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Graduation is Saturday, May 11. Here’s your graduation checklist.

Posted on: March 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

It won’t be long until students put on their cap and gown and march in line during the University of Mississippi’s graduation ceremony.

Graduation will be held Saturday, May 11. The morning commencement ceremony will be at 9 a.m. in the Grove. The School of Journalism and New Media graduation will be in the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum at 3 p.m.

Tewolde GebreMariam, the group chief executive officer of Ethiopian Airlines, will be the graduation speaker.

Students had the opportunity to participate in a graduation expo March 19-21 that answered many questions about the graduation process. Now they can refer to the commencement website for more information.

http://commencement.olemiss.edu/commencement-timeline/

Here are a few reminders by month:

April

  • If you expect to graduate with Latin honors, find out when and where your college or school will be distributing honors cords.

May

  • Verify the time and location (including inclement weather location) for your college or school ceremony.
  • Pick up cap and gown from the C.M. “Tad” Smith Coliseum.
  • All monetary type holds should be cleared before you leave.
  • Diplomas will not be mailed if you have a bursar, financial aid or library hold.
  • May 11 – Commencement Day. Congratulations and Hotty Toddy!
  • Gowns should be returned at the conclusion of your college/school ceremony.  Instructions will be given at the ceremony.

UM journalism professor to receive Community Engagement Honor Roll certificate

Posted on: March 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

In recognition of their new health communication work in the Mississippi Delta, Kristie Swain, of the University of Mississippi School of Journalism, and Angela Green, of the Writing and Rhetoric Department, will each receive a Community Engagement Honor Roll certificate at the university’s 2019 Celebration of Service on April 10.

Their competition submission, “Team Safe Sex Learning through Safe Reflection and Storytelling,” is also funded by a 2018-2019 Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation research grant.

In the fall, Swain’s research methods class conducted a focus group study of African American women in collaboration with Catherine Moring, executive director of wellness for the James Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston, Mississippi. They asked the women to talk about what puts local teens at risk for STDs and teen pregnancy and what might prevent these outcomes.

Students in Kristie Swain’s IMC 585-Health Communication class design role-play activities for Delta teens.

This semester, Swain’s IMC 585-Health Communication class is conducting a focus group study and pilot intervention of African American youth in Charleston to explore their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to safe sex, Swain said.

Health Communication students recently designed a community health campaign, as well as roleplay and reflective writing games for a pilot intervention, she said. In one game called “Origami Fortune Teller,” teens will discuss different hypothetical safe-sex situations, she said. Small groups of teens will each pick a number and one of four colors.

“A moderator will move the four-corner, origami fortuneteller back and forth the number of times they pick, and then pose a question or scenario that corresponds to a number between 1 and 8 next to the color they selected,” Swain said. “Then the teens will read the scenario and work though the decision making process.”

A follow-up activity will involve matching different colors of Starburst candies with different hypothetical situations, she said. After each teen group selects a Starburst, a moderator will challenge them to write and act out a skit to show how kids might react to the situation. Then, UM students will create informal videos of the skits to use in social media outreach.

Cade Smith, UM’s assistant vice chancellor for community engagement, cited the significance of the project as one of its strengths in the community engagement competition.

“The scope and impact of the submitted projects were tremendous,” he said. “We look forward to sharing and learning about the life- and community-changing work that UM and UMMC scholars are co-leading with their community partners.”

By the end of this year, Swain, Green and Moring hope to use their findings to identify barriers and inroads in preventing HIV, STDs and unplanned pregnancies among African American adolescents in the Mississippi Delta, Swain said. The results will inform a NIH grant proposal, in collaboration with UMCC researchers, to support behavior change research in rural faith communities.

A Winter Week in Puerto Rico: Journalism students visit island to produce hurricane recovery report

Posted on: March 20th, 2019 by ldrucker

For a week during winter break, University of Mississippi journalism students Brittany Brown and Devna Bose traded the comforts of home for waking up each morning at the first sign of light on an island they had never visited.

They were struck by the juxtaposition between the beauty provided by Puerto Rico’s mountains, beaches and rainforests and the lingering effects of one of history’s worst natural disasters.

But, the two Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College students in the university’s School of Journalism and New Media did not visit the island to see the views.

Brown and Bose were part of a group that went with a mission: to tell stories of recovery 16 months after Hurricane Maria. The hurricane is linked to 3,000 deaths and shook the infrastructure of the United States territory to its core.

UM student Brittany Brown (left) interviews artist Raúl Ayala at his shop in Loíza, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jasmine Karlowski

“Puerto Rico was of interest because, after doing some initial research, we knew that there were still good stories to tell about how its residents were coping after the two hurricanes that devastated the island, particularly in impoverished areas and in communities of color,” said Patricia Thompson, assistant dean for student media. “We also found ties between Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and Mississippi students, residents and companies.”

For Brown, the trip was not solely for educational purposes. Her father is Puerto Rican, and she wanted to further understand her ancestry by visiting his family’s homeland.

“I really don’t know a lot about the Puerto Rican culture,” said the senior print journalism major from Quitman. “So, it was very much a personal reason I wanted to go to Puerto Rico, and with this opportunity I thought, ‘Why not go there while also doing something I love, which is journalism and reporting.’”

They packed so much work into the short winter intersession trip that not much spare time was available for sightseeing.

“We traveled all over the island,” Brown said. “We covered as much ground as we could. Every day we were up with the sunrise driving to the ends of the island. We were there to work – to talk to people and tell stories.

“We really got to dig into the culture of Puerto Rico. We were embedded into small communities and building relationships with everyday Puerto Ricans who are living with the effects of the hurricanes still.”

The Ole Miss multimedia team included journalism student Christian Johnson, photojournalism mentor and recent graduate Ariel Cobbert, and M.F.A. graduate student Jasmine Karlowski, who also is a Study Abroad staff member. The project was led by Thompson and assistant professor Iveta Imre.

The trip was an opportunity for students to stretch their legs journalistically and put the lessons they are learning to the test in a practical environment. Weeks of phone calls and emails before the trip, along with the interviews, photographs and video from the week in Puerto Rico, will be used to produce multimedia stories that will be published this semester.

“(Once it’s published) I’m going to feel like we really accomplished a lot,” said Bose, a senior journalism major from Philadelphia. “I feel like I was pushed on the trip and I gained a lot as a reporter and as a person. It really forced me to learn how to communicate.

UM student Brittany Brown (left) interviews Minerra Ramos-Osorio in Loíza, Puerto Rico. Photo by Jasmine Karlowski

“This is going to be the only clip I have like this, where I have a hand in the photos, the video and graphics that are being made. It’s one of the most thorough pieces I’ve written. So, I’m going to feel like I put to use all the skills that I’ve learned here at Ole Miss.”

Bose and Brown said they were inspired by how the residents of Puerto Rico welcomed them, the hospitality of the people, and their passion and vigor for life despite traumatic experiences.

“Many people are still hurting,” Brown said. “Some literally have PTSD, and if it rains too hard or the wind blows too hard, it can be scary. But the people of Puerto Rico are still so passionate and they refuse to sit in pity and wallow about their situation. I would describe them as resilient.”

Bose’s project will focus on the mental and emotional impact the storms had on residents.

“I am looking at how the people were affected and what’s being done to improve mental health on the island since the hurricane,” she said.

Bose said the residents were open and hospitable to them as reporters, and they seemed to embrace having their stories told instead of viewing the students with skepticism.

“We were really careful to make sure we weren’t exploiting anyone’s tragedy or taking advantage of their situation,” she said. “But no one seemed to think like that. It didn’t seem to cross anyone’s mind. They were just so eager to share their voice, which was amazing to me.”

Some of the students spent time examining recovery and the impact of the hurricanes on Loíza, a small, majority Afro-Puerto Rican town in the northeastern part of the island. In a few ways, Loíza drew comparisons to Mississippi in terms of the Magnolia State’s relationship to the rest of the United States.

“The story I’m working on shows a lot of parallels between Loíza and Mississippi,” said Brown, who aspires to one day be a documentary filmmaker. “Loíza has one of the highest percentages of black Puerto Ricans; Mississippi is one of the states with the largest percentage of African-Americans.

“It is one of the poorest cities on the island; Mississippi is one of the poorest states. But there is a resilience and a will to keep moving despite not having access to many resources, living in poverty and family members leaving the island. We deal with those things here, too.”

In more rural locations on the island, English becomes less commonly spoken. Brown said her ability to speak Spanish was tested during interactions in parts of the island, and she was glad she was able to get out of her comfort zone and practice her Spanish.

“This was my first time really reporting in Spanish,” she said. “My minor is Spanish, and I feel confident in my ability to report in Spanish, but this was the first time I’ve really put the pedal to the metal and really tested myself.”

Thompson said the students represented the university exceptionally well on the trip.

“Watching our students expand their storytelling skills as they explored other cultures (was most memorable for me),” she said. “Several sources complimented our students on their interviewing skills, saying they were as good or better than national media who had interviewed them.”

Bose said she is grateful to Thompson for her leadership and work to make this opportunity possible for students.

“It amazed me that she pulled this trip together in such a short timeframe,” Bose said. “We never would have been able to do anything that we were able to do without her guidance, so I’m just really grateful to her.”

The School of Journalism and New Media works with the university’s Study Abroad Office to offer students a variety of reporting trips to locations around the globe.

This story was written by Justin Whitmore of UM Communications. If you are interested in learning more about our programs or becoming a student, please email umjourimc@olemiss.edu.

The Truth About Fake News: Washington Post columnist speaks at Wednesday event

Posted on: March 18th, 2019 by ldrucker

With the phrase “fake news” increasingly used in jokes and memes, the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics will convene a panel of journalists on Wednesday, March 20, at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Mississippi for a conversation on the sobering truth about fake news and how the phenomenon is undercutting the foundation of our democracy.

Leading the discussion will be Margaret Sullivan, the media columnist for The Washington Post, who has called on the media to retire the phrase. “ ‘Fake news’ has had its 15 minutes of fame,” she wrote in a column. “Let’s put this tainted term out of its misery.”

Although Sullivan agrees that the media must deal with problems like mistakes, disinformation and conspiracies, she wrote that “putting them all in a blender and slapping on a fuzzy name doesn’t move us forward.”

Before joining The Washington Post, Sullivan was the fifth public editor of The New York Times, and the first woman to hold that job. She was also the first woman to be top editor and managing editor of the Buffalo News, her hometown paper. She began there as a summer intern and went on to become a distinguished reporter and columnist before running the paper.

Joining Sullivan in the conversation will be Charles L. Overby, chairman of the Overby Center and a long-time newspaper executive. He is also the former chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, Newseum and Diversity Institute.

In addition, Greg Brock, a senior fellow at the Overby Center will join Sullivan, with whom he worked at The New York Times. Brock was an editor for 20 years at The Times before retiring in 2017. In his final role as senior editor for standards, he worked closely with Sullivan during her time as public editor.

A conversation about “fake news” will be impossible to have without taking into account President Trump’s use of the term, which Sullivan noted in a column in February he has used at least 400 times since becoming president. Wrote Sullivan: “It’s as simple as this: Trump doesn’t believe that the news about him is fake. No matter how many times he says it. He merely objects to the fact that it doesn’t reflect well on him.”

The program is the fourth in the Overby Center’s schedule for the spring. It is free and open to the public, like all of the center’s events. A reception will be held following the program. Free parking will be available in the lot adjacent to the Overby Center Auditorium.

ESPN senior writer headlines inaugural Willie Morris Writer’s Series event

Posted on: March 8th, 2019 by ldrucker

A senior ESPN writer will headline an inaugural event created to honor a late Mississippi writer and University of Mississippi professor.

Wright Thompson, author of the new book The Cost of These Dreams, will host the first Willie Morris Writer’s Series event Friday, April 5 at 11 a.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium in Farley Hall on the UM campus.

“We’re so excited for our students and the campus community to have this chance to hear from Wright, who’s had such a remarkable career across all platforms—from long-form writing to documentary producing to hosting a television series,” said Cynthia Joyce, assistant professor of journalism at the UM School of Journalism and New Media. “Already he has served as an inspiration to so many who aspire to great writing and great journalism — that will certainly continue throughout this series.”

Over the past decade, Thompson has carved out a niche as one of the most successful sportswriters in America. His work includes the most-read articles in the history of ESPN Magazine, and he’s been anthologized in The Best American Sports Writing books 10 times.

His new book The Cost of These Dreams: Sports Stories and Other Serious Business by Penguin Books will be on sale April 2. It is a collection of portraits ranging from sports superstars past and present, legendary coaches, and Thompson’s own father.

“Thompson strips away the myths and fantasies around the sports icons we think we all know, rendering the hard lessons we can learn from the humans beneath the fabled façades,” Penguin Books reports. “From NBA legend Pat Riley, who goes to amazing lengths to escape a troubled past, to Tiger Woods’ complex duel between his public and private lives, to Michael Jordan’s grappling with the big 5-0, Thompson’s flawless storytelling reveals a universal truth: that the tools required to gain greatness can often prevent a person from enjoying it.”

In one of the essays, Thompson, a Mississippi native, revisits the fall of 1962 in the state – when Ole Miss was embroiled in riots over the racial integration of its campus, but simultaneously enjoyed its only perfect football season in history.

Dean Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., said Wright is one of the great writers in America today.

“Those who attend the lecture, I hope will have read some of his work,” he said. “When they listen, they will begin to understand how he has gotten so many great interviews and done so many wonderful pieces. He not only is a great writer, but he is a personality in his own right.”

Thompson, who lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his family, has tried to better understand the complexities of Mississippi through his writing, much like the man the series is named after.

The Willie Morris Writer’s Series honors Jackson native Willie Morris, an American writer many know nationwide because of the movie adaptation of his popular book My Dog Skip. Morris’ family later moved to Yazoo City, which he immortalized in his writing.

Morris was known for his lyrical prose style and reflections about the American South and the Mississippi Delta. He attended the University of Texas in Austin and later became a Rhodes Scholar, studying at Oxford University. In 1967, he became the youngest editor of Harper’s Magazine, according to the Mississippi Writer’s Page.

In 1980, he returned to Mississippi as a writer-in-residence at the University of Mississippi, where he encouraged writers Donna Tartt and John Grisham.

He also wrote The Ghost of Medgar Evers: A Tale of Race, Murder, Mississippi, and Hollywood published in 1998. His writing and fascination with the Evers case helped him convince a longtime friend and movie producer to make the film “Ghosts of Mississippi,” the Mississippi Writer’s Page reports.

Like Morris, Norton said Wright is a great oral storyteller.

“You can be around him for hours and not realize how much time has passed,” he said. “He knows so much.  He has read so much, and he brings an uncommon perspective to almost every topic. I think he and Willie could have been twin brothers. They would not be identical, but they truly would be unusually similar.”

For more information about the event, contact Cynthia Joyce, associate professor of journalism, at cjoyce@olemiss.edu or 662-915-8787.

This article was written by LaReeca Rucker. For more information about the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

Two student journalists from NewsWatch place first in Southeast Journalism Conference competitions

Posted on: March 1st, 2019 by ldrucker

Congratulations to Matthew Hendley and Madison Scarpino for winning first-place awards in Southeast Journalism Conference competitions.

Hendley, a NewsWatch Ole Miss anchor and correspondent, won first place in the SEJC onsite anchoring competition. Judges said the entries were unusually strong this year, and Hendley, a sophomore, came out on top.

Scarpino, a junior, was named Best TV Hard News Reporter for packages that aired on NewsWatch Ole Miss last year about Hurricane Michael and the Journalism and New Media forum after Ed Meek’s Facebook post. Scarpino was social media producer for NewsWatch last semester.

JNM Professor Nancy Dupont is NewsWatch adviser and has worked with both students.

“They’re both incredibly talented student journalists,” Dupont said. “I’m not surprised that Madison took first place in reporting because she’s an excellent storyteller. Matthew is the one of the best at interpreting the news, but I’m so proud of him for taking first place in anchoring, which is a really competitive category.”

The SEJC conference was Feb. 14-16 at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro near Nashville. For the anchoring onsite category, Hendley was given about 10 minutes to read the script, and then he went on the air for about five minutes reading the script and doing a sign-off in a virtual newsroom. It was a mini-newscast with four or five local Tennessee stories, requiring him to switch from one camera to another after the anchor intro.

“It was neat to see another school’s newsroom,” Hendley said, “though I was not a fan of the virtual newsroom…of everything being painted green! But it was another great experience and an honor that I will always remember.”

Abbie McIntosh, NewsWatch Ole Miss student manager, shared a second-place award with Scarpino in the onsite TV reporting team category.

“Having Madison take home the top prize for Best TV Hard News Reporter made me so happy because I know how hard Madison works on her projects,” McIntosh said. “I was able to witness the work that was put into the packages we submitted for SEJC, and I was beaming with pride, not only as her friend, but as her student manager,” McIntosh said. “And having Matthew take home Best TV Anchor made me grin from ear to ear. Matthew is such a character on the desk and I’m so glad everyone else realized that, too.”

UM students participate in Mississippi Today rebranding process

Posted on: February 26th, 2019 by ldrucker

A class of University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students participated in the rebranding process for a growing statewide news organization.

Mary Margaret White, marketing and branding manager for Mississippi Today, said her staff worked with the UM class while considering a brand rehaul. Both groups learned from each other.

“Working with the UM students helped solidify our decision to move forward with a full redesign of our logo, color scheme and home page,” she said. “We have a young, innovative team, and the original branding didn’t match the energy of our newsroom.

“We wanted something memorable that would give a nod to the legacy of traditional, in-depth reporting while recognizing that we are a new model for journalism in the way we approach, and disseminate, stories.”

White, who worked for eight years with the State of Mississippi for both the Mississippi Arts Commission and Visit Mississippi/Mississippi Development Authority, said the Mississippi Today homepage redesign now showcases more stories “above the fold” or “above the scroll” of your screen. It offers a nice balance between dynamic visuals and easy-to-access categories and sections, she said.

“The logo color is teal, which feels clean and modern,” White said. “Incorporating the talk box into the logo makes it clear that we are a digital outlet while inferring that our reporting is meant to drive conversation. The tagline ‘We report to you.’ encapsulates our nonprofit model while also making clear the public service mission for our newsroom.”

White, who is an advisory committee member for the Center for the Study of Southern Culture, said the MT leadership team offered a real-world experience for the UM class.

“We didn’t take the student suggestions at face value, but challenged the students with the same level of questioning and market-based research we put in front of the designers we engaged to create the new look,” she said. “Clients often want to know why you are not including certain elements in a redesign rather than hear about the creative process behind the work. I think the students learned that when making a pitch, come prepared to answer questions about what is not in your presentation rather than what is included.”

Lauchlin Fields, the Mississippi Today web editor, said the redesign better represents what MT is as a news organization.

“It creates a renewed energy and a more user-friendly interface that helps us engage with our readers and increase reader loyalty,” said Fields, who began her career as a journalist at The Vicksburg Post.

The UM students were led by Ann Day Becker, a School of Journalism and New Media integrated marketing communication professor. She said students in her fall 2017 IMC 455 Campaigns class offered input about the rebranding.

“Campaigns is the capstone class for the IMC degree program,” said Becker. “Students leverage all their learnings to develop integrated marketing plans for actual businesses and organizations. The class provides excellent real-world experience for the students, a fresh perspective on new marketing ideas and approaches for the ‘clients.’”

Becker, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a master’s degree in business administration, both from Millsaps College, brings to the classroom more than a decade of experience in corporate communications for Entergy Corporation, a Fortune 500 company, and a decade as editor of Mississippi Magazine.

“A redesign of Mississippi Today’s website and banner was a hallmark of the recommendations of the students,” she said. “The class felt strongly that the original design did not accurately reflect the forward-thinking, contemporary approach to reporting and delivering digital news that Mississippi Today was taking.”

While some actual design suggestions were presented to Mississippi Today by student “agencies,” Becker said ultimately MT pursued their own professional redesign, addressing some of the issues and opportunities noted by the students.

“Once Mississippi Today had narrowed their design concepts to three, a subsequent class tested the designs by providing their input through a survey,” said Becker. “The students had the benefit of meeting with key principals at Mississippi Today, learning their points of view and understanding their audiences and objectives.”

Mississippi Today reporters Larrison Campbell and Adam Ganucheau in the press room of the state capitol with sign featuring the old Mississippi Today logo. Ganucheau is a UM School of Journalism and New Media graduate.

From there, students conducted their own research, including surveys, to help make recommendations for future improvements, including suggesting ways to engage millennials.

“The students worked in teams, providing a wide range of recommendations, including music concerts and in-person news forums conducted in places students already enjoy,” said Becker. “This idea of the forums capitalized on the basic marketing concept of meeting your audience where they are.”

While Mississippi Today has not yet pursued one “student agency’s” idea of sponsoring a live Bruno Mars concert in the Grove at UM, Becker said they are hosting regular events called “Newsroom from the Taproom” that provide lively discussions on current news topics in popular watering holes around the state.

“I really like the new logo and color palette because it is eye-catching, contemporary and serious without being stuffy,” Becker said. “It does not look like other news resources, so you know immediately when you see it in your inbox or elsewhere that it’s Mississippi Today.”

Becker said students appreciated being on the cutting edge of developing a new information resource for Mississippians that is designed and delivered digitally and is employing young talent to seek out the stories that matter most.

“The students were keenly aware of the issue of fake news and responded very positively to MT’s commitment to accuracy and in-depth reporting,” Becker said. “I am certain that their experience in consulting with Mississippi Today provided insight and experience beyond the classroom that is invaluable as they begin their careers.”

Emily Valentine, 23, was one of the students who participated. The Charlotte, North Carolina native majored in IMC with minors in business and Spanish and now lives in Charleston, South Carolina.

“As a graphic designer and someone who really values good design and a brand’s look/feel, it was very important to me to make sure Mississippi Today had an impact that resonated visually with their target audience,” she said. “Younger people respond better to well done graphics and photography and like to look for reasons to have a personal connection with a brand.”

Valentine said she led her team, creating graphics for print and digital channels and a custom booklet outlining their rebranding process and ideas that was distributed to the client during her presentation.

“It was really interesting to provide a more creative viewpoint to a client like this as well as inject some humor and put a spin on the idea of old school reporting in a digital world,” she said. “This project really cemented my love for establishing a brand and working on the creative, design side of this process. I learned a lot about presenting a concept to a client and how much I enjoy sharing and improving a brand or new ideas.”

White said Mississippi Today has already seen substantial growth in readership both direct to the site and via their social media channels.

“Several loyal readers have reached out asking for mugs, stickers and T-shirts with the new branding,” said White. “Moreover, the update has been a great moral boost to our team, all who feel proud of the way we are visually represented.”

This article was written by LaReeca Rucker. For more information about the School of Journalism and New Media’s programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.

Public relations student team takes first place in on-site competition at Southeastern Journalism Conference Competition

Posted on: February 22nd, 2019 by ldrucker

Team Included IMC majors for the first time

For the first time, two integrated marketing communications majors were on the winning team in the public relations on-site competition for the Southeastern Journalism Conference Competition.

Team members were IMC majors Hayden Benge and Davis Roberts and journalism major Hailey McKee.

“I am so proud of what our students do,” said IMC Assistant Dean Scott Fiene. “And the fact that the winning three-person team is comprised of both IMC and journalism majors is testament to how students from both our degree programs work together and are prepared for real-world scenarios.”

For the competition, held on the campus of Middle Tennessee State on Feb.15, the team had two hours to complete a communications plan addressing a hypothetical public relations situation given them.

For the first time, IMC students were on the winning team that brought home first place in the on-site PR competition at the Southeastern Journalism Conference Feb. 15. Team members had two hours to create a communications plan for a PR situation they were given. Pictured, left to right, are team members IMC major Davis Roberts, Journalism major Hailey McKee and IMC major Hayden Benge and (Photo credit: Stan O’Dell)

“The situation was detailed, complex and longer than any of us expected,” McKee said. “Though there was temptation to become frozen with pressure, when we started tossing out different ideas and creative strategies for the campaign, I think we quickly found our groove and had a lot of fun with the situation we were given.”

Roberts attributes their success to what he learned in his IMC classes.

“In IMC, I’ve been taught to focus on a particular situation and learn everything I can in order to compose the right message for the right people and effectively deliver that message in a consistent manner across multiple channels,” Roberts said.

Benge and other team members particularly credited their PR classes.

“The 491 and 492 classes for the public relations specialization were very helpful in preparing us for the competition,” Benge said. “The assignments in the classes required us to create PR plans similar to the one in the competition. Having that background definitely assured us that we knew what we were doing.”

The students’ instructor for those classes, Senior Lecturer Robin Street, asked the students to enter the competition.

“I already knew how outstanding these students are, so I never doubted they would win,” Street said. “They all excel in planning, creating and implementing a communications strategy plan.”

Street has also nominated the students, all seniors, for a separate award from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi for Student of the Year.  Those awards will be announced in April.

At the SEJC conference, Assistant Dean of the JNM School Patricia Thompson was named Educator of the year. Six journalism students also placed in other on-site competitions. In addition, journalism students won multiple awards in the Best of the South competition for work they had completed during the school year.

For more information on the SEJC competition results, visit  https://jnm.olemiss.edu/2019/02/19/assistant-dean-students-earn-21-awards-at-journalism-conference/.

UM journalism professor will be keynote speaker for AAIND newspaper conference

Posted on: February 21st, 2019 by ldrucker

Our own “Mr. Magazine,” Samir Husni, Ph.D., will be the keynote speaker for the American Association of Newspaper Distributors conference in New York City in May.

The group announced this week that Husni is part of their superstar lineup for the conference set for May 1-3 at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York City.

“Dr. Husni is passionate about print publications and will give us his viewpoint on the future of the print media industry,” the AAIND website reads.

You can read the full article here.

International IMC master’s graduate makes mark with massive fundraiser

Posted on: February 19th, 2019 by ldrucker

Mina Ghofrani Esfahani was pursuing a master’s degree in the University of Mississippi’s integrated marketing communication program in fall 2017 when her compassion for a critically ill child in her home country prompted her to put to practical use the theories she was learning.

Esfahani was born and raised in Iran. She took to English quickly as a teenager, began teaching others the language before she finished high school and eventually majored in English and applied linguistics as an undergraduate student in that country.

During her time as a graduate student in the UM integrated marketing communication program, Mina Esfahani organized a social media fundraiser to raise money for a seriously ill child in her home country of Iran. The campaign drew in more than $700,000 that was sent to the child’s family to help with medical costs. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

During her time as a graduate student in the UM integrated marketing communication program, Mina Esfahani organized a social media fundraiser to raise money for a seriously ill child in her home country of Iran. The campaign drew in more than $700,000 that was sent to the child’s family to help with medical costs. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

After immigrating to the United States with her husband, an Ole Miss student, she learned that one of her former English teaching colleagues had a child born with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy, a genetic disorder that affects nerve cells that control voluntary muscles, complicating breathing and eating.

Esfahani, who also became a student at UM after moving to Oxford, was inspired by her passion and knowledge of social media to start her own campaign for the 9-month-old child, named Radin. In just six weeks on Facebook, the campaign raised more than $700,000 that would eventually make it to the boy’s family to help pay for the expensive treatment that would keep him alive.

“Let’s confirm that borders cannot stop humanity,” she said on the Facebook page. “Help him see more loving days with his loving parents. Don’t leave them alone. Every dollar would count.”

The online fundraiser appealed to donors with Esfahani’s words of compassion for the child, who, she said, reminded her of three nephews back home that she missed dearly. Within hours of the first posting in October 2017, the campaign drew in its first $1,000.

“It kept getting shared,” Esfahani said. “I invited everybody I knew, and those people invited everybody they knew and it exponentially grew. Over five weeks, we had raised $705,000 in the campaign.

“There was momentum. I would go back and see what’s going on, and every time I checked there was more.”

Robert Magee, assistant professor and director of the IMC graduate program, was one of Esfahani’s mentors at Ole Miss. Magee said he was inspired watching Esfahani’s compassion and ability to apply the theories he was teaching to a practical online campaign.

“I gave her ideas on the most effective types of messaging and, sure enough, she tried some of these and they were quite successful,” Magee said.

Esfahani and her colleagues worked countless hours and made countless phone calls to find a country that would accept the child and administer the needed medication. The family eventually made its way to Belgium and through a U.S.-based nonprofit organization, the money made it to a hospital there that treated the child.

Esfahani said she is grateful to “the donors and supporters who invested their love, trust and energy in the campaign and had my back to the last stage of transferring the funds to the hospital.” The campaign received donations from people across the globe, many from the Persian community. Donors from 37 different countries made contributions.

Nearly 70 percent of children with type 1 spinal muscular atrophy don’t make it to age 2, but Esfahani said the boy is approaching his second birthday and all indications are that he is doing well.

Longing for America

When Esfahani was growing up, she often expressed a desire to move to the United States. She learned English and started teaching it to others in less than one year.

“I wanted to emigrate when I was 15 or 16, but then 9/11 happened and that was the period to that story,” she said.

She continued her education in Iran and eventually studied English in college, earning undergraduate and graduate degrees and serving as an adjunct lecturer. She met Vahid Ghomi, an Iranian graduate student at Ole Miss at the time, during one of his visits home. The two courted, their families met and they were married in July 2015.

Esfahani then successfully applied to attend UM as a graduate student seeking a second master’s degree, moved to the United States and joined Ghomi in Oxford.

Her passion for communication, social media and effective messaging pointed her in the direction of IMC, and she reached out to Magee to inquire about a degree program in marketing communication.

“She’s always been very proactive,” Magee said. “She always had a practical orientation of what needs to be done. She’s very focused and driven – very smart. She also has a lot of initiative.

“She’s not the kind of student who will just sit back, take notes and leave class. She always has some kind of commentary or some kind of observation.”

Esfahani quickly made a home in Oxford, she said.

“I was very lucky to have the chance to study here,” she said. “I really didn’t know what a wonderful place it was before I came, but now that I have gone to other cities and colleges, I realize how great a place it was.

“Everything is vibrant and lively. You see that people are really ‘living’ here at the university.”

The university’s Office of International Programs played a major role in her adjustment to life in the U.S., Esfahani said.

“They were very kind. I really felt at home with them,” she said, noting that the office would keep her up-to-date on events to attend and organizations to join. “I said, ‘This is not just academics; it’s going to be a life here.’”

Esfahani said she is struck by how welcoming the university was of international students.

“The one way I would describe Ole Miss is ‘all-inclusive,’” she said. “There’s academics, health, sports, fun, events and, to a great extent, they really pay attention to diversity.

“When I was talking to other international students, they never complain that at Ole Miss you are disregarded or people don’t know us. All of the events are for everybody.”

During her time at Ole Miss, Esfahani never missed an opportunity to exceed expectations. The IMC master’s program does not require a thesis, but she elected to complete one anyway. She worked on her thesis while also taking a full course load and running what equated to a full-time fundraising campaign.

As the money grew and the campaign gathered more traction, red tape began piling up. Dealing with international tax law, banking codes, international sanctions and organizing people and large amounts of money began to take a toll on Esfahani. But her support group in the IMC department and the Office of International Programs was there to help.

“She got a crash course in bureaucracy,” Magee said. “She was dealing with tax treaties and all kinds of things, but she was willing to say, ‘I don’t know,’ and find help from other people.”

Esfahani and other international students contribute to a more robust education experience for all students, Magee said.

“She has a perspective, coming from the Middle East, that always enriches a classroom,” he said.

Since moving to the U.S. in 2015, Esfahani’s only interaction with her family in Iran has been through social media and phone conversations. She talks to her parents daily and keeps them updated on her studies and life.

“I show them a lot (of pictures of Oxford),” she said. “My parents, like me, love cities with a lot of green with rain and nice people – calm, quiet – and Oxford is what they would like. I was sure if they were here, they would never feel depressed.”

Looking ahead

Esfahani completed her master’s degree in August 2018. She and Ghomi split time between Jackson and Cleveland, where he is an assistant professor at Delta State University. She works as a research analyst for WDBD Fox 40 in Jackson.

The couple often visits Oxford. When in town, Esfahani frequently visits the Oxford Community Garden, where she spent a great deal of time as a student.

“I was lucky to find the community garden,” she said. “Sometimes when I felt sad or bored, I would go do some gardening.”

Ole Miss left its mark on Esfahani, but Magee said he feels she left her mark on campus as well.

“It’s been a delight to work with her,” he said. “I think she’s made a valuable contribution to the program and to student life.”

The story was written by Justin Whitmore for University Communications. The photo is by Megan Wolfe of Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services. To learn more about the journalism or IMC programs, email jour-imc@olemiss.edu.