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.

Dr. Michael Forster

Sugary drinks kill

Newly published research indicates that sugary drinks are killing 184,000 people each year worldwide, via the diabetes, heart disease, and cancers that they either cause or exacerbate.  Knowing this, says Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., senior author and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University,  “It should be a global priority to substantially reduce or eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from the diet.”

Here, here.  Next to smoking, there’s no single more remarkably bad-and-totally-unnecessary substance than sugar.  And sugar – especially in the form of heavily consumed sweet drinks – doesn’t have to kill you to make you seriously unhealthy, or to contribute mightily to a wide range of health problems, from common colds to cancer.

“This is not complicated. There are no health benefits from sugar-sweetened beverages, and the potential impact of reducing consumption is saving tens of thousands of deaths each year,” Mozaffarian said.

Sorry, Coca-Cola and all your soft drink kin.  Sorry, sugar-sweetened fruit and “sport-energy” drinks.  Sorry, myriad homemade frescas and other glucose-driven concoctions.  We can get along so much better without you.

Source: Singh GM, Micha R, Khatibzadek S, Lim S, Ezzati M, and Mozaffarian, D. “Estimated global, regional, and national disease burdens related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in 2010.”  Circulation. Published online ahead of print 06-29-15. DOI:10;1161/CirculationAHA.1140101636




Dr. Michael Forster

Water shortage not just a California problem

Protracted drought conditions in California have drawn a lot of ink lately.  Not merely one of the more populous states, California is responsible for an inordinate amount of America’s corporatized food production, and moreover has a long history of conflict and corruption over water rights (if you haven’t seen Chinatown in a while, check it out).

But California’s overtaxed aquifers are not the only ones under intense stress.  Indeed, the problem of water depletion is far, far more serious.  NASW has just completed a 10-year study of the world’s major aquifers, and finds the majority of them (21 of 37) experiencing depletion – i.e. the water’s being pumped out faster than it’s being replenished through natural processes.

NASA scientist Matthew Roddell told the publication Quartz that aquifers running dry is a real threat.  “The potential consequences are pretty scary.”  That may qualify as the understatement of the yet-young 21st century.   Nearly 70% of water usage goes to producing food for a hungry world population, a hefty percentage of which is already undernourished and suffers myriad health problems as a result.  Water deprivation is already provoking some population displacement and is predicted to promote more in the future.  Food shortages are a frequent contributor to political conflict, even the revolutionary toppling of regimes.

And climate change – according to many scientists deeply implicated in the severe California drought – for sure ain’t helping matters any.  Get ready – looks like a rough (and parched) ride ahead.





Dr. Michael Forster

Change is in the air

At College Council with department heads this morning, it hit me just how much administrative change is taking place at mid-year, at least in the college and in the provost’s office.

In the College of Health:

Kathy Yadrick and Steve Cloud are stepping down as department heads, with Elaine Molaison and Ed Goshorn stepping up, respectively, as chairs of Nutrition & Food Systems, and Speech & Hearing Sciences.

Scott Piland is moving from assistant director to director, just in time to oversee a dramatic rebranding of the old School of Human Performance & Recreation as the new School of Kinesiology, and filling a leadership gap that’s been persisted in the unit far too long.  In addition, Scott and his faculty bid farewell and best wishes to Sport Management colleagues, who are moving to the College of Business and their new digs at Scianna Hall.

Rene’ Drumm kicks off as associate dean at Gulf Park, taking the baton from Stacey Hall, who served admirably for a year on an interim, part-time basis.

Mary Frances Nettles and her team at the college’s only dedicated research unit (a partnership arrangement with UM, which stays on the training end) are also undergoing a rebranding, from the National Food Service Management Institute (a mouthful for even the practiced) to the more felicitous Institute of Child Nutrition.

In the provost’s office:

Denis Wiesenburg returns to the faculty of Marine Science after five-plus years of executive administrative service (first as vice-president for research, then as provost).  Dean Steve Moser of Arts & Letters steps in July 1 as interim provost while a national search aims to identify the university’s next provost and vice-president for academic affairs by January 2016.

Amy Miller transitions from associate dean of Arts & Letters to a brand new position as associate provost for academic excellence.

Debby Hill, formerly university associate registrar, moves into the provost’s office as assistant to the provost for operations (a gig Cynthia Easterling managed under a different title).

A new associate provost for Gulf Park position remains unfilled, but my expectation is that interim provost Moser will make an appointment (probably on an interim basis as well) in early July.

It’s clear that there are many new oars in the water; obviously, the trick will be to get them all pulling in the same direction, and in the same rhythm.


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: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/us-army-awards-49-million-southern-miss-helmet-liner-research

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).

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/new-products-now-available-teachers-students-dyslexia

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.

Read More: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/southern-miss-boeing-strengthen-partnership-new-master-agreement

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.

Read more: http://www.usm.edu/news/article/professor-dolphin-research-featured-national-geographic