All posts in Outreach

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.

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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

USM – Defining Resilience

Photo by Dean Dave Davies, Honors College

Photo by Dean Dave Davies, Honors College

Almost from the moment we saw the devastating images of the Ogletree House, Jazz Station and even places that we could not recognize anymore, the Southern Miss family wasted no time in rolling up its sleeves and coordinating recovery efforts.  While nearly fifty faculty and staff from the Department of Art & Design and the School of Music were displaced due to damage to their buildings and office spaces, the morale among them remains high.

Art and Design professor, John Mark Lawler, said that despite the circumstances, faculty and staff in his department were positive. “The staff I’ve spoken to are willing to make it work, whatever it takes.  It’s bad, it’s a disaster, but that’s life.  You take the punches and roll with it.  Students are concerned about each other and us, but everyone seems to be doing ok.  Everyone is constantly asking how they can help,” says Lawler.

Dr. Ed Hafer is a School of Music professor whose office took a direct hit.  Though he lost some things, he says the greatest loss is that the music family has been displaced, though only temporarily.  “Folks are shocked at the amount of damage, but remain hopeful.  Students, in particular, are very resilient.  Everyone is excited about building bigger and stronger than before.  We are all just so glad that no one was hurt,” said Hafer.

Damage from February 10, 2013 Tornado

Damage from February 10, 2013 Tornado

As early as Sunday, efforts were made to make sure that faculty, staff and classes would have a home, at least until more permanent arrangements could be determined.  Faculty and staff from Art and Design have moved into office space made available in George Hurst Building, while Music faculty and staff have found temporary office space in the Liberal Arts Building, Honors House and Cook Library.

As of Thusday, we have rescheduled 87 lecture  classes displaced across Art & Design and Music, and more than 600 various types of ensemble classes/rehearsals, applied study (lessons), and chamber classes for 475 majors.  For Art and Design, we currently have about 200 students who have been impacted by the storm. Fortunately, most students were not on campus because of the Mardi Gras holiday on Monday and Tuesday, so as bad as it may look to one walking through the hardest hit areas of campus, it could have been a lot worse.  On Wednesday, with classes still cancelled and when many students could have slept in, nearly 1,000 student volunteers showed up wearing rubber boots, rain slickers and baseball caps ready to help remove storm debris from their home-away-from-home.

Southern Miss students coming out to help clean up the front of campus. They stepped up and made the campus look better fast.

Southern Miss students coming out to help clean up the front of campus. They stepped up and made the campus look better fast.

Sunday evening, sophomore Acting major Kerri Walker was glued to Facebook at her home in Brandon after learning that parts of campus had been in the direct path of the tornado. As a performing arts student herself, she was heartbroken for art and design and music students whose spaces had been badly damaged.  “I got up at 6:00am on Wednesday morning and drove from my home to volunteer and help with the clean-up.  I’d seen the social media alerts and I just had to be there,” Walker shared.  Walker said that everyone really wanted to help do all they could to restore the campus.  Volunteers included students, faculty and staff and individuals from the community.  As so many have said in the past few days, it could have been a lot worse, Walker added.

But if there is a silver lining to this tragedy—and we have seen many silver linings so far, it has brought the Southern Miss family together. “To see the university and community come together, it made me love USM—MY university–even more.”

Dr. Joe Whitehead

Great Camp Shelby Visit

CoST at Camp Shelby

I am proud that the College of Science and Technology along with other departments on campus spent the day at the Camp Shelby Joint Forces Training Center College and Career Festival. 

In addition to CoST, attending departments included Eagle Learning Online, Graduate School, Undergraduate Admissions, and the College of Education and Psychology. 

The event was hosted by Camp Shelby and allowed us to engage with transitioning soldiers, veterans, civilian employees and family members.  We are able to let them know about the numerous educational opportunities at Southern Miss. 

We were proud to be one of 16 college and universities represented and look forward to working with Camp Shelby in the future. 

Here are some photos from the visit: