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.


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.


Katherine Nugent

Good Questions

I am frequently asked questions relating to the number of students admitted into the College of Nursing.  The most frequent questions are: have we decreased the number of students admitted into the nursing program; are our students able to get jobs; and is there a nursing shortage.  The conversations generally focus on the awareness that many healthcare facilities across the country are hiring very few new graduates, as they do not have any practice experience outside of educational clinical experiences.   All of these are good questions.

It is true that in the past couple of years, new graduates from all nursing programs have experienced a delay in obtaining employment upon graduation.  Seventy-four percent of our graduates are employed within 4-6 months after graduation.  This rate is much higher than the reported national rate for university graduates.  Multiple factors influence the decline in job opportunities for new nursing graduates.  The most significant contributor is the declining economy that resulted in nurses delaying retirement.  The reaction of health care agencies to the changing economy have led to hiring freezes and hiring nurses with two or more years of experiences into the limited vacancies.  Changes in health care delivery and funding are changing the arenas of practice from hospitals to other settings such as clinics, home health, and community settings.  Also, the clinical area of nursing practice is moving from generalized practice to specialized practice (e.g. emergency room, intensive care, psychiatric settings).

The College of Nursing has not decreased the number of students enrolled in nursing. Reality is that due to an improving economy, more than half of the current nursing workforce is poised to retire en masse between now and 2022.

The term Tsunami: RN Retirement is being used when describing this mass exodus from the practice and educational setting.  In 2013 the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics updated its nursing employment projections for 2012-2022.  It is now predicted that employment of nurses is projected to grow 19 percent, which is higher than the projected employment growth of 11% in all occupations.  The magnitude of the looming nurse shortage is problematic. A demand for healthcare services will increase due to the aging population resulting in an increased population who are living with chronic health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.    There is also a high demand for nurse practitioners, and for faculty and Deans in programs of nursing.

The College of Nursing will continue to offer nursing programs that are responsive to nursing workforce needs, needs of our community of interest, and changing trends in healthcare delivery.  We will continue to graduate entry-level nurses, family nurse practitioners, psychiatric nurse practitioners, nurse anesthetists, researchers, faculty, and administrators.

Dr. Michael Forster

Mississippi needs to plan for climate change effects

Suddenly, news related to climate change seems everywhere.  (Remember when – it wasn’t long ago at all –you couldn’t turn around without tripping over a climate change denier?)  Often, and for good reason, the likely health impacts of climate change are now central to the discussion.

Much is at stake – lives, the quality of life itself, and potentially overwhelming demands on already strained public health systems.  It is no surprise, then, that the subjects of “mitigation,” “resilience,” and “adaptation” have moved to the front burners of concern.  The federal government is intent on encouraging states and communities to prepare for climate change by developing resilience and mitigation plans.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in particular, through its Climate-Ready States and Cities initiative, has developed a “Building Resilience Against Climate Effects” (BRACE) framework for preparedness.

Yet, high stakes and federal encouragement notwithstanding, there is no evidence that Mississippi has begun to think seriously about, let alone plan for, the health implications of climate change.  One may search the Department of Health’s website in vain for any mention of climate change.  This is no knock on the strapped department itself, which day-to-day has more than its hands full and must plead to the legislature for every dollar, even to address such desperate problems as a far-too-high infant mortality rate.  It does nonetheless point to the urgent need to for advocates to get cracking on the issue. 

The consequences of inaction are grave.  Inattention to climate change is not merely bad policy practice.  It is, and becomes more so with each “new, alarming” scientific report illuminating our collective plight, morally unconscionable.



Dr. Michael Forster

Oil price drop threatens Louisiana higher education

If ever there were a time for even a poor state like Mississippi to raid Louisiana’s public colleges and universities for good faculty, now may be it.  Already beaten down by seemingly endless rounds of cuts, Louisiana schools may now be staring into the face of true catastrophe, as state government looks at a projected next-year budget deficit of $1.4 billion.  Higher ed administrators have been told to prepare for reductions as high as $384 million, which is almost $80 million higher than the state’s allocation on the entire community/technical college system.

The real culprit here is not cut-happy politicians (though in the past there appeared to be no shortage of those, beginning with Gov. Jindal), but the falling price of oil, the financial life blood of the Bayou State.  Every $1 drop in the price of a barrel of crude means a $10-$12 million loss of revenue for the state.  Which means that the deficit projection is likely to grow only larger, making any expenditure that can be cut that much more vulnerable to the budgetary axe.

If anything is likely to help shield Louisiana higher education from utter devastation, it’s that this is an election year in the state, as it is in Mississippi.  Neither closing schools outright, nor gutting their budgets to the point where they can’t maintain accreditation, let alone prosper, is likely to prove a popular reelection campaign proposition.