Students with Disabilities Find Welcoming Environment, Assistance

ADA-compliant facilities, disability services assist in adapting to campus routines

Rhett Unbehagen and his service dog, Scout, enjoy a playful moment together in the Grove. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Before Valentine’s Day 2011, Rhett Unbehagen did not consider himself to be a person with a disability.

But while running on his high school campus that day, the University of Mississippi student experienced a 70 percent loss in his lung capacity. Barely breathing and covered with hives, he was rushed to the emergency room at Highland Community Hospital in Picayune.

After treatment of his condition, Unbehagen was diagnosed with exercise-induced anaphylaxis. Before then, fewer than 1,000 confirmed cases existed and the condition wasn’t considered fatal.

“I now realize that I had been disabled ever since I was originally diagnosed,” said the junior investment banking major from Carriere. “Two months later, I discovered I also have hypohydrosis (meaning he doesn’t sweat) and dermagraphia (a painful skin irritation).”

While Unbehagen’s particular disabilities are rare, he is far from alone. Of the more than 21,000 students  enrolled at UM last spring, an estimated 1,130 had registered disabilities that had to be accommodated in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“The vast majority have what we call ‘invisible disabilities,'” said Stacey Reycraft, director of Student Disability Services. “These include things like chronic illness, learning disabilities, psychiatric disorders and traumatic brain injuries.

“Our office helps with classroom accommodations, such as assisting with testing, lecture acquisition and attendance difficulties.”

Unbehagen said he was somewhat depressed following his attacks. Once he decided to embrace the necessary lifestyle adjustments caused by his medical conditions, things quickly began to improve for him.

“I decided that I needed a medical service dog to help me keep all my medications, such as epinephrine, close,” he said. “Before coming to Ole Miss, I had never seen anyone with a service dog.”

Through social media, Unbehagen contacted other owners of medical service dogs and began searching for his own canine companion. His search came to an end March 28 when he obtained a newborn Great Dane puppy, whom he has given the name “Scout.”

After undergoing training together, the pair has been inseparable.

Rhett Unbehagen and Scout. Photo by Thomas Graining/Ole Miss Communications

Service animals, such as dogs or miniature horses, are considered to be equipment – much like a wheelchair or crutches – and are permitted to accompany their owners wherever they might go, Reycraft said. Emotional support animals, including cats and birds, are restricted to residential areas and not allowed in classrooms, food service areas and elsewhere.

“Requests for emotional support animals have to be approved in our office before they can stay in residence halls,” she said.

Reycraft and her staff regularly listen and respond to the concerns of students such as Unbehagen.

“Right now, we have appointments to see students scheduled through mid-September,” Reycraft said. “Our office has ordered an online management system which will allow us to serve these students more efficiently, improve communication and the registration process.

“The system has to be customized and we all have to learn it, so it won’t be operational before early 2018.”

Wheelchair ramps, handicapped parking spaces, braille buttons on mechanical equipment, including elevators, and handrails on stairs and in restrooms are among the adaptations that have been made campuswide.

“The University of Mississippi is definitely ‘disabled friendly,'” said Denny Buchannon, project engineer in the Department of Facilities Management. “We aim to be fully compliant. Due to the age of the campus and some of the buildings, it is an ongoing process.”

Scout is able to keep Unbehagen’s medications at the proper temperature constantly in a vest the dog wears. Impossible to go unnoticed, the dog draws others to Unbehagen and generates positive discussions.

Such ongoing dialogue about disabilities is useful, Reycraft said.

“The biggest struggle people with disabilities face are the attitudinal barriers most people without disabilities have,” she said. “Often, students express their frustrations at being an invisible minority who are not always understood or accepted by the majority.”

For that reason and others, the Office of Student Disability Services seeks to promote awareness on campus. During Disability History Month each April, a panel discussion is scheduled for disabled students to share their experiences with the public.

“This is helpful, but we need more,” Reycraft said. “It would be most helpful if more disabled faculty and staff on campus would join in these discussions as well.”

Other than having his lovable dog with him constantly, Unbehagen said he and other disabled students live much like every other UM student.

“I’m basically just like everyone else,” he said.

Reycraft said she remains hopeful that attitudinal barriers will eventually be erased.

“Twenty years ago, students with disabilities rarely made it to college campuses,” she said. “As more disabled young people attend institutions of higher learning, the laws have changed to require facilities, equipment and programs to meet their special needs.

“Cultural shifts have been known to take decades and even centuries. Hopefully, people’s thinking about people with disabilities will continue to evolve.”

UM Town Hall Features Strategic Plan Unveiling

Chancellor, provost share vision for university's future, invite ideas for achieving goals

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter delivers the ‘State of the University’ address during the university’s second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Responding to ideas and hopes expressed more than a year ago at the University of Mississippi’s first-ever universitywide Town Hall, UM officials unveiled a new strategic plan for the institution’s future success Wednesday (Oct. 11) at the second Town Hall.

Similar to the inaugural event, hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the two-hour gathering in the Gertrude C. Ford Ballroom of The Inn at Ole Miss. Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter opened with a “State of the University” address.

“We can see higher peaks, but to reach those peaks, we must continue having the important conversations about, ‘How do we go from great to greater?’ and ‘How will we get there?'” Vitter said. “The four pillars that emerged from the Flagship Forum last year are academic excellence; healthy and vibrant communities; people, places and resources; and athletics excellence.

“Our road map to the future focuses upon these four pillars.”

Audience members posed questions to Ole Miss administrators during a question-and-answer session following Vitter’s address.

Members of the UM community share ideas for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Also during the assembly, Provost Noel Wilkin unveiled the “Flagship Forward” strategic plan, born from the 550 ideas shared at the first Town Hall in August 2016. Wilkin outlined details about the transformative initiatives and goals around the four pillars.

Attendees were among the first in the university community to receive a copy of the new strategic plan.

“Each pillar has its own transformative initiative and specific goals,” Wilkin said. “For example, the academic excellence initiative is to accelerate and inspire solutions to society’s grand challenges. Our goals are to enhance the quality of academic programs, support faculty excellence, enhance student success and increase research and creative achievement.”

UM faculty and staff members discuss ideas and share feedback for the university’s future at the second Town Hall event Wednesday (Oct. 11) at The Inn at Ole Miss. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

During the interactive segment of the Town Hall, participants were asked to brainstorm future “headlines” they hope will be achieved within the next five years and beyond. By the end of the event, more than 150 “headlines” focused around the pillars and goals were shared.

Anne Klinger, a staff member in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education who attended last year’s Town Hall, said she felt the new strategic plan definitely reflected ideas expressed last year.

“I think that the committee looked at all the great ideas submitted and narrowed them down to these achievable ideals,” she said. “I am inspired by many of them and I can’t wait to see where we are at by the next Town Hall.”

Students in attendance expressed similar hopefulness.

“The thing I most look forward to is achieving a goal within the people, places and resources pillar,” said Abigail Percy, a junior journalism major from Carthage. “I’d most definitely like to see more appreciation for theater and film.”

Logan Williamson, another junior journalism student from Byrum, said the academic excellence pillar is important to him.

“My hope is that as Ole Miss continues to grow, the campus culture will continue to evolve in order for everyone to rise,” he said.

The session was moderated by David Magee, longtime Oxford resident, Ole Miss alumnus and publisher of The Oxford Eagle.

“This is a moment when we all get to actively participate in the future of this great university,” Magee said. “We all love Ole Miss and everything that it has accomplished, but were poised to achieve more than we’ve ever dared to imagine.”

Vitter urged participants to recognize their responsibilities as Ole Miss Rebels and members of the state’s flagship university as they face the world’s many challenges.

“Being an Ole Miss Rebel means we stand up for one another, it means we do not shy away from difficult discussions, it means every voice matters and it means we move forward together in a shared vision for our future,” Vitter said.

Jon Meacham Challenges UM Graduates to Change Nation and World

Renowned intellectual delivered keynote address at 164th commencement Saturday

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter addresses graduates at the University of Mississippi’s 164th Commencement ceremony. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Acknowledging national and global challenges, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and presidential historian Jon Meacham urged University of Mississippi graduating seniors Saturday (May 13) to remain engaged, improve themselves and their communities, and shoulder responsibilities.

“As Americans, we face fundamental economic, political and moral challenges,” Meacham said during his address at the university’s 164th Commencement in the Grove.

“At its best, Ole Miss has armed you for what Oliver Wendell Holmes called the passion and action of the times. Your weapons are the elements that form this school’s sure foundation: grace and strength and love.”

A former editor of Newsweek and a contributor to Time and The New York Times Book Review, Meacham is also a regular guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“I’d argue that graduates of Ole Miss are especially well-equipped to lead in epic times,” Meacham said. “You are graduating at a promising hour for our region: old barriers are falling away, new opportunities are opening up and, if we listen very closely, we can hear the music of Lincoln’s ‘better angels of our nature.’ Ole Miss has taught you how to hear those better angels.”

Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter introduced Meacham as “a celebrated writer, historian, editor, journalist and media figure.”

“At Ole Miss we have an impressive and long-standing tradition of bringing nationally and internationally renowned figures to campus for our commencement addresses,” Vitter said. “And this year is certainly no exception. Whether through his journalism, television appearances or by writing definitive historical biographies, Mr. Meacham consistently provides a clear and authoritative voice in national discussions.”

Underneath cloudy skies and amid cool breezes, thousands gathered for the occasion. Individual school ceremonies were slated for later in the day in The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Circle, Grove and other locations across campus.

Author and historian Jon Meacham delivers the address for the University of Mississippi’s 164th Commencement ceremony. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

Before Meacham’s speech, Saxon Nelson of Gulfport, a political science major and president of the 2017 senior class, announced his classmates have collected more than $8,100 as a donation to their alma mater.

“Over the past four years, I’ve witnessed many amazing things among us,” Nelson said. “All of these make me extremely optimistic about our future. Let’s hope for the best, prepare for the worst and enjoy what lies ahead.”

Referencing historical figures such as William Faulkner, William James and Abraham Lincoln, Meacham acknowledged the progress that has been made in human equality and envisioned future evolution in societal attitudes.

“To know what has come before, and to know how to think about seemingly disparate and distant events in relation to one’s own time and own complications is to be armed against despair,” Meacham said. “If men and women of the past, with all their flaws and limitations and ambitions and appetites, could press on through ignorance and superstition, racism and sexism, selfishness and greed to form a more perfect union, then perhaps we can, too.”

Meacham urged graduates to be questioning, be vigilant and to remember that the republic is only as good as the sum of all its people.

“Life is not a reality show, so pay attention,” he said. “And always remember, a life well-lived is not measured by the bottom line, but by the big picture.”

2017 University of Mississippi Commencement speaker Jon Meacham signs senior Austin Powell’s program following the ceremony on Saturday, May 13. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications.

This year’s graduating class included some 5,000 applicants for undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Attendees included Bill and Laurie Robinson of Raymond, who came to watch their oldest daughter, Meagan, graduate with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts.

“It’s been my dream forever for both our daughters to earn degrees from Ole Miss,” said Laurie Robinson, a nurse practitioner who graduated from the UM Medical Center. “Meagan’s sister, Mallory (a junior communicative disorders and sciences major), will graduate next year. We’re all extremely proud.”

Eugene Melvin of Brandon said it is “a proud moment” to see his wife, Arias, graduate with a specialist’s degree in educational leadership.

“She has always been in education,” said Melvin, who was in Oxford with other family members. “This degree will elevate her career and opportunities to a whole new level.”

Members of Corbin Tipton’s family came from Alfreda and Monroe, Georgia and from Kansas City, Missouri, to see her receive her degree in business administration.

“I’m so very proud of all of them,” said Charlotte Frary, Tipton’s grandmother. “Corbin’s the last of one of the four grands to complete her degree. She already has a job waiting, so this is great.”

Following the general ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and the Oxford campus’ eight schools held separate ceremonies to present baccalaureate, master’s, Doctor of Pharmacy and law diplomas.

Carlton Reeves, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, was the speaker for the School of Law. Retired advertising executive Steve Davis addressed the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

Recipients of doctoral degrees were honored at a hooding ceremony Friday evening in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, where three awards were presented by the Graduate School. The Group Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education went to the Department of Modern Languages. Cecille Labuda, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, received the Individual Award for Excellence in Promoting Inclusiveness in Graduate Education. Kelly Wilson, professor of psychology, was presented the Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring.

During Saturday’s ceremony, John Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry, was honored as the recipient of the 2017 Elise M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, presented annually to the campuswide outstanding teacher.

Alice M. Clark, vice chancellor of university relations, was named the recipient of the university’s 10th Distinguished Research and Creative Achievement Award. Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs, accepted the award on her behalf.

The university also recognized the winners of this year’s Frist Student Service Awards: Robert Brown, professor of political science; Donald Dyer, associate dean of the College of Liberal Arts and co-director of the Chinese Language Flagship Program; and Whitman Smith, director of admissions.

UM Moves Up in Measures of Academic and Research Performance

University included in several rankings of the nation's and world's best institutions

The University of Mississippi is ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Efforts by faculty, staff and students to excel in their pursuit of knowledge have given the University of Mississippi, the state’s flagship university, new momentum in its mission to lead the way in learning, discovery and engagement for the state and nation.

UM has been ranked among the nation’s best public institutions in several third-party evaluations of academic and research performance, and the university has climbed in recent measures of those areas.

In 2016, the university was included for the first time among the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the definitive list of the nation’s top doctoral research universities. UM is among a distinguished group of 115 institutions, including Harvard, MIT and Johns Hopkins in the highest research category, which includes the top 2.5 percent of institutions of higher education.

The university also achieved its highest-ever standing in the 2017 U. S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, where UM tied for No. 64 in the Top Public Universities category, up seven places from the previous year’s rankings. The rankings reflect 15 indicators of academic excellence, such as graduation and retention rates, undergraduate academic reputation, faculty resources, financial resources and alumni giving rates.

Chemical engineering students conduct an experiment. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“These achievements and rankings reinforce our flagship status and are a testament to the value of our degrees, the impact of our research and the competitiveness of our students, staff and faculty,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “While they provide important benchmarks for our university, we remain committed to achieving even higher levels of excellence.

“We will focus upon growing the reach and impact of Ole Miss to continue making a positive difference for Mississippi, our nation and the world.”

The university ranked in the top 20 percent of U.S. institutions for total research and development expenditures in a report issued by the National Science Foundation based upon 2015 expenditures. For the 10th consecutive year, the university was ranked in the top 20 percent in this report.

The university also performed well in the inaugural ranking of U.S. colleges and universities by The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education publications. This measure ranked UM 74th among all the nation’s public universities.

This ranking constitutes a comparative assessment of more than 1,000 colleges and universities, measuring factors such as university resources, student engagement, outcomes and environment. The latter includes a gauge of the university’s efforts to build a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff.

“Many of our academic offerings continue to gain exposure and recognition,” said Noel Wilkin, the university’s interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “I fully expect this trend to continue because of the quality and commitment of our faculty and staff.”

Success in international education and research partnerships contributed to the university’s standing on U.S. News’ 2017 list of Best Global Universities. Among the top 1,000 research universities in 65 countries, UM ranked in the top third on this year’s list.

Ole Miss students attending the PULSE Sophomore Leadership get to interact with Corporate Execs from FedEx, Hershey’s, Chico and others. PULSE is a two-day sophomore leadership workshop that brings together sophomore students from a variety of roles on campus to learn about themselves and their leadership potential. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

The Best Global Universities list ranks each institution’s international and regional research reputation, including a statistical analysis of peer-reviewed publications, citations and international collaborations. The university ranked in the top 10 percent in international collaborations, and the university’s research areas of physics and pharmacology/toxicology were ranked in the top 20 percent.

“The reputation of the university in national and international research circles has been steadily growing over the past few decades,” said Josh Gladden, interim vice chancellor for research and sponsored programs. “We have seen this trend through an increasing number of national leadership positions in societies and consortia, an increase in the number of grant awards, as well as in statistical reports such as U.S. News and World Report.

“It is an exciting time for the research community at the university, and I look forward to increasingly higher impact of UM research.”

U.S. News and World Report ranked two of the university’s graduate academic programs in the top 25 nationally among public universities: the online MBA program (No. 19) and pharmacy (No. 23). Here are some of the other U.S. News rankings of UM graduate programs among public universities:

  • School of Education online program (tied No. 35)
  • History (tied No. 48)
  • Master of Business Administration (tied No. 51)
  • English (tied No. 56)
  • Clinical psychology (tied No. 67)
  • Civil engineering (tied No. 70)
  • Education (tied No. 72)
  • Social work (tied No. 77)
  • Physics (tied No. 84)
  • Electrical engineering (tied No. 85)
  • Mathematics (tied No. 91)

In national rankings by other sources, the university achieved several additional accolades among all public and private universities:

  • Patterson School of Accountancy (all three degree programs ranked in the top 10 nationally by the journal Public Accounting Report)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy master’s and doctoral programs (No. 1 in SEC)
  • Patterson School of Accountancy undergraduate program (No. 2 in SEC)
  • Creative writing (No. 6 among “Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers” by CollegeMagazine.com)
  • Online health informatics undergraduate program (No. 3 by the Health Informatics Degree Center)
  • Business law program in the School of Law (one of only four schools to earn a perfect score of A+ by preLaw Magazine, ranking it as one of the country’s top programs)

The university’s efforts to achieve excellence in all its endeavors also has helped recruit talented students to learn and contribute on all its campuses. The Chronicle of Higher Education named the university as the nation’s eighth-fastest growing among public doctoral institutions in its Almanac of Higher Education, moving up from 13th in 2014.

The ranking is based upon enrollment growth from fall 2006, when the university enrolled 14,497 students, to fall 2016, with 24,250 students registered.

The university’s incoming freshmen continue to be better-prepared for the rigor of college, posting an average ACT score of 25.2 in fall 2016, surpassing the school record of 24.7 set in 2015. The high school GPA of incoming freshmen also increased, growing from 3.54 to 3.57, another university record.

“Ole Miss is committed to student success,” Vitter said. “The demand for a University of Mississippi degree is unprecedented, and the success of our programs and initiatives aimed at helping students stay in school and graduate is clear in our increasing retention and graduation rates.

“Each and every day, our faculty and staff demonstrate strong commitment to transforming lives through higher education.”

University Launches LiveSafe Mobile App

Resource available for free download for all students, faculty and staff

The LiveSafe mobile app is now available for the Ole Miss community. Photo by Mary Knight University Communcaitions

The LiveSafe mobile app is available for the Ole Miss community. Photo by Mary Knight/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has partnered with the mobile safety communications platform LiveSafe to offer Ole Miss students, faculty and staff a tool for real-time security communication.

The app, available for free download for iOS in the App Store and for Android on Google Play, will allow the campus community to report nonemergency tips including threats, disturbances, assaults, theft, stalking, suspicious activity, drug and alcohol abuse and traffic and parking issues, among others.

Users of the app can include a picture, video or audio clip when submitting their tip, which can be anonymous. Once someone reports a tip through the app, the appropriate department will respond based on the tip type. A chat option is also available through the app to allow direct and immediate communication with on-campus resource officers. Full instructions for the app are available at olemiss.edu/livesafe.

“We want everyone to download the app immediately and begin using it as a personal safety tool,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “Additionally, community members are always encouraged to report concerns to the police or other appropriate authorities so swift action can be taken.”

Another feature of the app is called SafeWalk, which allows users to virtually walk their families and friends home using GPS-enabled location technology.

Ole Miss students tested the app last week, noting the safety benefits of the various aspects of the app.

“I used to live on campus and walk long distances at night by myself, so it’s really nice to know that I can have friends keep an eye on me and they can call someone if I can’t,” said Elizabeth Romary, a senior international studies and Spanish major from Hillsborough, North Carolina.

LiveSafe was founded nearly five years ago by a survivor of the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech with the intent of fostering safe and secure campus environments. The app is used by more than 130 colleges and universities.

“LiveSafe is excited to partner with Ole Miss to take the important step of providing a groundbreaking safety and prevention tool for all students, faculty and staff,” LiveSafe CEO Carolyn Parent said. “Utilizing LiveSafe demonstrates Ole Miss’s commitment to safety and makes them a leader in the education market providing higher duty of care for their community.”

The university will use the app to send RebAlerts and safety information to the campus community.

UM also has launched a website called UMatter, which serves as a support site for students, faculty and staff to provide assistance to peers and colleagues who may be in distress. Through the website, individuals can report concerns or gain access to support for problems ranging from physical and mental health issues to financial hardships, and concerning behavioral issues and drug and alcohol abuse.

To view all available resources, visit http://umatter.olemiss.edu/.

UM Creative Writing Program Ranked Among Nation’s Top 10

Award-winning authors, talented students, unique opportunities key elements in latest recognition

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has just been ranked in the "Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers" by CollegeMagazine.com. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The UM Department of English and its MFA in Creative Writing Program, housed in Bondurant Hall, has been ranked among the 10 vest programs for aspiring writers by CollegeMagazine.com. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Less than a decade ago, the University of Mississippi was ranked as one of five “Up-and-Coming” Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing programs by The Atlantic magazine.

Apparently, the program is reaching its full potential, with UM recently being named a “Top 10 University for Aspiring Writers” by CollegeMagazine.com.

“I am extremely happy for our English department, MFA program and our current and former students,” said Derrick Harriell, assistant professor of English and MFA program director. “A lot of this foundation was laid well before I arrived here four years ago in Barry Hannah’s vision for the program, Beth Ann Fennelly’s dedication as our long-standing director and the full support of Ivo Kamps, our extremely supportive chair.”

At No. 6, the university is ahead of such prestigious rival institutions as the University of Virginia, Emory University, the University of Chicago and New York University. Ranked ahead of UM are Wesleyan University, the University of Washington, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University and the University of Iowa.

“Ole Miss boasts of notable alumni John Grisham and William Faulkner and tries to re-create the literary geniuses their programs housed in the past,” wrote CollegeMagazine.com author Isabella Senzamici. “The Creative Writing program admits only a small amount of students so each student receives optimal attention. Their student publication, The Yalobusha Review, an online journal that breaks the traditional norms of mainstream media, is considered one of the best student publications in the nation.”

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing Program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Acclaimed author Kiese Laymon is one of the newest hires in the MFA in Creative Writing program. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

UM students transform their passion for writing into a catalyst for social change, Senzamici wrote.

They teach community writing workshops, read at retirement homes and judge writing contests to help budding writers understand the value and impact of their words. Ole Miss equips students with the Oxford Conference for the Book, a program that puts writers and students in contact with an author they admire or helps market their writing collections.”

Kamps said he was excited to read the College Magazine piece because it confirms the upward trajectory of the university’s writing program.

“We have an extraordinary group of creative writers on the faculty, and our students know it,” he said. “Our entire faculty is dedicated to the success of the students. The recent addition of Kiese Laymon and Melissa Ginsburg only confirms that.”

While numbers and rankings aren’t everything, it does mean a lot for UM as a fairly young program, Hariell said.

“To be mentioned in the same breath as long-established programs is something we can hang our hat on,” he said. “Additionally, we can share this information with prospective students in hopes to continue improving our recruitment efforts.”

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

Renowned poet Melissa Ginsburg is also a new faculty member in the program.

The latest news comes as verification that UM’s program is doing everything right, Fennelly said.

“For many years, we’ve believed that what has been happening in our classrooms, with our students, is very, very special,” said the award-winning poet, professor of English and Mississippi poet laureate. “But of course, it’s nice to have the confirmation! All I know is, our mojo is working. And this year, I’m happy knowing in his (Harriell’s) hands, our program will grow even stronger.”

Poets and fiction writing students in the MFA program were also ecstatic to learn about the ranking.

“I’m not at all surprised to find Mississippi ranked so highly, but I’m absolutely thrilled by it, mostly because it’s a recognition of how hard our faculty and staff work to make this an incredible place to be educated as a writer, and of all the remarkable and exciting work my colleagues are doing,” said Molly Brown, a third-year poet from Amherst, Virginia.

“From the moment I arrived in Oxford, this place, and these people, have been on my team in every conceivable way. My colleagues and my teachers have made me want to be better and do better work every day.”

Fellow student Matt Kessler agreed.

“I knew I would receive a great writing education, but I didn’t realize just how much I’d also learn about literature and about how to teach,” said Kessler, a third-year fiction writer from Chicago. “That’s what I’m excited about: the quality of the writing that my classmates and teachers have shared with me.”

Since the Ole Miss program was launched in 2000, it has stayed small and selective, attracted outstanding students, retained its exceptional faculty and been supported financially by generous benefactors such as John and Renee Grisham.

For several years, students in the program have garnered inclusion in “Best New American Voices,” an anthology of the best of fiction workshops across the country. Other student recognition includes the Association of Writing Programs Intro Award for Non-Fiction, the Iron Horse Discovery Award for Poetry, the Best American Poetry award and publication in a number of national magazines.

Locally, the MFA program was also awarded a Graduate Schools Diversity Award a couple of years ago.

For more information about the UM Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program, visit http://mfaenglish.olemiss.edu/.

Campus Event to Help Community Prepare for Disaster

Students urged to check out first-ever UM ReadyCampus on Wednesday

Mississippi's tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

Mississippi’s tornado season includes March, April and November. Photo by Robert Jordan UM Brand Photography Services

OXFORD, Miss. – As November approaches, the beginning of another tornado season threatens the South. On Wednesday (Oct. 19), an interactive campus disaster preparedness event will help University of Mississippi students and employees prepare for the worst.

ReadyCampus, a Federal Emergency Management Agencysponsored event, is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Ole Miss Student Union plaza. The event is designed to educate students, faculty and staff through interactive and informational booths as well as a disaster response vehicle.

“This is a campuswide preparedness event, and ReadyCampus is a keystone program for FEMA,” said Barbra Russo, the university’s emergency management coordinator. “They are excited we are hosting it for the first time at Ole Miss.”

Booth sponsors include the American Red Cross, National Weather Service Memphis, Oxford Police Department, Oxford Emergency Management, University of Mississippi Medical Center Emergency Management, Mississippi Department of Homeland Security, and the UM Emergency Management Services and Clinical-Disaster Research Center.

Stefan E. Schulenberg, UM professor of psychology and director of the Clinical-Disaster Research Center, conducted the most recent disaster preparedness survey this past spring.

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

Interactive and informational booths will be set up in front of the Student Union on October 19, from 11a.m.- 2p.m. for ReadyCampus, an effort to teach students about disaster preparedness. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

“It is through this kind of preparation that we can help people and communities to be empowered when adversity occurs on a large scale,” Schulenberg said. “We know from the data we’ve collected that many students at UM are not prepared for the wide range of disasters that may occur.”

Unknown to many UM students, Oxford is near the New Madrid earthquake fault. To promote earthquake awareness, the Great American ShakeOut Drill will occur the following day (Oct. 20) at 10:20 a.m.

The drill, occurring at universities, businesses and schools across the nation that day, will prepare students how to protect themselves and others, survive and recover rapidly.

“We are hoping to change the awareness by educating, motivating, and inspiring our students, as well as our faculty and staff,” Schulenberg said. “Disaster preparedness is something that we can do together as a means of building a stronger, more resilient community.”

For more information follow #ReadyRebs on social media or visit https://www.ready.gov/campus.

Sixteen UM Students Awarded Engineering Scholarships

Scholars are recipients of prestigious Brevard, John G. Adler and Harper Johnson awards

Sixteen UM freshmen have been awarded engineering scholarships this fall. They are (front row, from left: Katelyn Franklin, Olivia Lanum, Jordan Wescovich, Taylor Bush, Katie McLain, Maria Zamora, Sarah Berry, Lane Colquett, (back row, from left) Chris Zhao, James Spalding, Donald Hopper, John Owen Upshaw, Irwin Nelson, Brennan Canton, Alexander King and Cole Borek.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Sixteen UM freshmen have been awarded engineering scholarships this fall. They are (front row, from left: Katelyn Franklin, Olivia Lanum, Jordan Wescovich, Taylor Bush, Katie McLain, Maria Zamora, Sarah Berry, Lane Colquett, (back row, from left) Chris Zhao, James Spalding, Donald Hopper, John Owen Upshaw, Irwin Nelson, Brennan Canton, Alexander King and Cole Borek.Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Sixteen University of Mississippi students have been named as recipients of major scholarships this fall in the School of Engineering.

Representing Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, they are this year’s Brevard, John G. Adler and Harper Johnson scholars. This exceptional group of students posted an average ACT score of 32.3 and an average 3.92 high school grade-point average.

“Each year, our incoming classes increase in quality and quantity,” Dean Alex Cheng said. “These students are just a sample of the outstanding students choosing to enroll at the university and pursue a degree within the School of Engineering.”

“Receiving the Brevard scholarship is really what sealed the deal for me,” said Jordan Wescovich, a chemical engineering major from Ocean Springs. “I realized that Ole Miss engineering really wanted me in Oxford, and that the flagship university is where I truly belonged.

“I knew that engineering at Ole Miss would give me the attention and tight-knit community that I would need to succeed. The uniqueness of Ole Miss’s engineering program appealed to me much more than being just another number in a huge engineering program.”

A National Merit Finalist, Wescovich was named salutatorian and STAR student at St. Martin High School. She was junior class president, captain of the quiz bowl team and member of the golf team. She is also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Additional recipients of the Brevard Engineering Scholarship are Sarah Kathryn Berry of Brandon, Brennan Canton of Jackson, Katelyn Franklin of Ocean Springs, Alexander King of Booneville, Olivia Lanum of Brandon, James Spalding of Gulfport, John Owen Upshaw of Vicksburg and Yucheng “Chris” Zhao of Oxford.

Berry participated in the 2015 Lott Leadership Institute from Northwest Rankin High School, where she was named to the Hall of Fame. She was captain of the swim team and vice president of the National Honor Society. She is pursuing a degree in general engineering as a member of the Honors College.

Canton was a member of the National Honor Society at Jackson Academy as well as the JA football, soccer and cross country teams. He was also a participant in the 2015 Heads in the Game summer research program at Ole Miss. He plans to pursue a degree in general engineering.

Franklin was home-schooled and participated in the 2016 National SeaPerch Challenge underwater robotics competition and the 2016 Science and Engineering Apprenticeship Program at the Stennis Space Center. She will pursue a degree in mechanical engineering as part of the Honors College and the Center for Manufacturing Excellence program.

Named STAR student at New Site High School, King was a member of the Technology Student Association and attended Mississippi Governor’s School. He plans to study computer science as part of the Honors College.

Lanum was home-schooled and earned membership in Eta Sigma Alpha honor society and the National Society of High School Scholars. Active in the FIRST Robotics Competition, she received the Robot Design Award and has volunteered in various roles with the organization. She is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering in the CME and is a Provost Scholar.

Spalding ranked sixth in his class at Gulfport High School, where he received the AP Scholar Award. He was also a member of the National Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and the golf team. He plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College and the CME.

Upshaw, a graduate of St. Aloysius High School, served as treasurer of the National Honor Society, secretary of the Key Club and captain of the football and basketball teams. He also received the St. Aloysius Service Award. He is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Commended Scholar and AP Scholar, Zhao was co-captain of the Science Olympaid team at Oxford High School. He was also a member of the Math and Science Club and debate team. He plans to pursue a degree in computer science as part of the Honors College.

Recipients of the Adler Engineering Scholarship are Donald Hopper of Oxford, Alabama; Katie McLain of Alexandria, Louisiana; Irwin Nelson of Hattiesburg; and Maria Zamora of Clinton.

Salutatorian of his class at Oxford High School, Hopper attended Alabama Boys State and participated in Youth Leadership Calhoun County. He was a member of the varsity baseball team. He is pursuing a degree in general engineering as part of the Honors College.

An AP Scholar, McLain graduated in the top 10 percent of her class at Alexandria Senior High School. She was a member of the student council and the cheerleading squad. She plans to pursue a degree in geological engineering as part of the Honors College.

A National Merit Commended Scholar, Nelson served as president of the Latin Honor Society and was a member of the cross country, track and soccer teams. He is pursuing a degree in general engineering.

Zamora ranked fourth in her class and served as vice president of the National Honor Society at Clinton High School and participated in the Mississippi Math and Science Tournament. She is planning to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Recipients of the Harper Johnson Engineering Scholarship are Brandon Cole Borek of Senatobia, and Taylor Bush and Virginia Lane Colquett, both of Greenwood.

A graduate of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, Borek served as an MSMS emissary and an SGA senator for two years. He also received the Spirit of MSMS Award. He plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as part of the Honors College.

Bush graduated from Pillow Academy, where she was valedictorian and STAR student. She was a member of Young Emerging Leaders of Leflore and also named to the Hall of Fame. She plans to pursue a degree in chemical engineering as a Provost Scholar.

Ranked in the top 10 percent of her class, Colquett graduated from Pillow Academy as a member of MAIS National Honor Society and the Hall of Fame. She served as president of Mu Alpha Theta and the Junior Engineers, Technicians and Scientists Club. She is pursuing a degree in general engineering as a Provost Scholar.

Campaign Honors Chancellor through Academic Support

'Invest in Ole Miss' celebrates a new era under Vitter's leadership

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The new Invest in Ole Miss campaign honors Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who enjoys spending time with students over breakfast. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A new fundraising campaign – Invest in Ole Miss – is celebrating a University of Mississippi milestone while building support for academics.

Campaign administrators say Invest in Ole Miss honors the Nov. 10 investiture of Jeffrey S. Vitter, the university’s 17th chancellor, by increasing resources in the Ole Miss Fund, the reserve of unrestricted financial contributions that supports the university’s schools and colleges at the deans’ discretion.

The campaign welcomes Vitter in this new chapter in the life of the university, recognizing the growth and progress taking place, said Barbara Daush, regional development officer at the UM Foundation.

“The Invest in Ole Miss campaign capitalizes on Chancellor Vitter’s first year,” she said. “We wanted to use the themes of his investiture to commemorate the new, exciting opportunities that it brings.

“Annual giving is the foundation of all giving for the university, a way to engage all donors to invest in the needs of the institution. This year, we decided to utilize the crowdfunding platform Ignite Ole Miss to attract support for the Ole Miss Fund.”

Specifically, contributions will help increase educational opportunities, employ new faculty and form on-campus programs.

“Private giving, especially in the form of unrestricted support, is critical to the day-to-day operation and progress of our university,” said Noel Wilkin, senior associate provost. “This new era in the history of Ole Miss provides the perfect opportunity to engage our ever-generous alumni and friends.”

Addi McNutt, a junior mechanical engineering major from Decatur, Alabama, said she chose to attend Ole Miss after being offered a scholarship funded by a private gift from UM benefactors.

“It speaks volumes to have such a nationally recognized academic leader like Chancellor Vitter invested in the well-being of Ole Miss students,” McNutt said. “His time at our university will be a milestone for us in terms of continued growth and greater unity on the Oxford campus.”

Ignite’s crowdfunding platform enables donors to support the university by offering support to specific needs on campus.

“By contributing to the Invest in Ole Miss campaign through Ignite, alumni and friends can take an active role in the future of the university and celebrate our new leader and his family,” said Angie Avery, project director.

“This is an exciting time at the university, and there is unlimited potential when we come together with our gifts to bolster programs. We encourage everyone to participate and we thank those who already have.”

Thirteen giving levels were designated to reflect points of interest about the chancellor and the university, Avery said. For example, donors could contribute $17 in honor of Vitter becoming the university’s 17th chancellor, $500 to commemorate his 500+ connections on LinkedIn or $1029 to mark the day (Oct. 29, 2015) Vitter was named chancellor.

For more information on Invest in Ole Miss, visit Ignite Ole Miss or contact Avery at aavery@olemiss.edu.

The public investiture formally marking Chancellor Vitter’s leadership of the university is set for 3 p.m. Nov. 10 in the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts. To find out more, visit http://inauguration.olemiss.edu.

Students Gain Valuable Experience During Summer in Bolivia

Croft Institute, sociology and anthropology faculty start field school as study abroad opportunity

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between the University of Mississippi and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

Founded in 2010, the Bolivia Field School is a partnership between UM and the Universidad Catolica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz.

OXFORD, Miss. – Eight University of Mississippi students immersed themselves in the culture and history of Bolivia this summer as they explored ethnography, the study of the customs of people groups and cultures, and social scientific methods, all against the backdrop of the Andes Mountains.

Victoria Burrow, a junior from Pascagoula; Allie Gersdorf, a senior from Grossenaspe, Germany; Andrew Hayes, a senior from Saltillo; Caroline Malatesta, of Lyon, who graduated in August; Sarah Meeks, a junior from Madison; Thomas Moorman, a senior from Madison; Lizzy Pitts, a senior from Indianola;  and Alexis Smith, a junior from Picayune, spent four weeks in the South American nation.

Their time there included intensive hands-on training in the social scientific and ethnographic fields under the supervision of Kate M. Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies, and Miguel Centellas, Croft instructional assistant professor of sociology.

“Bolivia is a fascinating place, very dynamic and diverse, so there are plenty of opportunities for a range of interests,” Kate Centellas said. “We also strongly value service learning and international experience, and we were particularly happy that a partner NGO, Fundación Suyana, took us to visit some of the families in the rural Altiplano that had benefited from their health promotion projects.

“This visit was powerful for our students and made the importance of social science research real for them in terms of how it can be applied to impact peoples’ lives for the better.”

The Bolivia Field School allows students to travel to La Paz, conduct individual research and study the politics, history and culture of the Andes through active and experimental learning.

The UM students used the Bolivia culture as a case study. Specifically, they studied the impact and implications Spanish colonization had on the culture and languages of South America.

The experience was particularly fulfilling for Pitts, who is majoring in Spanish and liberal studies with minors in society and population health, biology, and chemistry. Because Pitts is from the “flatlands of the Mississippi Delta,” she always found mountains appealing, and that is what initially drew her to the Bolivia program, she said.

The campus culture at Ole Miss prepared her well for studying abroad, Pitts said.

“It taught me to love strangers more than I thought was possible; to embrace others for who they are despite our differences in political views, race, gender identification, sexual orientation or religion,” she said. “It taught me how to find joy in the difficult times when we blew big football games; it taught me to listen when others are speaking; it taught me to deal with adversity and move forward confidently.

“All of my experiences helped prepare me because Ole Miss prepares you for life outside of school and our quaint bubble of Oxford.”

Kate and Miguel Centellas founded the Bolivia Field School, which they co-run, in 2010. The school is in partnership with UM and the Universidad Católica Boliviana Social Science Field School in La Paz, where Miguel Centellas serves as the co-director of the joint program.

“The field school in La Paz, Bolivia, is an excellent study abroad opportunity for students who wish to gain hands-on research training in a range of social scientific research methods,” said Kirsten Dellinger, UM chair and professor of sociology and anthropology. “This program reflects our dedication to in-depth methodological training, engaged learning and global citizenship.”

The program’s goal is to provide students with firsthand experiences with archives, nongovernmental organizations and research institutions while developing a research project, Kate Centellas said.

The work “is a shining example of the role faculty should be playing in university efforts to internationalize our curriculum,” Dellinger said.

The Croft Institute for International Studies, where both professors work, is a rigorous undergraduate program geared for students majoring in international studies and who are interested in developing an understanding extending beyond the borders of the United States.

Students choose a foreign language to specialize in, then a corresponding region and finally a focus, such as economics, politics or culture. Students in Croft are required to study abroad in their country of study for a semester.

Both Kate and Miguel Centellas are working to return to Bolivia in summer 2017 and include new opportunities for students, such as working in a rural health clinic.

Any undergraduates interested in the Bolivia Field School should contact Kate or Miguel Centellas at kmcentel@olemiss.edu or mcentell@olemiss.edu. Information can also be found at the Study Abroard office in Martindale Hall.