The Meek School of Journalism and New Media

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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.

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.

Meek School sophomore, cancer survivor makes most of gift of life

Posted on: July 31st, 2018 by ldrucker

In 2013, Allie Allen was the 14-year-old captain of her junior high dance team when she started to feel strange every day around lunch. After the brief, but indescribable sensation passed, she would become exhausted.

She shrugged it off until a practice at Schilling Middle School in Collierville, Tennessee, when the spell hit so hard she completely stopped dancing. She saw a doctor who first thought it was anxiety, or simple exhaustion from being an active person in a growing body.

But Allen soon found out it was something far worse. She had been suffering focal seizures and was diagnosed with a golf ball-size brain tumor.

Allie Allen, a UM sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications, has been battling a rare form of brain cancer since she was 14. She caries a full courseload and is determined not to let her diagnoses define her. Submitted photo

She faced the tough decision of having surgery or delaying the procedure to go to nationals with her dance team. She danced, but once the competition was over, she opted for surgery, an eight-hour ordeal that led to the discovery that her tumor was an extremely rare form of brain cancer found almost exclusively in toddlers. The teen was told she wouldn’t live to graduate from high school. But her story didn’t end there.

After two bouts with cancer, she’s a University of Mississippi sophomore majoring in integrated marketing communications. She had a 4.0 grade-point average her first semester and finished her freshman year with a 3.6 GPA.

“I won’t let cancer define me,” she said. “I take 126 pills each week, but I try to live life as much as I can. I just have to work twice as hard as everybody else.”

Her upbeat demeanor belies the struggle her life has been. After treatment stopped the tumor from growing in 2013, it began to grow again in 2015. On top of that, her mother, Debbi Allen, had been neglecting a concerning lump in her breast while her daughter underwent treatment. Once she saw a doctor, Debbi found out she had breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes.

“We both lost all of our hair,” Allie said. “We were baldies together. It was a unique experience.”

The two found themselves going through radiation treatments together after Debbi completed her chemotherapy. They moved into an apartment in downtown Memphis to be closer to hospitals for seven months while they underwent treatment.

“It was bonding,” Debbi said. “We spent every second together.”

Allie’s determination to live a normal life despite her long, difficult battle with cancer is inspiring, her mother said. She wrote about her experiences on her blog, “dancerwithcancer,” which she wanted to use as a tool to help others going through the same struggles. Her nature definitely had an effect on Debbi, who drew strength from Allie during her own health struggles.

“I’m very, very proud,” Debbi said. “I’m raising a good one.”

Debbi’s cancer is gone. Allie still has a small tumor in her brain. Her kind of cancer has a high rate of recurrence, so she has to get scans at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital about every two months.

“I’m not in remission,” Allie said. “We’re just watching my tumor and praying that it doesn’t grow because they haven’t discovered a cure for me yet.”

UM sophomore Allie Allen (left) has been battling a rare form of brain cancer since she was 14. She and her mother, Debbi Allen, both were treated for cancers at the same time in 2015. Submitted photo

It’s easy to wonder why the two wound up in the incredibly unlikely scenario of a mother and daughter having cancer at the same time. Debbi says her daughter has one theory that makes her sad.

“She says to me, ‘I heard you praying over me when I was in the hospital,” Debbi said. “I heard you asking God to take cancer from me and give it to you.’ I got my cancer a few months later.”

Despite being dealt such a tough hand, Debbi said her husband, Eric Allen, a pilot for Fed Ex, has been extremely strong and caring as his wife and daughter have gone through their treatments. She credits him and the couple’s son, Zach Allen, for being there for her and her daughter.

These days, Allie doesn’t dance anymore, not because she can’t. She’s just a busy college student with a full schedule of classes and being active with Tri Delta sorority. She also has a new passion that she learned while being treated at St. Jude.

Being bald during the awkward teen years was tough, but she found that she loved doing her makeup.

“When I was bald, makeup was something I loved,” Allie said. “It showed that I am a girl and into girly things.”

She works with a spa, doing makeup for brides and others. She finds that work extremely rewarding.

“I love making girls feel pretty,” Allie said.

She also raises money and makes appearances on behalf of St. Jude. She hopes to work full-time for the hospital one day so she can help support its mission to help children with cancer.

Though she battles side effects from medicines and treatments, Allie doesn’t do any less than a normal college student would, including handling her own laundry and chores. She has parts of the workings of her brain missing, she said, so she has to work harder than most on schoolwork.

She also lives every day with a reminder of what she’s been through in the form of a spot on the side of her head where her hair won’t grow back. Her mom gives her credit for rocking a pixie haircut that suits her, nonetheless.

The positive vibe her presence gives off doesn’t match up with what someone might expect from a person who has fought cancer twice and lives with a brain tumor.

Allie’s drive to be “normal” comes partially from a realization that many of the friends she made who also had cancer are no longer alive. She lives for them.

“I really think about that all of the time,” Allie said. “It’s called survivor’s guilt. I think about my last dance. Then, my tumor was stable and it hadn’t grown. A lot of my friends had gotten re-diagnosed with their brain cancers around then. That should have been me.”

While she works through survivor’s guilt, she also takes comfort in knowing that she has been given a gift: the opportunity to keep on living.

“They told me I wouldn’t make it to my high school graduation,” Allie said. “Statistics don’t mean anything to me, but only God knows when my time will come. No one really knows what is going to happen. I know that there is a plan for me out there.”

This story was written by Michael Newsom for Ole Miss News.

Meek School leaders and students welcome MOST Conference visitors

Posted on: July 16th, 2018 by ldrucker

Meek School, Student Media and University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists representatives spent Sunday evening, July 15, with hundreds of students on campus for the annual MOST Conference.

MOST, which stands for Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, brings top African-American high school students in the state to the UM campus each summer for workshops, networking opportunities, panel discussions, mentoring and more.

Participating were: Meek School Dean Will Norton; Assistant Dean Jennifer Simmons; Assistant Dean Patricia Thompson; Adjunct Instructor Bobby Steele; and DeAndria Turner, student manager of Rebel Radio and broadcast journalism major.

Meek School’s ‘It Starts with (Me)ek’ team wins a Silver Anvil Award

Posted on: June 9th, 2018 by ldrucker

A Meek School instructor and her 30-student team won the Silver Anvil, the most prestigious U.S. award in public relations, on June 7 in New York for It Starts with (Me)ek, a public relations campaign they created asking Meek School students to “just pause” before stereotyping others.

The award, given by the Public Relations Society of America, is considered to be the Oscar of the PR industry.

Actress and CBS Sunday Morning show contributor Nancy Giles, perhaps best known for her role on the TV show “China Beach,” served as emcee and presented the award to Senior Lecturer Robin Street, campaign chair.

The It Starts with (Me)ek campaign won a Silver Anvil award, considered to be the Oscar of the PR industry, for internal communications. Actress and CBS Sunday Morning show contributor Nancy Giles presented the award to Senior Lecturer Robin Street at a ceremony in New York on June 7. Accompanying Street at the ceremony were three of the 30 students who worked on the campaign. Pictured from left, Grace Miller, Giles, Street, Bianca Abney and Brittanee Wallace. Photo by Stan O’Dell.

Meek graduates Brittanee Wallace, Bianca Abney and Grace Miller, three of the 30 students who served on the ISWM committee, joined Street at the ceremony.

The week-long campaign consisted of 50 events, speakers and activities, all based on the message to “just pause” before judging people based solely on one factor such as their race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, disability, mental illness or other factor.

Like the Oscars, Silver Anvils are given in multiple categories. It Starts with (Me)ek won in the internal communications category for government or non-profit organizations.

The campaign has previously won awards from both the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and the Southern Public Relations Federation.

Meek School student wins RTDNF’s most prestigious scholarship

Posted on: June 7th, 2018 by ldrucker

A Meek School of Journalism and New Media student has been awarded the Radio and Television Digital News Foundation’s most prestigious scholarship.

Brittany Brown is the recipient of the Ed Bradley Scholarship, a $10,000 award “presented to an outstanding student of color in memory of the late CBS News’ ’60 Minutes’ correspondent and groundbreaking journalist,” RTDNF reports.

RTDNF awards journalism students who have “demonstrated an outstanding commitment to broadcast and digital news, its ethical principles and the foundations of storytelling.” Honorees are invited to attend the fall Excellence in Journalism conference in Baltimore.

Brown is a Meek School senior journalism major and Spanish minor, who has been very involved in Ole Miss student media, serving as assistant news editor for The Daily Mississippian newspaper and digital content producer for NewsWatch Ole Miss, a live, student-run TV news program.

The RTDNF news release reports that “Brown is passionate about investigative journalism and multimedia storytelling, and she is currently completing a summer-long fellowship with Carnegie-Knight News21 at Arizona State University, where student-journalists from across the country and world are producing a national project on hate crimes and acts of hate in America.”

You can follow Brown on her website or on Twitter at @isthatbritt.

The 2018 class of fellowship and scholarship recipients includes nine young journalists of color – six of them women of color.

“The journalists represent the best and brightest in news,” RTDNF reports. “From health to science to sports and politics, they’ve demonstrated a commitment to keeping their communities informed.”

To read the full article, click here.

IMC program sees growth on regional Tupelo and DeSoto campuses

Posted on: May 29th, 2018 by ldrucker

Once a small part of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, and of Outreach, the Integrated Marketing Communication Program’s growth at the regional campuses has increased in the past 18 months. Word-of-mouth promotion from enthusiastic students has driven much of the growth. But active recruitment and disciplined focus has also played a role.

As of the end of May, the program has 26 students at the DeSoto and Tupelo campuses, with additional student registration expected through the summer, since regional students tend to register later than their counterparts on the Oxford campus. The program also had its first graduating class this spring with students either stepping into new jobs and starting careers or planning to attend law school or obtain a higher degree in their field.

Working with admissions officers and academic counselors at community colleges, IMC staff have worked to raise the profile of IMC as an exciting and flexible field of study. Students are attracted to the job potential and creative satisfaction that are part of the IMC major.  Thanks to new marketing materials and ongoing communication, students and their advisors are more aware of what IMC is and what it offers. Targeted recruitment meetings at the DeSoto and Tupelo campuses, supported by program leadership and current Oxford and regional students, have attracted potential new students and have been well attended and received.

Community outreach also has helped raise the program’s profile. This spring, the first regional senior class of IMC students developed marketing, branding and public relations campaigns for key community organizations in Southaven and Tupelo. They include the Southaven Park District, Southaven Chamber of Commerce, Tupelo area United Way, CREATE Foundation of Tupelo, and the Shepherd’s Hands philanthropy in Tupelo.

Students had the opportunity to present to executives and boards of directors and saw their proposals accepted and used as part of each organization’s branding and development plans. One of our graduates was hired by one of the participating organizations. Program leaders hope that these efforts will continue to generate growth and additional job and internship opportunities for students.

Leaders believe this growth is just the beginning, and there is tremendous potential for the program at both the DeSoto and Tupelo campuses.  While regional students often face different challenges from those faced by Oxford students and complete their IMC requirements in a more condensed time frame, the enthusiasm of the program’s regional students and their belief in their future are very much the same.

Street speaks to members of College Public Relations Association of Mississippi

Posted on: May 24th, 2018 by ldrucker

Senior Lecturer in Public Relations Robin Street spoke to members of the College Public Relations Association of Mississippi May 21 at Holmes Community College – Ridgeland. PR staff members from all four-year and community colleges in the state can join.

Street spoke about the It Starts with (Me)ek anti-stereotyping campaign she and 30 students put on at the Meek School. Street’s former students and other Meek School alumni were well represented. Alumni Mary Margaret Turner Busby and Barin von Foregger organized the conference.

From left are UM alumni with Street in the college where they work as communication specialists. Front row: Steve Diffey (Holmes), Donna Thomas (ICC), Street and Julie Bauer (NWCC).

Second row: Natalie Davis (Co-Lin), Mary Margaret Busby (Holmes), Pam Starling (Ole Miss), Barin von Foregger (Holmes). Third row:  Nell Luter Floyd (Millsaps), Cathy Hayden (Hinds) and Sarah Sapp (Ole Miss).

Around 400 students graduated in May from Meek School of Journalism and New Media

Posted on: May 20th, 2018 by ldrucker

It took a lot of hard work and dedication, but this month, the Meek School of Journalism and New Media sent several hundred students out into the real world who will be pursuing their dream jobs.

More than 400 Meek School students graduated from the University of Mississippi this May, and these integrated marketing communications students and future journalists are starting a new chapter in their lives.

There were 402 Meek School graduates, including those who earned master’s degrees in journalism and IMC. Of those, 328 walked in the graduation ceremony.

Photo by Andrew Long

The speaker for the graduation ceremony was Dick Starmann, who graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1968. A Midwest native, Starmann carefully investigated universities throughout the nation and came to Ole Miss in the mid-1960s because of the uncommon Department of Journalism that offered a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism in the School of Business. He went on to become a leading global communications/marketing executive.

Starmann has practiced crisis management in the United States, Asia and the Pacific Basin for 30 years. As a senior officer and member of McDonald’s Corporation’s top management, he was in charge of worldwide communications and led the company’s global Crisis Management Response & Preparedness team from 1981-1998. He was an officer of the McDonald’s Corporation for 19 of his 27 years with the company.

Photo by Andrew Long.

Starmann has firsthand, on-the-ground management experience with health issues and food- and air-borne illnesses, and he has developed terrorist command and control plans for American companies in the United States, Europe and Asia.

He was a first lieutenant and paratrooper in the U.S. Army Special Forces in Vietnam from 1968-1970. He also is a former member of the board of directors of the San Diego Padres professional baseball team.

Photo by Andrew Long.

He was a senior advisor to the late Joan B. Kroc, widow of McDonald’s Corp. founder, Ray A. Kroc. Upon her passing in 2003, Starmann was co-trustee of Mrs. Kroc’s estate headquartered in San Diego, California.

He has lectured on crisis management at Dartmouth, Purdue and the universities of Nebraska, Mississippi and Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, he is a speaker in the MBA program and former chair and current member of the Advisory Council for the College of Business. In 2006, the Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame, inaugurated a Research Chair in Peace Studies in his honor.

After Starmann’s speech, Meek School Dean Will Norton, Ph.D., addressed the audience of graduates and their friends and families.

“Mothers and fathers, we thank you for lending your sons and daughters to us these last few years,” he said. “We trust that the significance of their years at Ole Miss and the Meek School will be with them every day for the rest of their lives.”

Street honored for making University of Mississippi more inclusive for LGBTQ students

Posted on: May 11th, 2018 by ldrucker

Robin Street, senior lecturer in journalism, has been recognized once again for her work to make the University of Mississippi more inclusive for all students.

The Allies Program recognized Street as the 2018 faculty recipient of the Vicki Mahan Ally of the Year Award. The award was created in 2015 to recognize the work of Vicki Mahan, who was retiring from the university. She created and ran the Allies Program for more than a decade.

The award recognizes individuals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make the university a welcoming, accepting, and inclusive place for LGBTQ students, faculty and staff.

Street, who organized and led a program last year called It Starts With MEek that promoted diversity and inclusivity, shares the award this year with Vice Chancellor Brandi Hephner Lebanc, the staff/administrator recipient.

Street is pictured with Kevin Cozart, operations coordinator, for the Sarah Isom Center for Women and Gender Studies.