Communication Sciences and Disorders Workshop for Parents of Children with Disabilities Set for Saturday

Clinician and educator address children's behavioral problems as potential sensory issues

OXFORD, Miss. – The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders at the University of Mississippi will offer a free parent workshop on Saturday, June 16 from 10 a.m. to noon to help families better understand if their child’s behavioral issues are actually sensory issues.

“A child’s tantrums or inattentiveness are not always strictly behavioral problems – they can be sensory issues,” said Amy Livingston, a UM instructor and speech-language pathologist with the HILL Lab, an on-campus learning-language program for children with moderate to severe receptive and expressive language disorders.

A joint presentation by a licensed special education teacher and a licensed speech-language pathologist will offer strategies for parents whose children with disabilities may have a sensory issue such as being hypersensitive to sights, sounds, textures, flavors, smells and other sensory input.

The program will be held at Willie Price Lab School on UM’s Oxford campus in 107 Kinard Hall. Free child care will be available for children of all abilities.

A “Sib Shop” will offer free games, snacks and activities for siblings (ages 6 and up) of children with disabilities.

The HILL program specializes in maximizing children’s language-learning capabilities while providing clinical training for undergraduate and graduate students seeking careers as audiologists, speech-language pathologists and SLP associates. The program works to engage with the community and conduct research that positively affects the lives of children in Mississippi and beyond.

For more information about this event, contact Livingston at or call 662-915-2942.

New UM Graduates Begin Tenure-track Appointments Across the South

Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management sends six students into faculty positions

The 2018 doctoral graduates from the UM Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management include (from left) J. Grant Mouser, Samuel Buckner, Matthew Jessee, Kevin Mattox, Robert Davis, Sam Wilson, Charles Caleb Williams and Vokay Addoh. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – During Commencement ceremonies earlier this month at the University of Mississippi, the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management celebrated a record number of health and kinesiology doctoral students walking across the graduation stage directly into full-time, tenure-track appointments across the South.

“We had a remarkable group of nine doctoral students hooded this year,” said Allison Ford-Wade, professor and graduate program coordinator. “Of those, seven of the nine have accepted tenure-track faculty positions and one is pursuing a second doctoral program.”

Vokay Addoh, of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, was invited to join UM’s own faculty. Samuel Buckner, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will join the faculty of the University of South Florida. Matt Jessee, of Claremont, North Carolina, accepted a position at the University of Southern Mississippi.

J. Grant Mouser, of Norman, Oklahoma, will begin his new appointment at Troy University in August. Charles Caleb Williams, of Lake Butler, Florida, will join the faculty at LaGrange College in Georgia. Sam Wilson, of Senatobia, will begin his tenure at Georgia Southern University.

Finally, Robert Davis, a December graduate, joined the University of Arkansas as an assistant professor of public health in January.

When you ask these students what attracted them to Ole Miss, their answers have a common thread: a talented, dedicated faculty and administration, the beautiful campus and all the resources that come along with studying at a flagship research university with Carnegie R1 status, indicating the highest research activity.

For Addoh, the prevalent health disparities in Mississippi and the need for health care professionals were another important aspect of his decision to join the program. His dissertation examined a potential method to enhance the positive experience of exercise, an area of health behavior research with potential ramifications for physical activity promotion.

“Moving forward, I intend to extend my inquiry on methods to enhance the experience of exercise and to further contribute to the science on physical activity translational research,” Addoh said.

Addoh credits Paul Loprinzi, associate professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, for his mentorship throughout the doctoral program.

Loprinzi not only is highly regarded by students for his caring mentorship, but he is one of the department’s most prolific publishers. Having published 73 peer-reviewed papers in 2017 alone, Loprinzi’s work has been cited more than 5,000 times since 2011.

Under Loprinzi’s direction, Addoh added 26 scholarly articles to his list of published works.

The potential to work alongside an intensely productive researcher drew Buckner, Jessee and Mouser to Ole Miss as well, specifically to study skeletal muscle adaptations to resistance exercise with Jeremy Loenneke, assistant professor of health, exercise science and recreation management and director of the Kevser Ermin Applied Physiology Laboratory, affectionately called the Ole Miss Muscle lab.

Jessee, who accrued 40 publications while at UM, explained that it was Loenneke’s passion for science and ability to prepare students for success that drew him to stay for his Ph.D.

“I felt that I could learn so much more from him than going elsewhere, because he is always pushing people to think critically and not just align with the status quo,” said Jessee, who will continue studying skeletal muscle health and function in his new research faculty role. He will be searching for new ways to attenuate muscle function loss due to aging and immobilization or injury.

While Mouser counts producing one of the largest published studies on blood flow following exercise as his most exciting project to date, Buckner found his passion in exploring the relationship between changes in muscle size and changes in muscle strength.

“The work we have done here is changing the way people think about skeletal muscle and how it adapts to resistance exercise,” said Buckner.

Loenneke also advised spring doctoral graduate Kevin Mattox of Pittsburgh, who is interviewing for assistant professor positions at a variety of institutions.

“I am both excited and sad to see these students graduate and move on with their careers,” Loenneke said. “All of them have done tremendous research here at the University of Mississippi, and it has been really special to work with each of them over the past three to four years. Their futures are bright.”

Martha Bass, associate professor and former graduate program coordinator, advised Williams’ research examining changes in bat swing kinematics in different areas of the strike zone among collegiate baseball and softball players. She also directed Wilson’s dissertation, where he found his true research interest.

“Our lab’s findings in this dissertation included novel aspects of possible roles of the neuromuscular system in the slip recovery process,” said Wilson, who plans to expand this research, examining older adults and special populations in his new role at Georgia Southern. “We hope we can translate these findings into effective ways of mitigating fall-related injuries and mortality.”

Minsoo Kang, chair of the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, congratulates Xi Jin at the 2018 Commencement exercises for the UM School of Applied Sciences. Jin will begin her second doctoral program in nutrition and hospitality management this fall. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

Xi Jin of Harbin, China, also a May graduate, will expand her research base by pursuing a second doctoral degree in nutrition and hospitality management in the UM School of Applied Sciences while assisting Teresa Carithers, interim dean, with the new undergraduate applied gerontology program.

Each of the graduates pointed to the outstanding professional and academic values of their fellow graduate student cohort, indicating the quality of their experience directly related to the academic profile and camaraderie of this particular group.

Davis, who is conducting studies focusing on substance use behavior and its association with mental health concerns since starting his career at the University of Arkansas, explained that it wasn’t only the talented faculty mentors, such as Bass, who helped pave his way to success.

“I am immensely thankful to have studied with the group of grad students,” Davis said. “I was fortunate enough to come through the HESRM department at a time of immense progress concerning scientific exploration and rigor.

“The quality of students who came through the program with me should be admired. These are some of the finest minds that I have had the pleasure of encountering. As great as the faculty I studied under are, I can say that I would not be the scientist I am without the advice, challenge and leadership exhibited in these friends.”

This progress in scientific exploration is exhibited not only in the success of this graduating doctoral class, but in the sheer number of peer-reviewed publications produced by the department. Faculty, with the help of these doctoral students, published 134 unique publications in 2017.

On average, faculty members in the field publish 3.6 peer-reviewed papers a year, said Minsoo Kang, HESRM chair, citing data from the 2015 National Academy of Kinesiology Doctoral Program Review. The Ole Miss department’s score of 9.57 publications is much higher than the national average.

“Considering that the top 25 percent of doctoral programs published only 5.52 publications per faculty per year, we just had a remarkable year in 2017,” Kang said. “We could potentially be ranked No. 1 in the nation in the number of publications category.”

The department’s research productivity exemplifies the teacher-scholar model, preparing students to lead their own research teams in an R1 environment, Carithers said.

For more information about the UM Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, visit

Social Work Advances in National Rankings of Top Master’s Programs

U.S. News and World Report ranks UM at No. 62 among public universities

Susan Allen (center), director of the UM Master of Social Work program, discusses crisis counseling and domestic violence with her students. The program has moved up significantly in national rankings and is among the nation’s top 100 programs. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – U.S. News and World Report has ranked the University of Mississippi’s graduate program in social work among the top 100 in the country, up an impressive 60 spots in the national rankings since the program started in 2011.

The latest report ranks the Master of Social Work at UM tied at No. 62 among the nation’s public universities.

Since 2014, the Department of Social Work grants and contracts have grown 111 percent. Faculty generated peer-reviewed articles are up 230 percent, and national and refereed faculty presentations have increased by 250 percent.

“The School of Applied Sciences has invested the resources needed to build and promote the Department of Social Work,” said Daphne Cain, department chair.

“We have hired nine tenure-track faculty from premier schools of social work across the U.S., and in collaboration with our more senior faculty, the more junior faculty have dedicated themselves to research, teaching and service that has translated into national visibility through scholarship, teaching and service. That positive national visibility translates into improved national rankings.”

Although thrilled to move up in the rankings, Susan Allen, director of the Master of Social Work program, points to other important indicators of success that reinforce those numbers.

“For example, Patricia Tortora, a 2015 graduate, was the only M.S.W. student selected for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Leadership Initiatives for Tomorrow Fellowship,” Allen said. “Based on a competitive nomination process, only 22 students were selected nationwide and 21 were Ph.D. students.

“I believe that is a quality measure based on a tangible indicator. Our 100 percent pass rate on the Licensed Master of Social Work exam last year is another tangible indicator of the quality of the program.”

Viktor Burlaka, assistant professor of social work, agreed that the infusion of faculty from some of the nation’s top programs has significantly enhanced the department’s teaching and research capacity.

“I feel proud that our students have the ability to learn from dynamic scholars with active research agendas,” Burlaka said. “Surrounded by caring and enthusiastic faculty, they thrive academically, develop critical thinking and hone their clinical skills to become competitive and successful social workers.”

Despite the incredible growth in enrollment – nearly doubling the number of full-time M.S.W. students from 2016 to 2017 – the department has purposely maintained a low student-to-faculty ratio, said Jandel Crutchfield, assistant professor of social work.

“The program has been able to maintain its small class sizes while expanding its reach and rigor,” Crutchfield said. “The rise in the rankings of our M.S.W. program reflects the concerted effort of our faculty and the exemplary students in each cohort.”

Maintaining that small class size and close-knit relationship between faculty and students is a major factor in student success, said Younghee Lim, associate professor of social work.

“I also think that the caring mentorship these talented faculty provide to the students increased retention and graduation rates, which contributed to the increased ranking,” Lim said.

Recent graduate Claire Griffin, of Decatur, said the program helped her grow both as a professional and as a person.

“The smaller classroom setting provided a positive environment for students to have healthy discussion on the variety of topics covered within this program,” Griffin said. “The relationships I built with teachers helped me to develop a confidence in myself and in my capacity to be a clinician that I never thought possible.

“The best takeaway I gained was the importance of taking the time to stay up-to-date with the latest research because delivering the best services for clients is, in part, a result of knowing this information.”

Consistent student success leads to consistent employment for graduates. In a 2016 employment survey conducted by the department as a part of its accreditation process, 89 percent of the program’s graduates found employment within six months of graduation – 25 percent in community mental health, 25 percent in aging/gerontology, 13 percent in child welfare, 13 percent in schools, 13 percent in nursing home/assisted living and 13 percent in in-patient mental health.

For more information about the Department of Social Work, visit

Faculty Member Wins Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award

Kathy Knight lauded at state and regional level

Kathy Knight

OXFORD, Miss. – Kathy Knight, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management at the University of Mississippi, has been recognized as the 2018 Outstanding Dietetic Educator in a Coordinated Program at the state and regional level. 

This distinction is awarded annually by the Nutrition and Dietetic Educator and Preceptor practice group in association with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Before qualifying for the South Central Region Award, Knight received the Outstanding Dietetic Educator award for the state of Mississippi.

She was nominated by colleague Laurel Lambert, also an associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management.

“I met Dr. Knight in 1987 when I attended my first North Mississippi Dietetics Association meeting here in Oxford,” Lambert said.

At that time, Knight had earned her bachelor’s degree in biology at Ole Miss and a master’s degree in nutrition at Mississippi State University. By 1989, Knight earned a doctorate in nutrition from Auburn University and began teaching as an assistant professor at UM.

Throughout her professional career, she has been an innovator, mentor and leader in education and dietetics. The NDEP practice group considers nominees’ experience in each of these roles when determining the recipient of the Outstanding Dietetics Educator Award.

Knight founded the hospitality management program at Ole Miss and wrote the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management’s planning document and application for the master’s and doctoral programs to the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning.

Knight’s research grants have funded several graduate students, and she was once a writer for questions on the registered dietitian exam. She also co-wrote a manual for food preparations laboratories with Lambert.

Knight served as the department’s interim chair when both the didactic program and coordinated program in dietetics were undergoing re-accreditation and accreditation. The hospitality management program also was going through accreditation at that time.

Melinda Valliant, an Ole Miss graduate and associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, has known Knight since 1987. Over the years, she has seen how Knight’s leadership has been influential in the department.

“Dr. Knight was my professor in several classes,” Valliant said. “She has been part of a department that has gone through several drastic changes as a result of both the evolution of the profession and department.”

Knight also started a service learning component in the department. For more than 30 years, students in her nutrition classes have worked at The Pantry and the Ole Miss Food Bank.

She has served as chair of seven master’s thesis committees and six undergraduate Honors College thesis committees. She also mentored three McNair students, an honors program for African-American students.

Kathy Knight (center) receives the 2018 Mississippi Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Outstanding Dietetic Educator Award. Submitted photo

While Knight’s professional experience distinguishes her from other professors, Lambert said Knight can also be set apart from other professors by her sense of humor and her innate ability to connect with students.

Valliant offered similar praise and described Knight as a genuine and humble professional who truly cares about making everyone she encounters feel important. Valliant said she and students can learn from Knight’s driven, goal-oriented nature while enjoying her humor, which shines through almost any situation.

“Dr. Knight has taught me that hard work pays off,” said Valliant. “She is an excellent teacher and colleague. She can interject humor into most any situation and that makes working for her fun.”

Tiffany Shirley, a first-year graduate student from Corinth who took Knight’s advanced nutrition class, said Knight provided her class with unique learning opportunities and was always looking for ways to help them. She said Knight makes a noticeable effort to be considerate of her students’ work and life balance.

“She really wants to see students succeed as a whole person, not just academically,” Shirley said. “She cares about students’ well-being but teaches so much about the subject area all the while.”

Students Explore Culture and Cuisine in Italy

Nutrition and hospitality management faculty offer international experiences through Study Abroad

Laurel Lambert (right), UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, joins her students for a cooking class at Apicius International School of Hospitality in their ‘Exploring Florence: Culture and Cuisine’ course through Study Abroad. The students are (front row, from left) Baylee Edwards, Michelle Weber, Caroline Crunk, Ellie Stamerjohn and Kate Cowne, and (back row, from left) Elizabeth Gunn, Abigail Johnson, Nicole Johnson, the AISH class instructor, Lucy Johnston, Teresa Eddy, Claire McCraw and Anna Kathryn Carson. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students will travel in May to experience the culture and cuisine of Florence, Italy, through the school’s Study Abroad program.

Laurel Lambert, UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management, will travel for her fourth year with students to Florence to facilitate the course titled, “Exploring Florence: Culture and Cuisine”. This course offers students six credit hours for NHM 468 or NHM 595 and focuses on food in the context of Italian culture and hospitality as it relates to lodging and tourism. This is the sixth year for the course to be offered.

“For two weeks students travel to Florence and have amazing experiences everyday with different activities that expose students to foods and their regions,” Lambert said. “It is especially educational for students because the Study Abroad Italy organization, based in Florence, has all the connections and are able to teach us things about places that most people wouldn’t know of if they were only vacationing.”

Lambert teaches Principles of Food Preparation, which teaches students the science of cooking and foods at UM. She said that traveling to different vineyards and visiting with cheese, balsamic vinegar and olive oil producers in Florence allows students to not only see processes and foods they have learned about in her class, but actually try them.

“In Florence, students really get a sense of the passion Italians have for their food,” Lambert said. “One of my most favorite things is to see the students understanding that food doesn’t just come in a box to be prepared. Italians live it. It is part of who they are.”

Some of the food-related activities students participate in while abroad are olive oil tastings, wine tastings and pairings, and cooking classes at different vineyards and at the Apicius International School of Hospitality. They also visit cheese factories, balsamic vinegar production sites, local markets, historic restaurants, and an elementary school cafeteria.

Students also go on tours around Florence including tours of artisans, castles, hotels and the world-famous Uffizi Museum.

Lambert said both the food and culture related activities organized for students are led by local and world famous instructors and guides who are respected and well-educated.

“The quality of instruction that Study Abroad Italy provides is amazing,” Lambert said. “I’m very thankful, and I’ve been able to learn a lot.”

Lambert said she has seen how experiencing the study abroad program has made an impact on students’ confidence while traveling the world. At the end of the course, some of the students who traveled with her last year decided to stay in Europe together for a few more weeks to continue exploring. She said she enjoys seeing how friendships develop among students over the two-week course.

“When the 12 students first get together, hardly any of them know each other,” Lambert said. “By the end, they’re just like best friends.”

Caroline Crunk, a senior hospitality management student from Brentwood, Tennessee, traveled to Florence last summer with Lambert and 11 other students. Crunk said her favorite part of the trip was visiting vineyards and learning how to make Italian cuisine.

“My favorite part of the trip was going to a vineyard in Tuscany,” Crunk said. “It was the most beautiful view I’ve ever seen, and it was so much fun learning how to make tiramisu and gnocchi.”

All spots for the Study Abroad trip to Italy have been filled this year. However, the course will be offered in future semesters. For more information on studying abroad, visit

Researcher Presents Blood Flow Restriction Research in Denmark

Applied Physiology Laboratory recognized internationally as contributor to emerging exercise therapy

UM doctoral students (from left) Sam Buckner, of Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Kevin Mattox, of Pittsburgh; and J. Grantmouser, of Norman, Oklahoma, demonstrate blood flow restriction technique used in the Kevser Ermin Applied Physiology Laboratory. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – Research being conducted at the University of Mississippi on blood flow restriction therapy is drawing international attention for its clinical and sports performance applications.

Under the leadership of Jeremy P. Loenneke, assistant professor of health, exercise science and recreation management, the Kevser Ermin Applied Physiology Laboratory is quickly gaining renown for breakthroughs in low-load alternatives to traditional resistance exercise.

This therapy helps rebuild muscle using less weight and less intensity by slightly inflating a pressure cuff that is attached to a person’s limbs for a few minutes to restrict blood flow.

“This allows a muscle to work harder than it normally would so a person can gain the same benefits of normal exercise without having to physically lift heavy weights,” Loenneke said.

“Typically when people exercise, they have to train pretty heavy to see any type of benefit. For most people that’s OK, but people who have had surgery or who are older may not have the ability to do that. Our current work focuses a lot of the methodology and the safety of applying blood flow restriction therapy, which is something many clinicians are wanting to know more about.”

Loenneke was in Denmark over the weekend, speaking at a symposium and leading a workshop on blood flow restriction therapy at the Danish Association of Physiotherapy Congress meeting in Odense. This is Loenneke’s second time to hold a workshop there on this subject.

The researcher first came across blood flow restriction when he was interning at the University of Illinois in 2007. He began completing his own work on the subject in 2008 while at Southeast Missouri State University and later while earning his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma.

When he first read of this therapy in literature, he was surprised by the broad application of its benefits.

“My first thought when I came across this literature as an undergraduate was that I must be reading this wrong,” Loenneke said.

While studying at Oklahoma, he was contacted by a physical therapist at the Center for the Intrepid, a rehabilitation center for wounded soldiers. Loenneke said he helped explain how to best apply blood flow restriction for rehabbing soldiers with blast trauma.

“The problem is that a lot of these injuries cannot be trained with normal exercise intensities,” Loenneke said. “Blood flow restriction is a potential utility that clinicians are using a lot in clinical trials or hospital settings.”

Jeremy P. Loenneke

At Ole Miss, Loenneke has six doctoral students working alongside him, as well as Takashi Abe, a visiting professor and longtime friend.

“We are lucky here at Ole Miss, because Dr. Abe has been studying blood flow therapy for a long time,” Loenneke said. “I first began reading his literature in 2007, and now he works with our group. We are one of the groups that is more known for blood flow restriction literature in the United States.”

At the Danish symposium, Loenneke focused on blood flow restriction exercise after surgery or disease. Clinicians are interested in focusing on immediate post-surgery recovery because there is a short window of time after surgery for a person to regain muscle strength, he said.

As an academic, Loenneke’s role at the meeting is to educate clinicians on how this therapy works within a laboratory setting so they can use their best judgments in considering the use of this therapy and making the proper adjustments to apply it to post-surgery patients.

To gather data at UM, Loenneke and his team study the effects of blood flow therapy on healthy people, ages 18-35, by applying the cuff and measuring what happens in different situations.

“Sometimes we study the effects of this therapy with no exercise at all, and sometimes we do it with exercise and training,” he said. “We get the data, write it up and publish it. Our work is primarily published within sports medicine-related journals.”

Blood flow restriction therapy benefits normal, healthy people in many ways, Loenneke said. While researching the methods, the team wanted to create a practical model using equipment that most lifters already have or could easily get, he said.

He has seen Ole Miss students using blood flow restriction therapy.

Blood flow restriction therapy works by slightly inflating a pressure cuff attached to a person’s limbs for a few minutes to restrict blood flow during exercise. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

“I’ve seen people doing it upstairs in the Turner Center,” Loenneke said. “I don’t think they know that a lot of the work put in creating those methods was actually done by people who are now here. It’s a really cool thing to see.”

Minsoo Kang, chair of the Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, expressed his excitement for the lab’s research to be seen on an international stage.

“Dr. Loenneke and his research students have earned national attention for their work with blood flow restriction exercise over the past three years,” Kang said. “It is quite significant of him presenting at an international stage, which I believe will increase the visibility of our department, school and university.”

For more information about the UM Department of Health, Exercise Science and Recreation Management, visit

UM Departments Help Quitman County Schools Host Career and Health Fair

Students and faculty provide health assessments for Marks community

Marta Dees (right), a food and nutrition services graduate student from Oxford, discusses several of the health posters on display with Quitman County High School students at a career and health fair hosted by the University of Mississippi and the Quitman County Career and Technical Center. Photo by Michaela Cooper

OXFORD, Miss. – Faculty and students from the University of Mississippi recently helped coordinate and host the Quitman County Career and Health Fair to educate Marks-area high school students and community members on career opportunities and healthy living.

The career and health fair stemmed from the university’s partnership with the Marks Project, a nonprofit, community-based outreach program launched in 2016 that focuses on improving the overall quality of life for citizens of this struggling Delta community – a project supported by numerous, interdisciplinary faculty delegates from Ole Miss.

Kegi Wells, Quitman County curriculum coordinator and member of the Marks Project, expressed a need for a career fair to help inspire high school students. With the imminent opening of a community fitness center, where UM volunteers will help conduct regular health assessments, the group decided to expand the career fair to include a health component.

“Our students, along with student volunteers from the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, were trained at the University of Mississippi Medical Center to collect blood glucose samples and blood pressure readings, as well as calculate body-mass index,” said Georgianna Mann, assistant professor of nutrition and hospitality management.

“We want to get a baseline indication of what health looks like in Marks, so our students can know what to expect when they begin helping at the fitness center.”

Besides gathering data, this event was meant to help Quitman County students become aware of all the opportunities available to them and to help the Marks community become better connected to outside communities, Mann said.

Kymberle Gordon, of Canandaigua, New York, works with the Marks Project and is earning her doctorate in nutrition and hospitality management. She finds the community to be a welcoming place to conduct research and knows the importance of understanding its culture while researching.

“You can come into a community and assume that people think a certain way,” Gordon said. “But until you actually get feedback from the community members, you don’t really know what they think is important.”

At the event, Gordon gathered data to better understand the food environment and level of physical activity in Quitman County by conducting a food access and physical activity survey.

Dria Price, a senior Spanish, nutrition and international studies major from Oxford, attended the event to begin observing fellow student researchers in preparation for her upcoming project examining food insecurity in Quitman County.

“I think any research going on in the Marks community is really great, because I know the research won’t just be published and die,” Price said. “The people that are invested in this community will be able to use the research to help make it better, and that’s what I am excited about.”

Connor Ball (left), a senior pre-med biology student from Madison, talks with Quitman County High School students about the importance of hydration and healthy snacking. Photo by Michaela Cooper

Anne Cafer, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology, regularly works with the Marks Project and helped organize the student-led effort.

This project is just one component of the university’s larger effort to meet needs that communities have through outreach and engagement, Cafer said. The projects she has students complete are based on the needs of communities.

“We don’t come to communities and say, ‘This is what we want to do,'” Cafer said. “We come to them and ask what things we can help with. Each semester, the projects my students work on are projects the community has told me they want help with.”

Connor Ball, a senior pre-med biology student from Madison, reached out to Cafer when searching for a research project based in health and nutrition to help with his medical school application. He joined other UM students in hosting a poster session that explained to participants the importance of hydration, dental hygiene, drug and alcohol awareness, portion control, and smart snacking.

“We study what the issues are, where they come from and what kind of solutions we can create for the future to produce a steady incline in the health and nutrition status here,” Ball said.

One of the group’s goals is to increase citizens’ knowledge of health and how to treat themselves, Ball said, explaining that collecting data allows the team to find trends and detect specific issues.

“Maybe blood sugar is really high,” he said. “We can consider it an issue, and we can tackle it. We can go in and change people’s diet and their understanding of what causes blood sugar to surge.”

The Quitman County School District and its Career and Technical Center coordinated the event. Partnering with the university and adding a health component offered students a range of valuable information, said Cynthia Washington, the district’s career technical education director.

“We want our students to see all of the avenues and opportunities available to them through this partnership with Ole Miss,” Washington said. “The health component is vital for our students to know that along with having careers, they also need to be healthy.”

For more information on the Marks Project, visit For more information about UM programs in nutrition and hospitality management, visit

Crowdfunding Campaign to Fund Literacy Program

Communication Sciences and Disorders' 'Ready to Read' fundraiser to benefit children

UM communication sciences and disorders graduate students Emily Reedy (in red), of Pontotoc, and Lauren Stantz (in blue), of Houston, practice reading skills with area youth in preparation for the upcoming Ready to Read Literacy Program. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – The speech-language pathologists who operate the University of Mississippi’s Speech and Hearing Center are bringing their expertise to a communitywide literacy program designed to improve children’s reading skills before they reach third grade.

“We know that if kids aren’t reading on grade level by the time they get to the third grade, they are four times more likely not to graduate high school,” said Suzanne Ryals, Oxford School District early childhood reading development director.

Opportunities are limited for many first- and second-graders to continue advancing their reading skills over the summer, Ryals said. Faculty in the UM Department of Communications Sciences and Disorders, recognizing the deficit of programming geared toward this particular age range, have launched an initiative to fund a summer and after-school literacy program addressing the problem.

A 30-day Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding campaign is being launched to provide financial resources for the “Ready to Read” program. Those interested in contributing to the campaign can choose from six levels of giving: $25 Sight Word Level; $50 Phonics Level; $75 Chapter Book Level; $100 Novel Level; $250 Graduate or $1,000 Ph.D. Level. Contributions to the campaign will directly benefit program participants by covering the costs of materials, books and scholarships.

The Ready to Read summer camp will serve rising second- and third-grade children and will operate for six weeks, June 4-July 27, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. daily.

“Before camp begins, the children will be scheduled for a reading diagnostic assessment, followed by a series of criteria-referenced assessments where the child’s skill level in five different areas – phonological awareness, phonetics, word attack skills, reading fluency and reading comprehension – will be identified,” said Brad Crowe, UM Speech and Hearing Center co-director and clinical instructor. From these assessments, each child will have a list of reading goals that will be taught during camp.”

Following the summer camp, the speech-language pathologists and graduate clinicians hope to provide an after-school reading program for children with reading disabilities.

“Since we can identify children at risk for reading disabilities with greater reliability than ever before, we would like to offer a preventive program for kindergarten and first-graders in the long term,” Crowe said.

One clinical faculty member will be present at all times to supervise up to four graduate students as they provide individualized and small-group instruction to the children, said Ann Michael, interim chair for CSD.

“First, the faculty member will observe the instruction and interact with the student and the child,” Michael said. “They will then meet with each graduate student to review each child’s achievement for the day and work with the graduate student to modify the child’s plan as needed for the next day.

“This process will ensure the children receive quality services and that the graduate student is pushed to develop critical thinking and research skills in order to transform the lives of others.”

Gloria Kellum, CSD professor emeritus and vice chancellor emeritus for university relations, explained the camp’s importance to UM graduate students studying to become speech-language pathologists.

“It has long been known, and the research is very clear that a child with any type of speech, language or hearing difference is going to have reading challenges, so speech-language pathologists need to be educated about that,” Kellum said. “Part of our program is to educate SLPs and audiologists on the necessary role of early speech and language intervention for children to be sure that they are hearing, speaking correctly and learning the language skills.”

“We have the skill set to work with children who have reading difficulties,” said Lisa Ivy, literacy program director, speech-language pathologist and clinical instructor with the Speech and Hearing Center. “We know that the sounds that we use to talk are the same sounds we match with letters when we are sounding out words, and that helps with reading.”

The camp is centered on themes, such as ocean animals, community helpers and insects. The camp clinicians also make time for science experiments, snacks, crafts and playground time.

“We will read books together and discuss vocabulary,” Ivy said. “The children will have breakout sessions where they work on their individual skills. Then we may read as a group.”

Kelle Sumrall, a seventh-grade science teacher at Lafayette Middle School, understands firsthand the critical importance of early literacy for future educational success. Her son Ben attended three weeks of literacy camp during last summer’s pilot program.

“As a teacher and a mother of someone who struggles with reading, I think the program does a wonderful job of attending to my child’s needs and helping him grow, build better self-esteem and be more successful,” Sumrall said.

“Ben loved the themes of the week. He was very excited about what he was going to take, what they were going to talk about and what they were going to do each day. That was one of the things that got him really excited about going.

“When SLPs are running this program, they have a better grasp of what to connect to the child, and they get to know the child personally. They realize their strengths and weaknesses, so that they can develop the program to better suit the needs of the child.”

For more information about giving to this campaign, visit Those who prefer to contribute by mail can do so by writing the program’s name in the check’s memo line and sending it to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information about attending the literacy summer camp or after-school program, contact Ivy at or 662-915-7950.

Restorative Justice Project Partners with Feed My Starving Children

Legal Studies students, Marshall County Correctional Facility inmates pack more than 100,000 meals

Lexi Caviness (right), a UM psychology major and criminal justice minor from Ripley, joins 150 inmates from the Marshall Country Correctional Facility in Holly Springs in a Feed My Starving Children food-packing event. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – Students and faculty from the University of Mississippi Department of Legal Studies recently joined forces with the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs to pack more than 100,000 meals in one day for an organization that helps needy children.

Feed My Starving Children is a Christian nonprofit working to eliminate starvation and hunger worldwide.

“Our partnership with the Marshall County Correctional Facility is unprecedented,” said Lisa Stueckemann, development officer for Feed My Starving Children. “We are thrilled to be working with 150 offenders, plus students and faculty from Ole Miss to work to pack meals to send to children who are dealing with severe malnutrition and starvation.”

Linda Keena, interim chair for the Department of Legal Studies, teaches restorative justice and entrepreneurship courses to a group of maximum-security inmates at the facility, where the idea for the project got its start. Over the course of eight hours, the group packed enough meals to feed 277 children every day for an entire year.

“Part of what we try to do is find ways to repair harm that their behavior has caused to the community, so we decided we would try to put together this project,” Keena explained. “It has been a really rewarding day.

“The offenders who graduate from these classes feel a great sense of pride and accomplishment. They feel validated that their time has been of real value to others, and that is really what we want to accomplish from it. At the end of this day, they feel like they have made a difference in someone else’s life in a positive way.”

For Keena, this project was a valuable service-learning experience for her criminal justice students.

“We’ve had a number of student volunteers who came here,” She said. “They have an opportunity to put into place the things they’re learning in the classroom; to engage with the offenders, staff and administrators, and to come back to volunteer. That helps them as they prepare for their careers in corrections.”

Kornisha Johnson, a senior criminal justice major from Sallis, described the experience as a blessing.

“This project has meant a lot to me,” Johnson said. “Back home, there is little opportunity and I’m surrounded by poverty, so to be able to give back to so many children is amazing.

“Also, being able to work alongside the inmates has been a positive thing – just letting them know that they are not what people say they are. They are not their crimes. It has been a beautiful and rewarding experience to help fundraise and put this together.”

Lexi Caviness, a sophomore criminal justice minor from Ripley, said the experience has changed her perspective of the incarcerated.

“Before coming into the class I had a different idea of them,” Caviness said. “Just getting to talk with them and realize most of them are trying to better themselves. It is really nice to see how they are still trying to give back, even though they are in here for a long time.”

Many of the offenders, including Richard Moore of Walls, expressed gratitude for getting to do something positive in reparation for their past wrongdoings.

“We’re all in here for doing something destructive, and society looks at us like we are throwaways,” Moore said. “This gives us an opportunity to show that we have changed and that we are capable of doing something good.

“It is impressive to me, because prison is a place associated with hopelessness, but here we are boxing up hope to send to other countries, to children.”

The inmates first had to pass the Ice House Entrepreneurship class as a prerequisite to the restorative justice class to participate in the food-packing event, Keena said.

“The Ice House Entrepreneurship class teaches them to look at how to solve other people’s problems instead of looking at how they alone can benefit, because that is what successful entrepreneurs do,” Keena said. “It was actually one of the offender’s capstone projects from the class that sparked the idea for the event as a social entrepreneurship endeavor.”

Gary Schoeniger, founder and CEO of Entrepreneurial Learning Initiative and co-author of the Ice House Entrepreneurship book, flew in from his headquarters in Ohio for the packing event. Schoeniger and Keena have spoken at venues across the country, sharing the effective use of the Ice House Entrepreneurship program in prison systems.

Students in the Department of Legal Studies’ criminal justice program can declare an emphasis in corrections. They are taught the skills they will need to manage prisoners, interact with adult parolees and probationers, and supervise juveniles in the community or secured juvenile facilities.

Students learn how courts and prisons work and different strategies for dealing with inmates, probationers and parolees, including rehabilitation efforts and counseling.

For more information about programs on study in criminal justice, email or visit

School of Applied Sciences Names Thomas A. Crowe Alumnus of the Year

Elise Smith recognized for lifelong contributions to dietetics and nutrition profession

Elise Smith (left) accepts the Thomas A. Crowe Alumnus of the Year Award from Teresa Carithers, UM interim dean of applied sciences, at the school’s annual gathering for alumni, faculty and staff. UM photo by Sarah Sapp

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s School of Applied Sciences at the University of Mississippi has named Elise Smith, of Brandon, as the Thomas A. Crowe Alumnus of the Year for her outstanding contributions in the field of dietetics and nutrition and her ongoing support of students in the school’s Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.

Smith is a registered licensed dietitian who has worked in both clinical and food service management positions for more than 30 years. As a founding member of the management team and director of consulting services for Nutrition Systems, Inc., she supervised more than 15 registered dietitians, providing consulting services in 95 health care facilities in the Southeast.

She also served as director of the Food Service Department for St. Dominic Hospital. She is retired but continues consulting for Nutrition Systems Inc.

“Elise was an entrepreneur before many in our profession were choosing that path,” said Kathy Knight, associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management. “Not only has she helped to grow one of the largest dietetics services consulting firms in the state, she has mentored many young dietitians and dietetics students.”

Nutrition Systems Inc. is a family of branded companies, each dedicated to optimizing food services with expert management. The seven brands of Nutrition Systems – purchasing, consulting, wellness, contracting, menus and purchasing allianceoperate independently but share a commitment to diligence, consistency and a legacy of seamless service for clients served.

“As part of her commitment to the fields of nutrition and dietetics, her firm serves by educating post-graduate dietetics students in their practica/rotations needed to become a registered dietitian nutritionist,” said David H. Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management. “In addition, Ms. Smith has hired many UM alumni and mentored them to a successful career.”

Smith has played a significant role in shaping nutrition policy across the region, having served in numerous positions in state and national dietetic associations, including president of the Mississippi Dietetic Association, chair of the Nutrition Care Process/Standardized Language Committee, Mississippi’s affiliate delegate in the House of Delegates, House of Delegates director and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics board of directors.

She also is past speaker of the academy’s House of Delegates and is chair-elect of the its Political Action Committee.

Janie Cole, senior registered dietitian and director of the coordinated program in dietetics, described Smith as the epitome of what the university stands for.

“When I first met Elise, I quickly realized that she was an ‘outside the box’ thinker,” Cole said. “Her ‘can-do’ attitude and her love for people are certainly impressive. She has mentored countless students and volunteered for numerous organizations.

“She continued to help others while she fought and won her own battle with cancer. Elise has worked effortlessly to not only promote the dietetics profession, but to move it forward.”

Smith holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Ole Miss. She was married to the late Glenn Smith, and they have one son, Eric, who lives in Austin, Texas. She attends St. Marks United Methodist Church.

The 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. The school’s vision is for academic excellence – that each department will be recognized by their respective scientific, professional and community organizations as a hub for scholarly thought, professional development and community impact.

For more information about the School of Applied Sciences or the Thomas A. Crowe Alumnus of the Year Award, visit