2017-18 A&L Excellence Awards

The College of Arts and Letters is deeply grateful to the faculty and staff who nominated their colleagues for a 2017-18 Excellence Award. It was inspiring for the committee to read about all the great research, teaching, and service happening in our college, and the selection of this year's five was particularly difficult. Many more people than we can recognize each year deserve awards for their hard work, dedication to education, and advancement of their fields, but following are this year's fabulous five: 



Jill Abney

Department of History 

Jill AbneyJill Abney is an Assistant Teaching Professor of History and the Coordinator of the History Social Studies Licensure Program in the Department of History. She has invigorated the history licensure program with new energy, which is clearly visible in the attitudes and abilities of our students. Dr Abney has also done an amazing job of re-designing (and fostering through the various curriculum committees) a major modernization of the licensure degree program.

As one of her colleagues explains, "Jill Abney’s success with our program stems from three key factors: her enthusiasm, the realism that her years in the classroom have given her, and her role as both an educator and scholar... She truly believes in her responsibilities to students in the classroom, to mentoring and supporting fellow teachers, and to using education to uplift the communities where she lives and works. Part of this may be tied to her years being raised by parents who are both educators. Part of it clearly comes from the energy she picks up from the high school students she taught in the past and the future teachers she now trains. That enthusiasm helps Jill as she works with licensure majors, correcting them on mistakes, while also helping them see the faith she has in them. Anyone who has ever been a teacher knows how important that is to do and how difficult it is to accomplish."

Congratulations, Dr. Abney, on being named the 2017-18 College of Arts and Letters Teaching-Track Faculty Member of the Year. We appreciate the care and attention you show to your students and are excited by the positive contributions they will make to our state as they venture out into their own classrooms.


JUNIOR FACULTY Member of the Year

Kathryn Anthony

Department of Communication Studies 

Kathryn AnthonyKathryn Anthony is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication Studies. She holds a B.A. from The University of Southern Mississippi, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky. 

Of her research, a colleague notes: "Dr. Anthony is an excellent scholar. Her publication record is noteworthy for a young faculty member. With 14 publications, and three more in press, she already exceeds our department expectations for volume of publication for promotion and tenure. Her work has been featured in top outlets for our field. She has published in Public Relations Research, Health Communication, Communication Studies, Applied Communication Research and Argumentation and Advocacy, each being a highly respected journal. Moreover, her expertise has been recognized by her scholarship being included in the Handbook of Communication and Corporate Reputation, the Handbook of Investor Relations and Financial Communication, and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Message Design and Processing. Her scholarship is clearly respected by our academic community.

Despite her busy research agenda, Dr. Anthony calls teaching "one of the major joys of my life." Her enthusiam and generosity have attracted new majors to the program, and she works extensively with graduate students. Dr. Anthony, a colleague writes, "has seamlessly tied teaching/mentoring into her research by working with graduate students on research projects. She has already published three chapters with graduate students in the three and a half years that she has been a part of this faculty and is currently working on other co-authored pieces. That is a goal that all of us have embraced in the department, but Kathryn is particularly good at guiding projects to publication and teaching graduate students about the process along the way. For that reason, she has quickly become one of our most valued advisors."

Congratulations, Dr. Anthony, on being named the 2017-18 Arts and Letters Junior Faculty Member of the Year. We are so fortunate that you have come home to your alma mater, and your contributions to your department and to the university make us doubly proud. 



Julie White

Department of Dance 

Julie White

Prof. White is being honored with the Arts & Letters Research/Creative Activity Award for the creation of Wiggle Genius, a website for educators. The culmination of years of research into best practices in dance and arts education, Wiggle Genius is a hub for rationales behind arts and dance education, advocacy information, and most importantly, hundreds of ready-to-use lesson plans (including videos of them being taught), targeted to both an experienced dance educator and a novice classroom teacher looking to incorporate the arts into his/her classroom.

Ms. White describes the project: "Wiggle Genius is unique in the dance and education fields in several ways.  First, it is FREE and accessible to all. This is important to today’s teacher who is underpaid and often isolated. Integrated dance resources also tend to be expensive books with limited printings, or associated with an organizational membership or course enrollment. In all cases, the information is intimidating and tends to be “academic light” where dance is fleshed out but traditional subject matter or approaches to teaching it are too simplistic.  This is the second unique feature of the website, which is the inclusion of 100+ lesson/unit plans organized by academic standard, grade level, and/or focus (culture, social and emotional competencies, mindfulness) and created in partnership with over 100 schools, 500 teachers, and 5000 students.  They are tried, true, and tested and represent a huge array of learners, learning environments, and communities.  Almost all other integrated dance resources involve one or two teachers at most – Wiggle Genius is truly revolutionary in its inclusion of so many perspectives and experiences. Finally, Wiggle Genius includes video tutorials that provide a visual guide for how to integrate with dance successfully. This process – complete with the encouragement, levity and empathy it demands – is one-of-a-kind in the dance and education fields." 

Her work has the potential to change the way movement is taught in school. A dance professional who uses the site explains: "Current research stresses that now, more than ever, children need to move more and sit less. The overuse of digital devices is creating a plethora of problems from obesity to attention issues to cyber bullying. Wiggle Genius provides teachers with the foundation and tools to successfully integrate movement into the classroom while teaching academic curriculum and meeting core standards. Julie White, through hard work and research, has created a very important resource for K12 teachers and their students."

Congratulations, Ms. White, on being the recipient of the 2017-18 College of Arts and Letters Research/Creativity Award. It is through professors like you who share their research so generously that The University of Southern Mississippi is making a difference in education on the national stage. Thank you for all that you do.



Cheryl Jenkins

School of Mass Communication & Journalism

Cheryl JenkinsDr. Cheryl Jenkins holds a B.A. and an M.A. from The University of Southern Mississippi and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication from Howard University. She is an Associate Professor in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism, where she also serves as graduate coordinator, and she is the associate director of the Center for Black Studies.

Dr. Jenkins joined the Mass Communication and Journalism faculty in 2008, and has been invaluable to the School. Her teaching, research, and service have shown a tremendous commitment to her students and their professional advancement. She has been active in developing and implementing a diversity program within the School, which has been successful in recruiting and supporting minority students.

"Outside of the classroom," one her colleagues writes, "Dr. Jenkins has consistently taken on extra work, reinvigorating our student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) and serving as mentor for the McNair Scholarship Program, which helps underserved populations conduct research and offers mentoring for graduate school. In NABJ and in the classroom, she’s strived to bring a diverse array of professionals to speak to students, offering them a chance to hear voices they would otherwise seldom hear on a college campus. In a recent three-day stretch, she organized talks by media professionals from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and ESPN to speak to students using videoconferencing in Google Hangouts. She’s mentored countless students through her NABJ and other work, leading to national-level internships for our most outstanding students." 

Congratulations, Dr. Jenkins, on receiving the 2017-18 Arts & Letters Service Award. From your work on the Feedom Summer Conference in 2014 to your work with the Center for Black Studies to your superb and unwavering mentorship of so many of our minority students, you are making The University of Southern Mississippi a better place. We thank you.


STAFF MEMBER of the Year

Robin Atwood

Department of English

Robin AtwoodRobin Atwood is the director of the South Mississippi Writing Project (SMWP), located in the Department of English, and also serves as the director of the World Class Teaching Program (WCTP) on campus. Both programs are 100% grant- or professional development services-funded, and they are well resourced and growing in capacity under her leadership. The USM WCTP was ranked 6th in the nation in 2015 and in the top 20 programs in 2016-2017 for its work in producing new National Board Certified teachers, a direct result of the work Mrs. Atwood has done over the last eleven years directing the program.

Ms. Atwood was one of the first seven National Board Certified Teachers in Mississippi and has supported candidates since 1997.  She is in her 30th year as an educator and is a frequent conference presenter and professional development provider. Her professional interests include school-wide literacy, writing in all subject areas, early childhood reading, education for civic engagement, and science and history literacy. One of her colleagues, who has worked with her at Southern Miss for fourteen years, said: "Her dedication, commitment, service, and sacrifice are exemplary in every way. She’s tireless and doesn’t stop until the work is done."

Congratulations, Ms. Atwood, on being named the 2017-18 Arts & Letters Staff Member of the Year. We appreciate the recognition you've brought to Southern Miss and the College of Arts & Letters, but even more we appreciate how your work reverberates across the state of Mississippi. By teaching teachers ways of being more effective in the classroom, you are improving the educations of generations of young people that we hope to one day call Golden Eagles.