2017 Lucas Award Winners

The highly competitive and prestigious Aubrey Keith Lucas and Ella Ginn Lucas Endowment for Faculty Excellence was established in honor of Dr. and Mrs. Aubrey K. Lucas to support and reward faculty distinction in instruction and research. In an effort to support faculty, the endowment can be used for travel, laboratory expenses, wages, books, audiovisuals or other sources. 

The College of Arts and Letters is immensely proud of our nine 2017 winners and the many other faculty in our college who are conducting important and groundbreaking research to advance their fields of study.


Matthew Casey

Assistant Professor, Department of History
2016-17 Nina Bell Suggs Professor of History
Co-director, Center for the Study of the Gulf South

Project: Parables of a Madman: Joseph Jolibois Fils and the U.S. Occupation of Haiti (1915-1934)

Dr. Matthew Casey's project will examine the tension-filled relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti through the lens of the life of Joseph Jolibois Fils, which will illuminate strands of racial unrest and anti-immigrant feelings in the modern Caribbean.

He plans to travel to the National Archives of the Dominican Republic in Santo Domingo, which will allow him to access local and national newspapers, police and other government reports, diplomatic cables and memos, and other correspondence.

Dr. Casey is working on his second book, a work which will cement his reputation as one of the leading experts in the history of the modern Caribbean.



Westley Follett

Associate Professor, Department of History

Project: Medieval Irish Monks and Their Manuscripts

Dr. Westley "Lee" Follett, an internationally recognized expert on the history of medieval Ireland, is currently at work on his second monograph, Holy Men from the Sea: Origins of Monastic Life in Ireland, a long-needed reassessment of the beginning and early development of Irish monasticism, with particular attention to the ascetic theologies of those holy men—missionary saints—from across the sea who brought Christianity and the religious vocation to the pagan Irish in the fifth and sixth centuries.

He plans to travel to the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, where he will have access to a newly discovered ninth-century manuscript invaluable to his research. He will also speak at one of the most important academic conferences in his field: the Ireland Conference of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies at Glenstal Abbey in County Limerick.



Joshua Haynes

Assistant Professor, Department of History

Project: Patrolling the Border: Theft and Violence on the Creek-Georgia Frontier, 1770-1796

Dr. Joshua Haynes is a specialist in the history of American Indians of the Southeast. His manuscript, Patrolling the Border: Theft and Violence on the Creek-Georgia Frontier, 1770-1796, is under contract with the University of Georgia Press as part of their prestigious Early American Places Series.

Dr. Haynes is examining over 1,000 Creek border raids on the Georgia frontier in the late 18th century, arguing that the Indian raids were not sporadic or haphazard encounters, but the first signs of Creeks acting in concert to protect their borders. The systematic mapping of these raids is critical to the project, and Haynes plans to prepare high quality maps and to complete his final research travel. 

His scholarship combines the best new digital history techniques with solid archival research to tell us about a people whose stories and history have not always been accessible.



Matthew Ward

Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology & Sociology

Project: Enduring Consequences of Dehumanizing Institutions: How Local Legacies of Slavery Affect Contemporary Policing Practices in the U.S. North and South

Dr. Matthew Ward's research on the legacy of slavery, current racial/ethnic disparities, and the social control of African Americans resonates deeply as our society continues to grapple with issues of race and policing. His research will certainly add to the discipline’s understanding of these issues and has the potential to help shape policy decisions at all levels of government. His project will also benefit his students at Southern Miss, as he is committed to working with them and including them in his research. 

He plans to fund several research assistants to help with data collection, and to attend academic conferences in order to share his research and network with other researchers in the field of race/ethnicity and criminology. 



Fei Xue

Professor, School of Mass Communication & Journalism

Project: Effects of “Social Information” in Facebook News Feed Ads on Brand Engagement 

Digital advertising is a significant growth area in the advertising field, yet marketers have been unable to determine exactly how to ensure its effectiveness. Dr. Fei Xue is examining the effects of Facebook news feed ads on brand engagement, focusing particularly on the effectiveness of the service’s “social information” feature, which shows if any of the user’s friends have engaged with the advertised business. His research will have both practical and theoretical implications for answering key questions about how to make this advertising strategy work. 

Dr. Xue will conduct his research using online research panels, and will travel to present his research at national conferences in his field.



Daniel Capper

Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy & Religion

Project: Creating a Study Abroad Program and a Book in Thailand: Instruction and Research Combined 

Situated in the heart of Southeast Asia, Thailand deserves its reputation for deep Buddhist piety, making it an excellent location for a study-abroad course on religion. There are few programs in the United States that study abroad in Thailand, so this course creates a special opportunity for students from Southern Miss as well as from other universities.

Dr. Capper, a Buddhist Studies specialist, plans to travel to Thailand to lay the groundwork for a new study abroad class. The course will be taught in English, and Dr. Capper will be aided by English-speaking Thai guides, experts and Buddhist monks. The trip will also give Capper an opportunity for additional research related to his third book, Roaming Free Like a Deer: Buddhism and the Natural World, the proposal for which is under review at the University of California Press. 



Webb Parker

Associate Professor, Music

(in conjunction with Ann Blankenship, Assistant Professor in the College of Education & Psychology)

Project: The Prevalence of Judeo/Christian Repertoire Programed in High School Choirs in Mississippi: The Data and Legal Implications in the School Music Classroom 

The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits any state or federal government employee or agent from promoting religion or inhibiting individual students' free exercise of their own religious beliefs. This is a difficult balancing act, particularly for music teachers and choral directors, who may use sacred music to teach secular musical concepts, use texts with religious lyrics and lead public performances. 

Dr. Webb Parker and Dr. Ann Blankenship are investigating the prevalence of Judeo/Christian music in Mississippi high school choirs. This study will help to identify how music teachers and choral directors understand the relationship between their choice of text and the Establishment Clause. Once this use is better understood, training opportunities can be targeted to school districts in areas in which they can improve legal compliance.

Drs. Parker and Blankenship plan to travel to school districts across the state and to present their research at the 2018 American Educational Research Association in New York City.




Timothy Tesh 

Assistant Professor of Trumpet, School of Music

Project: Adaptations for Trumpet

"As musicians, we often paint ourselves into a proverbial corner by working tirelessly to perfect orchestral, solo and chamber music, and filling our bookshelves with etude and method books that are written specifically for our own instrument. We tend to focus myopically on this set of pieces, forsaking all others in our artistic quest for perfection," writes Dr. Tesh.

Dr. Tesh "made it a personal mission to dive headlong into as much non-trumpet repertoire as I could get my hands on, and to encourage my students to do the same." He was amazed by the vast quantity of wonderful music he had previously avoided because it was not written specifically for the trumpet, and now wants to bring the music adapted for trumpet to a wider audience.

Tesh's plan is to record a solo trumpet album, which he hopes will reach an international audience and be a valuable contribution to music pedagogy.




Jonathan Pluskota

Assistant Professor of Mass Communication & Journalism

Project: Understanding Sound Recording Aesthetics and Production Techniques: A Psychophysiological Approach

For nearly 15 years, sound recording technology has advanced, yet the systems used to deliver sound to consumers have either remained static or regressed. This can be attributed to changes in consumer behavior and to a lack of research to support the dissemination of high definition audio. Dr. Jonathan Pluskota will conduct experiments to determine whether subjects prefer high-definition music to low-definition, and whether their physiological responses to high- vs. low-definition music support their stated preferences.

The results of this study have far-ranging implications for the music industry. If consumers do not have a measurable preference for high-definition music, the music industry would be hard pressed to justify high definition equipment and software. If they do have a preference for high-definition, perhaps more attention needs to be paid to the development of high-definition delivery systems.