New Fund Created for UM Speech Therapy Program

Oxford mother focuses on building support to help others


Rheagan and Naden Vaughn with their son, Swayze

OXFORD, Miss. – Communication therapy has been an important focus for Rheagan Vaughn ever since her son Swayze was diagnosed with autism. For many children with the disorder, communication impairments can be an obstacle.

“We’ve been blessed that Swayze is on the high-functioning end of the spectrum,” said Vaughn, of Oxford. “But there are parents in this community who have children on the other side of the spectrum, and they need help too.”

After being involved in a number of national fundraisers for autism, Vaughn wanted to do something different. “I decided to find something local to support,” she said.

Early this year, the University of Mississippi’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders established the Hearing-Impaired Literacy and Language Laboratory. The program focuses on pre-school-level students with problems in speech, hearing and literacy. In its first year, the program achieved a number of positive results, such as children speaking for the first time. This success can be attributed to sessions between students and a staff of language-speech pathologists.

The program captured the attention of Vaughn after she learned it could help autistic children in areas of communication and literacy.

“What I specifically like about this program is that parents can sit and watch their children during lessons,” she said.

With an initial gift of $600, Rheagan Vaughn created the Swayze Vaughn Fund in dedication to her 7-year-old son. Vaughn hopes the Oxford community will contribute to the public fund and help the cause.

The Swayze Vaughn Fund will have a direct impact on the program, said Lennette Ivy, chair of the communication sciences and disorders department.

“(The fund) will help by providing whatever is needed,” Ivy said. “If we need any educational materials, we can utilize these resources.”

Ivy also suggested that the fund could help Oxford-area residents affected by autism.

“We could create support groups for parents of children with autism,” she said. “We could also bring in professional speakers and trainers. There are a number of things we can do with this fund.”

In the spring of 2015, Rheagan Vaughn hopes to organize an autism awareness walk in Oxford with the proceeds going directly to the Swayze Vaughn Fund.

“Every fundraiser I work from now on will benefit the Swayze Vaughn Fund,” she said.

Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the Swayze Vaughn Fund can send checks with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, P.O. Box 249, University, MS 38677. For more information, contact Michael Upton, development director, at 662-915-3027 or

UM Accepts Health and Wellness Grant from BCBS of Mississippi Foundation

New RebelWell program will use $250,000 to expand community's health, nutrition and exercise options

Rebel Well program receives $250,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.

RebelWell program receives $250,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation.

OXFORD, Miss. – With a grant of nearly $250,000, the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation is helping to expand fitness and nutrition programs at the University of Mississippi.

The foundation announced the grant for RebelWell, a new program name penned for the expanded offerings, Monday (March 24) on the Ole Miss campus.

“The goal of the foundation is to provide targeted funding to organizations and initiatives working to support a healthy future for Mississippi’s communities, schools, colleges and universities,” said Sheila Grogan, executive director of the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation. “The University of Mississippi’s RebelWell initiative has the potential to unify and build upon quality, existing programs and resources in order to extend the positive health impact beyond the university’s students, faculty and staff to the surrounding community in unique and creative ways.”

The program is designed to help position the university as a leader in programs and initiatives that will improve health, nutrition, exercise and individual wellness.

“I am pleased to see our faculty provide leadership for better health among our employees, students and the community,” said Dr. Dan Jones, UM chancellor. “This support from the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation enhances those efforts to make us a healthier university and allows us to continue leadership for our state in healthy living.”

Though the university offers a number of fitness and nutrition options, the overall program lacks the cohesion needed to make all the opportunities easily accessible to faculty, staff, students and the broader community. RebelWell will raise the visibility of many of those programs and expand opportunities for participants to take advantage of a full range of campus- and community-based programs.

For example, a nutritionist is being added to the staff of UM’s Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, annual fitness challenge competitions are in the works and exercise opportunities are planned for various locations across campus. Health screenings and other events also will be made available to the larger Oxford community.

“The partnership with the foundation and the creation of a comprehensive program, RebelWell, allows us to provide linkage of many programs offered on campus and to heighten the visibility of each program,” said Andrea Jekabsons, UM assistant director of employment and training. “Various departments on campus have an opportunity to work collaboratively to support the mission of wellness. The grant also provides a greater opportunity for us to work with the Oxford community.”

The collaboration across campus and with the Oxford community is a welcome addition to the many departments already on board with nutrition and wellness programs. The Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, which already offers healthy cooking classes, nutrition classes and a variety of school-based programs, sees immediate value in these new relationships.

“Mississippi has so much potential to be healthy,” said Kathy Knight, the department’s interim chair. “With so many farmers and gardening experts to bring us local meats and produce, and some of the best cooks in the country, we have an opportunity to really highlight our strengths and set positive nutrition examples for the rest of the region. The foundation is making it possible to teach our community how to utilize these wonderful local resources.”

Jay Garner, interim chair of the UM Department of Exercise Science and Recreation Management, agrees with the potential this new resource provides.

“With the health challenges our state continues to face, our goal is to become the healthiest area in not only Mississippi, but in the Southeast,” Garner said. “This means changing perceptions that daily fitness activity is too difficult or too time consuming.

“Our goal is for our community to learn to make healthy changes in their daily lives, resulting in lifelong healthy habits. The foundation is making it possible for us to provide tools and proper training to anyone who wants to learn.”

The implementation of grant activities is in the final planning stages, with a full launch expected this spring. The grant covers programs and activities through the end of 2014, with the option for yearly renewal based on the successful attainment of the measurable grant objectives.

Faculty and staff at all UM locations will be encouraged to participate in RebelWell. Community residents from the Oxford area also will be encouraged to participate. The committee charged with grant oversight will soon be expanded to include members from a broader range of campus offices, as well as from the Oxford and Lafayette civic, business and school communities.

“Beyond merely reducing health care costs, promoting employee well-being contributes to the overall success and prosperity of the university and community,” Jekabsons added. “Acceptance of this grant is an opportunity to promote a healthy work culture by assessing the attitudes of our faculty and staff, providing additional education resources, aligning our policies to support a wellness culture and making ‘healthy’ the new norm.”

The Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation works to build a healthy Mississippi through targeted grant-making throughout the state, focusing on health and wellness initiatives to support schools, communities, colleges and universities. More information is available at

Nutrition Clinic Offers Healthy Help for Cooking, Weight Management

Two programs provide opportunities for improving health and learning more about good choices

UM Nutrition Clinic offers several programs to help you achieve your healthy goals

The UM Nutrition Clinic offers several programs to help participants achieve health goals.

OXFORD, Miss. – Remember that New Year’s resolution you made to eat better and lose weight? The University of Mississippi Nutrition Clinic has classes to help you stay on track.

During February, Mary Roseman, a registered and licensed dietitian and UM associate professor of nutrition and hospitality, and Gillon Wells, graduate assistant, will conduct a series of healthy cooking classes. The focus of the classes is to encourage healthy eating habits among individuals and families.

“This class is great for those wanting to know healthy cooking techniques and better understand nutrition in a fun, relaxed setting,” Roseman said. “And it can be useful for those who never or rarely cook but would like to.”

The cooking classes are scheduled for Tuesday evenings at Lenoir Hall, running 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 11, 18 and 25. They address a variety of topics, including increasing fruit and vegetable intake, healthy substitutions, food safety and more. The classes are hands-on, and participants will cook a variety of recipes, try new foods and learn how to make healthier decisions.Read the story …

UM Students Shine at Intelligence Community Seminar

Participants get taste of life as an analyst and opportunities to talk with professionals

OXFORD, Miss. – It wasn’t a typical summer for four students enrolled in the University of Mississippi’s intelligence and security studies minor. Instead of working summer jobs or lounging by the pool, they were selected to attend the prestigious Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence Summer Seminar, which was conducted in August in Leesburg, Va.

The students – Mackenzie Metcalfe, a junior from Powder Springs, Ga.; Glenna Lusk, a senior from Collierville, Tenn.; Alex Jones, a senior from Madison; and Elizabeth “Drew” Austin, a junior from Nashville, Tenn. – attended instructional sessions and participated in realistic simulations and practical exercises.

The two-week seminar, which is designed to acquaint high-performing students with the U.S. intelligence community, or IC, also provided an unparalleled opportunity to interact and network with professionals in the field. The curriculum within the seminar included critical thinking, data collection, analytic writing and briefing, as well as the application of structured analytic techniques to solve problems related to national security.

Broken into two parts, the seminar’s first week included lectures from first-rate professionals within the IC who spoke on different technical skills analysts need for success. During the second week, fictional simulations forced students to address an abundance of real-world intelligence problems.

“I think anytime you participate in a simulation, it is beneficial and you gain a better view of what being an analyst is really like,” Metcalfe said.

Only a few students from select universities were invited to attend the seminar. To be considered, a student first had to be enrolled in a university that had been designated an IC Center for Academic Excellence; UM’s Center for Intelligence and Security Studies received this honor in 2012. Next, only a limited number of slots were available, meaning that competition for each was fierce.

“I knew going in that we were sending four of our best students,” said Carl Jensen, CISS director. “Mackenzie, Glenna, Alex and Drew are great representatives of our program and the university.”

Jensen’s faith in his students was validated when Jones was recognized as the “Best Overall Briefer” at the seminar, beating out dozens of students from other national intelligence programs.

“Much of what we did there was very comparable to what they teach us in the classes at CISS,” Jones said.

In addition to their impressive work at the seminar, all four UM students had opportunities to meet top-level intelligence personnel, including former President George W. Bush’s personal briefer. The abundance of IC professionals in attendance made the trip worthwhile, Austin said.

“I think just hanging out with people in the intelligence community was the most valuable part of the seminar,” she said. “I really got an insight on what it would be like to be a part of the intelligence community.”

Lusk added that, “the simulation at the summer seminar reminded me of the weekend-long Days of Intrigue practical exercise put on by the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies.”

The CISS, created in 2008, is housed in the Old Athletics Building. Selection for the minor is competitive among interested students, based on applications, panel interviews and previous class work. All applicants who wish to pursue an internship or employment in an intelligence agency must pass a rigorous background check.

Already, more than 20 students have graduated from the highly selective program and many have found employment with intelligence and police agencies. An additional 50 students – including Austin, Jones, Lusk and Metcalfe – are enrolled in the upper-level CISS classes. The minor culminates in a capstone project and oral defense before faculty members. The students come from all areas of the university, including the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Croft Institute for International Studies.

For more information on the Center for Intelligence and Security Studies, visit

UM Faculty Members Helping Grow State Food Economy

Two address Appalachian Regional Commission on efforts to promote local foods


Knight and Holland

Holland and Knight

TUPELO, Miss. – Two University of Mississippi faculty members are helping efforts to grow Mississippi’s food economy and, in turn, make the state’s school menus healthier and fresher.

Kathy B. Knight, associate professor and interim chair of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, and Jody Holland, visiting associate professor of public policy leadership, participated in a roundtable discussion with the Appalachian Regional Commission Thursday in Tupelo. The group is touring the region, talking to those involved with efforts to grow local food economies.

Holland and Knight talked about efforts to strengthen local farmers’ markets and also get more local fruits and vegetables in schools across the state. Removing some of the barriers to doing so would boost the state’s economy by helping local growers prosper, Holland said.

“There’s potential income from this and increased tax revenue that would be important to our cities and counties,” Holland said. “That’s something we need to build on.”

Holland has been working with a grant from the ARC to fund efforts to ramp up capacity in the region’s food systems. He said he believes there’s plenty of support for the movement, which he described as a grassroots one. Farm-to-table food is gaining in popularity around the nation.

“There’s energy around the people, around suppliers, around producers and around consumers, and also infrastructures and institutions to be developed,” Holland said.

But there’s fragmentation in the local food systems. Holland said he believes local officials also need more information about the programs, which might help get some barriers removed. Proponents of the efforts told ARC that the costs of local foods are usually lower than what’s for sale in “big box” retail stores.

Knight has been working on providing nutrition education for children through her nutrition intervention program “Eating Good … and Moving Like We Should.” The program has been based in the Delta and is growing in the Oxford area.

“We’d like to expand the program,” Knight said. “We teach children how to make better nutrition and physical activity choices and we start school gardens because if children experience fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.”

The program has helped establish school gardens in six Delta schools, and Knight’s effort has brought in Delta-area growers to help with the gardens and  get more “farm-to-table” foods in schools. The effort also involves educating students and their parents.

By Michael Newsom

Nutrition and Hospitality Management Celebrates 100 Years

Cookbook, events throughout the 2013-14 school year to celebrate the department's achievements

The Department of Nutrition and Hospitality will release the cookbook 'Are You Ready? 100 Years of Family, Friends and Food' on Sept. 6.

OXFORD, Miss. – Filled with recipes and reminiscences from alumni, faculty and others, “Are You Ready?™ 100 Years of Family, Friends and Food” offers a new collection of recipes and culinary tips sure to delight cooks and foodies of any age. The cookbook launch is set for 5-7 p.m. Sept. 6 at Off Square Books, kicking off a yearlong celebration of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management‘s 100-year anniversary.

The Department of Home Economics, now known as the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, was chartered through the schools of Education and Medicine before the 1913-14 academic year. The department, often referred to as NHM, has changed in many ways since 1913, said Kathy Knight, interim department chair.Read the story …

UM Student Lands Summer Internship at the Library of Congress

Madison native appointed Library of Congress Junior Fellow

Andrew McNulty

OXFORD, Miss. – Working as an intern at the Library of Congress is a “pretty cool summer” job, according to University of Mississippi senior Andrew Joseph McNulty.

While many linguists would consider McNulty’s statement an oxymoron, the Madison native doesn’t because he’s still excited to have been among 41 college students selected to participate in the Library of Congress‘ 2013 Junior Fellows Summer Intern Program.

McNulty, a criminal justice major, was chosen by a panel of library curators and specialists from among more than 1,100 applicants for the 10-week paid internship, which runs May 28-Aug. 2.

“I originally applied for another internship through Congressman Gregg Harper, but he didn’t have any available positions for summer interns, but his position on the Library of Congress’ Joint Oversight Committee allowed him to appoint two interns to the library’s Junior Fellowship program,” he said.

The focus of the program is on increasing access to the library’s collections and raising awareness of its digital-preservation programs by making them better known and accessible to members of Congress and researchers, including scholars, students, teachers and the general public.

McNulty and the other 2013 fellows will inventory, catalog, arrange, preserve and research a backlog of copyright or special-collections material in many different formats in various divisions. At the conclusion of the 10-week program, each fellow is required to compile a display to showcase what they have learned. McNulty works in the library’s music division, which is located in the basement.Read the story …

UM Senior Lands Paid Internship with Utah Company

Summer program provides tremendous insights and opportunities for criminal justice major

Trakevia Miller

OXFORD, Miss. – Growing up in Como, it always bothered Trakevia Miller to see young African-American males, including some of her own family members, ending up in prison. She often wondered what she could do to end the cycle of violence and crime that hit so close to home.

Miller’s parents worked long and hard to support their family of six. They always encouraged their children to get a college education, something that was easier said than done. Miller started out at Northwest Community College in Senatobia and nearly dropped out. But after overcoming doubt, she completed her associate’s degree in general studies, making it on the honor roll and Dean’s List, and enrolled at the University of Mississippi.

Determined to pursue a career where she could make a difference, Miller chose a major in criminal justice with an emphasis on corrections and a minor in sociology. She is on track to graduate in December and plans to pursue a master’s degree and attend law school, all so she can become a defense attorney to help young people who find themselves in difficult situations.

When Tim Outlaw, warden at the Marshall County Correctional Facility in Holly Springs, reached out to Ole Miss in search of interns for the company’s summer program, Linda Denise Keena, assistant professor of criminal justice, pointed him to Miller.

Read the story …

UM Professor Named to American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Board

Communication sciences and disorders professor Carolyn Wiles Higdon serves as vice president of finance

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi communication sciences and disorders professor Carolyn Higdon’s leadership role with the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has positioned the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders to be at the forefront of the field’s latest news and research on national and international levels.

Higdon, who was elected vice president of finance for ASHA, will serve her term through 2014. ASHA is the professional, scientific and credentialing association for more than 167,000 members including audiologists, speech-language pathologists and speech, language and hearing scientists.

“[The position] has allowed me to bring topics to the department for discussion that are going to affect training and academic programs at Ole Miss and across the country, giving us an added advantage as we assess our current program and as we plan for the future,” Higdon said. “As a faculty, we have been able to do improved long-range and strategic planning that will benefit all of our customers — the students and clients we serve — as well as the faculty.”

Among the initiatives, the department was able to get an early start to include the “216 license,” a license for students with a bachelor’s degree to practice in schools, which will go into effect in Mississippi in July. Previously, a master’s degree was required to practice in every setting in the field.

For the CSD department, this will mean teaching master’s-level speech-language pathologists how to supervise bachelor’s-level speech therapists, as well as developing new online courses, creating more part-time opportunities for graduate students and improving the department’s retention and recruitment opportunities, Higdon said.

In October, Higdon was among about 75 participants at the prestigious Healthcare Summit, a four-day event that brought leaders in the field of health care and government together to discuss the Affordable Care Act. Higdon also has access to the CSD graduate programs’ accrediting council and multiple external-funding opportunities, as well as new products and evidence-based research portals.

“A board position on an association this size holds strong visibility and credibility when discussing professional issues,” said Lennette Ivy, CSD department chair. “This position affords us an opportunity to showcase the University of Mississippi and the School of Applied Sciences, as well as individual faculty within the department, to Congress and legislators from across the country, as well as other SLPs and audiologists.”

Another faculty member was recognized by ASHA recently. Rebecca Lowe, clinical assistant professor and co-director of the UM Speech and Hearing Clinic, was appointed to the ASHA Audiology Leadership Class.

In addition, UM has a history of presence on the ASHA board of directors. Alumni Sue Hale and Tommie Robinson each served as president, and Gloria Kellum, vice chancellor emerita for university relations and professor emerita of communicative disorders, served as a vice president.

“I feel it is a great honor to follow in their footsteps by being able to serve the members of our association through my position on the ASHA board of directors,” Higdon said. “The University of Mississippi is a weekly word in the ASHA office now.”

Higdon holds a doctorate in education from the University of Georgia as well as an M.A. and a B.S. from Kent State University. She joined the UM faculty in 2000, served as chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders from 2002 to 2007, is active in university and department committees and is a consultant to the U.S. Department of Labor and the Mississippi Department of Education. Higdon is a trained mediator, a qualified expert witness in CSD in the legal arena, and she continues her international rehabilitation work.

NFSMI Executive Director Addresses Global Child Nutrition Workshop

Katie Wilson to share the importance of establishing nutrition standards and education

OXFORD, Miss. – The head of the National Food Services Management Institute at the University of Mississippi is sharing her expertise in nutrition standards and education this month at a global conference.

NFSMI Executive Director Katie Wilson is a featured presenter at the 2013 Global Child Nutrition Foundation’s World Food Forum, which runs May 20-24 in Salvador, Brazil. Representatives from health and government agencies in Africa and North, South and Central America are also scheduled to participate in discussions. The theme of the weeklong event is “School Feeding as a National Investment: How to Achieve It.”

Read the story …