All posts in Alumni

Jim Coll

When you peel back the layers of USM’s personality, you find grit

South Mississippians are a tough bunch. I admit there are others bigger and stronger who are better resourced—and who many would argue have better pedigrees. In many cases, they’d be right.

But not tougher. If you have been around us for any length of time you understand if we are defined by one characteristic, as Southern Miss alumnus Rodney Richardson and branding expert likes to say, it is grit.

If you’re not familiar with south Mississippi or the University that calls that region home, here’s some recent history. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit us—hard. Without complaint, and with the help of many others, we picked up the pieces and moved forward. That meant many University of Southern Mississippi faculty, staff and students got back to work within days of the storm, even as their own homes were uninhabitable or no longer existed. Today, our Gulf Park Campus is fully restored and exceeding pre-Katrina numbers in enrollment and prestige. In 2013, a tornado hit our Hattiesburg campus, and hundreds of us could not wait to get to work as our new president, Rodney Bennett, reacted as though he had been here for years when he said this:

Like many have said, character is not created in times of great difficultly, it is revealed. And when you peel back the layers of south Mississippi and USM’s personality—and when we are at our most vulnerable—what’s left is grit. It’s an ability to get the job done no matter the circumstances. Perhaps even more accurately defined, it’s an ability to get the job done especially when circumstances are challenging, or even appear impossible. It is defined by men like former basketball coach M.K. Turk, who upon his death Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari said of him, “He recruited without the advantages of the other schools in his region and never complained.  He just went out and won.”

And it is also perhaps best explained by the famous words of Jackson sportswriter Mickey Spagnola who wrote after our Golden Eagles had just defeated Bear Bryant’s Alabama football team in 1982, “Always choose Southern Mississippi. Don’t fight Southern Mississippi. No matter how hard you fight, these folks will fight harder. These people know sweat. They know hard work and they know nothing ever comes easy. They are hard, I’m telling you, they are hard.”

USM grit is deep-rooted as well, going back to the early 1900s and the founding of the institution, which happened only after years of debate in the legislature, and without identification of suitable funding for operation. And it is evident today in nursing student Corey Auerswald, who by all accounts is kind, determined—and gritty. If you don’t know her story, I encourage you to read USM student Julius Kizzee’s story in the Student Printz. Corey is a wife, a mother, a nursing student and a breast cancer survivor. She has completed rigorous coursework in USM’s nurse anesthesia program while enduring chemotherapy. She is an inspiration to many.

Corey Auerswald

Yes, south Mississippians are defined in many ways, but if I have to pick one word to do that I go back to grit. As we’ve learned the journey to the top is not a straight and smooth path. But if that is the case, it is also true that no one gets back up as frequently as USM and south Mississippi does—that’s the thing about grit as a defining quality. And like Corey Auerswald, you don’t quit. You don’t complain. You get back up. You press forward. And eventually, you win.

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.

Jim Coll

Top Stories – July 2015

It’s been a great month for several Southern Miss alumni; you’ll get a chance to see them on some big stages very soon. Below is some information about their accomplishments and more top University of Southern Mississippi stories from recent weeks.

Southern Miss Alumni on Big Stages

Southern Miss alumni continue to have the opportunity to excel on some of the world’s biggest stages. On Tuesday, Minnesota Twins second baseman, Brian Dozier, will appear in the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Cincinnati. Brian led the Southern Miss baseball team to the 2009 College World Series. On August 23, Tori Bowie will lead the U.S. team in the opening heats of the 100-meter dash at the Track and Field World Championships in China. Tori was a two-time NCAA long jump champion for Southern Miss and is currently the fastest woman in the United States. And on September 13, Hannah Roberts will represent Mississippi in the Miss America Pageant. Hannah is a May 2015 graduate, a national Goldwater Scholar and headed to medical school at UMMC next year.

School of Social Work Contributes to Hattiesburg Honor

Youth education initiatives–that included guidance from The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Social Work–helped the City of Hattiesburg earn recognition as a “Most Livable” City in America by the 2015 City Livability Awards Program.

Mayor Johnny DuPree received the award on behalf of the city during the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s 83rd Annual Meeting in Dallas. The award recognizes mayoral leadership in developing and implementing programs that improve quality of life, focusing on leadership, creativity and innovation.

Former mayors selected Hattiesburg from more than 200 applicants. Hattiesburg was awarded first place for cities with populations less than 100,000 and Boston was selected among cities with populations greater than 100,000.

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College of Nursing Receives $1.6M Grant for Education, Training

The College of Nursing has received a $1.6 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to support advanced nursing education and practice.

Funded through the HRSA Bureau of Health Workforce Advanced Nursing Education program, the three-year award will provide support to educate and train nurse practitioners at the doctorate level through academic-practice partnerships.

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Southern Miss and EPA Sign New Memorandum of Understanding

The University of Southern Mississippi and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Gulf of Mexico Program (EPA Gulf Program) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will serve to increase cooperation between the two in areas of mutual interest.

This alliance will allow USM and the EPA Gulf Office to offer combined technical skills and research to work toward resolving environmental and natural resource problems within the ecological system of the Gulf of Mexico.

The agreement will also promote equal opportunity in higher education, contribute to the capacity of the EPA Gulf Program to provide high-quality education, encourage participation of USM students and faculty in the Gulf Program’s activities, and assist the EPA Gulf Program in expanding the conversation on environmentalism and working for environmental justice while stimulating an interest in STEM. Activities under the MOU will include guest lectures, a student shadowing program, research opportunities, and outreach and engagement programs.

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Athletics Launches New Eagle Logo

The Department of Athletics’ new Golden Eagle logo has officially gained trademark status by the United States Patent and Trademarking Office (USPTO). The logo process has taken over a year to complete and was spearheaded by Southern Miss alumnus Rodney Richardson, and his company Rare Design, which assisted with the creation and development of the new logo and brand identity.

Merchandise officially became available for purchase on Wednesday.

Rare Design is recognized for being an industry leader in logo and brand design and has worked with numerous different universities and professional teams including the New Orleans Pelicans, Florida State Seminoles, Charlotte Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies.

Read More:

Jim Coll

An Arizona Diamondbacks Fan is Likely the Twins Biggest Supporter

Shawn Miller: Superfan of Southern Miss baseball and Brian Dozier

Brian Dozier Superfan Shawn Miller and family cheer on the Golden Eagles. (Hattiesburg American File Photo)

This is the unlikely story of how an Arizona Diamondbacks supporter, who once lived in Mississippi, has likely become a Minnesota Twins fanatic.

Shawn Miller—it’s a common name. But if you frequented University of Southern Mississippi baseball games in the late 2000s, you know that “Superfan” and his family were anything but common fans of the Golden Eagles and star shortstop Brian Dozier, now an All-Star candidate for Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

I have not thought much about Superfan in recent years, and haven’t heard from him in longer, but I couldn’t help but picture the smile on his face when this week the Twins released a promotional video and accompanying images in support of Dozier’s All-Star candidacy featuring a bulldozer.

The story goes that Miller and family, including wife Teresa, son Matt and daughter Michelle, were Arizona natives who moved to south Mississippi where Shawn had received a job offer. In 2006, for no particular known reason, Superfan and family became fans of a then little-known freshman shortstop from Fulton, Mississippi. The Millers were huge Diamondbacks supporters, even painting the family car in D-backs colors, but often rode their bicycles to Southern Miss baseball games at Pete Taylor Park with a homemade drum and shakers in tow. If they were out of your line of vision among the thousands of fans at The Pete, you still couldn’t miss their somewhat rhythmic, slightly annoying, but always enthusiastic chant to the beat of the drum, “Here comes the Bull. Here comes the Dozier. Here comes the BullDozier.” For hours. Every game. Little did they know at the time that the lightly recruited Dozier would go on to lead Southern Miss to a berth in the College World Series a few years later and become one of Major League Baseball’s best second basemen.

Prior to this season, I sat down with Dozier, one of five American League finalists in a fan vote to determine that league’s final All-Star selection, to talk about some of his Southern Miss memories—including those of Superfan. Brian indicated that for a few years after he was picked in the 2009 MLB draft by the Twins, he heard from Superfan, getting periodic updates on where the family was living and working at the time. He hadn’t heard from Superfan for a few years but mentioned that some players in the majors, who were once Southern Miss opponents, still ask him about Superfan, inquiring if the Millers were a group of relatives, among many other questions.

I’m not sure what the former Diamondbacks fan is doing these days, but it’s not outside of the realm of possibility that he’s dusting off an old drum, donning a Twins hat, and making plans if Dozier is selected for the All-Star Game.

If that happens, get ready, Cincinnati, because here comes the Bull. Here comes the Dozier. Here comes the BullDozier—and a Superfan.

Katherine Nugent

Kudos to the Nursing Programs in the State of Mississippi

The 2012 Annual Report for the Mississippi Nursing Degree Programs reported that nursing enrollment in all programs of nursing in Mississippi has increased by 15.9 percent from Fall 2008.  The report further documented that the highest percentage of growth occurred in the enrollment of students in the baccalaureate and higher degree programs of nursing.  There was a 38.7% increase in the number of students enrolled in bachelor programs, a 35.7% increase enrollment in masters programs and a 359.3% increase of students enrolled in doctoral programs.

The deans and directors of the programs of nursing in the state of Mississippi have worked diligently to address the recommendations of the Institutes of Medicine and the Robert Wood Johnson  Foundation report on the Future of Nursing : Leading Change, Advancing Healthcare  Those recommendations include:

  • Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
  • Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
  • Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals
  • Effective workforce planning and policy making require better data collection and information infrastructure.

One important initiative in Mississippi is creating “seamless transitions” between academic programs that will help create a more highly educated nursing workforce, which will improve patient care and help fill faculty and advanced practice nursing roles, as well as graduate competent future nurses.  The data from the 2012 annual report documents our progress.

This data shows that quality patient care hinges on having a well-educated nursing workforce.  Research has shown that lower mortality rates, fewer medication errors, and positive outcomes are all linked to nurses prepared at the baccalaureate and graduate degree levels (American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2012).