UM Organizing World’s Largest Rock-Paper-Scissors Tournament

Ole Miss Phenomena coordinating event to benefit William Magee Center for Wellness Education

A projected 3,000 people Oct. 25 will be in the Grove as a number of student organizations at the University of Mississippi try to break the world record for the largest rock-paper-scissors tournament. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – “Rock, paper, scissors, shoot!” Those words will be uttered by a projected 3,000 people Oct. 25 in the Grove as a number of student organizations at the University of Mississippi try to break the world record for the largest rock-paper-scissors tournament.

The Guinness World Record is held by Oobma Inc., which hosted a 2,950-person tournament in 2014 in Indianapolis.

The Ole Miss Phenomena is hosting the 4 p.m. event to raise awareness of and benefit the William Magee Center for Wellness Education. The event is open to the Lafayette-Oxford-University community, with the $1 entry fee and any donations going to the Magee Center.

Matthew Edwards, vice president of philanthropy for the Interfraternity Council, worked with members of the College Panhellenic Council, the National Pan-Hellenic Council and the Associated Student Body, to organize the tournament as a lighthearted way to bring the community together to support a cause.

“Our goal for the community is to bring people together from all groups to support a cause that can affect anyone, from any walk of life,” Edwards said. “We want members of this entire campus to know that this university will have the resources to help those struggling with substance abuse, and to the members of the Oxford-Lafayette community – we want to impart that we care about those within our communities and are striving to improve our community as a whole.”

The tournament is set up in a bracket style. The first round will have groups of 40 people who pair up to play against one another. The winners in each group move on to the next round and continue this cycle until two individuals remain to play in the championship finals.

Organizers will record, document and send the results to Guinness World Records.

Annie Williams, ASB director of philanthropy, said she hopes the event will be a unifying and fun experience for the Ole Miss community.

“As this being our charter year for Ole Miss Phenomena, we are hoping to set a positive and interactive tone for students,” Williams said. “It’s something fun and lighthearted to look forward to, but that with a lot of participation, can make a substantial change in our community.”

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education will offer educational, preventive and supportive efforts to combat alcohol and drug misuse. The center, which will be housed in the new South Campus Recreation Center, was created in honor of Ole Miss alumnus William Magee, whose struggle with alcohol and drug use ultimately led to his death.

The event is sponsored by the Associated Student Body, Student Veterans Association, Interfraternity Council, College Panhellenic Council and the National Pan-Hellenic Council.

For more information on the Ole Miss Phenomena, visit

Whitwells Support Ole Miss Students

Oxford couple makes major commitment to Magee Center

Ginger and Quentin Whitwell, of Oxford, are supporting their alma mater and future Ole Miss students through a gift to the William Magee Center for Wellness Education. Photo by Bill Dabney/UM Foundation

OXFORD, Miss. – Ginger and Quentin Whitwell have found that living in Oxford, home of the University of Mississippi, gives them an opportunity to see the needs of college students “up close and personal,” inspiring their major support of the William Magee Center for Wellness Education.

“It’s personal,” Ginger Whitwell said. “The University of Mississippi is part of who we are.”

The Whitwells’ $100,000 gift will build on the endowment for the new William Magee Center for Wellness Education, which is intended to heighten the focus on drug and alcohol education and prevention. Opening in early 2019, the center will be housed in the university’s new South Campus Recreation Facility.

The two donors join other alumni, student organizations, friends, faculty, staff, a foundation, a corporation and a church congregation that have collectively given almost $1.3 million in an 18-month period to establish the Magee Center, with the hopes of making a difference in the lives of young people who struggle with substance misuse.

Reaching and exceeding a $1.5 million minimum endowment goal will undergird the center’s programming and operations for years to come.

The Magee Center is named for William Magee, a 23-year-old Ole Miss alumnus and former Sally McDOnnell Barksdale Honors College student who lost his life to an overdose in 2013. His parents, Kent and David Magee, of Oxford, are devoting efforts toward sharing their family’s experiences in order to help others and attract support for the center.

“Kent and David are longtime friends, and we think the world of them,” said Quentin Whitwell. “When we reconnected with them after several years, we were touched by William’s story and how they are working to make sure other individuals don’t end up faced with the same circumstances.

“We admire the Magees because they have found a powerful purpose despite their tragedy. Ginger and I are in the position to help support the Magee Center and efforts to provide more support to Ole Miss students, and we are pleased to do so.”

College students across the nation are using substances to fit in, manage anxiety, manage stress and help with sleep. Among the goals of the Magee Center is increasing students’ knowledge and skills related to responsible consumption of alcohol and medicines using harm-reduction approaches.

“Kent and I expected that sharing our son’s story would be received with empathy because almost everyone knows or loves someone who faces the challenge of addiction,” David Magee said. “However, we have been overwhelmed by the positive responses to the Magee Center and are grateful to Quentin and Ginger for this very generous gift.

“The Whitwells are deeply committed to seeing the Oxford-University community thrive and thus have embraced this center as a means of helping students.”

The center also will seek to engage students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni and the Oxford community in alcohol- and drug-related issues and concerns – a goal the Whitwells embrace.

“The development of the Magee Center makes me proud of our university – that leadership would take a stand and address issues head on,” said Quentin Whitwell, a founding partner of the law firm Harper Whitwell PLLC and a government affairs operative. He and a partner formed The Talon Group, a lobbying firm, and Whitwell also served on the Jackson City Council, representing northeast Jackson as Ward I councilman, before moving his family to Oxford, which is also his hometown.

The gift will affect students on several fronts, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor of student affairs.

“As we approach a new academic year, our efforts to re-educate students about the risks of alcohol and other drugs will be front and center,” she said. “Wellness education is never-ending and is deeply rooted in student success.

“I deeply appreciate the Whitwells generosity – their gift will help us educate students and serve those in need. Above all, this couple’s support will help us elevate William Magee’s story so other students can make healthy decisions and excel academically.”

The Whitwells each enjoyed their undergraduate experience at Ole Miss, where Ginger Whitwell, a native of Forest, was an Ole Miss Ambassador, active on the Student Alumni Council and a member of Phi Mu sorority. Quentin Whitwell was Associated Student Body president, a Student Hall of Fame inductee and Sigma Nu fraternity member – like William and David Magee.

After graduation, Ginger earned a master’s degree in education from the University of Southern Mississippi, and Quentin earned a Juris Doctor from the UM School of Law.

“Ginger and I hope to see the Magee Center become a model for other universities and other college towns to mirror,” Quentin Whitwell said. “We are very pleased that student organizations at Ole Miss, and particularly our own sorority and fraternity, are participating in funding the Magee Center and helping address the seriousness of abuse and addiction.”

To honor their support, a large wellness classroom in the new South Campus Recreation Facility will be named for the Whitwells. Ginger Whitwell has a vision for what she wants the wellness classroom to provide.

“I hope it will be a safe place for students, a place where they feel comfortable talking about the issues they face and know those issues are important,” she said. “So many times, young people think they are going to be judged and keep problems to themselves.”

It’s natural for the Whitwells to be concerned about support to students, as they are the parents of daughter Davis, 18, who is a freshman this fall at the College of Charleston. Their son Gordon, 15, is a student and athlete at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.

“We talk forthrightly to our children about the issues of drugs and alcohol,” Quentin Whitwell said. “Our daughter recognizes the importance as a female leader of the need to be in control of situations that involve her.

“Our son spends so much time on fitness and understands the negative impact of drugs and alcohol on the body.”

Although the center has not opened, in-depth planning and curriculum development is underway as part of the initiative, and efforts continue to seek additional financial support to sustain the program, said Brett Barefoot, development officer for parent and family leadership.

“William’s Story” can be found at

The William Magee Center for Wellness Education is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations by mailing a check with the center’s name in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at

For more information contact Brett Barefoot, development director, at or 662-915-2711.

MOST Conference Offers Unique Insight into College Life, Experiences

Nearly 500 high school seniors participated in UM recruiting and empowerment event

By participating in interactive team building activities, students are empowered and learn valuable lessons during the 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference. Photo by Marilee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – As the University of Mississippi’s 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference came to a close Tuesday (July 17), high school seniors in attendance raved about their three days of pre-college experiences.

“With 465 prospective students here, this was the largest MOST conference we’ve ever had,” said Alexandria White, assistant director of the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Because of the increase in attendance, we had to make some changes logistically in order to better accommodate the students.

“We’re very proud that the responses, both internally from participating students and externally from their parents and others following the conference on social media, has been so positive.”

Several participants said that being on campus transformed them in unexpected ways.

Based on the university’s history, Savion Price, of Macon, wondered whether or not  African-American students really would be welcome at the university. The Noxubee High School senior said he was pleasantly surprised by the inclusive atmosphere he experienced.

MOST mentors said they understand why some students may have reservations about coming to campus and volunteered because they want to help alleviate those anxieties.

“After I came to the 2016 MOST Conference and had a great experience because of my mentor, I felt it was important that I give that back to other high school students,” said Trevor Abram, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Horn Lake. “I want to see other people of color attend this university and to make the same meaningful, positive connections with its staff, faculty and students that I have.”

The attention of MOST mentors was appreciated by the students they guided and has provided helpful information for students as they begin their college search and selection process.

“Since I’ve been here, Ole Miss has definitely moved up on my list,” said Chelsea Smith, a senior from Columbus who plans to major in pre-med and business administration. “The mentors helped us a lot by letting us ask questions and giving us real answers.

The 2018 MOST Conference welcomes 465 high school seniors, the largest group ever, during an academic and activities fair. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Because of them, I’m planning to stay focused and be responsible wherever I decide to go to college.”

Activities during the event included informational sessions, panel discussions, a talent show, Greek and campus organization presentations, small-group meetings and a closing awards ceremony. But the conference is far more than just “fun and games.”

“There is definitely real substance to the conference,” said Nicholas Crasta, a sophomore biology and political science major from Vicksburg who volunteered as a mentor even though he’d not attended a previous conference.

“There’s been a balance between empowerment activities for minorities and entertainment. Everything’s just been perfectly constructed for the maximum pre-college experience.”

A MOST Conference reunion is scheduled for Nov. 13. Several students said they are already anticipating that meeting as well.

“This has truly been a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anybody,” said Tyreek Hayes, of Madison, a senior at Germantown High School. “They opened more than just their facilities to us. They opened their hearts and let us know we are wanted and welcomed here.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter spoke during a faculty and staff networking dinner and applauded the students’ participation in the conference.

“Our university cares deeply about establishing and maintaining a culture of respect and inclusion,” Vitter said. “This outstanding conference is among those efforts because it is a wonderful opportunity to engage ambitious and exceptional students such as yourselves.

“We hope that after your amazing experience at MOST that we will see all of you back here next year at freshmen orientation.”

Participants at the MOST Conference respond enthusiastically as awards are presented during the closing ceremony in The Pavilion at Ole Miss. Photo By Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Preparations already have begun for the 2019 MOST Conference, White said.

“We send out a post-conference survey as soon as they return home,” she said. “Our committee members have been busy observing and providing meaningful feedback. Based on these, we’ll make improvements and tweaks so that next year’s MOST conference will be even bigger and better.”

A partnership between the Office of Admissions, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the conference is made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, Fed Ex, the Caterpillar Foundation, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, FASTtrack and the LuckyDay Scholars Program.

MOST Conference Draws Record Number of College-bound Students

More than 500 expected for the annual three-day recruiting and empowerment event

Team-building exercises in the Grove are among the tools utilized by the MOST conference to help potential students learn to succeed. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – An annual three-day event aimed at recruiting African-American high school seniors in the state to the University of Mississippi is expected to draw a record number of students this month.

The 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, Conference targets prospective UM students with leadership activities, academic offerings and campus resources, as well as guidance from faculty, staff and student leaders. More than 850 applications from 140 Mississippi high schools were received for the event, set for July 15-17.

A partnership between the Office of Admissions, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the conference is made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, Fed Ex, the Caterpillar Foundation, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, FASTtrack and the LuckyDay Scholars Program.

“This summer, we anticipate hosting our largest conference ever,” said Shawnboda Mead, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Because of the high level of interest, we had to make some tough selection decisions.

“We have a total of 566 students confirmed to attend the conference, so we expect to have well over 500 in attendance.”

Last year’s MOST event included 424 students.                                                                   

The Office of Admissions is grateful for the campus partnerships that make this conference a reality, said Whitman Smith, director of admissions.

“Deciding where to attend college is a huge life decision,” Smith said. “We want our potential students to know we are united across campus to provide them the support they need to succeed – in every way possible.”

All the applicants are excellent students who have succeeded academically while also being heavily involved in leadership organizations, academic clubs, community service and sports. MOST will include activities such as college success and preparation workshops, student leadership panel discussions, networking opportunities and financial aid and scholarship information.

“A few of the social highlights include the faculty-staff networking dinner, team-building activities in the Grove and pep rally with Ole Miss athletics in the Pavilion,” Mead said. “We’ve also added MOST Got Talent to the line-up.

“Students also receive a MOST Survival Guide that allows the students to take notes throughout the conference and serves as a resource following the conference.”

During the conference, students are paired with mentors who remain connected with them through the college admission process and throughout their freshman year. Since the first MOST Conference in July 2015, three cohorts of MOST have enrolled. Participants include rising university juniors and sophomores and incoming freshmen. This summer’s participants will become the fourth cohort this fall.

“Our MOST mentors are easily the most vital factor contributing to the success of the MOST program,” Mead said. “Each summer, 50-to-65 current students have volunteered to serve as mentors. The relationships our mentors have formed with the students have made a significant difference in their decision to enroll and their ability to navigate college life.”

Past participants credited the conference experience as a deciding factor for them to attend the university. Approximately 30 percent of MOST participants enroll at Ole Miss.

The first-year retention rate for the 2015 MOST cohort was 86.4 percent. MOST 2016 retention rates will be confirmed in August, but are expected to exceed MOST 2015 numbers.

As part of the annual MOST conference, high school seniors from across the state take part in a faculty-staff networking dinner. Photo by Marlee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“I came to the 2015 MOST Conference and had a great experience because of my mentor,” said Michael Bennett, a senior pre-pharmacy major from Jackson. “My mentor helped me prepare my college application and motivated me to excel before and after my arrival. I decided to become a mentor myself because I wanted to pass along what I’d experienced to others.”

Throughout the conference, students are encouraged to share their experiences and engage with via social media. Members of the university community can follow the conference hashtag, #UMMOST18, to take part.

Following the conference, students often share their reflections, which have been positive over the years. MOST Conference attendees are also invited back to campus to participate in the MOST Reunion, held in November.

“We encourage the students to apply to the university by October 1, prior to opening of MOST Reunion registration and provide important information about housing, scholarships and orientation throughout the year,” Mead said.

The MOST Conference exposes talented students to the opportunities and rigor inherent in obtaining a college degree, said Katrina Caldwell, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement.

“MOST is a premier outreach program,” Caldwell said. “It introduces students to the tremendous benefits of a University of Mississippi educational experience.”

A MOST 2017 highlight video can be found at

Staff Members Awarded for Representing Student Affairs’ Core Values

Division honors employees for going 'above and beyond' job duties

Recipients of the Division of Student Affairs’ Core Values awards are Erin Parker (left), Susie Parker, Derrick Dixon, Adam Stewart, Michael Meurrier and Eddie Labid. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Five staff members in the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Mississippi have been honored for excellence in serving students during the 2017-18 academic year.

The Core Values awards were established in 2015 to recognize employees who have shown characteristics of the division’s core values: Students First, Everyone Speaks, Embrace Differences and Lead with Learning. Each recipient received a trophy and monetary award at the end-of-the-year celebration in May.

“Each spring, all current staff members and graduate assistants are eligible to submit nominations for their colleagues within the Division of Student Affairs,” said Merrill Magruder, assistant to the vice chancellor for student affairs. “The Core Values committee reviews these nominations and recommends award recipients to the office of the vice chancellor’s senior leadership team for final approval.”

This year’s honorees are:

  • Students First: Susie Parker, senior administrative secretary in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience, for her excellent service to students
  • Everyone Speaks: Derrick Dixon, assistant director of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct in Student Housing, for his outstanding customer service and community-campus partnerships
  • Embrace Differences: Erin Parker, community coordinator in Student Housing, for her commitment to inclusion and diversity
  • Lead with Learning: Mike Meurrier and Adam Stewart, physical therapists in the university’s Health Center, for their dedication to the field through education and learning/teaching
  • A separate award for Outstanding Graduate Assistant in Student Affairs was created this year. Eddie Labid of Fairfield, California, who received his master’s degree in higher education-student personnel in May, was presented the inaugural trophy.

“Each award winner went above and beyond their job duties to support and serve students,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. “These dedicated and respected staff fully represent the mission and values of Student Affairs. I consider it a privilege to call them my colleagues and am inspired by their professionalism.”

The Core Values awards support the university’s commitment to people, places and resources, one of the pillars established in UM’s strategic plan, Flagship Forward.

For more information about the Division of Student Affairs at the University of Mississippi, go to

University of Mississippi Joins The Common Application

Starting Aug. 1, new online system will make it easier for students to apply to UM

The Common Application will be available starting Aug. 1 for those students applying to the University of Mississippi. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Students applying to the University of Mississippi will have the ability to do so through The Common Application, an online college application platform that serves and supports more than 3 million applicants, teachers and counselors across the United States and around the world every year.

In addition to providing a single online application and 24/7/365 support for all students applying to member colleges and universities, the Common App connects applicants to financial aid and scholarship tools, digital portfolios, virtual mentors, a Virtual Counselor and a library of resources for counselors, advisers and recommenders working with students to complete their college applications. It now also includes Spanish language translations.

Starting Aug. 1, the Common App will be available to students applying to Ole Miss.

“The user-friendly interface of the Common Application will allow more prospective students to learn about the University of Mississippi and apply to be a part of our incredible community,” said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs. “By leveraging this enrollment tool, we hope to broaden our reach in order to recruit students who may not have been aware of the outstanding academic programs, dedicated faculty and staff, or our beautiful campus here at Ole Miss.”

Common App makes the application process, including fee waiver, more efficient. As a member university, UM will reach students who may not have otherwise considered the institution. One-third of the more than 1 million Common App applicants are the first in their family to pursue a college degree.

“The diversity of our membership is one of our greatest strengths,” said Jenny Rickard, president and CEO of The Common Application. “Through membership with The Common Application, the University of Mississippi has demonstrated a shared commitment to pursuing access, equity and integrity in the college admission process. Thanks to our members, all students, regardless of their background, have the opportunity to easily apply to the college or university that will help them achieve their best future.”

Students can create a Common App account now because their account will roll over from year to year. Beginning this year, Common App members will also begin using the newly introduced Common App for transfer, a separate application designed exclusively to meet the needs of transfer and adult student populations.

About the University of Mississippi

The University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss, is the state’s flagship university. Included in the elite group of R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity by the Carnegie Classification, it has a long history of producing leaders in public service, academics and business. With nearly 24,000 students, Ole Miss is the state’s largest university and is ranked among the nation’s fastest-growing institutions. Its 16 academic divisions include a major medical school, nationally recognized schools of accountancy, law and pharmacy, and an Honors College acclaimed for a blend of academic rigor, experiential learning and opportunities for community action.

For more information about UM, visit Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

About The Common Application

The Common Application is a not-for-profit member organization committed to the pursuit of access, equity and integrity in the college admission process. Each year, more than 1 million students, one-third of whom are first-generation, apply to college through the Common App’s online application. Founded in 1975, the Common App serves more than 800 member colleges and universities worldwide.

To learn more, visit, follow @CommonApp and #CommonApp.

Texas Couple Looks to Expand UM Student Recruiting

Crosswells underwrite student recruiter position for Lone Star State

Allen Crosswell and his wife, Leah, (center) enjoy a recent visit with UM administrators (from left) Provost Morris Stocks; Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents leadership; Chancellor Jeff Vitter; and Brandi Hephner LaBanc, vice chancellor for student affairs. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – With a recent $400,000 gift to the University of Mississippi, Allen and Leah Crosswell of Houston, Texas, have provided the means to hire and support a new recruiter whose goal will be to get more high-achieving Texas students to choose Ole Miss for college.

Crosswell, a 1989 graduate of the UM School of Business Administration, agreed to underwrite the expenses that will support a senior-level admissions counselor in Houston. The university has only one other Texas admissions counselor, who recruits out of Dallas.

“The Crosswells graciously offered a solution to an identified need, and for this gift we are very grateful,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “The Crosswells’ generous philanthropic investment in our university reveals their passionate belief in the power of education and their vision for improving opportunities available to young people.”

Though Texas recently has taken Tennessee’s place as the second state after Mississippi with the most students at Ole Miss, too many outstanding Texas high school students are enrolling elsewhere, Crosswell said.

“We’re primarily trying to increase the awareness of the value of a degree from the University of Mississippi,” said Crosswell, whose businesses are active in retail development, industrial acquisitions and asset lending. “We’re not getting the students with the upper grade-point averages and upper ACT and SAT scores. They’re going to the other competitive colleges primarily because they don’t know what we have to offer.”

Crosswell believes these high-achieving prospective students would be more likely to choose Ole Miss if they knew of its many benefits: the curricula, faculty and culture that made a difference in his own values and life views, so much so that he felt compelled to give back.

“Most of them don’t even know we have the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College,” Crosswell said. “They’re not hearing about the national ranking of our schools or that our Patterson School of Accountancy is ranked in the Top 10, for example.”

And it’s just a matter of spreading the word, said Crosswell, who has worked with the Office of Admissions to develop a program that will get these students’ attention.

“We’ll make sure they know what we have to offer, make sure they get set up to come visit here, make sure they can meet other Ole Miss students from the major metros of Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and also visit with some of our professors,” Crosswell said, adding that the whole experience will be prearranged by the recruiter. “I think it will help us build awareness for what we have to offer.”

It will also provide a personal touch, Leah Crosswell said.

“Everybody wants to be wanted, so all of sudden they have somebody who wants them and who’s showing them a program that will have real value when they graduate,” she said.

“It’s going to be an eye-opener for some of these kids,” Allen Crosswell continued. “They’ll see that they can get the excellent academics they need in a really fun, Southern setting with fraternities and sororities and SEC football.

“You can’t find that in most places. We’ve just got to sell it. So that’s what we’re trying to do, and we believe a recruiter can show that culture to students in Texas.”

It’s a unique concept, said Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs.

“The Crosswells’ gift is unprecedented for the university as far as providing resources to our admissions office and is going to increase our exposure and give us an opportunity to be more high-touch in Texas, where we get a number of wonderful students,” she said. “It will allow us to continue to expand the wonderful Ole Miss brand and that feeling of being an Ole Miss family.”

Both LaBanc and the Crosswells hope the Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund will be an example to others who may want replicate the program throughout Texas and in other states.

“It says that people value the work of the Office of Admissions,” LaBanc said. “They are a staff that is always out all year long. If they’re not working on the incoming class, they’re working on the following year’s class.

“They’re such a hard-working group of individuals and for someone to recognize that and want to help them expand their scope and expand the impact that they already have is such a real blessing.”

The Crosswells, who have a home in Oxford, frequently visit the university, where their son Holcombe is a junior integrated marketing communications major. Their son Greyson is a high-school senior who plans to attend Ole Miss in the fall.

The Texas Recruiting Initiative Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations. Checks to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the name of the fund noted in the memo line, can be mailed to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655. Gifts also can be made online at http://www.umfoundation/makeagift.

For information on establishing a similar fund, contact Brett Barefoot, development officer for parents, at 662-915-2711 or

University Launches LiveSafe Mobile App

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To view all available resources, visit

UM Administrators Say Thank You to Donors

More than 480 alumni and friends receive calls of gratitude

E.J. Jackson, project center manager for the UM Call Center, helps Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter navigate the system as he begins to make calls, personally thanking donors for their recent contributions. Photo by Bill Dabney

E.J. Jackson, project center manager for the UM Call Center, helps Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter navigate the system as he begins to make calls, personally thanking donors for their recent contributions. Photo by Bill Dabney

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter surprised a number of alumni and friends recently, when he called to personally thank them for their financial support.

Vitter participated in UM’s fourth annual “Thank You Power Hour” along with academic deans, faculty and staff members who volunteered to spend an hour calling more than 480 university supporters to express their appreciation. The event was sponsored by the Office of University Development and the University of Mississippi Foundation.

“This year’s event was a bit of a contest,” said Angie Avery, the foundation’s annual giving coordinator. “The chancellor was in the lead for the most calls until he had to step away to attend to other university business. Nevertheless, the Power Hour was a fantastic opportunity for the Ole Miss leadership to personally experience our Call Center environment.”

Cobie Watkins, director of programs and alumni affairs at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, thanked the most donors, followed by Denson Hollis, senior director of development for the College of Liberal Arts, and Brooke Barnes, director of development for the Patterson School of Accountancy. Lionel Maten, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, took home this year’s spirit award, which is given to the most enthusiastic caller.

“Can you imagine former students receiving a call from the chancellor or from their favorite professors to thank them for recent contributions?” said Suzanne Thigpen, director of annual giving. “It really sends a powerful message to our donors. We have such involved and generous alumni and friends, so our message is always one of deep gratitude for this continued support.”

Private giving helps fund student scholarships, faculty needs, academic programs and external educational opportunities.

Typically, the Call Center is staffed by students who are paid to call donors each evening.

“We employ student callers to give alumni and friends the opportunity to hear about their experiences as students at Ole Miss today,” Thigpen said. “The students, in turn, benefit from career advice from alumni who have been passionate about improving experiences for current students and future generations.”

Individuals and organizations interested in supporting any area of the university can contact Thigpen at 662-915-6625, or by visiting

UM Students Start Coaching for Literacy Chapter

Group focusing its efforts in state, with funding going to three Mississippi-based partners

University of Mississippi students, mostly from Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, and Kappa Alpha fraternities, have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group called “Coaching For Literacy" to raise money for literacy efforts across Mississippi.

University of Mississippi students, mostly from Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta, and Kappa Alpha fraternities, have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group called Coaching For Literacy to raise money for literacy efforts across Mississippi.

OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi students have started a chapter of a new nonprofit group to raise money for literacy efforts across the state by raffling off the opportunity for fans to become an “assistant coach” during an Ole Miss sporting event.

Matt Bolton, an Ole Miss sophomore from Memphis, started the chapter of the nonprofit Coaching for Literacy with fellow sophomores Conner Adkins of Jackson, Tennessee, and Wade Meena of Jackson, Mississippi. Bolton is president, and Adkins and Meena serve as vice presidents. They’ve been working with James-Roland Markos, who is president of the Interfraternity Council and the Associated Student Body cabinet’s director of athletics.

Coaching for Literacy, which also has chapters at Vanderbilt University, Southern Methodist University and Mississippi State University, cites staggering data. The group estimates that 32 million, or 1 in 7, American adults can’t read. They also believe 19 percent of today’s high school graduates are functionally illiterate. They also say two thirds of students who can’t read well by the end of the fourth grade will end up in jail or on welfare.

“Illiteracy is a huge problem,” Bolton said. “If you can’t read, you can’t fill out a job application. You’re pretty much stuck. Illiteracy is something tangible we can work on.”

The group describes its mission as being to increase awareness about the number of Americans who are functionally or totally illiterate and the social problems associated with illiteracy. They leverage “the unique power of collegiate and professional sports” to raise money for effective local literacy programs and schools that work with elementary and middle school students. 

Coaching for Literacy was started by SMU basketball player Jonathan Wilfong and Andrew Renshaw, a Vanderbilt student. While in high school at Memphis University School, Wilfong and Renshaw were challenged by a teacher to make a difference in the world. They formed the chapter in August 2013. Bolton was a classmate of Wilfong and Renshaw at MUS. 

The Ole Miss chapter is made up of 16 students, mostly members of Sigma Nu, Phi Delta Theta and Kappa Alpha fraternities. They’ve held one auction already, which gave someone the chance to be with Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy when the Rebels took on Georgia in February at Tad Smith Coliseum.

“Most efforts in life are not successful without the coordination of a great team of individuals, each possessing specific skills and gifts, which they give to support the greater goal of the team,” said Ryan Viner, executive director of Coaching for Literacy. 

“This effort to allocate nearly $15,000 to Mississippi-based literacy programs would not have been a success without the literacy programs, our corporate sponsor, C Spire, Ole Miss Athletics, the administration and the students of the University of Mississippi, the support of the Oxford community and the work of the Ole Miss Coaching for Literacy Chapter.”

That raffle raised more than $17,000 through the sale of $10 raffle tickets, which were mostly bought by Ole Miss students. Of the proceeds, nearly $15,000 was allocated to three Mississippi literacy partners. 

Leap Frog Oxford, an Oxford tutoring and mentoring program for first-, second- and third-graders, received help starting a summer program for students.

“We recently lost a funder, as frequently happens with nonprofits, and were in search of funding to keep the program afloat,” said Teresa Adams, Leap Frog Oxford executive director. “I cannot tell you how much it meant to receive financial support from CFL. We are now able to serve our very deserving students and continue with our plans for a summer program.”

The Barksdale Reading Institute received help with an electronic library project in Quitman County.

The Mississippi Children’s Museum’s summer literacy program, called “Planting Seeds to Read,” also received funds. The program gives reading help and school supplies to children in kindergarten and first grade who are struggling in Jackson public schools. 

“Literacy is one of our key initiatives and our exhibits, programming and outreach efforts all correlate with each other to encourage early language skills development,” said Susan Garrard, Mississippi Children’s Museum president. “Our staff work especially hard planning experiences that encourage children to not only develop reading proficiency but also to discover the delight that stories and reading can bring.”

The UM chapter of Coaching for Literacy has purposely focused its work on Mississippi, which often ranks low in national literacy studies.

“It stays in Mississippi,” Markos said. “We do what we can locally, but it also has an impact statewide. It’s not just Oxford. We care about the whole state.”

They believe their efforts can grow exponentially and they’ve received support for the idea from the UM Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. 

“We are excited to once again partner with Coaching for Literacy in order to bring attention and support to a very worthy cause,” Ole Miss head basketball coach Andy Kennedy said. “The ability to read and write at a productive level is the foundation from which all success is achieved. Coaching for Literacy’s mission is to aid in this fundamental skill and we wanted to be involved in that pursuit.”