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Community Chat – Joshua Tucker, C19 Ambassadors

Posted on: August 26th, 2020 by elpayseu

“Anyone that has interaction with the university, you are a part of the Ole Miss family, and we want to make sure that we protect our family.” -Joshua Tucker

For this episode of Community Chats, we are joined by Joshua Tucker, one of the organizers for the university’s C19 Ambassadors initiative. As students, faculty, and staff return to campus for an unprecedented fall semester, new guidelines and protocols have been set in place in order to keep everyone safe and healthy. Tune in to hear how Joshua and his team are getting university community members involved in ensuring these guidelines are being met.

As a graduate student, Joshua has been a part of the university community since 2013 when he began his undergraduate career. He then went to the University of Mississippi School of Law and afterwards, decided to continue his education at the University of Mississippi, pursuing his PhD in higher education.  He jokes that he is a “professional student.” But that time as a student has engrained his passion for student affairs and success. “I can’t say enough about how much I love working with students,” Josh says. This passion led him to begin establishing the C19 Ambassador initiative.

The C19 Ambassadors, as Joshua says, will act like “door greeters” that you see at grocery stores. They will be a friendly face stationed outside common areas and academic buildings across campus providing masks and encouragement to those who walk through the door. They provide helpful reminders to social distance and mask up and will be providing care packages to those who need them. These packages are stocked with reusable masks, disposable gloves, and helpful information regarding the university’s guidelines regarding COVID-19. With this new initiative comes new challenges, of course. Joshua says that communication is key, but with the conditions brought on by the pandemic, it’s difficult to keep up with constant emails and Zoom calls.

If you would like to get involved with the C19 Ambassadors, Joshua says there is always room for more participants. They are accepting applications throughout the year. University community members can find the C19 Ambassador page on the Forum to get involved.

You can watch or listen to this episode on our Facebook page, Youtube channel, or on your favorite podcast service.

Download full PDF transcript.

Watch on YouTube.

Listen to podcast via Anchor.


How to Be An Anti-Racist, Reading Guide Part 2

Posted on: August 12th, 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.

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

White – Chapter 10 

Kendi discusses the suppression of black votes in the 2000 presidential election and the role that racist policies had in Bush’s election. As we face the 2020 election and voter suppression is again a topic of concern, what might an antiracist approach look like? How can we be advocates for antiracist voting policies?

In the current conversation around the confederate statue on the Square, one of the Lafayette County board of supervisors that voted to keep the statue was quoted as saying that he, too, had been a victim of racism.  Kendi also asserts, “To be antiracist is to see ordinary White people as the frequent victimizers of people of color and the frequent victims of racist power.” (p 128) How is the supervisor’s encounter with racist power not an excuse for continued racist policies? How do racist policies hurt everyone, whites included?

Kendi mentions a billboard that proclaimed, “Antiracist is a code word for antiwhite.” (p 131) How would you respond to someone who made this claim? Kendi, in response, argues, “White supremacist is code for anti-human, a nuclear ideology that poses an existential threat to human existence.” How has racism harmed whites, as well, and the human race collectively?

Black – Chapter 11

“This [powerless] defense shields people of color in positions of power from doing the work of antiracism, since they are apparently powerless, since White people have all the power. This means that people of color are powerless to roll back racist policies adn close racial inequities even in their own spheres of influence, the places where they actually do have some power to effect change.” (p 140) Kendi gives numerous examples of Black on Black racism. What examples can think of that involve Black antiracism? Consider the difference in the Lafayette County vote and the Bolivar County vote on the removal of confederate statues.

Kendi comes back to the duality of racism and antiracism as an either/or. “When we stop denying the duality of racist and antiracist, we can take an accurate accounting of the racial ideas and policies we support.” (p 143) Kendi talks honestly about his own racist and antiracist moments. If you feel comfortable sharing, discuss some of your own racist and antiracist moments after reflecting on the reading thus far. How has the text shifted your understanding of your own racial understanding and biases?

Kendi discusses Black racism, particularly in police brutality against Blacks (p 147). He says that diversifying police forces was supposed to address racism. However, he recounts the violence of Black police officers against Black individuals and their involvement and/or complicity in numerous officer-perpetrated violence. How is the intentionality of antiracism work different from diversity work? How is it essential in reducing police violence and racism in policing?

Class – Chapter 12

“To love capitalism is to end up loving racism. To love racism is to end up loving capitalism.” What do you make of Kendi’s argument that capitalism and racism are conjoined twins, two sides of the same destructive body? (p 162)

Kendi talks about Senator Warren’s proposal to disentangle capitalism from theft and racism and secism and imperialism. How might we begin to promote equitable economic policies? Are reparations a way to correct some of the historical economic racism and injustice?

Space – Chapter 13

Kendi talks about the need for Black space – “They desired to separate, not from Whites, but from White racism. Separation is not, always segregation. The antiracist desire to separate from racists is different from the segregationist desire to separate from ‘inferior’ Blacks.” (p174) What do you make of Kendi’s distinction here?

He also discusses the Plessy case and Brown v Board of Education desegregating the schools, as de-legitimizing the separation without addressing the inequities of funding, resources, and equal opportunity. He cites Dr, King’s opposition to integration in the schools as well – “People with such a low view of the Black race cannot be given free rein and put in charge of the intellectual care and development of our boys and girls.” What is your response? 

How does this perspective inform the way you think about integration? Current racial inequities in the schools? The need for Black space and culture?

How might space antiracism inform space on our university campus? What evidence do you see of both integrated and protected racialized spaces? 

Gender – Chapter 14

Kendi asserts that “To truly be antiracist is to be feminist. To truly be feminist, is to be antiracist.” (p 188) Do you agree? 

He argues that gender racism impacts White women and male groups of color, whether they see it or not, and gives several examples. What examples have you seen? What impacts has gender racism had on your life? What evidence have you seen of its impact at the university or in our community?

Kendi concludes this chapter by sharing his journey, recognizing first “the intersectionality of my ethnic racism, and then my bodily racism, and then my cultural racision, and then my color racism, and then my class racism, and when I entered graduate school, my gender racism and queer racism.” (p191) What has your journey been like? Where you have recognized your own racism and what are areas you still struggle with? 

Sexuality – Chapter 15

Kendi recounts that the most violated and oppressed of all the Black intersectional groups is those of poor transgender Black women, with an average life expectancy of 35 years (p196). What is your response to this staggering statistic? What do you know of the Black trans lives matter movement?

“To be queer antiracist is to see homphobia, racism, and queer racism- not the queer person, not the queer space-as the problem, as abnormal, as unnatural” (p 197). What would queer antiracist policies look like on a university campus?

Kendi discusses Black intersectionality with class, gender, sexuality, notably not religion. What do you make of this omission? How might intersectionality with religion intensify or mitigate queer racism?

Failure – Chapter 16

Kendi begins this chapter with a definition of Activist, “One who has a record of power or policy change.” What are your thoughts on this definition? Using this definition, do you consider yourself an activist? Why or why not?

“What if we measure the radicalism of speech by how radically it transforms open-minded people, by how the speech liberates the antiracist power within? What if we measure the conservatism of speech by how intensely it keeps people the same, keeps people enslaved by their racist ideas and fears, conserving their inequitable society?” (p 211) – What do you think of this definition of radical and conservative speech? How might this re-frame the way you think about anti racist action?

“As racist ideas intend to make us ignorant and hateful, racist terror intends to make us fear.” (212) How does moving beyond cowardice or fear become a pre-requisite for social change? See page 207 and the support for antiracist policies after they passed. How does seeing fear not materialize en-courage us to continue to advance anti racist policies?

Success – Chapter 17

“Racism has always been terminal and curable. Racism has always been recognizable and mortal.” These words are hopeful and inspiring, as we do anti racism work.

What do you think of the successive steps that Kendi identified in his journey to be an anti-racist? What steps are you willing to take? (p225)

Make your own anti racist pledge. What will you commit to do as an antiracist activist? What can we do collectively to demonstrate our commitment to be antiracist?

Survival – Chapter 18

“The source of racist ideas was not ignorance and hate, but self-interest.” (p229) How does this perspective on racism shape our efforts to change it? 

Kendi outlines clear steps we can all take to eliminate racial inequity in our spaces (231-233). Have you seen examples of this kind of antiracist work done successfully? How can we implement these steps on our campus and in our community?

Kendi compares racism with stage 4 metastatic cancer. As he shares his denial and coming to terms with his own cancer, he sees our denial of racism and its ravaging effects on our country and our world. Given George Floyd and the growing visibility of racial violence, given national protests and seemingly new white consciousness around racism, are we moving beyond denial to a racial reckoning? What signs of hope do you see? 

How might we build continued momentum around antiracist policies to promote lasting change? How can we translate these demonstrations into Kendi’s form of activism – promoting antiracist policies and antiracist policymaker on campus, in our community, and around the world?

Final Wrap-Up

What are your big takeaways from Kendi’s book? What resonated with you? What has sparked a new way of thinking, feeling, or being in the world?

What surprised you or bothered you? Are there ideas you want to explore more deeply, or some that made you uncomfortable? 

What are the next steps in your journey? How do you want to continue to learn and to engage? How can we continue this journey together, toward allyship and action? 

The Year Ahead: A Comprehensive Volunteer Center

Posted on: May 26th, 2020 by acsiracu

As noted last week, community engagement is happening across the UM campus.  Our office is building on a strong legacy of community engaged work, and we are seeking to elevate this current work, celebrate the accomplishments of our on campus and off campus partners, and develop the infrastructure needed to sustain the work of community engagement at UM for the long haul.

This week, we will share our areas of focus for the coming year – focus areas derived from the self-study process undertaken by our on campus partners as part of the application process for the Carnegie designation. 

One of these priority areas for the coming year is developing a comprehensive volunteer center at UM that provides routine and accessible volunteer opportunities for our students. Faculty and staff will also have the opportunity to find opportunities to engage in the Lafayette-Oxford-University (LOU) community through the volunteer center.  As we shared last week, the OCE has been working hard to cultivate strong relationships with community partners in LOU, and we are currently developing the infrastructure to launch the volunteer center in the Fall of 2020.  This will likely include offering many remote volunteer opportunities given the current social distancing guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Where possible, we will facilitate in person opportunities while following the federal guidance that allows both our campus and community to remain safe. 

We are exploring the use of a software solution called GivePulse to make it easy for on and off campus partners to post volunteer opportunities. GivePulse will also allow our students to easily locate and sign up for these opportunities.

Many campuses across the nation have established successful volunteer centers, including Mississippi State University’s Maroon Volunteer Center. The University of Alabama at Birmingham offers a great model of how to use GivePulse to make off campus volunteer opportunities easily accessible to the university community.

We will also launch a program in the Fall called Mississippi Engaged Scholars for students who are interested in volunteering throughout their time as a student at UM.  Students commit to a a set number of hours each year, participate in learning opportunities and skill trainings, attend an orientation and retreat, and become eligible to graduate with the distinction of Mississippi Engaged Scholar. If you are interested in this program, please send us an email at engaged@olemiss.edu

Throughout the rest of this week, we will provide some additional updates about our plans for the coming year – so stay tuned to this space for updates!

CE Year in Review – Highlights from the Field

Posted on: May 22nd, 2020 by acsiracu

The field of community engagement in higher education has experienced tremendous growth since the early 1980s, and this work is as important as it has ever been on campuses. There are a number of resources and groups that we’d like to highlight as we think about our current moment in the field of community engagement in higher education.  

A 2016 book from Stylus Publishers entitled Publicly Engaged Scholars: Next Generation Engagement and the Future of Higher Education has a couple of great chapters (2 & 3) on the history of CE in higher ed., focusing on a number of milestone moments and meetings in the field as well some of the continuing challenges. 

The authors cite Ernest L. Boyer’s call to reclaim the ‘civic mandate’ of higher education in 1990 as among many milestone moments. Boyer wrote a thin book that ended up being a major contribution to the field. In Scholarship Reconsidered, Boyer articulated a number of path setting directions in the field, among them the idea of a multi way flow of knowledge between scholars, community partners, and students:

Boyer’s book is worth reading for anyone interested in rethinking the boundaries between the traditional categories of service, teaching, and research in higher education. 

Boyer’s call to consider the two way flow of knowledge between communities and the academy preceded a landmark report from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) on the civic health of the nation, and the role of Colleges and Universities in improving our civic health. 

In their national call to action report entitled “A Crucible Moment: College Learning & Democracy’s Future,” the authors cited David Mathews of the Kettering Foundation in warning that the United States was on the bring of becoming “a citizenless democracy.” The warning echoed a 1998 report from the National Commission on Civic Renewal, which suggested that “in a time that cries out for civic action, we are in danger of becoming a nation of spectators.” The report boldly called “for investing on a massive scale in higher education’s capacity to renew this nation’s social, intellectual, and civic capital,” arguing that “as a democracy, the United States depends on a knowledgeable, public-spirited, and engaged population. Education plays a fundamental role in building civic vitality, and in the twenty-first century, higher education has a distinctive role to play in the renewal of US democracy.” 

Two national organizations have played important roles in advancing this civic purpose of higher education on campuses across the nation. In their own words, “Campus Compact is a national coalition of 1,000+ colleges and universities committed to the public purposes of higher education. We build democracy through civic education and community development.” Founded in 1985 by a coalition of college and university presidents, Campus Compact has 25 regional offices across the nation to support faculty, staff, students and administrators in fulfilling the public purpose of higher education. 

Founded in 1989, the Bonner Foundation, based in Princeton, New Jersey, works through “sustained partnerships with colleges and congregations…to improve the lives of individuals and communities by helping meet the basic needs of nutrition and educational opportunity.”

The Bonner Model of student development through civic engagement has become a popular and effective program on campuses across the nation.  With more than 70 campuses in their network, the Bonner program offers a four year developmental experience for students committed to growing their community leadership to work towards justice. Their website provides extensive resources for students, faculty, staff and administrators, and their national meetings have become prime spaces for the growth and development of students and professionals in the field of civic engagement in higher education.  

This is just a sampling of the many exciting frontiers in the field of CE in higher education – stay tuned for future posts about horizons in the field! 



CE Year in Review – The OCE Team

Posted on: May 20th, 2020 by acsiracu

The Office of Community Engagement (OCE) in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DCE) has developed a great team over the past year to focus on elevating the work of community engagement across the university, celebrating these important efforts and developing the institutional infrastructure required to sustain excellence in community engagement for decades to come.

Dr. M. Cade Smith was hired as Assistant Vice Chancellor of Community Engagement in September of 2018.  Cade joined UM after spending 24 years at Mississippi State University in Starkville where he Directed their Leadership Programs, established and directed the Maroon Volunteer Center Programs (MVC), and Served as Director of the Center for Community-Engaged Learning.  Cade brings a wealth of experience and vision to the University of Mississippi, where he leads our efforts to support the extensive community engagement efforts in colleges, schools, departments and units across the University.  

Erin Payseur-Oeth came to UM in March of 2019 to serve as the Project Manager in Community Engagement. Erin came to UM from Baylor University where she was the Associate Director of Civic Learning Initiatives. Erin is a national leader in deliberative dialogue facilitation, working with colleagues across the nation through National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA) as well as the Kettering Foundation to foster critical thinking, reflection, and action on relevant social issues. Before Baylor, Erin worked at Columbia College in South Carolina as a Graduate Assistant in Leadership Studies and a Program Coordinator in the Center for Engaged Learning. At UM, Erin has developed a number of signature campus events, including the Longest Table and the MLK Dinner and Day of Service, and has taken the lead in building strong partnerships between the OCE and nonprofit agencies in the Lafayette Oxford University Community (LOU).  

Carissa Pauley serves as the OCE’s Graduate Assistant in Community Engagement, supporting our communications efforts and assisting with partnership development. Carissa graduated from UM in May of 2019 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a minor in Education. Carissa is currently working on her Master’s of Education in Counselor Education with a focus on Clinical Mental Health, and has extensive experience working with college students through personal, spiritual, and academic challenges. Carissa contributes to nearly every aspect of our work in the OCE.

Dr. Anthony C. Siracusa is the newest member of our team, joining UM as the inaugural Director of Community Engagement on March 23 amidst the Covid-19 global health pandemic. Anthony grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and attended Rhodes College as a first generation student where he was also a Bonner Scholar. Anthony was a Thomas J. Watson Fellow in 2009 and 2010 studying bicycle cultures across the world, traveling to 8 countries over 12 months. He was the Community Service Coordinator in the Bonner Center for Service at Rhodes College before earning his M.A. and Ph.D. in History at Vanderbilt University.  Most recently, Anthony served as the Assistant Director in the Collaborative for Community Engagement (CCE) at Colorado College.  Anthony is responsible for developing four key areas of campus infrastructure, needs that surfaced in the Carnegie self-study: a comprehensive volunteer center, social change leadership development programs for students, a faculty fellows program that supports community engaged teaching and research, and a place based institute. 

Next week, we will detail our team’s progress on building out these initiatives, and we are hopeful to grow our team in the years ahead. In the meantime, let’s celebrate these wonderful staff members who are working diligently to support community engagement efforts at UM.

CE Year in Review – Community Partnerships

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 by acsiracu

Building and sustaining well-held partnerships between the University and local organizations is central to the work of community engagement at the University of Mississippi.

Yesterday, we shared some of the partnerships held by colleges, school, departments, and programs on campus with groups across the state.  Today, we want to share some of the work that the Office of Community Engagement (OCE) has done this year to deepen existing partnerships, and to build new ones in the LOU community.

In the Fall of this past year, Community Engagement Project Manager Erin Payseur Oeth collaborated with Graduate Assistant Carissa Pauley to interview staff at 20 organizations in the Lafayette-Oxford University (LOU) community.  They produced a report entitled “Voices and Insights from Community Partners: Community Engagement at UM” that was based on interviews with partners in the following areas: 

  • The Arts 
  • Education 
  • Emergency Services 
  • Food + Clothing 
  • Health (physical and mental) 
  • Seniors Services 
  • Shelter + Utilities
  • Tax + Legal Services

Partners shared a variety of needs and dreams, including developing a free education program for students in foster care who are also living below the poverty line. Some envisioned a credentialing program for nonprofit management, while others hoped to build a one stop shop for direct client needs ranging from GED to transportation. Some of our partners aspired to build a local food community center with kitchen space for entrepreneurs, while others wanted to see small grants for folks that work in the creative arts. 

The report was part of a larger effort to listen closely to the needs and visions of organizations in the LOU community. This Fall 2019 report was also the first step in a longer process of building relationships grounded in reciprocity and co-created projects.

When the Covid 19 health emergency interrupted normal operations for groups and agencies across the LOU region, the OCE began hosting University-Collaborative Calls with community partners, including the Oxford-Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, the Oxford-Lafayette United Way, Visit Oxford, the Volunteer Mississippi North East Regional Hub, representatives from the U.S. Census, and other colleagues from across the UM Campus. These University-Collaborative Calls have allowed us to stay connected to umbrella groups and their affiliates across the region, and have provided a much needed sense of community in a time of social distancing.  

Amidst the Covid health emergency, the OCE also launched Community Chats in partnership with our colleagues at Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow (LOFT), a twice weekly conversation series with nonprofit leaders in the LOU community intended to elevate the voices and needs of these essential organizations.  To date, we have interviewed staff at the following agencies:

  • The Pantry
  • Interfaith Compassion Ministries 
  • Oxford Community Market 
  • The Oxford Film Festival 
  • Doors of Hope Transition Ministries 
  • The U.S. Census 
  • The Gordon Cultural and Community Center
  • The North Mississippi Regional Center (NMRC)

Coming up, we will have interviews with the following agencies: 

  • Leap Frog
  • Strawberry Plains Audubon Center
  • Second Chance Mississippi
  • United Way of Oxford Lafayette
  • The Yoknapatwpha Arts Council

Finally, just this week the OCE received a grant from the Disaster Resilience Constellation at UM to support a project entitled “Assessing the Civic Capacity for Disaster Resilience and Recovery in Oxford-Lafayette County.” 

The grant will allow the OCE to survey the needs of nonprofit organizations in the Lafayette Oxford University (LOU) as they seek to recover from the Covid-19 global health crisis. The data gathered will aid the OCE in co-creating a recovery and resilience building plan in partnership with our nonprofit partners and our local and statewide community collaborators, including Volunteer Mississippi and the Mississippi Alliance for Nonprofits and Philanthropy. 

Today, we sent surveys to more than 60 nonprofit organizations in the LOU community with the goal of making it as easy as possible for groups to respond. Local groups can respond to the survey on-line, by phone, or on paper forms that include self addressed and stamped envelopes. 

The data we gather will prove invaluable in informing the University’s contribution to the civic capacity of our region to recover from the current public health emergency and build resilience for future disasters. Our goal is align capacity and resources at UM with the needs of groups in the LOU community, ensuring that our community engagement plan for the 2020 – 2021 Academic Year is attenuated to these local needs.  

Partnerships are at the heart of strong University-Community collaborations. The OCE is so grateful to our local partners, and we look forward to continuing to build and deepen these relationships with organizations across the LOU region.

CE Year In Review – Carnegie Classification

Posted on: May 18th, 2020 by elpayseu

A Year of Growth for Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi

2019 – 2020 was a year of tremendous growth and development for the Office of Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. UM earned the Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement as a Public Research 1 University, hosted a number of signature events, celebrated a host of campus wide initiatives and programs, hired new staff, and built new relationships – or strengthened existing relationships – with community partners in the Lafayette Oxford University (LOU) community.

Over the course of this coming week, we want to share the highlights of the past year by covering a different theme each day on the CE blog.

Today, we will focus on highlights from around campus this past year with a special focus on the Carnegie Classification. 

On Tuesday, we will talk about our existing and emerging community partnerships.

On Wednesday, we will discuss how the Office of Community Engagement has grown over the past year. 

And on Thursday, we will talk about the field of community engagement in higher education, looking at some of the core ideas and practices in our work and gesturing towards the future of this work in the months and years ahead. 

Friday will be a digest with all of these updates in a single place.

Without further ado….

The Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement

Carnegie Foundation Elective Community Engagement Classification Seal

In January, the University of Mississippi was bestowed the prestigious Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement, which the hosting institution Brown University describes as “an evidence-based documentation of institutional practice to be used in a process of self-assessment and quality improvement.”

As University of Mississippi news reported, UM become one of “243 institutions of higher education nationwide given the Elective Carnegie Community Engagement Classification. The distinction, which is valid until 2026, honors recipients for proven commitment and activity in finding ways to engage with community partners, building on community assets and addressing a wide array of community challenges.”

Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Community Engagement Cade Smith captured the years long process the led up to the classification.  “UM’s commitment to community engagement has continuously developed over the past four decades,” he said. “The application involved extensive data collection and documentation of important aspects of institutional mission, identity and commitments to community engagement.”

The team that worked on the classification included:

  • Cade Smith, assistant vice-chancellor for community engagement
  • Lindsey Abernathy, associate director of the Office of Sustainability
  • Laura Antonow, director of college programs and instructional assistant professor of higher education
  • Katie Busby, director of the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning and instructional assistant professor of higher education
  • Tammy Dempsey, assistant dean of students and assistant professor in the School of Nursing and director of community engagement and service learning at the UM Medical Center
  • Erin Holmes, associate professor of pharmacy administration and research associate professor
  • Laura Martin, associate director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement
  • Albert Nylander, professor of sociology and director of the McLean Institute
  • Erin Payseur Oeth, project manager for community engagement
  • Cristiane Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering

This graphic below illustrates UM’s approach to community engagement, as presented in the Carnegie Application process.

Model of Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi

Community engagement is taking place across the campus, with significant projects happening in colleges, schools, and departments university-wide. The projects below, while not an exhaustive list, were all critical to the success of the Carnegie application:

Empowering Individuals to Reduce Lead Exposure through Community-Based Research

Community Partners: Tri-County Workforce Alliance, Right! From the Start Initiative, Mississippi Urban League, Rosemont Baptist Church

Institutional Partners: Stephanie Otts; Mississippi Law Research Institute/ National Sea Grant Law Center, School of Pharmacy, Center for Population Studies, Civil Engineering

Purpose: Community-based research to reduce lead exposure in drinking water.

Base Pair-Biomedical Research Mentorship

Community Partners: Murrah High School, Jim Hill High School

Institutional Partners: Rob Rockhold, Deputy Chief Academic Officer; UMMC Microbiology, Medicine

Purpose: To improve high school STEM education and matriculation of under-served minorities into college programs using mentoring, laboratory experimentation and community engaged teaching, learning and scholarship.

Behind the Big House: Interpreting Slavery in Local Communities

Community Partners: Preserve Marshall County and Holly Springs, Inc., The Hugh Craft House, Holly Springs Historic Preservation Commission, Gracing the Table, Rust College Division of Humanities, LOCAL

Institutional Partners: Jodi Skipper, Carolyn Freiwald, Sociology & Anthropology

Purpose: Pilgrimage tours throughout the South immerse visitors in re-creations of the antebellum era, focusing largely on historic homes. In the city of Holly Springs, Mississippi, historic preservation advocates have created the Behind the Big House program, collaborating with academic researchers to ensure that these re-creations of local history move beyond the city’s large mansions to explore the town’s many extant slave dwellings, and work to interpret the experiences of the enslaved people who inhabited them.

Lafayette County Lynching Memorialization Project

Community Partners: William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Lynching Memorialization Steering Committee

Institutional Partners: Hans Sinha, School of Law, Sociology & Southern Studies, Theatre Arts, Music, Horizons, Journalism, Intensive English Program

Purpose: The Lynching Memorialization in Lafayette County Project is a broad-based coalition of University and Community members. The purpose of our Project is two-fold: (1) We are seeking a remedy for the wrongs committed against seven citizens of our community who were victims of racially motivated murders in Lafayette County between 1877 and 1950. None of these seven people were afforded due process by their government — their murders were never prosecuted and their names have not been publicly remembered as victims of crimes; and (2), through doing so, we are seeking to engage the community in and foster a discussion about race and reconciliation in our community.

The Marks Project

Community Partners: The Marks Project

Institutional Partners: Anne Cafer, Kimberly Kaiser, Georgianna Mann; Community Based Research Collaborative, Center for Population Studies, Legal Studies, Nutrition and Hospitality Management

Purpose: The Marks Project is a community-university collaboration that seeks to identify local stakeholders in Marks and Quitman County to address deficits in the community that require immediate attention. They assist on a short term basis with solutions that may include immediate funding, positioning with local partners, and matching outside resources to the community of Marks.

PaRTICIpate Research Collaborative

Community Partners: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Institutional Partners: Meagen Rosenthal, Erin Holmes; School of Pharmacy

Purpose: Community engaged scholarship to develop patient-centered research questions around Type 2 Diabetes self-management and design of pharmacist-led weight management programs in Oxford, Charleston, and Saltillo, Mississippi.

Jackson Free Clinic

Community Partners: Jackson community

Institutional Partners: UMMC, Dr. Joyce Olutade

Purpose: The Jackson Free Clinic was founded in 2000 to offer high quality medical care to those without health insurance. It is the state’s only student-run medical clinic and operates as an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The clinic’s mission is to provide health care to Jackson’s community while also helping students and volunteers to learn and grow as future doctors, dentists, occupational and physical therapists, and humanitarians. The clinic addresses health disparities through community engaged teaching and learning, as well as community engaged service.

Exploring exercise behavior in pregnant and postpartum adolescents in the Mississippi Delta: The Teen Mom Study

Community Partners: Mississippi Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC); Mississippi State University Extension Service, Delta Region

Institutional Partners: Abigail Gamble, PhD; Bettina Beech, DrPH; John D. Bower School of Population Health, Mississippi Center for Obesity Research, Mississippi Center for Clinical and Translational Research, UMMC

Purpose: This community-based research investigation seeks to identify psychosocial, cultural, and environmental determinants of exercise among pregnant/postpartum adolescents enrolled in the Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). UMMC is partnering with WIC to inform and engage adolescent WIC clients in the study, and to gain the perspectives of WIC providers whom provide counseling to clients in the MS Delta. This entire line of research is designed to promote the adoption and maintenance of exercise behavior among pregnant and postpartum WIC clients during critical periods of fetal, infant, and maternal growth and development, with the goal to improve maternal and fetal health outcomes among a vulnerable and high-risk population.

Eastmoor Estates Fair Housing Project

Community Partners: Eastmoor Estates Neighborhood Association, Hope Enterprise Corporation

Institutional Partners: Desiree Hensley, Robert C. Khayat School of Law, Housing Clinic, Transactional Clinic

Purpose: In 2010, the UM Low Income Housing Clinic (LIHC) filed suit in federal district court in Mississippi on behalf of its class of clients, a group of African-American residents living in a low income neighborhood in Eastmoor, Mississippi. The suit alleged a host of claims, all related to the

failed management of the neighborhood development. The merits of the lawsuit were hotly contested, as was the LIHC’s fundamental philosophy that its clients, citizens of a state and an area with a history of marginalizing low-income people of color, not only deserved better, but deserved better in the very homes and community that many of them had spent their lives trying to build. The case ultimately settled on terms favorable to the plaintiffs. The most tangible and immediate result was that not only would the homeowners no longer had to live in a neighborhood with sub-standard government services – streets in disrepair, a malfunctioning water system, dilapidated sewer systems – but that they also would acquire the most important prize of all: deeds to their houses.

Community Arts Programming

Community Partners: Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

Institutional Partners: Robert Saarnio

Purpose: Synergy, coordination, and mutual organizational support of mission-aligned arts programs, both in development and implementation phases.

Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum and Business Development Webinars

Community Partners: Mississippi Development Authority,

Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, JR Love; McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement

Purpose: Strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Mississippi through community-campus partnerships spanning the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Engineers Without Borders

Community Partners: Togo Clean Water Project, Equador Clean Water Project

Institutional Partners: Cris Surbeck, Marni Kendricks; Engineering

Purpose: The connection between north Mississippi and Togo reaches back to 2004, when local community members traveled to Togo during the summer for medical mission trips. These encounters planted a seed that would later take root as a longstanding partnership between the School of Engineering and the rural Togolese communities in the Vogan region of Togo. In 2009, a chapter of Engineers Without Borders-USA was founded at UM. EWB-USA partners with communities in developing countries to improve their quality of life by implementing sustainable and economical engineering projects. Through these partnerships, EWB-USA promotes social responsibility among its network of student and professional engineers.

Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED)

Community Partners: Catholic Charities Jackson

Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, JR Love; McLean Institute for Public Service

Purpose: Create actionable partnerships to promote community and economic development through innovation and entrepreneurship.

M Partner

Community Partners: New Albany Main Street Association

Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, Laura Martin; McLean Institute for Public Service

Purpose: M Partner was designed after a national model, the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N), with a purpose to support the Healthy and Vibrant Communities pillar in the Flagship Forward strategic plan. M Partner is led by staff at the McLean Institute. This initiative offers a framework through which community and university representatives can cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships that will lead to the co-creation of knowledge and ideas to enhance community wellbeing. The University and the partner communities have committed to a pilot phase of 18 to 24 months in the partner communities of Charleston, Lexington, and New Albany.

North Mississippi VISTA Project

Community Partners: Sunflower Freedom Project

Institutional Partners: Albert Nylander, Laura Martin; McLean Institute for Public Service

Purpose: The North Mississippi VISTA Project, which is housed at the McLean Institute, seeks to fight poverty through education by upholding the VISTA principles of poverty alleviation, capacity building, sustainable solutions, and community empowerment. NMVP works in a 28 county area in North Mississippi and currently hosts 1 VISTA Leader and 19 yearlong VISTA members. Each summer, NMVP hosts between 10 and 25 Summer Associates.


Census Stories: Meet Ruth Ball

Posted on: May 14th, 2020 by elpayseu

This week, we have been profiling individuals who have been champions for the Census in our local community. Today, we are featuring Ruth Ball. Ms. Ball works for the US Census as a recruiter for this area and has been tirelessly promoting Census jobs and rallying others to the importance of being counted. For our MLK Day of Service, Ms. Ball passed out water bottles for volunteers and shared with students about how the Census impacts our community.

To learn more about Ms. Ball’s work, join us tomorrow on Facebook Live for our Community Chat series. We’ll be interviewing her live as our featured guest. Join in at Noon to meet her and learn more about the Census!

Did you know?

  • The U.S. Census Bureau is beginning to send reminder notice postcards to an estimated 55 million households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. About 53.4% of households across the country have already responded since invitations began arriving in mailboxes on March 12. Those households that have not yet responded to the census will receive an in person visit by a census taker to collect their information later this summer.
  • There are currently 700+ job openings with the Census here in the Lafayette-Oxford-University community. Apply today. 
  • These jobs pay $17/hr plus mileage and have flexible schedules.

Other posts in this series:


Census Stories: Meet Madeline & Elise

Posted on: May 12th, 2020 by elpayseu


You’re never too young to get involved and support the Census! Meet Madeline and Elise Holland, daughters of Jody Holland, Executive Director of Lafayette Oxford Foundation for Tomorrow (LOFT). To help get the word out about the Census in their neighborhood, they passed out fliers, over 500 fliers this week! Wow! Thank you so much, girls, for spreading the word. Your efforts make a difference!

Did you know…

  • As of 4/27/20, less than half (41.0%) of households in Lafayette County have completed their Census forms. Have you completed yours? (Complete it here.)
  • In response to individual efforts like Madeline & Elise’s and Janice Carr‘s, that number has since jumped 4.5%, to 45.5%! Way to go, team!
  • For every child not counted in the Census, Mississippi stands to lose an average of $2780! That adds up to a lot of money for our community.


Census Facts. MS stands to lose an average of $2780 per year for every child not counted in the 2020 Census.

Census Stories: Meet Janice Carr

Posted on: May 11th, 2020 by elpayseu

This week, through our blog, we are highlighting local Census efforts. Have you completed your US Census yet?

Today, we are featuring Janice Carr, Executive Director of the Gordon Community and Cultural Center, GCCC, in Abbeville, MS. After hearing that response rates in Lafayette County were lagging behind other counties and the state average, Janice jumped into action. She recruited help from three of her students and did a drive-by campaign through local neighborhoods, passing out Census water bottles in front yards with reminders and info on the Census. Her team canvassed over 200 households.

As many of us find ourselves spending more time in our neighborhoods, it is a great opportunity to talk with our neighbors about the Census and remind them to take time to complete it. Spread the word within your community, and help us support our Lafayette-Oxford-University community with accurate counts and representation.

Learn more about Janice and her ongoing work with GCCC through our Community Chat interview with her here.

Did you know…

  • U.S. Census data affects federal funding for our community for 10 years – funding for roads, hospitals, day cares, and more!
  • U.S. Census data affects congressional representation in the US House of Representatives.
  • It takes less than five minutes to complete.
  • You can complete the form online, by phone, or by mail.
  • There are currently over 700 open Census jobs in the LOU community!