All posts in Arts & Letters

Jim Coll

The World Championships, Miss America and The Emmys: Big Days Approaching for USM Alumni

Several Southern Miss alumni will compete on the world’s biggest stages over the next 4-5 weeks.

This week, Tori Bowie, the United States champion in the 100-meter dash is among the favorites at the World Championships in Beijing, China. The finals of that event are scheduled for Sunday, August 23. Tori, who was a two-time NCAA long jump champion at Southern Miss, may also compete in the 4 x 100-meter relay.

On Sept. 13, Miss Mississippi Hannah Roberts will compete in the Miss America Pageant. Hannah was an Honors College student who graduated with a biochemistry degree in May, and has been accepted to UMC. Among Hannah’s many honors was a Goldwater Scholarship—a national award honoring the next generation of great research scientists. She was one of only three Mississippians to win the award in 2013.

Finally, a National Geographic documentary based on a book by Dr. Andrew Wiest has been nominated for an Emmy Award. Dr. Wiest is not only an alumnus but also a founding director of the University’s Dale Center for the Study of War of Society. His book “Boys of ‘67” that centers on a company in the Vietnam War, was the inspiration for the documentary “Brothers in War.” The Emmy for best documentary will be awarded on Sept. 28.

Of course, we also hope that in late September, Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins will be making a run for the postseason as well. Alumnus and MLB All-Star Brian Dozier leads the Twins and was a key member of the Southern Miss 2009 College World Series team.

Dr. Steven Moser

Guest Contributor Series: Ann Marie Kinnell on the Liberal Arts

Kinnell, Ann MarieBy Ann Marie Kinnell, Chair
Department of Anthropology and Sociology
College of Arts and Letters

If you read the news, either in the general press (NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times) or the academic press (Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed), there is a disconcerting feeling that all is not well with higher education. The cost – and value – of a college education are areas of increasing concern. As a parent of a daughter headed off to college in a little over a year, I understand the worries parents and students have. I admit that I am more than a little concerned about the cost of tuition, not to mention textbooks, art supplies (she’ll be an art major), and room and board. In addition to the general question of the value of college is the more narrow concern about the value of the liberal arts. If students are going to college, and spending a lot of money to do so, what should be their major? Will they be able to support themselves financially if they pursue a liberal arts major rather than a professional or technical major? This conversation is certainly not new. I, myself, when I announced to my parents in my second year of college that I had changed my major to sociology, was asked what are you going to do with that and wouldn’t it be a good idea to also take some business courses? I did, in fact, take some organizational management classes; but, I loved my sociology classes and I love that I can now share those classes with my own students. However, my experience was literally a lifetime ago for my students. Is a degree in anthropology or sociology, or any liberal arts major, still “worth it” in 2015?

In the abstract, the answer is definitely yes. If you look at employer surveys, the skills that employers want are the skills students learn in liberal arts majors. In recent studies[1], a majority of employers have identified the abilities to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems as very important. They also want students who understand and can work with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. And, they want students who have the ability to apply the knowledge they learn in real world settings. Anthropology and sociology majors learn these skills in spades. Starting with the introductory classes, they are asked what it means to be a part of a group, a culture, a society. They are confronted with complex social problems and asked how they can be addressed. They write and apply what they learn in class to the world around them. They learn specific research skills, conduct their own research, and present that research to their peers and at conferences. They complete internships with local organizations and field schools where they literally get to dig things up.

But in the concrete, as a faculty, we still want to know that we send our students out into the world and that they do well. They find jobs that they love, or at least really like, and they are able to support themselves financially. As a department, we have implemented an alumni survey to find out how our students fare once they graduate. I would like to share a few of their responses:

From an anthropology major (BA 2014) who is now an ESL teacher: “Anthropology helped me to become more aware of the people, cultures, and situations around me. As an ESL teacher I have a classroom filled with diversity and all of the complexities that stem from various cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. The sensitivity and understanding granted to me by the professors within the Anthropology and Sociology department… helps me to maintain an inclusive and compassionate style of teaching.”

From a sociology major (BA 2010) who is working for a nonprofit that coordinates services for the homeless: “I wouldn’t say my degree in sociology has impacted me in such a way others might think. I’m certainly not a sociologist by traditional definitions. But, through my undergraduate studies I found my passion for social justice and gained the tools needed to succeed. Sociology has gifted me a foundation for understanding complex social issues and a curiosity to view the world with a nuanced sociological lens.”

From an anthropology major (BA 2010) who is a trainer for an information technology company: “This degree gave the opportunity to learn about so many different cultures and interact with a larger variety of people than I ever would have on my own. This has made adjusting to a professional position within a worldwide company much easier.”

From a sociology major (BA 2011) who is working as a college enrollment specialist: “I’ve bounced around in a few different jobs until I landed my current one. I love my current job. I work in education helping troubled students figure out what path they want to take for their lives. I work with a very diverse student population, and I think that the different sociology classes I took definitely help me to be more empathetic towards my students despite the fact that I’ve never experienced a lot of things they often go through.”

Our students graduate with both general and technical skills and end up in a variety of different careers. In the liberal arts, there are many paths and many destinations. I would like to conclude with one last quote from a student (Sociology BA 2004) who wrote on her survey, “if you enjoy the classes and are passionate about the subject matter, then go for it. You never know where your degree or your life will lead.” Well said!

 

[1] For more information and links to these studies, go to the AACU website: http://www.aacu.org/leap/public-opinion-research

Jim Coll

Top Stories – March 2015

Each month I share a brief summary of some of the top Southern Miss stories with University leaders for their use as they interact with various stakeholders. The compilation of that short list is always a good reminder for me of all the amazing people and activities taking place on our campuses.

Here is what I shared for March. SMTTT!

Our commitment to student success and well-being continues…

On March 16, the new Moffitt Health Center opened on the Hattiesburg campus. The Moffitt Health Center replaces the Beedie Smith Health Clinic, a freestanding building that opened on the Hattiesburg campus in 1962. The new center increases the square footage dedicated to Student Health Services by 30 percent, providing much-needed space for more efficient laboratory and X-ray activity, larger health care provider work areas, a more accessible pharmacy and a dental care area.

The clinic was in part funded by $1 million in private donations, including the lead gift from the family of Dr. Virginia Moffitt Crawford, director of Student Health Services.

For more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/new-moffitt-health-center-southern-miss-opens-monday-march-16

On March 17, we cut ribbons on three facilities on our Gulf Park campus, including a new health center, a fitness center and a new building for our School of Social Work. The facilities will provide high-quality classroom and academic space for social work students and a number of on-campus health and fitness services previously unavailable to Gulf Park students on that campus.

For more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-holds-ribbon-cutting-renovated-buildings-gulf-park-campus

One of the University’s greatest ambassadors, The Pride, excelled on an international stage…

The Pride of Mississippi Marching Band represented the University and the state of Mississippi well in a trip to Ireland. Select members of the band performed in two parades in Ireland on March 15 and 17, taking top honors in each.

On March 15, The Pride was named overall winner of the International Band Parade in Limerick, Ireland. Twenty-four marching bands featuring 1,100 musicians from across Ireland, Europe and the United States performed in the 45th annual parade.

On March 17, The Pride was named top band in the adult band, 18 and over, category at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin.

About 130 band members traveled to Ireland to march in the parades. The band also marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the late 1990s.

We’re increasing our commitment to researching and understanding the Gulf of Mexico…

University officials, including President Bennett and Vice President for Research Gordon Cannon, as well as members of the media, are on their way to Panama to get a closer look at the research vessel, Point Sur. The University, using funds from a Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality grant, purchased the Point Sur from San Jose State University, last month. The vessel is making its way through the Panama Canal on its way from California to the Port of Gulfport.

The 135-foot Point Sur vessel was built in 1980. It can accommodate 13 researchers and technicians, and a crew of eight. For day cruises, it has a capacity of 40 researchers.

The purchase agreement provides Southern Miss with a vessel that can be utilized by the University and other interested parties to explore the Gulf of Mexico, including further research on the BP oil spill of 2010. The vessel will help Southern Miss enhance education and research opportunities for students and faculty who will have access to Point Sur’s sophisticated technology and equipment.

An event will be held on April 24 on the Gulf Coast so that the general public might tour the vessel and gain a greater understanding of the impact it will have on Gulf research.

Our students continue to excel…

Tanner Shaw, a senior finance major, was awarded the prestigious Orrin W. Swayze Scholarship by the Mississippi Young Bankers Association during the group’s annual conference.

The $5,000 award is presented annually to the top Mississippi university major in banking and finance who best represents the tradition of banking excellence exemplified by Swayze, a senior officer for Trustmark until his retirement in 1967.

A 4.0 student, Shaw is a Southern Miss Presidential Scholar and member of the Honors College.

For more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-student-wins-prestigious-swayze-scholarship

Jim Coll

Top Southern Miss Stories for February 2015

Each month I share a brief summary of some of the top Southern Miss stories with University leaders for their use as they interact with various stakeholders. The compilation of that short list is always a good reminder for me of all the amazing people and activities taking place on our campuses.

Here is what I shared for February. SMTTT!

Our top students continue to demonstrate they belong among the nation’s best.

Kristen Dupard and Jeremy Moore have been selected to attend the 2015 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU), set for March 6-8 at the University of Miami.

Established in 2007 by the Clinton family, CGIU challenges college students to address global issues with practical, innovative solutions. Participants take concrete steps to solve problems by creating action plans, building relationships, participating in hands-on workshops, and following up with CGIU as they complete their projects.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-students-attend-prestigious-clinton-global-initiative

USM continues to expose its students to opportunities around the world and make a global impact.

The University’s British Studies Program is marking four decades since it began providing students a global and transforming educational experience.

16 courses will be offered through the BSP this summer. Over the past 40 years, USM has sent approximately 9,000 students to London.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/british-studies-program-begins-40th-year-registration-underway

The University has partnered with the Republic of Panama in an initiative known as Panama Bilingue [Bilingual Panama], a project implemented by the president of Panama to ensure its citizens are bilingual in Spanish and English.

Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela has pledged to send 1,000 Panamanians per year for the next five years to study English and second language teaching methods. Institutions of higher learning across the English-speaking world are hosting pre-service elementary teachers and teachers of English as a Second Language (ESL).

In early January, Southern Miss welcomed 50 Panamanian educators to campus. Half of the group, pre-service elementary school teachers, will study English at Southern Miss’ English Language Institute for the semester.  The other half, ESL teachers, will be on campus until March 6. These teachers are taking classes on teaching a second language methods and applied linguistics in the Dept. of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-assist-panama-becoming-bilingual-country

University faculty and student researchers continue to explore ways to enhance the lives of Mississippians.

With antibiotic-resistant Staph infection becoming more prevalent, University researchers and Forrest General Hospital have embarked on a campaign to reduce the morbidity and mortality in those affected by Staph infections.

The causative agent of most Staph infection is triggered by germs that live on the skin or in the nose of individuals. There are approximately 86,000 cases and 11,000 deaths per year in the United States from what is commonly known as Staph infection.

The study will show risk factors for those in the Southeast United States, and particularly in Mississippi, who are prone to Staph infections and resistant to antibiotics.

The University continues to be a thought-leader in the community and across the state.

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, we hosted the 5th annual Educators Connect conference that highlighted innovative strategies and practical resources for educators. The 2015 conference theme, Faculty Practices for Engaging Learners, emphasized traditional and innovative methods with potential to improve student-learning outcomes.

Dr. Todd Zakrajsek, executive director of the Center for Faculty Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, was the keynote speaker.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/educators-connect-conference-feature-innovative-teaching-techniques

Economic trends and forecasts will take center stage during the Economic Outlook 2015 Forum set for tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 19) at the Thad Cochran Center.

Scheduled speakers include the following:

  • Dr. Paula Tkac, vp and senior economist, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
  • Dr. Darrin Webb, senior economist, State of Mississippi
  • Dr. Manfred Dix, economist, State of Louisiana
  • Dr. Semoon Chang, economist, Gulf Coast Center for Impact Studies

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-host-annual-economic-outlook-forum-feb-19

Dr. Steven Moser

John Green and David Levithan at Southern Miss

Continuing our guest blog series, I’m pleased to present a contribution by Eric Tribunella, Chair of the Department of English.  Dr.  Tribunella has taught a variety of undergraduate and graduate courses on such topics as the Golden Age of children’s literature, young adult literature, British children’s literature, trauma theory and children’s literature, children’s literature before 1865, and lesbian and gay literature. He also frequently teaches courses on literary criticism and theory.

He has published aricles in such journals as Children’s Literature Annual, Children’s Literature Association Quarterly, The Lion and the Unicorn: A Critical Journal of Children’s Literature, and Children’s Literature in Education. His recent article “Between Boys: Edward Stevenson’s Left to Themselves (1891) and the Birth of Gay Children’s Literature” received the Children’s Literature Association Article Award in 2014. His essay on sexuality in children’s and young adult literature was recently published in the Cambridge History of Lesbian and Gay Literature (Cambridge UP, 2014).

Steven R. Moser, Dean


John Green and David Levithan at Southern Miss

By Eric L. Tribunella, Chair
Department of English
College of Arts and Letters

When I speak to prospective students at recruitment events, one fact about Southern Miss that almost always excites future English majors is that we are home to the original manuscripts of John Green, the award-winning author of young adult (YA) fiction. Known for novels such as Looking for Alaska (2005) and The Fault in Our Stars (2012), Green won the 2006 Printz Award, given yearly to the best work of fiction for young adults, and his books now routinely top bestseller lists upon publication.

Green donated his papers, including drafts of his book manuscripts, to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection at Southern Miss after visiting campus in 2009 for the Kaigler Children’s Book Festival. One of the largest archives of children’s literature in North America, the de Grummond Collection holds over 160,000 books, the earliest of which dates to the year 1530, as well as manuscripts and illustrations from over 1,300 writers and artists. Undergraduate and graduate students from the English department are able to make use of this extraordinary resource, and we have students who come to Southern Miss specifically to study children’s and young adult literature. On February 10, a group of English students and faculty visited the de Grummond Collection to examine the Green manuscripts and talk about the research opportunities they present.

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Ellen Ruffin, de Grummond curator (left) Eric Tribunela, English (2nd from left)

The de Grummond curator, Ellen Ruffin, shared with us the manuscript for Green’s novel Will Grayson, Will Grayson (2010), which was co-written with David Levithan, another major figure in YA literature known for books such as Boy Meets Boy (2003) and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2006). Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a YA novel about two teenagers who share a name, one straight and one gay, and how their lives intersect through their relationship with a boy named Tiny. Since the book was co-authored, its manuscript is especially interesting in terms of how the alternate chapters contributed by Green and Levithan fit together to form a coherent whole. The comments from Green’s editor at Dutton Books, Julie Strauss-Gabel, can be found in the margins of the manuscript, and reading the drafts alongside the published novel can shed light on Green and Levithan’s collaboration and writing process.

As students and scholars of literature, we are interested in how works are composed and take shape. Members of the English department at USM, where we also have a strong emphasis in creative writing, are especially attuned to the issue of craft, and having access to a writer’s manuscripts makes it possible for us to study how a book moves through the drafting process. This kind of archival research can be particularly productive for children’s and YA literature scholars, since some people wrongly assume that writing for youth lacks complexity or artistry. Studying manuscripts like Green and Levithan’s provides a unique opportunity to correct this misperception and contribute to the field of literary knowledge.

It is exciting for students to be able to hold original manuscripts in their hands. English doctoral student Paige Gray noted that “it is honor for USM to house Green’s papers, since he is such a major figure in the publishing world.” Gray added that “it is especially exciting that Southern Miss students can be among the first scholars to study Green’s manuscripts and drafts. Doing so will provide an important insight into young adult literature and culture in the early decades of the twenty-first century.” The group discussed the many possible research projects that could be undertaken with the manuscripts. For instance, we spent time talking about how Green’s editor helped the authors craft the voice of their characters and sequence the events of the narrative. Dr. Alexandra Valint, the English department’s Victorian literature specialist, studies multi-narrator novels and also teaches children’s and YA literature. She compared the editor’s comments on the Will Grayson manuscript to the kind of feedback nineteenth-century readers offered in response to serialized installments of literary works.

David Levithan will be visiting campus this semester to speak at the Kaigler Book Festival on April 10, and students and faculty are looking forward to the opportunity to hear directly from Green’s co-author on Will Grayson. Scholars travel from around the world to visit the de Grummond Collection, but students who attend Southern Miss simply have to walk over to McCain Library to take advantage of its amazing holdings and guest lecturers.