Be Important Factors for Food Insecurity and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Among University Students.”

The group’s abstract poster was among only three selected to be part of the conference poster tour, where Halfacre provided a 10-minute overview and brief question-and-answer session.

Graduate student Claire Adams and faculty collaborators Roseman and Cindy Choi were recognized for their abstract, “The Impact of Customers’ Perception of Nutrition-Related Components on McDonald’s Users’ Visit Frequency,” and graduate student Chelsea Bell was recognized for her abstract, “Statewide Recipe and Meal Planning Guide: A Child Nutrition Director’s Resource,” with faculty collaborators Laurel Lambert, Teresa Carithers and Chang.

Professors Jim Taylor and Holben also were recognized for their abstract, “Incorporating sustainability and continuous quality improvement principles into a university student-operated restaurant.”

“Their accomplishments show the national presence and diverse scope of our NHM teacher-scholars. They are truly preparing the future leaders in the field of nutrition and dietetics,” said Carithers, interim dean of the School of Applied Sciences.

For more information about the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, visit

Nutrition Professor Develops Food-based STEM Curriculum

UM researcher expands FoodMASTER program with Deep South Network

David H. Holben (left) and members of his project team prepare bags of food to be delivered to students at Bruce Elementary School through the 2016 Farm-to-YOUth! initiative. Helping are (from left) Sydney Antolini, Michelle Weber and Kelsey Reece, all nutrition graduate students at Ole Miss. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Kids are accustomed to hearing adults tell them, “Don’t play with your food,” but they won’t hear it from David H. Holben.

Holben is a University of Mississippi professor of nutrition and hospitality management who wants children to learn through an initiative aimed at using food as a tool to teach mathematics and science.

Holben is a part of the Deep South Network, a research collective that recently received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to support the science, technology, engineering and math learning pipeline for underserved minority youth through informal science learning environments with a curriculum built around food.

East Carolina University’s Melani Duffrin, a former doctoral student of Holben’s, leads the effort with researchers from UM, the universities of Alabama at Birmingham and South Carolina, Auburn University and Georgia State University who are working together to enhance access to learning opportunities and favorably affect science attitudes and career decisions in the health professions among this underrepresented population.

“Our partnership with Mississippi and other Deep South partners is to collect larger regional data to inform efficient, affordable and effective positive impact practices in creating a science culture for underserved youth,” Duffrin said. 

“Our goal of expanding the program has a broad application of building stronger partnerships between K-12 teachers and health professionals to achieve an increase in health science literacy for the general population and to better prepare underserved populations in pursuing science careers.”

Duffrin successfully developed and implemented food-based curricula designed for students in third grade through college.

The Food, Math and Science Teaching Enhancement Resource, or FoodMASTER, program uses hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities to help students learn science, math and nutrition concepts. Students who have participated in the curriculum became increasingly interested in the subject matter of food and were able to conduct scientific observations.

“David Holben is an experienced researcher with great attention to detail and a passion for working with underserved populations,” Duffrin said. “It was obvious that he was a great choice as a partner to begin building the initiative in Mississippi. Under his direction, this project will inform best practices and bring resources to the Mississippi region.”

This new grant will develop new FoodMASTER curricular materials, establish the Deep South Network to serve as a model to others, create and implement formats, assess impact on attitudes toward science and create field trip experiences for underserved minority youth.

“One of the reasons I’m excited about this project is it targets underserved minority youth, and my work has traditionally looked at food insecurity and health outcomes of underserved groups,” said Holben, who has studied food insecurity among these populations since 1997.

The first two years of the five-year project will allow the researchers to “build their team,” with opportunities for professional development, including conferences related to STEM education, Holben said.

“In years three and four, each of us will implement a FoodMASTER program,” he said. “The team at UM will develop a program for Mississippi youth, and then we’ll do it for one year to see what works to improve the second year.”

Holben could utilize his existing partnerships in Calhoun County formed through his work with Farm-to-YOUth!, an initiative supported by the UM Foundation’s Food and Nutrition Security Support Fund that increased almost 1,200 children’s exposure to nutritious food in public schools and sent nutritious produce home to area households.

“They don’t have a summer feeding program in Calhoun County, so implementing a FoodMASTER program there would allow us to meet a need over the summer for food for the children, while incorporating STEM education,” Holben said. “Regardless of where the program is implemented, we are going to teach math and science skills using food.”

Food insecurity means not having access to nutritionally adequate food for an active, healthy life, and Mississippi ranks last in the nation, with food insecurity in 18.7 percent of Mississippi households.

“The 2016 estimates just came out on Sept. 6,” Holben said. “We are getting better, but we are still well above the national average (12.3 percent) in the U.S.

“We do have high need here. If we’re providing food while we’re providing STEM education, perhaps we can change the food insecurity in the home.”

Funding for this research is provided through the Science Education Partnership Award Number R25OD023721 from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences within the National Institutes of Health.

For more information about academic programs in nutrition and dietetics at UM, email

Alumnus Credits UM Experiences for Role in James Beard Nomination

Hospitality management graduate Carlyle Watt lauded for artisan breads, local sourcing

Carlyle Watt cuts into a focaccia at the Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop. Photo by Brian Adams

OXFORD, Miss. – Carlyle Watt, a 2005 graduate of the University of Mississippi’s hospitality management program and a 2017 James Beard Award nominee in the Outstanding Baker category, returned to campus recently to participate in the 20th Southern Foodways Symposium.

In his first experience with the symposium, Watt attended lectures and tastings designed to reframe ideas about ethnicity and identity in the Latin American culture, the theme for this year’s event, held Oct. 5-7. He networked with hundreds of chefs and mentors involved with the Southern Foodways Alliance, a member-supported organization based at the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

“We’re so proud of Carlyle for his Beard Award nomination,” said Dru Jones, chef and food specialist for Lenoir Dining, the campus restaurant run by students in the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. “It is a huge honor to be nominated, since these awards are often referred to as the ‘Oscars of food’ in the culinary world.”

Established in 1990, the James Beard Awards recognize culinary professionals for excellence and achievement in their fields. Only 20 semifinalists were named in this year’s national competition.

Watt has been head baker at Fire Island Rustic Bake Shop in Anchorage, Alaska, for five years, creating a selection of 15 or more artisan breads daily. Watt works closely with the area’s farmers and designs his menus accordingly, sourcing as much local, organic and sustainable product as possible.

A native of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Watt learned to cook the traditional cuisines of the Carolinas from his parents and grandmothers. While attending Ole Miss, he cooked at Proud Larry’s, Oxford Steak Company and Bouré.

With his first James Beard Award nomination for Outstanding Baker in tow, Carlyle Watt visits Lenoir Hall while in Oxford for the 20th Southern Foodways Symposium. Submitted photo

The hospitality management program curriculum at UM offers a foundation in liberal arts, business and operations management. The program’s curriculum is designed to enhance and strengthen students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills, so that they can address, meet and adapt to the various needs of the hospitality industry in managerial positions.

Since the hospitality management degree program at Ole Miss exposes students to all facets of the industry, the chef himself mentors and advises students who find a passion for cooking while they consider which culinary school to attend after graduation.

After graduation and several cooking gigs across the Southeast, Watt attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Saint Helena, California.

“It was awesome, because I got to go to the accelerated program because of my degree,” Watt said. “If you have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality, dietetics or nutrition, you skip all the classroom stuff and go straight to eight months of intense kitchen training, and I was done.”

After culinary school, Watt moved to Alaska to pursue a career as a personal chef, but after a few years on the job decided to return to what he loved the most from culinary school: baking.

“I got a job as a night baker in culinary school for the school’s restaurant,” he said. “I would go to school until like 9 p.m. and go straight over to the bakery. Everyone, students and instructors, were gone, and I’d have the place to myself. I’d bake bread all night.”

As founding members of the Super Saturated Sugar Strings, Watt and his wife, Theresa, appreciate that Watt’s early baking hours afford them time to spend practicing and playing the alt-folk music they love, with Watt on vocals, guitar and percussion and Theresa on cello. Their six-member band can be seen at venues and festivals across Alaska, Colorado and Oregon.

Watt is one of three brothers who attended Ole Miss. Kenton Watt, a journalism graduate, is a development officer for Texas Christian University, and Bill Watt runs Carolina Lumber Sourcing in Charleston, South Carolina.

For more information about the UM Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, visit

UM Students Help Special Olympics Athletes

Program offers service-learning opportunities in community

UM students Devante Yates (left),of West Point; Lauren Nichols, of Roswell, Georgia; and Ali Siddiqui, of Ocean Springs, helped more than 300 Special Olympics athletes check in at the organization’s fall bowling event. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – Students from the University of Mississippi Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management helped 310 athletes from area schools, North Mississippi Regional Center and the Scott Child Development Center compete in Special Olympics bowling at Premier Lanes for the organization’s regional fall event.

“If I didn’t have them, I couldn’t do the Special Olympics,” said Felisa Bonner, Area 4 Director for Special Olympics Mississippi. “They helped with check-in, running the lanes, putting the names in the system and helping the athletes bowl. They do a great deal of work.”

Bonner credits Michael Dupper, assistant professor of HESRM, for helping coordinate this event, along with graduate student Brittany Trahan and undergraduate Devante Yates.

“Working with the folks from NMRC, the local school district and the Scott Center helps our students learn how to work with differently-abled populations and people with developmental disabilities,” Dupper said. “It prepares them for the real world, because that is who they’re going to meet: people with varying conditions, not just intellectual disabilities, but people who have mobility impairments and the elderly.”

More than half the recreation therapy staff at NMRC graduated from the Ole Miss department, Dupper said.

“A lot of our students want to get into physical therapy and occupational therapy, so obviously it’s directly related to working with people who are going through rehabilitation.” he said.

Evi Addoh (second from right), a graduate student in health promotion from Delta State, Nigeria, and Dylan Delancey (right), an exercise science major from Ocean Springs, assist Special Olympics athletes and their coaches in the fall bowling competition at Premier Lanes. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

Yates, an exercise science and nursing major from West Point, was involved in planning and executing the Special Olympics event through his undergraduate independent study with Dupper. He regularly works with participants from NMRC to get contact hours in recreation management, helping patients with mobility function through activities like aquatics and horseback riding.

“This is my first time being over the Special Olympics, and I just feel a lot of love from the participants,” Yates said. “The clients that come here – I can see how much fun they’re having, and it just brings a lot of joy and cheer to my heart.”

Planning the Special Olympics is an opportunity for students in the department to recruit helpers from all over campus, said Trahan, a doctoral student in exercise science from Rayne, Louisiana.

“I’ve learned how Ole Miss helps in the community, and participating helps me better get acquainted with the community of Oxford,” she said.

Ole Miss students help with a variety of Special Olympic events throughout the year, including bowling, skating, basketball, and track and field.

The university’s exercise science program prepares students for a broad range of health- and fitness-related professions through a curriculum that focuses on the applied sciences of exercise physiology, biomechanics, motor control and the psychology of exercise behavior. Students are presented with the most contemporary issues and trends in the application of exercise for weight management, cardiopulmonary health, maintenance of functional movement throughout the lifespan and the application of exercise science to athletic performance.

Students who graduate with a degree in exercise science often continue to study in areas such as medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nursing, psychology, athletic training, nutrition and education. Students also can find employment as group exercise instructors, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists, employee fitness coordinators, personal trainers and strength and conditioning coaches.

Graduate study in exercise science provides a focused scientific examination into a specific topic in exercise science. The mentor-driven approach provides students with opportunities for in-depth study of an application of exercise to an area of health and human performance.

For more information about volunteering with the Special Olympics, contact Trahan at For more information about the UM exercise science program, email

School of Applied Sciences Welcomes New Faculty

New faces bring wealth of analytic expertise and diverse cultural backgrounds

Teresa Carithers (center), interim dean of the School of Applied Sciences, welcomes new faculty members (from left) Saijun Zhang, Francis Boateng, Davis Henderson and Minsoo Kang. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Over the past six years, the University of Mississippi School of Applied Science has experienced unprecedented growth. A six-year assessment revealed enrollment is up 17 percent, and the number of degrees awarded has increased 82 percent. The number of peer-reviewed manuscripts is up an incredible 326 percent.

These upward trends attract accomplished teacher-scholars from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds, such as the four new faculty members who recently joined the school.

Faculty and students in the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management have a new chair and professor in Minsoo Kang. From 2004 to earlier this year, he served on the faculty at Middle Tennessee State University, where he received the Distinguished Research Award in 2013.

MTSU and University of Illinois have the only nation’s only programs in kinesmetrics, the application of measurement theory, statistics and mathematical analysis to the field of kinesiology. Kang brings with him to Ole Miss his experience as director for the Measurement and Statistical Consulting Service for the MTSU Kinesmetrics Laboratory. He plans to provide the same type of research-based consulting on health and human performance research projects to UM researchers and students.

“Dr. Kang brings the vision and knowledge to help us expand our tremendous research potential in health, sports and recreation through his data science and analytic expertise,” said Teresa Carithers, the school’s interim dean.

Kang earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Seoul National University and his doctorate from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders welcomed Davis Henderson as a new assistant professor. Henderson received his doctorate in speech and hearing science from Arizona State University.

A certified speech-language pathologist and native Navajo Indian, Henderson specializes in language development and impairment, language assessments among culturally and linguistically diverse populations, psychometrics and Navajo linguistics. Through his dissertation research, Henderson developed a dynamic assessment to identify Navajo children who need speech-language pathology services from those with normal, cultural speech differences.

He plans to continue pursuing his research into creating speech and language assessments for Navajo children that accurately reflect their abilities.

“Dr. Henderson’s research has already revealed how culture can and should influence our teaching, research and clinical practice,” Carithers said. “We anticipate that his findings could positively impact practice beyond the Navajo populations as well.”

Saijun Zhang joins the Department of Social Work as an assistant professor.

“The Department of Social Work is delighted to welcome Dr. Saijun Zhang to the social work team,” said Daphne Cain, the department’s chair. “Dr. Zhang earned his Ph.D. and Master of Social Work from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and served as a postdoctoral research associate and research assistant professor and research specialist with the Children and Family Research Center there.”

Zhang specializes in child welfare and youth behavioral health with rich experience in program evaluation and policy analysis. His other research endeavors include youth substance abuse and mental health and social contexts on the wellbeing of children and families.

Last year, Zhang presented his research at the 20th Annual Conference of the Society for Social Work and Research on the prevalence of human trafficking of children in Illinois and the characteristics of those children who come to the attention of child protective services. Zhang completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at East China Normal University in Shanghai.

Francis D. Boateng joined the Department of Legal Studies in October of last year from University of Minnesota at Crookston, where he served as an assistant professor of criminal justice in the Department of Liberal Arts and Education.

He received his doctorate in criminal justice and criminology from Washington State University and is working on series of projects testing organizational justice and support theories in a comparative context. Boateng is also developing a book manuscript that provides both historical and contemporary accounts of policing in Ghana.

His main research interests include comparative criminal justice, comparative policing, police legitimacy, international security, victimology, quantitative research, crime, law and justice. Besides presenting papers at professional conferences, such as the American Society of Criminology, Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and Western Association of Criminal Justice, Boateng gas published papers recently in a number of well-respected journals.

“He did not begin his services at Ole Miss until October last year, and since then, he’s aggressively attacked the incredibly time-consuming labor of planning and teaching new courses, writing proposals and churning out a large number of refereed manuscripts,” said Linda Keena, interim chair of the Department of Legal Studies.

“He has been highly effective in managing all those conflicting demands on his time and energy. Our department is very pleased with his productivity.”

“We have had a wonderful start to our academic year and welcome these new teacher-scholars, as is my custom, with great expectations,” Carithers said.

UM Graduates Land Rewarding Careers with U.S. Probation Office

Three criminal justice alumni improve lives for offenders and community

Three graduates of the UM criminal justice master’s program, including Emma Burleson (left) and William Fennell, serve as officers in the U.S. Probation Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Emma Burleson, a 2017 graduate of the master’s program in criminal justice at the University of Mississippi, spends her days protecting the community by supervising people charged with federal crimes while they await trial and after they have been convicted.

Her ultimate responsibility as a U.S. probation officer for the eastern district of Arkansas is to connect offenders to the resources they need to thrive on the outside – an opportunity to improve lives and the reason Burleson pursued her line of work.

“I was interested in pursuing a job within the field of criminal justice that was as much about healing and bettering individuals as it was about enforcing the law,” Burleson said. “I believe that the role of a probation officer is just that. We seek to not only protect and improve the community, but also to genuinely help the clients that we supervise make positive changes in their lives.

“I definitely find it rewarding to be working for a department that is so focused on improving individual lives and protecting and healing the community. I do not believe I could have found a better place for me.”

She is among three recent UM graduates who work in the office, along with William Fennell and Ashley Pratt. All three credit their time at Ole Miss with guiding their career paths.

As U.S. probation officers, these alumni are responsible for gathering and verifying information about people who come before the courts, preparing reports that judges rely on to make release and sentencing decisions and supervising those released to the community by the courts and paroling authorities.

For Burleson, the most rewarding aspect of her job is directing offenders to services that help them stay on the right side of the law, including substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, medical care, training and employment assistance.

Burleson credits her Ole Miss experience for her smooth transition to the workforce.

“I was granted invaluable experiences as a graduate assistant and through my participation in academic conferences, where I presented my thesis research,” she said. “My time at Ole Miss helped give me the skills and knowledge I needed to successfully get through the hiring process and succeed at my job.”

Fellow probation officer Fennell found his passion for restorative justice through his faith-based volunteer work with the Mississippi State Penitentiary and work with Linda Keena, UM interim chair of legal studies.

“Dr. Keena’s passion for community corrections was a major influence in my decision to pursue a career in probation,” Fennell said. “She also helped me develop the writing skills that I rely on in my current position.”

Fennell investigates the histories of defendants who are awaiting sentencing in federal criminal court and prepares reports to offer judges as much relevant information as possible before imposing a sentence. He previously spent two-and-a-half years supervising federal defendants who were awaiting trial on bond and federal offenders who had been released from prison or were sentenced to probation in northeastern Arkansas.

Ashley Pratt

“That supervision included helping clients use community resources and counseling services to help them readjust to society, helping them improve their decision-making process to avoid future issues and ensuring their compliance with all court-ordered conditions of release,” he said. “In essence, my job was to help protect the community by providing clients with a meaningful opportunity to change.”

Pratt graduated with her Master of Criminal Justice from Ole Miss with a job offer on the table from the Transportation Security Administration. Shortly after working part time with TSA, she began working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

In March, she joined Fennell as a U.S. probation officer, followed by Burleson in August.

“The driving force behind my career path was my child,” Pratt said.

Pratt said she is grateful to Keena and Danny Hall, senior lecturer in legal studies, for guidance during her time at Ole Miss as she pursued her graduate degree as a single mother.

“Both of these professors not only understood it, they embraced my child with open arms,” Pratt said.

“It is important to me that my child understands that everyone deserves a second chance, and that given the right help, people who were once labeled as ‘bad’ people could change their way of thinking and abide by the law.”

Eddie Towe, chief U.S. probation and pretrial services officer for the district, relies on universities with quality programming, such as the Ole Miss criminal justice program, to continually provide great officer candidates.

While Burleson, Fennell and Pratt lacked extensive probation experience, their aptitude, motivation, passion and personality traits matched those of highly functioning officers. Their submission packets, education, references, backgrounds and interviews also indicated they were the best candidates.

“In combination with working in an outcome-based learning organization that provides intensive initial training programs along with ongoing education and research opportunities, Ashley, William and Emma will make great officers,” Towe said.

Undergraduate degrees in criminal justice at UM offer three distinct emphases in correctionshomeland security and law enforcement. The Master of Criminal Justice program requires 36 hours of coursework and is based on the principle that students need skills and experiences in the areas of critical thinking, scholarly research, analysis, communication and ethical thinking. 

Both undergraduate and graduate-level programs are offered through the Department of Legal Studies in the School of Applied Sciences.

The UM School of Applied Sciences offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being. For more information, go to

UM Disaster Mental Health Expert Offers Advice for Hurricane Survivors

Department of Social Work offers tips to those affected by recent storms

UM students help collect nonperishable foods as part of a campus drive. Getting involved in volunteer activities or events that help others is an excellent way to deal with the stress from a major disaster, mental health experts advise. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – With 1,409 students from Texas and 513 from Florida enrolled this fall, the University of Mississippi is the home away from home for many residents of the two states that sustained the greatest impact from hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Many students’ and even some faculty members’ homes and property were damaged or destroyed while they watched the storm’s news coverage and waited to hear from their family members back home.

“(It was) probably the worst week in my life,” said adjunct legal studies professor George Ackerman, who was at his home in Del Ray Beach, Florida, when Hurricane Irma made landfall. “We are perfect today and everyone accounted for here, but it was very bad.

“Ninety degree temperatures in our home, and the baby and kids as well as pets were doing very bad. I slept on the floor, and we jumped staying from house to house as there were no hotels. Finally, we got one after four days. The hurricane itself was frightening to everyone, but we move forward.”

While managing loss of property is often top of mind after a natural disaster, managing the psychological effects of an event of this magnitude can be an even more critical part of storm recovery.

The psychological impact for individuals who are directly impacted by disaster – those who have lost property or a loved one, or who have been injured or dislocated – puts them at risk for developing long-term psychosocial conditions, said Daphne Cain, disaster mental health expert and chair of the UM Department of Social Work.

“Post-disaster reactions and behaviors may appear to be symptoms of psychological distress,” Cain said. However, many of these reactions are normal for people responding to traumatic situations.

“Studies show some common reactions include symptoms of shock, exhaustion, disorientation, irrationality, racing thoughts, fear and anxiety, or uncontrollable emotions,” said Cain, citing a 2013 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cain offered five important tips for students affected by the storms:

– Talk about it. Connect with social support systems, including family, friends, teachers and residence hall advisers. Visit the Student Health CenterPsychological Services Center or the Counseling Center.

First-year biology major Maggie Coulter,of Houston, Texas, puts effort into staying connected with her family in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

“I call and check on my parents and grandmother every day,” said Coulter, whose family continues to work on repairing her grandmother’s home, which suffered substantial water damage from the storm.

– Take care and calm yourself. Avoid using alcohol, drugs and tobacco, and engage in healthy coping, including yoga, stretching, walking and deep breathing. Get the rest you need, drink plenty of water for hydration and eat healthy meals and snacks.

– Turn off social media, television and radio. Listening to and viewing coverage of the disaster can be traumatizing or re-traumatizing. Take a break from listening to and viewing coverage.

– Get back to your daily routines. Returning to your normal routine, including going to class, meeting deadlines, engaging with friends and with usual activities, are good ways to regain a sense of control and can help those affected feel less anxious.

– Get involved. You are not alone. Engage in positive activities such as discussion groups and volunteering activities that can help to create a sense of meaning and connectedness. Get involved in university-related volunteer opportunities.

The Department of Social Work’s mission is to prepare competent and ethical social workers, for scientific inquiry and practice, who are leaders committed to social and economic justice, diversity and the enrichment of the quality of life at every level of society. For more information about social work at Ole Miss, email

Autism Expert Headlines UM Conference

Annual Ole Miss Fall Institute provides continuing education and networking opportunities

Jessica Dykstra Steinbrenner

OXFORD, Miss. – Each year, one of every 68 children will be diagnosed with autism, according to a 2016 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Identification and treatment of autism is vital, according to Lisa Ivy, a speech-language pathologist and clinical instructor in University of Mississippi Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.

Identifying the core features of Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD, will be the first learning objective that autism expert and certified speech-language pathologist Jessica Dykstra Steinbrenner will discuss at the 16th annual Ole Miss Fall Institute, set for Sept. 14-15 at The Inn at Ole Miss

“Evidence-Based Practice in School-Based Settings for Children and Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum” is the topic for this year’s institute.

“We selected the topic of autism based upon participant requests from our 2016 conference,” Ivy said. “As children with autism are identified earlier, school-based speech-language pathologists and teachers need the most updated diagnostic and treatment resources available.” ​

The department and the campus chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association host the institute each year to offer an opportunity for speech-language pathologists to earn continuing education units and learn more about developments in their field. This student-planned event gives students a chance to develop professional and organizational leadership skills under the mentorship of Ivy and Brad Crowe, co-director of the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic and clinical instructor.

This year’s topic will benefit not only speech-language pathologists, but also classroom teachers, special education teachers, school administrators and parents, Ivy said.

Steinbrenner will discuss ASD across the school years and different learning styles of those with the disorder. She will present the latest information about assessments to diagnose and evaluate needs, choosing target goals, selecting strategies and interventions, and data-based decision making.

She also will address and provide evidence-based practice guides for communication, social skills, engagement and play. She plans to close with a discussion on general tips and strategies and on challenging behavior.

Steinbrenner is a research scientist at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina. With research interests in school-based interventions for individuals with ASD, Steinbrenner is working for the Center on Secondary Education for Students with ASD to develop a comprehensive intervention program for high school students.

She has worked as a speech-language pathologist with elementary and middle school children with ASD and other developmental disabilities. She has publications in numerous professional journals, as well as two textbook chapters.

“As a nationally recognized scholar, Dr. Steinbrenner aligns well with the applied-science focus on the importance of having evidenced-based research direct clinical practice protocols,” said Teresa Carithers, interim dean of the UM School of Applied Sciences.

Online registration for the event is encouraged, as seating will be limited. The cost of the two-day event is $260 if paid before Sept. 13, and $275 for on-site registration. A link to the secure payment site is available at

In conjunction with the institute, the Ole Miss chapter of the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association will host a 5-K run benefitting the Sarah Wheat Voice Lab. The facility, used for evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation of individuals with voice disorders, is named after Sarah Wheat, a gifted graduate student in communication sciences and disorders who died in 2012.

Registration is $25 for timed runners and $15 for non-timed runners or walkers. To register, visit

Anyone wanting to make donations in lieu of race participation can write a check payable to the Sarah Wheat Voice Laboratory Fund and mail to 100 George Hall; 325 Rebel Drive; University, MS 38677.

For more information about the Ole Miss Fall Institute, email





UM Family Fondly Remembers Lennette J. Ivy

Beloved administrator was model of dedicated service and benevolence

Lennette Johnson Ivy Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Lennette Johnson Ivy Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Members of the University of Mississippi community are fondly remembering Lennette Johnson Ivy, a beloved administrator and faculty member who died Oct. 21. She was 63.

Funeral services for the professor emerita and chair emerita of UM’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders were Oct. 27 at Second Baptist Church in Oxford. The Rev. Leroy Wadlington officiated, with burial at Union Hill Cemetery.

Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emerita of university relations and professor emerita of communication sciences and disorders, described Ivy as “a loving, happy person” who always had a smile, a tear or a hug to share when most needed.

“She made a significant difference in my life and in the lives of so many us here today,” said Kellum, who spoke during the ceremony. “She was there for our students, guiding them, teaching them and mentoring them in their academic, clinical and professional education.

“Her calm, peaceful approach to life and living, her acceptance of all God’s children, her willingness to provide opportunities, guidance and encouragement to her undergraduate and graduate students were remarkable. Her legacy lives on in the lives of her students and graduates. “

Other UM administrators voiced similar reflections about their late colleague.

“Dr. Ivy will be remembered for her many wonderful qualities, including the calm way she conducted her work with others,” said Velmer Burton, dean of the School of Applied Sciences. ” She was genuinely loved by all.

“Her commitment to the university, (School of ) Applied Sciences and CSD provided an exemplary model of professionalism that leaves a tremendous positive impact for years to come. Our school sends thoughts and prayers to her family.”

Ivy joined the UM faculty in 1990 as a part-time clinical supervisor. During the course of her 26-year career, she served the CSD department as a clinical supervisor in speech pathology, acting assistant professor and assistant professor, associate professor and interim department chair.

Under Ivy’s leadership, enrollment in the department’s undergraduate and graduate programs grew significantly, with more than 56 graduate students and 400-plus undergraduates. The graduate program was reaccredited nationally in 2011 with master’s degree graduates in speech language pathology having a 100 percent employment rate.

The department saw significant increases in the number of full-time faculty, clinical supervisors and clinical services offered for speech, language and hearing impaired individuals in north Mississippi.

Ivy obtained a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation to establish a preschool laboratory and specialty clinic for hearing-, speech- and language-impaired children, as well as transition class for kindergarten children with speech, language and hearing disorders that interfere with literacy skills. She also established an in-house server and computer lab.

“We’re proud of where we’ve come and where we’re going,” Ivy once said, regarding the 50-year-old CSD department, which is consistently ranked in the Top 100 graduate programs in speech-language pathology. “Our department’s future is just as promising as its past.”

Brad Crowe, co-director of CSD’s Speech and Hearing Center, remembered Ivy’s dedication to the department.

“She was an ardent advocate for opportunity, and her persistence inspired people to succeed no matter the challenges set before them,” he said.

Ivy also worked as a speech-language pathologist in the Oxford School District, PRN speech-language pathologist at NovaCare (Heritage Manor) in Holly Springs and a graduate research assistant at the University of Memphis.

“Lennette leaves behind a legacy of love,” said Rebecca Lowe, clinical assistant professor and co-director of the clinic. “She will continue to live on through the lives of all those she touched.”

A native of Booneville, Ivy earned her doctorate in audiology and speech pathology from the University of Memphis, a master’s degree in communicative disorders from UM and a bachelor’s degree in communicative disorders from Mississippi Valley State University.

Formerly a certified teacher in Mississippi, she also was a licensed speech-language pathologist, held an American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s Certificate of Clinical Competence in speech-language pathology and was an awarded dyslexia screening consultant.

A 2014 recipient of the Mississippi Speech, Language, Hearing Association Honors of the Association Award, Ivy held three ASHA Awards for continuing education, a travel support for the 2001 University of Wisconsin at Madison Symposium on Research in Child Language Disorders and a travel fellowship to ASHA’s 11th annual research symposium on “NIDCD-Sponsored Institute: Genetic Paradigms for the New Millennium.”

A respected clinician and teacher in her field, Ivy was the principal investigator on at least seven state- and federally-funded projects totaling more than $418,818 and made presentations at more than 26 professional conferences and symposiums. She also co-authored at least six peer-reviewed journal articles and two book chapters.

Ivy is survived by her husband, James L. Ivy Jr.; a daughter, Michelle Cowan-Haggard; four sons, Courtney Ivy, James L. Ivy III, Moraye Ivy and Christopher Ivy; four sisters, Mildred Dilworth, Laura Jernigan, Lillian Johnson and Linda Blissett; two brothers, William Dilworth and Frank Dilworth; and 10 grandchildren.

Donations may be made to the Dr. Lennette Ivy Memorial Scholarship Fund at Second Baptist Church, 611 Jackson Ave., Oxford, MS 38655 or at University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Avenue, Oxford, MS 38655.