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Inside the Academy: Winter 2019

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Inside the Academy

Provost   Faculty Profile   Academic Affairs   In the News   Faculty Focus   So. Miss Fund   Deadlines


Published by the Office of the Provost, Inside the Academy highlights the academic accomplishments, groundbreaking research, and important upcoming dates and deadlines for the Division of Academic Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi.


A Message from the Provost

Steven R. MoserWe start this year knowing that as an institution, we are continuing to make great strides to meet our potential. It has been a good start to the year with good news stories shaping our narrative—tied to our steady climb up and out. I doubt anyone would disagree that change has been tough for some of us. Not only are we reorganizing our academic structures, we are also adjusting our teaching and research rhythms to a new academic schedule and shifting strategies to grow new enrollment as we retain and graduate more of our students. But the momentum seems to be building. Institutions around the country that have embraced this type of work—innovation in teaching, research, and business practices—have turned around their financial picture and are expanding once again. It is exciting to see so many faculty and staff from across campus committed to our aspirational goals.  In January alone, more than 150 USM faculty and academic staff participated in workshops geared toward acquiring new tools to impact their teaching or advising.  

As we acknowledge the degree of change over the last three years, we must also acknowledge our faculty and staff who have risen to the challenge and spent time in the trenches developing solid plans for the future of the institution. Vision 2020 is an audacious reenvisioning of our academic structures, surpassed only by our efforts across student success programming which promises to help us attract and keep more students. We will continue to pursue other responsible solutions to our challenges as we march forward. Here's to a 2019 in which we embrace opportunities to be different  and set ourselves apart as we become the example for public higher education.  

Steven R. Moser

Steven R. Moser
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs



Initiative 1, Annual Evaluation of Faculty Performance, and Initiative 2, Tenure and Promotion, have been approved by President Rodney D. Bennett and are now available on the Reorganization webpage. A template for adapting current documents under the initiatives and a formatting guide will be developed over the next few weeks to guide faculty work. Final documents will need to be reviewed by college deans before submission to the Office of the Provost for final review. 

Sabbatical applications are moving forward through our usual process and the awarding of sabbaticals will be announced soon.  Faculty awards will include the salary percentages that have been standard practice at the institution for the sabbatical period. 

Introducing the Southern Miss Fund

Southern Miss Fund 

In the spirit of Vision 2020, the Provost's Office is pleased to announce a number of new initiatives to support the work of our faculty. Through the generosity of university donors, a new array of funding and support opportunities is available this spring through the Southern Miss Fund.  Our loyal donors believe in us and are enthusiastically supporting our institutional efforts towards Vision 2020 and beyond. 

Learn more

Faculty Profile

Associate Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology Alex Flynt: 5 Questions

Dr. Alex FlyntDr. Alex Flynt, associate professor of Cell and Molecular Biology and Mississippi INBRE imaging core facility director, was recently selected by the National Science Foundation for its CAREER award. This five-year award of about $1.1 million will assist Flynt’s work identifying the distinct ways RNA interference works in lophotrochozoans, a group of animals that includes oysters and segmented worms.

Flynt’s work aims to benefit the Gulf of Mexico's endangered oyster fisheries through developing unique biotechnology. According to the National Science Foundation, this research could help develop and generate desirable traits like disease resistance without permanently altering oyster DNA, unlike genetically modified organisms or GMOs.

Flynt said the university is already invested in addressing endangered oyster populations. This provided an ideal opportunity for his research into this basic mechanism. 

How significant is this award in your field?

It’s one of NSF’s more prestigious awards and is specifically for young scientists. It’s a real endorsement by the agency of an investigators’ promise. I’m flattered to have been chosen for this. It really will do a lot to promote my career. It’s the white whale for assistant professors when it comes to NSF and is a marker that you hear administrators or senior faculty hold up as a milestone of major achievement. 

Tell me about your research interests and how you chose your subject.

When I started grad school, we didn’t understand how widespread this RNAi phenomenon was. In my first two years of grad school, it hit the community that pretty much all animals, plants, and most fungus do this thing, and it could be exploited for biotechnology. At that time, I saw an opportunity in a really new and exciting field, and over the last 18 years it’s been a productive line of research for me. Today we are really starting to see the promise of RNAi become a reality as its starting to become something that is a commercial product. Two years ago, the first pharmaceutical based on RNAi came out for treating Amyloidosis, and it’s being used against pests for crop protection.

When you talk about something like RNAi, it’s a rapidly evolving process that is very different between animal types. In non-model organisms—animals that aren’t typical laboratory faire like mice, fruit flies, worms and such—we don’t really know how it works. With this proposal, I wanted to investigate one of the three major branches of the animal tree of life, lophotrochozoans. To date, there has been hardly any investigation into these animals. The major animals in that group are the mollusks and annelids.

What are some memorable moments you’ve experienced doing this type of work?

It’s mentioned in general biology textbooks now. In 20 years, it has become essential biology curriculum to know RNAi is a mechanism for regulation of gene expression. For me, watching this field grow from its inception to something that will really affect society has been very rewarding. 

Where do you see the field going in the next decade with this technology?

I would say the biggest benefit is that you can do genetic manipulation in a way that’s not transgenic. It allows for the benefits of transgenics, like engineering a trait, but it’s not a permanent change to the organism’s DNA. Any effect caused by RNAi won’t last but a couple generations in animals. It’s a way to make the most of our knowledge of genetics to improve aquaculture or agriculture without going the transgenic route and having all these engineered organisms out there.

Any advice you could give to students in research or anyone who is interested in this type of work?

I would say that the biggest thing is the quality on your idea. You want to think big, have new radical ideas, and find a very conventional way to explore those ideas. Science is the art of the possible. If you can investigate big ideas with a great deal of feasibility, that will bring you success in research. 

The View from Academic Affairs

Amy Chasteen MillerWhat does the New Student and Retention Programs office do?

The office of New Student and Retention Programs (NSRP) was established in 2015 as the home for key retention programs, particularly those focused on new students. Reporting to the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, this office manages some of our most visible retention programs—the Jump Scholars program and the ACES living-learning communities, for example. They also do much of the behind-the-scenes nitty gritty work of retention, including data analysis, continual outreach to freshmen throughout the year, and academic%20coaching for students.

We invite you to dig in to their website, and stop by the second floor of McLemore Hall for a visit. Katie%20McBride serves as the Director of the office, so feel free to contact her if you’d like more information about any of the programs or want to talk about retention efforts in general.

Retention requires holistic effort from all corners of campus, from the quality teaching we see in our classrooms to mentoring in faculty offices to discussions in residence halls. It also takes some targeted programming that pulls together threads from academic and student affairs to enact tried-and-true best practices, such as living-learning communities and other initiatives.

At USM, our student population is different than at many of our sister institutions, particularly R1 institutions, and we have to design our programs with our students in mind. Many first-year students at Southern Miss (and many other places) arrive with little understanding of what to expect from college. Our students in particular often struggle financially (more than 80% of financial need and 47% receive Pell grants), and many are also first-generation college students. Most (66%) are from Mississippi, but they may not have ever been away from home, and they may find the University large and intimidating.

Mindful of this population, through the first-year the “GEWW%20Review” series and on-going outreach and programming, NSRP communicates with students about how to transition successfully to college, the mindset that is needed, study skill development, time management, and more. We also offer the Jump Scholars program for new students in the summer prior to their first year, and the ACES program for their first semester; both of these living-learning communities provide important avenues for student support that increase their success.

After the first year, sophomore students also need support transitioning out of the newness of being a freshman and getting more settled and focused in their majors. NSRP offers a suite of programming for them, from the Spark%20program (open to all sophomores) to the Jubilee%20Scholars%20Program, a 50-student scholarship program focused on career-readiness and mentorship. Through collaboration with faculty in counseling psychology, this new scholarship program has been able to introduce the first cohort of students to evidence-based career counseling as well as academic workshops and professional development opportunities.

For transfer students, NSRP offers events and connections to the new Transfer Student Association (TSA) they advise. Our transfer students often are busy commuters who do not get involved on campus, and we would appreciate any encouragement you can offer them to join the TSA and participate in the array of transfer student events offered through NSRP. We see far too many transfer students leave after only one semester at USM (typically 15-17%), and we know that transfer students who connect with peers and mentors are more likely to stay enrolled. Please refer your students to the TSA, or contact Lauren%20Bridges for more information.

If you want to learn more about these and other NSRP programs, the staff of NSRP are happy to talk with any faculty or visit any schools to discuss the programs offered or the retention work underway. We welcome faculty involvement, or visits to McLemore Hall. Let us know if you have any questions or want more information in future newsletters!

Amy Chasteen Miller

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs

Scheduling Fall (August) Intersession Classes

We had a robust enrollment for the January intersession – over 850 students!  Several classes were closed at capacity, and students emailed our office with interest in more sections of those high-demand courses. As you look to fall intersession planning (August 5-22), please keep in mind a few critical elements:

◼︎ August intersession hours count as part of fall (for both hours and financial aid), and students will want to take them in order to reduce their load during the regular 15-week full session.

◼︎ The most popular classes are GEC courses and high-demand major courses that fill in the regular term.

◼︎ Some students will be living in Hattiesburg for the intersession period and will want face-to-face classes, but many may still be traveling or working elsewhere so online courses will be in high demand.

◼︎ August would also be an opportunity to pilot innovative preparatory courses or other classes that could help students be successful in their fall coursework.

If you have any questions, contact Amy Chasteen Miller at academic.affairsFREEMississippi.

Jump Scholars Program

Jump Scholars ProgramEstablished in 2014, the Jump Scholars program allows highly motivated incoming freshmen to come to campus a month early and get a “jump” on their college career. 

Students select a career-oriented%20cluster to join, then take three courses with other students in that cluster. The classes are small, and students have the opportunity to interact with faculty and classmates. We encourage experiential learning, and we provide programming within the residence hall to complement the academic experience.

We have tracked participants since the program’s inception, and they have shown higher GPAs, lower drop-out rates, and faster graduation rates than their peers. For the pilot cohort of 11 students from summer 2014, six of them graduated in four years or less. Assessment indicates a high rate of student satisfaction with the program and an improved sense of readiness for college.

Want to hear from some students? Watch this short video (and share it!).  Interested in meeting some Jump students this summer? Contact Megan%20McCay in NSRP and let us know. We would welcome you!


ACES Living-Learning Community

The Academic Connections to Enhance Success (ACES) program began in fall 2017 with an invitation to incoming freshmen interested in the nursing program: they could apply to ACES and, if accepted, they would live together in the same residence hall, be enrolled in the same courses, and get special programming just for ACES students.

The 66 students who participated in fall 2017 did very well; they earned a higher GPA than their peers who did not join ACES, and they returned in spring at an 11% higher rate than nursing-intended freshmen who were not in ACES.

Based on the success of the pilot, we expanded ACES for fall 2018 to four groups – those interested in nursing; biological sciences majors; undeclared/exploratory students; and first generation students. A total of 168 students are participating in ACES this year, and we are collecting more data to better understand the impact of the program and how we might improve it (with the approval of IRB).

As you talk with students who are applying to Southern Miss for next year, keep in mind that we are now recruiting for fall 2019 ACES! Accepted students are guaranteed seats in three classes (two that are required for the degree and one success-oriented course) with students they will know from their halls; they also will receive additional mentoring and programming to support their academic success. We appreciate your support. 

Questions, or interested in getting involved? Contact Megan%20McCay.


Parent and Family Association

The Parent%20and%20Family%20Association (PFA) at Southern Miss is managed through NSRP, and they send a monthly e-newsletter to all parent members.

You can follow the PFA%20on%20Facebook, or contact Ashley%20Jones in NSRP to learn more.

In addition, if you have information or events that you think parents and other family members should know about, especially first-year parents, please let Ashley know and we can try to include it in the newsletter. We do get a good response from the newsletter as well as PFA events— the fall tailgate had more than 1000 attendees!

We will be planning a spring event soon, and we would welcome faculty and staff to attend and meet the parents and families as well.

Absent Professor Program

 New Student and Retention Programs

Traveling to a conference and unable to hold your class? Don’t worry, there is an APP for that!  The Office of New Student and Retention Programs is offering the Absent Professor Program (APP) to professors who are not able to attend class, but do not want to cancel.  A representative from NSRP can be requested to present an academic success topic in your absence.  Professors who are interested in using APP should complete the online request form below at least 1 week in advance.

If you have any questions please contact the Office of New Student and Retention Programs at nsrpFREEMississippi or 601.266.6405.  

Submit APP Request

Academy in the News

Helicopter Parent

◼︎ Psychology Today | How Narcissistic Parents Infantilize Kids

"Treating an adult like a child, or infantilization, creates a cycle of dependence in which the adult constantly needs to be told what to do and how to do it. The negative effects of infantilization on older adults, as when younger healthcare workers call them “cute” or “honey,” are well-documented as involving an accelerated loss of functioning."  


Mississippi Community Cookbook Project

◼︎ U.S. News & World Report  | Cookbooks: More Than Recipes _ Clues to Mississippi History

"Recently, four women visited the McCain Library and Archives at the University of Southern Mississippi. They weren't doing research on some arcane subject or looking for data on some aspect of Southern living. No. They were on the hunt for recipes.”  


Men Working

◼︎ Men's Health | The Male Suicide Rate Is Rising. This Job Has the Highest Risk.

"Understanding why anyone kills himself is always complex, but even mental-health experts were puzzled when the CDC released its suicide data in June: Eighty-four percent of men who die by suicide have no known mental-health conditions."  



◼︎ Gulf Times  | Qatar signs training pact with Interpol, Mississippi university

"Qatar, represented by the Security Committee of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC), signed a co-operation agreement with Interpol and The University of Southern Mississippi, on the sidelines of the second day of the 12th International Event for Homeland Security and Civil Defence in the Middle East.” 



◼︎ Everyday Health | What Listeria Is and Why It Makes You Sick

"Every once in a while you hear about an outbreak of listeria. At those times, you’ve probably wondered just what is listeria, and how does it make people sick? ...  Listeria is the name of a common family of bacteria that turns up almost everywhere — including in food, water, soil, and the human gut.


Financially Cheating

◼︎ New York Magazine | How to Know If Your Partner Is Financially ‘Cheating’ in Your Relationship

"One Saturday in my early 20s, I brought home a cute new sweater and, as I pulled it from its fresh tissue paper, announced to my roommate that it had been on super-sale. That was a lie.


◼︎  The Guardian | Caribbean swamped by seaweed that smells like rotten eggs

◼︎  Los Angeles Times | Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith wins Mississippi Senate race over Democrat Mike Espy

◼︎  The Cut | How to Know If Your Partner Is Financially ‘Cheating’ in Your Relationship

◼︎  The Denver Post | Who wants to be a police officer? Job applications plummet at most US departments

◼︎  Big Think | The science behind why our brains make us cooperate (or disagree)

Faculty Focus

Faculty Focus: Cutting Edge Research from Around the University & Beyond

Nancy E. Marion and Joshua B. Hill, Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice

Joshua S. Haynes, Assistant Professor of History

Michael D. Anestis, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology

Legalizing Marijuana

More states continue to legalize marijuana for both medical and recreational use. This trend toward legalized marijuana poses new problems and concerns for individuals and governments alike. More on Legalizing Marijuana presents research by ten experts that examines issues surrounding marijuana legalization and use.


Patrolling the Border

Patrolling the Border focuses on a late eighteenth-century conflict between Creek Indians and Georgians. The conflict was marked by years of seemingly random theft and violence culminating in open war along the Oconee River, the contested border between the two peoples.

Guns and Suicide

The majority of gun deaths in the United States are suicide deaths, and the majority of suicide deaths are gun deaths. Most people are unaware that suicide, at nearly 43,000 deaths per year, is more common than homicide and other widely publicized tragedies. And yet, suicide is typically absent from discussions of gun violence.


  • Filce, H. G., "Mississippi’s State Personnel Development Grant," Sponsored by US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs, State, $5,250,000.00. (October 1, 2016 - September 30, 2021).
  • Connell, C. L. (PI), Yadrick, M. K. (PI), "Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research," Sponsored by National Institute for General Medical Sciences, National Institutes of Health, Federal, $900,353.67. (2016 - July 31, 2021).
  • Connell, C. L. (PI), Huye, H. F. (Supporting), Dufrene, B. A. (Supporting), Mohn, R. S. (Supporting), Yadrick, M. K. (Supporting), "Impact of a Preschool Obesity Prevention Program Enhanced with Positive Behavioral Supports," Sponsored by USDHHS, Office of Minority Health through a grant to Mississippi Department of Health, Federal, $483,306.00. (November 2018 - Present).
  • Capron, D. W. (PI), Anestis, M. (COPI), "Behavioral Economics Intervention to Increase Treatment Seeking in the National Guard," Sponsored by Military Suicide Research Consortium, $780,378.00. (2019 - December 31, 2020).
  • Anestis, M. (PI), Capron, D. W. (COPI), Bryan, A. O. (COPI), Bryan, C. J. (COPI), "Project Safe Guard," Sponsored by Military Suicide Research Consortium, $1,987,214.00. (2017 - December 31, 2020).
  • Howden, S. D. (COPI), Wiggert, J. (PI), Diercks, A.-R. (COPI), Rakocinski, C. F. (COPI), Barbor, K. E. (COPI), "Recruitment Dynamics if the Eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) in the Mississippi Sound and Adjacent Waters: Integration of Hydrodynamic Modeling, Benthic Habitat Availability, and Larval Transport and Settlement," Sponsored by MS-DEQ, State, $625,000.00. (August 1, 2017 - July 31, 2019).
  • Thelen, J. (PI), Bates, P. D. (COPI), Van Doran, S. (COPI), "A New Paradigm for Regulation of De Novo Fatty Acid Synthesis in Plants.," Sponsored by NSF, Federal, $700,000.00. (September 1, 2017 - August 31, 2020).


Sponsored Research

  • Campbell, S. L. J., Miller, C. R., "Mississippi Defense Diversification Initiative-Phase II," Sponsored by Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, Federal, $1,800,000.00. (August 1, 2018 - January 31, 2020).


The Marine Education Center at Southern Miss


Dates and Deadlines  

January 31: Applications due for the Nina Bell Suggs Endowed Professorship to the Office of the Provost

February 14: School directors submit recommendations for Pre-tenure Review to the CAC

February 15:  UAC submit promotion and tenure dossiers and recommendations to the Office of the Provost

August 19—May 15: Faculty contract dates


View Provost's Calendar


Did You Know?

Digital Measures

University of Southern Mississippi  faculty members are using a new software platform to keep track of their achievements and activities. 

The platform, Digital Measures, was developed by Watermark and customized by the company for the needs of the USM faculty.

It allows easier creation of CVs, publication lists, and other self-reports

needed for various purposes such as tenure dates, scheduled teaching, promotions, and web profiles, as well as providing a method for academic programs to complete accreditation reports, among other uses.

Find out more...

Luckyday Foundation Commits Largest Gift in USM History

The foundation based in Ridgeland, Miss. contributed more than 

$8.7 million

to the Luckyday Citizenship Scholars Program through The USM Foundation.

The Luckyday Foundation has provided over $35.7 million to the program to date, making it the University’s most generous benefactor.


 USM has been recognized as one of the nation’s leading research institutions

by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

USM’s inclusion in the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” category places the University in the distinguished company of Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and others.

Only 130 institutions in the nation are classified as R1.



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