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University of Mississippi IMC professor featured on podcast about advertising industry

Posted on: February 7th, 2023 by ldrucker

Christ Sparks is featured on a cell phone with a microphone in the background.

Chris Canty Sparks, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media instructional associate professor of integrated marketing communications, was recently one of the featured guests on a podcast about the advertising industry.

Q. Can you tell me a little about the podcast?

A. The podcast is a part of a series of podcasts about breaking into the advertising industry called “Breaking and Entering” and is hosted by Geno Schnellenberger. Geno also works at Havas Agency in Chicago, which is an agency I like to follow. We have collaborated in the past to give some of my industrious students an opportunity to create a podcast re: the Advertising Industry.

This particular podcast is called ADJunct! Geno contacted me in December and asked if I would be a guest on the podcast. Although I am not an adjunct instructor, he wanted me to talk about my background in the industry, transitioning into higher education, and how I prepare my students to start their careers in advertising and marketing. The episode aired Jan. 12.

Links to podcast:

Link 1

Link 2

Chris Sparks is featured on a podcast.Q. What was the episode about that you were in and what did you talk about?

A. I talked about my background, how I became an instructor at the University of Mississippi, and how I prepare my students for careers in advertising and marketing.

Q. What do you hope listeners took away from the episode in which you spoke?

A. I hope listeners take away awareness of the IMC program at the University of Mississippi. I talked about my path to get to the University as an instructional associate professor of IMC. I also conveyed that I am student-centric and am passionate about helping students prepare for their careers. I ended with advice on pushing for creative ideas and how to think about a target audience.

Click one of the links above to listen to Sparks on the podcast.

University of Mississippi journalism student selected as SEC/CBS Sports Title IX Ambassador for championship game

Posted on: January 29th, 2023 by ldrucker
Loral Winn stands on a sports field.

Loral Winn stands on a sports field.

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student was recently selected as one of five SEC/CBS Sports Title IX Ambassadors for the SEC Football Championship game, a program that exposes young women to the inner workings of careers in sports journalism, media, and broadcasting.

We asked Loral Winn a few questions about herself and the opportunity before she participated in November and December.

The Dresden, Tennessee native has studied TV and video storytelling while minoring in Spanish. During her fifth year of athletic eligibility, she will work to earn her master’s degree in journalism.

And it’s also worth noting that the School of Journalism and New Media has added a sports journalism emphasis that will be available for incoming students beginning in the fall.

Q. Can you tell us a little about your background?

A. I run cross country and track here at Ole Miss, which is one of the main reasons I even began looking at the university as a potential future college. However, I fell in love with the campus and community on my official visit and was incredibly impressed by how top-tier the journalism program was at Ole Miss. I almost immediately knew it was the place I wanted to spend the next few years of my life as a student and athlete.

Q. For those who don’t understand what this opportunity is, can you explain it? How did you find out about it?

A. The Southeastern Conference (SEC) launched a celebration of Title IX in a campaign called “50 years of Title IX– Creating Opportunities” in February 2022. One of the campaign’s initiatives is the SEC’s partnership with CBS Sports to create a program called the Title IX Ambassadors. The SEC states that this program “was created to expose young women to the inner workings of careers in sports journalism, media, and broadcasting.”

I was fortunate enough with the help of Ravin Gilbert, our director of Social Responsibility and Engagement with the university’s Athletics Department, to be selected by the SEC as one of the five women who (traveled) to Atlanta, Georgia to cover the SEC Football Championship Nov. 30 – Dec. 3.

Ravin does a wonderful job of assisting every student athlete here at Ole Miss in finding exemplary internships and opportunities as well as jobs after graduation. She is exceptional at her position and has helped me to get my foot in the door with the SEC and in finding opportunities as a hopeful future sports broadcaster. I have been able to do some really neat things with her help.

I will be shadowing CBS producers, directors, on-air talent, operation leads and executives while being able to interact with and ask questions about their jobs and positions throughout the day when covering a championship game.

Q.  What did you hope to gain or take away from participating?

A. This is an incredibly unique opportunity for me to be able to meet and converse with individuals who work in television and sports broadcasting, which can be difficult to do as  a student. It is not often that you are given the chance to sit down with CBS Sports producers, directors, and broadcasters and pick their brains. I am most excited to learn from the people I shadow and to have an in-depth, up close look at what goes into covering a major sporting event.

I will spend several days in Atlanta, which means I will follow the same schedule that CBS on-air talent does as they interview coaches and players and prepare for covering the game well. I am truly so excited for the opportunity and plan to soak up all of the knowledge that I possibly can. This is a great stepping stone for the career that I desire to pursue after graduation as a sports reporter and broadcaster.

Fagans presents ‘Seeing the Unseen’ during SouthTalks event

Posted on: January 29th, 2023 by ldrucker
School of Journalism and New Media

Farley Hall. Photo by Clay Patrick.

The spring SouthTalks series kicked off at noon Wednesday (Jan. 25) in the Tupelo Room with “Seeing the Unseen,” presented by Michael Fagans, an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media. Fagans is also a photojournalist, author and documentary filmmaker.

The programming focus at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture for the 2022-23 academic year is “Race in the Classroom,” and the spring SouthTalks lectures follow that theme.

Historically, classrooms have functioned as both intensely local spaces and as broader political stages on which debates about equality, identity and access have played out – nowhere to greater effect than at the University of Mississippi, which last fall marked the 60th anniversary of the campus’ integration.

Click here to read the full story.

Daily Mississippian photo editor wins second place in Sports Action category of Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar contest

Posted on: January 4th, 2023 by ldrucker
HG Biggs in action photographing a sporting event.

HG Biggs in action photographing a sporting event. Submitted art. Photo by Thomas Graning.

The Daily Mississippian photo editor took home impressive honors in the Sports Action category of the Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar contest.

Jackson native Hannah Grace Biggs, 21, was named a second place winner competing against a pool of many professional photographers while attending the November event with Michael Fagans, a University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media assistant professor of journalism. Bigg’s winning photo was a shot of the women’s steeplechase taken at the SEC Track and Field Championships last spring.

“I was shocked that any of my work placed, because the majority of people who submit work for the competition are professional photojournalists,” Biggs said. “I was very honored because my work was placed alongside work by photographers for Getty Images and other news organizations.”

HG Biggs winning second place photo.

HG Biggs’ winning second place photo. Submitted art.

Biggs is a junior majoring in Chinese in the language flagship program and minoring in intelligence and security studies and chemistry. She is also an ambassador in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

She said she became involved in photography after seeing a working photographer “in the wild” at her little brothers’ T-ball games in the early 2010s.

“Somewhere on an old computer hard drive are awful photos taken through a rusty chain link fence at youth baseball fields in Jackson,” she said. “My mom was gifted the camera by her parents to take photos of myself and my brothers, but she was never happy with her photos. So, I picked up the camera around fourth grade and started shooting photos.”

When Biggs enrolled in the University of Mississippi, she thought she might get lost in the crowd, but she reached out to then DM Photo Editor Billy Scheurman who hired her as a staff photographer.

“Spring semester of my freshman year, Billy told me that he was leaving The DM for an internship with Athletics and that he wanted me to take over his position,” she said. “I was shocked, but of course, I accepted the job, and here we are.”

HG Biggs with a group of other sports photographers.

HG Biggs with a group of sports photographers. Submitted art. Photo is courtesy Randy J. and features the photographers who shot the Egg Bowl last year.

The university’s Student Media Center (SMC) is open to all majors on campus and students who have a passion for photography or video, writing or audio storytelling, social media, design or sales are all welcome to check it out.

“I like to think of the SMC as the place where many of our students find their people. Tucked away in Bishop Hall is this spot where a very diverse group of students comes together to express their creativity and to share news and information that matters to the community,” said Dr. Deb Wenger, associate dean in the School of Journalism and New Media. “I hope someone reading this will decide to check it out and be a part of this wonderful student experience.”

Biggs said she faced challenges during her sophomore year, but found comfort in a group of sports photographers who became her friends and mentors.

“I will never forget leaving the Tulane game that season at 2 a.m. with (photographers) Thomas Graning and Rogelio Solis,” she said. “Rogelio looked me straight in the eyes and told me, ‘You’re one of us now,’ and that he and the other photographers had my back, should I ever need them.

HG Biggs stands on the field.

HG Biggs stands on the field. Submitted art. Photo by Logan Kirkland.

“Before that fall, no one had ever explicitly told me I belonged somewhere before, and I truly believe I owe my life to the photographers I saw (almost) every Saturday in the media workroom under Vaught-Hemingway (or whichever stadium to which the football team traveled).”

Biggs said she has never been great at expressing emotions through words, but realized she could put all the love she has for people into her photography.

“Much of my work for The Daily Mississippian has been sports-related,” she said, “but, as a result, I have been contacted for freelance work for various departments at the university and to shoot senior portraits. I really enjoy the opportunities photography gives me to connect with people, even if I am anxious about first approaching people as a journalist. As Professor Fagans and others have told me, ‘The camera is just an excuse to talk to people.'”

The Atlanta conference was one of the most valuable experiences of her college career, Biggs said.

“I had the opportunity to listen to, speak with, and be critiqued by some of the most incredible photojournalists and photo editors currently working in the field,” she said.

They included Marcus Yam, “who is known for his work covering wildfires in California and abroad in Afghanistan,” Biggs said.

She also met Paul Kitagaki Jr., “who spent years finding, speaking with, and photographing survivors of the World War II Japanese internment camps in the U.S.”

HG Biggs in action photographing a sporting event.

HG Biggs in action photographing a sporting event. Submitted art. Photo by Logan Kirkland.

Biggs said portfolio critiques were helpful.

“While hearing critiques is often difficult, I did feel validated that I have chosen the right career path,” she said. “I have reached a point where I can take and want strong critiques, and the seminar was the ideal place to find people willing to do so. It means more to students than I can describe that there are people in the field willing to take the time out of their busy schedules to mentor us and critique our portfolios.”

Biggs said she came back to the University of Mississippi with enthusiasm.

“I returned to Oxford feeling revitalized to study because I know I have chosen a career path into which I am willing to pour all of the love and passion I can,” she said.

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

University of Mississippi professor’s photo featured on cover of Washington Post magazine

Posted on: December 28th, 2022 by ldrucker
An outside shot of Farley Hall

An outside shot of Farley Hall

Story of father’s unsolved lynching gets national spotlight through art

OXFORD, Miss. – As Dorothy Williams stood before a blank field holding the American flag that belonged to her father, Vanessa Charlot thought of her own connections to Williams’ story.

Vanessa Charlot

Vanessa Charlot

Charlot’s photo of Williams is receiving national notice after featuring as the cover image on the Nov. 27 edition of The Photo Issue of the Washington Post magazine.

Entitled, “The Real Americana,” the issue focuses on the variety and complexity of life in the United States.

“I was excited to be on the cover, but what really makes me excited is seeing these unresolved stories being told,” said the University of Mississippi assistant professor of journalism, whose work has been featured in The New York Times, Gucci, Vogue, Rolling Stone and Oprah Magazine, among others.

Read the full story here.

This story was written by Clara Turnage.

HELLO DALL·E​: University of Mississippi students use creative descriptions to generate realistic images and art with AI​

Posted on: December 14th, 2022 by ldrucker
Professor LaReeca Rucker entered the text "A person sitting at a computer using DALL-E 2 to create an illustration that is colorful modern art" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.
Professor LaReeca Rucker entered the text "A person sitting at a computer using DALL-E 2 to create an illustration that is colorful modern art" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.


University of Mississippi students use creative descriptions to generate realistic images and art with AI

Imagine coming up with an artistic idea, typing a few words into a search bar, and having a computer program automatically generate multiple variations of original artwork based on your conceptualization.

That is what DALL·E 2 OpenAI does. Just about anything you can envision and find the words to describe, the system can create a graphic visualization. The more specific you are, the better the results.

This semester, students in professor LaReeca Rucker’s Social Media in Society class experimented with DALL·E 2 when it was opened to the public. The name honors surrealist artist Salvador Dalí and the Pixar robot WALL·E.

“I really enjoyed playing on this website,” said student Miya Yuratich. “It is perfect for someone with a creative mind. I told my brother about it because he is an artist and is always drawing and painting. I thought it would be perfect for times when he knows what he wants to create, but can’t quite picture it.

“I also called my little sisters to show them, because they have wild imaginations, and DALL·E brought some of their visions to life. I looked up ‘cats swimming in a bowl of cereal while it is raining strawberries.’”


Student Miya Yuratich entered the words "Cats swimming in a bowl of cereal while it's raining strawberries" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.
Student Miya Yuratich entered the words "Cats swimming in a bowl of cereal while it's raining strawberries" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.

In January 2021, OpenAI introduced DALL·E followed by DALL·E 2 a year later. The AI system can create realistic images and art from a creative text description in natural language. It can combine concepts, attributes and styles and expand images beyond what’s in the original canvas, creating new compositions.

According to the DALL·E 2 website, the system has learned the relationship between images and the text used to describe them. Creators say they hope DALL·E 2 will empower people to express themselves creatively and understand how advanced AI systems see and understand our world.


Student McKenna Nolen typed in "Butterflies by the ocean" and DALL-E 2 created this image.
Student McKenna Nolen typed "Butterflies by the ocean" and DALL-E 2 created this image.

“After registering to use the DALL·E platform in 2021, I thought it would be something that might interest my students when it opened to the public this year,” Rucker said. “So I challenged them to use their creativity with DALL·E to type a description and see what the system creates. I think many were surprised at just how detailed the generated DALL·E illustration was.”

Student Emma Kate Davidson said it was cool to work with such a creative website.

“I looked up many different random things in the search bar, but my favorite was ‘crayon drawing of several cute colored monsters with ice cream bodies on dark blue paper,’” she said. “It was so cool to see that the website was able to accurately create such a specific picture, and I loved seeing all the different results that it came up with.

Student Emma Kate Davidson and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.
Student Emma Kate Davidson and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.

Student Jenna Karl said she challenged the system by coming up with the most ridiculous descriptions she could think of.

“There would be an image for it every time,” she said. “… I searched ‘dachshund wearing a pink dress outside.’ … I am amazed at the ability of this website to search through so much data so quickly and generate an image on the spot. I think it would be interesting to put in words describing a book and see what the site comes up with as the ‘book cover.’”


Student Jenna Karl entered the description "A dachshund wearing a pink dress and a crown outside" and DALL-E 2 created this image.
Student Jenna Karl entered the description "A dachshund wearing a pink dress and a crown outside" and DALL-E 2 created this image.

Student Ava Jahner said she got her friends involved with the site.

“I mostly searched things that had to do with the color pink and animals because pink is my favorite color right now,” she said. “I first searched ‘pink zebras shopping in Paris,’ and I found some super funny and cool photos.

“I then searched ‘flowers in a pink vase in Italy watercolor,’ and it was so pretty. These two were for sure my favorite. I loved this experiment, and I had so much fun playing with this website.”


Student Ava Jahner entered the description "Pink zebra shopping in Paris watercolor" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.
Student Ava Jahner entered the description "Pink zebra shopping in Paris watercolor" and DALL-E 2 created this illustration.

Rucker, who has an interest in emerging technologies, teaches a class that envisions the near future of technology, media and digital ethics.

“We’ve discussed the possible effects of advanced social media networks that could change our culture, patents for futuristic contacts that could record video, how augmented and virtual reality could eventually make it difficult for us to distinguish between truth and fiction, and other issues that may arise as technology advances,” she

“It’s important to remain tuned in to the new apps and websites that emerge and to think about how they can be used in multimedia storytelling.”

Student Anna Potts typed "Panda snowboarding eating ice cream" and DALL-E 2 produced this image.
Student Anna Potts typed "Panda snowboarding eating ice cream" and DALL-E 2 produced this image.

DALL·E produces original images. The Forbes article “AI And Creativity: Why OpenAI’s Latest Model Matters” says these are images that have never existed in the world nor in anyone’s imagination.

“These are not simple manipulations of existing images on the Internet—they are novel renderings, at times breathtaking in their cleverness and originality,” the article reads. “They are images that DALL·E’s human creators, in many cases, did not expect and could not have anticipated.”

The New Atlas article “Open AI’s DALL·E 2: A dream tool and existential threat to visual artists” reports that “given a high-quality prompt, DALL·E will generate dozens of options” in seconds, “each at a level of quality that would take a human photographer, painter, digital artist or illustrator hours to produce. It’s some kind of art director’s
dream; a smorgasbord of visual ideas in an instant, without having to pay creatives, models or location fees.”

It’s interesting to think of different ways DALL·E could be used. Some say a similar system could be helpful in product and graphic design, fashion and architecture. Could it be used to design logos, website templates, business cards, posters, brochures, book covers? Perhaps it could become an artist assistant or muse? The Forbes article says such a system could become a common “ideation partner and a source of inspiration.”

That means there are also fears that AI could replace creatives in their industries.

“I think that we are seeing many emerging platforms, such as DALL·E, ChatGPT (also part of OpenAI) and, a platform that automatically generates written content for marketers, that do things in seconds that it has taken people in our industries a lifetime to learn,” Rucker said. “Pondering the future of that can be concerning when we think about how the digital age has disrupted and transformed our industry in only a few years.

“But maybe these tools can work as companions instead of competition, and now is a good time to experiment with them to see if they have a place in our industry.”

Student Carsen Greensage typed "A snulit indoor lounge area with a pool with clear water and another pool with translucent pastel pink water next to a big window digital art" and DALL-E 2 created this image.
Student Carsen Greensage typed "A sunlit indoor lounge area with a pool with clear water and another pool with translucent pastel pink water next to a big window digital art" and DALL-E 2 created this image.

The DALL·E website reports that the company is also working to prevent the creation of harmful artistic generations. They’ve limited DALL·E 2’s ability to generate violent, hate, or adult images. They say they’ve also use advanced techniques to prevent photorealistic generations of real individuals’ faces, including those of public figures.

“I think this website is a great way to find images that you can think of, but not necessarily create,” said student Katie Sachfield. “I, for one, am a person who can come up with ideas and communicate them, but I cannot always make them myself.”

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professors examine the Jackson water crisis

Posted on: December 2nd, 2022 by ldrucker

The graphic features a quote about the Jackson water crisis and a water faucet.

It’s hard to imagine not having clean water to complete everyday tasks like eating, bathing, brushing your teeth and flushing toilets. To live without it would be unthinkable for many today.

But Jackson citizens endured these circumstances during the city’s water crisis this year, a system failure that left many unable to fulfill basic human needs and forced businesses to close, drawing attention and intervention from national news crews and government leaders.

A team of University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media professors and students decided it was important to investigate the water crisis. They traveled to the state capital this semester to examine the issue in-depth and give voice to Jackson residents who were suddenly trying to navigate life without safe water after the historically problematic water system was further damaged by flooding from the Pearl River.

Vanessa Charlot, assistant professor of creative multimedia; Mark Dolan, associate professor of journalism; and Michael Fagans, assistant professor of journalism led student reporting teams.

“I brought the idea to the class that we ‘throw the syllabus out the window’ and turn our attention to covering the water story, not as breaking news, but rather in-depth and comprehensive,” said Fagans. “It was a unanimous vote to cover this story.”

Dolan took a group of students from his entry-level media writing class.

“We went down to cover the crisis, in part, because it’s a huge, ongoing story about race and urban neglect,” he said. “The water crisis is a lens through which to consider so many social divisions in America. It’s startling to think about a state capital without drinkable water.”

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students interview Jackson residents about the water crisis.

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media students Xenia Minton, left, and Erin Foley interview Jackson residents about the water crisis.

Dolan said UM students wanted to explore how other students at Millsaps College and at Jackson State University faced this challenge.

“Were those students inclined to stay in Mississippi after their college years?” Dolan asked. “How did the water crisis underscore racial divisions in a mostly-Black city with mostly-white suburbs?

Dolan said he hopes they gained valuable journalism experience.

“I hope the students learned the value of reporting in the field, outside of the classroom, the experience of working as real reporters, and of creating content on a deadline,” he said.

Erin Foley, 19, is a sophomore studying journalism and integrated marketing communications (IMC), who traveled to Jackson to report on the water crisis. A native of the greater Boston area, she plans to work for a newspaper as a writer or designer.

“I wanted to cover this story because it was unlike anything I’ve seen before,” she said, “so I wanted to make sure it got the proper attention in the world of journalism.

“My most memorable moment was my interview. I loved learning more about her and understanding her unique perspective on the situation. I gained more confidence in my ability to report in a new environment.”

Bella Scutti, 20, a junior IMC major, also reported on the water crisis. The Pea Ridge, Arkansas native hopes to use her public relations specialization to work at a PR agency someday.

“When Dr. Dolan presented the opportunity to travel to Jackson and write these stories, I was immediately intrigued,” she said. “As someone not from this area, I did not understand the severity of the water crisis, but also how common it can be around here.”

Scutti said she enjoyed hearing about the various students’ personal and academic lives.

“We were able to learn a lot about the students at Millsaps, while simultaneously learning about the water crisis,” she said. “It was encouraging to hear how the school community came together and supported each other throughout the crisis and school closures. Professors were opening up their homes and provided meals to those in need.”

Fagans said the story is important because of the complexity, the intersection of issues that affect all of Mississippi, and it was an opportunity to report in-person.

“I am hoping that they (students) get a better sense of what it is like to report on an issue like this and get to know the community (if that is possible),” he said. “I am hoping that they begin learning how news events do not happen in a vacuum, rather they are a result of politics, the environment, government and how people interact (or don’t) in our state.

“I have also been fortunate to see how students respond and learn from in-person reporting and would like to make sure that we continue to provide opportunities like this in the future.”

Come learn with us this spring by enrolling in our special topics courses

Posted on: December 2nd, 2022 by ldrucker

The graphic features spring creatures and reads Special Topics Courses for Spring.

This spring, you can learn about the science of narrative intelligence, get in the game of sports writing, study LGBTQ+ history through a course that incorporates the F/X television show “Pose,” and become an arts and culture critic.

The University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media is offering several new special topics courses for spring that you may be interested in learning more about. Click the link to download a .pdf of the courses or read about them below.

A photo of the .pdf file featuring the Spring Special Topics classes.


The current media environment has led to an unprecedented number of conversations shared on traditional, social and digital media channels told by anyone on the internet. These conversations become stories that influence public perception of brands, policies and issues. Learning how to tell and shape these stories is essential to becoming a communications expert.

This experiential learning course is about the art and science of narrative intelligence. It introduces how information online becomes a narrative. Students will learn to use cutting-edge tools to engage with the information ecosystem, find stories and the people creating them, and use the information to develop strategies for organizations to engage and shape the narrative around key issues as they are unfolding. This course can be used as credit toward the social media specialization. Jason Cain, Ph.D.


Perspectives on issues, such as social media, new media, international mass communication, mass media and society, journalism ethics, diversity, etc. Advance your knowledge of sports writing to produce accurate, clear and concise coverage of games, people and moments in sports. Michael Katz


This course uses the F/X television show “Pose” to investigate LGBTQ+ history and media representations in the 1980s through the present. Anchoring episodes will contextualize LGBTQ+ history, including drag balls, HIV/AIDS, Stonewall and queer activism. Alysia Steele


“Freedom Farm Revisited” will explore the rise and fall of Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farm Cooperative and its relevance to today’s Mississippi. This 3-hour depth reporting class will immerse students in Mississippi’s history, issues of race, inequality, food economics, public policy and systemic power struggles. The course offers perspectives on issues such as social media, new media, international mass communication, mass media and society, journalism ethics, diversity, etc. Limited to students in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. R.J. Morgan, Ph.D.


Learn how to “cover” cultural works as more than just commercial products. In this class, you’ll learn about professional practices, ethics and standards for writing about the arts and pop culture. Cynthia Joyce

This story was written and created by LaReeca Rucker.

Veteran journalist leads special Honors College class exploring the university and state 60 years after Meredith’s enrollment

Posted on: November 16th, 2022 by ldrucker
Leslie-Burl McLemore speaks to students in the Honors class.

Leslie-Burl McLemore speaks to students in the Honors class.

University of Mississippi (UM) students are being challenged to delve deeper into complex issues about the university and state thanks to a special Honors College class designed to explore important topics 60 years after James Meredith’s enrollment as UM’s first Black student.

“I would describe this class as an open dialogue about the past, present, and future of both the university and the state as a whole,” said McKenzie Cox, a journalism and political science double-major from Concord, North Carolina, who is planning to pursue a career in broadcast news reporting and policy analysis.

“I enjoyed learning about the history of the university and the events of 1962, but hearing about modern policy issues in the state, including the fight for Medicaid expansion, the Jackson water crisis, and the welfare scandal is equally impactful and relevant.”

In 2012, UM’s Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College offered a course called “Opening a Closed Society” that coincided with the 50th anniversary of James Meredith’s 1962 enrollment. It examined Mississippi’s segregationist era, the civil rights movement, the impact of the Meredith case, and strides UM had made to increase diversity.

This fall, the Honors College offered HONORS 399: The University and the State, 60 Years After the Crisis. Veteran journalist Curtis Wilkie, who retired from teaching at the UM School of Journalism and New Media in 2020, returned to teach the class.

His leadership was fitting because Wilkie was a senior at UM during the events of 1962 that led to a deadly riot on campus and the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to ensure Meredith’s enrollment.

Students in the class have been exploring Mississippi’s past and present. Topics have included brain drain, race relations, and legislative initiatives, as well as government policies that could impact future generations.

The class has also welcomed guest speakers. Cox said having Mississippi Today journalists Adam Ganucheau and Anna Wolfe speak about the welfare scandal and the Jackson water crisis was special.

McKenzie Cox, a journalism and political science double-major from Concord, North Carolina.

McKenzie Cox, a journalism and political science double-major from Concord, North Carolina.

“As a journalism major, I was, of course, excited to hear about their reporting,” Cox said, “but I learned even more about how important it is to ask the questions that matter in order to make sure that people in our state have access to critical information needed to make decisions for themselves…

“When I walk around campus, I can now see the history and key events that have taken place all around me that shaped the future of our nation.”

In a recent class, guest speaker Leslie-Burl McLemore, 82, took a seat at the head of a long table of students with Wilkie at the other end and shared observations about the state.

McLemore, a civil rights activist, educator, and politician, once served as a field secretary for the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee and as vice-chairman for the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, according to his bio published on the Midwestern State University Texas website.

Originally from Walls, Mississippi, McLemore earned a Bachelor’s in Social Science and Economics from Rust College, a Master’s in Political Science from Atlanta University, and a Ph.D. in Government from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the bio reads.

“I made a decision a long time ago when I was away in graduate school and living in other places that I would come back to Mississippi, and I would remain in Mississippi because I wanted to see Mississippi change,” said McLemore. “That is a strange kind of loyalty in a place where you were treated as a second-class citizen … But on the other hand, you still have this loyalty – you want to see changes made. We have come a very long way, there is no question about it, as a state, we have, in spite of the difficulties …”

Before teaching at Southern University and Jackson State University, McLemore completed postdoc work at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University, according to his bio. At Jackson State, he became the founding chair/professor of political science and dean of the graduate school.

“We have more Black elected officials in Mississippi than any state in the union, but it reflects the population that we have,” he said. “But most of us served in capacities where we really don’t influence basic decision-making because all of the statewide elected officials now are Republicans. And that is going to change over time, but it is going to take a while. It’s going to take greater participation by African Americans …”

You can find a list of those who have been elected to statewide offices in Mississippi here.

McLemore helped found the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy in 1997. He also served as a member of the Jackson City Council for a decade and as interim president of Jackson State University.

“We have made incredible progress,” McLemore said. “We have freedoms that people don’t have in so many other countries. And I fought too hard and put my life on the line years and years ago to see us turn back the clock. I don’t want to see that happen, and I hope you don’t either.

“So get out there and work your butts off. Register to vote. Urge your roommates to vote and become active when you graduate from Ole Miss with this great degree. Go to law school. Go to graduate school. Get married. Build a picket fence. Be involved in your community, whether it is in Montana or Mississippi.”

Kat Moorman, 19, is enrolled in the class. A biology major with a minor in environmental studies, Moorman is passionate about wildlife conservation, particularly amphibians, and would like to attend graduate school to study environmental conservation with an emphasis on herpetology.

Kat Moorman, 19, is majoring in biology with a minor in environmental studies.

Kat Moorman, 19, is majoring in biology with a minor in environmental studies.

“Hearing the history of the University of Mississippi and its issues with the integration crisis from someone who was present during this time has been incredibly rewarding,” she said. “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything we’ve discussed so far, but one of the most complex and pressing issues we have discussed is that of ‘brain drain’ in Mississippi.

“Seeing that I, myself, have strong opinions on the topic, it has been fruitful for me to hear others’ educated opinions on the matter. That statement applies to every topic we have discussed as a class.”

Moorman said she was aware of the basic history surrounding the university, but she has enjoyed studying issues more in-depth.

“While these topics can be controversial, knowing what is going on in our state government is something I also believe is critical in order to better understand national and even worldwide issues.”

Hannah Harris, 21, is a senior accountancy major from New Albany who plans to complete her master’s degree in taxation at UM, then work in tax accounting for a firm.

“This class has opened my eyes to the political corruption within this state, and how many of our government officials refuse to embrace the progress that this state so desperately needs,” she said. “Before taking this class, I was not very ‘in the know’ about politics, especially Mississippi politics, but now, I feel as though I am more knowledgeable on why things are the way they are in Mississippi and at Ole Miss.”

Harris said she is intrigued to learn more.

“I am encouraged to look more deeply into the issues amongst this state and to root for change,” she said. “As we live 60 years after the integration of Ole Miss and James Meredith, it is evident that progress has definitely been made, but there is, without a doubt, a lot more work to do in bettering our state and school.”

This story was written by LaReeca Rucker.

Check out our lineup of Winter Intersession classes

Posted on: November 9th, 2022 by ldrucker

The graphic features a snowman and a list of Winter Intersession classes at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media.


If you are thinking about getting ahead with your coursework by taking a short Winter Intersession class, the School of Journalism and New Media offers many choices.

Whether you are interested in learning more about integrated marketing communication, account planning or collegiate sports promotion, we’ve got you covered. You can also find IMC classes about internet marketing and public relations. Students can take a journalism Winter Writing Retreat while learning about Living in a Media World, or they can study social media’s impact on our society.

It’s time to begin registering for Winter Intersession classes if you haven’t already.

Click this link to download a .pdf featuring the class descriptions or read the descriptions below.


A photo of the .pdf file featuring the Winter Intersession classes.

They include:


Introduces the basic disciplines of IMC: advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, database marketing, internet marketing communication, and relationship marketing. R.J. Morgan, Ph.D.


Presents principles and practices of the account planning process to develop skills, insights and strategies to use in different methods of influencing consumers’ behavior. Christina Sparks


A detailed survey of marketing communication online applications, e.g., the website as a basic marketing platform, search engine optimization, digital promotions, email and social media marketing. Claire Nelson Hicks


This course will cover emerging issues or specialized content about integrated marketing communications. If you dream of a career in the sports industry, this class is your springboard to understanding the opportunities in college and professional sports taught by a sports industry executive with 35 years of experience representing athletes, professional leagues, and elite corporate sponsors, such as Nike, Gatorade, and Academy Sports. You will meet virtually or in person with Ole Miss Athletics executives, agents for stars like Peyton Manning and Tiger Woods, college football insiders like Brett McMurphy, social media leaders in these fields. Scott Allen Pederson


An introduction to the skills, theories, techniques, ethics, and goals of the public relations professions, emphasizing the role and importance of journalism skills in public relations communications. This class will include an industry-focused digital text that covers the latest trends and practices in public relations. The course bundle will also include a Mimic Public Relations simulation offering hands-on experiences with professional public relations activities in a fictitious scenario in which they take on the role of account manager. Deborah Woodrick Hall


Theory and practice of qualitative and quantitative research applied to multiple marketing and communications challenges and tasks. Robert Magee, Ph.D.


Practical analysis and development of specialized communication approaches to achieve specific objectives on behalf of a client. Application of public relations techniques inside and outside the classroom. The course includes a remote internship component so students can complete it from home. This is critical for graduating seniors who need internship experiences to add to their resumes, or perhaps only one internship. Employers are saying that the most successful job candidates from college have had multiple internships. This is a great way to knock that out over two weeks. Students will also be working on comprehensive individual class project/work samples for their digital portfolios. Amanda Sams Bradshaw, Ph.D.


Using the book “Living in a Media World,” students will participate in a short Winter Writing Retreat. They will learn about the history of media, envision the future of it, and will be asked to complete writing assignments that explore how they influence and are influenced by our media world. While the course is usually a semester long, students can complete it quickly during the intersession. It is an introduction to various facets of communication, from news media to marketing, advertising, public relations, and social media. LaReeca Rucker


Growth and development of the mass media and their role as participants in and chroniclers of U.S. history. Attention to ideological, political, technological, economic, and cultural factors. Media History (Jour 301) seeks to answer two pivotal questions relating to journalism history based on the thought that journalism is vital to a democracy. These questions are (1) What is the role of the media in the social, political and cultural activities of a community?  This includes the historical and legacy media, the Black press, ethnic press and special interest media. (2). What has been the impact of the development of new technologies including the printing press, radio, television, digital platforms and social media. We will answer these questions through readings, short research essays, class discussions and a final project. No book is required. Kathleen Wickham, Ed.D.


This class takes a critical approach to understanding the relationship between society and social media. The course will explore the development of social media by situating them in broader social, political, historical, and business contexts. We will examine how the emergence of social media technologies are discussed, the ethical and legal challenges surrounding these technologies, and how social media affect various aspects of our lives, including our social relationships, identity, privacy and work. Brad Conaway

This story was written and created by LaReeca Rucker.