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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 – June 2015

Protecting American soldiers on the battlefield, innovating methods to assist children with language disorders, partnering with Boeing on next-generation polymer materials, and researching the manner the which dolphins communicate–it’s all in a month’s work at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Here are some of the top news stories from USM this month.

U.S. Army Awards $4.9 Million to Southern Miss for Helmet Liner Research

The United States Army has awarded a $4.9 million research contract to the University for development and evaluation of a helmet liner designed to provide enhanced head protection for warfighters.

The Southern Miss Pneumatic Cushioning helmet liner was developed in the laboratories of Dr. Jeff Wiggins, director of the School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, in collaboration with Dr. Trent Gould, associate dean in the College of Health and professor in the School of Kinesiology, and Dr. Scott Piland, assistant director and associate professor in the School of Kinesiology. The objective of this two-year program is to develop next-generation pneumatic cushioning systems which exceed the blunt impact performance standard of current helmets.

Read More:

DuBard School’s New Products Now Available for Teachers of Students with Dyslexia

Teachers, speech-language pathologists, dyslexia specialists and other professionals who work with individuals with dyslexia/specific learning disabilities in reading now have access to a new product to aid in the remediation of dyslexia.

The University’s DuBard School for Language Disorders has released the Language Enhancement and Achievement Program (LEAP), a program for students who struggle with reading, writing and spelling.

LEAP’s highly specialized multisensory curriculum allows the student to quickly progress through sound-symbol associations and key skills. LEAP was piloted and has been used at the DuBard School for six years, and internal research shows the program’s effectiveness. On average, students diagnosed with a reading disability improved their ability to read unfamiliar words by 64 percent after 48 hours of instruction (one semester).

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Southern Miss, Boeing Strengthen Partnership with New Master Agreement

As a technology incubator for Boeing, Southern Miss has entered into a new master agreement with the aviation giant to accelerate research and development of next-generation materials, including polymers and polymer matrix composites. The new agreement builds on a decade-long working relationship between USM and Boeing, which currently has a research contract to utilize the assets of the Accelerator – the University’s business incubator.

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Professor, Dolphin Research Featured in National Geographic Cover Story

Dr. Stan Kuczaj’s expertise on the popular marine mammal has earned him international recognition for his study of the species’ cognitive and communicative abilities, including in a recent edition of National Geographic.

In the May 2015 issue’s cover article titled “Thinking Like a Dolphin: Understanding One of the Smartest Creatures on Earth,” Kuczaj research examines dolphin use of sounds and other signals as a mode of communication. Kuczaj heads the Department of Psychology’s Marine Mammal Behavior and Cognition Laboratory. The laboratory’s projects have received grant support from the Office of Naval Research and the U.S. Department of Commerce, among others. His work has been featured on Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and Japanese Public Television.

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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.


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.


Dr. Steven Moser

…and so it begins…

This fall we welcome approximately 3,000 returning and new students to the College of Arts and Letters.  Those students have chosen to study for undergraduate and graduate degrees in our diverse array of programs in the arts, humanities and social sciences, and in our many collaborative interdisciplinary programs.

The back-to-school season is always an exciting one for our students, faculty and staff, and me personally.  I am proud of our A&L community and anticipate another stellar year.  Indeed, we will need to raise the bar even higher as we begin to focus on our strategic goals – anchored in our  student success and profile expansion efforts.  So I encourage everyone to:

Consider the positive individual difference we can make as we, the faculty and staff,  work to realize our greatest potential.

There are many ways a college conveys its core values.  In an issue of Liberal Education, Jack Meacham and Jerry Gaff noted that it is important that we “do what we say and say what we do.” Our public declaration found in our college and school/department strategic goals is our guide and those declarations share some of the same key words and phrases like “excellence in scholarship, focus on student success, and innovation in the classroom.”  Without a clear path forward and a positive commitment to the journey, it is unlikely that our strategic plans will emerge in practice.  Our faculty places us well to continue the tradition of developing innovative opportunities for our students and producing meaningful scholarship.  Moving forward together is critical to this endeavor as we shift “what has been to what could be”.

Take pause along the way to consider.

I am amazed at how quickly time passes as we move from one academic season to the next.  It seems that with the new and ever changing technology that has pervaded our lives, we spend a great deal of time in gear and racing ahead at full throttle. The pace we have adopted in our modern-day lives often influences how quickly we come to some of the decisions we make on issues in our own lives and those as a faculty across the college.  Yet in our endeavors in creative and scholarly research, we are committed to thoughtful consideration and a measured and deliberate tempo to produce the great body of work seen in the college.  I encourage the same discipline seen in our scholarship efforts as we adapt to an ever-changing constituent need.  We must be nimble and flexible, but also thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions that we will have to make in the months and years to come as we strive for relevance and the ability to sustain or increase the impact we have had  for our students and the community we serve.

Let us move forward together.  Welcome back!



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).