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Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Meek School African American alumni discuss professional experiences

Posted on: April 26th, 2017 by ldrucker
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From left, Ashley Ball, Poinesha Barnes, Kim Dandridge, Kells Johnson, Selena Standifer and Jesse Holland speak during It Starts With MEek events. This panel of Meek alumni discussed their experiences as students and professionals.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media recently concluded its “It Starts With Meek” campaign promoting diversity and inclusivity. Two panels were called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.” A panel of African American Meek School alumni discussed their experiences as students and professionals.

The first panel was moderated by Jesse Holland, an Associated Press race and ethnicity reporter. It featured panelists Gabriel Austin, a video editor for Mississippi Today; Ashley Ball, a communications associate for Siemens Corporations; Poinesha Barnes, a news producer for WREG; Kim Dandridge, an attorney for Butler Snow; Kells Johnson, an assignment editor for WZTV Fox 17; and Selena Standifer, deputy public affairs director for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

The second panel, featuring the same panelists, was led by Rose Jackson Flenoral, manager of global citizenship for FedEx Services.

Meek Journalism students who are part of the J102 Oxford Stories journalism class were asked to sit in on the panel and share their thoughts. Their responses are featured below.

Addis Olive
alolive1@go.olemiss.edu

The first question asked was how panel members thought Ole Miss has changed since they were students. Members agreed there are more conversations now acknowledging race issues.

They fullsizeoutput_435bdiscussed personal experiences of name, gender, political beliefs, and race bias in their own work spaces.

They also discussed and agreed that being a black minority today is celebrated. Black culture is being celebrated after being oppressed for so long, especially through social media, with hashtags like #blackgirlmagic and #blackboyjoy.

At the end, each member offered advice to students heading into the workplace. They said try to expose yourself to different cultures and experiences and be prepared for the unexpected. They said students should be go-getters and indispensable.

They suggested being open-minded and experiencing different spaces. They said “integrate, but don’t assimilate.”  Panelists also advised students to be versatile, step outside their comfort zones, and surround themselves with people who are aiming in the same progressive direction you are.

I thought this panel was very thought-provoking and stimulating. I loved listening to the panel member’s perspectives on race issues.

They gave extraordinary advice on how to handle indirect and direct stereotype issues. Their advice was very impactful and something everyone should hear. Being open-minded and stepping out into different spaces can change your perspective.

Nancy Jackson
nmjackso@go.olemiss.edu

This discussion focused on how fighting hate with love has helped members of the African American community through troubling times faced at the University of Mississippi. 

Multiple panelists said they have faced adversity in their current professions. Some said they had never faced blatant racism at Ole Miss, but did once they joined the workforce.

One story that stood out to me was how one man was told “You will always be able to find another job,” insinuating that he was only an “affirmative action” hire.

Walking away from this discussion, I felt more enlightened. Much of the discussion did not just focus on the inequalities faced by black men and women in the professional world; they emphasized that many of these same inequalities are experienced by white women in the professional world.

I had never thought about the fact that once I graduate and enter the professional world, my opportunities could be limited just because of my race. I felt that this discussion was thought-provoking and enlightening for anyone who listened.

Ashley Muller
anmulle1@go.olemiss.edu

What initially impressed me was the diversity of age and gender represented by the panel. Moderator Rose Jackson Flenoral introduced the group of men and women. The first woman to speak during this presentation was Kimbrely Dandridge, a former UM student and former Associated Student Body president.

What struck me immediately was Ms. Dandridge introducing herself as the first African American to be elected into this prestigious position. At first I found it mesmerizing to be given the opportunity to listen to this young woman speak, but I also thought to myself, “FIRST black ASB president? There wasn’t one sooner?”

I am aware of the racially segregated past of the University of Mississippi, but this moment made me realize that transitioning into a campus that consistently practices inclusion is still a challenge here. Black inclusion on campus is a more recent element of student life than initially assumed.

Ms. Dandridge, as well as other members of the panel, experienced moments of racism that they could have let bring them down. Luckily, because they were strong-minded and strong-willed,  these incidents became factors in their developing success.

An example of racism that Dandridge faced was when she joined a predominantly white sorority on campus, Phi Mu. Members of the sorority accepted her, but the study body did not. Racial slurs were thrown at her throughout campus, and she discovered an article that labeled the sorority a “joke” for accepting an African American young woman.

Another panelist spoke about his experiences with campus racism. When he began attending the University of Mississippi, he lived on a dorm floor as only one of five other black students. He made friends with the white students who neighbored him, and become closer with them over time. Choosing these friends also pushed him towards deciding to join a fraternity on campus.

This decision, however, became more controversial than progressive. He would be one of the first African American men to become a member in Ole Miss’ Greek system. Typically, an African American student would choose to join a black fraternity, and likewise for caucasian students because of the university’s history.

This young man’s bravery, whether he was aware of it at the time or not, set a path for the future success of university students from a variety of backgrounds. These situations, as well as the others discussed by the panel, are elements of the University of Mississippi’s history that provide constant hope and drive to create a more inclusive campus.

Lydazja Turner
Oxford Stories

This panel of black Meek School alumni discussed their experiences here at the university and in the workforce. This was such a great experience for me, because I am a black journalism student here, and even though I am just a freshman and have yet to start my career, I could relate to so much they have gone through.

I related the most to Poinesha Barnes when she started to speak about the situation with her name. I, too, have an ethnic name that is not considered common. Like she is named after her father, I am too am named after my grandmother, so I am extremely proud of my name. However, I am in fear of being judged by future employers because of this.

I could also relate to her being natural and the way people may stereotype me because of my hair. People often assume that I do not act like the average African American person because of the school I attend, so I am often called an “Oreo,” but then they assume that I’m “ woke” and a militant angry black girl.

Many times, I have been told that I would not succeed in an on-air position because of my hair in its natural state. Of course, hearing many comments like this makes me angry, but like many people on this panel, on many occasions, I have to stop and think about my future before I respond.

Hearing them talk about some of their experiences gave me so much hope that I could actually succeed in this industry. This panel helped me to better prepare myself for stereotypes I have to deal with during my college life and when I enter the workforce.

Madison Edenfield
meedenfi@go.olemiss.edu

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow featured a panel of black Ole Miss Meek School alumni. The panel discussed their experiences at the University of Mississippi, changes, or lack thereof, in race relations on campus, and how stereotypes have followed them into the professional world.

The mediator, Jesse Holland, started the presentation by asking the panel what it was like as an African American at Ole Miss. The panel was filled with recent graduates, but their stories made me feel as though race relations have not evolved over time.

The panelists reported almost unanimously the emotional and even physical abuse they endured as students. Even with stories of being threatened by dorm mates, unnecessary frisking by a police officer, and being harassed while walking on the Square, all of the panelists agreed that they would return to Ole Miss if they had the chance.

The panelists said that even though there were less than ideal situations, all the life lessons and good relationships made it worthwhile.

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Panelists posing for a picture.

Reagan Smith
rmsmith5@go.olemiss.edu

In the Overby Center on campus, seven Ole Miss alumni gathered to discuss some of the race issues they have faced on campus. The panel ranged in age, but all seemed to face the same difficulties at some points in their time here at Ole Miss.

UM 2013 graduate Ashley Ball said her Ole Miss experience was very normal, and she did not face direct racism. After graduation, she got a job working on the external communications team at Siemens USA. Ball was then only one of two black women who worked with the company, and she described her first direct encounter with racism.

“A group of us had a conference call, and when a woman was going around introducing who was on the call, she mistakenly called me the wrong name,” Ball said. “The name she called me was the other black woman in the company, and it seemed like an honest mistake, but when she realized she had called me the wrong name, she made a joke of it and said, ‘Oh you know who I mean; the other black girl who works here.’ This hurt me a lot, and it took me two days to get the courage to confront her about it.”

This is just one of the many examples of racism the panel discussed, and in the end, they gave the audience great advice. The advice was: “Surround yourself with people who are going to bring you up, and get you to where you want to be in life.”

Grant Gibbons
gjgibbon@go.olemiss.edu

On Friday, I attended the “It Starts with MEek” panel discussion “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow.” The panel consisted of seven African American alumni of Ole Miss and was moderated by Rose Jackson Flenoral.

The panelists, most being very recent graduates, discussed what it was like in their time at Ole Miss and how the university has changed over time. Almost all of the panelists shared stories of times when they had been called a racial slur or had hateful things said about them, but they also stated that the climate is changing and trending in the right direction. They said a dialogue has started on campus, and it is helping the university combat this history of hate that has plagued Ole Miss for years.

The panel then shifted to issues faced in the workplace and what it is like being an African American in newsrooms and offices that are predominately white. It was clear to the audience that discrimination in the workplace was still an issue. One of the panelists brought up the term “microaggression” and said some people don’t even realize what they say is offensive. In little ways, whether it is meant as a joke or not, microaggressions still have an strong affect on whoever it was directed towards.

Towards the end of the discussion, the panel was asked to give advice to students in the audience who are heading into the real world, workplace environment. The biggest thing I took from this question was to surround myself with people who have similar goals as me and are going in the direction I want to go. This is something that I have been taught for years, and to hear it now from a different perspective made that advice so much stronger.

The discussion was interesting and entertaining. The advice they gave was not just centered around African American or minority students, but for everyone as a whole. The discussion opened my eyes about discrimination in the workplace and really gave me a sense of what it could be like in any of the panelists’ shoes.

Emily Wilson
Oxford Stories

On Friday afternoon, I attended the discussion panel led by Ole Miss alumni based on their experiences as African American people in both the journalism workplace and their experiences as an Ole Miss students.

I expected this event and panel to not really affect me much, based on the fact that I am not a minority. I was very wrong after only being there for a couple minutes when each panel member began telling their individual stories of being targeted in both the media workforce and as students at the University of Mississippi.

Certain stories that were told really affected me, such as the story about the one woman being the first African American member of a sorority. She became a member of Phi Mu, and many blogs and such were put up on social media to personally attack and assault her. This struck me as absurd, especially based on the fact that there are still minimal African Americans involved in the Greek community.

What I took away from this lecture is that it is important to push inclusion, especially in a place such as Mississippi where the history says otherwise. It was very beneficial to hear their stories and hear the way they have been treated, especially in the aspect of microaggressions. After this panel, it is a personal goal of mine to consider the way I talk to people and interact with them, because words are powerful and can hurt even when you don’t intend for them to.

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Angelica Pecha
akpecha@go.olemiss.edu

I was not sure what to expect from the Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow panel, but I was intrigued to hear what journalists had to say to aspiring journalists at the Meek School. Most of the questions asked had to do with race, gender, age, and the parts they play in being a journalist.

Being that I am a white female, I do not personally relate or experience some of the stereotypes and struggles that a black journalist would experience, so hearing a different perspective was beneficial.

Being a journalist on its own is a challenge and is a risk to take on considering the idea that the “starving artist” idea still lives today. Aside from the challenges and risks of taking on a career in journalism, I have a future of struggles within my career because of my gender and age.

As confirmed by the female panelists, there will be certain stereotypes, and people who think less of me and my intelligence because I am a woman. Also, it never occurred to me that my age and millennial status would affect my career. Young panelists spoke about the preconceived ideas that millennials are lazy.

“Millennials care about being happy,” said one female panelists. People love to criticize millennials for being lazy, lacking commitment, and having little concern for the outside world. Millennials face a lot of hate and doubt from their elders because millennials have a high turnover rate, but this is because if millennials are not happy, they will leave and begin anew regardless of the paycheck, which I find to be refreshing and hopeful. By the time I join the work force, the work place will be filled with even more millennials, so this will be an adjustment to the work force as a whole.

I was born a white female. I never had the same struggles a black male or female would face. Black female panelists talked about fighting the stereotype of the “angry black woman” or a the stereotype of a “black person that cannot take a joke.”

A black male panelist mentioned that many black journalists are assigned stories just to get a black point of view. This diminishes their talent and is unfair. The same man struggled with combatting black stereotypes. He didn’t write about topics he loved in fear that it would be too stereotypical.

He said black males typically write about sports, crime, or race issues. He did not want to be seen as a black reporter who “won’t talk about anything, but black news.” He wanted to simply be seen as a writer. These are struggles that I will never have to face, but these struggles are seemingly unfair and unjust.

I will have my own struggles to face in the work force. I have already experienced the stereotypes of being a blonde, fashionable, outgoing, white girl. In high school, the smart girls in the class were shocked to hear my name on the honor roll. They told me they thought I was just dumb and fun.

These same struggles will follow me in the work place. People will not take me seriously because of my appearance. People will doubt my intelligence and capability as a woman and as a writer. No one is free from judgement in the work place or, really, anywhere.

Alumni Update: J. Mark Bryant (’79)

Posted on: April 24th, 2017 by jheo1

I arrived at Ole Miss in the fall of 1975 with high expectations as I entered the Pre-Med curriculum.

It took only one semester for me to turn the rudder in another direction (I still don’t understand the difference between Meiosis and Mitosis). But once I returned from Christmas to find out that 85 percent of my class had failed, the “C” that I earned didn’t look as bad as I first thought.

Having received an English scholarship for some articles I had written in high school, I turned my interest to Journalism.

I was shocked when I was expected to turn in “three stories a week” to The Daily Mississippian. There were many days after I graduated that I wrote five articles in a day.

I was among the lucky ones, as I was offered a job during Christmas of my senior year to work in Pascagoula, at my hometown newspaper: The Mississippi Press. I would stay there for 19 years, the majority in sports but the final two years as Managing Editor. In that time, I remembered covering the Super Bowl in New Orleans one day and a junior high basketball tournament the next.

By this time I had fallen in love, and followed my fiancée to Birmingham. One of the two daily papers at that time was a fellow Newhouse publication, and I was able to transfer in 1998. We remained there until 2003, when I was allowed to transfer to Mobile because of my mother’s health. So until 2012, I had worked 33 years for the same company.

Then we saw the report about the Times-Picayune being gutted. We knew immediately all the Newhouse papers in Alabama and Mississippi would follow. I was prepared to return to my reporting duties, but even those positions were soon gone.

I was given 11 months of severance. I thought this would give me plenty of time to find a job. Several friends were surprised that I was staying in Mobile, because all I had ever done was work for a daily newspaper. Since moving back to the Gulf Coast, I had purchased a house and had fallen in love with my new town.

Then reality sunk in for a 55-year-old job seeker. In the first nine months, I applied for 100 jobs. The few interviews I received said the same thing: “overqualified.” I then read an article on Linked In about this same situation and what to do.

Next up was an interview to be a secretary for the Mobile County Health Department. Once I got seated, they said I had a great résumé but was “overqualified.” Because of the article, I quickly responded with “Thank You!” They were stunned, but I continued. “This is a government job with a fixed pay scale? There is no negotiating salary? So don’t you want the most overqualified person you can get?”

The next day they called and offered the job. I was completely bored 50 percent of the time, but I was paying my mortgage. I quickly learned to beg people for extra work, which they were happy to provide.

I did take a promotion to serve as Grant Writer, but it was a disaster. The technical aspects of the job were something that I failed to grasp. The job was vital, since our health department is independent and receives no tax funding. After one year, I resigned the post and went back into the secretarial pool.

Then a former Press-Register colleague left as Public Information Officer for another entity. The administrators were desperate to complete the daily duties. I began to “volunteer” and was soon the de facto PIO. When the job officially was opened to candidates, I still had to apply through the county’s Personnel Board and go through the interview process.

Thanks to my months of filling in as a temp, I already had my foot in the door. But it wasn’t until they told me in person of their final decision that I could breathe again.

I have certainly enjoyed the job. They all laughed when I told them I actually started at Ole Miss in Pre-Med, but the labs kept me from getting a good seat for happy hour at The Gin. MCHD serves an important role in the community, and just celebrated its bicentennial in 2016.

On the side, I have kept busy writing a sports column for a weekly newspaper in Mobile called “Lagniappe.” It is a French term for “a little something extra.” I joke that MCHD pays my mortgage while Lagniappe covers my bar tab. When I told this to one of the paper’s owners, their response was that they were obviously paying me too much.

As for my personal life, I am happily married with no children. This Fourth of July will mark 30 years since I met my Donna, but we did not get married until 1999. She actually proposed to me at a Valentine’s Day dinner.

If you remember Mike Wixon, he still lives in Pascagoula. He left the newspaper world many years ago, and has been involved with real estate. He is a very happy grandpa who rides his bike (his bad back from basketball won’t allow him to play golf anymore).

I was on the Ole Miss campus last week. I have been telling people I felt like I was at Epcot because it was all too perfect.

If you would like to see some of my sports writing, please visit http://lagniappemobile.com/category/style/sports/

As for my “real” job, we just uploaded our 2016 Annual Report to http://mchd.org/General/Bulk_Documents.aspx?type=Annual%20Report&index=1&subindex=1

 

Former Meek grad Otis Sanford will discuss How Race Changed Memphis Politics April 24

Posted on: April 18th, 2017 by ldrucker

Otis Sanford, a longtime columnist for The Commercial Appeal, will be a guest speaker at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics Monday, April 24, at 6 p.m. to talk about the racial conflict and transition that has taken place in Memphis politics, from the time of E.H. Crump’s rule of the city in the first half of the 20th century, to the modern era in which African Americans exert power.

Sanford has written about this subject in his new book, From Boss Crump to King Willie: How Race Changed Memphis Politics.

He will be joined in the discussion by two other long-time political observers, Charles Overby, chairman of the Overby Center, and Overby Fellow Curtis Wilkie.

The program in the Overby Center Auditorium is free and open to the public. A reception will be held following the event, and arrangements have been made for parking in the lot adjacent to the auditorium.

Sanford, who grew up near Como, a north Mississippi town in the shadow of Memphis, is a 1975 graduate of the University of Mississippi. He majored in journalism. He served on the staff of major newspapers in Jackson, Pittsburgh and Detroit before settling at The Commercial Appeal, where he eventually became managing editor.

In 2005, Sanford was awarded the Silver Em, the highest honor given by the university’s journalism school to native Mississippians who excel in journalism or to those who have distinguished themselves in the state.

He is now a member of the University of Memphis faculty, but continues to write a weekly column for The Commercial Appeal.

“Otis is not only a product of Ole Miss we value, he has become the most knowledgeable source on Memphis politics, and it will be great to welcome him back,” said Wilkie.

Dennis Moore awarded Silver Em and Best of Meek journalism students honored

Posted on: April 6th, 2017 by ldrucker

From left, Debora Wenger, Dennis Moore and Will Norton Jr.

In 1975, the Memphis Commercial Appeal asked the University of Mississippi to nominate two students for potential internships. Dennis Moore was one. He traveled to Memphis and survived an odd interview with the managing editor, who asked a variety of strange questions, such as “Name the countries you fly over when traveling from Memphis to Antarctica?”

“Despite the bizarre nature of the interview, he demonstrated an ability to be removed from the chaotic nature of questioning and keep his wits,” said Will Norton Jr., Ph.D., professor and dean of UM’s Meek School of Journalism and New Media. “He has followed a similar pattern throughout his career. His achievements demonstrate that, while the Meek School has more prominence today than it had 40 years ago, its graduates have always had national stature.”

Moore was honored Wednesday night as the 58th recipient of the Samuel S. Talbert Silver Em award at the Inn at Ole Miss on the UM campus. The Silver Em is UM’s highest award for journalism. Recipients must be Mississippi natives or have led exemplary careers in the state.

Moore began his journalism career as an intern at The Germantown (Tennessee) News. He later directed breaking news coverage for USA Today, the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, on stories such as the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; the spread of Ebola from Africa to the United States; and the trial of one of the Boston Marathon bombers.

Earlier at USA Today, he was managing editor of the Life section, which put him in contact with Mick Jagger, John Grisham, Steven Spielberg and and many other notable people.

Moore said his favorite entertainment interview was with Octavia Spencer, who won an Oscar for her role in “The Help,” a book that became a movie written by fellow UM graduate Katherine Stockett set in Jackson, where Moore began his professional reporting career at The Clarion-Ledger.

Moore is now co-editor of Mississippi Today, a news website, with Fred Anklam, also a USA Today and Clarion-Ledger veteran, Ole Miss graduate and Silver Em recipient.

“When I found out I was going to receive the award, I thought I don’t measure up to the previous recipients,” Moore said Wednesday during his acceptance speech. “I don’t think my accomplishments are as stellar as theirs.

“I’ve never endangered myself and my family for editorializing about a social issue. I’ve never revealed government malfeasance. I’ve never helped the community overcome a major natural disaster. I spent most of my career covering entertainment, movies, television, music, and the slightly higher respectability chain, books.”

However, Moore said he believes the staffs he’s worked with over the years have applied the same enthusiasm, vigor and aggressive newsgathering that people on other beats did while covering the entertainment industry.

“We just had more fun,” he said.

Moore said he likes to think he’s helped people understand the importance of critical thinking. “I believe if you look insightfully, if you look aggressively at popular culture, you can find out as much about society as if you write a news story,” he said.

Moore said he’s concerned about the lack of critical thinking in modern journalism. He said journalists must present facts and provide information to defend them because, in a “fake news” era, the public questions the media.

“They don’t have the confidence,” he said. “I believe we can do that by reporting and providing context. By context, I don’t mean let’s interpret for people. Let’s get enough facts so that we can speak confidently, authoritatively and can address issues in a way that can’t be questioned.

“If there’s a problem, we can possibly offer alternatives. We can treat the people we deal with on our beats with respect. Hold them accountable, but don’t present them with our agenda. I think that’s what a lot of news organizations are starting to do now.”

While Moore is concerned about the state of journalism today, he said he’s also encouraged, because he thinks journalists are on a good path.

“We have to report with depth, insight, and then we may be able to affect change,” he said.

Moore credited several people with his success, including Norton, who he described as “inexhaustible” and a “genius.”

“He will very humbly describe himself as making connections, when actually what he does is he creates character and careers,” said Moore. “The Meek School would not be the Meek School without Dr. Norton.”

Norton said he went through issues of The Daily Mississippian from 1973 to 1975 to look at some of Moore’s work as a student journalist. He found several stories, including one titled ‘Dorm Hunting, the night I kicked my leg through the wall, I decided it was time to move.’ Moore wrote light and serious pieces for the college newspaper, including stories about UM applying again for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter and voting issues.

“Whether it was about shoddy campus housing, lack of freedom for faculty members or voting rights, tonight’s honoree always seemed to focus on important news,” said Norton, who gave attendees an update about the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.

“During the 1974-75 academic year, the Department of Journalism had fewer than 100 majors, and an accreditation team made its first site visit to the campus,” he said. “The endowment of the department was less than $50,000.

“Today, the Meek School has more than 1,500 majors in Farley Hall and the Overby Center, and is raising funds for a third building that will be situated in the parking lot between Lamar Hall and the Overby Center, and the accreditation team called the Meek School a destination – and one of the elite programs in the nation.”

Norton said the endowment today is more than $13 million with a major estate committed to the future.

“The Meek School is prominent nationally now, if not globally,” he said. “Clearly, media education at Ole Miss has gained a great deal of exposure. Several times over the last few weeks, the chancellor has called the Meek School one of the two best schools on the campus. That exposure is based on the strong foundation established in 1947 by Gerald Forbes, the founding chair. He was joined by Sam Talbert and Dr. Jere Hoar. They produced outstanding graduates.”

Hoar was one of the event attendees Wednesday night, and he was recognized for his contribution to the school.

The Silver Em award is named for Talbert, the professor and department chairman, who believed a great department of journalism could be an asset to the state of Mississippi. An “em” was used in printing. In the days of printing with raised metal letters, lines of type were “justified” by skilled insertion of spacing with blanks of three widths – thin, en and em. The Silver Em blends the printing unit of measure with the “M” for Mississippi.

“The award has been presented annually since 1948 as the university’s highest honor for journalism,” said Debora Wenger, associate professor of journalism. “The requirements are that the person selected be a graduate of the University of Mississippi, who has had a noteworthy impact in or out of the state, or if not a graduate of Ole Miss, a journalist of note who has been a difference-maker in Mississippi.”

Meek journalism students were also honored during the event, which featured the Best of Meek awards ceremony.

Students who received Taylor Medals include Rachel Anderson, Katelin Davis, Hannah Hurdle and Ariyl Onstott.

The Kappa Tau Alpha Graduate Scholar was Stefanie Linn Goodwiller.

The KTA Undergraduate Scholar was Ariyl Onstott.

Graduate Excellence winners were Mrudvi Parind Vakshi and Jane Cathryn Walton.

The Lambda Sigma winner was Susan Clara Turnage.

Excellence in Integrated Marketing Communications winners were Austin McKay Dean and Sharnique G’Shay Smith.

Excellence in Journalism winners were Maison Elizabeth Heil and John Cooper Lawton.

Who’s Who winners were Rachel Anderson, Ferderica Cobb, Austin Dean, Elizabeth Ervin, Leah Gibson, Madison Heil, Cady Herring, Rachel Holman, Amanda Hunt, Hannah Hurdle, Amanda Jones, John Lawton, Taylor Lewis, Ariyl Onstott, Meredith Parker, Susan Clara Turnage, Sudu Upadhyay and Brittanee Wallace.

The Overby Award was given to Susan Clara Turnage.

Kappa Tau Alpha inductees include Brandi Embrey, Elizabeth Estes, Madison Heil, Rachael Holman, Hannah Hurdle, Tousley Leake, Taylor Lewis, Jessica Love, Hailey McKee, Olivia Morgan, Ariyl Onstott, Alexandria Paton, Natalie Seales and Zachary Shaw.

Dean’s Award winners include Madeleine Dear, Lana Ferguson, Kylie Fichter, Jennifer Froning, Dylan Lewis, Emily Lindstrom, Sarah McCullen, Dixie McPherson, Anna Miller, Rashad Newsom, Hannah Pickett, Kalah Walker, Brittanee Wallace, Kara Weller and Anna Wierman.

The Meek School of Journalism and New Media was founded in 2009 with a $5.9 million gift from Dr. Ed and Becky Meek, Ole Miss graduates with a long history of support. It is housed in Farley Hall, with a wing for the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics. Today, the Meek School has 1,570 students in undergraduate and graduate studies working toward degrees in journalism and IMC.

For more information, email meekschool@olemiss.edu.

  • Story by LaReeca Rucker, adjunct journalism instructor

Alumni Update: Selena Standifer (’01)

Posted on: November 29th, 2016 by jheo1

Meek School alumnus Selena Standifer, deputy director of public affairs at the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) in Jackson has been selected as one of the Mississippi Business Journal’s top “50 Leading Business Women.”

Standifer, a resident of Brandon, will be featured by the publication in the September 30 issue and profiled as one of Mississippi’s leading women making a difference in business and community. As a part of the Class of 2016, she will be honored in February at the “Business Women of the Year” luncheon at the Hilton Conference Center, Jackson.

“I am thrilled to see Selena representing MDOT through this important recognition,” said MDOT Executive Director Melinda McGrath. “For someone who displays such strong professional character and commitment to the agency and the state she serves, this recognition is well deserved.”

standifer_selena_headshotIn her job with MDOT, Standifer works with employees throughout the state including District Engineers, the Mississippi Transportation Commission and Education Outreach Programs on litter prevention and safety. As Deputy Public Affairs Director, she assists with audits, budget, human resources and facilities management for the Public Affairs Division, and coordinates activities for Civil Rights and Emergency Preparedness.

A native of Smithville, Standifer is involved in planning and managing special events for the agency and works with other state agencies, businesses, cities and counties on collaborative projects and publications. She supervises three Public Affairs departments: Media Production, Map Sales and Customer Service.

“We are proud of Selena for receiving this career achievement and appreciate the Mississippi Business Journal acknowledging her hard work and service to the citizens of Mississippi,” said Jarrod Ravencraft, public affairs director.

Standifer received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from The University of Mississippi in Oxford and has 14 years of experience in communication, public relations and marketing. She has worked in tourism, health care, non-profit and state government. Her key career accomplishments include marketing a new $20 million Women’s Center in Amory and serving as a spokesperson on The Weather Channel for the American Red Cross, Washington, D.C.

Standifer has been honored with awards for her work from the Southern Public Relations Federation (SPRF), Public Relations Association of Mississippi(PRAM) and the Mississippi Hospital Association. She is a member of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Subcommittee on Communications, SPRF, PRAM, Young Professionals Alzheimer’s Advocates and United Way.

For more information, visit http://msbusiness.com/digital-magazines/50-leading-business-women-in-mississippi-digital-magazin/.

Careers in Non-Profit Communications

Posted on: November 29th, 2016 by jheo1

Four alumnae of Meek School classes spoke on a panel about their careers in non-profit communication to the PR Case Studies class taught by Robin Street on Nov. 3.

Pictured, left to right, are: (front row) Kate Rosson, communications manager for staff and volunteers with The American Cancer Society Global Headquarters; Laura Doty, marketing and communications manager for the Memphis Zoo; Susan Christensen, PR director for the Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson, Miss.; (back row) Street; and Jane Lloyd Brown, liaison for strategic partnerships at ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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The women presented examples of projects they have worked on, then talked generally about their jobs. In the final portion, they answered questions from students on topics ranging from what salary they make to what challenges they have faced and what career advice they could offer.

Brown, Rosson and Doty are all Street’s former students. Rosson and Christensen have B.A. degrees in journalism. Rosson also has a master’s degree from Ole Miss in leadership in higher education. Brown and Doty hold B.B.A. degrees in marketing communications. Doty also has a master’s degree in advertising and public relations from the University of Alabama.

Recent Graduate Clancy Smith Returns to The Meek School Shares Insights into Career in Government Relations

Posted on: November 1st, 2016 by jheo1

Communicating is hard enough. But try communicating on behalf of 122 different personalities.

That’s the situation facing Clancy Smith, a 2015 graduate of The Meek School of Journalism and New Media, in her new job as House Information Officer for the 122- member Mississippi House of Representatives.

Smith returned to campus Oct. 20 to speak on working in government communications to the Public Relations Case Studies class taught by her former instructor Robin Street.

 “Clancy is one the best students I have ever taught,” Street said.  “She excels in journalism and communication skills. The Mississippi Legislature is lucky to have someone with her talents.”

 Smith, who was a print journalism major with a PR emphasis, uses her journalism degree daily in her job. She may take a photo and send it to a representative’s local newspaper, write a news article, or compile a digital newsletter for the internal public of representatives.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t make use of the writing and communications skills I acquired at Ole Miss,” Smith said. “Applying those skills in my role as House Information Officer allows me to be more confident and effective in my job.” 

She provides information to members of the Capitol Press Corps, responds to local news outlets on matters relating to legislation, sets up news conferences for representatives and writes weekly summaries of legislative proceedings.

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Clancy Smith (left), a 2015 graduate of The Meek School, returned to campus to speak to Senior Lecturer Robin Street’s (right) public relations class about her job as House Information Officer for the Mississippi House of Representatives. Photo by Taylor Lewis.

By Taylor Lewis

Alumni Update: Laura Beth Lyons Strickland (’08)

Posted on: September 22nd, 2016 by jheo1

laura-beth-lyons-stricklandMeek School graduate Laura Beth Lyons Strickland, communications manager at the Vicksburg, Mississippi Convention and Visitors Bureau, was named Mississippi Tourism Association Member of the Year for 2016 recently.

Strickland has been an integral leader in the rebranding of Vicksburg as The Key to the South, says a news release from the MTA. She has overseen the building and design of Vicksburg’s new responsive design website, launched a weekly blog and grown social media platforms to record levels. She also served as chair of the 2015 Mississippi Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

Her former public relations instructor, Robin Street, fondly recalls Strickland in the classroom and has kept up with her as a public relations professional.

“Laura Beth is a special young woman who puts her heart into her work, whether it was in the classroom or now in her professional work,” Street said. “It also says a lot about her that she remained in her Mississippi to put her talents to use in bettering her hometown and home state.”

Strickland graduated in 2008 with B.A. in both journalism and English, along with a specialization in public relations. She joined the Vicksburg CVB in 2009 and has worked there ever since.

Her work has been recognized multiple times with awards for websites, special events and branding from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi. She has also been named to the Vicksburg Post’s list of the “Top 20 under 40.”

Alumni Update: Alex Cox Shockey and Rachel Hammons (’10, ’14)

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by jheo1

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Just who is behind all those clever social media posts from FedEx? Two Meek School alums, of course. Alex Cox Shockey (pictured left ) and Rachel Hammons (pictured right), both communication specialists with FedEx, plan, create and oversee much of the social media for that company.

The two graduates returned to campus on Sept. 13 to speak to the same public relations techniques class they took with Robin Street, senior lecturer(pictured, center).
Shockey graduated with a degree in print journalism with an emphasis in PR in 2010. She joined FedEx in 2012 after working as a digital communications specialist for Pinnacle Airlines,  now called Endeavor Air,  for two years.

Hammons earned a degree in IMC in May 2014, then completed a master’s degree in IMC at Northwestern while also interning at FedEx.  Following her graduation from Northwestern, she began working fulltime at FedEx in January 2016. (photo credit: Hailey Heck)

Alumni Update: Madisen Theobald (’16)

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by jheo1
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Madisen Theobald at Condé Nast corporate headquarters.

Madisen Theobald is coordinator for digital advertising and product monetization for Condé Nast Publications in New York City. She works on all 16 of the company’s brands: Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Allure, Glamour, The New Yorker, Pitchfork and nine more. Her day-to-day duties include working with the corporate team’s directors and managers to execute and create digital advertisements and grow overall digital revenue. She also facilitates video interviews and production work for Condé Nast’s The Scene.

Madisen graduated Magna Cum Laude in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a minor in graphic design and an emphasis in magazine services. While at the Meek School, she was Ole Miss Yearbook Design Editor, Daily Mississippian designer, and president of the Society for News Design chapter.

“It has been my dream to work for Condé Nast for as long as I can remember,” Theobald says “But it didn’t come easy. During my senior year at the Meek School, I worked five journalism-related jobs, strived for straight As, joined as many clubs in the Meek School that I could, found life-long mentors that saw my strengths when I saw weaknesses, and took classes that I didn’t even need to graduate just so I could learn more. The Meek School was more than the school that gave me an education and my dream job. It was my family that pushed me to be the best version of myself.”