UM Communiversity Classes Help Locals Try Something New this Fall

Schedule includes $10 Lunch and Learn holiday classes

Communiversity participants practice their CPR skills. The program’s fall slate of classes features many options, including first aid, photography, social media marketing, cake decorating and many more. Photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss. – What does learning to decorate a home like Joanna Gaines, spinning around the dance floor like your favorite “Dancing With The Stars” couple and decorating a cake like you’re a contender on “Cake Wars” have in common? These are just a few of the things participants can learn during the University of Mississippi’s fall 2017 Communiversity classes.

“We want to give people the chance to change their, ‘I wish I coulds’ into ‘Yes, I cans,'” said Gazel Giles, Communiversity coordinator. “People may want to try something new, like learning to use essential oils or putting together a show-stopping Christmas tree, and with Communiversity classes, now they can.”

With several options this fall, the schedule features  new classes and several returning favorites, including the popular $10 fall “Lunch and Learn” classes. These classes teach participants how to design their perfect holiday table, trim a beautiful tree and even make a Christmas tree for the birds.

“Communiversity classes are for everyone,” Giles said. “We try to offer a broad range of short workshops and classes that will give community members the opportunity to learn something new.

“There is a wealth of knowledge to pull from in our community. People enjoy sharing the hobbies, skills and techniques they are passionate about. Our Communiversity teachers make these classes fun.”

The fall schedule kicks off this weekend with an excursion to the 2017 Hummingbird Migration and Nature Celebration at Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs. Birdwatchers on the sold-out trip will enjoy one of the biggest nature festivals in the area and enjoy the thousands of hummingbirds, live shows, arts and crafts, and native plant sales.

Next week, the popular “Ballroom and Latin Dance with Arman” class begins for the fall. Arman Sahakyan will host his step-by-step dance instruction classes on Monday evenings at a location to be announced.

Participants can come for one or all of the classes taking place from Sept. 11 to Nov. 27. Ballroom dance lessons run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Latin dance classes are 7:30-8:30 p.m. The cost for each class session is $10 per person.

The popular “CPR and First Aid Training” class is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Sept. 23 at Insight Park on Hathorn Road. Students will learn resuscitation techniques for infants, children and adults, along with how to use Automated External Defibrillators, or AEDs.

The course also covers first aid, home safety, splinting and victim assessment. This course meets requirements for foster care, adoption and child care workers. The fee is $79 and includes American Red Cross CPR certification.

Ole Miss graduate Maila Rogers of Southaven enrolled in this course last spring and used the first aid information she learned while serving as a camp counselor this summer at Camp Lakeside in Scobey.

“I felt better prepared and calmer when I needed to recall my training,” Rogers said. “Unfortunately, we did have a few minor accidents at camp this summer that needed quick responses. I was glad to have the knowledge and skills to help.”

“Safe Sitter Essential Skills for ages 11-14” is a nationally recognized program where teens learn lifesaving skills to stay safe when they are home alone or watching younger children. The class meets 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 4 at Insight Park. The cost is $45.

Community residents who would like to learn more about the healing power of natural remedies are invited to try Communiversity’s special classes with Ann Marie Farrell on Thursday evenings in October.

“The Healing Power of Herbs and Spices” class meets 5:30-7:30 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Oxford-University Depot. The cost is $39. “Advanced Essential Oils – Lifestyle Change” is set for the same times Oct. 19 and 26. The cost is $85 plus a $9 materials fee.

Communiversity classes are short noncredit classes open to anyone in the community interested in learning something new. Back on the schedule this fall are the popular $10 holiday decor and design classes. Photo by Larry Agostinelli

Learn more about how to take photos like the pros in “Getting to Know Your Digital Camera” from 8 a.m. to noon Sept. 30 at Insight park. Robert Jordan, UM director of photography services, will teach participants to take professional-looking photos and share his tips on enhancing images, archiving photos and techniques for printing. The cost is $85. Students will have an opportunity to practice their skills with their own camera during lessons around campus that same day.

For beginning photographers who want to learn more about digitally enhancing photos, the “Adobe Photoshop Workshop: Getting Started,” is set for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 7 at Weir Hall. The cost is $89.

Local seniors interested in learning more about their tech devices are invited to the “iPhones?, iPads?, iWhat?” class offered ofrom 5 to 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16 at Weir Hall. The fee is $45. Participants will learn basic settings, navigation, how to take photos, send texts, download apps and much more.

“Marketing Your Business Using Social Media” will meet 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 5, 12 and 19 at Weir Hall. The cost is $69. This course teaches participants how to set up and optimize social media accounts for their business, generate leads through Facebook ads and gain traffic to their websites.

Two-time winners of Food Network’s “Cake Wars,” Jeff and Kathleen Taylor, of Oxford’s Sweet T’s Bakery, are back this fall with their popular cake design classes. They will lead a Halloween-themed “Cake Decorating: Spooky, Scary and Spectacular” class from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Depot. The class covers techniques for creating piping, cake borders, flowers, rolled fondant and modeling techniques. The course fee is $75.

The Taylors also will lead “Holiday Sweet Treats” from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Dec. 12, again at the Depot. This family-friendly class will cover how to take a simple cupcake or cookie and turn it into something special. The class fee is $59.

Communiversity’s popular $10 holiday Lunch and Learn classes return to help participants deck their halls with lots of festive cheer and decor. Each class will be offered from noon to 1 p.m. at the Depot.

The first Lunch and Learn class is set for Nov. 8, when one of Oxford’s favorite designers, Jordan Brown, of Discount Building Materials, shares her unique “Tips for Trimming Your Tree.” Learn her easy-to-re-create design ideas for putting together your own show-stopping tree this holiday season.

Brown also will teach fun DIY holiday decorating ideas for designing “Easy to Elegant Tablescapes and Centerpieces” during a noon class on Nov. 29.

The final Lunch and Learn is slated for Dec. 13, when Mitch Robinson from the Strawberry Plains Audubon Center shows participants how to attract feathered friends to their yards with his class, “Christmas Tree for the Birds.” Students will get hands-on training to decorate an evergreen tree with decorations that will attract birds and various wildlife.

Visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/inspired for more information on these and other classes happening this fall. Discounts are available for ages 55 and older. UM employees can use payroll deduction for any class over $60.

Participants Say University’s STEM Camp for Girls Rocks

Weeklong event gives female middle school students insights into research careers

Ole Miss student Maggie Craze (right) helps participants at STEM camp for girls launch the paper rockets they designed and constructed. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Programming robots and studying physics were among the activities enjoyed by 16 junior high students attending a girls-only science, technology, engineering and mathematics camp this summer at the University of Mississippi.

Sponsored by the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, the camp included girls from Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Tennessee. This year’s theme was the science of sports.

“My goal is to inspire young women to go into STEM fields,” said Tiffany Gray, camp coordinator and project manager for pre-college programs in the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. “To do this, I have created a weeklong camp of fun, hands-on activities that shows them how amazing math and science can be.”

Each day at the camp had a different focus, including chemistry, physics, computer science, mechanical engineering, civil engineering and math. Programming robots was a highlight for many participants. Presentations were made the final day.

Norah Bruce, a seventh-grader at Oxford Middle School, said science is her main interest.

“It explains the universe, and I want to know more,” she said. “I want to be a marine biologist and study whales. I need to know how to control a submarine if I’m gonna go swim with them. I also love to make stuff, so the engineering part of STEM will help me.”

The event is part of the university’s commitment to strengthen STEM education in Mississippi and attract more students – particularly those from underrepresented groups – into related fields of study. The goals, part of the university’s STEM Education Initiative, are critical to efforts to address future workforce needs and enhance the state’s economic development.

The university, which is classified as an R1: Highest Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, also has broken ground on a 200,000-square-foot STEM education building. The $138 million project is designed to facilitate project-based, active learning in a variety of science and technical fields.

KaMya Jones, of Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis, said she applied to STEM Camp because she wanted hands-on activities and because of the lack of women in the engineering field.

“The part I was able to apply to myself was science,” Jones said. “I really enjoyed the experiments we did and the physics behind it. I hope the skills will make an impact on my everyday life and hopefully my future career.”

Isabel Sawyer of Mobile, Alabama, said she came to STEM camp because her father is an Ole Miss alumnus.

“This is where my dad went to college, so I’ve always wanted to try a camp here and see what the college life is about,” she said. “I think there should be more women doing this. I wanted to learn more that school isn’t teaching us and meet new people and that like the same things I do.”

Participants in this year’s camp included Zoreya Beckworth, of Greenwood; Norah Bruce, Nora Clinton, Sami Johnson and Zoe Wilson, all of Oxford; Madison Cox, of Ridgeland; Elizabeth Curbo and Zahara Wright, both of Olive Branch; Grace Day, of Germantown, Tennessee; Aubri Fairley, of Canton; Josie Munoz and Syble Wright, both of Forrest City, Arkansas; Ashton Oswalt, of Monroe, Louisiana; Isabel Sawyer, of Mobile, Alabama; and KaMya Shaw, of Holly Springs.

Gazel Giles Takes on Community Enrichment Position with UM

Oxford native looking forward to organizing inspiring programs and continuing education opportunities

Gazel Giles

OXFORD, Miss. – After graduating from Lafayette High School in 2002, Gazel Giles had a dream of helping others. She wanted to go into nursing, but family responsibilities and the need to work 40 hours a week left little time to attend college, so she trained for a position as a dialysis technician.

“I enjoyed working with patients,” Giles said. “Knowing that I was making a difference in their lives made it enjoyable to come to work.”

Giles took courses at Northwest Community College in Oxford part time when she could, and in 2011 she was ready to pursue her dream of a bachelor’s degree. She enrolled at the University of Mississippi to begin classes in the psychology program.

“I was thinking of working as a counselor or case manager,” Giles said. “I felt like I was called to continue making a difference in others’ lives.”

After graduation, Giles needed to stay in Oxford, as she was raising her children. She took a position in the Rebel Reserve temporary clerical pool and began serving as a secretary in the Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and later in the university’s Facilities Planning Office.

A full-time position became available in the facilities planning office, and Giles landed the job. As a receptionist there, Giles learned more about the SAP data management system, billing, organizing projects, and working with architects and contracts.

“I really enjoyed learning new things and meeting new people,” she said. “It was a great experience for me.”

In 2014, Giles joined the UM Staff Council to represent her department. Two years later, she was elected by her peers to serve as the president of the staff council for that year.

“I saw this as a way to represent my fellow staff members and help solve problems in a positive way,” Giles said. “I wanted to make a difference. This position taught me so much about working with university and community leaders.”

During this time, Giles continued her education by taking classes toward a master’s degree in higher education. She graduated in May.

This spring, Giles applied and was chosen for a position in the UM Division of Outreach as a coordinator of continuing education programs.

“I felt I could be a strong example of the benefits of continuing your education,” Giles said. “I took classes when I could, raised my family, stopped classes, worked and started classes again.

“I had a dream and just pursued it when the opportunity came along. I’m grateful that I had those opportunities.”

In her new position, Giles works with UM’s noncredit, professional development and lifelong learning programs. She will coordinate the Communiversity short-term, noncredit classes that support community members who want to learn new skills. These programs are open to anyone in the community, including retirees, Ole Miss students, and family members of all ages.

Giles’ outgoing personality and experience in event planning will be factors that will contribute to her success in this position, said Mary Leach, director of UM’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning.

“She has outstanding customer service skills,” Leach said. “She’s willing to go the extra mile in getting the job done.

“I think her experience as president of the staff council will add to our department’s mission by fostering relationships on and off campus that will help us provide quality programs to those that we serve.”

In a recent ballroom dance class offered by Communiversity, Giles said she was able to witness firsthand how this program is enriching other’s lives.

“I watched one participant who was nervous and unsure of himself as the class began, but by the end of the session he was smiling and happy. He was able to spin his wife around the dance floor with confidence.

“When I saw that, I knew for sure that this program was something I wanted to be a part of.”

For more information about the Communiversity program, visit http://outreach.olemiss.edu/communiversity/.

StarTalk Program Gives High School Students Education in Chinese

Classroom instruction, cultural activities create enjoyable summer learning experience

Students enrolled in Mississippi StarTalk, an intensive Chinese language camp on the Ole Miss campus, practice their Chinese reading and writing skills. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss. – Thirty high school students from across the nation are learning how to fluently speak Mandarin Chinese thanks to an intense summer program at the University of Mississippi.

Mississippi StarTalk, which began June 28 and runs through July 28, is hosted in part by the UM Department of Modern Languages as well as the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education and is a federal program for rising sophomores, juniors and seniors. Besides studying Chinese inside and out of the classroom, students participate in a cultural program introducing them to China, its people and its culture.

All students who complete the program receive college and/or high school credit in Mandarin Chinese.

“The University of Mississippi has one of the premier undergraduate Chinese language programs in the country and it receives special federal funding to send students to study in China,” said Donald Dyer, associate dean for faculty and academic affairs and professor of Russian and linguistics in the College of Liberal Arts.

“Students who have become highly proficient speakers of Chinese during their high school and college careers will find themselves with unlimited career opportunities when they finish their education over the coming decade.”

In its 11th year, StarTalk provides three levels of instruction. Instructors are Lynn Tian, Yiwen “Abbie” Wang and Cheng-Fu Chen. Ole Miss Chinese students Liz Newsom, Dean Ramsey and Wesley Hale are serving as tutor-counselors.

“Ms. Tian teaches at the Hutchison (Middle) School in Memphis,” Dyer said. “Ms. Wang teaches at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans, and Dr. Chen is joining our Chinese faculty this fall after several years of teaching at Framingham State University in Massachusetts.”

Days consist of classes, workshops and Summer College activities. Students learn Chinese calligraphy, cooking, paper cutting and Chinese tea culture. Other activities include dinner at a Chinese restaurant, shopping in a simulated Chinese market, tai qi (martial art) instruction and a panel on studying abroad in China.

“Mississippi StarTalk is a chance to begin or continue the study of Chinese under ideal circumstances and with opportunities to continue during the coming year and into college,” said Brendan Ryan, a UM Stamps leadership scholar who serves as program coordinator. Both Ryan and Hale participated in the StarTalk program in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

A mathematics and Chinese major, Ryan participated in the Fulbright Hayes Group Project Abroad in Xi’an, China and will return in August to partake in the Capstone year of the Chinese Flagship Program.

StarTalk program participants said they have benefitted already from being in the program.

“I love this program and its intensity,” said Mary Entrekin, a Level 1 student from Gulfport. “I catch myself saying things in Chinese that I did not think I knew how to say simply because of all of the exposure that I’m getting to the language and the culture.”

Entrekin said she plans to keep up her Chinese skills with a tutor since Chinese is not offered at her high school.

“I also plan to be able to communicate with Chinese-speaking students in a more efficient way,” she said. “I love learning foreign languages and their corresponding cultures, and this program was the perfect opportunity to do just that.”

Other StarTalk program participants are Robert Anderson, Cara Calhoun, Tabitha Ellis, Abigail Melssen and John Tichenor IV, all of Edmond, Oklahoma; Donald Beck of Sikeston, Missouri; Briana Berger Slowinski of Clinton; Aristide Brown and Yurik Warren, both of Charlotte, North Carolina; Rachel Cieplak of Culpeper, Virginia; Madison Conroy of Miami Beach, Florida; Johanna Cooper of Knoxville, Tennessee; Samantha Fabian of Omaha, Nebraska; Daniel Ferro of Rockville Centre, New York; Harrison Fox of Gulfport; Quinn Gordon of Brandon; Taliya Harman of Gaithersburg, Maryland; Sophia Hellams of Miami; Mackenzie Huffman of Houston; Ethan Joss of McLean, Virginia; Emily Lambert of Hattiesburg; Lucy Meehan of Worcester, New York; Madeline Meyer of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Avery Pearson of Dallas; Sophia Ranck of Eugene, Oregon; Sebastian Rouse of New Orleans; Olivia Saunders of Tallahassee, Florida; Francena Sekul of Biloxi; and Alex Yang of Appleton, Wisconsin.

UM offers the state’s only Mandarin Chinese degree program and is home to one of 12 Chinese Flagship programs in the U.S.

“We run one of the largest and most successful summer StarTalk programs in the country, from which we recruit excellent students for our flagship program,” Dyer said.

For more about UM’s Chinese Language Flagship Program, go to http://chinese.olemiss.edu/. For more about Mississippi StarTalk, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/youth/startalk/.

UM Multidisciplinary Degree Adds New Counselor

Audra Trnovec helping students navigate career path in new position

Audra Trnovec , new academic counselor in the UM Bachelor of General Studies program, works with Serenity Jones, a student in the program, on her schedule. UM photo by Larry Agostinelli

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – When she first started college, Audra Trnovec thought she wanted to be a cruise director like Julie McCoy on the ’70s television show “The Love Boat.” Although her career journey never took her out to sea, Trnovec’s path has had a few twists and turns.

The new academic counselor in the University of Mississippi’s expanding Bachelor of General Studies program, Trnovec ran outdoor adventure programs with two different universities for more than 20 years before making a change that would allow her to continue guiding students into unknown territory. The difference is that this journey winds up at their future careers.

“I like a challenge,” Trnovec said. “I guess that’s why I like my job. It’s similar to leading people in a ropes course. I’m helping students navigate academic and career decisions.

“It’s very rewarding when I get to see a student excited about completing their educational journey.”

Originally from northern Illinois, Trnovec attended Iowa State University to pursue a degree in recreation management.

“I found out that cruise directors had to work 18-hour days, so I changed my mind about that particular career goal,” she said.

Crediting her academic adviser for steering her in the right direction in her career and later suggesting graduate school studies, Trnovec said that she respected her adviser for asking her the tough questions.

“I had to really think about what I wanted to do with my life and analyze my skills,” Trnovec said. “I think having the opportunity to work in my field of study as a student also helped me to investigate opportunities and gain even more knowledge about the profession.”

It was her adviser who first mentioned the possibility of part-time work in the college’s recreation program. She took the job and worked as a student assistant in the program for the next three years.

“I was learning how to lead trips and handle equipment,” Trnovec said. “It really was the best job on campus for a student, and it helped me decide to pursue a career in student outdoor recreation.”

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Trnovec stayed on at Iowa State to complete a master’s degree in higher education and student development. Shortly after, she was offered a full-time position as the coordinator of outdoor recreation programs.

Part of Trnovec’s position included mentoring and guiding students through the undergraduate program, just as her mentor had done for her.

Audra Trnovec

“I wanted to help students prepare for their futures,” she said. “We worked on resumes, interview preparing, and training for not only our outdoor programs, but life.”

In 2001 Trnovec became the assistant director of outdoor recreation at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, where she oversaw the Seahawk Adventure program and helped facilitate travel programs, surfing workshops and fly fishing lessons.

After getting married, her next move was to Indiana State University, where she took a position in the college’s career center as a liaison for the College of Health and Human Services.

“This position allowed me to help students find ways to infuse career and life skills together,” Trnovec said. “I worked with faculty to help add professional and career services into their classes while we worked to help students after graduation.”

The next leg of her journey brought her to north Mississippi, when her husband, Bud Edwards, came to serve as the director of the UM Counseling Center.

“He went to Ole Miss and wanted to return home and help his community,” Trnovec said.

Upon coming to Oxford, Trnovec interviewed for a position as an academic adviser in UM’s Center for Student Success. She also began teaching the EDHE 105: Freshmen Year Experience course.

“This was a neat experience because along with teaching study skills and life management, there was a lot to learn about the campus and the university as part of this class,” she said. “As someone who was new to Ole Miss myself, I told my students that we were going to learn about all of this together.”

In the Center for Student Success, Trnovec worked with students who had yet to declare a major.

“This took a lot of guidance and working with the students,” she said. “I worked to help them find the right fit for their academic and personal goals.”

In March, another challenge came her way when Trnovec landed her new position with the Bachelor of General Studies program.

“I like the creativity of this degree program,” she said. “Our BGS students get to put together their varied interests and career goals in order to make a degree as unique as they are. I really believe in the viability of this major, and I love to help students plan their own career paths while earning this degree.”

With the addition of Trnovec, the BGS advising office has a great team assembled to guide students in their educational journey, said Terry Blackmarr, assistant to the dean in the Office of General Studies.

“Audra really complements and understands the nature of this program and the goals of our students,” Blackmarr said. “Her background in career services is bringing experience that helps our students throughout their career journey.”

When she is not working with students, Trnovec is a student herself, working on a doctorate in higher education at Ole Miss.

“My hobby is school,” she said. “I love learning and growing in my skills. I feel like I am right where I’m supposed to be.”

UM-Grenada, BGS Student Changes Career Plans and Excels

Bethany Miller earns UM's Taylor Medal for academic achievement

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Bethany Miller on being awarded a Taylor Medal. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

GRENADA, Miss.­­­ – After graduating from Grenada High School in 2011, Bethany Miller enrolled at Holmes Community College’s Grenada Center, where she served as a student ambassador and a student worker in the vice president’s office.

She graduated with an associate’s degree in social work in 2013 and started classes in the nursing program the following fall. But after a year in the program, Miller’s career path seemed less clear and she withdrew from the program.

“I tried the clinical practice and nursing classes, and I decided that this was not the direction for my life,” Miller said. “I wasn’t sure what was next for me, so I took some time off from school to think about what I might want to do careerwise.”

Just a few short years later, Miller seems to have found her calling in higher education and looks to help others in her community pursue their educational goals. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi this spring and was awarded the university’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal.

Before she enrolled at UM, Bethany was working full-time at an urgent care clinic in Grenada, but she truly missed working at a college. So when she saw an opening in the financial aid office at Holmes-Grenada, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I missed the college environment and working with students,” Miller said. “Financial aid is such a crucial part of students getting the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

“I still wanted to help people, just not in the medical field anymore, and this job was the perfect way for me to do that.”

During her time in this position, Miller realized that she wanted to start taking classes again to complete her bachelor’s degree and pursue her own career goals. She already knew about the University of Mississippi at Grenada, housed on the Holmes-Grenada campus, because her husband, Trey Miller, had completed his Ole Miss degree there in 2013.

Bethany Miller of Grenada was honored during UM Commencement exercises in Oxford. Miller served as the student speaker for the Bachelor of General Studies graduation ceremony as well as the program’s banner bearer for the day’s events.Submitted photo

Trey, who works as an assistant program manager with Effex Management Solutions, has since completed his Master of Arts degree in human services counseling online. The Millers met while helping cater an event at Holmes-Grenada and were married in July 2014.

 

After receiving several scholarships, including the Community College Excellence and First Generation College Student scholarships, Bethany enrolled in the Bachelor of General Studies program at the Grenada campus in fall 2015.

“I loved the diversity of this degree program,” Miller said. “I was leaning toward going into education, but I still had a lot of interests. This program let me study subjects I am really interested in.

“It feels like it’s three degrees all wrapped up into one.”

Miller minored in education, English and sociology while at UM-Grenada. One of her favorite classes, she said, was the Transfer Student Experience, taught by UM instructor and Carrollton native Matthew Deloach.

“I just loved the opportunity to get some of the same experiences as Oxford campus students,” Miller said. “Mr. Deloach shared the journey with us and gave us ideas for being successful in our path to complete our degree.”

Deloach said he admired Miller’s work ethic as she worked full-time and maintained a full-time college course load. He also mentioned her drive to help others and take on leadership roles.

“In class, Bethany would share experiences from her life and her work at Holmes to help other students,” Deloach said. “She seems to enjoy supporting and encouraging her classmates. I think she is positioned well to make a positive impact in her community.”

In late 2016, Miller moved into a new position at Holmes as assistant to the vice president and the academic dean at Holmes-Grenada.

“I have really enjoyed new challenges in this position as well as continuing to work with students, faculty and staff,” Miller said. “I get to help with events, help students build schedules and work with area businesses.”

Miller hopes that she can share her experiences to inspire students even further as she looks to pursue graduate classes in the hopes of one day teaching at the college level.

As one of the top students in UM’s Bachelor of General Studies 2017 graduating class, Miller was asked to serve as the banner barrier during Commencement exercises earlier this month in Oxford. She also was nominated to address her fellow graduates during the program’s graduation ceremony.

“I wanted to encourage everyone to enjoy the journey of education and life,” Miller said. “Looking at the blank pages of our future after graduation can be a bit intimidating at first. I believe that once we get started, it will all come together, just like it has for me.

“I hope I don’t forget to enjoy the ride, even as it takes me around different corners in my career and life.”

UM-Booneville Student Earns University’s Highest Academic Award

Christy Grissom follows winding career path to a Taylor Medal

Chancellor Jeff Vitter with Barbara ‘Christy’ Grissom. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

BOONEVILLE, Miss.­­­ – Growing up, Barbara “Christy” Grissom of Iuka never really thought much about going to college after high school. She went to work at a local restaurant and then a local furniture manufacturing plant before events beyond her control changed the course of her future.

Grissom had worked her way up to a lead position with Bauhaus USA, a furniture manufacturer in Iuka, before the company shut down the plant in 2007. It was then that she learned about a grant with the local Workforce Investment Act that was available to help employees go to college and train for new jobs.

“College was not on my radar before this happened,” Grissom said. “Growing up, I didn’t even think going to college was possible. My parents were not in a position financially to send me or my siblings to college, so it just wasn’t something I had considered.”

This life-altering change back in 2007, however, set events in motion that have led to Grissom being honored last month as a 2017 Taylor Medalist at the University of Mississippi.

Only the top 1 percent of all Ole Miss students receives this award each year. Recipients must have at least a 3.90 grade-point average to be considered.

“She’s quite simply superwoman,” said Tam Salter, bachelor of general studies adviser and instructor at the university’s Booneville regional campus. “She’s a full-time wife, mom, employee, teacher and student. Even with her many duties, she still found time to encourage her own students and her Ole Miss peers as they were working hard to earn their degrees.

“In class, she always had a helpful attitude and encouraging word for her classmates. She just made the classes better because of her life experiences and her drive.”

Grissom graduated from Iuka Christian Academy in 1987, married and started a family 10 years later. She and her husband have three boys, two of whom they adopted.

“It was intimidating going back to school, and I wondered if it was the best thing with three kids at home,” Grissom said. “I think I made the right choice.”

She started at Northeast Mississippi Community College in 2007 and graduated with associate’s degrees in both culinary arts and hospitality management.

“At that time, I had a pretty busy catering company that I was running on the weekends and evenings,” Grissom said. “We catered Caterpillar’s 25th anniversary event for 700 people, plus many weddings and other corporate events.”

Grissom credits academic adviser and mentor Tim Gilmore at Northeast with encouraging her to start teaching. He asked her about becoming certified to teach ServSafe training courses to other food service workers in north Mississippi.

“This experience helped me to realize how much I enjoyed teaching and sharing my experiences from working in the industry,” Grissom said.

In spring 2013, Gilmore became ill and officials at Northeast asked Grissom to cover his classes for the remainder of the semester.

UM-Booneville senior Christy Grissom (middle) was awarded a 2017 Taylor Medal for highest academic achievement. Grissom is congratulated by Derek Markley, (left) executive director of the university’s Tupelo and Booneville campuses and Ricky Ford, president of Northeast Mississippi Community College. Submitted photo

“After Mr. Gilmore passed away, I had to pray and consider the next step in my career,” Grissom said. “He was always so encouraging to me, and I thought that I could do the same for others by applying for his position at Northeast.”

Grissom began teaching full-time in the culinary arts and hospitality management programs at Northeast that fall and was encouraged by her supervisors to work toward completing her bachelor’s degree.

She enrolled in her prerequisite classes at Northeast before transferring into the Bachelor of General Studies program at the University of Mississippi at Booneville campus in fall 2015.

“I chose education, English and psychology classes to make up this specialized degree,” Grissom said. “They were such a good combination for me. These minors correlated with my interests, and I was able to use what I was learning and take it into my actual classroom.”

Grissom said her favorite classes included the English language classes Descriptive Grammar and History of the English Language.

“I enjoy a challenge, and these classes were challenging, but they were so interesting to me,” she said.

Grissom said that writing is a special hobby. She has written an unpublished novel and would one day like to pursue writing nonfiction.

“I think I may want to write about my experiences raising children in a family blended with biological and adopted children,” Grissom said. “And maybe write about raising a child with autism.”

Through her teaching and advising role in Northeast’s hospitality management program, she helps plan numerous catered events on the Booneville campus each year. These events also serve as hands-on training experiences for her students.

 “It’s great to see a student gain confidence during the planning process,” Grissom said. “They are usually nervous at the beginning, but by the end of the event they are excited to see it all come together.

“I enjoy helping my students use what they are learning in class and putting it into practice. I like being a part of the education that gives them the tools they need to be successful in management positions.”

Grissom will be setting an example for her children as well as her students when she is honored at the UM Commencement this weekend. She will be recognized as one of the top of her class and seated on stage in the Grove with BGS Dean Tony Ammeter.

Grissom said she hopes that by meeting her own educational goals, she will inspire her children to follow their own dreams.

“I hope that they will go to college and learn more about what they are interested in,” she said. “I want them to do what they want to, and know that they can overcome any obstacle to make that happen.”

With plans to earn a master’s degree, Grissom is researching graduate programs in higher education, human and environmental services, and English.

UM-Tupelo Students Hit Top 10 in Bloomberg Stock Trading Challenge

Class project yields solid investing experience for group

Finance students at the UM-Tupelo campus placed in the top 10 among 265 teams from colleges around the country in the Bloomberg Business Stock Trading Challenge. The winning team includes (from left) Daniel Patterson, Zack Marcinek, faculty adviser Ivonne Liebenberg, Candy McDonald and Heather Couture. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Managerial finance students at the University of Mississippi at Tupelo regional campus have been busy this spring managing a $10 million investment for the Bloomberg Business Corp.

Although the money existed only in theory, the students who participated in the 2017 Bloomberg Trading Challenge gained a real-world knowledge of financial trading principles that helped them bridge classroom theory with actual stock marketing trading.

“I had never participated in anything like this before,” said Zack Marcinek, a senior at UM-Tupelo from Corinth. “I enjoyed it so much that I’ve switched my career goals a bit from wanting to be a financial adviser specifically for individuals to now being more interested in becoming a corporate financial analyst for a larger corporation.”

Ivonne Liebenberg, UM instructional assistant professor of finance, said that when Bloomberg representatives reached out to her in fall 2016 about participating in their new collegiate stock market competition, she jumped at the opportunity for her students to garner investing experience.

“I knew this would be an exciting, interactive way for students to apply what they were learning in class,” she said. “They had the opportunity to learn more about how the stock market works, handling orders, learning about transaction costs and analyzing the outcomes.”

The Tupelo students named their trading team “I. Liebenberg & Co.” in honor of their instructor. Team members included Heather Couture of Mooreville, Zack Marcinek of Corinth, Candy McDonald of Guntown, Daniel Patterson of Pontotoc and Katie Watson of Shannon.

“We started out letting the students pitch their stock ideas,” Liebenberg said. “They had to give me a good reason to add their stock pick to the portfolio. Once we made our decisions, the students began analyzing and following their investments.”

To diversify their portfolio, each student focused on different stock areas to create a balanced investment. Marcinek said he focused on technology stocks and ultimately recommended Netflix and Adobe Connect.

“Both companies are tried-and-true,” Marcinek said. “Most of my friends use Netflix. It seems to be cannibalizing regular television.

“The university uses Adobe Connect in several of my classes. I think it’s only going to progress.”

Both his stock picks recorded gains during the competition.

The trading challenge introduced students to Bloomberg’s Stock Terminal, which is used to define market assumptions, develop a return-generating strategy and execute trades over a closed network.

“It was interesting seeing all of the tools that were part of the trading terminal and how they helped you assess your trades,” Marcinek said. “It wasn’t too complicated and coached us through.”

The competition continued for eight weeks, with students having opportunities to buy and sell stocks throughout that timeframe. The teams that generated the highest return and presented the best investment methodology at the end of the challenge were named among the top 10 finalists.

“We decided to go invest Warren Buffett-style, that is, to buy and hold,” Marcinek said. “We thought by diversifying well and staying patient, our strategy would pay off.”

The students had to keep a close eye on their stocks, but Liebenberg said she felt that trading too much might not garner the greatest return in the competition’s short eight-week timeframe.

In mid-April, Bloomberg representatives informed Liebenberg that the team was came in ninth among the 265 competing teams from 81 colleges around the country.

“I’m very proud of the students’ work, especially since this was their first time competing,” Liebenberg said. “I think they learned a great deal and came up with solid strategies to guide their trading.”

Street Awarded UM Online Teaching Award

Journalism instructor honored for innovation in online instruction

The Ole Miss Online office recently announced that Robin Street, center, is this year’s winner of the annual Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Learning. Blair McElroy, left, UM director of study abroad and adjunct instructor in the legal studies department, and Jason Solinger, associate professor of English, were named as runners-up. UM photo by Pam Starling

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Adjusting to the ever-changing world of public relations has been a constant in Robin Street’s career. Although she has taught at the University of Mississippi for more than 25 years, the courses she teaches and her teaching style are parts of that continual evolution.

Her efforts were recognized this month when she was awarded the eighth annual UM Paragon Award for Excellence in Distance Teaching.

“In some classes, such as history or math, the materials taught pretty much remain the same each semester,” Street said. “But this class looks at current public relations cases and situations. You never know when a situation will occur that creates a public relations nightmare for an organization.”

Last year, Street, a senior lecturer in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, worked to translate her Journalism 492: Public Relations Case Problems course into an online format. She credits her success in creating this course to looking at online course creation in a different way.

“I once attended a workshop on good writing called ‘Think Like a Fish,'” Street said. “The speaker, a renowned writing coach, explained the title. Her father was an excellent fisherman. When asked what his secret was, he replied, ‘I think like a fish.’

“In designing the online JOUR 492 class, I decided to think like a student. Today’s students have short attention spans and are very visual. They do not read lengthy documents, but prefer to skim instead. I thought about what would attract their attention in the class and filled the online class with folders, icons, charts, to-do lists and other visual reminders of what to do next.”

Each year, the UM Office of Online Design and eLearning recognizes a UM faculty member who has excelled in online teaching through the annual Paragon Award. The nominee must exhibit good practice in course design and innovative use of technologies. Nominees’ efforts are acknowledged for engaging students as well as their commitment to providing students with a quality education.

“While I expect that there will always be a need for an on-campus educational experience, the digital-immersive, online learning environment is growing and evolving,” said Noel Wilkin, UM acting provost, during the Paragon Award presentation April 7 in the Lyceum.

“In that realm, design and innovation enhance the educational experience. It is inspiring to see our faculty members dedicate considerable effort to innovate on this evolving platform.”

When asked about developing a successful online class, Street said that organization is key.

“The layout of the class was easy to follow and keep up with,” said Kailee Wilson, a December graduate from Allen, Texas. “The lesson folders were so convenient.

“We had everything for that week laid out so there was no reason or excuse for not knowing what to do. I especially loved the to-do lists that were posted each week.”

Street created a private Facebook page account where students were required to take part in weekly discussions about the class topics.

“I chose to use Facebook because the students were already comfortable with this medium,” Street said. “They were able to see photos and learn about each other from the very first post where they introduced themselves.

“They also responded and reacted to each other’s posts. Student comments about that experience were very positive.”

YouTube and other popular social sites also were used to give students a greater grasp on current PR situations and campaigns to discuss what strategies might be best for a PR professional in certain situations.

“Students are not just reading a text and listening to a lecture, but observing public relations at work,” Street said. “They can watch PR events take place in real time while visiting the sites of the organization being studied.

“Students are asked to watch videos to learn not just theory from the text, but realities of public relations practice and careers today.”

Sydney Rubin, a senior marketing and corporate relations major from Raleigh, North Carolina, said her favorite part of the class was creating PR plans.

“I am currently applying for jobs in public relations and companies are asking me for writing samples, “Rubin said. “Now, I have lengthy campaigns that I was able to create on my own and get feedback on as a part of this class. I now feel more confident applying for these jobs and submitting my work.”

By using multiple forms of media in the course, Street maximized student engagement and maintained their interests, said Wan Latartara, instructional designer and training specialist.

“Her course design did more than meet the eye,” Latartara said. “She strategically placed elements so to catch students’ attention and guide them through the course right from the beginning.

“By thinking like a student, Robin made a commitment to meet students where they are.”

This year’s runner-up category for the Paragon Award featured two online courses taught by Blair McElroy, UM director of Study Abroad and adjunct instructor in the UM legal studies department, and Jason Solinger, associate professor of English.

UM Summer Camps Help Students Explore Conservation and Ecology

Leadership program, day camps offer variety of experiences combined with fun activities

Second- through 12th-grade students are invited to learn more about environmental conservation and local ecology during special camps taking place at the UM Field Station this summer. The Ecology Day Camps run weekly from June 5 to July 14, and the Environmental Conservation Leadership Program is scheduled for June 4-9. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

OXFORD, Miss.­­ ­– Students in second through 12th grades can participate in special camps this summer that focus on environmental conservation and exploration, offered by the University of Mississippi Field Station and the UM Office of Pre-College Programs.

Rising 11th- through 12th-grade students have an opportunity to explore environmental challenges facing Mississippi and the world as part of the Environmental Conservation Leadership Program scheduled for June 4-9.

Field Station Director Scott Knight says that he hopes this program can help students connect with nature and gain a better understanding of how our intertwined ecosystem functions.

“The camp provides a hands-on learning experience that teaches students more about how the planet works, how it heals, how it sustains all life and how we can live in balance with it,” Knight said. “If nothing else, I hope the participants will learn that their food doesn’t come from a grocery store but (from) a viable, living ecosystem.”

Participants will work with UM professors conducting research on issues associated with conservation, pollution control, water quality, ecosystem services and environmental stewardship.

The cost for residential students who would like to stay on campus during the camp is $500. The cost for commuter students is $350. Varying scholarships funds are available for participants, including Toyota Wellspring full funding for students who attend a public high school in Lee, Pontotoc or Union counties.

Younger campers can explore aspects of biology and environmental science during the 2017 Ecology Day Camps, also held at the UM Field Station. Students will participate in activities to identify species, learn about water quality, build bird nests, catch dragonflies and much more.

“I believe that one reason Ecology Day Camp is so popular is because of our great teachers and counselors,” Knight said. “And while they are teaching great lessons, our leaders never forget that it is summer and summer is a time for fun.”

Rising second- through fourth-graders can attend either June 5-9 or June 12-16. Rising fifth- and sixth-grade students will be attending June 19-23 and June 26-30. A special camp for older students, rising seventh- and eighth-graders, is set for July 10-14.

The camp runs 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily and the cost is $175. Scholarship funds are available for children of UM faculty and staff.

Faculty member Melissa Dennis enrolled her son in Ecology Day Camp last summer for the first time.

“My son really enjoyed being outside and participating in activities with friends at the camp,” Dennis said. “I think one of his favorite activities was the parent-student cookout. I know I enjoyed it.”

For more information on these and other UM academic summer camp opportunities, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/pre_college.