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.”

Study Abroad Leader Visiting South Korea in June

Blair McElroy bestowed a Fulbright award

Blair McElroy

OXFORD, Miss. – The head of the study abroad program at the University of Mississippi has received a Fulbright award to South Korea to create a stronger connection between the university and the country.

Blair McElroy, director of the university’s study abroad program and UM interim senior international officer, was awarded a grant to attend a two-week International Education Administrators seminar in June in South Korea. The grant is made possible through funds appropriated annually by Congress.

“I am delighted and proud to be selected as one of the eight grantees,” McElroy said. “I am excited to experience the Korean culture firsthand as part of a group of passionate individuals in the field of international education.”

The purpose of the seminar is “to create and deepen institutional connections to Korea through visits to universities and meetings with faculty, administrators and government officials,” McElroy said.

“These visits and meetings will enhance UM’s current program offerings in Korea by structuring strategic partnerships in academic areas. The seminar will also increase my knowledge of Korean culture, which will assist in advising students for study in Korea, enhance connections to our current Korean students on campus and, personally, increase my intercultural competence – one can never have enough.”

Typically, the seminar includes a week around Seoul, South Korea, visiting universities and institutions. The second week is generally spent outside Seoul. The seminar also includes tours of historical and cultural sites.

“I am thrilled that Ms. McElroy has been given this opportunity to travel to South Korea and work to expand her expertise and our community’s connection to that country,” UM Provost Noel Wilkin said. “We have a goal to educate and engage global citizens, which entails increasing study abroad and expanding faculty engagement abroad.

“In addition to being an honor for Blair, this award will enable her to advance this goal and build connections to enable these activities.”

After returning, McElroy said she will pursue the goals outlined in her project statement, which includes workshops for faculty and staff on intercultural communication and partnerships in Korea, development of faculty-led programs to Korea and support of events where domestic and Korean students can connect.

“I hope that through these goals we will increase the number of students studying in Korea, especially students who are not currently studying Korean language at UM, and encourage cultural exchange through study, teaching and research,” McElroy said.

A native of Jackson, Tennessee, McElroy earned a bachelor’s degree in international studies, minoring in Chinese and French, from Ole Miss in 2002. She is a graduate of the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. She earned her Juris Doctor from the UM School of Law in 2006.

During her academic career, she studied overseas in Beijing for a semester, and at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She joined the study abroad office in 2006.

According to Jeffrey L. Bleich, chair of the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Fulbright program “aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, (and) is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.”

“As a Fulbright recipient and a representative of the United States, you will have the opportunity to work collaboratively with international partners in educational, political, cultural, economic and scientific fields,” Bleich said in a letter to McElroy announcing the award. “We hope that your Fulbright experience will be deeply rewarding professionally and personally, and that you will share the knowledge you gain with many others throughout your life.”

University Expands Summer Programs for K-12 Students

More than 40 one-week camps available, open house set for Feb. 27

Middle school students learn about vegetables and other culinary plants during a UM summer camp activity in the University Garden. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Families looking to avoid the inevitable “I’m bored” comments coming from children this summer are invited to come check out the 2018 academic summer camp opportunities available through the University of Mississippi’s Office of Pre-College Programs.

Interested parents and students in kindergarten through 12th grade can speak with camp faculty and participate in demonstrations during a special open house event Feb. 27 at the university’s Jackson Avenue Center. Visitors can stop by anytime from 4 to 6 p.m.

“These programs really open up the world to students,” said Ellen Shelton, director of pre-college programs. “It’s a great way to help them explore their passions, potential and even future careers options. They can enjoy some out-of-the-box experiences and learn something new.”

Students who will be in first through sixth grades this fall can participate in the popular Rebel Quest day camps offered in seven weekly sessions on the Oxford campus beginning the week of June 4.

“Rebel Quest works well for families because you can pick and choose the weeks your child attends and pay only for that week,” said Amy Goodin, UM project coordinator for elementary and middle school programs.

Last summer, Brian Hopkins, the university’s deputy CIO for academic technology, and his wife enrolled their daughter Lynnleigh Kate in Rebel Quest day camps to help prevent summer “brain drain.”

“We wanted her to stay engaged with learning over the summer months, but still have some fun,” Hopkins said. “She had the opportunity to enjoy campus and interact with peers while enjoying interesting activities.”

A few of Rebel Quest’s special weekly themes happening during summer 2018 are “Time Travelers,” “Space is the Place,” “Mad Scientist” and “All About Art.”

Middle school students have several new camps to choose from this summer that will open their eyes to new fields and tap into their creative side.

“It’s Dangerous to Go Alone: An Exploration of Game Design” will be a weeklong experience July 22-27 for rising sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Participants will learn to develop storylines and characters, different art styles, gaming platforms and more.

Budding writers and bloggers can hone their skills during “Creative Writing Camp: An Exploration of Literary Genres,” slated for July 8-13 for rising seventh- and eighth-graders. Students will gain confidence in their writing as they experiment with various writing styles such as short stories, plays, reviews, speeches and editorials.

Rising seventh- and eighth-grade artists can create their own worlds, characters and stories during the new class, “Imaginative Realism in Art: Drawing and Painting for Life,” taking place June 10-15. Participants will learn skills to improve their drawing and painting and also have opportunities to visit various art galleries on campus and in Oxford.

The new “Orchestra String Workshop” is designed to help musicians in grades 7-12 improve their individual and group playing in a relaxed and creative environment.

High school students also can take part in several new camps designed to prepare them for college and careers or explore areas that are of interest.

“This is a chance for students to really dive deep into a field, subject or activity that they are interested in that might not be highlighted as much in their school,” Shelton said.

“Backstage Magic” is an intensive stagecraft camp for rising 10th- to 12th-graders interested in the techniques used by professionals to create scenery and props, as well as lighting design, rigging and special effects. This camp takes place June 17-22.

Participants conduct a gunshot residue test as part of the CSI Summer Camp offered last summer through the UM Office of Pre-College Programs. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

The “Eco Footprint” workshop taking place June 10-15 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders will guide students in investigating water quality, food production, energy usage and waste production through hands-on lab investigations and field trips.

Students can study the significance of William Faulkner’s artistic vision during the “Art of the Story: Faulkner” workshop taking place July 23-27 for rising 11th- and 12th-graders.

The new “Shakespeare at the Movies” workshop takes on two Shakespeare plays, “The Taming of the Shrew” and “Macbeth,” to examine strategies of adapting Shakespeare’s plays to film and the problems and innovations that came out of that process. The camp is set for June 10-15 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders.

Also new this summer is the “Young Women’s Empowerment Workshop,” set for July 8-13 in partnership with the UM Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies. Women leaders from the university and community will spend time mentoring and sharing advice while students have an opportunity to shadow them in their careers.

Wordsmiths will discover the heart of the poem and ways for poetry to capture a range of emotions during the “Creative Writing-Poetry Workshop” offered June 3-8 for rising ninth- to 12th-graders.

High school students can choose from several creative writing workshops this summer, including “Creative Writing-Prose,” happening June 10-15; “Writing for College Success,” offered July 15-20; and “Writing for Change” on June 3-8.

For more information on these and the numerous other academic summer camp options set for the Oxford campus this summer, visit

University Offers Variety of Test Prep Opportunities

Prepare for the Praxis, college entrance exams, HR certification and more

The UM Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning offers numerous live and online exam preparatory classes to help students and residents prepare for college admissions, graduate school admissions and professional exams. Praxis coach Thomas Herrington (standing) works with students preparing for the mathematics section of the Praxis exam for teacher licensure. Photo by Larry Agostinelli/UM Outreach

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The University of Mississippi’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning is offering numerous test preparation options this spring for students and community members who may be interested in applying for college, graduate school or professional programs, or looking to gain a professional certification.

“These classes are filling the need for convenient and affordable test prep options in our area,” said Mary Leach, director of professional development and lifelong learning. “These short workshops and courses are ideal for those who want to do well on their college and graduate school entry exams and for community members who are looking to advance in their careers with professional training and certification.”

Those who are interested in certification as a K-12 teacher can take advantage of a two-part Praxis exam preparation workshop, set for consecutive Saturdays, Feb.3 and 10, in Lamar Hall.

The Feb. 3 class runs 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and will focus on mastering the reading and writing portion of the exam. The Feb. 10 class is slated for 9 a.m.-3 p.m., and it will help participants prepare for the mathematics section.

“A lot of people are rusty when it comes to math,” Praxis core instructor Thomas Herrington said. “This course helps them to get the wheels turning again. We give them another way to look at the math problems and help them understand these concepts.”

Participants will get an in-depth review of materials included on the exam and learn test-taking strategies to help with mastery of exam content. The cost for the reading and writing prep session will be $65, and the math session costs $85. Participants who sign up for both sections receive a $10 discount.

New this spring is an increased partnership with Cambridge Educational Services to offer online test preparation courses.

“We know that scholarship funds for college and graduate school tend to be tied into a student’s score on these standardized tests,” Leach said. “These programs are affordable and convenient for students to learn the material and prepare strategies that will help them to perform at their highest level.”

High school students hoping to demonstrate college readiness can prepare for the PSAT, ACT and SAT exams through the online courses, as can college graduates looking to apply to graduate or law school.

Each course offers 30 units of self-directed study, practice tests and quizzes where students are provided instruction for best strategies and guided practice in applying those strategies. The cost for five months of access to a specific online course is $189.

Local human resource professionals can work toward advanced certification or obtain professional development with the Society of Human Resources certification course offered on Tuesday evenings, Feb. 6 through May 1, in Lamar Hall, Room 208.

The course not only prepares human resource professionals to take the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exams, but it also helps participants strengthen their understanding of core behavior and technical competencies to increase productivity in the workplace. Christopher Byrd, a human resource manager and SHRM-certified instructor, will share new ideas to drive success and contribute to the strategic direction of an organization.

The registration fee is $999 for SHRM members and $1,099 for others.

For more information or to register for any of these programs, visit or contact Mary Leach at 662-915-7847.

Treat Your Valentine to Dance Lessons through UM Communiversity

Spring class lineup also includes personal safety, gardening, resume writing and Mother's Day treats

Try something new this spring with the UM Communiversity courses. Latin dance instructor Arman Sahakyan will host the popular ballroom and Latin dancing courses just in time for Valentine’s Day. UM photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – The start of a new year is always a good prompt to reflect on how you can try something different, form new habits or make time for enriching experiences. The University of Mississippi Communiversity program has a spring schedule full of noncredit courses sure to inspire.

“There is a little something for everyone,” said Gazel Giles, Communiversity coordinator. “There are no grades or homework, but there are many opportunities to learn about things you may be interested in.”

Residents are invited to the free “UPD’s Personal Safety” class at noon Jan. 31 at the Oxford-University Depot. Find out how to protect yourself and develop an awareness of threatening situations. There is no cost for this hourlong course, but participants are encouraged to register online.

Treat your Valentine to ballroom and Latin dance classes with professional instructor Arman Sahakyan. This step-by-step class takes place Monday evenings Feb. 19-April 30 in Residence Hall 2, on the former site of Guess Hall.

The ballroom sessions are set for 6:30-7:30 p.m. while the Latin dancing course will follow from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost is $10 per session.

Gardeners and anyone wanting to spruce up their yard this spring can enjoy Communiversity’s popular lunch and learn classes. The first in the series will be “Pruning Like a Pro” with Jeff McManus, ISA-certified arborist and director of UM Landscape Services, on Feb. 21.

The “How to Create a Hummingbird Garden” class with Mitch Robinson from Strawberry Plains Audubon Center is set for March 28. Each class costs just $10 and will be conducted from noon to 1p.m. at the Depot.

Residents looking for resources to enhance their employability and work performance can check out “Landing Your Next Job” with career training coach Leslie Kendrick.

“The main goal of this class is to help people feel more comfortable with applying for jobs and interviewing for positions,” Kendrick said. “The class is not meant to overwhelm participants. I want people to feel confident that they can do this.”

Kendrick will share tips for interviewing as well as writing resumes and cover letters from 5:30 to 7:30 March 20 and 27 at UM’s Insight Park on Hawthorn Road.

Another course to help with enhancing job skills and work performance in 2018 is “Advanced Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint: Going Beyond the Basics,” taking place 5:30-7:30 p.m. Feb. 5 and 7 at Weir Hall. The cost is $85.

Focusing on improving personal health is a popular goal for many in the new year. The “Advanced Essential Oils” class provides ideas for living a healthier lifestyle through blending oils for wellness applications and replacing toxic home and personal care products with more natural materials.

The class will meet 5:30-7:30 p.m. Tuesdays, April 3, 10 and 17, at the Depot. The cost is $75.

“CPR and First-Aid Training” will help participants make a plan for emergencies and develop the skills necessary to help an adult, child, or infant who is not breathing. The class is slated for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. March 31 at Insight Park. The class also meets requirements for foster care, adoption and child care workers.

Preparing for emergencies is a topic that also will be discussed during the “Safe Sitter Essentials” class for youth ages 11 to 14. Participants will learn lifesaving skills so they can be safe when home alone or watching younger children. Set for 9 a.m.-4 p.m. May 5 at Insight Park, the course costs $65.

Fishtail, Milkmaid, Crown, Upside Down – these are some of the latest on-trend hairstyles that Melanie Armstrong will teach participants how to craft during the “Introduction to Professional Braiding” class taking place 9 a.m.-noon March 3 at the Depot.

Armstrong, who operates the Armstrong Braiding Academy in Tupelo, will share her best techniques and hair care secrets with class members who can practice on and keep their own hair mannequin. The cost, including materials, is $99.

Aretha Nabors of Tupelo will share her best tips and practices for saving money during the “Beginning Couponing Course,” from 9 a.m. to noon April 21 at the Depot. The course fee is $35.

Nabors perfected her couponing skills a few years ago when the first two of her five sons were enrolled in college at the same time.

“Couponing has saved me thousands of dollars each year,” Nabors said. “I needed to supply necessities not just for my own household, but also for two student residences.

“Now I buy enough at deeply-discounted prices throughout the year to stock them with food and supplies that they need without breaking the bank.”

Nabors said that she doesn’t extreme coupon but does get the maximum savings on products and even restaurant visits.

“I’m so excited to show others how to save money and time,” she said. “It just doesn’t make sense to pay full price.”

People looking to take their photography skills to the next level can learn the best digital camera and image editing techniques from Robert Jordan, who recently retired as director of university photography. His “Advanced Digital Photography” class will address control techniques, various format cameras and photographic lighting techniques.

The class meets 8 a.m.-noon April 14 at Insight Park. The cost is $85.

Food Network regulars Jeff and Kathleen Taylor of Oxford’s Sweet T’s Bakery will share their creative techniques during the “Sweet Treats for Mother’s Day” class, slated for 6-8 p.m. May 3 at the Depot. Enjoy the class with family members or surprise mom with a delicious and beautiful cake, cupcakes or cookies. The cost is $69.

On May 5, enjoy a covered-wagon ride while learning the history of native plants and landscapes in north Mississippi during a guided excursion at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. The cost is $30 and includes group transportation from Oxford.

Senior citizens 55 and older get a 10 percent discount for courses costing $30 or more. For more information or to register, visit

Academic Traveler Program Offering Sicilian Culinary Adventure

UM faculty member will lead Sicily culture and cuisine excursion this spring

Participants in the UM Academic Traveler culinary tour of Sicily will explore many fascinating locales, including the picturesque main square of Noto. Registration for the trip is open through Feb. 1. Photo by Getty Images

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Academic Traveler program is offering a unique gift idea this holiday season that will send participants off to bask in the Mediterranean sun while enjoying delightful cuisine and historic beauty.

Candis Varnell, a lecturer in hospitality management, will lead the “Sicilian Culture and Cuisine” tour, set for May 14-21, 2018 in and around Syracuse, Sicily. The Academic Traveler program is a unique way to travel and discover with a seasoned Ole Miss instructor.

“Sicily is under the radar,” Varnell said. “Many people travel throughout Italy, but the arts, culture, food, wine – everything can be found right there on this historic island.”

The trip will feature cuisine teeming with the fruits of local gardens and vineyards. From private vineyard tours and behind-the-scenes chocolate-making demonstrations, the program aims to relate the history, beauty and culture of the Sicilian island to participants.

“Travel changes everything,” Varnell said. “It’s an eye-opening experience that lets you see how other cultures live life.”

Varnell, a world traveler herself, has lived in Jordan and journeyed extensively throughout Europe and the Mediterranean region. She teaches service and event management courses and serves as the internship director in the Ole Miss hospitality management department.

Founded by ancient Greeks, Syracuse was often described as “the greatest Greek city and the most beautiful of them all.” The 2,700-year-old seaside city sits on the southeastern coast of Sicily.

Ancient Greek structures and ruins are found throughout the city and the surrounding regions.

“It’s almost frozen in time,” Varnell said. “There is so much to see with historical significance. It truly transports you to another world.”

The group will arrive in Syracuse on May 14, a Monday, and enjoy a guided tour through the historic city center and Ortygia Island before enjoying a welcome dinner with their fellow guests.

The next day, the group heads to the Syracuse Market to take in local flavor while sampling homegrown vegetables, nuts, fruits and cheeses.

“Italians take pride in local produce,” Varnell said. “They cook with only what is in season. They love their olive oil, wines and cheeses.

“Americans usually get these super-fresh ingredients when we go to a fine-dining restaurant, but this is how the Sicilian people eat every day.”

After the market tour, the group will continue to the Syracuse archeological museum and the Greek Theatre that was originally constructed in the fifth century B.C.

The group will travel to the pink villages lining the sea on Wednesday, with excursions to Noto and Marzamemi. They will enjoy lunch by the sea in one of Marzamemi’s open-air restaurants.

On Thursday, participants will get their turn in the kitchen for a special Sicilian cuisine cooking class taught by area chefs. The group will cook and enjoy a light lunch with local flavor.

That afternoon, the tour continues around the city with a local instructor from Syracuse Academy. The discussion will touch on the origins of the Mafia and how the “Cosa Nostra” began out of Sicily’s farming communities in the early 1800s and later traveled to America, and the declining state of the crime organization today.

Participants will take in the beautiful architecture dripping from the baroque towns of Ragusa and Modica on Friday. Participants will have opportunities to see the world-renowned jutting cornices, gargoyles, scrolls and any number of decorative embellishments that have given Sicily a unique identity.

The tour continues as group members experience the secrets of making Modica’s world-famous chocolate delicacies.

On Saturday, an excursion to Italy’s largest volcano, Mount Etna, will include a vineyard tour and group lunch while learning about the mountain that has shaped the history of Sicily.

The final day in Italy, May 20, includes an olive oil tasting tour around the city. The evening farewell dinner will be hosted during a boat tour around Syracuse Bay.

Group members will depart from Sicily on May 21.

“If you are looking for an exceptional Christmas or graduation gift, this is it,” said Mary Leach, director of noncredit programs and Academic Traveler organizer. “This will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The deadline to register for the trip is Feb. 1, 2018, but participants who sign up by Dec. 20 will get a special gift certificate that would be great for placing under the tree.

For more information on the trip and to see the full itinerary, visit


New Program Engages Students in Environmental Issues Close to Home

Students learning scientific process for observing health of local resources

Participants and faculty in the ‘Green Is the New Pink’ program spent a recent Saturday working and learning at the UM Field Station. On hand for the session were (front, from left) faculty members Angela Whaley, Ellen Shelton, Martha Tallent and Katie Szabo, students Mary Porter Fountain of Oxford; Michaela Anderson of Saltillo; and Alex Nagle, Claire Cizdziel, Srujana Murthy, Andreel Ward, Emory Elzie, Grace Wolff and Zoe Jones, all of Oxford, and (rear) Scott Knight, Field Station director. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss. – Students involved in the University of Mississippi’s “Green Is the New Pink: Young Women Environmentalists in Action” program recently spent a Saturday testing and observing water sources and trying their hand at electrofishing at the UM Field Station in northeastern Lafayette County.

“I like nature,” said Mary Porter Fountain, a ninth-grader at Oxford High School. “I think it’s interesting getting to learn about what plants and different species need to survive.”

This fall is the inaugural year for the new environmental program for girls in eighth through 12th grades. It is sponsored by grants from the National Writing Project, John Legend’s “Show Me” Campaign, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Collective Shift.

Martha Tallent, an eighth-grade science teacher at Oxford Middle School, serves as a faculty member for the program.

“I feel like something happens between eighth and 10th grades where many students seem to lose interest in science,” Tallent said. “I want to teach our students to be risk-takers in science and to engage in several different scientific fields to see what interests them.

“There are so many disciplines and jobs in the various fields, and we want to expose them to the different options.”

A collaboration among the Office of Pre-College Programs, the UM Writing Project, the UM Field Station and Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, the program is introducing students to real-world research strategies and generating curiosity about the natural environment.

The cross-disciplinary partnership between English and science is allowing students in the program to conduct their own research, create a project and deliver a presentation. They are guided through four field experiences of data collection, data exploration, analysis and interpretation of data, and drawing conclusions.

“I’m thinking about trying some of the water quality experiments on the ponds in my neighborhood,” Fountain said.

Oxford High ninth-grader Srujana Murthy said she is interested in looking at some invasive species growing around a local pond and possibly reintroducing native plants to bring native birds back to the area.

“That’s what happened at Strawberry Plains,” Murthy said. “The former owner planted several non-native plants around the home, and the hummingbirds stopped coming. Once they removed those and replanted with native species, they saw many hummingbirds return to the area.”

Srujana Murthy (left) and Claire Cizdziel try their hand at electrofishing under the guidance of Scott Knight, director of the UM Field Station, as part of the ‘Green is the New Pink’ environmental program. UM photo by Pam Starling

So far this fall, students have spent one Saturday in September at Strawberry Plains Environmental Center in Holly Springs. This month, they spent a Saturday studying the ecosystem at the Field Station.

In February, they will return to Strawberry Plains to examine the winter landscape and wildlife. Their final Saturday field experience will be at the Field Station in April to participate in environmental-awareness activities surrounding Earth Day.

The activities this month at the Field Station included testing the water quality of local streams and sampling the fish content through a process called electrofishing. This scientific tool involves sending a small electrical current into the stream that attracts the fish and makes them easier to catch. The different types of fish are recorded and then released.

“Comparing ecosystem integrity from one stream to another is just one tiny piece of what ecology is about,” said Scott Knight, Field Station director. “In our experiments, we were trying to test the integrity and sample the diversity to measure the health of the environment.”

Throughout the year, participants stay connected in their research and writing through an online Google classroom, where they will be reflecting on their field experiences and refining the writing component of their scientific findings.

“There are so many interesting paths in studying ecology,” Knight said. “There are also many job opportunities in this field that we hope to open participants’ eyes to.”

For more information about the “Green Is the New Pink” program, visit

Division of Outreach Sets Open House to Show Off New Space

Community invited to tour new facility Nov. 9 at Jackson Avenue Center

The new Division of Outreach and Continuing Education space at the Jackson Avenue Center houses 10 departments and includes space for conferences and other events. The division will host an open house on Thursday (Nov. 9) so community members can view the new space and learn more about its various services for students, faculty and the community. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – Demand for educational opportunities delivered in new and innovative ways continues to grow. Earlier this fall, the University of Mississippi Division of Outreach and Continuing Education set events in motion that will help the university keep up with these evolving needs.

Just before the fall semester began, the division’s faculty and staff members moved files, boxes, computers and years of experience to the university’s Jackson Avenue Center, at 1111 West Jackson Ave., next to the Ole Miss Barnes & Noble bookstore and Malco’s Oxford Studio Cinema. The 41,500-square-foot area includes conference spaces, two testing centers and offices for 10 departments.

The division will open its doors for an open house from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 9). Everyone is invited to come view the space, locate colleagues in their new offices and preview the conference spaces available for events.

“This move is helping the division expand offerings and services for UM students, faculty, staff and the community,” said Tony Ammeter, UM associate provost for outreach and dean of general studies. “Relocating to the Jackson Avenue Center made sense for the university and the division.

“We were able to free up prime real estate in the heart of campus and at the same time gain space to advance the mission of our unit.”

The Division of Outreach vacated nearly 22,000 square feet at the E.F. Yerby Conference Center. Also included in the move were department offices on the second floor of Kinard Hall.

“We hope the newly renovated space provides opportunities for our staff to continue creating and implementing innovative educational opportunities that serve the university community, our city, state and nation,” Ammeter said.

The new Division of Outreach and Continuing Education space at the Jackson Avenue Center includes the Linda Chitwood Testing Center wing and three large conference auditoriums. The division will host an open house on Thursday (Nov. 9) so community members can view the new space and learn more about its various services for students, faculty and the community. Submitted photo

With construction beginning in March 2016, the university’s Jackson Avenue Phase II renovation encompasses previously unused space in the former Oxford Wal-Mart and mall area. The space includes three new 150- to 250-seat conference room auditoriums that are available for event rental by university and community constituents.

“We are thrilled to see how this former Wal-Mart space has been transformed into a state-of-the-art office facility,” Provost Noel Wilkin said. “It will be a wonderful home for our outreach staff. They do tremendous work, and I am pleased that they have nice facilities within which to continue their support of the academic and outreach efforts of our institution.”

The division houses several departments that offer nontraditional learning opportunities for students.

“This move has given our office the opportunity to increase our instructional designer and training specialist teams for UM’s online programs,” said April Thompson, director of academic outreach. “We are excited to have the ability to provide more in-person and virtual workshops with more space for faculty training.”

The Department of College Programs, headed by Laura Antonow, is among the departments getting new space in the renovation. It includes iStudy, Study USA, the Internship Experiences Programs and the UM Testing Centers.

The Educational Testing Services center and the Distance Education Testing Lab are housed in the Linda Chitwood Testing Center, on the west side of the JAC.

Named for the former dean of the School of Applied Sciences and associate provost for outreach, this new space doubles the seating for UM students who need to take proctored exams as well as students and community members who are looking to take professional exams, such as the Praxis exam for teaching licensure and the Graduate Record Exam for those looking to pursue graduate studies.

The ETS testing center has seen a 20 percent increase in test-takers utilizing testing services in the past two years. The new testing center space more than doubles the number of seats available for those taking any of the 10-plus different types of proctored exams administered through the office.

During mid-term and final exam timeframes, the Distance Education Testing Lab can have up to 450 students who need test proctoring space each day, said Catherine Hultman, DETL testing coordinator. The new testing lab includes 32 testing modules as well as auditorium space reserved for use during mid-terms and finals.

Also found in the newly renovated areas is the Office of General Studies that provides administration and advising for more than 500 undergraduate majors. Ammeter, Assistant to the Dean Terry Blackmarr, and the BGS advisers and staff are housed on the east side of the building.

The Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning’s move to the JAC will help staff further expand upon their work within the community, state and nation to ensure educational opportunities are available to people of all ages and walks of life, said Mary Leach, the department’s director.

The Office of Pre-College programs, under the direction of Ellen Shelton, offers programming throughout the year for kindergarten through 12th-graders. From academic competitions to numerous summer learning opportunities, the varied activities organized through this office encourage students to strengthen skills and grow academically and personally.

Also included in the JAC are administrative offices for the university’s regional campuses overseen by Rick Gregory and the academic outreach office that encompasses UM’s online, winter and summer sessions.

Further space allotments were made for the division’s service units, including its business and accounting office overseen by Beth Sanders; operations and conference services office; and the Department of Creative Services and Marketing, under the direction of Janey Ginn.

The provost’s office also aided the addition of a Technology-Enabled Active Learning training room,  located off the atrium of the new space. This room will be available to UM faculty and staff.

“From training teachers and law enforcement to organizing university conferences and events, we are excited that these new conference facility areas will make more space available for these learning opportunities,” said Justin Murphree, director of outreach operations.

To RSVP for the Nov. 9 open house, visit