Two Engineering Freshmen Named Stamps Foundation Scholars

Harrison McKinnis of Madison and Robert Wasson of Jackson among 2017 recipients of prestigious academic honor

Ryan Upshaw (left), assistant dean, welcomes 2017 Stamps Foundation scholars Robert Wasson of Jackson and Harrison McKinnis of Madison to the UM School of Engineering. Submitted photo

Two outstanding engineering freshmen at the University of Mississippi are among recipients of the Stamps Foundation Scholarship.

Harrison McKinnis of Madison and Robert Wasson of Jackson, will major in chemical engineering and be members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. McKinnis will also participate in the Haley Barbour Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Both are also members of the Chancellor’s Leadership Class.

With its partner universities, the Stamps Foundation seeks students who demonstrate academic merit, strong leadership potential and exceptional character. Through the foundation, students have access to funding to engage in internships, undergraduate research or other professional development activities. Potential Stamps scholars are invited to campus for a special weekend visit to get an in-depth look at the university’s academic programs as well as opportunities to interact with campus administrators and current students.

“Harrison and Robert are shining examples of the outstanding students that the Stamps scholarship has helped Ole Miss attract over the past few years,” said Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student services for the School of Engineering. “I look forward to their contributions to our academic program and the university as a whole.”

McKinnis said he is grateful to be considered for the scholarship.

“I felt that every candidate was worthy of the scholarship, and I was shocked to find out I was chosen,” he said. “At that point, my college decision process ended, and I knew that I had found my new home, one that wants to support me just as I want to support it.”

McKinnis also noted that his visits to campus were a major factor in his decision to enroll at the university and in the School of Engineering.

“I found that the University of Mississippi had a chemical engineering program that would challenge me academically but also support me in finding opportunities to advance in my professional and personal lives,” said McKinnis, who was named salutatorian and STAR student at Madison Central High School.

A National Merit Finalist and AP Scholar with Honor, he scored a perfect 36 on the ACT. Named Mr. Madison Central High School, McKinnis was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame and received highest average honors in 18 subjects. He was also a member of the MCHS Engineering Academy for three years.

Beyond academic excellence, McKinnis was also a top leader at Madison Central. He served as co-president of the MCHS Student Government Association after serving as class treasurer for two years. He also served as a junior ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce, Madison County Youth Leadership ambassador and represented his school at the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Conference.

McKinnis was also a student-athlete as a member of the MCHS soccer team. In the community, he has given time to a variety of organizations including the Mississippi Food Network, American Cancer Society and Soccer Kids Camp.

He hopes to participate in a co-op or internship with an engineering firm at some point in his undergraduate education to gain the experience and knowledge to become a professional engineer. McKinnis is considering entering the practice of chemical engineering or pursuing further education upon graduation.

Like McKinnis, Wasson’s academic and leadership record afforded him various college options. However, it was the personal attention he received during his visits to campus that helped him decide to attend Ole Miss.

“After touring many other engineering departments nationwide, I decided to attend Ole Miss because it felt the most like home,” he said. “The Ole Miss chemical engineering department was a welcoming environment that I knew would provide me with the opportunities to have one-on-one contact with professors and other opportunities not available at other institutions. Additionally, Ole Miss encourages its engineers to be involved outside of the classroom and to pursue other interests.”

Wasson was also excited to learn that he had been named a recipient of the Stamps scholarship and ready to take advantage of the unique opportunities the award offers.

“When I learned of my selection as a Stamps Scholar, I was deeply humbled and honored to be chosen out of such a competitive field full of great applicants,” he said. “I then realized the tremendous charge I had been given to do great things with such an amazing opportunity.”

Wasson was salutatorian at Jackson Preparatory School. A National Merit Finalist and STAR student, he scored a 36 on the ACT as well. Wasson was featured in Portico Magazine’s “25 Students Who Will Change The World” edition and the Jackson Free Press “Amazing Teen” issue in 2016.

During summer 2015, Wasson spent time on the Ole Miss campus participating in the Heads in the Game summer research program through the School of Engineering, where he conducted research on concussions in student-athletes. In 2016, he was selected to participate in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute at UM, where he took courses in political science and speech as well as traveled to Washington, D.C.

Active in the community, Wasson earned Eagle Scout status and volunteered with the Youth Ambassador Council for the Mississippi Children’s Museum as well as Batson Children’s Hospital. He was also a part of Youth Leadership Jackson and attended Mississippi Boys State. He served on the senior advisory board for Jackson Prep’s Global Leadership Institute and as a member of the Prep Patriot League, the school’s student ambassador program. He was also a student-athlete on the cross-country team.

Wasson hopes to take full advantage of the opportunities available to him via the Stamps scholarship and plans to attend medical school after graduation.

 

 

Computer Science Student Wins Quip Diversity Technology Scholarship

Blake Lewis visited organization's San Francisco offices in August

Blake Lewis of Ocean Springs, a senior computer and information science major, has received a Quip Diversity in Technology Scholarship. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw.

A University of Mississippi engineering student has been awarded the Quip Diversity Tech Scholarship.

Blake Lewis, a senior computer science major with minors in mathematics and sociology, visited software company Quip’s office in San Francisco in August. The scholarship supports students who are underrepresented in STEM fields, particularly computer science, and includes but is not limited to women, African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians, LGBTQ+, first generation, and/or people with disabilities.

The Ocean Springs native heard about the scholarship opportunity via an intradepartmental email.

“Carrie Long, the administrative secretary for our department, sent the email from the Career Center about this program to all the computer science students, and she encouraged any of us eligible to apply,” Lewis said. “So I decided it couldn’t hurt.”

Lewis said visiting Quip was a wonderful experience. The team members not only talked about different topics in computer science with the scholarship recipients, such as design, product engineering and site reliability, but also provided professional advice about career growth and job searching. Lewis had the chance to meet with the CEOs of Quip, Kevin Gibbs and Bret Taylor.

“We learned about some things that Bret and Kevin created while working for other companies like Google Map, Google Suggest and Facebook,” Lewis said. “My favorite part of the day, though, was the panel discussion about diversity in tech.”

He said the biggest takeaway of this panel was that companies must ensure those who are creating the products accurately represent the market they wish to reach in order to create innovative products that are accessible to everyone.

“One of the panelists, Erica Baker, talked a lot about Project Include, which is a company that encourages tech startups to think about diversity and inclusion from the start,” Lewis said. “I think it is important for CS and other engineering students who wish to have a tech startup in the future to know about Project Include and the important work they are doing.”

Lewis has developed a passion for diversity and inclusion since he started at the university. Especially being a community assistant for the Department of Student Housing since his sophomore year of college, he has a more profound understanding about diversity.

“As a CA, I have made it my goal to make freshman residents feel welcome, no matter who they are, and help them get connected to the community,” he said. “On the flip side, I’ve also had to have some tough conversations with residents about diversity and inclusion and how things they say and do can affect people and their access to education.”

Lewis has been serving his second year as vice president of community assistant development for the UM Community Assistant Association and president of the National Residence Hall Honorary. He is also an active member of the UM Pride Network.

Outside the classroom, he has served as an ACUHO-I (Association of College and University Housing Officers International) intern at Montana State University Billings, and been an intern at the same institution’s Diversity Center.

He plans to do his senior project for the housing department this year. Deeply influenced by his experience as a CA, Lewis also would like to pursue a master’s degree in higher education/student affairs and hopes to get a graduate assistantship as a hall director for a residence hall while he is getting his master’s.

“Quip’s staff was very diverse, and it was amazing to meet successful queer computer scientists,” he said. “I would definitely encourage other people at Ole Miss to apply.”

 

 

 

 

 

Engineering Fall Enrollment Includes Inaugural Biomedical Engineering Class

New admission standard expected to ensure higher quality of students, help underprepared students succeed

New School of Engineering students attend the Engineering Freshmen Convocation. Submitted photo by Ryan Upshaw

The Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Engineering program at the University of Mississippi is off to a successful start. Approved last November by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, the inaugural class consists of 37 new freshmen and 17 internal transfers.

“The new freshmen have an average ACT score of almost 31 (30.9) and GPA of 3.92,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “Seventy-three percent of them have at least a 30 on the ACT. We anticipate a great success for the program.”

This fall also marks the first time the engineering school raised its admission requirements to reorganize the student body and better develop underprepared students. Incoming freshmen in every UM engineering degree program except general engineering are required to have an ACT math score of 25 and high school GPA of 3.00 to be admitted. Students with an ACT of 22-24 and a GPA of 2.80-3.00 are admitted to the general engineering program.

“These students are in Math 125, EDHE 105 and three sections of Introduction to Engineering classes,” Cheng said. “Once they finish Math 125 with a B to qualify for calculus, and have a 2.50 GPA, they will be moved to the department of their choice.”

This new policy has caused a small decline in new freshmen enrollment (337 versus last year’s 349), but the overall quality continues to improve, Cheng said.

“The whole new freshman class has (an average) 27.7 ACT (+0.4), 3.73 GPA, and 35 percent have at least a 30 on the ACT,” he said. “As the underprepared students (start in) general engineering, each department also sees improvement in student quality. We hope that this new admission policy can help us to continue our path to an elite program, (and) at the same time to take a firm control of less-prepared students to make them successful.”

 

 

 

 

Matthew Morrison Wins Excellence in Academic Advising Award

Assistant professor of electrical engineering recognized for support of students

Matthew Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, received the 2017 Excellence in Academic Advising Award during the fall faculty meeting in August. Submitted photo

Over the past three years, Matthew Morrison has advised, encouraged and lent a compassionate ear to hundreds of students at the University of Mississippi. Now they’re putting him up for awards – and he’s winning.

Morrison, assistant professor of electrical engineering, has been honored with one of UM’s 2017 Academic Advising Network’s Excellence in Advising awards. The awards are presented each year to one staff academic adviser and one faculty academic adviser. Sovent Taylor, instructor and assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office, is the staff recipient.

Advisers are nominated by students, peers and administrators. The award is coordinated through the Academic Advising Network steering committee. The network comprises faculty and staff who have an active role in academic advising on campus.

“I was surprised,” said Morrison, an award-winning teacher and researcher who oversees the department’s emphasis in computer engineering science. “I wasn’t even aware I was nominated. I’m grateful that my efforts were acknowledged by the students and my fellow faculty members.”

Winners of the award were recognized at the fall faculty meeting. They received a stipend from the Office of the Provost, had their names placed on a plaque in Martindale Student Services Center and will represent the University of Mississippi for the National Academic Advising Association regional and national awards. The Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience assists them with the completion of their NACADA nomination packet in late fall.

Morrison said that building on students’ capability and potential goes beyond improving their proficiency in the classroom.

“I work with my students on professionalism, communication skills and developing life plans,” he said.

A University of South Florida alumnus, Morrison started with the Department of Electrical Engineering in 2014. He won the Junior Faculty Research Award from the School of Engineering this year. Advising became a natural career path as he worked with students.

“I made serving as an adviser a priority when I started here at Ole Miss,” he said. “Everything I do in terms of teaching and research – whether it’s how I give homework and exams to how I instruct the Senior Design course – also has a component of developing the student(s) into outstanding engineers beyond just the classroom and their grades.”

In the engineering school, Morrison is known for guiding aspiring engineers through degree paths and toward obtaining a professional engineer license. He’s also known for giving students either the compassion or motivational push needed when the pressures of college become overwhelming.

“From helping you with job applications and giving advice on how to navigate through life’s problems from his experience, he is the definition of an all-complete adviser for any student,” said Demba Komma, the student who nominated Morrison for the award. “He cares about his students and is a very relatable person. He has earned the trust of his students by being readily available to offer help when needed.”

This award marks the second time Morrison has been honored for his work with students. At USF, he won the Provost’s Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Teaching Assistant. There he implemented many of the teaching methods developed at the Naval Nuclear Power School, which he found engendered greater creativity in students.

Morrison won the Navy Club of the United States Military Excellence Award in U.S. Navy Recruit Training. The award is presented to the graduating recruit who best exemplifies the qualities of enthusiasm, devotion to duty, military appearance and behavior, self-discipline and teamwork.

“I am proud of this award because I realized during boot camp that I have the potential to lead, give to my community and achieve excellence through hard work and dedication,” Morrison said. “Receiving this award marked a significant milestone in my life, and every achievement since has been the result of the same enthusiasm and discipline that I developed in boot camp.”

 

Electrical Engineering Alumnus Helps Entrepreneurs Succeed

David Aune serves on engineering school's advisory board

David Aune (BSEE 77) is a MOBI Plus instructor in the My Own Business Institute at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business. Submitted photo

David Aune (BSEE 77) has accumulated more than 25 years of management experience. He has led customer-service and marketing operations at large companies, but he said he especially enjoys mentoring startups.

“The hardest and also most gratifying achievements have been working in several startup businesses,” said Aune, an instructor in the Leavey School of Business’ My Own Business Institute, or MOBI, at Santa Clara University. “I am now on a personal mission to give back by helping entrepreneurs succeed. I enjoy sharing lessons about what worked for me and what mistakes I made so entrepreneurs can get started on the right path.”

Reared in Water Valley, Aune went to the University of Mississippi because his mother was an alumna and the university had a strong academic reputation. As a student, his favorite engineering professors included the late Charles E. Smith Sr., chair and professor of electrical engineering, and Roy T. Arnold, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy.

“Dr. Smith listened to me, explained things in a way that I could understand and gave me good advice,” Aune said. “I stay in touch with Dr. Arnold, and we still discuss challenging, unsolved questions.”

Aune is working on a “How to Start a Business” course in partnership with the Center for Employment Training in San Jose, California. In addition to classroom instruction and facilitation, his duties include reviewing applications for the program, designing course syllabi, recruiting relevant guest speakers, reviewing and giving feedback on business plans, and monitoring and helping students progress successfully.

He has been an executive in tech industries, such as Software as a Service, for such companies as AlephCloud, Kaleidescape, ViewCade Solutions, Five Across and Brandsoft. He has served as vice president of marketing and customer support at FileMaker Inc. (formerly Claris Inc.), a software subsidiary of Apple Computer. He has also held technical management positions at Ungermann-Bass and Hewlett-Packard.

Aune and his wife, Glenda (BA 75), reside in Saratoga, California. The couple has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since he graduated from Ole Miss. His leisure activities include culinary arts.

“My last avocado toast attempt tasted great,” he said. “However, I have not yet perfected a photo of the dish that is ‘Instagram worthy.’”

Administrators in the School of Engineering said they appreciate Aune’s contributions as an alumnus and advisory board member.

“From day one, David showed great interest in our curriculum and the latest tools and laboratories made available to our students,” said Ramanarayanan Viswanathan, chair and professor of electrical engineering. “In his deliberations with our faculty, he brought forth many years of his work experience and provided valuable guidance to the department. He also gave an inspiring talk to (the) dean’s leadership class. It is indeed our fortune that we established contact with one of our early graduates.”

Dawn Wilkins, chair and professor of computer and information science, concurred.

“I’m very excited that David has joined the Engineering Advisory Board,” she said. “Many of our computer science students have aspirations to become entrepreneurs, and David has the passion to encourage them and the knowledge to assist the faculty in guiding the students to be successful entrepreneurs.”

Aune said he credits his Ole Miss engineering education for his career success.

“I developed problem-solving skills, the ability to analyze, diagnose, experiment, test and prove a solution,” he said. “I also learned discipline, to be accurate, pay attention to detail, get the focus right and do the complete job. Finally, I found persistence, being able to make progress one step at a time and don’t give up, especially when you are stuck.”