skip to main content
School of Journalism and New Media
University of Mississippi

Posts Tagged ‘covid-19’

Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

Posted on: July 25th, 2022 by ldrucker

It has been two years since Ole Miss students were sent home, in-person classes were moved online and COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. There have been challenging moments, deep sorrow over lives lost and moments of social disconnect. Nonetheless, communities have come together in remarkable ways to learn how to adapt and reconnect.

Integrating technology into classrooms has provided opportunities for students to learn beyond the traditional classroom setting and instantly connect with anyone, anywhere and at any time. The enhanced learning environment inside and outside the classroom has provided interactive experiences and intentional education. The combination of in-person, virtual, and hybrid appears to be conditioning students for the technologically-dependent world they live in today. The current student generation should be better equipped, more resilient, and more prepared to face whatever communication challenges and experiences should come because of the skills learned by communicating online.

Video conferencing, for example, has served a variety of purposes and enhanced learning because people have been able to virtually connect from across the globe with their peers, co-workers, and family members. Students meet inspiring speakers from their field on a Zoom call that they may not otherwise have had the chance to meet if they were in a traditional, everyday classroom setting. Throughout the school year, many professors, club leaders and organizations invite alumni and guest speakers to speak on Zoom.

Jacqueline Cole is a junior integrated marketing communications major from Memphis, who enrolled at Ole Miss in Fall 2019. Cole reflected and compared her experiences before and through the pandemic.

The graphic reads: Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

The graphic reads: Learning Behind the Mask: Communities come together in remarkable ways to learn and adapt through COVID-19

“We didn’t video-conference in our classes or anything before the pandemic,” Cole said. “But now, it’s a regular thing that I look forward to in many of my classes and clubs. Last semester, we had an influencer reach out to my internet marketing class. The influencer, Sara Caroline Bridgers, actually went to Ole Miss. She now lives in Hawaii, and we were able to talk to her about how she became an influencer, how she makes money, and how to promote a self-brand.”

Remote opportunities have also provided many options for students in terms of learning and future possibilities for flexibility in the workforce. It has been to the advantage of students to learn more about the latest opportunities that have emerged in the past few years.

“I can go beyond what I have always known because I have the idea now that you can work remotely from everywhere. So, I don’t feel like I have to be stuck in one city,” Cole said. “I could definitely move around and have the opportunity to work for the same company, and my life wouldn’t be affected because I had to move to a different location for another job. I feel like this [opportunity] has definitely opened up since COVID.”

Since returning to campus this school year, Cole has noticed the empathy of her professors. She feels like her health is a priority. When Cole has to miss class for being sick, she knows she can rely on her professors to work with her outside of class to make up her work. She feels less pressured to constantly show up for class when she is not feeling well.

“The teachers have become more understanding,” Cole said. “I have noticed that the teachers take more time and are a lot more caring about out-of-class circumstances. When students are sick, Zoom options for students make things healthier, especially for someone who gets sick all the time. I never feel like I’m missing something anymore.”

As the world is evolving at an extremely fast technological pace, The University of Mississippi is growing with it. The University has employed several initiatives to help students continue to learn and prevent learning gaps.

“I have been able to connect with people despite the literal communication gaps,” Cole said. “I think the pandemic has helped the world, as a whole, communicate.”

Students can pursue and balance their passions and hobbies with their academics when flexibility is built in by a remote schedule. Combining traditional and virtual procedures where necessary, timely, and convenient helps the day-to-day tasks flow more smoothly. The developments from the past few years, such as online advising, virtual tours and virtual speakers, should remain because they are efficient and informative.

Dawson Wilson is a senior majoring in integrated marketing communications from Ocean Springs. He is the current director of photography for UM Square Magazine and was the 2020-2021 photo editor for The Ole Miss yearbook. Wilson also shoots freelance photography.

“Ever since COVID hit two years ago, I have learned just how much better of a learner I am when I take online and pace-yourself classes,” Wilson said. “I am a photographer, so this gave me leeway to really hone in on my craft while also being able to do school on my own time. I ended up finding the perfect balance of work, school, and play.”

The novelty of the technology and circumstances at hand proves there is no true expert in the room–or on the Zoom. However, this is how and where great ideas can be born and developed. Students are navigating, growing, and learning during a highly confusing time when much of the world is trying to do the same.

“I feel like going through all of this and knowing what I know now, the basic message that I have learned is just to live your life,” Wilson said. “If you don’t do it, your mind will eat away at you with the ‘what-ifs,’ but if you do it and don’t like it, then you have the ‘well, at least I tried it’ mindset.”

Wilson went on to say, “I think that whenever something major like this happens, technology will always advance to make things easier for us. As much as I think I remember the internet being super popular before the pandemic, it, no doubt, got much more popular during and after COVID. A big thing that people learned is how easy it is to find inspiration and a passion, while also being able to monetize that passion. At the beginning of the pandemic, when people were making small businesses in their homes with their stimulus checks, they realized how much the internet could open the world to everyone.”

The University of Mississippi PRSSA chapter members.

The University of Mississippi PRSSA chapter members in masks.

The world is more than what students have known thus far, in terms of location or opportunity. With the world becoming more technologically advanced, each generation must refine their online communication skills. Integrating technology into the classroom has helped college students navigate the complexities of communicating professionally and socially.

“I was literally blown away when Kara Brand, who worked at Vogue, told us her story in our Square Magazine virtual meeting one day,” Wilson said. “The story was that she had graduated from Ole Miss and decided to move to New York. She worked for the MET Museum, where she worked the MET Gala annually.

“One year, she met the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, and she was offered a job on the spot. From there, she moved to L.A. to work for Teen Vogue, where she eventually ended up landing a job at Vogue in New York City. That is the short story, but I was so fascinated by her and her luck. I definitely do not think we would have gotten to hear from her if we had not had the pandemic.”

Elena Ossoski is a sophomore pursuing degrees in education and integrated marketing communications with an emphasis in public relations. Ossoski currently serves as editor-in-chief of UM Square Magazine, where she works with a team of directors to lead the staff. The staff worked together to publish the first volume of the student-run fashion magazine during the pandemic.

The pandemic provided an opportunity for reflection, outreach, and creativity for Ossoski and the magazine staff. Since UM Square Magazine posts weekly content online, including social media and blog posts, the team members could still contribute to story-telling, despite obstacles put in place by the pandemic.

“I’ve been able to form connections and relationships with people through social media and email, whether they are professional or friendships, even with people I haven’t met in person,” Ossoski said. “I would reach out to alumni, fellow students, and just people I thought were cool. Since it was during the pandemic, most people I interviewed I haven’t met in person. I would form relationships and share the stories through Square.”

“It has been very rewarding,” Ossoski said.

Social media became a direct reflection of what people were craving during the pandemic. Society had been missing out on normalcy: students wanted to know what everyone else was doing daily, so students constantly watched everyone post about it online. Students longed to be with each other.

“There’s so much knowledge that you can share from one person to another,” Ossoski said. “You can share someone’s life experiences, what they did that day, what they did at school, what they choose to wear each day–it’s a very intimate way to get to know somebody–and it also happened during the pandemic, when we also weren’t able to meet face-to-face, so it was just nice to hear about how other people lived their lives and share about these experiences on social media and on the blog. It just gave more insight to life in general.”

Social media and blogs became an outlet to get to know each other. Students desire human connection. Sometimes, you need that “push” from someone who has done something slightly scary before you; deep down, you know it will be okay, but when you hear a story from an inspiring individual who has “made it,” it motivates you. Social media provided that extra level of connection during that time of disconnection that allowed our generation to reach out instantly and take that leap of faith that students otherwise may not have been brave enough to take.

This story was written by By Haley Clift.

To read more stories from The Review:

To learn more about our programs:

To follow our school on social media @umjourimc:

Apply now:


The graphic features a student sitting at TV monitors and reads: Turn Your Dreams Into Reality.


Registration is underway for J361 ‘Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media’ summer class

Posted on: May 5th, 2020 by ldrucker

Registration is underway for a class the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media will be offering online during the second summer session called J361 “Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media.” If you’re a fan of either show, you may enjoy studying them from an academic viewpoint while envisioning the future of media and  technology.

“Black Mirror” is a British science fiction Netflix anthology series set in the near future that explores the potentially dark consequences of technology and social media. Each episode has a different cast with a unique story and, like most science fiction, it offers a speculative warning about what could happen if we lose control and allow technology to control us.

Black Mirror


The show, created by Charlie Brooker, was first broadcast on British television in 2011. It is now a Netflix original series, and some have called it a modern day “Twilight Zone.” Recognizing its potential for the discussion of modern and future media, some colleges and universities across the country have incorporated “Black Mirror” into their journalism and communications classes.

“The Twilight Zone,” which ran on CBS for five seasons from 1959 to 1964 and had several revivals, likely needs no description unless you just moved to Earth.

Professor LaReeca Rucker will teach the “Black Mirror, The Twilight Zone and Media” class. She encourages “Black Mirror” and “Twilight Zone” fans to register and enter a new dimension. Read the class Q & A below to learn more.

Q. Why were you inspired to create a class inspired by “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone?”

A. After watching all the episodes of both series, I thought many of them tapped into important issues happening in our society regarding media and technology, offering a visionary warning about scenarios we could face if we aren’t careful. The episodes offer near future visions about issues involving social media, cyber security, cyber crime, digital privacy, digital voyeurism; technological inventions like drones, digital contacts and self-driving cars; and digital disconnection. Many of these scenarios are already happening in our world. We read about them daily in news stories. From city governments that become targets of ransomware attacks, to people who film crimes and accidents on their cell phones to share on social media rather than intervening and helping victims. And our world is very much influenced by social media. You’ll see eerie near future visions of this in “Black Mirror.”

LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker

Q. Is “Black Mirror” used by others in education?

A.Black Mirror” has been used by many people from different fields of study. If you take a look at some of the academic journal articles that have been written about the series, you’ll find papers written by experts in the fields of media and communication, sociology, science, technology, criminal justice, law, art, music, and literature, among others. Some papers discuss technological surveillance and privacy issues; the future of tech products, such as wearables; artificial intelligence; cultural issues, such as racial inequalities; and other philosophical topics that blend technology and spirituality.

Q. Are we living in a “Black Mirror” moment?

A. Yes. Some might say that we are currently living in a “Black Mirror” moment. We are on the verge of a situation that could go either way depending on how we respond now and in the future. If we seemingly resolve the current COVID-19 situation, some scientists have said it’s only a matter of time before another strain of this virus or another emerges to cause another pandemic. This is largely due to how we, as citizens of the planet, are handling many things, including negligently destroying forests and animal ecosystems, selling wild animals in wet markets, and factory farming, writers and scientists have said. These are the things that have led to viral spillovers. Authors and filmmakers have been warning us about this since 2011 in books like “Spillover” and movies like “Contagion,” and we weren’t prepared.

Today, when anything happens, it is amplified by technology. So one of the things we’ve seen during this crisis is an abundance of information. But much of that information has been conflicting, and it seems to indicate what can already be presumed – we don’t exactly know what’s happening or how this is going to turn out – but we have new information about it every second of the day.

There are also thoughts by some that “the media,” which for some includes everyone with a social media account these days, is influencing the events. I believe we – everyone on social media – are collectively influencing the response to this situation by voicing our opinions, and that is an interesting and somewhat disturbing thing to think about – the power we now have with social media to influence situations that we didn’t have in the past. You will see this scenario happening in several episodes of “Black Mirror.”

Q. Why is “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone” educational? What can we learn from it?

A. “Black Mirror” has been called a modern version of “The Twilight Zone.” We’ll also be watching episodes of “The Twilight Zone” in this class. Rod Serling, the narrator of the show, was a brilliant writer with a heart for social justice. That comes through in many of his pieces that offer dystopian visions of society. Remember the iconic “Eye of the Beholder” episode with native Southerner Donna Douglas (of “The Beverly Hillbillies”) who just wants to look normal like everyone else, so she endures many operations to look like other members of her society, but ultimately does not succeed in her transformation, and she is devastated?

In the end, the audience sees that she looks like a model, but she has been having multiple operations to look like the “normal” people of her world with their distorted, frightening faces who live in a place ruled by a dictator. This is just one example of a “Twilight Zone” episode set in a dystopian world void of freedom and individuality. And what better way to talk about journalism, the First Amendment, the Constitution, and American freedoms than to contrast these privileges with fictional and real life examples of modern day government dystopias in which citizens have none of the freedoms that we as Americans enjoy.

Q. What can science fiction teach us about our society?

A. Anything that offers a prophetic warning can teach us things to avoid. In addition to offering warnings about our culture and society, there is a business angle that could be beneficial to companies. Futurism is a business concept that uses science fiction and forward thinking to predict long-term strategies and outcomes for companies. Some major companies have brought in teams of science fiction writers who can use their research and writing skills to predict what lies ahead for that company. This may help them make profitable decisions and avoid future crises that company leaders haven’t thought about. None of us can predict the future, but we can make smarter decisions with research, knowledge and innovation.

Class Description

Recognizing the show’s potential as a discussion starter about modern and future media, students will watch specific episodes of “Black Mirror” and think critically about the program. Through class discussions and writing exercises, they will envision the future of social media and technology. Some selected content will be hosted on a Black Mirror Project website.

This mind-bending class will also analyze topical developments and news stories related to the impact of social media on society. Students will read academic articles that have been written about “Black Mirror” and “The Twilight Zone.” Other science and speculative fiction movies and television shows will be examined. We’ll speculate about what the future holds, good and bad, with media and technology. And we’ll discuss what we can learn about journalism and a free society from science fiction visions of dystopias.

How will the class be taught?

Students who take this class will receive daily lesson plans on Blackboard with work they should complete before the following day. They may be asked to give short video presentations via Zoom, or to upload a video to YouTube so that other students can view their presentations.

We also plan to have weekly, state- and nationally-recognized speakers who can share their thoughts on the media and technology topics we discuss that will be broadcast in an optional live Zoom meeting or via video. Students will be asked to complete some writing projects that could be featured on our “Black Mirror” website:

They will be asked to engage in discussions in our Blackboard Discussion Forum with their classmates. They will be watching episodes of “Black Mirror” and “The Twlight Zone” on  Netflix (so they need a temporary subscription) throughout the course. We’ll also use social media platforms, such as Twitter, to communicate on some assignments. And we will (optionally) explore virtual reality, so it might be a good idea to purchase some inexpensive ($10 or less) VR glasses.

Harvard Political Review recently published the article Primetime Paranoia that mentions Rucker’s “Black Mirror” Project. The article explores “Black Mirror” and modern anxiety. You can read the story here:

You can also read student stories on The Black Mirror Project website at

Those interested in learning more about the class may register or email Rucker.



Column: COVID-19 experience showed me challenges and rewards of being an out-of-state student

Posted on: April 29th, 2020 by ldrucker

For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to attend college out of state. I never quite knew where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, but I knew I wanted to leave my small Texas town.

Ole Miss was not my first choice when it came to picking a school. But, after a lot of deliberation between my mom and me, it seemed like the best fit without having to go too terribly far. By the time I had accepted my admission, I was starting my second semester as a senior in high school. As much as I loved the friends I grew up with, I was ready to see new things.

So, I graduated high school and headed west through New Orleans in August. My slate was clean, and I was scared, but ready to start four more years of school in a state I had never been to prior to my tour of the campus.

What unfolded in front of me the next three months of my fall semester and beyond was everything I wanted and never expected. I made friends with people I would never have back home. I had the ability to reinvent and find myself.  I joined the same sorority my mom was in and joined The Daily Mississippian as a designer. I focused on getting involved in these two groups as well as my grades and never looked back.

Katelyn Kimberlin

Katelyn Kimberlin, second from left, and friends.

Now, I’ve returned to the hometown I wanted to leave so much with a week’s worth of clothes, my computer, and books I brought home when I traveled for spring break. My dorm is still as I left it when I departed for the Memphis Airport on a Friday, not realizing that I wouldn’t see any of my belongings for months on end.

I was fortunate enough to trust my gut feeling to bring my computer and some of my work back with me, but many important belongings are still locked in my dorm. While I was not able to retrieve some of the items I needed when the dorms reopened, my mom was fortunate enough to drive my car from Memphis before the parking charges got too high.

Transitioning to remote learning has made me realize, like many others, I take a lot for granted. I am now almost completely reduced to my house unless I’m running essential errands for my mom. I can’t see hometown friends, go to the beach, or even go see a movie with my family.

Daily Mississippian

Daily Mississippian

I won’t design another front page until next semester, and the only reason to blame my horrible sleeping schedule on is myself. All of my college friends are up to a 23-hour drive away from me, instead of being just next door or two floors up.

I am very fortunate that I have a home to socially distance in and a functioning computer and wifi, but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss the university I’ve put so much time and effort into just to be told I won’t go back for another four months.

I know for a fact that many other students, including many of my friends, feel similar to me when I say it hasn’t been easy relocating yourself in a matter of a week. I had a coworker at The Daily Mississippian relocate back to her family in Japan. Out of all of my close friends, only one of them is a feasible driving distance from campus.

Talking to one of my hometown friends, she was shocked about how well I seemed to be taking the whole situation. I told her it was simply part of the deal of being an out-of-state student.

This conversation shocked me a little, but it made me fully realize what it meant to be a student attending a university outside of your home state. You move to the university of your choice, almost completely clean out your childhood room and leave many of the comforts you grew up knowing behind.

Family will always be there for football games and parents weekends, but you are forced to leave many of your friends and mentors behind for a chance to experience something new. The long flights and empty campuses when everyone leaves for a long weekend aren’t for everyone, but that also just comes with choosing to go out of state.

Despite this, I know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Many might think that since I’m now spending my days in Texas instead of Mississippi, I have put my freshman experience “out of sight, out of mind” by now.

But some of the free time I have gotten since I have been home has made me realize that while there’s a lot of trouble that comes with being an out-of-state student, there’s a lot of great opportunities that come with it, too.

Katelyn Kimberlin is a designer for The Daily Mississippian. For more information about our programs, email 

How University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student journalists cover the pandemic

Posted on: April 27th, 2020 by ldrucker

How does journalism and integrated marketing communication education change in the midst of a pandemic? Here’s a look at how our faculty and students took on the challenge.


Coronavirus reporter illustrration

Anna Grace Usery, an instructor of journalism and integrated marketing communications who is the editor-in-chief of, said the Hotty Toddy News interns and her IMC 390 Advanced Writing students found new and innovative ways to tell community stories during this time.

“I’ve got students focusing on how local pastors are strengthening their faith by connecting with congregants who they can’t even see,” she said. “One intern is writing a really positive story about the abundance of fresh, local vegetables we’re going to have this summer and how to support farmers.

Anna Grace Usery

Anna Grace Usery

Usery said she thinks it’s fascinating that, in conjunction with students, teachers are discovering new ways to facilitate deep human connections.

“I’ve always taught that phone calls and email interviews should be last resort situations because we know that face-to-face interactions are the lifeblood of community journalism,” she said, “but those new media aspects are integral to storytellers during the quarantine. How do we make those deep connections that embody face-to-face interactions?

“You humanize those stories. You empathize. You give truthful representations of what people are feeling and facing. It’s so exciting to hear interns come back after they’ve researched, written and edited to say they’ve found deeper context to an issue because they found passionate people behind it. Then they become passionate about it. It’s a cycle you hope to inspire in young storytellers.”

Students in Interim Dean Debora Wenger’s J480 Advanced Video Newsgathering class held Google Meet news conferences with newsmakers, including the local school superintendent, the head of University Communications, and the head of communications for UM Athletics.

“They’ve been using FaceTime and other tools to get the people side of the story, i.e. the parent now homeschooling, the student wondering about refunds, and the spring athlete mourning their lost season,” Wenger said. “They also just recently wrapped up an assignment using an animation tool that allows you to easily illustrate concepts, like how to wear a mask properly or whether wearing gloves is a good idea. They’ve been doing amazing work – figuring out new tech and tools and, for the most part, cheerfully getting it all done.”

Graduate students in Wenger’s J610 Multimedia II class had been working on a semester-long project related to hunger in Mississippi when the campus closed.

“Much of their reporting was already done, so they are updating their stories in light of COVID-19, using an audio streaming service to interview their original sources,” Wenger said, “and then we’ll embed these episodes into the Feeding Mississippi website we’re creating. They have been a good team — working with and supporting each other.”

Wenger said one thing that’s essential in any career is adaptability.

“Boy, are they learning that right now,” she said. “They’re also learning that the storytelling principles we talk about are the foundation no matter what format or software you use. I’ve seen wonderful stories produced with an iPhone app, some designed solely for social media and others created for a TV news show – yet they all communicate the essential information people need to understand the story. Kudos to all of them!”

LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker

Professor LaReeca Rucker’s J102 Introduction to Multimedia Writing class reported on the pandemic and published their stories to the website

“They have written about how some healthcare workers say more supplies are needed for them to do their jobs, how unemployment offices are struggling to address a record number of claims during the pandemic, and how panic buying has eliminated some necessary supplies in small towns like Eupora,” she said.

“They have written about how the Oxford Park Commission is working to improve its programming while it’s closed, how Mississippi hotel and Airbnb owners are feeling the effects of COVID-19, and how some are coping by volunteering during this time.”

“I hope that they realize they are doing important, meaningful work this time by providing information that connects their community and moves the conversation forward,” Rucker said. “I’m proud of the work they are doing. Keep reading Oxford Stories where they will be sharing more of their work.”

You can also find their work on social media. Look for Oxford Stories on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @oxfordstories1.

Michael Fagans

Michael Fagans

Professor Michael Fagans teaches two sections of Jour 456 Capstone Journalism Innovation.

Some of his students worked on stories about student services being offered during the pandemic, how college seniors are presenting their thesis/final art portfolios online and staying sane while social distancing with your family.

They also covered topics about child abuse and neglect, businesses still operating, how workers at Parchman handled COVID-19 from prison, and how treatment and addiction centers were coping with the situation.

Some students explored how churches held services, what apartment complexes did for residents, the impact on study abroad students, guns as big sellers, and students also produced weekly vlogs.

Cynthia Joyce

Cynthia Joyce

Professor Cynthia Joyce said students from JOUR 377 Advanced Reporting continued to report from home and did a fantastic job.

Their work was published on HottyToddy, the Daily Mississippian and The Oxford Eagle websites. They wrote about subjects ranging from mental health access, grassroots aid for restaurant workers, rental issues, and the campus ministry adjusting to online fellowship.

Assistant Professor of Journalism Iveta Imre, Ph.D., said her students in a JOUR 378 Television Reporting class also covered local stories about the pandemic.

Iveta Imre

Iveta Imre

“They are interviewing sources via Zoom, getting creative with footage, and doing stand-ups all from their homes,” she said. “I have been really impressed with their effort and focus on the work. They have easily transitioned to online teaching, which, for this video class, was not an easy task at hand. I think they are getting valuable experience on reporting during trying times, and I could not be more proud.”

One social media video has been viewed more than 6,000 times.

Professor R.J. Morgan, who is also the director of the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association, said he’s seen countless teachers and students working overtime to cover the virus and its impact on local communities.

“It’s a major, major disruption of life for, well, for all of us,” he said, “but even amidst all the chaos, I’m still seeing students post meaningful, well-thought-out content in service of their audience.”

R.J. Morgan

R.J. Morgan

Morgan said high schools were out, but many teachers were still meeting regularly with their staffs via Zoom, etc., and editors were still making assignments and proofing pages.

“It has all been amazing to watch,” he said. “We had our annual MSPA spring awards ceremony on March 31, which we conducted digitally for the first time. In light of the ongoing crisis, we added four special COVID-19 categories to our carry-in contests, and we got some really incredible examples of student work that had been produced in such a short amount of time.”

Morgan said the student work demonstrates how seriously students take their jobs and how much their role as student reporters means to them.

“You don’t see that kind of commitment evolving from many other curricular activities,” he said. “We posted the winner/finalists’ works on our website if you’d like to see them.”


Apart Yet Together: UM School of Journalism and New Media faculty offer thoughts about school changes caused by COVID-19

Posted on: March 25th, 2020 by ldrucker

In the last few weeks, things have rapidly changed at the University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media as faculty, staff and students have learned more about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.

As journalists, we understand how to adapt to new situations pretty quickly, and that mindset has allowed us to move all of our in-person classes online using Blackboard and other multimedia tools in a short time.

This has required teamwork and innovative thinking, and it has allowed us to stay together as an educational family even though we are temporarily separated.

We’re together, though we’re apart.

Farley Hall

Farley Hall

We’re still a family of students and educators. We will persevere. Life and school will go on even though we face temporary challenges.

Some of our professors are offering words of wisdom about coping with these new changes.

Dean Will Norton, Jr.

Dean Will Norton, Jr.

Dean Will Norton, Jr., Ph.D., said faculty staff are here to help students any way they can, and they will be offering many interesting courses in the summer and fall, whether they are in person or online.

“I am grateful for the hard work our faculty members have done to adapt to the current situation,” Norton said. “Faculty are working long hours to get lectures online and to contact students so that they can finish the semester. We meet as a faculty once a day on Zoom, and the comments are heartwarming.

“I also am grateful for the many adjustments students are making so that they can complete their coursework. This has been an eerie time, but our faculty and our students have been superb.

“We are grateful for the amazing students we have as we navigate these uncharted waters. We are confident that our school will emerge from this stronger than ever.”



Assistant Dean Debora Wenger, Ph.D., said the school’s faculty and staff were determined to continue teaching students and were willing to make big changes to complete the semester.

“In just a little more than a week, our faculty rolled up their proverbial shirtsleeves and pulled off what might seem to be the impossible — they put every one of our classes online,” she said. “In addition, we have seen students, who have good reason to be stressed out, sending emails of support and offering good humor and kindness to each other in Zoom meetings and on social media.

“Add to that the incredible response from our staff. They are keeping this ship together so well that it doesn’t even look leaky, but day in and day out, they are plugging countless holes. Right now, we’re seeing the very best of what the School of Journalism and New Media is, and I could not be prouder to be a part of it.”

Scott Fiene

Scott Fiene

Assistant Dean Scott Fiene said he is also proud of faculty, staff and students for the strength and character they have exhibited adapting to changes.

“I am so pleased with how we’ve all come together – students, faculty, staff – to make the best of this,” Fiene said. “We are living through a terrible global tragedy, but I also think this could be our finest hour. I truly believe that.

Samir Husni

Samir Husni

“Everywhere I go (and by that, I mean on Zoom, and brief trips to the grocery store to see if they have any TP and hand sanitizer yet), I am seeing kindness, compassion, creativity, humor and a sense of community and purpose that has been long overdue in our world.  We will get through this, and there’s one heck of a rainbow at the end. Stay focused, stay safe, and I look forward to all being back together on campus again very soon.”

Professor Samir Husni, Ph.D., director of the Magazine Innovation Center, offered these words of wisdom.

“In the midst of all the doom and gloom there is always hope… and this shall also pass,” he said. “Students, keep the faith, stay well, stay safe, and stay inside.”

Senior Lecturer Robin Street said she knows all of us are anxious and unsure right now.

“I cannot imagine how stressful it is to be a student right now,” she said. “My own ‘survival kit’ has three components that help me get work done and cope with the anxiety. Hope some of this advice can help a student:

Set up a work area. “I already had a great home office set up. Of course, it is all about purple (her favorite color) and has a standing desk!”

Exercise! “As a former health journalist, I know that exercise is proven to reduce anxiety. I just ordered some exercise equipment that I am using in my basement.”

Love on your pet. “My favorite anti-anxiety treatment is my beloved dog, Brooklyn. If you are lucky enough to have a pet, spending time with him or her is a proven mental health booster.”

Professor Kathleen Wickham, Ph.D. shared a quote from William Faulkner: “The problems man faces are usually bigger than he is, but amazingly enough, he copes with them — not as an individual but as a community.”

Kathleen Wickham

Kathleen Wickham

“Keep in touch with us,” Wickham said. “Ole Miss is your community. Together we will cope with your issues.”

Professor Cynthia Joyce said she won’t sugarcoat things.

“The next few weeks/months are going to be very difficult, and in ways we don’t necessarily anticipate,” she said. “The priority will be for you to take care of yourself and to make sure you are properly ‘sheltering in place’ while still trying to stay productive if at all possible.”

Cynthia Joyce

Cynthia Joyce

She said some of her tried-and-true coping mechanisms include petting an animal and drinking a glass of water.

“Check on someone you know who might be struggling,” she said. “Call your grandparents. Don’t forget that outdoors is still a safe place to be. Spend more time there rather than in front of the TV or your computer screen if you can . . . And here’s a little bit of good news to keep in mind in the midst of this crisis: This is likely to be the biggest story of your lives — and you all are storytellers. Make this moment count.”

Professor Jason Cain, Ph.D., said in times of crisis, we all want a sense of control.

“It can be difficult to embrace just how adrift in chaos our lives are at the moment, and feeling out of control is what causes so much anxiety,” he said. “We feel we have so little impact on these giant decisions by governments and institutions even though we’re so deeply affected by them.”

However, Cain said, the truth is there are many things you can still control – not just coursework – but the joy we bring to others.

Jason Cain

Jason Cain

“They may seem like small acts – all those times you made a brother or sister laugh, helped a parent relax, spent a few minutes on FaceTime with your grandparents, reached out to someone you know who needs to hear a kind voice, or just reminded someone that you love them – but they matter.

“I’d argue they matter more than anything else in the world. While I’ve seen people angry over hoarding and so on, I’ve also seen a few people cry just from being completely overwhelmed by the many small kindnesses their communities have shared . . .

“When it comes to bringing joy to the people in your life, you’re a king. That’s where your work lies,” he said. “All of you reading this are a king or queen in some area of your life. And no matter how big or small you think that role is, it’s important. That’s where you can find some control in this situation in which you’ve found yourself. Don’t worry about the places where you still feel like a pawn, find those places where you are royalty.  That’s where you are most needed, and that’s where you now have an opportunity to shine.”

Professor LaReeca Rucker said the coronavirus was the topic of many current events discussions this semester before spring break.

LaReeca Rucker

LaReeca Rucker

“It seems surreal that we are here and the world has changed so much since some of those class conversations,” she said. “But I think this presents a unique opportunity for all of our student journalists to be community servants through their work, even if they are doing it only via phone and social distancing.

“If you were actually looking for a way to help your community during this time, one of the ways student journalists can do that is by doing good work. I believe the stories they write will ultimately mean more to them in the long run because they will know they were part of something bigger. It’s almost as if we have a responsibility to chronicle this situation and make sure the focus of our reporting is about helping our neighbors.”

Rucker said it’s also important to remember to take care of yourself.

“I know that a lot of people are feeling a little anxious,” she said. “One of the things that has a proven psychological benefit is being in nature. I would encourage you to continue practicing social distancing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go out into the forest or spend time at a lake, especially if no one else is near you, and enjoy the beauty and the peacefulness of nature to clear your mind.”

R.J. Morgan

R.J. Morgan

Professor R. J. Morgan said it may seem like you are alone, but we’re all going through this together.

“It’s not easy, and it’s not normal, but it is necessary,” he said. “Listening to the recommendations of our world and local leaders can and is saving lives. We must keep doing our part. So put on your most comfortable pair of jammies, remember to tip the delivery person who just dropped off lunch, and let’s get through this semester. We can do this.

“We all stand with you . . . just not beside you.”


The School of Journalism and New Media is also asking students to report where they are with its #OleMissWhereRU social media campaign.



We want to see where our students are finishing their semesters. Are they taking their final tests in their childhood bedroom or on a beach?

Are they writing papers overlooking rolling hills or an urban skyline?

Use #OleMissWhereRU on Instagram, Twitter, or TikTok to show the university family where you are, and how you’re completing the semester. We may share your response on our school’s social media sites.