New York Attorney Richard Burke Honored for Mentoring UM Students

Law school alumnus spends 50-year career opening doors of opportunity for others

UM law student LaKeith Faulkner (left) spends time with Richard Burke in his New York law office, where Faulkner interned between his junior and senior undergraduate years. Faulkner credits his internship with Burke as a major factor in leading him to law school. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Since his graduation from the University of Mississippi School of Law in 1966, Richard A. Burke has had a heart for helping others achieve the American dream, whether it’s Ole Miss undergraduates searching out future career avenues or international students looking for professional futures in the United States.

Recently, Burke was honored with the inaugural Outstanding Partner Award from the UM Internship Experience Program, reflecting his dedication to providing meaningful career experiences for numerous Ole Miss undergraduate students over the past 10 years.

“He has been an amazing mentor for UM students and a continuous supporter of the opportunities this program provides,” said Laura Antonow, director of the Internship Experience Program. “He was one of the first in the tri-state New York City area that was onboard for accepting undergraduate interns, and he has been actively involved with the program ever since.”

Second-year UM law student LaKeith Faulkner, of Holly Springs, worked as an intern in Burke’s New York law office in the summer of 2012. His work there was an invaluable learning experience, he said.

“My internship with Mr. Burke was the highlight of my undergraduate career,” Faulkner said. “It helped me confirm that I was on the right path in my chosen profession. It was an honor to have the opportunity to learn from a truly respectable and kind person.”

Faulkner recalled that Burke’s way of paying attention to his clients stood out to him during his time in the office.

“The first thing he did was listen closely to each client,” Faulkner said. “He wanted to understand their needs first and foremost. I saw how he worked to humanize and personalize each case.”

Burke graduated from City College of New York with his bachelor’s degree in 1963. Having never actually set foot in the South before arriving in Oxford, he credits his father with encouraging him to apply to law school. Everything going on at the university during that time had piqued his curiosity, he said.

“I guess you could say James Meredith and my desire to help people played a part in the allure of Ole Miss for me,” Burke said.

Being from a different part of the country, he felt a little out of place at Ole Miss but quickly made friends with international graduate students who had come to the school to complete advanced degrees.

“I took to a group of students from India who became my lifelong friends,” Burke said. “It was the happiest two-and-a-half years of my life. I met a number of great people.”

After he graduated from law school and returned to New York, some of his friends from Ole Miss contacted him to inquire about his knowledge of immigration laws.

“There was no such thing as immigration law back then,” Burke recalled. “My friends assumed that since I had graduated law school, I must be knowledgeable about those laws.

Laura Antonow (right), director of the UM Internship Experience Program, presents New York attorney Richard Burke with a plaque honoring him as the program’s inaugural Outstanding Partner. Burke, a 1966 graduate of the UM School of Law, has provided internship opportunities for Ole Miss undergraduate students over the past 10 years. Submitted photo

Forty years later, the law firm of Burke, Burke and Burke consists of four attorneys and five legal assistants who have helped thousands of clients from all over the world obtain their permanent residence and United States citizenship.

“I feel that my whole practice fell into place because of the people I met at Ole Miss,” Burke said. “I have always felt a debt of gratitude to the university for my positive experiences there.”

An avid world traveler, Burke has journeyed to 216 countries, with the goal of visiting every country in the world.

“There is no substitute for getting to know people from other cultures and different parts of the world,” Burke said. “I like the idea that the students in my office learn how to work with a variety of people from all walks of life.

“I think this kind of opens up their eyes to understand that there are all types of people in the world that may have different cultures than they are used to.”

One of the traits that makes an intern successful in his law office is curiosity; not necessarily about law, but about how you can be of assistance to people, Burke said.

“Going that extra step for our clients is what we encourage,” he said. “The students who do well in this internship are those who want to understand why we do things, or how to best provide for our clients.”

Being kind and disciplined is something Faulkner credits Burke with instilling in him during his internship.

“He has such a genuine spirit and wanted me to feel accepted and valued as an intern in his office,” Faulkner said. “He also helped me learn more about conducting myself in a business environment.”

Antonow said that it was only fitting that Burke receive the Outstanding Partner Award at its inception.

“He has shared so much knowledge and so many opportunities with Ole Miss students over the years,” she said. “He cares about the students and that they have good experiences in his office. He wants them to learn how to be successful in a professional setting.”

For more information about the UM Internship Experience Program or – if you are an Ole Miss alumnus in Atlanta, New York City, or Washington, D.C. – for ways to support the program, visit

Students Starting Careers with Help from Internship Experience Program

Program supports students interning in Atlanta, D.C., and New York

UM students participating in the Internship Experience Program this summer in Washington, D.C., are (from left) senior public policy and political science major Jarrius Adams, of Hattiesburg, who worked with the Congressional Black Caucus in U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office; senior public policy and journalism major Hailey McKee, of Dyersburg, Tenn., who interned at the Newseum and U.S. Rep. David Kustoff’s office; Justin Cowling, a political science major from Yazoo City, who worked at the Washington Intern Student Housing organization; and Sheranidan Burton, an accounting and criminal justice major from Gulfport who worked at the United States bankruptcy court clerk’s office. Photo by Gabby Coggin/Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Life changing.” “Incredible.” “Eye-opening.” “Extraordinary.” A group of University of Mississippi students recently used these words to describe the unique experiences they had this summer that not only enhanced their career skills but also opened doors for their future.

Last month, students met with UM administration, faculty and staff to discuss their experiences as participants in the Internship Experience Program, a special program that prepares and organizes cohorts of Ole Miss students to participate in career internships in Atlanta, New York and Washington, D.C.

Sara “Cookie” White, a senior integrated marketing communications major from Houston, Texas, was among the students who presented at the event.

“This program taught me how to create my own path,” White said. “I feel like I gained a lot of confidence in myself. It really pushed me to be my best and learn on my feet.”

The UM Internship Experience Program offers Ole Miss juniors and seniors an opportunity to gain professional work experience in these major cities while earning academic credit in their fields of study. Students work, with the assistance of university staff, to secure an internship that will give them important professional experience for future job opportunities.

“We envision these programs as a two-way pipeline between these amazing cities and the University of Mississippi,” said Laura Antonow, director of college programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. “This is a way to aid our students in their transition into successful professional careers after college.”

Students interested in learning about internship opportunities for summer 2019 can stop by an information session anytime between noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the UM Career Center in Martindale Hall.

In summer 2018, 12 students were selected to participate in the program, with two going to New York, four interning in Washington and six working in Atlanta.

“We start by selecting students that we believe are going to be competitive in these fast-paced cities, those who have a good combination of work experience, academic success and then extracurricular and leadership experience,” Antonow said.

White said she wanted to go to New York to try something new and feel the specialness of the city. As an intern with Allied Integrating Marketing, she got to help major motion picture studios promote upcoming films through screenings and special events.

“I had so many interesting projects and tasks,” White said. “I knew my IMC classes were preparing me for the future.

“When I started the summer, I felt like I had all of this knowledge, but I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it yet. Participating in this internship was a great way for me to apply everything that I have been learning during my time at Ole Miss.”

Shelby McElwain, of Corinth, is a senior art history major who interned this summer with nAscent Art in New York. She was able to help the company research art buys and designs for some of the country’s newest hotels.

“I felt like I was making a difference in the projects that my employer was pursuing this summer,” McElwain said. “They wanted my assistance and opinion. I learned so much.”

Jarrius Adams, a senior public policy and political science major from Hattiesburg, interned with the Congressional Black Caucus in U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s Washington office.

“My time in D.C. changed my perspective going forward,” Adams said. “I learned a lot. I know that I love politics, but I think I can make a greater impact in my community by participating more at the local level. I saw how local politicians make the laws that really affect everyday lives.”

Sara ‘Cookie’ White, a UM senior from Houston, Texas, takes in the Manhattan skyline while taking part in the Internship Experience Program with Allied Integrated Marketing. Students interested in learning about internship opportunities for summer 2019 can stop by an information session anytime between noon and 2 p.m. Wednesday (Oct. 31) at the UM Career Center in Martindale Hall. Photo by Gabby Coggin/Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

Hailey McKee, of Dyersburg, Tennessee, is a senior public policy and journalism major who had positions in two different offices this summer in Washington, serving as an intern at the Newseum and with U.S. Rep. David Kustoff of Tennessee.

During the presentation, she shared more about some of the more interesting events, hearings, and tasks she participated in over the summer.

“I looked up, and I was taking notes during a Senate hearing about putting American boots on the ground on Mars by 2030,” McKee explained. “There were astronauts in the room who have left the Earth. It was surreal.”

She said she was awestruck passing the Supreme Court and Library of Congress each day on her way to work.

“I wanted to appreciate all the history and significance of the places I was around daily.”

Ryan Granger, a senior IMC major from Pearl, said he chose to intern this summer in Atlanta because of the big city feel that wasn’t too far out of his comfort zone.

As an intern with the Atlanta International Fashion Week organization, he had the chance to help roll out a new collaboration between AIFW and Microsoft Corp. that is providing educational opportunities for Atlanta youth.

“I was working on press releases, preparing media kits and event planning,” he said. “It was cool to get all this real-world exposure to activities that I’ll be doing in my field.

“I learned so much about being able to adapt to the world around me and correctly adjust to whatever I needed to do.”

Granger is hoping that his summer internship will turn into a full-time job after graduation in May.

“Working in this industry would be a great pathway that could open a lot of career opportunities for me,” he said.

Granger said one of his favorite parts of the program was getting to know Ole Miss alumni in the area.

“It was great to hear their perspectives of living in Atlanta versus living in Oxford and appreciating the differences,” he said. “They helped us students see that living in this major city is definitely manageable when you learn the ropes.”

Antonow said the UM Internship Experience program is a special way for alumni to stay connected or to get more connected to the university.

“We’ve been steadily building our relationships with alumni and employers in these cities, and now we are receiving phone calls from past employers asking us when the new batch of Ole Miss interns will be selected,” she said.

The priority application deadline is Nov. 9 for juniors and seniors who are interested in being a part of the summer 2019 cohort of Internship Experience participants.

For more information or to start an online application, visit

‘Green is the New Pink’ Program Searching for Young Environmentalists

Second year of program looks to recruit seventh- to 10th-grade students to study local ecology

Scott Knight, UM Field Station director, shows participants in last fall’s ‘Green is the New Pink’ environmental program some of the interesting creatures found in local water sources. Young ladies in grades 7-10 are invited to participate in this year’s program, set for four Saturday mornings this fall and two in the spring at the Field Station. Interested students should apply online by Sept. 20. Photo by Pam Starling/UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – If you know a seventh- to 10th-grade young woman who would enjoy spending Saturdays hiking by a local river, hunting for salamanders, fishing for rare species or tracking invasive organisms, she should check out the University of Mississippi’s “Green is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action” program.

The environmental leadership program, created by the UM Office of Pre-College Programs, gives students tools and resources to create positive change in their community, to encourage the adoption of resource conservation activities and to ensure the safety of our planet for future generations.

“Last year’s participants had unique research opportunities and learned so much about the world around them that we wanted to be able to offer the program to a new group of students,” said Wendy Pfrenger, UM assistant director of pre-college programs.

This year, Pfrenger and Ellen Shelton, pre-college programs director, submitted a grant proposal to the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to fund the program. The proposal was accepted last month.

The “Green is the New Pink” program will give students a chance to explore different elements of the UM Field Station while collecting and examining data that they will later share with younger students who participate in the Ecology Day Camp program.

“We think it is a great opportunity for the participants to share what they discover with the next generation of environmental researchers,” Pfrenger said.

Shelton and Pfrenger are working with Scott Knight, UM Field Station director, to provide specific learning and research activities for participants.

They will be working alongside Oxford High School teacher Angela Whaley, Corinth Middle School teacher Martha Tallent and Lafayette Middle School teacher Katie Szabo during the six Saturday morning activity days of the program that will take place this fall and in spring 2019.

Students interested in participating in the 2018-19 program are invited to apply online by Sept. 20 at

Former UM Students Find Pathway to College Degree

Complete to Compete graduates honored at campus celebration

The University of Mississippi honored its first recipients of the new Bachelor of University Studies degree program Aug. 4 at the Jackson Avenue Center. Among the graduates honored at the event was Oxford police officer Hardie Meeks, accompanied by his wife, Katrenia, and their children Hayden, Ty, and Ani. Photo by Larry Agostinelli/UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Police officers, pro football players, substitute teachers, stay-at-home moms and Nissan employees are just a few of the professionals who took part in a special event Aug. 4 at the University of Mississippi’s Jackson Avenue Center.

The special graduation celebration event honored adults who applied to the Mississippi Complete to Compete, or C2C, program and had previously completed the full slate of college coursework, making them eligible for the university’s newest undergraduate degree, the Bachelor of University Studies.

“Finally holding this degree is going to help me get off the line,” said Aspen Cannon, of West Point.

Cannon works full time on the assembly line at the Nissan plant in Canton, but was part of the drum line for the “Pride of the South” marching band and a music and business major at UM from 2004 to 2007.

“Life happened,” Cannon said, reflecting on leaving the university without completing his degree. Family obligations and student loan debt played a part of his decision to leave school, but he said he always regretted not getting his diploma.

At the celebration event, Cannon just happened to sit next to a former bandmate and friend whom he had not seen since leaving Oxford. Timothy Stine, from Millington, Tennessee, also left the university before finishing his degree.

After apply to C2C, Stine received an email from Ole Miss in the spring about the B.U.S. program, and he jumped at the chance when he found out that he met the requirements to receive this degree.

“I’m hoping having this piece of paper will give me better job opportunities,” Stine said. “I’m about to start sending out my updated resume.”

Former UM ‘Pride of the South’ band members Aspen Cannon (left) and Timothy Stine catch up with each other at a graduation celebration for the new Bachelor of University Studies program. Both left the university in the mid-2000s but found out this past spring that they had enough completed credits as part of the statewide Complete to Compete initiative to receive their degrees. Photo by Larry Agostinelli/UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

The B.U.S program was created this spring to work in conjunction with the statewide C2C program that began in August 2017. C2C was created by the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning and the Mississippi Community College Board to help adults who have been out of college for at least two years to finish their postsecondary degrees.

In less than a year’s time, UM academic advisers have received C2C applications from over 1,200 former students who had some college coursework, but had not completed a full degree program.

“The first thing I ask people interested in this program is, ‘Tell me your story,'” said Audra Trnovec, UM academic counselor and C2C coach. “I ask for the background on their educational journey so I can help them put together a plan to be successful.

Many C2C students have shared stories about the reasons surrounding the pause in their education.

“Some students needed to stop taking classes so that they could care for their children, some were supporting wives or supporting husbands; they might have been serving in the military or needing to financially take care of their families,” she said. “They all have a unique background and a unique goal.”

Fhan Cooper, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, played right tackle for Ole Miss during the banner 2014 and 2015 seasons, but he left Oxford for the NFL just a few credits shy of graduation.

“As a transfer student, I had a lot of credits, but my playing time was limited, and I needed to make the move to the pros,” Cooper said.

Jennifer Reeves (back row, middle) and her family drove nine hours from Houston, Texas, to celebrate her recent graduation from UM after a 20-year hiatus from college. Photo by Larry Agostinelli/UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education

Cooper, who was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and later traded to the Indianapolis Colts, is a free agent looking for his next opportunity.

“I want to be ready for what is next in my life,” he said, noting that he is considering coaching, scouting and training as his next career move.

“I’d like to earn my master’s degree in education so that I can become a good teacher. I think this will help me in a coaching role if I know how to teach concepts and information in an understandable way. And I think completing a degree shows people you take pride in what you do, and you value the work.”

During the past year, staff in the Office of General Studies have identified 150 C2C applicants who had completed all of the requirements for the new B.U.S. degree without taking additional courses. Many of these students had changed majors or completed the bulk of coursework but were never able to finish their chosen degree, so they were encouraged to consider the B.U.S. program.

“We just felt that these students did the work and deserved to be honored like other UM graduates,” said Terry Blackmarr, assistant to the dean for general studies. “One student is so excited to have earned his college degree that he invited 48 family members to the celebration.”

“We can already see that completing this degree means so much to these students, and it’s going to make a positive impact on their lives.”

Coffeeville native Jennifer Reeves, who lives in Houston, Texas, drove 600 miles to Oxford to be honored after 20 years since her enrollment.

As an English major in the early ’90s, Reeves married and moved away before graduating. Her husband became an engineer with Exxon Mobile, and his position took them around the globe. They lived in the Netherlands, Singapore and Thailand before landing in Houston. During that time, they added five children to their family.

“I made my mother a promise that I would finish my degree when I got married,” Reeves said. “I’m so happy that this program honors the credits I had already earned and gave me the opportunity to have my diploma.”

“The government, the state of Mississippi and Ole Miss, they don’t owe me anything. I feel that this program is just grace extended to people like me who were so close to finishing but needed a little extra assistance to get across the finish line.”

The B.U.S. program is available for students 21 and older, with a minimum of 90 degree-applicable credit hours who have not been enrolled in college in the past 24 months and have not earned another bachelor’s degree. All applicants must meet the university’s admissions requirements and apply to the C2C.

Designed to provide adult students with a flexible pathway to complete a baccalaureate degree, the program allows an individualized curriculum for a student to complete up to three emphasis areas that will position them favorably in their career.

During the celebration, Tony Ammeter, associate provost for the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education and dean of general studies, addressed the graduates.

“It is our hope that the courses you took and the degree you now hold better your life,” he said. “You represent the best work of UM and even though for some of you, it may have been a while ago, we hope Ole Miss has helped you become a leader – a leader who especially understands that success isn’t about the riches you gain, but the people you help.”

Since the program was new this year, this celebration event will make way for future B.U.S graduates to be honored during the university’s official commencement exercises in May, when graduates will walk alongside Bachelor of General Studies students to receive their diplomas.

“Since the university hosts only one commencement ceremony per year, and we were unable to confer degrees for the B.U.S. students until that date had passed, we decided for this year only to host this special event to encourage and celebrate these new graduates who had already waited so long to hold their degree,” Blackmarr said.

Former Ole Miss students who are interested in learning more about this program can visit

Peeples Receives Outstanding Professional Educator Award

Graduate of Grenada regional campus hopes to set an example for his students

The Mississippi Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has named Terry Peeples (right), of Vaiden, as one of Mississippi’s Outstanding Professional Educators for 2017-18. Peeples, who attended the university’s Grenada regional campus, receives the award from David Rock, dean of the UM School of Education, during the organization’s annual awards ceremony in Vicksburg. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The Mississippi Association of Colleges for Teacher Education has named Vaiden native Terry Peeples as one of Mississippi’s Outstanding Professional Educators of the Year.

The annual award is given to one graduate from each of 15 Mississippi colleges and universities. Peeples, who graduated from the University of Mississippi’s Grenada regional campus in 2015, was chosen to represent the UM School of Education.

Peeples has set an example for current and future teachers with his determination, drive and hard work during his three years as a full-time teacher at Winona Elementary School, said Karen Davidson Smith, UM clinical assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.

“Terry is receiving this honor because he has continuously demonstrated outstanding character and professional dispositions in his school by growing students, building an outstanding relationship with parents and the community, and being an advocate for his school district,” Smith said.

Peeples attended J.Z. George High School before transferring to Old Dominion Christian School in Kosciusko, where he graduated in 2008. He began his college career as a nursing major at Holmes Community College’s Grenada campus.

After transferring to another community college for a short time, he had a change of heart concerning his career path, and returned to Holmes-Grenada to work on his associate degree in elementary education.

“There were not a lot of guys in the education field, but I felt like students need better male role models,” Peeples said.

He later transferred to the UM Grenada campus, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education in May 2015. That summer, he was hired as a fourth-grade math and science teacher in Winona.

Peeples jumped right into developing as a teacher by joining the UM Center for Math and Science Education’s Developing Excellence in Education through Professional Learning Communities, or DEEP, summer institute program. The program was developed to help teachers foster a classroom environment that helps students grasp a strong understanding of mathematics, make sense of problems, construct viable arguments and use the structure of mathematics.

“The DEEP learning community program gave me a great start as a math teacher,” Peeples said. “Going through the program helped me to think outside the box, and it gave me techniques to help challenge my students.”

In fall 2016, Peeples experienced another major career event when he was selected by Winona school officials to attend the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, along with five others from the school district.

“It’s the dream for teachers,” Peeples said. “The innovative teaching philosophies I learned there will forever impact the way I teach.

“I learned how to incorporate music into my lessons, make my classroom instruction more student-led and reduce behavior problems down inside the classroom. I watched some of the greatest teachers in the world teach lessons, and it opened my eyes to a whole new world as a teacher.”

Peeples said he gained a better understanding of educational relationships that need to be fostered with students and their parents, and he also explored the learning benefits of incorporating fun and music into lessons.

“I get their attention by playing music they like, mostly the instrumentals,” Peeples said. “The students know, though, that we have to be working. The music is just motivating us to work through the math problems, and sometimes I don’t even talk.

“I’m at the board working problems both correctly and incorrectly to see if they catch on to the mistakes.”

Peeples’ unique teaching style went viral this past year when a video of him walking on desks in his classroom while teaching a science rap garnered hundreds of views on Facebook.

Peeples said another important lesson he learned at the academy is how to command his class and hold students responsible for their behavior.

“It really works,” he said. “Behavior problems have been cut down drastically.”

Peeples is working toward his master’s degree in educational leadership with the goal of someday becoming a school principal. He and his wife, Mercedes, are already teaching a love of math to their two children, Jaerrius and Nadia.

“Even on the hard days when I feel like I can’t get through to particular students, I try to remember that they are just kids, and I’m still making a positive impact on their lives,” Peeples said.

“Growing up, I learned that it is better to look up to and imitate the people around me who were doing the right things and staying out of trouble. I hope I will inspire my students to do the same.”

Local HR Professionals Excel in National Certification Exam

UM prep class aids north Mississippi companies and employees

Dylan Wilmoth, of Oxford, recently earned the Society of Human Resource Management Certified Professional certification after completing an SHRM certification prep course offered by the UM Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Human resource professionals in north Mississippi are increasing their knowledge and skills to help employers after participating in the Society of Human Resources Learning System professional development course offered at the University of Mississippi.

“Going through this course helped me to better understand my job and do it in the best way possible,” said Mallory House of Hernando.

House works with payroll, insurance, worker’s compensation and various other HR tasks for the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors’ office. She passed her SHRM Certified Professional Exam in June.

“I think the class not only prepared me to take the certification exam, but it also prepared me for the day-to-day issues and challenges that will come up in my work,” House said.

The SHRM exam prep course that House completed last spring is enrolling participants for the fall 2018 group that will be offered on Tuesday evenings, Sept. 11 through Dec. 11, on the Oxford campus.

Taught by local human resource manager Christopher Byrd, the course not only prepares human resource professionals to take the SHRM-Certified Professional or SHRM-Senior Certified Professional Exams, but it also helps participants strengthen their understanding of core behavior and competencies that will help increase productivity in the workplace.

“Pursuing a nationally recognized certification in HR is one of the best ways to show you care about your career, your employees and your organization,” Byrd said.

Dylan Wilmoth is an operations leader with Human Technologies Inc. in Oxford. He completed the course and passed his SHRM exam in the spring of 2017.

“Anyone who is managing people or working in the HR field needs this course,” Wilmoth said. “Participating in this program has given me the knowledge to bridge the gap between what employees want and what the employer needs.

“After earning this certification, I have the knowledge I need to be an advocate for employees while still helping my company meet its goals.”

The SHRM organization has been active in the human resources community for seven decades and has more than 285,000 members worldwide.

“There has been a great success rate for enrollees in the SHRM certification course offered at Ole Miss,” said Mary Leach, UM director of professional development and lifelong learning. “These short workshops and courses are ideal for those who want to gain current and relevant knowledge to impact their job immediately.”

The registration fee for the course is $1,099 for non-SHRM members and $999 for members. Special discounts are available for Ole Miss alumni. Many businesses and organizations are offering educational tuition benefits for employees interested in completing the prep course.

Admission to the university is not required for this noncredit course.

For more information and to register, visit or contact Griffin Stroupe at 662-915-3121.

UM Conference Explores ‘Faulkner and Slavery’

Annual event to draw hundreds from around globe to Oxford, region

OXFORD, Miss. – “Faulkner and Slavery” is the theme for the University of Mississippi’s 45th annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, coming up July 22-26.

Five days of lectures, panels, tours, exhibits and other presentations will take up the question, “What did slavery mean in the life, ancestry, environment, imagination and career of William Faulkner?” Besides four keynote lectures, the conference program will include panel presentations, guided daylong tours of north Mississippi and the Delta, and sessions on “Teaching Faulkner.”

Speakers include Edward Baptist of Cornell University, a distinguished historian of slavery and American capitalism addressing Faulkner’s work for the first time; John T. Matthews of Boston University, a renowned Faulkner scholar; Tim Armstrong, author of a book on the logic of American slavery in 19th-century literature; and Stephen M. Best, a scholar of 19th-century African-American literature and law who has traced how the legal dilemmas surrounding the enslaved person have informed American law, literature and popular culture throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Obviously, the South that Faulkner writes about, even in his novels and stories of the 20th century, is to a significant degree a product of African slavery,” said Jay Watson, Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies who serves as conference director. “What makes this topic even more timely than it would ordinarily be, however, is that this August marks the beginning of the 400th year since African slavery was introduced into the English-speaking colonies of North America.”

This year’s conference program features several events organized for the first time, Watson said.

“There will be a session on the history of slavery at the Robert Sheegog residence (also known as Rowan Oak) featuring architectural historians and archaeologists who have extensively researched and studied the site,” he said. “Another session will focus on the history of slavery at the University of Mississippi, which is, of course, an important setting in several Faulkner novels and loomed large in his local world.

“A third session will provide deep background on histories of slavery in Oxford, Lafayette County and north Mississippi. Our hope is that these sessions will give our audience deeper insight into the actual legacies of slavery that Faulkner grappled with in transforming his north Mississippi environment into art.”

A new guided tour is also being offered. Led by Jodi Skipper, UM associate professor of anthropology, this tour focuses on the “Behind the Big House” project, which is a research and continuing education-oriented program that focuses on slave quarters and other structures where slaves lived and worked in Holly Springs.

“This tour won’t focus on Faulkner sites and legacies so much as sites and legacies of African slavery and African-American history in one particularly well-documented and preserved north Mississippi environment,” Watson said.

The conference begin at 1 p.m. Sunday (July 22) with a reception at the University Museum, after which the academic program will open with two keynote addresses, followed by a buffet supper on the grounds of Rowan Oak. Over the next four days, a busy schedule of lectures and panels also includes an afternoon cocktail reception, a picnic at Rowan Oak, guided tours and a closing party on the afternoon of July 26.

Throughout the conference, the university’s J.D. Williams Library will display Faulkner books, manuscripts, photographs and memorabilia. The University Press of Mississippi will exhibit Faulkner books published by university presses throughout the United States, and collaborators on the Digital Yoknapatawpha Project, a database and digital mapping project at the University of Virginia, will present updates on its progress at a special conference session.

To register or for more information, visit

Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement Set for May 9

Inaugural event to recognize 32 UM staff for earning degrees while working

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi staff who earned degrees while working will be recognized for their accomplishments Wednesday (May 9) at the inaugural Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement.

Thirty-two employees who are receiving either a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree during doctoral hooding on Friday (May 11) and at Commencement on Saturday (May 12) will be honored. The celebration, which is free and open to the public, begins at noon in Auditorium A of the Jackson Avenue Center, 1111 West Jackson Ave.

Co-sponsors include the Office of the Provost, Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, Office of University and Public Events, and the UM Staff Council.

“This is an opportunity for the university community to come together and honor staff members who have successfully navigated the college experience while simultaneously working as an employee at the university,” said Anne Klingen, who co-organized the event. “During the ceremony, we will honor graduating seniors and graduate students with red-and-blue cords and a reception.”

The event was conceived after orientation for new Staff Council members in April 2017. Klingen and Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator in the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies, began discussing ideas about how to recognize staff member achievements.

“As someone who has earned more than one degree while working full time for the university, I understand the unique challenges that staff members face while on the path to a degree,” Cozart said. “I thought that it was time for graduating staff members to receive special recognition of their efforts.

“The Red and Blue Celebration and the red-and-navy honors cords are just a small way of achieving this goal.”

The cords will be presented by Donna West-Strum, chair and professor of pharmacy administration. Other program participants are Gazel Giles, immediate past president of the Staff Council; Je’Lisa McGee, Staff Council treasurer; Premalatha Balachandran, Staff Council scholarship coordinator; Deetra Wiley, Staff Council marketing coordinator; and Cozart, a Staff Council member.

Departments with graduating employees who have registered to participate are Applied Sciences/ Outreach, Athletics, Campus Recreation, Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, Center for the Study of Southern Culture, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ford Center, Health Professions Advising Office, Marketing and Fan Experience, Office of Admissions, Office of the Chancellor, Ole Miss Athletics Foundation, Office of Information Technology, Sports Production, Student Disability Services, Technology and Interactive Video, Graduate School, The Inn at Ole Miss, UMMC-Office of Academic Affairs, University Communications and University Police Department.

Several of the graduating employees shared their stories.

“It was very challenging trying to work, go to school and be a full-time single mom with two boys,” said Sirena Morgan, senior secretary for the chemistry department who will receive her Bachelor of Business Administration in Human Resources with an emphasis in entrepreneurship. “You have to find a balance in it all.

“I was so determined to get my degree, so I made it work. I would work eight hours a day, and after work, I would take care of my other responsibilities. It took a lot of discipline, but I did it.”

Learning to balance work, school, family and outside activities also was a challenge for Rebecca Lauck Cleary, a senior staff assistant at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture who will be receiving a Master of Arts in Southern Studies.

“I tried to focus on projects one week at a time so I never felt overwhelmed with anything,” she said. “Luckily, everyone I work with has been extremely supportive, which is nice.”

Completing a terminal degree, career advancement opportunities and a desire to make their families proud were all motivations for Sovent Taylor and Peter Tulchinsky, who receive their Ed.D. in Higher Education.

“My job isn’t always just 8 to 5,” said Taylor, assistant director of the Health Professions Advising Office. “I have student organizations that meet at night and recruitment events on the weekend. My children are involved in travel sports, so my time after work was spoken for as well.”

To overcome his challenges, Taylor worked during lunch, often late at night and during holiday breaks writing his dissertation.

“I am blessed to have a wife that helped pick up the slack while I was writing,” Taylor said. “She also had to deal with an exhausted husband quite often.”

Tulchinsky, director of campus recreation, agrees.

“I wanted to set an example for my kids,” he said. “I encourage them to do their personal best academically, and I felt that I could role model that expectation by going back to school and acquiring my terminal degree.

“It means a lot that they can call me ‘Dr. Dad’ and that I’ve been able to show them that you can accomplish your goals through effort and commitment.”

Having a great support system at home and at work is what helped Shayla Love McGuire complete requirements for her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“A big motivation for me to complete my degree was for my children to see me being successful,” the UPD patrol sergeant said. “This degree will help me achieve promotions at work, and I am very grateful for the opportunity to finally graduate.”

For Jennifer Phillips, who receives her Ph.D. degree in higher education, writing her dissertation was her biggest challenge.

“Much of the Ph.D. is on your own after written comps,” said Phillips, assistant director for retention in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. “It was incredibly difficult to find the personal motivation to continue, especially when I also had trouble nailing down a topic.”

Phillips said she went to her adviser, Amy Wells Dolan, to quit last year after almost nine years of work.

“She inspired me to keep going by simply telling me she would not let me quit,” Phillips said. “Two weeks later, I had 25 pages written.”

Wiley, an applications analyst and business communications specialist who will be hooded and receive her Ed.D. degree, said the opportunity to earn her terminal degree at no cost while working full time was worth the hard work, determination and commitment.

“This is probably the most rewarding policy/program that any institution or place of work can provide to its employees,” Wiley said. “To God, I give the glory and honor. I give great thanks to the University of Mississippi for its further education policy.”

UM Travel Fund Honors a Legacy

New effort in memory of late provost will broaden students' learning experiences

Marvin King, senior faculty fellow for Residential College South, admires a portrait of the late Carolyn Ellis Staton. UM photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss – A recent gift to the University of Mississippi establishes a travel fund for students while honoring the late Carolyn Ellis Staton, a higher education trailblazer who became the university’s first female provost.

The Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund will cover expenses incurred by students who travel for learning opportunities within their field of interest.

“There would be no better way to honor Carolyn,” said Staton’s husband, Bill Staton of Oxford. “She would be thrilled to know that an effort like this is being made to ensure that students have enriching, extracurricular opportunities to broaden their knowledge base.

“Her love for traveling began at a young age and continued throughout her life.”

Bill Staton; Marvin King, senior faculty fellow for Residential College South; Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor and director of student housing; Laura Antonow, director of college programs; and other friends of Carolyn Staton established the fund as a tribute to the longtime educator. An Ignite Ole Miss crowdfunding campaign continues the fundraising efforts.

“She had a tremendous impact at the university,” King said. “Throughout her career, she positively affected so many students, especially undergraduate students, that we wanted something that she and her family would appreciate.”

Carolyn Staton joined the Ole Miss faculty in August 1977. During her 32-year tenure, she served as a professor and interim dean in the School of Law, associate provost and provost before her retirement in 2009.

As provost, she facilitated the creation of the university’s residential colleges and Croft Institute for International Studies. She expanded on the ideas of others in building the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“She was truly remarkable in every way,” Chancellor Emeritus Robert Khayat said. “Nobody ever had a better partner at work. She was straightforward, but always kind and treated people with respect.”

She was a veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve JAG Corps, where she achieved the rank of captain. She served on the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Service in the 1990s at the Pentagon.

“Dr. Staton loved to travel,” King said. “Dr. Staton would be grateful of any effort allowing more UM students, especially those who might not otherwise have the opportunity, to travel to internships, Study USA, study abroad classes or conferences.

“These opportunities can materially change the educational experience of those students. Additionally, it can make our students more competitive upon graduation.”

Study USA is a domestic academic travel program operated through the Office of College Programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Studies that offers opportunities for students to participate in Ole Miss faculty-led courses, typically during intersessions, where they travel to a U.S. location and study a particular topic in the field.

“Experiential learning is a great way for students to really delve into a class and see their classroom learning applied in the real world,” Antonow said. “Some of the upcoming classes are Campaigns and Elections in D.C., Bridges of New York, and Digital Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Silicon Valley.”

The UM Internship Experience program gives students opportunities to travel, work and learn in New York, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., during the summer. These are competitive programs that prepare and support students seeking internships in their field of study.

Students have interned at the White House, C-SPAN, various congressional offices, the American Red Cross, Scripps Network and the New York mayor’s office.

“Study USA and the UM Internship Experience programs are great opportunities, but the added expense of travel can make them challenging or impossible for some students,” Antonow said. “This fund will help make these programs affordable and accessible to more students.

“We are really excited to see this fund created and hope those who value these experiential programs will generously support the Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund.”

To make a gift to the Carolyn Ellis Staton Travel Fund, visit Ignite Ole Miss or contact Sandra Guest, vice president of the UM Foundation, at 662-915-5208 or

Crutchfield Presented UM Online Teaching Award

Social work faculty member recognized for excellence in distance instruction

Tony Ammeter (left), UM associate provost for outreach and continuing education, presents Jandel Crutchfield, assistant professor of social work, with this year’s Paragon Award for Excellence in Online Instruction. UM photo by Pamela Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Jan Crutchfield, an assistant professor of social work at the University of Mississippi, has been honored with the Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Teaching, which rewards online instructors who have exhibited good practice in course design and innovative use of technology.

Each year, the Office of Academic Outreach within the UM Division of Outreach seeks to encourage and highlight faculty members’ contributions to online instruction with the award, which is in its eighth year. Nominees’ efforts are acknowledged for engaging students, as well as for their commitment to providing students with a quality education.

Crutchfield was honored April 13 at a ceremony on the Oxford campus.

“Dr. Crutchfield’s online courses stood out to the award selection committee for student-centered teaching, diversified student learning experiences and strong instructor presence,” said Mary Lea Moore, UM assistant director of academic outreach.

“The award selection committee felt that her course assignments promoted critical thinking, were relevant and encouraged students to make a connection between the materials and their personal experience.”

Andrea Hannaford, a senior social work major from Senatobia, said that as a participant in Crutchfield’s online Social Work Research course last fall, she felt connected to the class and material.

“Her style of online teaching was so different,” Hannaford said. “I felt like I was really learning how to do research and not just doing work to keep busy. I loved that she videoed her lectures so that it felt like we were in a classroom atmosphere.”

Crutchfield said two of the staples of her online courses incorporate the use of Zoom recorded video lectures that include computer screen sharing and subsequent creation of YouTube links for students to view.

“I feel that integrating these two platforms in a way that brings my presence to the online classroom helps to make students feel more engaged in the courses and as if they had more guidance than in a strictly written online course,” Crutchfield said.

“I think video lectures can even aid those busy students who may need to listen to a lecture in the car while commuting to work or school. It’s all about flexibility.”

Crutchfield understands the need of flexibility when it comes to education. She herself was employed and caring for her family while completing her doctorate at Louisiana State University.

“From my own online course experiences, I wanted to help take some of the anxiety of online classes away and show students how to stay on track and stay engaged throughout the flexible environment of online courses,” Crutchfield said.

Crutchfield said her teaching philosophy is based on the social work concept of meeting clients where they are.

“I like the challenge of engaging students in a way that has to be more dynamic,” Crutchfield said. “I’ve tried to be creative in my online courses and work to be just as accessible to online students as I would be for those in a live class.”

At the presentation ceremony, Daphne Cain, chair of the Department of Social Work, said that Crutchfield continues to prove herself to be a dedicated student mentor, advanced researcher and collaborative colleague.

“Dr. Crutchfield’s innovative spirit in online education is inspirational to those around her,” Cain said. “I’ve enjoyed watching her move social work online education forward.”