School of Journalism and New Media

The University of Mississippi

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Meek School is proud of its two Miss America contestants

Posted on: September 8th, 2018 by ldrucker

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media faculty and students were rooting specifically for two Miss America contestants when the pageant aired Sunday, Sept. 9, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

While Miss Mississippi Asya Branch and Miss Tennessee Christine Williamson, both who have Meek School ties, were not selected among the final 15 contestants, Meek School leaders were proud that they represented the Meek School and the University of Mississippi in the competition.

Branch, a University of Mississippi junior, is a current Meek School student. According to her pageant bio on the Miss America website, Branch said the competition empowered her to embrace her past while helping children of an incarcerated parent find their way.

“Having the backbone and financial base of our family stripped away through incarceration and arrest left me hurt, confused, scared, bullied, and withdrawn,” she said. “Through the Miss America Organization, I have been able to face my fears and insecurities brought on by my father’s imprisonment. Now, I am boldly working to help other children who find themselves in unfortunate circumstances fulfill their greatest potential and realize they have an uninhibited future.”

Williamson, 22, attended UM and the Meek School as a broadcast journalism major. While at Ole Miss, she was a news anchor for NewsWatch.

According to Williamson’s pageant bio, she is an advocate for Alzheimer’s because she has lost four family members to the disease, including her grandfather, who she helped her mother take care of for 11 years.

“I watched the lengthy demise of someone I loved, and vowed to be a catalyst for change,” she said. “As a National Ambassador for Alzheimer’s Association, I have lobbied U.S. and state congressional leaders for three years on Alzheimer’s initiatives. I have raised $25,000 for Alzheimer’s Association to help the 5.7 million Americans and their caregivers fighting America’s most expensive disease.”

Meek School leaders also helped lead a Miss America watch party sponsored by the Student Activities Association inside the Student Union ballroom. Debbie Hall, a Meek School instructional assistant professor, said the watch party was organized to give UM students a way to celebrate the Meek School’s two Miss America contestants. Refreshments and games were offered.

Hall said the Meek School’s Event Planning class conducted a fundraiser for the two contestants’ platforms prior to the pageant as a way of recognizing and honoring them.

Students, faculty and alumni were encouraged to use the hashtag:  #MeekMissAmerica Sunday night.

“I think this is just a further indication of the quality students we have in our Meek School programs,” Hall said.

New faces and new roles at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: September 7th, 2018 by ldrucker

There are a few new faces and new roles at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Dr. Chip Wade, Dr. Graham Bodie, Dr. Iveta Imre, Brad Conaway and Bobby Steele Jr. are all filling new positions.

Imre

Dr. Iveta Imre is a new assistant professor of visual storytelling. She joined the faculty in 2018. Prior to coming to the United States, Imre worked as a broadcast reporter for the Croatian Public Television (HRT).

She graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Ph.D. in communication and information, where she also produced documentaries and worked as a visual specialist. For the past 10 years, she has been teaching classes that range from television news and documentary production to multimedia reporting and social media publishing.

“I’m very excited to be here,” Imre said. “I’ve had the Meek School on my mind for a very long time, so this is my opportunity to finally be here and work with the wonderful broadcast faculty and students. I’m excited to work with the students, learning more about them and their capabilities, and working on wonderful projects.”

Imre’s research focuses on broadcast media development in former Yugoslavian countries, trust in media, and journalism education. During her academic career, she has published articles in journals, such as International Communication Gazette, Mass Communication and Society, and Visual Communication Quarterly, and has presented papers and participated in panel sessions at national and international conferences, such as the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and International Communication Association (ICA).

Graham Bodie. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Dr. Graham Bodie, Ph.D, is a scholar, educator and consultant. In each role, he attempts to bring attention to one fundamentally important, yet undervalued skill – listening.

Dr. Bodie is an internationally recognized expert on listening who has published more than 80 monographs, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries. His most recent project, The Sourcebook of Listening Research (Wiley-Blackwell), is a comprehensive resource that reviews and critiques current and potential approaches to measuring listening.

“Whether you are a marketing professional or journalist, your career is influenced by how well you listen,” Bodie said. “And although you can find countless references to the importance of listening, how much direct training or education do companies, schools, or communities offer – training that actually improves our ability to process information and understand various perspectives? I’d like the change that.”

Dr. Bodie’s work has been funded by the National Science Foundation (EPSCoR) and featured in the Wall Street Journal, Psychology Today, and on National Public Radio. In addition to several research awards, he was honored twice with Professor of the Year by students in the Department of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University, where he also was recognized with university-wide teaching awards.

“My research, teaching, and consulting center on how people and the organizations they represent can cultivate a Listen First Mindset, a mindset that challenges our Western tendencies to broadcast our messages without first considering our audiences,” Bodie said. “Truly attending to others is a powerful way to connect, and whether it is your friend, family member, co-worker, client, student, or customer; everyone has a fundamental need to be heard.

“Listening effectively can help you fulfill that need. I am excited by my new role in the Meek School because it allows me to reach new audiences and learn from new people. And that’s what listening is all about.”

When Bodie consults, he prefers projects that allow him to make a difference. Currently, Dr. Bodie serves as an executive advisor for the Listen First Project and vice chairperson for the Global Listening Centre.

Dr. Bodie received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in communication from Auburn University and his Ph.D. from Purdue University. In addition to LSU, he served as a visiting scholar in the School of Media and Communication at Korea University in Seoul, South Korea.

Brad Conaway earned two bachelor’s degrees from the University of North Texas, one in radio/TV/film and one in English literature, with a history minor. Following a 15+ career in television content producing, now he studies and specializes in emerging forms of digital communication, especially social media.

As a digital manager, he created a social media strategy that was named Best in Company in terms of engagement analytics. As the corporate digital content manager, Conaway led Raycom’s push to think “Digital First,” using social media.

“I’ve never taught before, so this is a new experience,” said Conaway. “It looks like a great group of people to join and get to work with. I’m teaching digital marketing and a social media producing class.”

Conaway has covered several events, from a local shooting at a courthouse, the explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia upon re-entry in 2003, and the morning of Super Bowl 45 in 2011 that blanketed Dallas for two days caused by a super freeze resulting in injuries. He was an Emmy nominee, Best Morning Newscast-Large Market and TAPB winner, and Best Morning Newscast-Large Market winner in 2010.

Bobby D. Steele Jr. earned a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Mississippi and a bachelor’s degree in health services administration from Franklin University. After a graduate internship for the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education, specializing in creative content, photography and social media marketing, he became an adjunct professor for IMC.

In the fall of 2018, Steele was promoted as the branding and promotions manager for the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. He is director of operations and a board member for the nonprofit organization Delta Jewels Support Foundation, and marketing director of Cherry Blossom Way Farms in Columbus, Ohio.

Steele is a decorated veteran who served seven years in the United States Navy. He was an active member during campaigns Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Kuwait Liberation.

Chip Wade earned a Ph.D. in biomechanics from Auburn University, a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Mississippi, a master’s degree in biomechanics from the University of West Florida and a Bachelor’s of Business Administration degree in risk management and insurance from the University of Georgia.

“I’m starting the real estate promotion program,” said Wade, a new assistant professor of integrated marketing communication at the Meek School. “I’ve been at the university since 2005. I’m excited to be here. I just look forward to building the program and continuing my research.”

Meek School professor meets with Ethiopian leaders in Washington, D.C.

Posted on: September 6th, 2018 by ldrucker

Dr. Zenebe Beyene, a Meek School of Journalism and New Media instructional assistant professor and coordinator of international programs (second from left), is pictured with Dr. Oyvind Aadland, a representative of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, and Ethiopian leaders at a meeting on nation-building in the Charles L. Overby Boardroom at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

Participants were primarily from the East Coast: New York, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. with one each from Memphis, Atlanta and North Carolina. They are lawyers, IT experts, software developers, political scientists, economists, a graphic designer, theologians, etc.

The  Meek School is grateful to the Freedom Forum for making the boardroom available. The boardroom is named for Charles Overby, a graduate of Ole Miss.

Meek School students head to Atlantic City to cover Miss America pageant

Posted on: September 5th, 2018 by ldrucker

It’s one of the nation’s biggest public speaking jobs, and two contestants with Meek School of Journalism and New Media ties will be competing for the title of Miss America this week.

Three Meek School students and a professor will also be reporting live from the pageant that will air Sunday, Sept. 9, in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Read Miss Mississippi Asya Danielle Branch’s Miss America profile.

Read Miss Tennessee Christine Williamson’s Miss America profile.

Read the profiles of all Miss America 2019 contestants.

They’ll be rooting for Miss Mississippi Asya Branch, a University of Mississippi junior, who is a current Meek School student; and Miss Tennessee Christine Williamson, 22, who attended the Meek School as a broadcast journalism major. While at Ole Miss, Williamson was a news anchor for NewsWatch.

Dr. Iveta Imre, a professor of visual storytelling, is taking three students to Atlantic City to cover the event.

“The three students, Brian Barisa, Bryanna Bynum, and Sara Doan, will be working on stories about the girls for The Daily Mississippian, Newswatch, and Hotty Toddy,” Imre said.

The Meek School group left on Wednesday, and they will be staying through Saturday covering all activities leading up to the main pageant on Sunday.

“We applied for and received press passes, and we are planning to cover the preliminaries, other activities such as the Shoe Parade on Saturday, as well as create stories about road Rebs who are going to Atlantic City to support Asya,” Imre said.

Imre said she hopes the students learn from the experience.

“I am hoping that the students will experience reporting under pressure and on deadline as we will be Skyping live for Newswatch every night, as well as creating stories to meet DM’s and Newswatch’s daily deadlines,” she said. “We are trying to anticipate and prepare for the events, but many decisions will have to me made once we arrive on location.”

Imre said she hopes the students will create contacts with other journalists covering the pageant, and learn from observing.

“I think that it is phenomenal and pretty unusual, and I am happy this is happening as I am starting my first semester as a professor at Meek school,” Imre said. “No matter what happens on Sunday, I think this is already a great success for our girls.”

Meek School leaders are also helping lead a Miss America watch party sponsored by the Student Activities Association. The pageant will air at 8 p.m. CST on ABC. The watch party will be held at the same time inside the Student Union ballroom. All are invited.

Debbie Hall, a Meek School instructional assistant professor, said the watch party will give UM students a way to celebrate the Meek School’s two Miss America contestants. Refreshments and games will also be offered.

“When we first started talking about the Meek School sponsoring a watch party, it was to be sure that we honored the two Ole Miss contestants,” Hall said. “However, we did not want to compete with a campus-wide event. Therefore, we are encouraging our students and faculty to attend the SAA event.

“We are especially excited that the two contestants represent the Meek School. Miss Tennessee Christine Williams graduated in May as a broadcast journalism major. Asya Branch is a current IMC major.”

Hall said the Meek School’s Event Planning class will be conducting a fundraiser for the two contestants’ platforms as a way of recognizing and honoring them.

“Asya’s platform is Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents,” Hall said, “and Christine’s is the Alzheimer’s Association. We will be seeking donations to split between the two platforms.”

Hall said the class will use the hashtag:  #MeekMissAmerica. Donations can be made for one platform or the other, or both platforms. Donors will be given a “Team Christine” or “Team Asya” sticker to wear.

“What are the odds?” Hall said, that two Meek School students are in the pageant. “More seriously, I think this is just a further indication of the quality students we have in our Meek School programs.”

Meek & Greet offered fun and information about how to get involved

Posted on: August 29th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School of Journalism and New Media students, and anyone else who wanted to join in the fun, were welcomed back to school with a Meek & Greek Tuesday, Aug. 28.

The third annual event designed to kick off the new semester offered an inflatable slide and Sno Biz snow cones outside Farley Hall. Inside, were representatives of many different clubs, organizations and student and local media.

Chris Sparks, an integrated marketing and communications professor in the Meek School, helped lead the event co-organized by the Meek Ambassadors.

“The purpose is to welcome new and returning IMC and journalism students,” she said. “It is an excellent opportunity to meet faculty and other students. It is also a chance to get involved in clubs or organizations.”

The event was designed to show students the many ways they can become part of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

The Meek & Greet offered snow cones to all who attended. Some professors even slid down the giant inflatable slide.

Meek School T-shirts and some T-shirts from clubs and organizations were available for sale. Some T-shirts will still be offered for sale in the Meek School office. Bring cash to purchase T-shirts.

If you want to become involved in any of the activities the Meek School offers, take the first step and ask a professor how to do it.

Meek School associate professor receives Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation seed grant

Posted on: August 20th, 2018 by ldrucker

Kristen Swain, associate professor of journalism in the Meek School, recently received one of four university-wide Community Wellbeing Flagship Constellation seed grants to identify barriers and inroads to HIV prevention among African American adolescents in the Mississippi Delta.

Swain is partnering with Angela Green from the UM Department of Writing and Rhetoric and with Catherine Moring, executive director of the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center in Charleston, Mississippi.

Swain

The project, “Learning about HIV Risk and Resilience through the Power of Storytelling,” will involve Swain’s IMC 585-Health Communication class, through UM’s new MPartner program. Her students will help facilitate expressive writing and role play, multimedia production, and peer-led focus groups among Charleston teens.

“I am excited about the opportunity to build on the doctoral dissertation I wrote two decades ago and to explore how AIDS perceptions have evolved over time in Southern black churches,” Swain said.

The findings will inform a future NIH proposal to develop a culturally sensitive HIV prevention campaign and behavior change interventions in the faith community.

“We are thrilled about the potential opportunity the proposed project will bring to our community,” Moring said in a support letter for Swain’s proposal. “This project, combined with existing community-wide efforts, will provide valuable resources that will significantly improve our community and help to address the many health concerns our community faces.”

In November, UM alums Thomas and Jim Duff of Hattiesburg made a $1 million gift to support the university’s new Flagship Constellations initiative. The donation provided nearly $20,000 for this year’s Community Wellbeing grant competition, which received proposals representing 18 different departments at UM and UMCC.

Meek School welcomes students back to Farley Hall

Posted on: August 20th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School students are back in school. The halls of Farley Hall are no longer quiet and empty.

Shannon McElvain, 19, is an integrated marketing communications major. She said she’s taking an IMC writing class this semester she is excited about.

“I took the intro class last semester and some writing classes too,” she said. “We’re going to be learning a lot about what we learned last year in the intro class and incorporating writing into it in different ways. The whole focus of the class is writing and IMC.”

 

McElvain

McElvain, a sophomore, said her goal this semester is to learn as much as possible about IMC and improve her writing skills.

“I chose IMC because it’s a very broad major, and I can do a lot of different things with it,” she said. “When I’m older in a couple of years, I’ll probably figure out exactly what I want to do. Right now, I’m still in the stages of figuring that out.”

Ethel Mwedziwendira, 22, is a journalism major and political science minor who said she is excited about the capstone class she is taking this semester.

“I’m really excited about using all of the skills I’ve learned thus far, incorporating everything including digital,” she said.

Mwedziwendira

Mwedziwendira said the Journalism Innovation class is a combination of writing and photojournalism. Her goal this semester is to stay focused and find balance between school work and involvements.

“And not overworking myself,” she said.

Coleman Hobson, 21, is an IMC major. His favorite class this semester involves campaign marketing.

“It seems interesting,” he said, adding that he hopes to eventually land a job that involves music and marketing.

Hobson

Hobson said his goal this semester is to make As and Bs.

Miracle

Megan Miracle, 21, was also found in Farley. The hospitality management major said she’s taking a lodging class this semester.

“I think it just goes into the lodging industry and hotels and stuff,” she said.  “My family is in that industry, so it should be kind of interesting.”

She said she’s also excited about taking a nutrition class this semester.

Meek School Assistant Dean Wenger receives the Burkum Service Award

Posted on: August 9th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School Associate Professor Deb Wenger, assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships, and her co-author Deborah Potter have been honored by the Electronic News Division of the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication. They received the Burkum Service Award for their work in serving the journalism industry and journalism education.

Meek School students attend NABJ convention in Detroit

Posted on: August 3rd, 2018 by ldrucker

Assistant Dean Pat Thompson and students Erin Pennington and Ethel Mwedziwendira are representing the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Detroit from Aug. 1-5.

They are attending workshops and panels, meeting with media job recruiters, and networking with alumni. Here they are with alumnus Jesse Holland on Thursday, following his participation on a luncheon panel titled “The Power of Black Panther and Creating Positive Images in the Media.”

Highlights of the convention include a newsmaker plenary on Journalism Driven by Technology and Innovation; a panel on When Arts Meets Activism featuring movie actresses, directors and entertainment editors; a town hall on diversity; a “master class” on entrepreneurship and branding with Tyler Perry; workshops on data reporting, social media in the newsroom, covering the migration crisis, visual journalism, sports journalism, digital content; professional training sessions by CNN, CBS and other media; interviews with authors of books just released; screenings of new films and TV shows; awards ceremonies.

NABJ with Chance the Rapper

Recruiters from all major media are recruiting students and professionals for jobs and hosting receptions. Jemele Hill of ESPN’s The Undefeated is NABJ’s Journalist of the Year.

With Miss Mississippi crown, Meek School student preps for Miss America stage

Posted on: July 31st, 2018 by ldrucker

Last month, Asya Branch was just a young woman with dedication and a dream.

Branch, a rising junior at the University of Mississippi, competed in beauty revues during her teenage years, but wanted to try her luck in the Miss Mississippi scholarship pageant.

“I’m the only one in my family that participates in these competitions and my family was not really connected to the pageant world, so at first I didn’t know how to make that happen,” she said.

After winning her local pageant and competing on the Miss Mississippi stage for the first time in 2016, the Booneville native was hooked.

“I knew I wanted to return and continue to get better until I won, but I just never expected it to happen so soon,” she said.

On the night of June 23 in Vicksburg, Branch’s name was called and her dream became a reality. She is Miss Mississippi 2018.

“When the last three of us finalists were standing there, there was a calmness that came over me,” she said. “We were all there to win, and I knew it would be fine, no matter what the results.”

Branch said time seemed to stand still before that moment.

“It felt like an eternity before the winner’s name was called, but in reality when I watched it over again, it was only about three seconds,” Branch said.

The feeling of getting to represent her home state on the Miss America stage is indescribable, she said.

“It’s the best feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” Branch said. “I’m still trying to wrap my mind around how my dream is now a reality.”

Her new title also gives her a louder voice to discuss her platform “Finding Your Way: 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. “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. “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.”

Instead of dwelling on the challenges her family has faced, Branch has turned it into her purpose, providing resources for children that she did not have when she was younger.

“There is no reason for these children to be any less successful than their peers,” she said.

Branch’s father remains one of her biggest supporters.

“He has told me to strive to be successful,” she said. “He sees a bright future for me and doesn’t want me to settle. He wants me to achieve my goals.”

Her continued relationship with her father has led to her creating a love letters program, which provides jails with stationery so prisoners can continue to communicate with their families, mending the relationship between parent and child.

Branch is majoring in integrated marketing communications at the Meek School of Journalism and New Media. She stays involved around campus as a member of the Student Activities Association.

“Asya is an incredible person, and an outstanding representative for not only the University of Mississippi, but the state of Mississippi,” said Bradley Baker, director of the Ole Miss Student Union.

“Whether serving as a member of the Student Activities Association Homecoming committee or starting her own student organization, Empowering Children of Incarcerated Parents, Asya possesses all of the skills needed to succeed not only at the Miss America Pageant in September, but in life as well.”

Branch is a gifted speaker and presenter who lights up the screen when she is on camera, said Debora Wenger, associate professor of journalism and assistant dean for innovation and external partnerships at the journalism school.

“With all that, one of the things that impresses me most about Asya is her dedication to improving the lives of children who have parents in jail or in prison,” Wenger said. “She cares deeply about this issue because of her own personal experience and because she is the kind of person who sees possibilities rather than obstacles.”

On campus, Branch always rose to take on whatever obstacle was before her, so her winning the crown comes as no surprise, said Alysia Steele, assistant professor of multiple platform journalism.

“I know I pushed her in class, and she always met the challenge,” Steele said. “Asya has no problem speaking up for things she believes in, so I could always count on her to give her thoughts and opinions about work we were discussing in class.”

She added that through all Branch has accomplished, she remains humble and grounded.

“She has a warm personality that makes it hard to forget her,” Steele said. “I couldn’t be prouder, because I think she represents our university and state with integrity and grace. I can’t wait to see what she does next.”

Branch continues to stay informed on current events and lead a healthy lifestyle to prepare for the Miss America competition.

“I support this organization and all it stands for,” she said “It gives young women the confidence to be successful and thrive in life.”

She said the competition allows women to form bonds with other competitors while simultaneously learning to be more well-rounded individuals.

“There was so much I gained from competing that I didn’t even know was possible,” she said. “I feel like I can conquer the world.”

The Miss America pageant is set for Sept. 5-9 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The final night of the competition will be televised at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Besides Branch, UM journalism alumna Christine Williamson recently was crowned Miss Tennessee and also will compete at Miss America.

“We’re going to just have to hope for an unprecedented tie for the title,” Wenger said. “Either way, you can bet the Meek School’s TVs will be tuned to the Miss America pageant on Sept. 9.”

The story was written by Christina Steube for Ole Miss news.