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PR News names UM School of Journalism and New Media graduate one of its Rising PR Stars 30 & Under

Posted on: November 25th, 2020 by ldrucker

PR News has named a 2018 University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media graduate as one of its Rising PR Stars 30 & Under.

As the first member of the newly formed Idea Grove PR team in Dallas, Sarah Jenne, a UM Integrated Marketing Communications graduate, played a pivotal role in developing many best practices. After just a year, Jenne was chosen to spearhead Idea Grove’s PR practice at a time when the agency was transitioning to a specialization-focused staffing model, the PR News website reports.

Sarah Jenne

Sarah Jenne

“Sarah developed the Customer Brand Ambassador program for WorkFusion, an automation technology provider,” her PR News bio reads. “Sarah was consistently getting interest from reporters seeking real-world examples, but WorkFusion lacked a bank of media-ready customers. Sarah created a fact-based recommendation for the client, developed materials for educating customers on the opportunity, and soon had multiple customers on deck for media engagement.”

Robin Street, senior lecturer at the School of Journalism and New Media before her retirement, said she was proud of  Jenne for earning this honor, because she stood out as a young professional, but she was also an outstanding student.

“I remember telling Sarah that she would be a great PR professional and that she should earn our school’s specialization in it,” Street said. “I initially was especially impressed at her writing skills, because so much of public relations work requires communicating through writing. Then I also observed I her ability to stay poised under pressure and to multi-task with ease.”

Street said Jenne took the advanced PR class in a one-month intensive summer session. The class required completing a mini-internship, multiple writing and research assignments and a full public relations campaign as a final project.

“Many students struggle to juggle all those requirements, but not Sarah,” Street said. “She did excellent work and exemplified time management skills. I still have the evaluation form her internship supervisor completed about her, and it says, ‘As this was a short time period to accomplish a lot of tasks, she did an amazing job.'”

In addition to her talents and skills, Street said, “She is also a delightful young woman who has the ability to get along with multiple types of people. Any employer is lucky to have her.”

As the impact from COVID-19 turned newsrooms upside down in March 2020, PR News reports that Jenne “tapped into her network of reporters to collect information on their changing beats and candid feedback on their receptiveness to pitches, helping clients make informed decisions about upcoming announcements and external communication strategies.”

PR News’ PR People Awards and Rising PR Stars 30 & Under competition showcases top talent, passionate professionals and budding PR leaders who, day in and day out, are making communications matter in the marketplace, according to their website.

“The winners of this annual program set the benchmark for PR and underscore the outstanding PR achievements made in the past year—and our 2020 class of honorees is no different,” it reads.

The website reports that many of this year’s award recipients acknowledged the challenging role of public relations and communications in the midst of the dual pandemics of COVID-19 and social unrest.

“In many instances, our honorees had to pivot their messaging to both internal and external stakeholders, create crisis playbooks on the fly or determine how their brands could, and should, best respond beyond statements,” it reads. “From internal communications and community relations to crisis management, media relations and beyond, the individuals recognized this year cover the wide breadth and depth of the industry. We invite you to read more about their individual accomplishments below.”

UM School of Journalism and New Media extends GRE waiver for graduate programs through the 2021-2022 academic year

Posted on: November 11th, 2020 by ldrucker

If you’re looking for a reason to start working on an advanced degree or change career paths, the School of Journalism and New Media has extended its GRE waiver for graduate programs through the 2021-2022 academic year to make the application process a little simpler during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Marquita Smith is the assistant dean for graduate programs. If you are interested in the M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communication program, you can learn more about the program here:

Smith said the Graduate School granted the school permission in September to suspend the GRE requirement for Fall 2021 admission. It originally was set to expire July 31, 2020, but it has been extended for applicants applying for admission for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The GRE will not be used at all in any admission decision for the coming academic year. Under the change, no one will be admitted or denied admission based on a GRE score.

The School of Journalism and New Media offers the M.A. in Journalism, the residential M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communication, and the online M.S. in Integrated Marketing Communication. Smith said the temporary suspension applies to all three programs.

“We want to make sure that everyone who wishes to apply can do so and that the application process is as fair as possible,” said Professor Robert Magee, a member of the graduate admissions committee. “But setting aside the GRE means that an applicant’s transcript and letters of reference carry even greater weight as outside materials. These materials, along with the personal statement and resume, paint a picture for the admission committee of how well an applicant might handle graduate-level work.”

Interim Dean Debora Wenger said waiving the GRE requirement during this time helps simplify the application process.

“We know there are working professionals who will struggle to find the time to prepare and take the GRE,” she said, “so this gives us an opportunity to invite those people who want to jumpstart their careers to test out our graduate programs.”

This Grad School link lists several programs:

This M.S. in IMC website admissions tab lists application materials:

University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media IMC student Asya Branch crowned Miss USA

Posted on: November 9th, 2020 by ldrucker

A University of Mississippi School of Journalism and New Media student has been crowned the new Miss USA.

Booneville native Asya Danielle Branch, who has studied Integrated Marketing Communication at UM, was crowned the winner of the 2020 pageant Monday night at Elvis Presley’s Graceland during the live competition.

You can watch a video of that moment below.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports that Branch is the first Mississippian to win the Miss USA title, and she was the first African American woman to win the Miss Mississippi USA title.

Branch has studied IMC with an emphasis in public relations and minor in general business at the University of Mississippi, according to her pageant bio. She said she hopes to work for a public relations firm or major corporation.

Debbie Hall, an instructional assistant professor of IMC, said she didn’t teach Branch, but Branch was gracious to be part of her Events class one semester.

“She impressed me as a kind and humble young lady…who is, of course, beautiful,” she said. “She uses her background to support young people who have parents who are incarcerated. Asya represents our school, our university and our state in a beautiful way.”

In her Miss Mississippi USA bio video, Branch talks about an issue that has become part of her pageant platform throughout the years – empowering children of incarcerated parents.

Branch is one of those children. Her father has been in prison since she was 10.

“Being a child with an incarcerated parent takes a negative toll, with the stigmas that surround it,” she said in an earlier UM story. “There’s emotional distress, financial instability and so many questions about why a parent isn’t there.”

She wants to influence people’s lives by speaking at schools, churches, civic organizations and jails.

“It’s an underdiscussed topic, and I hope to bring light to it by sharing my story so others can see that I’m doing something positive,” she said in an earlier UM interview. “It’s perfectly fine to share and embrace the circumstances, because it’s part of who we are and it’s going to shape you. By talking about it, we can take down the gate of judgment.”

You can read her Miss USA bio and watch her bio video here and below.

Having never left the state of Mississippi alone, at age 17, Branch attended Harvard University for summer school, according to her Miss Mississippi USA bio. She said the experience transformed her life and she grew.

Since then, she has accepted every challenge and opportunity. She describes herself as adventurous, compassionate, and a go-getter. “Having a strong mentality has allowed her to be a life coach and trendsetter without second guessing herself,” the bio reads.

Screenshot from the Miss USA website

Branch is not currently enrolled in the UM School of Journalism and New Media as she fulfills her duties as Miss Mississippi USA and Miss USA, but many professors remember her.

Alysia Steele, associate professor of journalism, said Branch was her photojournalism student.

“She was a thoughtful student, who asked good questions, cared about the quality of her work, participated in class discussions and was a team player,” she said. “Her winning Miss USA doesn’t surprise me one bit. She is a determined woman, who knows who she is, and she knows what she wants out of life, and I respect that. I am proud of her for many reasons. This incredible achievement is just one of them. Well earned, well deserved.”

Interim Dean Debora Wenger taught Branch broadcast reporting.

“As you might imagine, she lit up the screen when she was on camera,” Wenger said. “She was a pleasure to have
in class, and I know she will leave her mark on the world. She’s driven and dedicated to being a positive force for change.”

Here are a few more facts from her bio.

  • She is the sixth of eight siblings. “I strive every day to set an exemplary example to my brothers and sisters, whether they are younger or older,” she said. “Anyone can be a role model; age does not determine one’s ability to have positive impacts in the lives of others.”

  • She has her own cosmetics line called Branch Beauty. “What started as a makeup obsession has turned into a lucrative business that I am very proud of,” she said.

  • And . . . “I once watched an Ole Miss football game with Morgan Freeman. Hotty Toddy!”

Branch has also been involved with the UM Student Activities Association and the Student Media Center. She was a Rebel Radio DJ and co-hosted a 2018 radio show with fellow student Asia Herrod called “A Squared” that featured music, talk and motivational quotes. The two introduced themselves as “Asya with a Y” and “Asia with an I.”

Asya was named Ole Miss’s Most Beautiful in 2018, an accomplishment that she is very proud of because she had the opportunity to represent the university that she loves,” the Miss USA website reports. “Making history as the first African American Miss Mississippi USA, Asya has been advocating for at risk children and criminal justice reform for the past several years. She has worked with government officials and the President on positively changing our justice system. Asya will continue to encourage our youth and be a voice for the unheard.”

Branch enjoys staying healthy, weight training, traveling, reading and promoting her cosmetics line.

“As Miss Mississippi USA, Asya wants to teach others that they do not have to be defined by their circumstances,” the Miss USA website reports. “Her favorite quote by Randy Pausch, ‘We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand,’ motivates Asya to share her life with others while inspiring them to overcome all of life’s adversities.”

Here are a few more recent headlines and links:

People – Mississippi’s Asya Branch Wins Miss USA 2020

E! News – Miss Mississippi Asya Branch Crowned Miss USA 2020

The Daily Mississippian – Asya Branch wins Miss USA, becomes first from MS to win title

The Miss USA website

The Daily Mississippian wins Newspaper Pacemaker Award, one of college media’s highest honors

Posted on: October 31st, 2020 by ldrucker

The 2019-20 Daily Mississippian has been awarded one of college media’s highest honors: a Newspaper Pacemaker Award.

Each year, the Associated Collegiate Press presents Pacemaker awards to the best in collegiate journalism. Entries are judged by teams of professionals based upon coverage and content, quality of writing and reporting, leadership, design, photography and graphics.

Daniel Payne was editor-in-chief in 2019-20, and Eliza Noe was managing editor.

The awards ceremony was held during the annual Associated Collegiate Press/College Media Association annual conference (virtual this year).

Daily Mississippian

Daily Mississippian

The 2019-20 Daily Mississippian also recently won an Honorable Mention for Best Daily Newspaper in the CMA Pinnacle Awards contest. The 2018-2019 DM also won an Honorable Mention in this contest.

The University of California-Los Angeles Daily Bruin won first, The Michigan Daily at University of Michigan was second, The Daily Orange at Syracuse University was third, and The DM tied with California State University-Fullerton for Honorable Mention.

“These are both national awards, meaning student newspapers from all across the country enter in the contests, and we compete against extremely talented student journalists who work for great publications,” Payne said. “In these instances, we ranked among the top 20 and top five newspapers to compete, respectively.”

Payne said he believes what made The DM stand apart are the combined passion, creativity and dedication of the staff.

“It’s a joy to work with people who are driven to serve their community and are talented enough to do it in such a powerful way,” he said. “The staff was one of the most talented, inspiring groups of people with which I’ve had the pleasure of working.

“At the end of the day, that is what these student journalists work so hard to do: serve their campus and community through quality reporting. It’s really wonderful to see that passion and talent recognized on the national level.”

Payne said it’s also impossible to understate the importance of the editorial advisors at the Student Media Center.

“Our advisors taught us, believed in us and led by example for us — all while giving us the independence to allow us to own the newspaper we produced,” he said.

Daniel Payne

Daniel Payne

Payne said if you want to lead, serve, create, think and learn, the Student Media Center is the place for you.

“I worked for student media from my first semester at UM, and it has been the highlight of my education at the university,” he said. “I was smarter, more inspired, more engaged and more successful because of my time at the Student Media Center — especially because of the effort of the faculty at the SMC.”

Eliza Noe served as managing editor for the 2019-2020 Daily Mississippian staff. She is now the editor-in-chief.

“Hundreds of papers all over the country submit for (these awards), and that involves choosing your best five issues,” Noe said. “They didn’t split it up into categories, so we were in the running with weekly, daily and bi-weekly publications. It’s amazing to see that our hard work was able to compete with other really great student work.”

Eliza Noe

Eliza Noe

Noe said the 2019-2020 DM staff was a “dream team.”

“Everyone on staff was on the same page about what kind of coverage we wanted to have, and that went across all sections of the paper,” she said. “We also became very close as friends, and I think that helped a lot with team-building and cooperation. It was definitely rewarding to see how much everyone had grown by the end of last semester.”

Noe also commended the advisors.

“I think having both journalistic and editorial freedom, and also constructive feedback, makes the Student Media Center one of the best places to learn,” she said.

Noe began working at the DM her freshmen year.

“There’s no way I would be as comfortable in my own abilities if I didn’t have the newsroom experience I’ve had,” she said. “Getting to learn all of the levels of how a publication works has shown what I’m passionate about and how to get there.

“I think working at the Student Media Center allows you to actually apply the skills you learn in a classroom in a way you can use to better yourself as a journalist, designer, photographer, etc. We welcome anyone who’s interested in putting in the work.”

If you are interested in getting involved with The Daily Mississippian, you may email Noe at or the newsdesk

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 

School of Journalism and New Media professor speaks at Nobel Peace Prize event Oslo Peace Days

Posted on: December 9th, 2019 by ldrucker

A School of Journalism and New Media professor traveled to Oslo to be part of a panel at a Nobel Peace Prize event called Oslo Peace Days.

Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D., a professor and director of international programs who is from Ethiopia, was invited by the Norwegian Peace Research Institute to participate in a Dec. 9 panel discussion about developments in Ethiopia and possible regional implications. The panel also discussed Ethiopia’s potential role as a regional peacemaker.

Beyene was joined by Hilde Frafjord Johnson, of the Peace Research Institute of Oslo; Dan Banik, of the Centre for Development and Environment, University of Oslo; and Kjetil Tronvoll, of Bjørknes høyskole & Oslo Analytica. The panel was chaired by Henrik Urdal, the PRIO director.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2019 to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and for his work to resolve the border conflict with neighboring Eritrea, according to The prize is also meant to recognize all stakeholders working for peace and reconciliation in Ethiopia and in the East and Northeast African regions.

The panel discussion is part of this year’s Oslo Peace Days set for Dec. 5-12 co-hosted by the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Nobel Peace Centre, PRIO, the University of Oslo, and the City of Oslo.

Earlier, we asked Beyene a few questions about the event and his professional goals as a peacemaker.

The front of the Nobel Peace Prize website.

The front of the Nobel Peace Prize website.

Q. What are some of the things you hope to discuss during the panel about Ethiopia developments? What do you hope to share with others who attend?

A. I hope to use the platform to discuss the recent development in Ethiopia and its regional implications. There are a number of factors that could explain the current ethnic tension and political uncertainties in the country. For example, religious diversity is one factor that helps us understand what’s happening  in the country.

Ethiopia is one of very few countries in the world where Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc. have lived together for centuries. Due to religious extremism and the rise of terrorism, the social fabric that existed for a long time is weakening. As a result, Ethiopia has witnessed the killings of people based on their beliefs, while places of worship have been targeted by radical groups.

Unless the government, in collaboration with its international allies, does something, the situation can get out of hand any time. And that will have serious regional implications.

For a long time, Ethiopia has been known for its relative stability in the turbulent region. From Somalia in the East Coast to Senegal in the West, the belt of the continent is in trouble, and Ethiopia has served as a center of gravity.

If Ethiopia loses its stability, so does the region. Ethiopia can’t afford to fail. The international community should be aware of the danger posed by radical groups and should be behind the reform process the nation has embarked on.

In a nutshell, I will use the platform to shed light on the contemporary security challenges the country faces and regional implications of those challenges.

Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D.

Zenebe Beyene, Ph.D.

Q. Do you think peacemaking or peace-building is talked about enough in our world or country?

A. Here is a general assessment based on my personal observation. Humans tend to focus on what divides us instead of what unites us. That seems to be the case in today’s America, for example.

What we see in the current political environment here in the U.S. is focusing on the differences between Republicans and Democrats. If we only focus on their discourse, it seems as if the two parties had been from two totally different worlds, having nothing in common.

Each claim that it is the only savior of the nation while depicting the other as the enemy of the people. To that end, they create and manufacture narratives to back up their claims. As a result, what we read, watch or listen to is filled with negative stories.

Some may assume that is only America’s problem. It is not. From Brexit to the tension between populism vs. nationalism in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, etc., as well as the ethnic and religious tensions in Asia and Africa are testaments to a new reality the world is now facing.

As a result, conflict has become a norm and stories dealing with peaceful coexistence have become rare.  It is true that conflict drives stories, but life is not only about conflict.

I hope politicians, opinion leaders, activists, etc. will understand the implications of their narratives to local, national, regional and global peace security and pay more attention to what they say. The news media also needs to shed light on stories that inspire and unify rather than on stories that perpetuate divisions.

Q. Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think would be important to add?

Thank you for the opportunity to share my views about this honor with you. I have accepted the invitation to attend the award ceremony and take part in the panel to discuss current developments in Ethiopia, its regional impact and to add Ethiopia’s perspective to the conversation. However, the opportunity to attend such an important event will help me learn new perspectives that would strengthen and enrich my teaching at the University of Mississippi.

In his will, Alfred Nobel stated that the Nobel Peace Prize was to be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.”

My attendance in the event and interaction with people from various backgrounds will help me add new perspectives to my teaching. That, in turn, will help me inspire the new generation of leaders here at the UM to think big and bring the “greatest benefit to mankind” in line with Alfred Nobel’s will, vision and dream.

Beyene earned his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln in political science in 2012. He specializes in media in conflict and post-conflict societies. He has taught, researched and provided training in Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the United States.

He has served as a consultant for InterNews Network, US Agency for International Development, United Nations Development Programme, Voice of America, Pennsylvania University/Carnegie Foundation, Oxford University and Oxford University/U.K. Embassy in Ethiopia and Aadland Consult/IDEA International.

He has published or co-published work about tolerance and online debate in Ethiopia; the role of TeleCourt in changing conceptions of justice and authority in Ethiopia; the role of ICT in peacebuilding in Africa; media use and abuse in Ethiopia; and From an Emperor to the Derg and Beyond: Examining the Intersection of Music and Politics in Ethiopia.

Column: As a UM Ambassador, I helped new students realize Ole Miss is their home

Posted on: November 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

Check out IMC student Karly Caton’s journey to Ole Miss, where she became a UM Ambassador because she wanted to help other students feel welcome.

Caton, 21, is a senior from Virginia Beach, Virginia pursuing a bachelor’s degree in IMC with a minor in business and a specialization in public relations. She hopes to pursue a career in advertising.

Read her column on here.

Karly Caton

Karly Caton


Street takes PR students on a Memphis field trip to FedEx and St. Jude

Posted on: November 4th, 2019 by ldrucker

Students enrolled in Senior Lecturer Robin Street’s public relations classes traveled to Memphis Oct. 29 to meet with public relations professionals, including several JNM alumni, at FedEx and St. Jude.

Assistant Dean Scott Fiene accompanied the group, along with adjunct instructor Bill Dabney.


An added bonus at FedEx was a visit from Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman PR. He was in town to meet with JMM graduate Jenny Robertson, who is FedEx vice president for corporate communications. Edelman briefly spoke to the students.

At FedEx in Memphis, Street found 10 of her former students in communication positions.

Pictured, from left, are Lillie Flenorl, communications specialist, FedEx Freight; Teresa Daniel, senior communications specialist, social media; Jenny Robertson, vice president, corporate communications; Natashia Gregoire, director of FedEx Freight communications; Street; Ed Coleman, communications advisor, internal communications (not a former student, but an alumnus); Caitlin Adams, communications principal, office of the president and COO; and Alex Shockey, manager of social media and content. Not pictured are Rachel Hammons Parks, senior marketing specialist, brand; Cacera Richmond, senior communications specialist, FedEx Freight; Janna Hughes, communications advisor, global citizenship; and Caitlin Berry, senior communications specialist, internal communications.

Photo credit: Bill Dabney

Third annual SPJ Scary Potluck for Journalists set for Wednesday, Oct. 30 at 4:30 p.m.

Posted on: October 25th, 2019 by ldrucker

Wohoho! Hahaha Hohoho! Wohaahaahaa! (Scary laugh.)

You are invited to bring a snack to the third annual SPJ Scary Potluck for Journalists!

Set for 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 30, all journalism and IMC students are invited.

In fact, all majors are welcome.

The event will be held in Room 126 inside Haunted Farley Hall.

Those who attend are asked to bring a snack to share with others.

You’re also asked to bring a few ideas about how we can grow our Society of Professional Journalists chapter that is open to both IMC and journalism students.

Costumes are encouraged, but not required.

Invite a friend. All are welcome. The event is open to anyone interested in journalism.

Come, if you dare!

Share the event to invite others!

For more information, contact LaReeca Rucker at