Diversity and Community Engagement
The University of Mississippi

Archive for September, 2020

Faculty Lunch and Learn Recap – Behind the Big House

Posted on: September 30th, 2020 by elpayseu

Dr. Jodi Skipper, associate professor of anthropology and southern studies, and Chelius Carter, director of Preserve Marshall County & Holly Springs, Inc., joined us on Thursday for our inaugural Faculty Lunch & Learn series highlighting Behind the Big House, an initiative launched by Preserve Marshall County in 2011 to bring light to the unspoken truths of enslaved people and reframe local histories to move beyond the cities’ big mansions and focus on the slave dwellings so often ignored.

As a community engaged scholar, Dr. Skipper values the innate relationship between her research, teaching, and community engagement, so when the opportunity presented itself for her graduate students to collaborate with Carter, she saw it as a chance for her students to not only gain valuable research and hospitality experience but also to make a real impact in their local community.

This was also an opportunity to address some of the issues regarding white supremacist ideology that Dr. Skipper believes is not being addressed. “It’s important for [students] to see white people in north Mississippi doing this kind of work as examples,” Dr. Skipper said of Carter and Behind the Big House co-founder Jennifer Eggleston, “I felt like I was attempting to force people to do the right thing, and when I started to work with Chelius and Jennifer, there was no forcing it.” Anthropology faculty and students have been working with Behind the Big House to promote community-based education since 2013.

The vision for Behind the Big House came after Carter purchased the Hugh Craft House, an antebellum home in Holly Springs, and wanted to know the history of the estate’s slave quarters in which he was currently housing his studio. “This structure is more important and rare historically and culturally than the big house,” Carter said. His vision was brought to life by Eggleston who suggested creating a community-wide educational program that had never been done before. Behind the Big House serves as a template for other communities with similar ties to the legacy of slavery to reframe their history to be one that is more accurate, complete, and inclusive.

For more information on Behind the Big House, you can visit Preserve Marshall County’s website, and be on the lookout for our next Faculty Lunch & Learn series coming soon. If you’d like to watch the recorded session, you can visit our YouTube page.

VA Virtual Drop In Hours Schedule – 9/28-10/5

Posted on: September 28th, 2020 by elpayseu

Prepare to Vote in Election 2020 – National, State, and Local Elections! Our UM Voting Ambassador team is here to help you navigate voter registration, whether you want to register here in LaFayette County or in your hometown/state. We can also walk you through what you need to know for absentee voting and to prepare for in-person voting on Election Day!

No pre-registration is required. Simply click on the timeslot below to access the Zoom link for drop-in hours with our VA team.

Focus: Voter Registration (MS or Out of State)
MS Voter Registration Deadline is 10/5/2020.

Monday, 9/28

10:00 – 11:00    VA: Maggie

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Eric

Tuesday, 9/29

9:00 – 10:00       VA: Morgan

Wednesday, 9/30

11:00 – 12:00    VA: Nick

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Clinton

 Thursday, 10/1

10:00 – 11:00   VA: Katelyn

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Libby

Friday, 10/2 **Extended Office Hours Available**

9:00 – 11:00       VA: Jaycee

11:00 – 12:00      VA: Libby

12:00 – 1:00       VA: Sally

1:00 – 2:00          VA: Jaycee

2:00 – 3:00        VA: Delaney

3:00 – 4:00        VA: Jaycee

4:00 – 5:00         VA: Madeleine

Monday, 10/5 **Extended Office Hours Available**
**Mississippi Voter Registration Deadline – Must be turned in to Circuit Clerk’s office or postmarked by 5:00 pm on 10/5**

9:00 – 10:00

10:00 – 11:00    VA: Maggie

11:00- 1:00

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Eric

2:00 – 5:00

Need other assistance, have technical issues, or want to schedule a one-on-one appointment? Email us at engaged@olemiss.edu.

For your reference:


Meet Gianna Schuetz – OCE Area Coordinator for Education and Youth

Posted on: September 21st, 2020 by elpayseu
Gianna Schuetz Headshot

Gianna Schuetz

“My name is Gianna Schuetz, and I am a senior from Huntsville, Alabama. I am pursuing a dual degree in Managerial Finance and Theatre Arts with a minor in Entrepreneurship. Upon graduation, I plan to go work in financial management positions specifically for non-profit arts companies. My greatest passion is to help foster a financially accessible space in which people can create and experience art.

When not in class, I enjoy drinking large amounts of caffeine, watching cooking shows on Netflix, and eating chips and salsa. I am currently serving as the Treasurer for the Associated Student Body in my third term. I also am an Ole Miss Ambassador, College of Liberal Arts Ambassador, the Executive Director for Ghostlight Repertory Theatre, the chair of campus and community outreach for the UM Food Pantry, a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority, Rho Lambda, Mortar Board, Omicron Delta Kappa, and Alpha Psi Omega. In thinking about if I could have a superpower, I would want to have super speed. I would love to be in many places at one time very quickly; it would make my life very easy!

Within the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, my issue area that I will be working on this year is Education and Youth Development. I will have the opportunity to work with many different organizations within the community focusing on the youth of the LOU community. I could not be more excited to be working in this issue area within this community. For six years of my life, I worked as a swim coach during the summer for 4 to 6 and 9 to 10-year olds. Within the LOU community, I have previous experience volunteering at local elementary schools in promoting child literacy! The opportunity to help these organizations and connect students to the LOU community is so worthwhile.

The LOU community gives so much to the students at the University of Mississippi in the four (or five) years we are lucky to live here. In the first semester of my freshman year, a senior student gave me the advice that the best way to give back to someone or some place is through service. This idea of showing gratitude through service has been an important aspect of my few years as a member of the LOU community. I am grateful for this opportunity to work in the Office of Diversity and Community Engagement as I will be able to directly affect my community and help other students do the same. I hope I will be able to inspire my peers to give back and thank through service.

Personally, my favorite thing about the LOU community might be the food! Food is important to me, especially as I am a newly converted vegetarian. I mean, Oxford has four different Thai restaurants! I just love it so very much. Recently, I learned that there is a secret restaurant on campus behind Weir Hall. I have been a student on campus for over three years, and I had no idea! I will be on my way to get an Acai bowl very soon.”

As Area Coordinator for Education and Youth Development, Gianna will be working with local partners like Leap Frog, Lafayette County Literacy Council, and the Boy and Girls Club to provide the children of the LOU community with tutoring and extracurriculars to help them succeed in all they do. If you are interested in getting involved with organizations like these, please contact engaged@olemiss.edu to get in touch with Gianna.

VA Virtual Drop In Hours – Week of 9/21

Posted on: September 17th, 2020 by elpayseu

Prepare to Vote in Election 2020 – National, State, and Local Elections! Our UM Voting Ambassador team is here to help you navigate voter registration, whether you want to register here in LaFayette County or in your hometown/state. We can also walk you through what you need to know for absentee voting or to prepare for in-person voting on Election Day!

No pre-registration is required. Simply click on the timeslot below to access the Zoom link for drop-in hours with our VA team.

Focus: Voter Registration (MS or Out of State)
MS Voter Registration Deadline is 10/5/2020.


10:00 – 11:00    VA: Maggie


9:00 – 10:00       VA: Morgan


11:00 – 12:00    VA: Nick

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Clinton


10:00 – 11:00    VA: Katelyn

1:00 – 2:00         VA: Libby Foley


9:00 – 10:00       VA: Delaney

12:00 – 1:00       VA: Sally

4:00 – 5:00         VA: Madeleine

Need other assistance, have technical issues, or want to schedule a one-on-one appointment? Email us at engaged@olemiss.edu.

For your reference:


Meet Madison Alliston – OCE Area Coordinator for Food, Housing, and Poverty

Posted on: September 17th, 2020 by elpayseu
Madison Alliston Headshot

Madison Alliston

“Hi, everyone! My name is Madison Alliston, and I am a junior from Hattiesburg, Miss. majoring in Public Policy Leadership and minoring in Philosophy and Criminal Justice. I’ve always had a passion for helping and serving others. That’s why after I graduate, I plan to attend law school and eventually work and advocate for vulnerable populations. I am super excited to join the Community Engagement team as the Food Security/Food Pantries, Housing, and Poverty Area Coordinator.

To me, the best part of the LOU community is meeting and making connections with others. Learning about other individuals’ cultures, views, and backgrounds has not only changed my perspective about the world but has helped me learn more about myself and my values. This community has taught me the importance of leadership, communication, and diversity and has given me opportunities to become a problem-solver and learn the necessary steps to make a difference in the world.

Community engagement is important to me because I have a passion for advocating and serving others.  Both my parents work in the disability community serving individuals with disabilities and their families. My parents have given me the opportunity to see firsthand the importance of everyone having a voice and a chance to tell his or her story. Building relationships and forming connections with all people in our communities are necessary tools to improve our world.

One thing I have learned recently is the importance of being grateful. I’m so grateful that my family has stayed safe and healthy during this pandemic. I’m grateful for the heartfelt conversations and the memories I’ve shared with my friends during these last few months. I’m grateful for the doctors and nurses who go to work each day and serve others. COVID 19 has given me time to focus on all the positives in my life and to not take anything for granted. Life is short and we need to appreciate each day and make it the best one yet.

If I could have one superpower it would be the ability to shapeshift. This one superpower has endless possibilities. I could turn into a dolphin and explore the deep seas. I could turn into a bird and fly through the sky. Or I could even turn into Taylor Swift and become a popstar for a day. Regardless of this power, I always return to being the best me I can be.”

This semester, Madison will be working with local organizations like More Than A Meal, Doors of Hope, and Oxford Community Market to ensure that everyone in the LOU community has access to basic needs like food and shelter. If you would like to get involved with the organizations in this area, please contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu to get connected to Madison.

Meet Catherine Long – OCE Area Coordinator for Arts, Culture, Environment, Animals

Posted on: September 15th, 2020 by elpayseu
Catherine Long Headshot

Catherine Long

“My name is Catherine Long, a senior from Acworth, Georgia, and I’m pursuing a BFA in acting for stage and screen. I will be working as the issue area coordinator for Arts & Culture and Environment, Animals, and Wildlife this year. Since I will be working with so many sweet critters, I would choose talking to animals as my superpower.

I would contribute a lot of my community engagement throughout my college career to being an out of state student trying to invest in the environment around me. I found that once I got more involved in the Oxford community, I began to feel more at home than ever despite being six hours away from my family. The best part of the LOU community, to me, is how friendly everyone is in Oxford. 

While being away from home definitely strengthened my community engagement, I have to give almost all of the credit to my mom for instilling the value of community within me. My mom, Donna Long, has been an educator for over 30 years, so community is a value that I grew up with!

This season has definitely been one for learning and growing, and I have learned a lot about leadership in the last couple of months. I am currently working as the artistic director for a student-run theatre company on campus, Ghostlight Repertory Theatre. During COVID-19, my team and I had to reselect half of our season and create a cautionary plan for this school year to keep our members as safe as possible. 

I have learned a lot about the university’s new rules surrounding COVID-19, but I have also learned how to be a better leader, artist, and creator than ever before!”

As an issue area coordinator, Catherine will be working with organizations like Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, Strawberry Plains, Oxford Community Garden, and many others to promote local artists and events as well as sustainability efforts in our community. If you have any questions about opportunities in this area, please contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu.

OCE’s Inaugural Nonprofit Fair Is An Important First Step In Creating Community Relationships

Posted on: September 10th, 2020 by elpayseu

On Thursday, September 3, the Office of Community Engagement was proud to host its first annual Nonprofit Fair to help connect some of our local community partners with university students looking to get engaged. Nine community partners were present, ready and willing to provide opportunities and showcase the work they are doing here in the LOU community. Although it was held virtually, an unfamiliar format for interactive fairs, the Nonprofit Fair went on smoothly. “Of course we would have liked to have seen everybody in person, but for the pandemic, I thought it worked out really well,” says Allen Kerr with the Oxford Relief Fund. “This was amazing,” one student participant said after making his rounds, “I fell in love with almost every organization.” The fair provided an important first step toward a more comprehensive community engagement center at the University of Mississippi, one that will create lasting, impactful relationships between the campus and the local community.

Designed to resemble an in-person fair with organizations at designated booths, each partner was assigned a breakout Zoom room that students could then filter through with the help of the OCE staff in the main Zoom room. Among the community partners present was Teresa Adams, executive director of The Leap Frog Program; Fred Lorenzo, administrative officer for LOU Home, Inc.; Alan Kerr with the Oxford Relief Fund; Kurt Brummett, executive director of the United Way; David Stone, American Red Cross volunteer specialist; Joshua Tucker with the C19 Ambassadors; Stephanie Green, ecologist at Strawberry Plains; Lawrence Muruako with Operation Fit Nation; and Wayne Andrews, executive director of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council. As partners, these organizations work with the OCE to foster relationships between the campus community and the Lafayette-Oxford community by providing opportunities for students and on-campus organizations to volunteer their time, talents, and resources. They got to talk to 87 total student participants about their organization’s mission, goals, and current initiatives to hopefully recruit eager student volunteers. Their presence also laid the groundwork for one of the major goals of the OCE to act as a volunteer center for the university. “We can find some ways for you to have an impact and to do some things, even in a very strange and different kind of environment,” says Erin Payseur-Oeth, project manager for OCE. With new developments underway at the OCE to track and connect campus and community partners more efficiently, the Nonprofit Fair was a great first step to creating these connections. 

The Nonprofit Fair was also a prime opportunity to introduce our issue area coordinators, a team of students dedicated to fostering positive, beneficial relationships between campus and community partners. Gianna Schuetz, Camesha Johnson, Catherine Long, Jilkiah Bryant, and Madison Alliston will serve as the connection between campus and the local community in their respective areas. Through this work, they will be equipped with up to date information about opportunities to support community partners and will be engaging students through requested initiatives and projects. You can learn more about our team through our ongoing staff introductions or contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu with questions about opportunities to get engaged.

Meet Jilkiah Bryant – OCE Area Coordinator for Health & Wellbeing

Posted on: September 10th, 2020 by elpayseu
Jilkiah Bryant Headshot

Jilkiah Bryant

“My name is Jilkiah Bryant and I am a native of Macon, Mississippi. Currently, I am a second year student at the University of Mississippi majoring in Public Health and Health Sciences with minors in math, disaster science, and chemistry, and something new I have just learned is functional groups for my organic chemistry class. If I could have any super power, it would definitely be regeneration or teleportation!

The best part of the LOU community to me is that this community possesses momentous areas of support and service initiatives. The LOU community is unified in every effort to help encourage the growth and development of this area. As a student whose passion lies within service and has suffered at the hands of racial and economic disadvantages, my passion for community engagement is a direct testament of my personal experiences as a low-income student of color. I am always looking to serve and provide opportunities for others to serve because I know the struggles of having a lack of participation and presence within my own community.

My issue area is vulnerable populations and health and wellbeing which are issues not uncommon to Mississippi.  Mississippi is among the top states in the nation with the highest rates of poverty and income inequality with little to no improvement seen within the last few years. As I grew older, I began to notice the intensity of poverty in my state: little access to adequate jobs, poor infrastructure, and an inferior quality of education, and I struggled to imagine a solution that could combat the difficulties Mississippi faced in my own way. One of my greatest achievements was the start of my own nonprofit organization, Project Powerful, where I have been able to create a sense of urgency among community leaders and other organizations to make meaningful impacts in the areas that matter most. Community engagement is something that is so important to me personally, especially after this past year.

I was fortunate enough to have worked and will continue to work as a CEED Innovation Scholar for the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. Here, I began to think deeper about what community engagement and service was. I gained multiple opportunities to learn about the importance of communities, how to work to support their efforts in place, and not to rewrite who they are and what that community stands for. I’ve gained experience that changed my perspective on what community engagement is and how to effectively practice engagement, and I hope to bring this experience to my position in the Office of Community Engagement.”

This semester, Jilkiah will be working with local organizations such as CASA of Lafayette County, Communicare, Family Crisis Services, and many others to help advance their missions and protect the vulnerable populations of our community. You can get in touch with Jilkiah by emailing engaged@olemiss.edu.

Meet Camesha Johnson – OCE Area Coordinator for Diversity, Equity, & Civil Rights

Posted on: September 8th, 2020 by elpayseu

Camesha Johnson Headshot“Hello, my name is Camesha Johnson. I am a senior chemical engineering major from Laurel, MS. This is my first semester as an issue area coordinator for the Office of Community Engagement, and I will be working with organizations dedicated to diversity, equity, and civil rights. As an issue area coordinator, I hope to spread awareness to the community while also expanding my knowledge on the issue. This issue area hits home for me. As the only black female in my chemical engineering class, I feel like I have to advocate for the unheard voices in the world. I want my classmates to know how to approach any social environment they find themselves in. The best part of the LOU community to me is the togetherness I feel from the LOU community. I feel a sense of family from the people I encounter which is why I think community engagement is so important.

Community engagement involves bringing people together from different backgrounds, races, genders to open up communication and understanding. Communication plays a key role in building long-lasting relationships, and without it, many bonds in our community would not form.

Something I have learned lately is to remain in the present. I always thought that the best thing in life was to be ahead. My eyes were so focused on the future I would forget about what was going on right in front of me. As of lately, I am determined to focus on what is going on right now because you never know what moments can leave a lasting impression. I want to be there to see it instead of hearing about it. If I could have any superpower, it would be the ability to read minds so I could know exactly how to engage in conversation with that person.”

As the coordinator for diversity, equity, and civil rights, Camesha will be working with campus and community partners to promote inclusion, accessibility, and equity in the LOU community to make it a more welcoming place for everyone. She will be working with local organizations such as the Gordon Community and Cultural Center, Oxford Pride, and the Emmett Till Interpretive Center. Make sure to reach out to her if you are interested in opportunities to promote this work! Contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu to get in touch with Camesha.

Community Chat – Kynnedi Taylor-Henry

Posted on: September 1st, 2020 by elpayseu

“Your vote is your voice.” -Kynnedi Taylor-Henry

On this episode of Community Chats, we are talking with Kynnedi Taylor-Henri with the Voting Ambassadors Program at the University of Mississippi. Kynnedi discusses her passion and excitement for voter engagement and the importance of voting to our democracy. Tune in to hear her talk about how she is working with Community Engagement to spark the same passion and excitement on our campus and in the larger community.

Kynnedi, originally from Madison, Miss., came to the University of Mississippi to pursue a degree in public policy. Realizing her enthusiasm for voter engagement, she joined the League of Women Voters, at which time the president got her involved in the Voter Engagement Roundtable series. Through that series, she collaborated with our own Dr. Anthony Siracusa and Erin Payseur-Oeth in the Division of Community Engagement to start building the Voting Ambassadors Program. “We started talking about ideas on how to get students engaged in civics and involved and passionate about voting,” Kynnedi says. Like all good things, it started as an idea and has since developed into real action.

The Voting Ambassadors Program is designed to engage young adults on campus and in the community to be informed about and active in the voting process. It helps them understand their rights and how to register to vote. They will even walk you through the process of registering or completing an absentee ballot. A text messaging system has been put in place that students can use to ask questions and receive a response in a quick and simple way. The program will also be hosting virtual debate watch parties where people with different political ideologies can come and weigh in on the upcoming presidential debates. Even with all of the helpful programs going into this, the process does not come without its challenges.

In a heavily divided political environment, it is quite common for many people, especially young adults, to be indifferent about the voting process. Kynnedi says that it is difficult to get excitement riled up about voting because so many people have been told that their vote does not matter. “The challenge comes in reminding them that their vote does matter, that their vote is their voice,” Kynnedi says, “And the best way to express their voice is through voting.” In the same way that it is a challenge to remind people of that, Kynnedi says that it is rewarding seeing the ones that do get excited go out and tell others about their excitement. Like a domino effect, that person goes out and tells their community, friends, and family about the importance of voting.

As a final message, Kynnedi says, “Voting is the best way to make your voice heard.” She points out that, while it is helpful to connect with others, social media will not make a big difference in any election. “[Voting] is what makes our democracy work, and it will further the success of our democracy,” Kynnedi says.

To get more involved, connect with UMVotes for educational material or hands-on assistance with the voting process. You can also reach out to organizations like the League of Women Voters or the Andrew Goodman Foundation for assistance. If you want to take it a step further, Kynnedi suggests contacting your local clerk’s office to become a poll worker. As many places are experiencing a shortage of poll workers, it is important for people to step up and volunteer as the election looms nearer.

As always, you can find this episode on Community Engagement’s Facebook page, YouTube channel, or on your favorite podcast player.

Download the full PDF transcript.