Diversity and Community Engagement

The University of Mississippi

Archive for April, 2021

Thank you to Erin L. Payseur Oeth

Posted on: April 16th, 2021 by elpayseu

Dear All-

I am writing today to share the bittersweet news that my distinguished colleague, Mrs. Erin L. Payseur-Oeth, will be leaving the University of Mississippi to pursue opportunities closer to her family in South Carolina on 1 June, 2021.

Erin is a nationally recognized leader in community engagement and dialogue initiatives in higher education, and her impact will be felt at UM for many years to come.  Erin earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and Philosophy, summa cum laude, from Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina before earning a Master of Education degree from the University of South Carolina in Columbia.  Erin joined the University of Mississippi (UM) in 2019 after serving as the Associate Director of Civic Learning Initiatives at Baylor University for 8 years. At Baylor, Erin oversaw the Baylor Public Deliberation Initiative wherein she brought students, faculty, staff and community partners together to engage in dialogue around extremely difficult topics. Through this work Erin welcomed people of all backgrounds into processes of dialogue and deliberation, encouraging them to discern together how they might take purposeful action to build community and heal the broken places in our institutions and communities. At Baylor, Erin also oversaw voting engagement efforts, including leading the All-In Democracy Challenge and the Big-12 Voting challenge in addition to convening their campuswide voting coalition.

At UM, Erin has shared her myriad skills in numerous ways. Arriving at UM as the project manager for community engagement, Erin was promoted to Assistant Director of Community Partnerships within her first year as she led outreach efforts with dozens of community organizations in the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. She organized on site listening sessions with partners in the Fall of 2019 that culminated in a report to the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, and this initial work established the foundation for our work with community based agencies in the LOU region. Erin led a Covid-19 emergency response grant effort designed to understand and address the immediate needs facing our local partners, and this work led to the establishment of our University Community Collaborative (UCC), our Community Chats interview series, the Community University Partnership Series (CUPS) for local partners, and the establishment of our issue area student coordinators – a team of seven undergraduates that have helped us to implement GivePulse at UM.

Among Erin’s greatest strengths is working with and supporting our undergraduate and graduate student teams.  In addition to managing our issue area coordinators, Erin oversaw and managed our operations and communications student specialist and a graduate assistant for communications and partnerships.  Students routinely reflected on the depth of intentionality Erin brought to these relationships, and she has worked diligently to help our students grow both professionally and personally.

In addition to her work with partnerships in the Office of Community Engagement, Erin organized our inaugural Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service in 2020. This now annual event was made possible due to her vision and collaborative skills, pulling together on and off campus partners for this day of remembrance and action.

Erin also organized multiple Everybody Loves Lincoln events on our campus and, most recently, served as the central convener in the UM Voting Roundtable. In this role, Erin led our campus to win designation as a voting friendly campus from the Ask Every Student initiative which also included an award of $5000. Through this work, Erin oversaw an 11-member undergraduate team of voting ambassadors that spoke in dozens of classes across campus to encourage every student who was interested to vote in the 2020 election.

In all of her work, Erin has brought a spirit of generosity and compassion – striving every day to build community among diverse groups of students, faculty, staff, and community partners.  In a time of deep division where so many feel so wounded, her presence in our office and on our campus was one of healing and hope.  We are so very grateful to Erin for her dedication and commitment to community engagement and community formation at UM, and while we will miss Erin I am confident that her contributions will live on for years to come in the students she mentored and the programs she built.

Thank you, Erin, for everything you have done for our campus and our community.  I do not say fare thee well but fare thee forward.  May the road rise up to meet you in the months and years ahead, and please know that I am forever grateful to call you a friend and a colleague.

Please join me in celebrating Erin’s work at the University during a digital send off on Thursday, 20 May at 1 p.m. CST. We will host the event via zoom, and you can log in here.

Finally, Erin’s role is currently open for applicants, and you can access the job posting here. We also have a new position at the University that is also open, Assistant Director of Community Engagement for Student Programs, which you can find here.

Best wishes to all,

Anthony

Community Chats – Laura Martin

Posted on: April 12th, 2021 by crpauley

“Keep moving towards the light because it’s there.” -Dr. Laura Martin

In this episode of Community Chats, Erin Oeth and guest host Will Corley are joined by Dr. Laura Martin, Assoc. Dir. of the McLean Institute to chat about her role in fighting poverty through education. She discusses her background in community engagement and advocacy and highlights some of the programs at the Institute. Tune in to hear how you can get involved in the great work the McLean Institute is doing here in the LOU community and throughout the state of Mississippi.

Originally from the Northeast, Dr. Laura Martin moved to Mississippi in 2012 with plenty of experience in community development and poverty alleviation. After working in rural Nicaragua facilitating service-learning trips and moving to Austin, Texas to work in advocacy and lobbying as an AmeriCorps member, all signs in Mississippi pointed to the McLean Institute.

Although she had never considered a career in higher education, Martin ended up at the McLean Institute as a project coordinator where she could continue building broad-based coalitions in service of a greater goal. “I was really delighted to find there were many, many opportunities to do that here at the University of Mississippi,” Martin said.

When she was hired in 2013, Dr. Albert Nylander, the director of the McLean Institute, was looking to reinvigorate the institute and build on its long legacy of community engagement and poverty alleviation, continuing the legacy of its namesake, George McLean. “Universities were key in that vision,” Martin said, “and I feel this very strong sense of attachment and commitment because we have built this new iteration of the McLean Institute.” The team was charged at the time with implementing strategic initiatives on campus to advance transformation through service and to fight poverty through education, which composed the mission of the institute.

The team at the McLean Institute oversees their three main initiatives, the first being MPartner. MPartner is an initiative that creates partnerships with 2-3 local communities and works intensively for 18-24 months to match university resources with the goals and needs of these communities. The CEED initiative, led by Dr. JR Love, works to build even more actionable partnerships with Mississippi communities to increase entrepreneurship and economic development in rural Mississippi.

Finally, the North Mississippi VISTA Project, directed by Emily Echols, is a federally-funded service opportunity that matches members at partner organizations to alleviate poverty through education and improve the quality of life for Mississippians. The McLean Institute is currently recruiting for summer or year-long placements for this program, and you can learn more by going to vista.olemiss.edu or sending your resume and cover letter to vista@olemiss.edu.

In the past year, the VISTA program has had a greater impact than ever before which means that, although communities are struggling much more, they are being connected to valuable resources. “I’m grateful that we have this suite of programs where we can really steer community partners looking to connect to the university,” Martin said.

As a final message, Martin praises the dynamic found in the LOU community where students not only identify as students of the university but also as residents of Lafayette County. She says there is a unique opportunity to blur the boundaries of identity and reimagine what partnership looks like between a university and its home community.

If you would like to get involved in the work going on at the McLean Institute, visit their website (mclean.olemiss.edu) or email them at mclean@olemiss.edu. Make sure to check out the North Mississippi VISTA Project while you’re there!

Watch this episode and all other episodes of Community Chats on our Facebook (@UMengaged) and YouTube (Engaged UM), and listen to our podcast on Spotify and iTunes. Make sure to like, comment, and share this series as we continue to highlight community leaders across the LOU area.

 

UM Votes: All About Voting Ambassadors

Posted on: April 1st, 2021 by elpayseu

In this blog post, Voting Ambassador Libby Foley shares an overview of the Voting Ambassador program at the University of Mississippi. The VA program is an initiative of the Voting Engagement Roundtable, a coalition of faculty, staff, and students working to advance voter registration, education, and engagement. It is sponsored by the Office of Community Engagement.

While some of you reading this may have heard of our program, the Voter Ambassador Program, it may not be clear to you exactly what we do and how we conduct our operations. This blog post is designed to demystify our program and explain exactly who we are, exactly what we do, and our goals for the future. 

Firstly, the Voter Ambassador Program is a non-partisan team of students whose goal is to not only educate people on voting and voting policies, but also to advocate for increased voter participation and engagement. The Voting Ambassador program is an initiative of the university’s voting engagement roundtable, a collaborative group of faculty, staff, and student leaders working to institutionalize and advance voter registration, education, and turnout across campus. The group is advised by Under the advisement of Erin L. Payseur Oeth, the assistant director of community partnerships and facilitator for the university voting engagement roundtable, and team leader Jaycee Brown. , this team conducts various projects and plans in order to handle this undertaking.

Specifically, there are two sides of our team: education and advocacy. The education team focuses primarily on educating people on their right to vote and the steps it takes to be able to exercise that right. The advocacy team, led by the Andrew Goodman Foundation representatives, focuses on advocating for voting rights and educating people on voter suppression, in a non-partisan manner. 

While these are lofty, broad goals, our team has undertaken specific tasks and projects designed to address these larger goals of our program. Specifically, this past fall semester, the first semester of our program, we conducted numerous strategies that helped us increase voter engagement around campus. The following tasks were completed this fall:

  • Completed mandatory training on voter registration and voting procedures
  • Held weekly meetings to discuss and strategize
  • Held office hours for students to attend and ask us questions or for help
  • Presented at numerous classes to encourage people to register and to vote in the presidential election
  • Helped students register to vote
  • Helped students develop a voting plan
  • Facilitated discussions between students over zoom after the Presidential and Vice Presidential Debates
  • Wrote blog posts about various voting topics
  • Interacted on social media and campaigned via this media to encourage voting
  • Hosted webinar on the statewide initiatives on the 2020 November ballot
  • Facilitated transportation from campus to polls

With all these tasks completed in our first semester, our program hit the ground running in regards to the voter engagement effort. This spring semester, we expanded our efforts to include directed efforts towards education and advocacy, thus splitting the Voter Ambassador Program into two sections. Furthermore, we have worked to expand our knowledge of specific voting issues, as our members are working to create individual Issue Area Briefs about their chosen topic, in order to educate people on voting issues within our country, and more specifically, in Mississippi. With this in mind, here are some of our spring accomplishments so far, as this list continues to grow as the semester goes on:

  • Weekly meetings to discuss and strategize
  • Program split into Voter Education and Voter Advocacy teams
  • Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF) representatives lead the Voter Advocacy team
  • Voter Advocacy Team led discussion on “The Right to Vote – A Conversation on Voter Rights and Suppression”
  • Issue Area Briefs being developed 
  • Outreach to Organizations on Campus
  • University of Mississippi designated a Voter-Friendly Campus

The Voter Ambassador team is here to serve you, the students and constituents at the University of Mississippi. Our goal is to encourage and aid in voter engagement, and we hope to further our efforts over the coming years. Please contact us at engaged@olemiss.edu to see how our team can assist you and your voting needs!


For your reference:

Libby Foley

Libby Foley

UM Votes: Gear up for the 2021 Municipal Elections

Posted on: April 1st, 2021 by elpayseu

In this blog post, Voting Ambassador Jaycee Brown shares information on local municipal elections, how you can learn about candidates, timelines, and more!

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.” -Larry J. Sabato

We experienced a dynamic Presidential Election last fall. We saw millions of people exercise their right to vote during the challenging times of COVID-19. The data is still being collected, but we know that voter turnout was high and historical.

Now it’s time to bring that same passion and energy to our local elections because municipal offices affect our lives on a daily basis. Our cities have primary oversight of policing, K-12 schools, affordable housing, and public transportation. They’re directly responsible for serving the community. They decide what issues to prioritize and how to approach them.

Due to the lower turnout in local elections, that means your vote matters even more! Some of these elections come down to a few votes. In 2017, a Virginia state legislative election tied.

Control of the House of Delegates was determined by drawing a name out of a bowl.

In the 2018 elections, the voting rate at The University of Mississippi waas 27.5% which was an increase from 2014. However, we can do better. I challenge you to know who’s on the ballot, explore their platforms, even grab a friend to learn about this important election with you.

Finding local election information can be difficult and it varies by city.

Here are some helpful tips from Ballotpedia for your search:

  1. Use a variety of search terms (e.g. city council, alderman, mayor, local election, municipal, +your voting city/town)
  2. Read local news sources (the local newspaper could be a great starting point because they usually interview candidates for stories)
  3. Try direct outreach (e.g. calling city clerk)

This Secretary of State Municipal Packet has more information and resources for municipalities (pages 344-382), including the contact information for the city office and the list of those holding offices.

How can you get involved?

  • Get registered for the general election
  • Research candidates
  • Sign up for voting text reminders (Text @32h8c3 to 81010)
  • Phone Bank with MS Votes
  • Apply to be a 2021-22 UM Voter Ambassador

Election Dates:

  • April 6, 2021: Municipal Primary Election
  • April 27, 2021: Municipal Primary Runoff Election
  • June 8, 2021: Municipal General Elections

Although the registration deadline has passed for the primary election on April 6th, there is still time to register for the municipal general elections. The deadline to register is May 10th.

If you need assistance with getting registered or have any other questions, feel free to contact our voter ambassadors at engaged@olemiss.edu.

 


For your reference:

Jaycee Brown