Professor Uses NSF Grant to Study Interpersonal Communications

Graham Bodie and colleagues study conversations about everyday stressors, levels of support

Graham Bodie

OXFORD, Miss. – Graham Bodie believes that if people can feel that they’re being heard during times of stress, their lives will improve. With that in mind, he is working to find the best way to teach critical listening skills that could enhance lives.

A visiting professor of integrated marketing communications at the University of Mississippi, Bodie is conducting his research through a three year-grant from the National Science Foundation.

UM received the grant from the NSF’s Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences as part of a collaborative effort to study what happens during conversations about everyday problems. Penn State University and the University of Minnesota also were awarded grants in support of the collaboration, which seeks to clarify how discussing everyday stressors with others conveys support and leads to different emotional outcomes.

Bodie’s work will look at how a listener’s supportive comments influence the way a person talks about their stressful experience.

“My academic background is in how humans process information and how they behave as listeners, particularly within the context of talking about stressful events,” Bodie said. “What do we say that allows others to better understand their unique stressors and ultimately to cope with those events?

“How should we best train people in this capacity? What can listening to others teach us about ourselves, our society and our world?”

Bodie previously conducted research on listening and the social cognitive foundation of human communicative behavior. This project will expand on the nuances of what people do when they offer support to others, a facet that he said has not been thoroughly explored.

“Although there is work on specific features of supportive messages, it tends to be hypothetical, asking participants to imagine they receive support,” Bodie said. “Likewise, although there is work that pairs people together to talk through stressful events, most of this work explores general impressions of the conversation – how supported they felt after the conversation.”

This grant will allow Bodie to work with data from four previous studies, which includes more than 450 videotaped conversations of a person describing a stressor to another, while the listener provides support.

The research conducted with this grant fits in with the university’s Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation research initiative, where researchers identify factors that impair the well-being of individuals and work to implement programs to build stronger, more vibrant communities.

“Dr. Bodie and his team’s recent National Science Foundation grant award demonstrates the opportunities we have to increase knowledge and improve practice and policy through cutting-edge research,” said John Green, constellation team leader and director of the UM Center for Population Studies. “As an active part of the Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation and a committed member of the steering committee, Dr. Bodie is contributing to the University of Mississippi’s leadership in scholarly endeavors that will improve people’s lives.”

The research will examine how variations in these particular types of interactions result in differences in how the distressed person continues to express their thoughts and feelings throughout the interaction.

“What is missing is an understanding of how messages unfold over the course of a conversation to regulate the emotions of a person in distress,” said Denise Solomon, principal investigator and professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State. “Our project will focus on studying the conversation linkages between one person’s supportive messages and the other person’s cognitive and emotional responses in an effort to map those dynamic patterns.”

The investigators will analyze every element of these conversations and develop strategies to show how emotion and cognitive processing are affected during the course of an interaction. The researchers have predicted that distressed individuals who are responsive to high-quality supportive messages during an interaction leave the conversation with an improved emotional state and a new understanding of their issue.

“The main prediction is the interaction between support quality and how disclosers talk about their event,” Bodie said. “I feel like if people can feel heard in times of stress, their lives will improve, and I want to know how we can best teach these skills toward bettering our lives.”

The researchers hope their findings will ultimately be able to assist support providers and counselors, while also leading to additional research to determine why some individuals or relationships show different levels of responsiveness during supportive conversations.

“The novelty in this research is mapping responsiveness within interactions onto important conversational outcomes, which opens the door to new questions about why those patterns differ between people and between relationships,” Solomon said.

“We also envision that the tool kit we develop can be used to illuminate the dynamics of other types of consequential conversations, such as in conflict negotiations or attempts to influence a partner’s health behavior.”

Other investigators on the project include Susanne Jones, associate professor of communication studies at the University of Minnesota, and Nilam Ram, professor of human development, family studies and psychology at Penn State.

Funding for this research was provided through grant no. 1749474 from the NSF Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences.

Alumna Credits Ole Miss with Helping Her Win Miss Tennessee

Christine Williamson to compete in Miss America pageant next month

Christine Williamson

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna Christine Williamson has spent countless hours with children of the Children’s Miracle Network. Christine’s passion for helping others is a big part of why she won Miss Tennessee, said her sister, Christal Williamson.

“She really cares about the children there,” said Christal, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Tennessee.

She touched the heart and changed the life of one child so much that when the child passed away, the parents asked Christine to sing at the funeral.

“It was really hard for her to keep it together,” Christal said.

Christine Williamson, 22, grew up in Memphis. After high school, she attended UM as a broadcast journalism major. While at Ole Miss, she was a news anchor for NewsWatch and a member of Phi Mu sorority.

After graduating in 2017, she enrolled at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga to pursue a master’s degree in business with a certification in data analytics, which she has put on hiatus for now.

She began competing for Miss Tennessee just five years ago. The first year, she was Miss Memphis and didn’t make the top 15. Then she was named Miss Smoky Mountains the next year and jumped all the way to earning second runner-up.

Her third year, she fell back slightly as Miss Mountain Empire by getting third runner-up. Last year, she was able to get first runner-up as Miss Scenic City. Finally, she won the title this year as Miss Chattanooga.

“It was five years of determination and hard work,” Christine said. “Lots of hurt and disappointment, but there were a lot of reflection and understanding that it’s not about instant gratification. It’s about what you learn on the way to achieving your goal.”

As Miss Chattanooga, Christine served as a Tennessee congressional advocate and national ambassador for the Alzheimer’s Association, raising more than $25,000 for the association. She is also a Tennessee State Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Her experiences at Ole Miss have stayed with her along the way, giving her skills that helped her become Miss Tennessee.

“I’m glad that my undergraduate degree at Ole Miss gave me the on-camera skills for my job as Miss Tennessee,” Christine said. “Going forward, I know how to use those media skills and know how to best promote the issues that I care about.”

Additionally, the close friends she made during her time at UM continue to provide encouragement and support.

“I was really shocked at when I worked at NewsWatch at how much it became like an entire second family and how supportive they’ve been through all of it,” she said.

Her Phi Mu sisters have provided an enormous extended family as well.

Most of all, Christine said, her family has supported her on this journey, and they were able to celebrate when she finally won the Miss Tennessee crown.

“My mom has been my biggest cheerleader and friend through the process, and Christal, my little sister, definitely has been, too,” she said. “My sister was squalling her eyes out … so it showed me how much it meant to her.”

“I was really excited, but mostly excited for her to see her fulfill this goal,” said her mom, Carol.

“I love cheering her on,” Christal said.

Her family continues to provide love, support and encouragement as she prepares for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey. They understand all the hard work and effort she has put into the contest, such as going to the gym, practicing speeches and more, because they competed in a few pageants as well.

Christal won Miss Banana Pudding Outstanding Teen in Dickson, Tennessee, Miss Collierville Outstanding Teen and Miss Delta Fair. One year, their mom even competed for Miss Tennessee.

“A lot of people don’t realize how much work it is,” Christal said. “They think you just put on a pretty dress. It’s a lot of work behind the scenes.

I think she has a great shot. She has so much experience over the last five years. I think she’d be phenomenal for the job.”

“We believe she has a really good chance at reaching that goal as well,” her mom said.

Christine said if she was to be named Miss America, her focus would remain on a few key topics: to spread awareness of Alzheimer’s and the Children’s Miracle Network, in addition to character education.

The children and their families at the CMN hospitals have shaped her life, she said.

“I want to really focus on them and give them my everything,” she said. “They’re so strong, brave and courageous, and the families have really changed my life. I’m really excited to spend more time with them hands-on.”

The Miss America pageant is set for Sept. 5-9 in Atlantic City. The final night of the competition will be televised at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Besides Williamson, Asya Branch, a rising junior majoring in integrated marketing communications at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at UM, was crowned Miss Mississippi and also will compete for the Miss America title.

Journalism Students Earn National Accolades

Reporters and designers recognized for their work by national organizations

UM journalism students visit Orange County, Texas to cover the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey for a multimedia project, earning placement in the top 20 of Hearst Journalism Awards Multimedia Team Reporting competition. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – An education at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media often results in recognition, and several Ole Miss students have been honored nationally for their journalistic endeavors.

A team of students led by instructional assistant professors Ji Hoon Heo and John Baker placed in the top 20 in the Hearst Journalism Awards Multimedia Team Reporting competition. Marlee Crawford, a senior from Oxford; Lana Ferguson, a senior from Mechanicsville, Virginia; Abbie McIntosh, a junior from Cypress, Texas; Italiana Anderson, a senior from Ridgeland; and MacKenzie Ross, a senior from Oxford, were recognized for their multimedia coverage of Hurricane Harvey.

The group spent three days in Orange County, Texas, last September, accompanying a relief group sent from a local church. While much of the news coverage nationally focused on the metropolitan area of Houston, not many outlets covered the stories of recovery in this small, blue-collar refinery town.

“We wanted to tell the important story of recovery, help and community,” said Baker, who is originally from the region. “We decided to put together this special project that utilizes the internet for what it will do.”

The result was a multimedia piece that included written stories, videos, maps, audio clips and encompassing views shot with a drone.

“The idea was that all of these stories could stand alone, but could also fit together and give the viewer an experience that’s a little more than just what the stories would do,” Baker said.

The students immersed themselves in the experience, building relationships with community members and sharing meals and lodging with the relief workers.

“They really latched onto that group, which helped us get the good story, rather than just an outside view of what was going on,” Heo said. “All of these students were trained journalists, but waking up early, researching, finding sources and identifying the stories on the spot is stuff you can’t learn in the classroom.

“The students did things they’ve never had to be before, and they experienced real journalism.”

The project, found at, earned the school’s first honors from Hearst in this multimedia competition.

“It was satisfying to see that we broke a barrier for the university and were placed among some of the most prominent journalism programs in the nation,” Baker said. “The students did a superb job, and I was really impressed with their efforts. This was a much different experience than what they’re used to, and they handled it like champs.”

The endeavor involved a lot of late nights and extra work from students on a purely volunteer basis over the course of about seven months, but the students, instructors and members of the Orange County community were pleased with the result.

“Most of the folks in the stories were so happy that they were part of this project,” Heo said. “We really got to know them, and I think we did justice in telling their story.

“The people of that community that we highlighted thought we did right by them, and that’s the most important thing.”

Ross also received recognition for her design of the multimedia project from the Society for News Design student competition. She earned third place recognition for the piece, as well as third place recognition for her design of the magazine cover for The Struggle for Sri Lanka.

Maria Morrissette, a recent graduate from Oxford, earned second place honors for her stand-alone multimedia piece “An Emerging Jewel,” found at

The Society for News Design is an international professional organization for visual communicators that hosts workshops, conferences and other development opportunities each year.

The Broadcast Education Association recognized Lauren Layton, a senior from Huntsville, Alabama, with an Award of Excellence for her short form documentary “Feeling the Music.”

The video tells the story of 12-year-old Sarah Harmon, a young girl who was born blind and excels in music, specifically playing the piano. It can be seen at

The Broadcast Education Association is an academic media group that hosts a variety of programs to advance careers for educators, students and professionals in the field of broadcast journalism.

For more information about the journalism education at UM, visit

Journalism Student Receives Prestigious National Scholarship

Brittany Brown awarded $10,000, participating in investigative fellowship

Brittany Brown

OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi rising senior has been recognized for her commitment to journalism with a $10,000 scholarship.

Brittany Brown, a journalism major from Quitman, is the recipient of the Ed Bradley Scholarship from the Radio Television Digital News Foundation.

The award, named in honor of the late CBS News’ “60 Minutes” correspondent, is presented to an outstanding student of color. The foundation’s recipients represent the best and brightest in all areas of journalism and have demonstrated a commitment to informing the community.

“To be the recipient of RTDNF’s Ed Bradley Scholarship is an honor, not only because this lifts an extreme financial weight from my family’s shoulders, but also because Ed Bradley paved the way for journalists of color,” Brown said. “This generous scholarship allows me to complete my senior year at Ole Miss without any financial responsibility on my family and could possibly help offset some of the costs of graduate school.

“I am just happy to see my dedication to journalism paying off, and I am proud to represent the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.”

Brown is heavily involved in student media at Ole Miss, where she serves as assistant news editor for The Daily Mississippian and worked as a digital content producer for the student-led “NewsWatch Ole Miss” broadcast.

She will also be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism conference this fall in Baltimore. She was among 12 journalists awarded more than $31,000 in scholarships this year.

“Brittany Brown is an exceptional student in that she is right at home producing and analyzing traditional academic research and also a whiz at learning the latest media technologies, plus she’s able to put all those skills and attributes into practice as a journalist,” said Deb Wenger, assistant dean at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“This is a young woman who is reliable, hard-working, takes critique well and who is always striving to be better. She’s also delightful to be around, and I don’t think I overstate things when I say she’s on her way to becoming the type of journalist our country and our world needs.”

The foundation has awarded more than $1 million in scholarships since 1970 to promote education. Recipients of these awards have pursued careers in journalism as reporters, anchors, news directors and White House speechwriters, among others.

Brown’s passion is investigative journalism. She is participating in the prestigious Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellowship program this summer at Arizona State University, which focuses on investigative reporting.

Brown is working alongside 37 other journalists across the U.S., Ireland and Canada to produce in-depth, national coverage of hate in America. Under the leadership of Len Downie, former executive editor of The Washington Post, and award-winning investigative journalist Jaquee Petchel, Brown is traveling around the country to report on hate groups and hate crimes in America.

“This program is providing the first opportunity to do investigative reporting, and this topic is very timely, especially in America today,” Brown said. “I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity to work with such talented journalists and editors, and I am getting the opportunity to travel to and report in 14 states this summer.”

She said the fellowship has been challenging, but rewarding.

“I believe this program is setting me on the right path for my career, and I am glad to be learning the skills of investigative journalism while still in my undergraduate years,” she said.

The final project from the fellowship will be completed in August, but ongoing news stories are published on

Brown plans to pursue a graduate degree to further her knowledge of the field and ultimately pursue a career in investigative journalism.

Magazine Association Establishes Endowment to Assist UM Students

Internship assistance program awards grants for pursuit of media job opportunities

Samir Husni (left), director of the UM Magazine Innovation Center, and magazine students Kiara Manning, Hannah Hurdle, Brittany Abbott and Daniel Dubuisson (right) visit with Susan Russ (second from right), MPA senior vice president of communications, at the association’s headquarters in New York. The four students are the first recipients of a new MPA grant. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – MPA – The Association of Magazine Media has awarded a $25,000 endowment to the University of Mississippi’s Magazine Innovation Center to launch a fund that will support the next phase of magazine education through the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

The award is earmarked to assist with the cost of educational internship expenses and travel, up to $1,500 per student. It is to be awarded to as many as four students each summer.

“The beauty of the deal between MPA and the Magazine Innovation Center is that it helps remove one major stumbling block from the pursuit of a career in magazines,” said Samir Husni, journalism professor and Magazine Innovation Center director. “Every semester, we have eager and talented students who want to enter the magazine media field, and are offered wonderful internship opportunities, but can’t afford the cost of travel or stay in the major cities to get started.”

This year’s inaugural recipients are Brittany Abbott, a senior majoring in journalism and English from Holly Springs; Daniel Dubuisson, senior journalism major from Pass Christian; Hannah Hurdle, senior journalism major from Oxford; and Kiara Manning, senior journalism major from Jackson. The award made it possible for the four to participate in the Magazine Media Making May intersession course, a two-week class, last month in New York.

MPA is a trade group with more than 150 members in the magazine media industry. The organization serves as an advocate and voice for magazine brands by promoting leadership and strategies while amplifying the research supporting the effectiveness and credibility of magazines.

Through its work, MPA attracts students to careers in magazine media. Many students are interested in pursuing internships, but sometimes the cost of travel and extended stay in places such as Manhattan can be a deterrent.

Even a little bit of money can go a long way for students, said Linda Thomas Brooks, president and CEO of the trade group.

“Internships are vital for the career-starting process, but the expenses associated with the experience can make them prohibitive,” Thomas Brooks said. “There are tons of smart, young students who dream of working in magazine media, and MPA wanted to give some of them a path to make that happen.”

The group’s members felt enough of a need for an internship assistance program at the Magazine Innovation Center that they worked with Husni to make their donation an endowment that can support many semesters of students. The award helps fulfill MPA’s desire to recruit students to the magazine media industry while directly supporting the university’s strategic goals to enhance student success.

Individuals or organizations interested in the Internship Assistance Program can contribute to the endowment to benefit future students by contacting Husni at

About Magazine Innovation Center

The Magazine Innovation Center, founded in 2009 at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, is an international collaboration linking the best thinkers in publishing, marketing, printing, advertising and distribution. It seeks to generate focused innovation in magazines and other print media. The magazine and magazine media industry employ the world’s great minds. The center will channel their creativity and intellect (away from the grinds of everyday work and challenges) to provide blueprints for productive change.

About MPA
MPA – The Association of Magazine Media is the primary advocate and voice for the magazine media industry, driving thought leadership and game‐changing strategies to promote the industry’s vitality and increase its revenues and market share. Established in 1919, MPA represents more than 150 domestic, associate and international members. MPA is headquartered in New York City, with a government affairs office in Washington, D.C.

‘It Starts with (Me)ek’ Team Wins Silver Anvil

Award is considered to be the Oscar of the PR industry

Actress and ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ contributor Nancy Giles presents a Silver Anvil award to UM senior lecturer Robin Street at a ceremony in New York. Accompanying Street at the ceremony are three of the 30 graduates who worked on the campaign. Pictured (from left) are Grace Miller, Giles, Street, Bianca Abney and Brittanee Wallace. Photo by Stan O’Dell

OXFORD, Miss. – An instructor in the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media and her 30-student team have won a Silver Anvil, the most prestigious U.S. award in public relations, for “It Starts with (Me)ek, a public relations campaign they created asking students to “just pause” before stereotyping others.

The award, given by the Public Relations Society of America, is considered to be the “Oscar” of the public relations industry.

Actress and “CBS Sunday Morning” show contributor Nancy Giles, perhaps best known for her role on the TV show “China Beach,” served as emcee for the event in New York and presented the award to senior lecturer Robin Street, campaign chair.

Three of the 30 students who served on the It Starts with (Me)ek committee joined Street at the ceremony. The journalism school graduates attending the event in New York were Brittanee Wallace, an integrated marketing communications major from Gulfport, Bianca Abney, an integrated marketing communications major from Moss Point, and Grace Miller, a broadcast journalism major with a specialization in public relations from Gainesville, Georgia.

The weeklong “It Starts with (Me)ek” campaign consisted of 50 events, speakers and activities, all based on the message to “just pause” before judging people based solely on one factor, such as their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness or other factor.

While those judging the entries in this category remained anonymous, one of the judges said the “It Starts with (Me)ek” campaign was a “very brilliantly executed and impactful campaign. Well done!”

Street said winning the Silver Anvil and attending the ceremony with three of the students who worked on the campaign was “so exciting.”

UM senior lecturer Robin Street, chair of the ‘It Starts with (Me)ek’ campaign, accepts the award at a ceremony in New York. Accompanying Street at the ceremony are three of the 30 graduates who worked on the campaign. Pictured (from left) are Brittanee Wallace, Street, Bianca Abney and Grace Miller. Photo by Stan O’Dell

“We were surrounded there by some of the biggest names in public relations and corporations in the country,” Street said. “The fact that a student team won competing with those professionals is truly a testament to the education our students received from all their Meek School instructors.

“It is also especially meaningful because it was for a public relations campaign with a very simple message: Just pause before stereotyping others based only on their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other factor.

“We hoped that the campaign would encourage our students to treat others with understanding, dignity, respect and inclusion, and based on our follow-up surveys and focus groups, we believe we succeeded.”

Like the Oscars, Silver Anvils are given in multiple categories. “It Starts with (Me)ek” won in the internal communications category for government or nonprofit organizations. Only one Silver Anvil is awarded in each category, while other entries may be given an Award of Excellence.

The campaign previously won awards from both the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and the Southern Public Relations Federation.

A previous campaign Street did with 15 Ole Miss students won a Silver Anvil Award of Excellence in 2009.

UM Journalism Professor Named Executive Director of Accrediting Organization

Headquarters of Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications will move to UM

Patricia Thompson, assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, has been appointed as executive director of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. Submitted Photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Patricia Thompson, assistant dean at the University of Mississippi’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, has been named the new executive director of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

As a result, the council’s headquarters will move to UM, where Thompson will assume her new role July 1, as well as continue her role as assistant dean for student media and assistant professor of journalism. She will hire staff to assist with ACEJMC and student media duties.

“This is the perfect next step in my path as a journalist and professor passionate about journalism since I was 11 years old,” Thompson said.

Thompson has been involved in journalism accreditation for more than 20 years as both a journalist and journalism educator. She has served two terms on the ACEJMC national committee and as a member and chair of the organization’s appeals board.

Thompson will succeed Susanne Shaw, professor of journalism at the University of Kansas and executive director of ACEJMC for more than 30 years.

The ACEJMC evaluates professional journalism and communications programs at colleges and universities in the United States and several other countries. Accredited programs total 118 in the U.S., Mexico, Chile, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and New Zealand. In her role as executive director, Thompson will report to the accrediting council and work closely with officers of the council and the accrediting committee.

“ACEJMC is very fortunate to attract a journalist and journalism educator of Pat’s caliber to serve as our executive director,” said Peter Bhatia, editor of the Detroit Free Press and ACEJMC president. “She will build on the incredible accomplishments of Susanne Shaw and lead us forward in working to help journalism education remain essential and up-to-date.”

Thompson joined the Meek School faculty in 2009. Previously, she was an award-winning journalist who worked as a writer and editor at newspapers such as The Washington Post and The San Jose Mercury News. She also was an assistant professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

She oversees UM’s Student Media Center and serves as the faculty adviser for The Daily Mississippian and Her work with students on projects has resulted in state, regional and national journalism awards.

“The naming of Pat Thompson as executive director of ACEJMC demonstrates the respect faculty in the Meek School have earned,” said Will Norton Jr., dean of the school. “Pat is a highly regarded journalist and educator who has raised the profile of the Meek School.”

Thompson said she is excited about her new role.

“I came to the University of Mississippi to run student media because it was the opportunity to blend two things I care deeply about: quality journalism and the education of young journalists,” Thompson said. “Susanne has been an outstanding, inspirational executive director for ACEJMC, as she has upheld standards for media programs. It won’t be easy to follow in her footsteps. I look forward to learning from her and working with the council as we help shape the future of journalism and communications education during a time of great change.”

UM Journalism School Faculty Member Honored with Distinguished Service Award

Award presented to R.J. Morgan for his dedication to young journalists

R.J. Morgan, director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association at the University of Mississippi, is the recipient of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association’s Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Award. Photo courtesy of Alysia Steele.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – R.J. Morgan, director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association at the University of Mississippi, is the recipient of the Southern Interscholastic Press Association’s Elizabeth B. Dickey Distinguished Service Award.

Morgan, who is also an instructional assistant professor of journalism in UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media, said he is honored to receive this recognition for doing a job he finds challenging but enormously rewarding.

“I am so grateful to be recognized by SIPA (based at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications) and the rest of my scholastic journalism family,” Morgan said. “Education is a calling, and the task of training a new generation of media-literate, free-speech-loving citizens is not easy work. Nevertheless, I’m proud to serve in this field and to work with so many great institutions.”

Will Norton Jr., dean of the Meek School, applauded Morgan for being an “uncommon faculty member.”

“He is very bright, has a relentless work ethic and is strategic in his thinking,” Norton said. “We are so grateful he is on our faculty.”

The award was presented during the annual advisers’ luncheon held at the recent SIPA convention. Morgan earned praise from his peers and the advisers with whom he regularly works.

“He is an encourager of others, loves students and works well with both students and adults,” said Beth Fitts, former MSPA director. “At the same time, he is a self-starter who gets things done – all with great flair and an engaging sense of humor.”

Morgan, a native of Pearl, Mississippi, received his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Mississippi State University. He lived and taught in Starkville for 11 years before moving to Oxford and joining UM.

He was recognized with the award for providing students with the education and opportunities they need to develop as journalists. But, according to his many supporters, what really sets him apart is his availability and dedication to the students. Whether answering texts or emails, or renting buses to ensure students have the opportunity to make it to the SIPA conventions, he is always available to help.

“He frequently goes above and beyond his normal director duties,” said Diala Chaney, Oxford High School journalism adviser. “He stays in constant communication with the journalism teachers throughout the state. He makes all the arrangements, travel plans and only collects a portion of the cost from the students who are interested in attending [the conventions].”

Morgan leads students and advisers to participate at the state, regional and national levels, said Mandy Mahan, D’Iberville High School yearbook adviser.

“Because of the opportunities that R.J. creates through MSPA, my students have built impressive resumes filled with speaking engagements and awards,” Mahan said. “He truly believes that scholastic journalism should be student-led, so my students have presented at our state conferences and have had the opportunity to submit work and win awards in the numerous competitions that he readily advertises.

“He encourages them to think outside of the box and makes himself available whenever they need him. My broadcast group has even asked him to come down here to be a featured guest on their weekly podcast.”

Morgan is especially deserving of the Distinguished Service Award, said Charles Mitchell, associate dean and associate professor of journalism at the Meek School.

“I was happy to see R.J. earn this award, and I mean earn,” Mitchell said. “He works with true dedication to support high schools and students in and near Mississippi with all their student media efforts.

“He’s both an effective cheerleader and a skilled resource. The Meek School is fortunate to have him teach here, and I am fortunate to have such a strong colleague.”

The recipient of the Distinguished Service Award usually has at least seven years of experience advising one or more award-winning school publication. The honoree also influences scholastic journalism beyond the walls of the school in state, regional and national scholastic press associations and shows leadership at SIPA conventions.

The Southern Interscholastic Press Association is a not-for-profit organization of public schools, including middle, junior and senior high schools, and independent schools. Its purpose is to encourage a high degree of professionalism in scholastic journalism and mass communications in the Southeast. Founded at Washington and Lee University in 1926, SIPA moved to the University of South Carolina in 1972.


UM’s ‘Mr. Magazine’ Recognized for Industry Contributions

Journalism professor Samir Husni honored with 2018 Luminaire Award

Samir ‘Mr. Magazine’ Husni, UM journalism professor and director of the Magazine Innovation Center, is a 2018 recipient of the Franklin Luminaire Award. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Idealliance and Print Industries Alliance have named University of Mississippi journalism professor Samir Husni a recipient of the 2018 Franklin Luminaire Award.

The award recognizes professionals for exceptional and positive contributions to service in the media and graphic communications industry. Husni, founder and director of the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, is one of four recipients of the award.

Husni said he was humbled and honored when he learned of the award.

“It is always a great honor when the industry that you’ve devoted your entire educational and professional life to serve returns the favor by recognizing the work that you’ve done,” he said.

Husni’s accomplishments include engaging in magazine consulting and research around the world, as well as presenting at seminars and writing books on the future of print in a digital age, and supporting professional experience for students by providing them an opportunity to interact with industry leaders.

“It is another shot in the arm confirming that the magazine program at Ole Miss is still as valid today as it was yesterday,” he said. “What we do is not separated from what the industry does; thus, we will continue to prepare (students) to be able to join the workforce and become industry leaders.

“Words of thanks are never enough, but it is one of those rare occasions that I am speechless.”

Because the Meek School teaches job skills for both journalism and integrated marketing communications students, faculty members often remain practitioners in their industries, allowing them to teach students applicable skills for future careers.

“The Meek School is a professional school,” said Will Norton, dean of the school. “Faculty are hired to know media, and Dr. Husni is a prototype of that ideal.”

Husni will be honored on Oct. 17 at the annual Franklin Luminaire Awards event in New York City.

Other award recipients include Chris Harrold, vice president and creative director at Mohawk Fine Papers in Cohoes, New York; Rebecca Pappas, vice president of production, customer service and audience development at BizBash Media in New York; and John G. Sommers Jr., president and CEO of Allied Printing Services in Manchester, Connecticut.

Alumna Begins Endowment to Rename Magazine Innovation Center

Amy Lyles Wilson seeks to name the unit after journalism professor Samir Husni

UM journalism professor Samir Husni launched the Magazine Innovation Center in 2009. In honor of his years of work, former student Amy Lyles Wilson has started an endowment to rename the center for her mentor and friend. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi alumna Amy Lyles Wilson is working to raise $100,000 to rename the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media for the center’s longtime director and journalism professor Samir Husni.

A former student of Husni’s, Wilson wants to rename the foundation of the university’s magazine program to the Samir “Mr. Magazine” Husni Magazine Innovation Center in honor of the professor’s years of service and dedication to his students.

Wilson’s family donated an initial $55,000 gift to support the effort, and she’s inviting others to contribute through the Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding platform to reach a $100,000 goal. Just over $76,000 has been contributed thus far, and Wilson is hoping more of Husni’s friends, colleagues, and current and former students will pay tribute to his legacy on campus.

Wilson earned an M.A. in journalism in 1986 after enrolling in the program following a discouraging semester in another field.

“I dragged myself across the parking lot to Farley Hall and, thankfully, Will Norton took pity on me and the department granted me provisional admission, as I needed to take the GRE,” she said. “He told me to check out a class with ‘the new guy,’ who turned out to be Samir Husni. At that point, everything shifted.” 

Husni joined the UM journalism faculty in 1984 and has become known as the world’s leading magazine expert. Besides teaching, he continues to be a practitioner in the magazine industry by offering consultation and insight to new magazines.

In 2009, he created the Magazine Innovation Center to link the greatest minds in the industry with future industry leaders: Ole Miss students.

“I am humbled and honored,” Husni said. “I am thankful to Amy Lyles Wilson for starting this, and I’m proud to be serving Ole Miss magazine students since 1984.”

Since Wilson’s time in his classroom, she and Husni have become friends and peers, working together to publish his “Launch Your Own Magazine” book and supporting young people who dream of careers in magazine journalism.

“The magazine program has come a long way since a handful of us gathered in Samir’s classroom for his inaugural semester back in 1984, unsure of who he was or just what he was offering,” she said. “Even then, though, before he became world-renowned and tagged as ‘Mr. Magazine,’ it was obvious that Samir had an abiding interest in his students.”

Husni set the foundation for Wilson’s career, she said. Since earning her degree from Ole Miss, she has written for magazines, published books and developed communications materials for nonprofits. Wilson has co-authored or contributed to eight books, and her work has appeared in a variety of publications as well as on National Public Radio.

Wilson earned a master’s degree in theology from Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School and works as a story coach and spiritual director in Nashville, Tennessee. She teaches throughout the South and at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, and has served as adjunct professor and writer-in-residence at the Earlham School of Religion in Indiana.

“I couldn’t have crafted a better life for myself,” she said. “And I couldn’t have done it as readily without Samir and the journalism folks opening up such a versatile world to me. And I know they’ve done it for many others as well.”

Wilson said she believes society will always need talented, skilled communicators, whether online or off, in print or digital, and she wants to help Husni prepare them for years to come with this endowment.

Individuals and organizations can contribute to the fund at Checks can be mailed to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the name of the fund noted in the check’s memo line, at 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.

For more information, contact Jason McCormick, development director for the journalism school, at or 662-915-1757.