English Department News

2014 Undergraduate Award Winners

Wilbur & Polly Stout English Scholarship 2013/14

  • Natalie Griner 
  • Ashten Taylor Redell 


Wilbur & Polly Stout UG Research Awards 2013/14

  • Matthew Germenis: "Illusion and Identity in The Souls of Black Folk." Sigma Tau Delta International Convention and Conference, Savannah GA. February 26-28, 2014
  • Justin Noble: "'Caught Red Handed Showing Feelings': The Wall as a Double Metaphor for Personal Isolation and Societal Entrapment." Popular Culture Association National Conference, Chicago, IL, April 16-19, 2014.
  • Chelsea Scarbrough: "Something There Is That Loves A Wall: Psychoanalyzing the Narrator in Frost's 'Mending Wall'." Sigma Tau Delta International Convention and Conference, Savannah GA. February 26-28, 2014
  • Ethan Cade Varnado: "Hanoi Joan:  The Folk Singer Goes to War." Popular Culture Association National Conference, Chicago, IL. April 16-19, 2014


Howard Wilson & Helen V Bahr Scholarship 2013/14

  •  Ashley Noel Hatley [USMGC]


Howard Wilson & Helen V Bahr Scholarship: Best UG Essay of 2013 Award

  •  Tessa Willoughby


Florence Burrow Pope Scholarship in English 2013/14

  •  Jeremy Horton 


Janet Sims English Scholarship for Travel Abroad 2013/14

  •  Emma Frances Reeves




Faculty Award Winners

Gehlawat and JohnsonSouthern Miss nominee, IHL Black History Month Educator of the Year

Each year during Black History Month, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning recognizes a faculty or staff member from each university for demonstrating positive advancement of diversity on campus and within the university community. The 2013 Southern Miss representative for Black History Month Educator of the Year is Dr. Sherita Johnson.

Elizabeth HarrisFaculty Excellence Awards

The Excellence in Service Award is given to a faculty member who has excelled in (non-administrative) service to the university community. The Excellence in Teaching Award is given to a faculty member who has a record of exceptional teaching. Maureen Ryan, Ph.D.

Maureen RyanFaculty Senate Junior Faculty Awards

The three Junior Faculty Awards were created to recognize outstanding assistant professors early in their careers at Southern Miss. Award categories are for excellence in teaching, creativity and research. Monika Gehlawat, Ph.D. 

Southern Miss Nominees, National Endowment for the Humanities Awards

The National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Stipend Award provides faculty with the opportunity to pursue research in the humanities that contribute to scholarly knowledge and to the public’s understanding of the humanities. Dr. Jonathan Barron was selected as one of two representatives for Southern Miss in the 2013 national NEH competition. Jonathan Barron, Ph.D.

Aubrey Keith Lucas and Ella Ginn Lucas Endowment for Faculty Excellence Awards

Dr. and Mrs. Aubrey Lucas provide an endowment to support and reward faculty excellence in instruction and research. The review committee selected 14 faculty members as recipients of the Lucas Faculty Excellence Awards. Kay Harris, Ph.D. "Reaching Happyland" (Chapter 4 of a book manuscript: Benevolent War: Children’s Charity Work in the Early 20th Century)


Undergraduate Student Conference

Capping a semester-long planning process, Constance Bailey, along with her Studies in African American Literature class, convened an undergrad student conference, Friday April 26, in Lloyd Hall on the Gulf Park campus.  The event featured keynote addresses by Dr. Douglas Bristol (Associate Professor of History—“The Outsider Within the War Department: Truman K. Gibson, Jr. and the Military Civil Rights Movement During World War II”) and Dr. Will Watson (Associate Professor of English—“Borderlines: Thoughts on ‘Passing,’ Poetry and the Hidden Injuries of Class” and panels moderated by Bailey, Dr. Marie Leonard (Assistant Professor of Sociology), Dr. Casey Maugh (Assistant Professor of Communication Studies) and Susan Mullican (Instructor of Philosophy).  Dr. Maugh also presented a paper (“Building Public Memory: The Rhetorical Construction of Two Virginia Slavery Museums”) on one of the panels.  

USM students who gave papers were as follows: 

  • Ashley Hatley, “Your Place or Mine? A Closer Look at the Spaces in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed and Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day.”
  • Blair Bermond, “Quicksand and The Interesting Narrative of Olauduh Equiano.”
  • Ashley Bowman, “Sing Me a Liminal.”
  • Brandon Riffle, “One Love: The Conscious Connection between Hip Hop Music & Literature-An Examination of the work of Nas & Richard Wright.”
  • Heather Hester, “The Space Between Love and Who We Really Are: The Bachelor and An-Autobiography of An Ex Colored Man.”
  • Matthew Germenis, “The Smoke King,” Illusion, Identity, & Soul Searching in The Souls of Black Folk.”
  • LaQuita Gresham, “You Be You, I Be Me: Constructing an Identity in the Midst of Conformity.”
  • Regina Story, “Yin and Yang: The Liminality of Race in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man and Quicksand.”
  • Tiffany Morris, “A Teenager’s Love Affair with the Undead.”
  • Colleen Smith, “Resurrecting the Vampire: A Critical Interrogation of Octavia Butler’s Fledging”
  • Ashley Booth, “They Put a Spell on You: Witches and Casters in Wild Seed and Beautiful Creatures.”
  • Ambere Riggs, “The Liminality of the Physician’s Oath: A Look at the Medical Ethics of the Medical Drama House, M.D.”
  • James Gunn, “The Liminal Patient: Supernatural versus Scientific Healing in Black Speculative Fiction.”
  • Danielle Wagner, “Between Gods and Mortals: Complimentary Dualities in Octavia Butler’s Wild Seed.”
  • Hillary Dedeaux, “Wild Seed Meets 50 Shades of Grey: Gender Issues in African American Literature and FanFiction.”
  • Arlanderia Whitlock, “Hair & Identity Politics in Spike Lee’s School Daze.”
  • Simona Strianese, “Natasha Tretheway’s ‘Bellocq’s Ophelia’ and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand: A Discussion on Liminality and the Tragic Mulatta.”
  • Ethan Lee, “Do or Do Not, There is No Try: Finding a Space for Our Heroes.”

World Book Night

Laura Bandy and Joyce Inman

Laura Bandy, Dr. Joyce Inman, and Dr. Rebecca Morgan Frank handed out free copies of Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward to lucky Hattiesburg residents as part of of World Book Night 2013.

2013 Undergraduate Award Winners

  • Wilbur & Polly Stout Scholarship: Blakely J. Owens
  •  Wilbur & Polly Stout Scholarship: Henry B. Shepard III 
  • Wilbur & Polly Stout Undergraduate Leadership Award: Tessa Willoughby 
  • Wilbur & Polly Stout Undergraduate Research Scholarship: Matthew Germenis
  • Howard Wilson & Helen Bahr Achievement Scholarship: Justin K. Hosemann 
  • Mary Maude Jordan Scholarship: Jody C. Balius 
  • Florence Burrow Pope Scholarship: Ethan Cade Varnado 
  • Florence Burrow Pope Scholarship: Kristy Cleveland 
  • Janet Sims Study Abroad Scholarship: Ashten Taylor Redell 
  • Howard Wilson & Helen Bahr Undergraduate Essay Award: Matthew Craft 
  • Bahr Creative Writing Award-Fiction: Ethan Cade Varnado 
  • Bahr Creative Writing Award-Poetry: Henry B. Shepard III

On the Trail of Freedom Summer 1964

Students at the University of Southern Mississippi who enrolled in a “Civil Rights Literature” course might not have initially expected to find themselves on the trail of Freedom Summer on a dreary, fall day. However, once they started down Hwy 59 and exited onto Monroe Road, their first stop was at the home of slain civil rights leader Vernon Dahmer.  On November 5, 2012, Dr. Sherita L. Johnson led her English class throughout Hattiesburg, along the historic route of landmarks that reveals the town’s past and African Americans’ struggles to achieve justice and equality.

The Civil Rights Movement was a pivotal moment in modern American history. News media recorded the tragic incidents and victories that changed our ideas and laws about U.S. citizenship. In 1964, “Freedom Summer” was one of the most significant events that took place in the South. Civil rights organizations like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) concentrated on Mississippi to bring attention to the extreme racism and segregated culture in the state. Leading civil rights activists worked to secure voting rights for African Americans and to integrate public facilities throughout the South. For these reasons, Dr. Johnson’s students learned that reading civil rights literature requires an understanding of laws, racial politics, people, places, events, and texts that document a long history of inequality in the United States.

Fortunately for this class, their unofficial tour guide was Mrs. Peggy Jean Connor. She was invited by the professor to surprise her class since they had only been introduced to Mrs. Connor during their study of the archives found in McCain library on campus. Mrs. Connor was State Executive Secretary of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), Treasurer of the COFO-Hattiesburg Project, and an MFDP delegate to the Democratic Party's convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in August, 1964. Her first-hand accounts about the movement were “priceless,” according to one student.

Another memorable stop on the tour was at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Students were greeted by the Pastor Vickie Sizemore-Baldwin and Henry Bethley when they arrived at the church. “I really wanted students to experience the history as much as possible. So stopping at one of the major freedom school sites was planned as the grand finale,” says Dr. Johnson, who is an Associate Professor of English and the Interim Director of USM’s Center for Black Studies. Sitting in the pews and standing downstairs in the basement where freedom classes were held, the USM students realized how important were black churches like St. Paul United Methodist as not just places of worship but also of political action.

Time constraints prevented Dr. Johnson and her class from taking the full Freedom Summer ’64 tour out to Palmer’s Crossing.  Yet, what they learned about Hattiesburg during the Civil Rights Movement has helped the students to gain a greater appreciation for the rights we might take for granted as U.S. citizens today.  Civil rights literature—poetry, fiction, autobiographies, and even speeches—reveals the culture of segregation that inspired writers to create these works. When the students returned to campus, they began thinking about and planning how they could continue on the trail to freedom, recognizing that many others had already cleared the path.