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,