University of Mississippi

Prison-to-College Pipeline Program Helps Participants Build Futures

UM-Mississippi College partnership supports pursuit of college education at correctional facilities

Co-directors Otis Pickett (back row, left) and Patrick Alexander (back row, right) with 16 graduates of the summer 2016 Prison-to-College Pipeline course at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Submitted photo/Mississippi Department of Corrections

OXFORD, Miss. – A partnership between the University of Mississippi and Mississippi College is promoting higher education in prison and helping incarcerated men and women transform their lives as they earn credits toward a college education.

The Prison-to-College Pipeline Programbegan in summer 2014 with 17 students at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman. Since then, 61 men have completed a PTCPP course at the facility. Twenty of those have earned English credits from Ole Miss and several have received history credits from Mississippi College.

“Working with men who have been participants in and graduates of the Prison-to-College Pipeline Program has been one of the greatest joys of my life,” said Patrick Alexander, UM assistant professor of English and African American studies. “To have the opportunity to play a small role in encouraging and advancing the very large educational goals, intellectual curiosities, and college and post-college dreams of men of all ages who are serving time at Parchman in particular has been an unprecedented honor.”

Alexander, who has taught African-American literature courses in prison systems in North Carolina and Mississippi for the past decade, partnered with Otis Pickett, Mississippi College assistant professor of history, to create the program. Pickett said it has been the singular greatest experience of his career.

“To have the opportunity to address a social justice issue through my profession and as part of my teaching role is a unique opportunity and one that I am incredibly proud of,” he said. “I thought I was coming to teach these students, but they are the ones teaching me.”

Last summer, the program expanded to the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility for women in Pearl. Pickett and Stephanie Rolph, associate professor of history at Millsaps College, team-taught a course there on “Turning Oppression into Opportunity.”

Eighteen students completed that for-credit college course, which was likely the first one taught at a women’s prison by Mississippi university faculty members.

Co-teachers Otis Pickett (back row, left) and Stephanie Rolph (back row, second from right) with the 18 graduates of the summer 2016 Prison-to-College Pipeline course at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility. Submitted photo/Mississippi Department of Corrections.

“The most valuable part of this experience for me has been the enthusiasm with which these women participate,” Rolph said. “You don’t have to explain to them why history matters; they already know. As an instructor, that is one of the most satisfying experiences I can hope for.”

In fall 2016, the PTCPP offered its first-ever course during the regular academic calendar at Parchman. The course, titled “Freedom: Literature and Creative Writing,” was team-taught by Alexander and Ann Fisher-Wirth, UM professor of English and director of the environmental studies minor who won the 2014 Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher Award.

“I have been very moved by my experience teaching in the PTCP program and I am so proud of the students in this class, many of whom had not really studied poetry before, but all of whom approached it with interest and curiosity,” she said.

Each of Fisher-Wirth’s 11 PTCPP students had an original poem or prose work included in the Parchman Portfolio, which she edited for the online journal About Place.

“Their work has been read by thousands of people,” she said. “In my 40 years of college-level teaching, I’ve never had a teaching experience that meant more to me.”

Comments from anonymous students about the program have been equally positive.

“I took the first course with Dr. Alexander and Dr. Pickett, which was an awesome experience, and this course (with Alexander/Fisher-Wirth) was awesome as well. The professors actually care about teaching us.”

Another student reported that the course “exceeded my expectations because I gained enormous skills that were hidden deep within me.”

“Your time and dedication to the service of men, who many people feel aren’t deserving of this level of education, shows that there are genuinely good people still in this world,” another student said. “The lessons I’ve learned are invaluable.

“When I become a published author, I will be certain to put the names of Dr. Fisher-Wirth and Dr. Alexander at the top of my acknowledgement page.”

Since the program’s inception, Alexander and Pickett have continued to teach their inaugural course, titled “Justice Everywhere.” Its original content, which focused on speeches and/or writings of Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer and Barack Obama, has expanded to include Ida B. Wells and Maya Angelou.

“I am so thankful for the support of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Mississippi, to Mississippi College and to the Mississippi Humanities Council for funding this work,” Pickett said. “I am also thankful for Parchman and Central Mississippi Correctional, who have allowed us to come in, offer courses and to teach students.

“My greatest thanks go to the students, whose hard work in the most difficult of conditions proves what the human spirit is capable of.”

English Professor Wins Pushcart Prize for Best Essay

Chris Offutt also won Kentucky Literary Award for nonfiction this year

Chris Offutt. Photo by Sandra Dyas

OXFORD, Miss. – Even for someone who is already a respected, prize-winning author and screenwriter, winning the prestigious Pushcart Prize is a rewarding experience.

“The Pushcart Prize is a personal milestone,” said Chris Offutt, associate professor of English and screenwriting at the University of Mississippi. Offutt won the top annual literary honor for his essay “Trash Food,” originally published in Oxford American magazine.

“When I first started writing seriously, I read several volumes of the Pushcart Prize anthology in a public library,” he said. “It seemed far-fetched to imagine that one day I’d write something that would be in there. I’m still surprised that my commitment to writing has worked out.”

The Pushcart Prize is an American literary prize that honors the best “poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot” published in the small presses over the previous year. Awarded annually since 1976, the prize is considered one of the most prestigious in its field.

Magazine and small press editors are invited to submit up to six works for consideration. Pushcart Press publishes annual anthologies of the winners. 

Offutt wrote the essay at the request of John T. Edge, director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, which is part of the university’s Center for the Study of Southern Culture. The essay is about race and class in the South – an issue of great importance to Offutt – and how it plays out in the food people eat.

“The award meant that I’d gotten my points across well,” he said. “It also meant more people would read it. According to the editor at Oxford American, the essay went viral online.”

Ivo Kamps, UM chair and professor of English, praised Offutt’s latest achievement.

“We’re very happy, though not surprised, that Chris Offutt has been chosen for the honor,” Kamps said. “Mr. Offutt is an accomplished and prolific writer, and winning a Pushcart Prize on the heels of the 2017 Kentucky Literary Award for a memoir about his father further underscores the power and far-reaching impact of his prose.

“For the last six years, he has been an enormous asset to our English department. It’s truly wonderful that our aspiring young writers can study with someone of his caliber and dedication.”

Offutt worked on the HBO drama “True Blood” and the Showtime series “Weeds.” His books include “Kentucky Straight,” “The Same River Twice,” “The Good Brother,” “Out of the Woods” and “No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home.”

His work has appeared in such anthologies as “The Best American Essays” and “The Best American Short Stories.”

“I’d like to express my deep appreciation to Ivo Kamps and to all my colleagues in literature and creative writing,” Offutt said. “I have found a home here – physically and intellectually. My experience of teaching here for the past six years has been terrific in every way.”

UM Summer Poet in Residence, Rose McLarney, will read at Off Square Books on June 29th, at 5:30 p.m.

McLarney will be on campus through July 15 teaching undergraduate classes and working with emerging writers in the Department of English’s Master of Fine Arts program. She also will give a reading at Off Square Books at 5:30 p.m. June 29. A book signing at 5 p.m. will precede the free event.  For more information, click HERE.

UM Liberal Arts Graduate Programs Jump in Rankings: English, History and Political Science doctoral programs named among nation’s best

OXFORD, Miss. – On the heels of achieving the university’s highest-ever standing in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report annual rankings of Best (Undergraduate) Colleges and Universities, the publication’s most recent graduate academic program rankings confirm the university’s commitment to academic excellence.

Doctoral programs in English, history and political science all made significant strides in the 2018 graduate program rankings, indication of the growing strength and upward trend for UM’s graduate programs in social sciences and humanities.

The U.S. News & World Report graduate rankings for the three programs were last updated in 2013.

“We are proud of the faculty who have worked hard to distinguish our graduate programs, and these new rankings clearly indicate that they are gaining recognition for their efforts,” said Noel Wilkin, UM interim provost and executive vice chancellor. “We have encouraged each of our programs to pursue excellence and I am pleased that this pursuit is bringing recognition to our faculty, our university and our state.”

The English doctoral program demonstrated the biggest jump as it improved 16 spots, where it tied for No. 40 in the nation among public universities with fellow Southeastern Conference institutions the universities of Florida and Missouri.

A Ph.D. in history from the university has never been more valued, as the graduate program cracked the Top 40 for the first time. UM tied for No. 37 in the category – up nine spots from 2013 – and shares the position with fellow SEC and Carnegie R1 research universities Texas A&M and Kentucky.

The political science graduate program entered the rankings for the first time and tied for No. 58 among public institutions.

Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, says the rankings are a testament to the university’s strong faculty, staff and students.

“These rankings demonstrate what we have believed for some time: that we have strong, competitive doctoral programs on our campus that are well-respected at the national level,” Cohen said. “Of course, without the hard work of our faculty, staff and students, and the support of university administration, none of this would be attainable.”

The rankings are based on data collected last fall via surveys sent to administrators or faculty members at schools that granted five or more doctorates in each discipline from 2011 to 2015.

“Graduate education is increasingly important and valued in today’s competitive global marketplace,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said. “A UM graduate degree marks someone as a leader who will exceed employer expectations and be a real-world change maker.

“In order to continue the rise of our graduate programs, we are committed to enhancing our R1 standing as well as faculty excellence, research and scholarship.”

http://english.olemiss.edu/2017/03/22/4119/

Olivia Davis Wins Fulbright ETA to Greece

SMBHC senior Olivia Davis has been awarded a 2017 Fulbright US Student Program English Teaching Assistantship to Greece.

Olivia was born in Montgomery, Alabama, but grew up in different cities and states throughout the south and went to high school in Jackson, Mississippi. She will graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in English, with minors in chemistry, music, and classics, with an emphasis in ancient Greek. She hopes to study Byzantine chanting and Christian hymnody in the Greek Orthodox Church as a side research project while she teaches English as a second language. Her senior thesis advisor is Dr. Daniel Stout.

Olivia’s Fulbright Campus Committee wrote: Olivia is an experienced piano teacher, musician, artist, and writer. She has worked with beginning and intermediate students. She has researched Byzantine liturgical music and postmodern literature. She has excellent communication skills and is mature and respectful in her interactions with others. She is highly organized and able to work on complex tasks independently.  Olivia is an excellent writer and public speaker. She is a patient teacher, a good listener, and has an eclectic and interesting set of interests in art, literature, music and philosophy. One of the most intelligent candidates we’ve interviewed.

Congratulations, Olivia!

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For more information on the Fulbright ETA or other major scholarships, please visit the Office of National Scholarship Advisement, or contact ONSA Director Tim Dolan.

http://english.olemiss.edu/2017/03/21/english-major-olivia-davis-wins-fulbright-eta-to-greece/

Spotlight on Classrooms: Early American Literature at The University of Mississippi with Dr. Jaime Cantrell

Meredith recently spoke to Dr. Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at The University of Mississippi. Dr. Cantrell has introduced undergraduate students to the importance of archival research and materials by encouraging them to become citizen transcribers for the National Archives as part of their coursework.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background and what courses do you teach?

Jaime CantrellI am a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at The University of Mississippi, where I teach courses in English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Southern Studies, including “American Literature I”, “American Literature II”, “Literary Criticism”, “The South & Sexuality”, “Women in Literature”, and “Queer Theory”. Innovative pedagogy is crucial to my intellectual life as a scholar, and my research and teaching methods challenge institutional and individual biases. In short, I am familiar with teaching against the grain and through an intersectional perspective.

I co-edited Out of the Closet, Into the Archives: Researching Sexual Histories (SUNY Queer Politics and Cultures series, December 2015). With a foreword by Ann Cvetkovich, OCIA meditates on the ways queer archives spark precarious pleasures and compelling tensions for researchers—ultimately taking readers inside the experience of how it feels to do queer archival research and queer research in archives. OCIA is a Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best LGBT Anthology. I am presently at work on a book project titled Southern Sapphisms: Sexuality and Sociality in Literary Productions, 1969-1997.

How do you use the National Archives as a venue for primary sources? Why is this important in the classroom?

Two years ago, in my ENGL223: Survey of American Literature to the Civil War course, I lectured from a unit on our reading schedule titled “The Revolutionary Period”, which included, among other texts, selections from Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography Part I (1791) and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). As I launched into discussions on shifting American identities, a refocusing of the Puritan worldview and the rise of the enlightened citizen (and why students should care that Benjamin Franklin is the most humorous literary voice we’d encountered in class since Thomas Morton!), my students’ eyes wandered away from their textbooks and out the window paneled wall of the large auditorium. Careful not to lose their attention entirely, I enthusiastically redirected their gaze to a library slip from the Free Library of Pennsylvania that once belonged to Franklin, and read across that ephemeral document to his Autobiography: “These Libraries have improv’d the general Conversation of the Americans…” Sadly, that library slip was little more than a stock-Norton power point slide image projected on the screen behind me.

How did you learn about the Citizen Archivist Program at the National Archives?

I hoped to enhance the “general conversation” in my ENGL223 courses by turning to the library—or more specifically, to archives. I applied and was accepted to a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers titled “Early American Women’s History: Teaching from the Archives” that took place in Providence, RI in partnership with the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Programs at the Rhode Island Historical Society. It was an incredible opportunity! Nearly two dozen community college and university professors collaborated for two weeks–intent on developing classroom methodologies to “access, recover, and contextualize the voices of marginalized women…” through archives. We heard lectures from leading scholars in multiple humanities fields; each described their own struggles and successes with archival research. We visited collections, and met with librarians and archivists at The Massachusetts Historical Society, The American Antiquarian Society, the John Hay Library (Brown University), and the RIHS Library. That NEH workshop heralded many productive shifts in my pedagogical practices for ENGL223; I refined strategies for facilitating student access to digitized primary sources. Upon returning to my home institution, I immediately reframed my course description to read (excerpted, in part):

“In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne lamented that ‘America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash-and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed…” Writers and critics have long tried to dismiss or ignore the achievements of early American women writers. In the last several decades, however, feminist literary critics have recovered the works of women writers and reshaped the early American literary canon to include works from Phillis Wheatley, Lydia Maria Child, Angelina E. Grimké, Fanny Fern, Sarah Orne Jewett, Hannah Webster Foster, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Rebecca Harding Davis, alongside more familiar contributions from Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Abigail Adams, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Jacobs. This course will highlight a number of women’s writings from the colonial period to the middle of the 19th century.…….Particular attention will be paid to questions of race and gender and the relationship between history, culture and writing (including both “literature” and other written or transcribed forms of expression).  As archival collections are increasingly made available online, students will have the opportunity to digitally engage with exciting primary-source materials. In doing so, students become active critics and curators of those literary productions rather than mere explicators of them.”

To date, students in ENGL223 have sifted through the John and Abigail Adams Family Collection to access Abigail’s 1776 letter to John, exhorting him to “Remember the ladies…” (accessible through the Massachusetts Historical Society’s digital repository), they’ve discovered postcards and correspondence from the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Collection, available online from the Harry Ransom Center’s Project REVEAL (Read & View English and American Literature), and they’ve analyzed Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I Heard a fly buzz” in her own handwriting, available through the Dickinson Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library. I believe the archive—and paradoxically, the past itself—is an innovative path for moving forward into a radical, digital learning future. With that in mind, I turned again to the archives when structuring course assignments, and exhorted students to whet their appetites for archival research by participating in Citizen Archivist Transcription Projects through NARA. As part of the assignment, students completed Written Document Analysis worksheets developed by the Education staff at the National Archives. Below is a partial screenshot of a “Getting Started Guide” I posted to our course Blackboard page:

ENGL223 Assignment page

Example of a document selected and transcribed for Dr. Cantrell’s ENGL223 course. U.S. v. Sale of Negro Man, Woman, and Two Children https://catalog.archives.gov/id/12130607

Example of a document selected and transcribed for Dr. Cantrell’s ENGL223 course.
U.S. v. Sale of Negro Man, Woman, and Two Children. National Archives Identifier 12130607

 

Did you or your students experience any unexpected hurdles throughout the course of this assignment? How did you resolve them?

Yes, these things do happen. About forty or so of my 120 students experienced difficulty registering their personal and/or university emails with the catalog; Ms. Suzanne Isaacs, my NARA point of contact, was especially generous and gracious in ensuring they were able to register successfully. My own hurdles encompassed fielding questions and concerns from students as they undertook the assignment; to that end, I developed a “Troubleshooting” Blackboard page (see below) to address common concerns as they arose:

ENGL223 screenshot troubleshooting section

 

For many of your students, this assignment was the first time they had interacted with archives and transcribed historical documents. What were some of their takeaways from the experience?

Michael FortierMichael Fortier, a Junior Psychology major at The University of Mississippi with a minor in Gender Studies, transcribed documents in the National Archives Catalog for the first time during this course. Michael said of his experience, “A lot can be learned just from the use of language, and a lot of history can be uncovered from just a simple document. It really gave me appreciation for bookkeeping in the modern era, and appreciate the importance of it as well. Some of the most interesting revelations I had were from just the few moments I would write out a sentence and then go ‘no, no, that can’t be the right word.’ Discovering what the words could be, and having the same word suddenly make sense to me throughout the entire document was quite fun. It was like a puzzle piece just falling into place.”

While transcribing documents related to legal situations surrounding slaves, Michael learned more about a topic that was previously unfamiliar to him: “It isn’t a topic I find most schools to delve deeply into, and so it was all new information to me. I would love to look over the same kind of documentation about women’s rights battles.”

Katherine Campbell, also a student at The University of Mississippi describes the connection she felt with the documents as she transcribed: “What makes the process of transcribing documents so engaging is that it allows for a first hand experience of the way that people communicated with each other in the past. Before I participated in the National Citizen Archivist Project I thought that the art of transcription was confined only to important government documents and declarations. Upon visiting the website I found instead an abundance of personal letters and diary entries as well. I was able to view directly the diction people used to speak to each other, their styles of handwriting, and even the type of paper that was used. Transcribing a letter from the 19th Century was like reaching back into history and bringing a small piece of the past into the present.”

Do you have any advice for other educators or students who want to incorporate primary sources in the classroom/are considering contributing as Citizen Archivists?

For educators and students alike: Citizen Archivist transcription projects are both time consuming and rewarding; that pleasure and challenge is a privilege not to be missed.


Are you looking for ways to bring primary sources into the classroom? We can help get you started! Contact us at citizenarchivist@nara.gov. You can also explore documents, browse lesson plans, create teaching activities and more on DocsTeach.

Check out Jay Watson in the new SEC commercial.

The Conversation comes to Oxford on Monday, October 17th and Tuesday, October 18th

The Conversation Literary Festival comes to Oxford. Second year MFA student Aziza Barnes is co-directing this inaugural southern literary festival featuring some of the country’s most celebrated African American writers. The Conversation comes to Oxford on Monday, October 17th and Tuesday, October 18th.  Please click here for more details about the festival.thumbnail_purewhite-background_web-2

MFA Program ranked sixth for Aspiring Writers

Top 10 Universities for Aspiring Writers

The Edith Baine Lecture Series presents: “Nineteenth-Century Facebook: John Ridge and the Archives of Cherokee Resistance” by Kelly Wisecup. Oct. 24th at 4:30 p.m. Barnard Observatory Tupelo Room

wisecup-kellyKelly Wisecup is assistant professor of English at Northwestern University, where she researches and teaches Native American and early American literatures, focusing especially on Native American writers’ and activists’ engagement with colonial science, archives, and genres.  Her first book, Medical Encounters: Knowledge and Identity in Early American Literatures (2013) explores how medical knowledge served as a form of communication among colonists, Native Americans, and African Americans, one in which people defined and defended their bodies as well as their relationship to the environment and to other than human beings.  Her current book project, Assembled Relations: Compilation, Collection, and Native American Writing, investigates how Native American writers adapted forms of compilation and collection—herbals, vocabulary lists, museum inventories, catalogs, and commonplace books—to restore and remake environmental, epistemological, and interpersonal relations disrupted by colonialism.  Her articles have appeared in Early American Literature, Early American Studies, Atlantic Studies, Studies in Travel Writing, Literature and Medicine, The Southern Literary Journal, and Literature Compass, and she has received fellowships from the American Antiquarian Society, the American Philosophical Society, the John Carter Brown Library, the Newberry Library, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Lecture will take place on October 24th at 4:30 p.m in the Barnard Observatory Tupelo Room.  This event is free and open to the public.

Mission Statement
The Edith T. Baine Lecture Series for Scholars and Writers invites the best and brightest scholars and writers to our campus. The Baine lecturers and writers are chosen on the basis of energetic and engaged scholarship and creative work, innovative approaches, and dynamic presentation styles. The lectures showcase paradigm-shifting research and groundbreaking writing. The visiting scholars and writers are intended to expose undergraduates to the fullness of a life deeply engaged in literature while inspiring graduate students to pursue ambitious work.

Edith T. Baine
Mrs. Edith Turley Baine of El Dorado was born November 29, 1945 in Greenville, Mississippi, the daughter of Edith Waits Turley and George Turley. She graduated from Leland High School and the University of Mississippi, where she received B.A.E. and M.A.E. degrees. Mrs. Baine was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of El Dorado, El Dorado Service League, Phi Mu Sorority and Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity International. She was a former member of the Board of Directors of the Union County Humane Society. She was an El Dorado Jaycettes and later became an El Dorado Jaycee. She was a tree farmer and retired English teacher who taught in Mississippi and at El Dorado High School. On April 13, 2012, Mrs. Baine passed away at Baptist Health Medical Center in Little Rock. Her generous gift to the English Department at the University of Mississippi supports this lecture series and promotes academic and creative exchange.

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