Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Archive for July, 2020

CUP Recap: Volunteers and Interns

Posted on: July 31st, 2020 by elpayseu

In this session, we hosted Rebecca Nelson with Volunteer Mississippi Northeast Hub to share some strategies for creating virtual opportunities for volunteers.

Rebecca’s top six ways to engage volunteers virtually are:

  • Letter writing – patients, elderly, special populations, teachers, first responders, essential worker
  • Care packages – engage individual volunteers or groups in collecting items for care packages that can be dropped off at specified location or compiled off-site; toiletries and essential items, as well as fun self-care items that can brighten someone’s day
  • Mailings/phone calls – use volunteers to off-load some of the regular office work from home utilizing phone trees and dropping off supplies at individual volunteer homes
  • Zoom ambassadors – create virtual volunteer opportunities for volunteers that can assist with digital needs, perhaps scheduling or moderating Zoom meetings, managing social media, and more. All of these can be done remotely regardless of location.
  • Research – utilize volunteers to do essential research that will support your work. Volunteers can research grant opportunities or potential funding streams or research how-to’s for your agency as you translate work into new contexts and build a new learning curve to meet needs in the current environment
  • Translators, especially for ESL – Volunteers with language skills can be invaluable in helping to translate information and resources, broaden your audience, or reach untapped audiences.

Some additional shared resources:

Download the full transcript (PDF).

Community Chat – Suzanne Helveston, More than a Meal

Posted on: July 31st, 2020 by elpayseu

“It’s more than just a meal. We want our guests to feel like they’re at a friend’s house coming over for dinner.” -Suzanne Helveston

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Suzanne Helveston, board president for More Than A Meal. Suzanne discusses the mission of More Than A Meal and the hard work of the community that goes into making meals available for those who need them. Tune in to learn more about how More Than A Meal operates, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Originally from Meridian, Miss., Suzanne and her husband moved to Oxford, their college hometown, in 2014. She soon became involved with More Than A Meal through her cooking club as a meal provider and was drawn into the atmosphere of the organization. “It was kind of like having a group of friends in your living room,” Suzanne says. After becoming a regular volunteer, she was asked to serve on the board. In fall 2020, she will begin her position as board president.

More Than A Meal is there to provide a hot meal to those in Lafayette County who may not have access to one. For a while, these meals were being hosted in churches and parish halls, but the City of Oxford has recently allowed them to utilize the Stone Center. “[The Stone Center] is a great central location,” Suzanne says, “It’s comfortable and constant.” The Stone Center provides a consistent, central location for guests and makes meals much more efficient, and as the name suggests, it is more than a meal. They provide basic toiletries and paper products to their guests as well as school supplies in early August. They even host a coat drive in November.

Recently, More Than A Meal has been operating a drive-thru system to accommodate COVID-19 health regulations. They also extended their service through the summer as opposed to just during the academic year as they have done in years past. They will reopen on August 11. Suzanne says that one of their biggest challenges, still, is simply bringing awareness to More Than A Meal. “We have a lot of regulars, but there’s room for more,” Suzanne says. They send fliers and use social media to spread awareness, but Suzanne encourages everyone that knows of someone in the community who could use a hot meal to spread the word.

You can learn more about More Than A Meal by going to their Facebook page or their website at mtamoxford.org.

Download the full transcript (PDF)

Watch on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast on Anchor.

Community Chats – Denise Strub North Mississippi Family Center

Posted on: July 29th, 2020 by elpayseu

“If you can nurture a healthy family, then you can prevent child abuse and neglect.” -Denise Strub

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Denise Strub, director of the North MS Exchange Family Center (NMEFC). The NMEFC is committed to ending the cycle of child abuse and neglect by offering prevention, intervention, and educational services. Tune in to hear to Denise discuss some of the greatest challenges and rewards of working with families in our community to fulfill this mission and ensure safety for the children of Oxford and Lafayette County.

Originally from Ohio, Denise moved to Mississippi in the ‘70’s with her family and has lived here since. She graduated from Mississippi State University and worked in journalism and communications in towns across the state. She now divides her time between Oxford and Cleveland, balancing her work for a newspaper and the NMEFC. Diane started as a local member of the Exchange Club when she was asked to join the board and soon moved to the position of director where she has been for the past year. The outpouring of support from the community has been one of the most encouraging things to come out of this position for Diane. She mentions campus partners and local donors who are always willing to lend a helping hand. She keeps going on the fact that the work they are doing is proven to stop the cycle of abuse. “It excites me to know we’re making strides,” Diane says. Those strides come by educating and preventing abuse at the beginning and by everyone doing their part to recognize the signs of abuse when they see them.

The NMEFC has experienced what Diane calls a “reawakening” this year as they refurbish their site and adjust to challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. They have reinstated their STAN (Stop the Abuse Now) program where their mascot Stan educated school-aged children on how to recognize abuse and help in their own way. On top of that, they are continuing their Raising Mothers to Rise program which helps teenage moms handle the stress and adjustments that come with new motherhood. “There are skill sand ways to prevent abuse,” Diane says. They present the new mothers with these skills so some stress can be alleviated and prevent the abuse and neglect before it even starts. These programs and others are all a part of NMEFC’s mission to stop the cycle of abuse and neglect.

If you want to get involved with NMEFC, you can contact them at nmsfamilycenter@gmail.com or you can visit their website at nmsfamilycenter.org.

Download the full transcript (PDF).

Watch on Youtube.

Listen to the podcast on Anchor.

CUPS Recap: Technology (7/23/20)

Posted on: July 24th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this CUP session, we focused on opportunities for community-university partnership around technology needs, including website design, social media, and more. We also shared new office initiatives to support these needs:

New Technology Assistance RFP Process 

Our office shared a new application form for nonprofits to submit proposed technology-related projects for student consideration. This RFP form will present us with specific information about projects concerning your organization’s outreach, technology, and communication needs and allow us to solicit and promote your project for with individual students and courses that may be able to address them.

Priority consideration for fall projects will be given to those submitted by Friday, August 7th.

Complete the application online – Request For Proposal

Download the PDF Application. 

GivePulse Overview

In this session, we also previewed GivePulse, the new service management platform that will launch this fall on campus that will help us elevate, celebrate, and sustain community engaged partnerships. In order to best serve our campus and community partners, we will be offering GivePulse training sessions to those interested in engaging with the platform at the following dates and times:

  • Tuesday, August 11th: 10am – 12pm
  • Wednesday, August 12th: 12pm – 2pm
  • Thursday, August 13th: 2pm – 4pm

These training sessions will take place on Zoom. Invitations to the Zoom meetings will be sent out to participants at a later date.

In order to RSVP to one of the training sessions please complete this form: GivePulse Training


CUPS Recap: Supply Drives & Fundraisers (7/16/20)

Posted on: July 17th, 2020 by elpayseu

In this CUP session, we brainstormed opportunities for community-university partnerships through supply drives and fundraisers. Based on the results of our Nonprofit Impact Survey, these were two pressing community needs identified by our local nonprofit partners.

Session highlights included:

  • Discussion of technology solutions for online auctions (See resource list below)
  • Discussion with campus partners about successful student engagement
  • Launch of GivePulse platform on campus for fall 2020

Shared Resources:

Submit requests for a supply drive or fundraiser for fall 2020 to engaged@olemiss.edu.

Download the Full Transcript (PDF).

Community Chat – Mary Leary & Camie Bianco

Posted on: July 16th, 2020 by elpayseu

“There’s definitely a need in our community, even though we may not see it.” -Camie Bianco

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Camie Bianco and Mary Leary, co-founders and board members of Lovepacks. Lovepacks is a nonprofit organization that provides food on weekends and holidays during the school year for school-aged children in our community who experience hunger. Camie and Mary discuss the mission of the organization as well as some of the greatest challenges and rewards they experience through the work they do.

Camie and Mary founded Lovepacks in 2010 after seeing similar programs in other states and realizing the need for a supplemental program in Oxford. On weekends and holidays, dozens of packages are delivered to hungry students from both the Oxford and Lafayette County School Districts. This is all done with a team of volunteers comprised of special education students who pack the boxes and liaisons who deliver the packs to the children. Camie and Mary both agree that one of the biggest rewards of the organization is working with the student packers whom they regard as the “heart of Lovepacks.”

Since its inception, Lovepacks has experienced immense support from the community either through monetary donations or in-kind donations, and all donations go towards buying food and supplies. However, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization’s board has been faced with the challenge of providing food to students while still retaining anonymity, an important aspect of their service. As they work through this, Lovepacks is still committed to providing food to students and combating hunger in our community.

If you want to get involved with Lovepacks, either through donations or volunteering, you can contact them at lovepacks@gmail.com or through their Facebook page “Oxford Lovepacks.”

Download the full transcript (PDF).

Watch on Youtube.

Listen via podcast on Anchor.



Community Chat – EJ Edney

Posted on: July 14th, 2020 by elpayseu


“We’re faced with a moment when we’re asked to demonstrate who we are.” -Dr. EJ Edney

Dr. EJ Edney, director of the Center for Inclusion Cross-Cultural Engagement (CICCE), joins us for this episode of Community Chats to discuss his position on campus and in the community as well as the work he and so many others are doing to ensure a more equitable and diverse campus experience. EJ talks about some initiatives that the CICCE has set in place, future plans to stay active in their mission, and some of the challenges he and others meet in doing this work. Tune in to learn more about EJ, his staff, and all the great work happening at the CICCE.

EJ was born in Vicksburg, MS, and moved to the Jackson area in junior high where he graduated from Clinton High School. He graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2011 with a bachelor of arts in biology and went on to obtain his doctorate in higher education in 2019 from the University of Mississippi as well. Throughout his time at the University of Mississippi, EJ has been well aware of the inequities he and other marginalized students have faced which drives his passion for his work. “I felt compelled to make opportunities,” EJ says regarding these inequities. He credits the start of this work to his predecessors like the “Ole Miss 8,” a group of black students who were arrested and expelled in 1970 for protesting for equal opportunity.

The CICCE was born out of this need for equity and opportunity for marginalized students, and so a committee was formed to assess the campus climate for underserved and marginalized students who felt unheard. Student leaders came together to make these assessments and benchmark them against other universities, and thus, the CICCE was established. “We’re ever-aware of the opportunities that lie before us to strengthen our relationships and gain even more perspective,” EJ says. He says that the CICCE is there to fill in the gaps in student experiences through programming and retention initiatives such as MOST, Stronger Together, and bias training services.

You can stay engaged with the CICCE by following them on social media: @uminclusion on Instagram and Twitter and “UM Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement” on Facebook.

You can also contact them at inclusion@olemiss.edu.

Download the full PDF transcript

Watch on YouTube

Listen via Podcast

CUPS Recap: Nonprofit Impact Survey

Posted on: July 10th, 2020 by elpayseu

For the kickoff for our July Community-University Partnership (CUP) Series, we featured results from our recent nonprofit impact survey.  This survey was administered in May & June 2020 to assess the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on operations and capacity within our local Lafayette-Oxford-University nonprofit community, inform the development of community engagement activities at the university to support LOU community, and to advance community-university partnership to support community resilience and recovery.

This study was funded by the UM Disaster Recovery and Resilience Constellation and supported by campus and community collaborators including UM Economic Development, LOU Chamber of Commerce, Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow, United Way of Oxford-Lafayette County, the Mississippi Alliance for Nonprofits & Philanthropy, and Volunteer Mississippi.

Study highlights:

  • 63.6% of respondents indicated a high level of concern toward the impact of COVID-19 on their organization.
  • 81.8% of respondents indicated an increased demand for client services, even as decreased fundraising, volunteer, and donor support.
  • Pressing urgent needs included funding, supplies, volunteers, and website/social media presence

Download the Presentation Slides (PDF).

Download the CUP transcript.

How to Be An AntiRacist – Reading Guide, Part 1

Posted on: July 8th, 2020 by elpayseu

As part of the Stronger Together initiative, the Office of Community Engagement is hosting book discussions this summer based on Ibram X. Kendi’s book How to Be an Antiracist. These small groups discussions are now closed for summer 2020. New groups will open up in fall 2020.

For those who are reading along, here are some reflections questions from Chapters 1-9 to guide us in critical self-reflection as we do the important work of becoming antiracist. Part 2, with questions for Chapters 10-18, is also now available.


The book’s central message is that the opposite of “racist” isn’t “not racist.” The true opposite of “racist” is antiracist. “The good news,” Kendi writes, “is that racist and antiracist are not fixed identities. We can be racist one minute and an antiracist the next.” What does it mean to have to constantly reaffirm your identity as an antiracist? Is there any benefit to the fact that you can’t just decide you are “not racist” or an antiracist and be done with it?

“‘Racist’ is not- as Richard Spencer argues- a pejorative. It is not the worst word in the English language; it is not the equivalent of a slur. It is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it- and then dismantle it. The attempt to turn this usefully descriptive term into an almost unusable slur is, of course, designed to do the opposite: to freeze us into inaction.”

Chapter 1 – Definitions

“What is racism? Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.”

“No one becomes a racist or antiracist. We can only strive to be one or the other. We can unknowingly strive to be a racist. We can knowingly strive to be an anti-racist. Like fighting an addiction, being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.”

Chapter 2 – Dueling Consciousness

Kendi explores assimilation, segregationist, and anti-racist mindsets. What are some examples you’ve seen of each of these?

What is your reaction to the “War on Drugs” – the stiffer sentencing policies for drug crimes and the mass incarceration of non-violent offenders? How does this fit within our current tensions around racial disparities in law enforcement and police brutality toward Black individuals?

Chapter 3 – Power

Kendi recounts the history of race as constructs. Have you heard this history before? What is your response to hearing the story of Prince Henry enslaving Africans? And Linnaeus’ racial hierarchy? How do these mesh with stories you have heard about race growing up?

“This cause and effect – a racist power creates racist policies out of raw self-interest; the racist policies necessitate racist ideas to justify them – lingers over the life of racism.” (p42)

Chapter 4 – Biology

Microaggressions, i.e. racial abuse – When have you witnessed or been a perpetrator of microaggressions?  “brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership?” (p46)

What is the impact of this persistent daily hum of racist abuse? Kendi lists distress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and suicide. (p46)

Disparities in punishment and education – “I wonder if her racist ideas chalked up my resistance to my Blackness and therefore characterized it as misbehavior, not distress. With racist teachers, misbehaving kids of color do not receive inquiry and empathy and legitimacy. We receive orders and punishments and ‘no excuses,’ as if we were adults. The Black child is ill-treated like an adult, and the Black adult is ill-treated like a child.” (p47)

Racial categories – Kendi argues that as long as racial inequities exist, that racial categories are essential in identifying those inequities and addressing racist policies. (p54) This is why a color-blind system doesn’t work. It neglects to acknowledge the racial inequities and maintains the existing racial hierarchies and power structures. How do you respond to those who say they do not “see color?” How might we respond? 

Chapter 5 – Ethnicity 

“…The central double standard in ethnic racism: loving one’s position on the ladder above over ethnic groups and hating one’s position below that of other ethnic groups.” (p65) Have you experienced this tension before?  Why do we consume racist/sexist/classist ideas about other groups and reject racist/sexist/classist ideas about our own? 

Chapter 6 – Body 

Kendi quotes President Bill Clinton saying – “By experience or at least what people see on the news at night, violence for those White people too often has a Black face.” (p70) He then goes on to comment, “Americans today see the Black body as larger, more threatening, more potentially harmful, and more likely to require force to control than a similarly sized White body, according to researchers.” What have you observed about media portrayals of violence? What kinds of antiracist strategies can challenge these racialized depictions of violence?

“We were unarmed, but we knew that Blackness armed us even though we had no guns. Whiteness disarmed the cops – turned them into fearful potential victims – even when they were approaching a group of clearly outstrapped and anxious high school kids… Unarmed black bodies – which apparently look armed to fearful officers – are about twice as likely to be killed as unarmed White bodies.” How do these views of the Black body as inherently dangerous play into the recent tragic and deadly police encounters, e.g. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Gardner?

What is your response to Kendi’s description of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (p 74)? How did this act perpetuate the correlation of Blackness with violence? What were some of the unintended consequences?

What about the correlation of violence with poverty and unemployment? (p79) Advocates for defunding the police argue investment in jobs programs and other services are more effective in reducing violence and crime in low income communities. What are the possibilities and challenges of moving in this direction? 

On page 75-76, Kendi addresses the depictions of the inner city as perpetuating and breeding violence. “We, the young Black super-predators, were apparently being raised with an unprecedented inclination toward violence – in a nation that presumably did not raise White slaveholders, lynchers, officials, venture capitalists, financiers, drunk drivers, and war hawks to be violent.” What is your reaction to this tendency to overlook White violence? What do you know about the violence of lynching, racial terrorism, and the treatment of slaves? In what ways have we acknowledged and made restitution for those violent acts?

Chapter 7 – Culture

“The act of making a cultural standard and hierarchy is what creates cultural racism.” (p 83)  What are some of the cultural standards we hold? Kendi says to be antiracist is to reject cultural standards and level cultural differences. How might we do that? 

“The cultural African survived in the Americans, created a strong and complex culture with Western ‘outward’ forms ‘while retaining inner [African] values’…The same cultural African breathed life into the African American culture that raised me.” (p 86) Discuss some of the aspects of culture Kendi talks about, e.g. fresh fashion, Black church, soul food, Hip Hop. Does any of Kendi’s descriptions challenge racialized images and stereotypes for you? How might we, as cultural antiracists, reject cultural standards in these areas and equalize cultural differences among racial groups (p81)?

Chapter 8 – Behavior

Kendi says that Black individual mistakes are generalized to the mistakes of the race, while White individual mistakes are seen as individual mistakes and often met with second chances and empathy. How have you seen this play out in your experience? 

The achievement gap and standardized tests – “The use of standardized tests to measure aptitude and intelligence is one of the most effective racist policies ever devised to degrade Black minds and legally exclude Black bodies.” (p 101) What is your response to the context and history that Kendi brings to tests like the SAT and GRE? Why do we continue to use these tests? What would changing educational structures and admissions look like?

Looking at the racial disparities in funding for education and resourcing of schools and teachers, Kendi says “The racial problem is the opportunity gap, as antiracist reformers call it, not the achievement gap.” (103) How do we move toward creating opportunities for more children to succeed inside and outside of school? How do we acknowledge and celebrate different kinds of intelligence? 

Chapter 9 – Color

Kendi talks about the dueling consciousness of antiracist pride in one’s own race and assimilationist desire to be another race. (p 109) For him, it was wearing colored contact lenses to portray himself as lighter. He also talks about white people tanning to become darker. In his words, “to be antiracist is not to reverse the beauty standard. To be antiracist is to eliminate any standard based on skin, eye color, hair texture…to be antiracist is to diversify our standards of beauty like our standards of culture or intelligence, to see beauty equally in all skin colors, broad and thin noses, kinky and straight hair, light and dark eyes. To be an antiracist is to build and live in a beauty culture that accentuates instead of erases our natural beauty.” (p 113) What would an antiracist beauty culture look like? What do we need to change to get there? 

How have you experienced the dueling consciousness of pride in one’s own body and assimilationist desire to fit in with others?

View Part 2: Chapters 10-18.

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Community Chat – Forrest Jenkins

Posted on: July 8th, 2020 by elpayseu

“Look around you: there are always helpers in your community who are trying to do good things.” -Forrest Jenkins

For this installment of Community Chats, we are joined by Forrest Jenkins, president of LOU-Home, Inc. She discusses her passion for affordable housing and community involvement as well as some of the greatest challenges LOU-Home, Inc. is currently facing. Tune in to learn about the needs of our community regarding housing and current projects and developments of LOU-Home, Inc.

Forrest was born and raised “right down the road” in Pontotoc, MS and graduated from the University of Mississippi School of Law. After practicing law at a housing clinic in Oxford, she joined the board of directors of LOU-Home, Inc. in 2014. She saw the issues plaguing the LOU community due to the lack of affordable housing. In regards to the work they do, Forrest credits the work of community members. “Things don’t happen overnight,” she says, “It takes a lot of eyes and a lot of hands to get things to move.” Looking to the future, LOU-Home, Inc. is always looking to develop more housing and provide housing services to the community.

LOU-Home, Inc. coordinates with the community and local government to increase the availability and affordability of homes for qualified buyers who otherwise could not acquire these resources. They also provide services to these buyers including credit workshops and individual counseling. Currently, there is a lack of available land in the LOU community, and the land that is available may not be attainable to LOU-Home, Inc. due to legal barriers. Forrest urges any community members who can help materially to do so. This can be anything from a monetary donation to property that can be leveraged to begin more development. Forrest expands on how you can get involved in the episode.

Watch on YouTube.

Listen to the podcast episode.