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Department of Public Policy Leadership
University of Mississippi

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Cultivating Leaders: Tyler Yarbrough

Posted on: October 17th, 2019 by erabadie

Meet Tyler, a public policy leadership major

OCTOBER 7, 2019

Raised in the most impoverished region in the poorest state in the country, the Mississippi Delta is where I’m from. Some see Clarksdale as a place where hope goes to die, but I view it a little differently. It is a place of hope. A place where if people had the resources and agency that stems from it, they too could wholeheartedly believe in and enjoy the powerful truth: that you can be whatever you want in this world despite your current circumstances.

I wish to bring that idea home, not only for my friends and neighbors, but for the America that continues to live in the shadows. The America whose skin complexion, hair texture, economic, and educational background resemble mine.

Studying public policy allows me to use my lived experiences—growing up in a single parent household—to analyze the policy measures that make climbing up the socioeconomic ladder that much harder. I get my grit from my mom. Becoming a parent at the age of 14, she opted to raise her kids rather than pursuing her dreams. Her dreams on hold for over a decade, she went back to college while I was in middle school, eventually working her way up to a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing. Her success story and agency to act was not only for her kids, but for our community. My hometown of Clarksdale suffers from subpar healthcare options and outcomes. Its public schools perform below others in the state. We have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country. These are all issues that could be easily be addressed with a few strokes of a pen—with legislation to improve the Delta.

Even though my mother’s story resembles so many others like hers in the Mississippi Delta, our stories are often not highlighted, making it impossible for us to address our problems as a state.

When we value these stories, we are presented with avenues for social progress by addressing issues that affect the most vulnerable around us. Once we recognize how we have neglected those people, the harms of our past inactions will easily be recognizable.

I say all of this to highlight the significance of receiving the Stamps Scholarship.

The Stamps Scholarship is the most esteemed full scholarship package that any student can receive from the University of Mississippi. The full scholarship comes with a $12,000 enrichment fund to enhance my academic learning experience. A product of welfare programs, low-income public housing, and food stamps while growing up, it’s humbling to have people see my potential.

Stamps has taken me to Ecuador where I bonded with the other scholarship recipients for nearly two weeks. It has allowed me to purchase my plane ticket to teach 8th grade history through a social justice lens in Providence, Rhode Island. This social justice framework allowed me to highlight issues that affect minority communities while also working to instill in my students a sense of agency to make change in their communities. We discussed bill writing and taking control of their personal stories to give a different narrative about their community, which the media often skews. While there I also was able to critically examine my own years in grade school, allowing me to bring those ideas back to the Mississippi Delta to improve the quality of education.

The Stamps Scholarship has given me the opportunity to study abroad in Cape Town, South Africa. Focused on studying before and after apartheid, I plan to enhance my experience by creating video stories gauging the opinions of native South Africans surrounding their current debates on land reform. Although apartheid has officially ended, the black population remains at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, often residing in underdeveloped, segregated urban townships, where homes resemble shacks made of scrap metal. What South Africa does to reconcile their history has the potential to affect public policy throughout the world—even in the Mississippi Delta, where broad similarities exist.

Stamps has funded my personal growth. Most importantly, it has allowed me to expand my world view and realize the potential I have to make my mark. For that, I will forever be indebted to the university and the Stamps family.

My story highlights just how crucial it is to increase minority scholarships to the university and focus our attention on capturing the hidden talents that reside in the Mississippi Delta.

The progress of Mississippi is intrinsically tied into the University of Mississippi understanding the impact in investing in people like myself. I, and others like me, have a fiery passion for improving our state and ending the cycle of poverty dating to slavery in the region. I want others to see themselves in me and understand that they can accomplish anything that they put their minds to. Everyone deserves that!

After graduating, I would love to focus on education, philanthropic endeavors, improving the Mississippi Delta, and finding solutions to poverty and its adverse effects on an international scale. The Stamps Scholarship connects me to a national cohort of individuals who want to usher in bold changes to their respected fields. I’m honored to be amongst them. I plan to use the scholarship to better cultivate my passions, while also making bold, progressive, and systemic changes along the way.

CLASS OF 2019: Morgan Cannon

Posted on: September 18th, 2019 by erabadie
Morgan Cannon, 2019

Morgan Cannon

Originally from Loxley, Alabama, Morgan is attending the University of Southern California to pursue a Masters in Accountancy with emphasis in Data Analytics and plans to earn her CPA before working with KPMG as an Experienced Associate in their Dallas Audit Practice.

Morgan’s favorite memory as a member of the Lott Leadership Institute is when Mallie Imbler (BA political science and public policy leadership ’19) worked at the White House and got Morgan into the Fourth of July party on the South Lawn.

Read about other students from the Class of 2019 in the newsletter>>

CLASS OF 2019: Jarrius Adams

Posted on: September 18th, 2019 by erabadie
Jarrius Adam, 2019

Jarrius Adam

Originally from Hattiesburg, Jarrius is working with Jim Hood on his campaign for Governor of Mississippi. After that, he plans to attend law school at a Historically Black College.

Read about his summer internship on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. with the prestigious Congressional Black Caucus Foundation>>

Jarrius’s favorite memory as a member of the Lott Leadership Institute is having Dr. Melissa Bass, associate professor of public policy leadership, yell at him for interrupting her while she was giving instructions.

Read about other students from the Class of 2019 in the newsletter>>


CLASS OF 2019: Keveon Taylor

Posted on: September 18th, 2019 by erabadie
Keveon Taylor, 2019

Keveon Taylor

Originally from Merigold, Mississippi, Keveon is continuing his education at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

“I studied public policy leadership because my end goal is to return to the Delta, practice law, and become either a judge or a state senator. The program prepared me for a career serving the public,” said the cadet in the Ole Miss Army ROTC, president of the Eta Zeta Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., firefighter with the Lafayette County Fire Department, and trumpet player and singer in the Mississippi National Guard.

“Public policy leadership teaches students how to think critically. As an attorney, it will be important for me to analyze information from a deeper perspective.

Keveon lists as academic highlights traveling to Mexico with the public policy leadership program to study cultural dynamics and having an internship with Carr Law Firm in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Read about other students from the Class of 2019 in the newsletter>>

Three Liberal Arts Professors Honored for Excellence in Teaching

Posted on: May 11th, 2019 by wtoakes

Award recipients come from fields of classics, public policy leadership and modern languages

Three University of Mississippi professors were honored Friday (May 11) by the College of Liberal Arts for their excellence in teaching.

Nidhi Vij Mali, assistant professor of public policy leadership, received the Howell Family Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award. Named after alumni donors Dr. Norris Howell and Lynne Thomas Howell, both of Ripley, the endowment provides funds to recognize the outstanding teacher of the year within the college.

“We commend Ms. Kaufmann, Dr. Pasco-Pranger and Dr. Mali for their outstanding dedication to teaching and service to our students,” said Lee Cohen, UM liberal arts dean. “These awards symbolize the importance of teaching excellence to our college’s mission. It is an honor and a privilege to recognize this year’s recipients.”

Each of the recipients expressed gratitude for their recognition:
“The award is fuel for encouragement, appreciation and gratitude,” said Mali, who joined the university’s public policy leadership faculty in 2016. “It gives me confidence in what I do every day and grateful that the students appreciate it.
“To have received the award within the second year of my teaching, it has been a very humbling experience.”

Recipients also shared their philosophies of teaching:
“My students and their words of appreciation for the efforts that we put in as teachers are what are most rewarding for me,” said Mali, who also received the Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award from the Syracuse University Graduate School in 2016 while earning her doctorate.

Nomination letters noted why each recipient deserved her award:
One writer who nominated Mali wrote, “She does more than just go above and beyond. Besides her amazing teaching abilities, Dr. Mali’s personality inspires me and other students to be the best version of ourselves.”
Another of Mali’s nomination letters said, “she made herself available to me 24/7 to get help. She learned more about me as a person and my home life than anyone else at the university.”

Learning in the Footsteps of Greatness

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by erabadie

UM sophomore, Winona native chosen for Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program


Mitchell Palmertree

Mitchell Palmertree

A University of Mississippi student is heading to Virginia this May to study leadership at the home of the country’s first leader, George Washington.

Mitchell Palmertree, a sophomore public policy leadership major from Winona, has been selected as a Mount Vernon Leadership Fellow. The program is a highly selective, six-week institute for 16 rising college juniors across the country that offers unparalleled leadership learning and networking opportunities at Mount Vernon, the historic home outside Washington, D.C., of the country’s first president.

“This truly is an opportunity to experience something very few people could ever dream of,” Palmertree said. “To call such a historic place my home and experience some of the same experiences as our first president for even a short time will be both awe-inspiring and transformational.

“In addition to this, for six weeks I will be surrounded by other highly driven individuals much like myself. Just the thought of being able to problem-solve with and bounce ideas off of these other fellows is amazing.”

Over the course of his May 25-July 5 stay at the institute, which includes housing, transportation, meals and a $3,000 stipend, Palmertree will study a character-based leadership and decision-making curriculum modeled after Washington’s military and political career. He also will learn about institution building, identify areas for growth and meet with national leaders in government, military, industry and nonprofits, learning from their journeys and counsel.

A highlight of the program is turning a personal passion into a blueprint for action in the form of a capstone project.

“I feel Mount Vernon will inspire me further simply with the location, the caliber of fellows and the variety of speakers,” Palmertree said. “I fully expect that I will come out of this summer a better leader and a better person simply by experiencing that.”

Palmertree, who studies in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, is the second student from the college in as many years to be selected to the Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program. Elizabeth Boyer, of Houston, was selected last year, becoming the first Ole Miss student ever admitted to the program, which started in 2015.

“Mitchell’s passion emerges from his convictions and his ability to align his actions with these deep-felt commitments,” said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, dean of the Honors College. “Rare are the young people who can follow through on their passions to implement strategies to mitigate the challenges in a community.

“Mitchell’s track record mirrors those convictions and proves that he has already made a difference. We are very proud of his accomplishments and elated with this national recognition.”

Palmertree’s proposed capstone project is inspired by his work last summer, when he interned at the Sunflower County Freedom Project, an educational nonprofit program in the Mississippi Delta for middle and high school students. Having grown up only 50 miles east of Sunflower, Palmertree recognizes the challenges facing young people in rural Mississippi, especially when it comes to educational opportunities, and he would like to create a project similar to the Sunflower County Freedom Project in Winona.

The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program presents a roadmap for bringing such a project to Winona, along with needed resources and support, he said.

“I am hoping Mount Vernon equips me with the necessary skills to turn my dream of the freedom project in Winona into a reality,” he said. “I want the freedom project in Winona to be so much more than just another summer or after-school program; mediocracy is not a goal of mine. I want it to be an engine for change and progress in my hometown.

“Simply starting it is a tall task by itself, and developing it into the vision I see it as is even more challenging. My deepest hope is that I leave Mount Vernon this summer with the complete confidence that I can turn this dream into a reality.”

The Mount Vernon Leadership Fellows Program selects young people – just like Palmertree – who have a passion for making the world a better place and inspires young leaders while connecting them to mentors and helping them design a workable plan to carry out their dreams, said Tim Dolan, director of the UM Office of National Scholarship Advisement.

“Mitchell cares deeply about Mississippi and wants to work to help the state move past its legacies of racism and segregation,” he said. “He has a plan to begin in his hometown of Winona, and I believe they recognized his vision and willingness to invest his energy into creating positive change.”

Gift Benefits Public Policy Leadership Students

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by erabadie

Alumnus supports rising juniors with major gift


Dean Copeland (in dark blue shirt) is surrounded by family: (from left) son Braden; grandson Campbell Dickson (now 17); wife Linda; grandson Mac Dickson (now 22); son-in-law Tim Dickson; grandson Brody Dickson (now 19); and daughter Albie Dickson.

Dean Copeland (in dark blue shirt) is surrounded by family: (from left) son Braden; grandson Campbell Dickson (now 17); wife Linda; grandson Mac Dickson (now 22); son-in-law Tim Dickson; grandson Brody Dickson (now 19); and daughter Albie Dickson.

Teaching a college course inspired University of Mississippi alumnus Dean Copeland of Atlanta, Georgia, to provide financial support to student leaders at his alma mater.

Copeland, a UM graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, recently made a $100,000 gift to establish a scholarship endowment for undergraduates in the Department of Public Policy Leadership.

“My dream is for the scholarship to grow, whether that is to benefit more than one student or to provide a student with the opportunity to have an experience abroad,” Copeland said, noting the importance of students gaining global experiences in today’s increasingly interconnected society.

The Copeland Scholarship Endowment for Leadership and Public Policy will provide rising juniors with a scholarship that can be retained for up to four semesters. The Public Policy Leadership department will select the recipient, taking into consideration GPA and other more subjective criteria.

For Copeland, the ideal scholarship candidate would be a student who has displayed exemplary leadership abilities, risk-taking tendencies and interest in issues that affect the future, such as technology, science, globalization, the environment, and forms of government – issues covered in the course that inspired his gift. Copeland taught geopolitics at UM and to Morehead Scholars at the University of North Carolina and is now teaching at the University of Virginia.

Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said, “We greatly appreciate Mr. Copeland’s generous gift and his commitment to identifying our brightest student leaders. The Copeland Scholarship will have a tremendous impact on its recipients and the Public Policy Leadership department.”

Copeland’s experience teaching geopolitics and selecting Rhodes Scholars has given him a unique perspective on student leadership. From his perspectives gained as an instructor, he remains focused on student development and anticipates that his gift will provide opportunities for recipients to develop leadership skills and broaden their interests.

“The students I have appreciated the most are those who want to create change in their own communities, or on the global and national levels,” Copeland said. “These students have been interested in areas such as public health and public education, but it is their commitment to public service that stands out most. They want to make a difference.”

In addition to the impact on the student experience, Copeland hopes his gift will encourage other UM alumni and friends to learn more about the Public Policy Leadership program and make similar investments in the future of its students.

A graduate of Murrah High School in Jackson, Mississippi, Copeland earned a bachelor’s degree in history from UM in 1961. He later attended the University of Oxford in England as a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from Yale University’s School of Law.

Copeland served in the U.S. Army as adjutant of the Judge Advocate General’s School in Charlottesville, Virginia, before going into private law practice with an Atlanta-based firm. He also worked as general counsel of a public insurance company until his retirement in 2005. In 2012, as an adjunct professor, he began teaching his short interdisciplinary course, covering geopolitical subject matter and future trends.

The Copeland Scholarship Endowment for Leadership and Public Policy accepts gifts from individuals and organizations. To contribute, mail a check to the University of Mississippi Foundation, with the scholarship’s name in the memo line, to 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655; or online at

For more information contact William Kneip, development officer, at or 662-915-2254.

Student’s Photos Are Picture-Perfect

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by erabadie

Yasmine Malone among 22 female photographers featured in The New York Times


UM sophomore Yasmine Malone uses her iPhone to take photos that have appeared in The New York Times. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

UM sophomore Yasmine Malone uses her iPhone to take photos that have appeared in The New York Times. Photo by Kevin Bain/Digital Imaging Services

Yasmine Malone definitely has an eye for photography.

The University of Mississippi student was among 22 young female photographers selected to participate in a recent New York Times feature project. The newspaper asked the women to take photos for “This is 18,” which explores daily life for girls around the world who are becoming adults this year.

The attention Malone has gained from her national exposure has put her on the path to joining the ranks of such renowned women photographers as Annie Liebovitz and Sally Mann.

“I was honored and humbled to be selected for such a unique opportunity,” said Malone, a 20-year-old sophomore English and public policy leadership major from Clarksdale. “Although I think I was deserving of it, I never saw it coming. It was truly a miracle.”

Ironically, Malone, who is minoring in political science and journalism, discovered her interest in photography almost by accident.

While in high school, Malone was selected to participate in Blue Magnolia Films’ “Celebrating Storytellers” project last year.

Commemorating Mississippi’s bicentennial, 100 voices from 13 cities were trained by film company staff in the craft of photography and storytelling during a full-immersion workshop. The resulting images have graced the covers of newspapers across the state, as well as The New York Times.

“I took pictures on my iPhone7 for the Mississippi bicentennial project,” she said. “I never thought that my high school experience would lead to something like this.

“I got to highlight a bright spot in our community. That’s how I ended up being chosen by The New York Times for the ‘This is 18’ project.”

Tieryaa Metcalf, of Clarksdale, Malone’s aunt and seventh-grade honors English teacher, said she noticed her niece was well-spoken and saw her gift of “gab” as potential for future success. To that end, Metcalf urged Malone to write a piece for the Mississippi Public Broadcasting National Writing Project.

Throughout Malone’s high school years, Metcalf encouraged her niece to enter several oratorical contests as well.

“She informed me that I was the first teacher to push and challenge her to think deeper into the context of the different readings and writings that were taught in my class,” Metcalf said. “I am both excited, yet humbled, by her success. I know that she will do great things with her ability to write, speak and be an activist for voices unheard.”

While the New York Times experiences have definitely been a highlight in her life, Malone said she hopes to work as a student photographer for The Daily Mississippian, the Ole Miss campus newspaper. If she joins the staff, it will be in addition to her standing involvements with the Black Student Union and the Associated Student Body Freshman Forum.

“This experience has inspired me to commit myself 100 percent to everything I do,” she said. “I know that as I do that, nothing but good things will eventually come my way.”

To view Malone’s photos and story, visit

McLean Institute Grant Award Funds Community Engagement

Posted on: March 5th, 2019 by erabadie

Hearin Foundation provides support for research and service efforts


The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement welcomed a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. First row from left, Albert Nylander, Hannah Newbold, Navodit Paudel, Kristina Fields, J.R. Love, Laura Martin; second row from left, Michael Mott, Allison Borst, Zachary Pugh, Joshua Baker, Kendall Walker, Curtis Hill; third row from left, Bryce Williams, Elena Bauer, Adam Franco, Arielle Rogers, Virginia Parkinson, Anna Katherine Burress, Ashley Bowen.

The University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement welcomed a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. First row from left, Albert Nylander, Hannah Newbold, Navodit Paudel, Kristina Fields, J.R. Love, Laura Martin; second row from left, Michael Mott, Allison Borst, Zachary Pugh, Joshua Baker, Kendall Walker, Curtis Hill; third row from left, Bryce Williams, Elena Bauer, Adam Franco, Arielle Rogers, Virginia Parkinson, Anna Katherine Burress, Ashley Bowen.

A grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for the University of Mississippi’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement will fund research and service aimed at increasing community and economic development in Mississippi communities.

The McLean Institute welcomes a new group of outstanding students from around the globe this fall, representing majors from across the university. This scholarship opportunity serves to build actionable partnerships across the state to promote entrepreneurship and economic development.

Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute, professor of sociology and principal investigator for the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, program, said he is thankful for the approximately $500,000 provided by the foundation.

“The wonderful people at the Hearin Foundation continue their remarkable record of supporting university students through fellowships to make a difference throughout Mississippi,” Nylander said.

Fifteen students were selected this year to continue a nearly $2 million McLean Institute investment from the Hearin Foundation to bolster community and economic development in Mississippi. This grant will support UM students through 2021.

The CEED Initiative works with UM students and faculty to implement projects and conduct research that directly affects Mississippi communities. These students join a network of more than 50 UM students and faculty, as well as a collaboration of more than 400 community and business leaders in the state, who embarked on the first CEED project in 2014-18.

The annual entrepreneurship forums, business webinars, youth leadership programs and other activities are focused on spurring economic growth in the state.

“We are thankful to the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation for providing the opportunity to continue working in Mississippi with business and community leaders in partnership with UM students to help move our state forward,” said J.R. Love, CEED project manager.

The program’s annual Mississippi Entrepreneurship Forum, which helps strengthen the state’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, will take place March 8, 2019, at Millsaps College in partnership with other universities throughout the state.

The CEED program supports undergraduate and graduate students and faculty members to research poverty, education, asset building, and health care in Mississippi.

“As a McLean Institute innovation fellow, I am to think critically about the issues of poverty and development in Mississippi, in particular the Delta area,” said Ashley Bowen, a master’s student in computer science from Lambert. “Through sustained community engagement, and by applying strategies in community development, I have been able to positively impact the community and develop myself professionally.”

The McLean Institute also supports faculty research projects through the CEED Initiative. Cristiane Surbeck, associate professor of civil engineering; Kate Centellas, Croft associate professor of anthropology and international studies; David Holben, professor of nutrition and hospitality management; Tejas Pandya, assistant professor of mechanical engineering; and Annie Cafer, assistant professor of sociology, all have received funds to conduct projects in Mississippi.

The 2018-19 CEED program includes students from the College of Liberal Arts and the schools of Accountancy, Applied Science, Business Administration, Engineering, Journalism and New Media, Law and Pharmacy.

Other students in the program are: Josh Baker, a junior majoring in economics from Katy, Texas; Elena Bauer, second-year law student, Freiburg, Germany; Allison Borst, junior in biological sciences and sociology, Madison; Anna Katherine Burress, junior in pharmaceutical science, Water Valley; Kristina Fields, junior in psychology, Belden; Adam Franco, senior in public policy leadership, Birmingham, Alabama; Michael Mott, junior in integrated marketing communications and Spanish, Chicago; Hannah Newbold, junior in integrated marketing communications, Roswell, Georgia; Virginia Parkinson, sophomore in marketing and corporate relations, Oxford; Navodit Paudel, junior in general business, Dhading, Nepal; Zach Pugh, sophomore in public policy leadership, Oxford; Arielle Rogers, sophomore in accountancy, Guntown; Kendall Walker, junior in communication sciences and disorders, Tupelo; and Bryce Williams, master’s student in exercise science, Ridgeland.

For more information on the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, visit or contact Albert Nylander at 662-915-2050, or

Annual Awards Program Honors UM Faculty and Students

Posted on: February 20th, 2019 by wtoakes

HEADWAE recognizes academic achievement, contributions to higher education

John M. Ridoldi (left), professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, and Dion Armstrong Kevin III

John M. Ridoldi (left), professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, and Dion Armstrong Kevin III, a senior from Oxford, are among the recipients of awards in this years HEADWAE progrm.

University of Mississippi students and faculty were among the honorees at the 31st annual Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence, or HEADWAE, awards program Feb. 20 in Jackson.

Dion Armstrong Kevin III, a senior from Oxford majoring in public policy leadership, and James Robert Ware II, a fourth-year medical student, were the university’s student honorees. John M. Rimoldi, professor of medicinal chemistry and environmental toxicology, and Molly Moore, assistant professor of nursing at the UM Medical Center, were the faculty representatives on the awards program.

“I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I would be honored with this award,” said Kevin, Associated Student Body president. “It’s a special experience to know that some of the state’s most esteemed public servants recognize my contribution to higher education as a student.

“It gives me confidence to keep working toward the betterment of myself and higher education in Mississippi.”

Moore said it is a great honor to represent the Medical Center.