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.

Students Win Journalism Awards at Various Conferences

More than 50 honors in regional competition include work in newspaper, TV, radio and online

UM students, along with Patricia Thompson (left), assistant dean of student media show off the recognitions they received for their work at the Southeastern Journalism Conference at Harding University. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students earned more than 50 awards in three regional contests this spring for their outstanding work in newspaper, television, radio and online journalism.

“The Student Media Center is one of the best recruiting tools for the university and the Meek School,” said Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media and an assistant professor of journalism. “We have students from every classification, from freshmen to graduate students, working in our vibrant newsroom every afternoon. 

“They get a chance to develop communications skills and they learn to work with others to produce award-winning journalism. They love it. They are passionate about providing our campus community with news and information they won’t get anywhere else.”

The Southeastern Journalism Conference, held this year at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas, featured more than 200 participants from 28 colleges and universities in seven states. UM was named Grand Champion at the conference for on-site competitions, where 15 students had to produce content on a deadline.

In the SEJC Best of the South competition, Ole Miss students won 17 awards, including first places for Abbie McIntosh, a junior from Cypress, Texas in the television news reporting category, and for Thomas DeMartini, a senior from Flowood, and Austin Hille, senior from Boise, Idaho, in the broadcast commercial category.

The Daily Mississippian won first place for best all-around daily newspaper and best affiliated website in the Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence competition. The SPJ region includes universities in Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana.

“I’m so proud of The Daily Mississippian team and the other student media staff members that earned top honors this past year,” said DM editor-in-chief Lana Ferguson, a senior from Mechanicsville, Virginia. “So many of us put hard work in every day and we don’t do it for awards, but it’s always a great feeling to be recognized.

“The student journalists at Ole Miss are creating high-quality content, and I’m glad it’s getting the attention it deserves.”

Clara Turnage and Malachi Shinault, both 2017 UM graduates from New Hebron and Booneville, respectively, took home first-place awards in all three competitions for their online feature package of text, photo, video and audio published on about activist Correl Hoyle as he prepared for graduation last spring.

Other students who won first-place awards from SPJ are:

  • Devna Bose, senior from Philadelphia, for feature writing
  • Marlee Crawford, senior from Oxford, for breaking news photography
  • Lauren Layton, senior from Huntsville, Alabama, for online/digital feature videography
  • Jules Marcantonio, senior from Franklin, Tennessee, for television general news reporting
  • Ariyl Onstott, 2017 UM graduate from Carriere, for online news reporting
  • Jake Thrasher, senior from Birmingham, Alabama, for editorial cartoons

All first-place winners will compete against winners in the 11 other regions of SPJ for national titles, which will be announced later this month.

In the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Contest, the student news broadcast NewsWatch Ole Miss took home first place for its Dec. 1, 2017 newscast, which included coverage of the NCAA sanctions announced that day.

“Our students dedicate so much time into the show and providing our audience with the top news of the day, and to be recognized for that day-in and day-out hard work makes it all worth it,” said Abbie McIntosh, NewsWatch manager. “I’m honored to have received some awards on top of what NewsWatch won. It makes me happy to know people think our work is good.”

Matthew Hendley and Joseph Katool, from Madison and Jackson, were awarded first place in the Associated Press contest for their radio coverage of NCAA sanctions.

Ferguson took home first-place honors from the AP for her feature story about an Oxford church helping a Texas community rebuild after Hurricane Harvey.

Other students who won first place in the AP and SEJC competitions are:

  • Devna Bose, arts and entertainment writing, SEJC
  • Lana Ferguson, feature writing, AP
  • Alana Mitius, freshman from Olive Branch, for radio feature, AP
  • Ethel Mwedziwendira, senior from McKinney Texas, for current events, SEJC
  • Marlee Crawford, sports photography, SEJC

Second- and third-place winners and finalists representing Ole Miss are:

  • Grant Gaar, senior from Walnut, finalist for television feature reporting, SPJ
  • Hayden Benge, junior from Tulsa, Oklahoma, design, SEJC
  • Marisa Morrissette, senior from Oxford, media history/ethics/law, SEJC
  • Clifton Carroll, senior from Yazoo City, public relations, SEJC
  • DeAndria Turner, sophomore from Gauter, radio reporting, SEJC; radio sports, AP; radio journalist SEJC
  • Matthew Hendley, TV anchoring, SEJC
  • Lana Ferguson, feature writing and news writing, SEJC
  • Erin Pennington, sophomore from Fulton, radio feature, SEJC
  • Madison Heil, 2017 graduate from Mandeville, Louisiana, journalism research paper, SEJC
  • Jake Thrasher, DM editorial cartoonist, SEJC
  • Ethel Mwedziwendira, newspaper layout and design, AP
  • Lana Ferguson and Clara Turnage, breaking news, AP
  • Abbie McIntosh and Marlee Crawford, documentary, AP
  • Italiana Anderson, senior from Ridgeland, radio news, AP

Journalism Professor Honored by Professional Association

Debora Wenger recognized for her service to journalism education

Debora Wenger

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi journalism professor Debora Wenger has been honored for her service to journalism education by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

The association’s Electronic News Division has chosen Wenger as a recipient of the 2018 Larry Burkum Service Award. Wenger is an associate professor of journalism and assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Besides her roles at the university, Wenger is a trainer for the Society of Professional Journalists through its partnership with the Google News Initiative, and she has educated journalists around the country.

“For me, personally, this award is recognition that the academy values work that is focused on supporting and maintaining quality journalism,” Wenger said. “I love teaching and I love staying connected to the many great journalists who work hard to keep our communities and our country informed about issues that matter. It’s an honor to be recognized for service to this vital profession.”

A former reporter, anchor and news manager at numerous television stations, Wenger focuses on multimedia journalism practice and education. She regularly contributes research findings to academic and professional publications on the topic.

Wenger has taught journalism courses at Ole Miss since 2009.

“The Meek School has many faculty who focus on work that helps make our teaching and our disciplines stronger,” she said. “Whether it’s research into best practices, training for practitioners or turning out graduates who are job-ready, our school values those contributions.

“This award offers outside recognition that strong industry ties are vital to successful journalism and communication programs everywhere.”

Wenger is being honored alongside Deborah Potter, founding director of NewsLab and former correspondent, anchor and program host at CBS, CNN, PBS and local television and radio stations. NewsLab, an online journalism training center, was transferred to the operation of the UM journalism school last year.

“Dr. Wenger has been a crucial player in the development of the Meek School,” said Will Norton, the school’s dean. “She has used her network of professionals and academics to enhance the reputation of the Meek School and its faculty. She sets rigorous standards in the classroom and works diligently to support faculty.”

The award is named for Larry Burkum, who served as the association’s secretary, newsletter editor and webmaster from 1995 to 2005. The Electronic News Division will honor Wenger and Potter in August in Washington, D.C., at the AEJMC annual conference.

UM Students to Intern this Summer in Eastern Asia

Placements made possible through Freeman Foundation grant

Freeman Foundation summer intern grantees include (front row, from left) Meredith Brown, Tyler Caple, Emily Rodriguez, Emma Scott, Tina Ng, Navodit Paudel, Sydney Bush, Jasmine Nguyen and Lucy De la Cruz, and (back row, from left) David Pfaehler, Jordan Holman, Sarah Berry, Mo Karzon, Stewart Eaton and Daria Herasymova. Submitted photo by Joe Worthem

OXFORD, Miss. – Seventeen University of Mississippi students will be interns in East and Southeast Asia this summer, thanks to a substantial grant from the Freeman Foundation of Stowe, Vermont.

The $100,000 program, “UM Experiential Learning in East Asia,” allows selected undergraduates to complete a summer internship of at least eight weeks in summer 2018. Each will receive $5,000 from the Freeman Foundation grant and an additional $2,500 provided by the university’s Office of Global Engagement and the students’ respective UM schools.

“The Croft Institute has been the campus leader in promoting engagement with East Asia for the last 20 years, and this generous grant by the Freeman Foundation allowed us to add another important dimension to those efforts,” said Oliver Dinius, executive director of the Croft Institute for International Studies and program administrator.

Dinius worked with Joshua Howard, Croft associate professor of history; Minjoo Oh, associate professor of sociology; and Blair McElroy, the university’s senior international officer, to design the application process, select award recipients and assist students as they prepare for their internships.

Grant recipients include Meredith Brown and Emma Scott, both of Oxford; Sarah Berry, Stewart Eaton, Mo Karzon and Jasmine Nguyen, all of Brandon; Lucy De la Cruz of Southaven; Tina Ng of Walls; Sydney Bush of Gulfport; Jordan Holman of Petal; Tyler Caple of Huntsville, Alabama; Sarah Liese of St. Louis; Scott Givhan of West Hollywood, California; Emily Rodriguez of Portland, Oregon; David Pfaehler of Independence, Kentucky; Daria Herasymova of Ukraine; and Navodit Paudel of Nepal.

The program is universitywide and recipients come from diverse academic backgrounds. Two study at the Patterson School of Accountancy, four at the School of Business Administration, three at the School of Engineering, seven in the College of Liberal Arts and one at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Eight of the selected students are enrolled in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“The students will complete internships in seven countries,” said William Mahoney, coordinator of alumni relations and career planning in the Croft Institute. “Six will be in China, three in South Korea, three in Thailand, two in Japan and one each in Cambodia, Singapore and Vietnam.”

The students have secured exciting internships. Rodriguez, a double major in accountancy as well as banking and finance, will be interning with Ernst & Young in Singapore. There, she expects to gain an understanding of compliance for banks, insurance organizations and wealth management firms and corporate tax as a whole.

“EY handles some of Singapore’s biggest financial service organizations, and the prospect of working alongside and learning from EY’s influential and insightful leaders is an outstanding opportunity,” she said. “My duties will vary significantly day-to-day, however some of the general responsibilities include project mapping for FSO compliance, general tax document processing and assisting in the sales strategy for corporate tax products.”

A general engineering major with an emphasis in pre-med studies, Berry will spend her summer shadowing and volunteering in Shanghai First People’s Hospital. She believes her internship will provide her with unique, yet essential, insights into health care tactics for treating patients beyond the scope of only their physical ailments.

“What I most admire about Chinese health care is its incorporation of tradition with modern practices,” Berry said. “I am very excited for this summer, and I look forward to furthering my knowledge of medicine, gaining invaluable experience as a health care provider, and immersing myself in the culture and tradition of China and its medical field.”

The Freeman Foundation grant furthers collaborative efforts to provide students with valuable experiences, Ole Miss administrators said.

“The Freeman Foundation scholarships supported in part by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College enable our students to experience the richness of culture to improve linguistic skills and to attune our scholars to the challenges in East Asian countries,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean. “I cannot think of a more profound way to enhance, even change, the life choices of our future graduates of the University of Mississippi.”

The goal of the Freeman Foundation’s grant is to help students gain real-life experience while interacting regularly with local populations. Established in 1994 by the estate of AIG co-founder Mansfield Freeman, the foundation’s general mission is “to strengthen the bonds of friendship between this country and those of the Far East” and “to stimulate an exchange of ideas in economic and cultural fields which will help create mutual understanding.”

Headed by Mansfield’s grandson, Graeme Freeman, the foundation donates approximately $50 million annually to programs such as study abroad scholarships for Asian and American students and the National Consortium for Teaching About Asia, which has supported the Croft Institute’s efforts to strengthen teaching about East Asia for more than 15 years.

This grant lets the Croft Institute and other participating campus units deliver on the university’s commitment to educate and engage global citizens and to support experiential learning, two core principles in the university’s Flagship Forward strategic plan. Students chosen for UM Experiential Learning in East Asia will learn how a foreign culture affects the work environment and help prepare them to succeed.

“This is the first year for this program, and we are excited to be able to send such a diverse and motivated group of students to Eastern Asia,” Dinius said. “We look forward to hearing about their experiences upon their return and have them share their insights with the next generation of interns.”

The goal is to make the program a permanent feature at the university.

“We are optimistic that the Freeman Foundation will renew this grant for 2018-19, and we may even be able to increase the number of award recipients,” Dinius added.

Details about the next round will be available early in the fall semester.

University Launches New IMC Online Graduate Degree Program

Students can enroll in graduate degree program this fall

Students can earn an IMC graduate degree online through a new program. The application deadline is July 31. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Interested professionals can earn a graduate degree in integrated marketing communication completely online through the Meek School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi starting in August.

This program is designed to give mid-career professionals an opportunity to learn how to use communication to connect people and organizations, without having to uproot their lives to become full-time students on a college campus. It also is opening the school’s programs to students around the world.

The master’s program in integrated marketing communication allows online students to take the same courses as residential students, with the only differences being the flexibility of delivery and the sequence of the courses.

“Demand is high for advanced study in how to integrate communication efforts to influence people’s behavior, but moving to Oxford to complete a graduate degree is quite difficult for people who are working full time and have other obligations,” said Robert Magee, program director and assistant professor of IMC.

Students can complete the 36-credit-hour degree program in two years by taking courses throughout the fall, spring and summer semesters.

“Because the online program is designed for people who are working full time, courses will be offered one at a time in the half-semesters and summer sessions,” Magee said. “This will enable a student to focus energy on each course and advance in a systematic way.”

The curriculum combines theory, insight and real-world application in the areas of audience research, analytics, creative production and brand strategy.

The demand for more education in the constantly changing industry of IMC is national and international, and this is the most effective way for professionals to pursue this degree, said Will Norton, UM journalism dean.

“We have partnerships in other nations with universities and schools that would like their graduates and students to be able to pursue our graduate degree program in integrated marketing communication,” Norton said.

Graduates are prepared for leadership roles in advertising and public relations agencies, corporations, media, nonprofit organizations, health care, political communication and sports.

The university’s IMC program was introduced in 2012 for undergraduate and graduate studies. Ole Miss is one of just a few institutions to offer this type of specialized degree, which has resulted in tremendous increase in student enrollment within the journalism school during the last six years.

Faculty members hope this program will offer unique opportunities for students, no matter where they live.

“People around the world will gain access to the knowledge and skills they need to influence behavior,” Magee said.

The application deadline is July 31. To apply for the program, click here. To learn more about the journalism and IMC programs at Ole Miss, visit

Journalism Professor Releases Book Examining RFK’s Delta Visit

Ellen Meacham to sign copies new work Wednesday at Square Books.

Ellen Meacham

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi journalism professor Ellen Meacham details Robert F. Kennedy’s visit to the Mississippi Delta in 1967 in her new book “Delta Epiphany: RFK in Mississippi.”

Meacham’s book, published by University Press of Mississippi, examines the history, economics and politics of the Delta and how those factors influenced the lives of people whom Kennedy met there during that visit. She will sign copies at 5 p.m. Wednesday (April 18) at Square Books in Oxford.

The book was inspired by a description from fellow journalist Curtis Wilkie’s memoir of Kennedy in a dark shack trying to speak to a toddler who was paying more attention to crumbs on the floor.

“I wondered about the impact it had on Kennedy, because it’s mentioned as an important moment in all of his biographies,” Meacham said. “The next question I had was, ‘What happened to the baby?'”

After seven years of searching, Meacham found and interviewed children from the four families Kennedy encountered on his visit, including that toddler.

“As I got into the research, I realized pretty quickly that there was a big part of the story that had not been told,” she said. “Most of the contemporary news accounts and later historians had only looked at RFK on the stage. The people who were living the lives that moved him so were more of a ‘poverty stage set.'”

Meacham wanted to tell the stories of those people.

“It became very important to me to bring those families into the light and find out how they came to be in that place at that time, what struggles they faced and their accomplishments since,” she said. “I think it brings more balance.

“It’s not just a story of a hero or a saint, it’s about a real person meeting real people.”

The book also features about a dozen photos, including the cover, that are published for the first time.

“The photographs were essential to telling this story,” Meacham said. “They brought such a vivid realism that showed the impact of the visit on Kennedy in a powerful way.”

A working journalist for more than two decades, Meacham used her experience as a newspaper reporter in Mississippi, which gave her access to contacts within both politics and journalism in the state, putting her in a unique position to tell these stories.

“Ellen Meacham is a talented and perceptive journalist who recognized, nearly a half-century after the fact, the great impact of Robert Kennedy’s brief trip to the Mississippi Delta in 1967,” said Wilkie, a UM associate professor of journalism and fellow of the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics.

“It was a mission that changed his life, the tortured history of that region and the nation’s attitude toward hungry people in America. Though Ellen was not old enough to have been there, her investigation of the story has brought it back to life, and it is an example of her valuable work.”

ACT 8 Experience Brings Magazine Industry Leaders to UM

Journalism students can interact with industry leaders at eighth annual media conference

OXFORD, Miss. – “Print Proud and Digital Smart” is the message of this year’s ACT 8 Experience, a one-of-a-kind magazine media conference at the University of Mississippi.

The ACT Experience, which stands for “amplify, clarify and testify,” is hosted by the Magazine Innovation Center at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. This year’s conference, set for Tuesday through Friday (April 17-20), brings in the top names in every aspect of the magazine media industry for the only comprehensive conference of its kind in the country.

This year, the discussions focus on a multiplatform approach to magazine media brands, whether in print or digital. The main goal of the experience is to have students directly interact with industry professionals with the goal of landing a job in the magazine industry.

“The idea is that the experience is student-driven,” said Samir Husni, Ole Miss journalism professor and Magazine Innovation Center director. “That’s why these professionals come here. The presence of students in the audience has a positive effect on the speaker, in which they lose their guard and engage more freely with the future industry leaders when they are at an academic setting.”

Husni launched the annual conference in 2010 with 14 featured speakers. After just eight years, the conference has grown to feature more than 30 speakers and nearly 100 total attendees, including CEOs of major magazine and marketing companies, publishers, editors and other industry leaders.

Journalism and magazine students have opportunities to network with industry professionals from major companies including Hearst, Meredith, Trusted Media Brands, LSC Communications, Sappi Paper Co. North America, Democrat Printing, James G. Elliott Co., and Delta Magazine.

Jim Elliott, president of the James G. Elliott Co., has served as a sponsor for all past ACT conferences and has attended six. Elliott said this conference is by far his favorite.

“It is the most interactive and informative of all the conferences due to the way it is set up,” Elliott said. “It is not only the speakers and attendees, but also the interaction with the students that makes this so valuable. I’ve always gotten a number of great ideas from this conference, and as an added plus, a number of summer interns.”

Anna Grace Usery, a graduate student in integrated marketing communications from Elkmont, Alabama, hopes to strengthen her established relationships with industry professionals and gain more insight into today’s magazine industry.

“Even though it can be overwhelming to realize these professionals hold impressive titles, they still enjoy conversation with us students because they know we are the future magazine industry leaders,” Usery said. “They understand their love for all things magazines extends to providing an avenue for future leaders to succeed, which is the essence of this conference.”

Each year, students have received job offers as a result of the experience, Husni said.

“They have a captive audience with these CEOs, and some of them leave an impression,” Husni said. “Our ultimate goal as professors is to get a job for those students. I feel like we fail the students if we don’t provide them with jobs when they graduate.

“Anytime we put students first, including them in these events becomes the normal thing to do.”

Students also will accompany registered participants on a trip through the Delta to experience the music, food and culture of north Mississippi. The group will travel to Clarksdale to visit the Delta Blues Museum and the Shack Up Inn, ending the day with dinner and music at Ground Zero Blues Club.

“As a man who attends a dozen media conferences a year, Dr. Samir Husni’s ACT Experience at the University of Mississippi is the best,” said Bo Sacks, president of Precision Media Group. “There is no other event that mixes students and professionals in such an intimate and thoughtful environment.

“It is an opportunity for students to meet and mingle with top magazine leadership and sometimes even get a job. I have made lasting friendships there and look forward to it every year.”

ACT 8 Experience lectures will explore a range of topics related to the magazine industry, including storytelling, advertising, creating digital platforms, reaching audiences and creating the best print product.

All lectures are free and open to the public and will be conducted in the Overby Center Auditorium. Registration for the conference includes all meals, additional sessions and transportation to and from the Delta.

A full schedule and registration can be found at

Ten Seniors Named UM Hall of Fame Inductees

Recipients honored for service, achievement and potential for success

The 2018 University of Mississippi Hall of Fame. Photo by by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Ten University of Mississippi seniors have been inducted into the university’s 2017-18 Hall of Fame, one of the highest honors afforded students at Ole Miss.

The inductees were honored Friday afternoon (April 6) in a ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. A campus committee chooses Hall of Fame members in accordance with policy developed by the Associated Student Body. Selections are based on outstanding contributions in all aspects of campus life.

This year’s Hall of Fame members are Allen Coon of Petal; Christopher Feazell of Mendenhall; Terrence Johnson of Shuqualak; Jiwon Lee of Oxford; Megan McLeod of Highlands Ranch, Colorado; Savannah Smith of Corinth; Austin Spindler of Savannah, Tennessee; Elizabeth Taylor of Whitesboro, Texas; Jacob Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama; Ingrid Valbuena of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

“Each of the students selected for Hall of Fame has a record of scholarship and service to the university community and has impacted the Ole Miss campus in a positive way,” said Mindy Sutton Noss, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs and dean of students. “Hall of Fame is a fitting way to recognize the legacy that each of them leaves at the University of Mississippi.”

The 10 students were among 200 seniors recognized for inclusion in Who’s Who Among Students at the University of Mississippi.

“The Hall of Fame is a time-honored process that has identified students who have gone on to make a true difference in the world,” said Noel Wilkin, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs. “This year’s inductees have made a mark on our institution and have developed abilities that will serve them well in their careers.”

Allen Coon

Pursuing a double major in public policy leadership and African American studies, Coon is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. As an ASB senator, Coon worked with NAACP student organizers to remove the Mississippi state flag from campus and co-organized the #OccupytheLyceum protest, a spontaneous sit-in demanding an administrative response to campus racism. He previously served as president of UM College Democrats and UM Voters Everywhere. After graduation, he plans to attain both a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree and become a community organizer and civil servant. Coon’s parents are Kay Kolwe Coon and Howard Coon, both of Petal.

Christopher Feazell

Feazell, an accountancy major, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. He served in several roles over the course of his education, including vice president of programming for the National Association of Black Accountants, vice president of the Black Student Union, treasurer of the Accountancy ASB, Luckyday Scholar and the Columns Society. Fezell plans to pursue a master’s degree in taxation in the university’s Patterson School of Accountancy, pass the CPA exam and begin a career at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP in Atlanta upon graduation. His parents are Stephanie Berry of Mendenhall and Christopher Eugene Feazell of Mt. Olive.

Terrence Johnson

A journalism major, Johnson has served as president of the Men of Excellence, the largest male minority organization at the university. He also served as public relations director for the Columns Society, anchor for NewsWatch TV, co-president of the UM Association of Black Journalists, an orientation leader and coordinator. After graduation, Johnson plans to pursue a master’s degree in video storytelling and narrative writing at the University of California at Berkeley. His parents are George Lee and Angela Johnson of Shuqualak.

Jiwon Lee

Lee is a music performance major with an emphasis on flute and violin performance. She was drum major for the Pride of the South Marching Band, principal flutist of the Ole Miss Wind Ensemble and ensemble violinist for the LOU Symphony. A member of Phi Kappa Phi honor society, Lee was president of the Korean Student Association and recipient of the Marcus Guinn Spirit Award. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in music education and music performance at the university. Lee’s parents are Jongbok and Aeran Moon Lee of Oxford.

Megan McLeod

McLeod, an economics major with a minor in chemistry, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the Columns Society, and founder of the Hotty Toddy Tutors LLC, a student-run tutoring company. She is founding vice president of the UM chapter of the American Medical Women’s Society, vice president of chapter development for Phi Mu fraternity and recipient of the Trailblazer Award from Fraternal Leadership and Learning. After graduation, McLeod plans to pursue a medical degree at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. Her parents are Bill and Christine McLeod of Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

Savannah Smith

Smith is completing a double major in journalism and public policy leadership. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and Trent Lott Leadership Institute scholar, she is Miss Ole Miss, executive director of the Big Event, vice president of the Columns Society, an orientation leader and an executive officer in Chi Omega sorority. After graduation, Smith will attend New York University to pursue a master’s degree in journalism with a magazine emphasis. Her parents are Tim and Tracy Smith of Corinth.

Austin Spindler

Spindler is a public policy leadership major in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. He has served as assistant director of the Big Event, senior executive assistant to the ASB president, ASB secretary, staffing director of the UM Food Bank and IFC vice president of public relations. Spindler plans to move to Washington, D.C., to pursue a career in consulting. His parents are Richard and Dana Spindler of Savannah, Tennessee.

Elizabeth Taylor

A sociology major, member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and a Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Taylor served as a mentor in the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. She also served as a peer educator for Rebels Against Sexual Assault and was the first junior-entry student to receive the Barksdale Award. After graduation, Taylor plans to pursue a doctorate in sociology at the University of Missouri. Her parents are Elizabeth A. Taylor of Sadler, Texas, and the late Marshall Lee Taylor.

Jacob Thrasher

Thrasher, a chemistry major in the biochemistry track, served as president of Omicron Delta Kappa, past president of Rebels Against Sexual Assault and a panelist for the Huffington Post’s Listen to America Tour. An editorial cartoonist for the Daily Mississippian and Oxford Eagle, he received the Society of Professional Journalists’ Mark of Excellence Region 12 Award for best political cartoonist. Thrasher has been accepted to graduate school at Yale University. Where he plans pursue a doctorate in biology and biological sciences. His parents are Christy Branton Thrasher of Birmingham, Alabama, and the late Michael Aaron Thrasher.

Ingrid Valbuena

Valbuena is an integrated marketing communications major and a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She served as vice president of administration for Alpha Omicron Pi sorority and was an orientation leader and coordinator. A member of the Columns Society, Valbuena also hosted “sad girls, bad girls,” a weekly program on Rebel Radio. Her plans are to earn a master’s degree in IMC and advertising and become a college professor. Valbuena’s parents are Marcos Valbuena and Omarly Acina of Maracaibo, Venezuela.