UM Granted Prestigious Arabic Flagship Program

University is home to two Language Flagship programs

The University of Mississippi has been awarded an Arabic Flagship Program, a program designed to graduate students with a commanding fluency level in a language critical to U.S. competitiveness and security. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi is one of two new recipients of an Arabic Flagship Program, an esteemed language program for undergraduate students available only at select higher education institutions.

Launched in 2002, The Language Flagship programs are sponsored by the National Security Education Program, a federal initiative with the purpose of creating a wider and better-qualified pool of U.S. citizens with foreign language and international skills.

The languages offered through 31 Flagship programs at 21 institutions of higher education are Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian and Turkish.

The Arabic Flagship Program is the second Language Flagship program at UM. The university’s Chinese Language Flagship Program was established in 2003.

“UM is now a de facto hub of critical language learning in America,” said Allen Clark, associate professor of Arabic and co-director of the university’s Arabic Flagship Program. “We believe we have the No. 1 Chinese and Arabic Flagship programs in the U.S., unrivaled.

“Because of this, we will be able to recruit a stronger pool of language learners who have the ambition and determination to make positive changes in all sectors – public and private – to include American foreign policy through a well-grounded, balanced view of the developing situation in the Arab region.”

The first year of the two-year grant is for $274,999.41. An estimated $325,000 is expected for the second year. The funds will allow UM to scale up its existing Arabic Language Program by hiring new faculty, adding courses and increasing funding for study-abroad opportunities.

“When we started the Arabic program back in 2008, we set up the Arabic program always with the idea that this would become a Flagship,” said Daniel O’Sullivan, a French professor and chair of the Department of Modern Languages, which houses the two Flagship programs.

“We were modeling the Arabic program on the Chinese Flagship that we had, and we believe that we’ve had a Flagship-quality program for years now.”

The rigorous selection process includes a 100-page application, which contains a 25-page narrative, biographical information for faculty and staff, budget estimates, curriculum details, letters of support and more.

“The designation of our second flagship language program is a testament to the University of Mississippi’s sustained leadership in the field of international education,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “It aligns perfectly with our goals as a flagship university and furthers our reputation as a hub for student international experience and language immersion.

“It will also contribute to our efforts of creating a strong pool of proficient professionals for our increasingly global world.”

The Language Flagship programs are designed to graduate students with a commanding fluency level in a language critical to U.S. success and security.

“These are programs across the United States that have agreed to engineer their curricula in a way to take students in their programs to a very high proficiency level,” said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs in the College of Liberal Arts and distinguished professor of Russian and linguistics. Dyer also is co-director of UM’s Arabic and Chinese Language Flagship Programs.

The Flagship programs attract the best and brightest students, Dyer said.

“The students in our programs are from all over the United States,” he said. “They have extraordinary academic profiles. … They are really top-notch students. They are aggressive risk-takers who are willing to go for it. … They are a real credit, a real asset to the university.”

The Arabic Flagship Program at UM will be a scaled-up version of the Arabic language program, directed by Allen S. Clark, associate professor of Arabic. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

The UM Chinese Language Flagship Program has about 60 students enrolled, and projections for the Arabic Flagship Program call for about the same number once the program matures.

“I am so pleased that we are now able to offer all of the benefits of an Arabic Language Flagship Program to our students,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “The quality of our Chinese Language Flagship Program has consistently demonstrated the commitment that our faculty and staff have to language instruction.

“Adding the Arabic Language Flagship Program dramatically expands the opportunities for our students and validates the quality of faculty who teach Arabic.”

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Arabic has more than 290 million native speakers worldwide and millions of others with some fluency, making it one of the world’s five most-spoken languages.

The Language Flagship states that students who possess superior proficiency language skills in one of the specified languages are afforded intercultural insights that aid them in their careers, whether it is in government, business, nonprofits or other fields.

Cynthia Bauer, an Arabic and international studies major from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said she took an Arabic language class in middle school and high school and enjoyed it so much that she decided to devote more time to it at Ole Miss.

“Majoring in Arabic at the University of Mississippi was a great decision for me because the teachers and my peers really push me to excel and to use the language in ways that I couldn’t imagine before,” said Bauer, who will be a senior this academic year. “I plan on using my Arabic skills for both reading Arabic literature and doing ethnographic research in the future.

“Studying in the Arabic Language Program at the University of Mississippi has brought me to a level in my Arabic speaking skills where I’m able to have a conversation in Arabic with anyone on the street, and will be hugely important for my career in the coming years.”

UM Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents Sets Goals, Agenda

New campus organization seeks to provide voice, support for families of the imprisoned

Deetra Wiley (left), adviser for Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents, and Asya Branch, the group’s president, share their stories during the kickoff meeting in the Guyton Hall Annex. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – A new University of Mississippi student organization is aiming high in its efforts to help the families of imprisoned men and women.

Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents officially launched April 17 with dozens of people from campus and the local community in attendance. During the hourlong meeting in the Guyton Hall Annex, SCIP leaders presented the group’s goals and agenda.

“My objective in forming this group is to help support children from families like mine,” said Asya Branch, a junior integrated marketing communications major from Booneville and SCIP president. Branch shared her own story of growing up while her father served a prison sentence.

“It was a really tough situation to deal with,” she said. “I experienced instability, low self-esteem and emotional distress. It’s important to let others like myself know that they can overcome all these things. I want to give them hope and encouragement.”

SCIP membership is limited to Ole Miss students, faculty or staff with an interest in helping children and youth develop their full potential and agree to volunteer in one or more of the organization’s activities. Members aim to achieve these goals through education, career programs, character leadership, health, life skills and the arts.

“The response to SCIP so far has been overwhelming,” said Deetra Wiley, applications analyst/business communications specialist in the UM Office of Information Technology and SCIP adviser. “Other student organizations, the McLean Institute, the Counseling Center and people from the surrounding area have all voiced their interest and promised to help.

“I’d love to see this become a movement that spreads around the globe.”

Branch became interested in starting the new group after she met several others on campus who either had similar experiences or knew families who did.

“Service is one of my passions,” said Branch, voted 2018 Most Beautiful at the university. “Having the opportunity to serve those who have been through the same or similar circumstances as myself allows me to truly connect and make a difference.”

Attendees at the SCIP kickoff responded enthusiastically to the group’s agenda.

“This issue impacts thousands of families, regardless of race, education or economic status,” said Lee Dean, manager of technology and interactive services for UM’s division of outreach and continuing education. “The entire community needs to embrace this effort and work together to help alleviate the stigmas and to break the generational cycle of incarceration.”

Randall Rhodes, adjunct professor of legal studies, delivered the keynote address via Adobe Connect, sharing information about his work in Missouri with disadvantaged youth and children of imprisoned parents.

“According to information found at the Rutgers University Resources Center, one in 28 children in Missouri is impacted by incarcerated parents,” Rhodes said. “In Mississippi, there are more than 55,000 children of incarcerated parents. Of that figure, one in nine African-American children is impacted.

“Clearly, there is much work to be done in both these states alone.”

As awareness continues to increase, more SCIP meetings will be scheduled to identify Ole Miss students who need support and encouragement, as well as children in the community. Other SCIP officers include vice president A’mya Jones, a sophomore theater arts major from Crystal Springs, and treasurer Vinesh Patel, a sophomore exercise science major from Booneville.

“We plan to start with going into the local schools and meeting with these children,” Wiley said. “From there, we can determine what their needs are and meet them, whatever they might be.”

As a contestant for Miss Mississippi (a preliminary to the Miss America competition), Branch said she continues to visit schools, civic groups and churches sharing her story.

“I’ve even gone to a women’s correctional facility and spoken to them about how they can’t stop parenting just because they’re behind bars,” Branch said. “With help from others, we provide these women with paper, pencils, envelopes and stamps so that they can write to their children regularly.”

For more information about Serving Children of Incarcerated Parents, contact, Aysa Branch at or Deetra Wiley at

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.

UMMC Earns National Telehealth Center of Excellence Designation

The standard of care and record of leadership at the Center for Telehealth has led to UMMC being named a Telehealth Center of Excellence. UMMC photo by Joe Ellis

JACKSON, Miss. — For 14 years, the Center for Telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has been a national trailblazer in providing high-quality health care, especially for those with little access to both primary and specialty services.

Its leadership, body of work and mastery of telecommunications technology is being recognized by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The Medical Center has been designated one of two Telehealth Centers of Excellence, the agency’s top award given only to programs at public academic medical centers.

“The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s successful program is already a model for national telehealth expansion,” said U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss. “As a Center of Excellence, UMMC will be able to demonstrate to a broader audience how to use telehealth to increase patient access to care and decrease costs.

“Mississippians can be proud that our state’s telehealth investments have set a high standard for improving health care everywhere.”

The recognition from the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was announced during an Oct. 5 news conference in Washington. It includes an initial $600,000 in funding, with the opportunity for an additional $2 million over two years.

The designation allows UMMC’s Center for Telehealth to serve as a national clearinghouse for telehealth research and resources, including technical assistance to other telehealth providers.

The Center for Telehealth connects patients and caregivers to Medical Center health care providers remotely, in real time, using video calls and interactive tools. More than 500,000 patient visits in 69 of the state’s 82 counties have been recorded since the center began with just three sites, expanding to more than 200 sites today, not including the homes of patients.

“UMMC’s selection as a national Telehealth Center of Excellence is affirmation of our mission and responsibility to bring high-quality health care to all Mississippians, especially those in rural, underserved areas,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, UMMC vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“We look forward to using our experience to help advance best practices for this increasingly vital service.  I’m grateful for Senator Cochran’s support of our application.”

The Medical University of South Carolina was also selected as a Telehealth Center of Excellence.

Mississippians will directly benefit from the honor, said Michael Adcock, the Center for Telehealth’s executive director who joined the operation in 2015. The designation “sets us apart. We were selected because we have one of the most comprehensive telehealth programs in the country.”

Adcock said the designation allows the center to focus on four work areas: assessing the impact of telehealth on health care spending; creating new and/or refining payment methods; improving physician and patient awareness; and expanding its overall research portfolio.

“While our center has been able to show some impressive outcomes, we have not had the staff to focus on researching telehealth delivery models and outcome comparisons,” Adcock said.

“That is vital work that needs to be done, and we are well positioned to do it.  This funding and designation will allow us to build on our comprehensive program and develop the research to support further changes in models of delivery.”

The Telehealth Center of Excellence honor brings with it the responsibility to create a new knowledge base for telehealth through research, said Dr. Richard Summers, UMMC professor of emergency medicine and associate vice chancellor for research. 

The grant funding “will help UMMC to build the infrastructure for research in telehealth and allow us to bring a national leadership to this emerging special area of medical practice,” he said.

The Center for Telehealth provides remote, on-site access to caregivers in more than 35 specialties, including urgent care, trauma, mental health, dermatology, cardiology, infectious diseases, and Alzheimer’s and dementia care.  Pediatric telehealth specialties include remote concussion evaluation, cardiology, neurology, psychiatry, genetics and urology.

Telehealth nurse practitioners are stationed in the emergency departments of 17 rural Mississippi hospitals to treat patients via a multidisciplinary team that includes a certified emergency medicine physician on the UMMC campus.

And, the center recently debuted its “UMMC 2 You” online minor medical care program offered throughout Mississippi to those who are on the state employee insurance plan and their families. It’s also offered through select schools and companies.

“Our drive to address health care challenges with innovation is what has allowed us to be recognized as a leader in telehealth, nationally and internationally,” Adcock said.

Former State Supreme Court Justice Supports Law Students

Reuben Anderson hopes gift will help develop future leaders

Reuben and Phyllis Anderson. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – Continuing his legacy of support to the University of Mississippi, retired state Supreme Court Justice Reuben Anderson’s most recent gift will provide scholarships for full-time law students.

Since becoming the first African-American graduate of the UM School of Law in 1967, Anderson and his wife, Phyllis, have committed more than $200,000 to the law school, to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation and to the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“The law school gave me so much. If it wasn’t for the law school, I probably wouldn’t be a lawyer. The people I had contact with when I was there played a major role in my life and I want them to be remembered,” said Anderson, specifically naming Josh Morse, former law dean.

“But probably more than anything else, I think it’s important that the law school stay strong, attract Mississippians and develop our leaders for the future. They’ve always done that and a little help on the scholarship end can be beneficial. I think it’s important that we continue to attract people to stay in Mississippi and not leave.”

Anderson is a senior partner at the Phelps Dunbar LLP law firm in Jackson. He attended Jackson public schools and earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Tougaloo College in 1964 before enrolling in law school. In 1967, he was admitted to the Mississippi State Bar.

His professional experience includes serving as Mississippi associate counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc. in 1967-75; a partner with Anderson, Banks, Nichols & Stewart, 1968-77; municipal judge for the city of Jackson, 1975-77; county court judge for Hinds County, 1977-82; judge for the Seventh Circuit Court District of Mississippi, 1982-85; Mississippi Supreme Court justice, 1985-90; and the Jamie L. Whitten Chair of Law and Government at UM, fall 1995.

“All of it can be attributed to the fact that I got a solid legal education at the Ole Miss law school,” Anderson said. “I’ve always thought the law school was a great institution. I think it’s world-class. It has a great faculty and leadership and a great incoming new dean.”

Dean Susan Duncan said she is grateful for Anderson and other alumni and friends who choose to support the school.

“We are so appreciative of Reuben Anderson and his support to the law school,” she said. “Gifts like his enable us to offer scholarships to our students, which help alleviate the financial burden of a legal education. Mr. Anderson is truly making a difference with his contribution.”

Anderson received a wealth of recognitions throughout his legal career. Among others, he is the first African-American to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court and the first African-American president of the Mississippi Bar, and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America.

He was inducted into the National Bar Association Hall of Fame in 2009, the UM School of Law Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame in 1995. He was presented the Mississippi Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007 and is the namesake for the Reuben V. Anderson Pre-Law Society at Tougaloo College. He also provided leadership as president of the state Chamber of Commerce in 2001 and as a member of the UM Foundation board of directors.

Anderson has served on the boards of directors of AT&T in Dallas; The Kroger Co. of Cincinnati; MINACT Inc. and Trustmark National Bank, both in Jackson; Mississippi Chemical of Yazoo City; Burlington Resources of Houston, Texas; and BellSouth in Atlanta.

Anderson is a member of the 100 Black Men of Jackson and the U.S. Supreme Court, the American, Mississippi, Hinds County, Magnolia, National and U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals bar associations.

The Andersons have three children – Vincent, Raina and Rosalyn – and two grandchildren, James and Anderson.

“We are at a time when private support is essential for law students and ultimately the stability of the law school itself,” said Suzette Matthews, the school’s development officer. “Mr. Anderson’s vision for the future will impact the lives of hundreds of law students and help to shape law practice in Mississippi in the future. We are deeply grateful for his generous support.”

Individuals and organizations may make gifts to the Reuben V. Anderson Law Scholarship Endowment by mailing a check with the designation noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; visiting or contacting Suzette Matthews at 601-937-1497 or

UM Enrolls 23,780 Students for Fall Semester

State's flagship increases Mississippi residents in freshman class

Freshmen throw up the Landshark sign during the University of Mississippi’s Fall Convocation. The university enrolled 3,697 freshmen this fall and 23,780 students overall. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi has registered 23,780 students across all its campuses, the state’s largest total enrollment, for the fall semester. This includes a freshman class with a larger proportion of Mississippi residents than last year’s.

Enrollment at the state’s flagship university reflects a strategy aimed at balancing incoming classes to be more representative of its home state by concentrating recruiting efforts in-state and raising out-of-state academic requirements.

“We are so pleased to welcome our newest freshmen and transfer students who will contribute to our ever-increasing academic excellence, stellar learning environment and outstanding college experience,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “As we remain committed to offering a flagship education, we will also continue to manage our growth with great care.”

This year’s freshman class of 3,697 students includes a greater percentage of Mississippi residents, 45.4 percent – a 2.5 percent increase over last year. It also has a higher percentage of minorities, 21.2 percent, than last year’s entering class.

Growth in both areas reflects a strategy aimed at aligning enrollment with the university’s core mission of educating Mississippians, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs.

“We have focused on recruiting more Mississippi students, through our general admissions programs, our MOST mentoring program and hosting important programs such as the American Legion’s Boys State,” she said. “It is rewarding to see growth in these areas through our concerted efforts.”

To help accommodate an Oxford campus population that has increased by 62 percent over the past decade, the university has been renovating buildings and constructing new facilities. The university has some $400 million worth of construction recently completed, in progress or on the drawing board. 

In recent weeks, a new 1,500-space residential garage, the renovated Gillom Women’s Sports Center and the expanded Student Union food court opened, providing new options for students. The food court is part of an ongoing $59 million expansion and renovation project that will increase the Student Union’s size from 97,000 to 173,000 square feet by 2019.

The university also is working on a new recreation center and transportation hub, a $32 million project on the south end of campus; a $23.5 million renovation and expansion of Garland, Hedleston and Mayes halls, which will provide a new home for the School of Applied Sciences and new classrooms; and renovation of public spaces and offices in Johnson Commons East.

“In orientation sessions, we talk about the Ole Miss family,” Hephner LaBanc said. “If we’re going to keep that feel on campus, we have to manage our growth and make sure students can navigate our campus easily and have access to the academic and co-curricular spaces that make them feel comfortable calling this home.”

Incoming freshmen posted an average ACT score of 25.04. The class’ average high school GPA of 3.59, up from last year’s 3.57, is a university record.

This year’s first-time students include 85 class valedictorians, 69 salutatorians, 89 student body presidents, 107 Eagle Scouts and 20 Girl Scouts who achieved the Gold Award, the organization’s highest youth honor.

The expanded Ole Miss Student Union, which opened for the fall semester, features dining options including Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Qdoba, Which Wich and McAlister’s Deli. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The freshman class also includes 10 recipients of Stamps scholarships, among the largest and most prestigious at Ole Miss. The Stamps Family Charitable Foundation is a national scholarship program that selects recipients for the awards based on their strong leadership potential, academic merit and exceptional character.

UM is among only 33 universities nationally in the Stamps program, and one of only six institutions with at least 10 scholars.

“Our university has a long history of attracting and developing outstanding student leaders and scholars,” said Noel Wilkin, interim provost. “We offer them valuable educational experiences and help them recognize and hone their talents.

“I look forward to seeing what this talented group of freshmen can accomplish. I fully expect them to have a tremendous influence on our local and global communities during their time here and beyond.” 

The university’s efforts to help new students adjust to college life and be successful – including FASTrack and the Freshman Year Experience program – also continue to pay dividends. Student retention remained near record levels, with 85.2 percent of last year’s freshmen returning to campus to continue their studies this fall.

Though the university receives an impressive number of nonresident applications, 12,399 for the fall semester alone, the majority of Ole Miss students, 60.2 percent, are from Mississippi, including students from all the state’s 82 counties.

The university also attracts students from around the nation and world. Overall, the student body includes representatives from every state and 86 foreign countries.

Minority enrollment totaled 5,526 students, or 23.2 percent. African-American enrollment is 3,011 students, or 12.7 percent of overall enrollment.

With an expanded building, the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College grew to 1,512 total students this fall, compared to 667 students just 10 years ago. Honors students are spread across 75 academic majors, ranging from biology to chemistry and from engineering to integrated marketing communications.

This fall, the Honors College limited its freshman class to 429 new students, with 57 percent being Mississippi residents. The class recorded an average ACT of 31.1 and an average high school GPA of 3.97.

“We continue to be impressed by the caliber and the grit of our honors students,” Dean Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez said. “They demonstrate the willingness to take risks and engage tough questions as citizen scholars. We could not be prouder.”

UM students Denesia Lee and Priscilla Sertorio discuss a business class project in the Circle. They are among 23,780 students enrolled this fall at the university. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

The university’s Provost Scholars program enrolled 831 talented freshmen with an average ACT of 28.64 and an average GPA of 3.84. The Provost Scholars program, which recruits and rewards high-achieving students with special seminars, workshops and other academic opportunities, includes 2,657 scholars from across campus.

The program, launched in 2010 with 394 students, has enjoyed rapid growth as the university attracts high-achieving students from across the state and nation.

“We are pleased that we now have over 2,600 students enrolled in our Provost Scholars program, which is geared toward offering valuable educational benefits to well-prepared students,” Wilkin said. “This and other programs are effective ways to help a larger university feel small for every student.”

Both the university’s accounting and journalism schools also welcomed larger student bodies this fall.

In the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, undergraduate enrollment increased 4.9 percent, growing from 1,486 students in fall 2016 to 1,557 this year.

Enrollment in the Patterson School of Accountancy grew 4.6 percent, to 1,442 students this fall, compared to 1,379 last year.

“The Patterson School of Accountancy is excited about having our 12th consecutive all-time enrollment high this fall,” said Mark Wilder, the school’s dean. “We have high-quality programs that are consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally which are very attractive to students.

“In addition, our career opportunities are outstanding, with Ole Miss accountancy students receiving internships and full-time job offers throughout the state, region and nation.”

Fall enrollment at the university’s Medical Center is in line with national trends related to increased employment opportunities. Thanks to increased space in the new School of Medicine building, which opened in August, the school admitted a record class of 155 first-year medical students, up from 145 last year.

School officials plan to admit 165 medical students next year as part of a strategy to meet a goal of training 1,000 new physicians by 2025. Overall School of Medicine enrollment increased from 577 in 2016 to 597 this fall.

“Medical students in Mississippi have trained in the same spaces since 1955,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “A lot has changed since then and this new building is a state-of-the-art reflection of that change.

“The additional space will accommodate larger classes and help address the state’s need for more physicians. More physicians equal better health and greater economic impact in towns across Mississippi.”

Also at the Medical Center, the new John D. Bower School of Population Health, one of only three such programs nationwide, admitted its first cohort of five Ph.D. students in biostatistics and data science.

Much of the university’s success is due to the work and dedication of faculty and staff who deliver the very best academic programs at a competitive price, Vitter said.

“By focusing on excellence and accessibility, we have been able to create tremendous opportunities for all Mississippi students who qualify and for future scholars from around our state, the country and world,” he said.

For more information on enrollment and programs at UM, go to

Dedication of New Medical School Bodes Well for Health Care’s Future

Building will allow UMMC to increase class sizes, help fill state's need for new doctors

Johnny Lippincott, a fourth-year student in the UM School of Medicine, addresses a
crowd of dignitaries, students and faculty during dedication ceremonies for the new medical school.

JACKSON, Miss. – Elected officials and other dignitaries attending Friday’s (Aug. 4) dedication of the University of Mississippi’s new, $74 million School of Medicine building celebrated a new era in medical education and health care for the state.

The breadth of the 151,000-square-foot facility on the University of Mississippi Medical Center campus means more space for students, more students for each class and, consequently, more doctors for Mississippi.

“This remarkable building will be filled with students endowed with the seeds of greatness,” said Gov. Phil Bryant, who addressed a gathering of an estimated 200 officials, students, faculty members and other guests in the ground-level entrance lobby, before the formal ribbon-cutting.

The facility presents these students with “the greatest opportunity for success,” Bryant said.

Featuring the institution’s familiar, yellow-brick facade, the building’s five stories offer its students something they haven’t had for many years: a single, purpose-built facility, a home of their own.

Dr. Ford Dye, a member of the board of the State Institutions of Higher Learning, said, that as a graduate of the medical school in the 1990s, “I look around at this building and I realize my timing was bad.”

The medical students’ new home replaces a disjointed collection of accommodations and services, including classrooms, labs, lecture halls and training centers – a dispersal resulting from six decades of expansion.

“A glorious chapter is beginning in the history of education in Mississippi,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, vice chancellor for health affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“History is all around us and is part of this day. It reminds me that we are doing something important. … Something that future stories will be made of.”

The new School of Medicine stands five floors high and has square footage of about 151,000 feet.

For many of those who worked for and supported the construction of the building, this is part of the story that resonates the most: The dimensions allow for a boost in the size of each entering class, and larger classes mean more physicians will be trained each year in Mississippi, a fact noted by Jeffrey Vitter, UM chancellor.

Adding physicians to the state’s workforce, he said today, will “improve access to quality health care for the citizens of Mississippi.”

Mississippi ranks last, at roughly 185 doctors per 100,000 residents, as reported in 2015 by the Association of American Medical Colleges. The only other medical school in the state is at William Carey University in Hattiesburg, which opened in fall 2009 and awards the Doctor of Osteopathy degree, while the university’s offers the Doctor of Medicine, or M.D.

The hope is that many of the school’s graduates will stay in the state, which U.S. Rep. Gregg Harper encouraged them to do in his address: “I say this to the medical students, ‘There’s no place like Mississippi. … There’s no place better.'”

With the new school building, plans are to expand entering class sizes from around 145 students to 155, and to eventually top off at approximately 165 – the total considered necessary to meet the state’s goal of 1,000 additional physicians by 2025.

“This is a project that had unanimous support in the Mississippi Legislature,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “Everyone in the Legislature recognized the need.”

Located on the north side of the campus, between the Student Union and the Learning Resource Center, the site is the educational core of the Medical Center. The building’s neighbors include the schools of Dentistry, Pharmacy and the Health Related Professions, along with the emerging School of Population Health housed in the new Translational Research Center.

The two other schools represented on campus are nursing and graduate studies in the health sciences.

Financing of the new medical school included state funds and a $10 million Community Development Block Grant awarded through the Mississippi Development Authority and administered through the Central Mississippi Planning and Development District for site and infrastructure work.

Construction was the job of general contractor Roy Anderson Corp., headquartered in Gulfport. Two architectural firms worked in tandem: Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers P.A. in Jackson, and Eley Guild Hardy Architects P.A., which has offices in Jackson and Biloxi and designed the Robert C. Khayat Law Center in Oxford.

In Jackson, the task was to build and design the replacement for a school housed in the original Medical Center complex, which opened in July 1955 and, at 490,000 square feet, was considered one of the biggest, and most modern, buildings, in the state.

Over the years, demands for space grew, and, as the Medical Center spread out, the medical school splintered into a network of disconnected sites, including some makeshift offices and labs.

 On top of that, by the early 2000s, the AAMC had predicted a nationwide doctor shortage and asked medical schools across the country to pump up class sizes by about 30 percent. Accreditation standards were also changing, and in order to meet them, the School of Medicine would need more room, an increase and upgrade in simulation facilities, additional classrooms that accommodate interactive group learning, and more.

It was clear to Medical Center officials that a new, state-of-the-art facility was more likely to meet the future needs of medical students. A succession of vice chancellors, including Woodward, guided the venture, starting with Dr. Dan Jones and Dr. James Keeton.

Promoted by administrators as a potential economic development boon, the project gained the support of lawmakers and Bryant, who was lieutenant governor at the time.

After years of planning, UMMC officials staged a ceremonial groundbreaking Jan. 7, 2013 in the parking lot that has been transformed into a new medical school.

“Who would think you would have an emotion about a building?” said Keeton, a 1965 medical school alumnus who retired with emeritus status this year. One of those emotions is “joy,” he said today.

As for the new crop of medical students arriving next week, he said, recalling his own first days as a first-year medical student, “Let me tell you what their emotion is right now: fear.”

Students were among the members of a steering committee that brought back ideas from other medical schools when this one was being planned. For instance, the twin amphitheaters, which function as lecture halls, are modeled after Emory University’s and offer advanced AV equipment, integrated sound systems and sound-dampening features.

Overall, in the words of architect Rob Farr, the design is “student-focused.” The building’s southern face overlooks a courtyard and brings in natural light to student work and study areas.

The second level is organized for “student movement,” while the upper floors are focused on teaching stations and support areas that frame a space-organizing central atrium.

Some architectural details are homages to tradition, as well as to the medical profession: Certain areas are appointed with glass etched with rolling lines simulating an EKG; on the floor of the lobby where the dedication was held is a representation of the great seal of the university: a human eye surrounded by the sun; a wall of the student lounge is decorated with medical terms.

The cutting-edge simulation training area has a dedicated floor and was made possible in great part by nearly $5 million in grants from the Hearin Foundation. It is equipped with a mock operating theater – funded by the UMMC Alliance and the Manning Family Foundation – virtual reality spaces with high-fidelity task trainers, a clinical skills center, flexible-use spaces and more.

“Over the course of the next 50 years, we’re going to deliberately wear it out,” said Dr. Loretta Jackson-Williams, professor of emergency medicine and vice dean for medical education, referring to the building as a whole.

Fourth-year medical student Johnny Lippincott, president of the class of 2018, said he’s particularly proud of the way the building’s technological components are designed to be able to adapt to future updates.

In his remarks today, he also praised the facility’s spaciousness and homage to “natural light.”

Ultimately, though, he said, “This is all about what we do for our future patients.”

The upshot, from the ground up:

Ground floor: Office space, student lounge, cafe, storage lockers

First floor: Classrooms, group studies, twin amphitheaters, Legacy Wall (bearing the names of donors and relating the history of UMMC)

Second floor: Classrooms and group studies (mostly repeats first-floor layout)

Third floor: Basic and Advanced Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Training Center, wet and dry labs, training and group study rooms, expandable conference rooms

Fourth floor: Office of Interprofessional Simulation Training Assessment Research and Safety, exam and simulation rooms, Standardized Patient training (with actors who portray patients)

The public is invited to explore the building, 9 a.m.-noon Saturday during an open house with self-guided tours and hosts on each floor.

Team Effort Funds Improvements for Ole Miss Baseball

Bullpen Club makes major gift to upgrade Oxford-University Stadium

Ole Miss baseball players greet Rebel fans at Swayze Field. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – A ritual has emerged within Ole Miss baseball that compels the Rebels to pump their fists in unison to the beat of the 2007 hit song “Love is Gone.” Now, with a major gift, the sport’s fan base wants to show its players that the love is back.

The Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club has committed $150,000 toward Oxford-University Stadium enhancements primarily designed to benefit the student-athletes.

“As a former player and coach, I’m happy to see these improvements being made on behalf of the players,” said Matt Mossberg, associate athletics director for development and major gifts. “Everyone knows the allure of Swayze Field, and the previous enhancements to the stadium have been crucial to that fan experience.

“Personally, I am extremely excited to help in the effort to improve the space our talented coaches and student-athletes work in every day.”

Thanks in part to the Bullpen Club’s gift, players will soon enjoy a state-of-the-art locker room and team meeting room, new hitting and pitching facilities, weight room enhancements and more. The gift will also help fund the M-Club Rooftop Plaza, which utilizes space on top of the performance center for additional seating.

“When I arrived here in the summer of 2000, one of the first people I met was Ernie LaBarge, the president of the Bullpen Club,” said Mike Bianco, head baseball coach. “I knew I wanted Ernie and the Bullpen Club to be an integral part of the program.

“Ernie built the club to over 1,000 members before his passing and then the club was named in his memory. The ELBC has continued to be instrumental in our growth as a program, helping supplement our budget.”

A longtime friend of the university and Rebel fan, LaBarge died in March 2008.

Members of the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club present the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation with a $150,000 gift to be used for stadium enhancements that will benefit student-athletes. Submitted photo

Of the Bullpen Club’s gift, $100,000 was donated as part of the $200 million Forward Together campaign, which was launched in 2011 to strengthen Ole Miss athletics in its continuous commitment to excellence. The additional $50,000 is committed to support other baseball projects within the athletics department.

These team-related stadium enhancements are possible because of private giving, said Keith Carter, senior associate athletics director for development and executive director of the Ole Miss Athletics Foundation. Previous stadium renovations, such as the addition of the Diamond Club, were made possible by revenue-generating components, such as the sale of premium seats.

“While there are some new premium seats in this renovation, philanthropy is key to this whole project,” Carter said. “We needed people to step up and the Bullpen Club once again did that. I believe our players will be very grateful.”

For more information about the Forward Together campaign, contact Carter at, call 662-915-7159 or visit For more information about the Ernie LaBarge Bullpen Club, click here.

University of Mississippi to Purchase Property from Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi

Property provides UM with improved space allocation, addresses growth needs

The University of Mississippi and Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi announced Thursday, June 15 that they reached a purchase and sale agreement for the existing hospital property located at 2301 South Lamar Blvd. in Oxford.

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi and Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi are pleased to announce they have reached a purchase and sale agreement for the existing hospital property located at 2301 South Lamar Blvd.

The acquisition of the property will allow the university to address current space allocation challenges as well as future growth needs.

“The university is always examining how best to nurture and manage growth associated with strong demand for our academic programs,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “We will continue to focus the heart of campus on our core, academic functions.

“The purchase of this property allows us to provide improved space for our support units and other functions that serve external constituencies. It will also be a major factor in helping us effectively address our capacity for future growth.”  

Baptist North Mississippi is an acute care facility serving the northern third of Mississippi. One of the fastest-growing hospitals in the region, the new replacement hospital has been in planning since 2009. The new five-story hospital will have more comprehensive medical and surgical services to serve those in need and offer more convenience to patients and visitors.

“This was a very easy decision for us,” said Jason Little, president and CEO of Baptist Memorial Health Care. “We have been part of this community for nearly 30 years, and we have enjoyed a great relationship with the university during that time. We are proud to be able to help advance the university’s mission however we can.”

The new hospital represents one of the largest economic development projects in the history of Oxford and Lafayette County and will further position Baptist North Mississippi as a regional referral center, providing greater accessibility for patients and space to expand services for generations to come.

“On behalf of the Board of Aldermen and the city of Oxford, we are pleased with the Baptist North Mississippi and the University of Mississippi’s purchase and sale agreement,” Oxford Mayor Pat Patterson said. “We think it will serve our growing community well.

“This is a smart use of existing space, and we look forward to this transition. We are proud of these major milestones in our community.”

“This sale signifies a great partnership between the University of Mississippi and Baptist North Mississippi,” said Jeff Busby, president of the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors. “I think this will be a huge asset to this community, and I appreciate Baptist keeping us informed throughout this process.

“We are excited about both the opening of the new hospital and also the transformation of the Baptist property by the university.”

The agreement includes a lease-back to allow Baptist North Mississippi sufficient time to complete the move into its new facility, which is currently under construction. Baptist North Mississippi’s new hospital facility — expected to open in November 2017 — is located on an extension of Belk Boulevard that connects South Lamar Boulevard with Old Taylor Road, south of Highway 6.

“Throughout this process, our top priority was finding a new owner that would use the property for a cause that would benefit our city, and we believe the university is a perfect choice,” said Bill Henning, administrator and CEO of Baptist North Mississippi. “We look forward to seeing how the university will transform the facility and the positive impact it will have on our community.”

In 2016, The Chronicle of Higher Education named Ole Miss the nation’s eighth-fastest growing college among both public and private 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. Enrollment at the university has increased for 22 consecutive years.

“As the university continues to address the level and scope of our growth, we must manage the need for quality space,” said Larry Sparks, UM vice chancellor for administration and finance. “The acquisition of this property allows us to efficiently and cost-effectively address that challenge especially when taking into account the cost of new construction versus renovation. This purchase is good business and gives us capacity that has an economy of scale.”

The university, which has been planning for additional needed space on campus, will pay $22 million for the 15-acre site. Through effective resource management, the university is in a position to capitalize on the opportunity to purchase the Baptist North Mississippi property, which includes a 428,000-square-foot building, a parking garage with 670 parking spaces, 250 surface parking spaces and 75 underground parking spaces. The purchase of the property provides almost seven times more space than similar costs for new construction.    

The agreement was approved by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning at its June 15 meeting. Now the purchase agreement will be submitted to the city of Oxford and Lafayette County for their option to match under their right of first refusal. They will have 30 days to respond.


Pharmacy School Remembers Associate Dean Emeritus Charlie Hufford

Professor, researcher and administrator influenced many over 43-year Ole Miss career

Charlie Hufford

OXFORD, Miss. – Charles D. Hufford, associate dean emeritus for research and graduate programs and professor emeritus of pharmacognosy at the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy, died Monday (May 15) at the age of 72. His career at Ole Miss spanned 1972 to 2015.

Faculty and alumni remember him as an encouraging and effective leader who quietly supported the careers of many throughout his 43 years at the school. Colleagues called him trustworthy, competitive and energetic.

“Charlie was an incredibly talented, yet humble individual,” said David D. Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy. “He was the example of servant leadership, mentoring others so they could succeed while never seeking recognition for himself. He dedicated himself to serving the students and the school, and was responsible for many of the school’s achievements.”

Originally from Sycamore, Ohio, Hufford earned his pharmacy degree and Ph.D. from Ohio State University and served as a pharmacist in the Air Force Reserve before joining the UM faculty as an assistant professor of pharmacognosy in 1972.

He became chair of the Department of Pharmacognosy in 1987 and the school’s first associate dean for research and graduate programs in 1995. He retired Feb. 1, 2015, but still made time to visit with students and faculty.

During his time at the School of Pharmacy, Hufford was credited with transforming the school’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research, patenting compounds and helping to bring in more than $7.4 million in grants to the university.

He was instrumental in helping the school acquire eight nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy machines that identified complex natural products. This boosted the school’s drug and agrichemical discovery, which helped build the infrastructure necessary to make the school a leader in natural products research.

Charlie Hufford is remembered by colleagues as a dedicated teacher, administrator and researcher, who helped transform the UM School of Pharmacy’s natural compounds and drug metabolism research. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

One of Hufford’s signature initiatives was research aimed at removing side-effects of the antimalarial drug primaquine. Faculty and scientists at the school have continued this research, resulting in the school’s first-ever clinical trial on May 18, 2017, testing primaquine in human volunteers.

Another of Hufford’s accomplishments was updating the pharmacy curriculum to include information on dietary supplements several years before Congress passed the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in 1994 to regulate the supplement market. The National Center for Natural Products Research at the School of Pharmacy works closely with the FDA to determine the safety and legitimacy of dietary supplements.

Hufford also contributed countless hours to the renovation of the school’s Faser Hall facility. In 1999, then-dean Ken Roberts entrusted Hufford to oversee the project, and Hufford spent the next 14 years securing funds, working with builders and keeping records of the construction, all while maintaining his responsibilities as associate dean.

“He was by far one of the most dedicated and hard-working individuals I’ve ever been associated with,” Roberts said. “I have no doubt the School of Pharmacy rose in stature because of the untiring devotion of Dr. Charles Hufford and those who were influenced by his strong character and leadership.”

Hufford was an avid bowler who recorded more than 30 perfect games over his career.

Hufford was awarded for his accomplishments throughout his career, winning the 1994 School of Pharmacy Faculty Research Award and the 1995 Jack Beal Award for most distinguished graduate of the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy graduate program. He held leadership positions within the American Society of Pharmacognosy and was a fellow of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.

“It was such a pleasure and honor for me to work with Dr. Charles Hufford for 10 years,” said Barbara Wells, dean emeritus of the pharmacy school. “In all matters, his counsel was always informed and on-target, and his judgement was excellent.

“He worked hard to advance the School of Pharmacy, and he was just as committed to the mission and vision of the university. Unlike most leaders who step away from their teaching as they assume greater and greater responsibilities, he never gave up his teaching because he loved working with bright young minds.”

At the end of his career, he was even able to present a student award named for him. The Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Award is given each year to a graduate student who excels in pharmacognosy.

Hufford was a favorite with students, offering his signature combination of humor and patience as he mentored and encouraged those who came through his doors. He spent most of his early years teaching graduate students, saying it was “rewarding to … get them accustomed to thinking on their own and seeing (their) joy from the gratification of solving whatever problem we were working on.”

“Dr. Hufford as a teacher had a tremendous influence on me in my care of patients,” said David Gregory, associate dean for academic affairs. “I was uniquely blessed to have the unexpected opportunity to return to UM and work with our offices side-by-side.

“He used practical and common sense in his leadership, and even maintained his sense of humor and mentorship when he asked me to be on his bowling team. I thought I had arrived, but we both knew it was for my very high handicap.”

Hufford was a competitive bowler who approached the sport as he did everything else – with commitment to constant improvement. He held 10 championship tournament titles with the Senior All Star Bowling Association, logged more than 30 perfect games and was a member of both the SASBA Hall of Fame and the Mississippi State Bowling Association Hall of Fame.

Upon his retirement in 2015, he planned to spend even more time at the lanes, as well as with his family, including children Gary and Jennifer, grandchildren Ryan and Andy and his wife of 32 years, Alice Clark.

Marvin Wilson, associate dean emeritus of academic and student affairs, spent nearly 40 years working alongside Hufford in the pharmacy school, both progressing from assistant professors to associate deans.

“Even though he was committed to the school, it paled in comparison to his dedication to Alice, his children and his grandchildren,” Wilson said. “He and Alice probably spent years in gyms, at ballfields or traveling to and from such activities to be with and support their family.”

Wilson added, “I would implore you when you hear thunder, to think of Charlie rolling another strike in heaven.”

Services are set for 2 p.m. Friday (May 19) at Waller Funeral Home in Oxford. Visitation begins at noon. Memorial contributions in his memory may be made to the Charles D. Hufford Graduate Student Fellowship Endowment at the University of Mississippi Foundation.