20 Dec Jon Cartu Review: Year in Review: USM Celebrates Milestones in Academics,
12/19/2019 – 14:30pm | By: Van Arnold
An historic research classification, major investments in The University of Southern
Mississippi (USM)’s operations on the Gulf Coast, and significant advancements in
support for student-veterans, are among the top 12 USM stories of 2019, as selected
by staff members in the University’s Office of University Communications.
In no particular order, some of USM’s biggest and best news includes the following
1. USM Ranks Among the Nation’s Leading Research Institutions
In January, USM was recognized as one of the nation’s leading research institutions by the prestigious Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, the
pre-eminent classification of top doctoral research universities. USM’s inclusion
in the “R1: Doctoral Universities – Very high research activity” category places the
University in the distinguished company of institutions like Harvard, MIT, Stanford,
Johns Hopkins, and others. Only 131 institutions in the nation are classified as R1,
which represents the highest level of research activity for universities. The number
of doctoral degrees granted, research expenditures and research activity are among
the factors contributing to USM’s new classification.
2. Advancing Research on the Gulf Coast
In November, the National Science Foundation announced that a Gulf Coast civil rights icon was being honored as the namesake of a new, $100 million
oceanographic research ship, to be operated by the Gulf – Caribbean Oceanographic Consortium, led by USM and
the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. NSF officials have informed the National
Science Board that the ship, which is under construction and will have dual homeports
at the Port of Gulfport and Houma, LA, will be named Research Vessel (R/V) Gilbert
R. Mason. For decades until his death in 2006, Dr. Gilbert Rutledge Mason Sr. was
a pioneering Civil Rights leader and physician to the mariner community along the
Also in November, Gov. Phil Bryant along with U.S. Senator Roger Wicker and U.S. Congressman
Steven Palazzo, in conjunction with the Mississippi State Port Authority and USM,
celebrated the groundbreaking of the Roger F. Wicker Center for Ocean Enterprise located at the Port of Gulfport. The facility will serve as the centerpiece of research
and development in the Gulf, further establishing the initiatives of the Governor’s
Ocean Task Force and creating a unique maritime technology environment on the Mississippi
In May, a discovery in Alabama showed evidence that a team of researchers from USM’s School of Ocean Science and Engineering located the Clotilda, America’s last slave ship.
In June, a team of USM researchers began working to advance the state of Mississippi’s scientific understanding and the public’s comprehension
of the effects of the re-opening of Bonnet Carré Spillway on the Mississippi Sound.
3. USM Hosts Renowned Speakers, High-Profile Events
In September, legendary war correspondent and TV anchor Dan Rather delivered the Lt. Col. John H. Dale Lecture in International Security and
Global Policy at Hattiesburg’s Saenger Theatre.
The acclaimed University Forum Series featured an outstanding Fall 2019 lineup of speakers. In September, Parkland, Fla.,
shooting survivor Samantha Fuentes shared her experience in a riveting address on
the Hattiesburg campus, while October’s forum featured Grammy-winning producer, entrepreneur
and Southern Miss alumna Tena Clark. The series concluded in November with a presentation
by Sonia Shah, an investigative journalist who writes about science, human rights,
and international politics. Her work has been published in The New York Times, The
Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, and Foreign Affairs.
Kathleen N. Cleaver, a prominent and influential figure in the American Civil Rights
Movement who continues to fight for social justice across the country and around the
world, was the keynote speaker for the 2019 Armstrong-Branch Distinguished Lecture Series in February. Cleaver’s fight for human rights spans seven decades, ventures across
national and international borders, and includes service with notable public interest
Esteemed biophysicist, DNA scientist, and Southern Miss alumna Dr. Michelle Wang was
the featured speaker for the Fourth Annual Rayborn Lecture Series in Physics and Astronomy in November on USM’s Hattiesburg campus. Dr. Wang is a professor and Howard Hughes
Medical Institute Investigator at Cornell University.
The University also hosted a number of important events on the Hattiesburg campus
during 2019. Chief among those were a televised debate between gubernatorial candidates
Tate Reeves and Jim Hood held in October; a naturalization ceremony for 50 people
seeing U.S. citizenship also in October; and, the Mississippi High School state football
championships for classes 1A-6A in December.
4. National Scholarship Winners
For the first time since 1995 USM saw three students earn Goldwater Scholarships in the same year. No other Mississippi college or university had more than one winner
for 2019. This year’s trio brings the total number of USM Goldwater Scholarship recipients
to a state-leading total of 24. The winners included: Erin Crater, of Laurel, Miss.,
a junior with a double major in polymer science and chemistry; Michael Sandoz, of
Long Beach, Miss., a junior polymer science major; and Clara Ellis, of Hattiesburg,
Miss., a sophomore ACS Chemistry major.
5. Ellie Jewel Davis Dahmer Presented Honorary Doctorate
Esteemed Civil Rights activist and lifelong educator Mrs. Ellie Jewel Davis Dahmer,
of Forrest County, Miss., was awarded a Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, during USM’s Fall 2019 Commencement ceremony. Largely recognized for her work alongside
her late husband, voting rights icon Mr. Vernon F. Dahmer Sr. Dr. Dahmer was honored
for her contributions to the American Civil Rights Movement and her advocacy for literacy
and academic achievement.
6. Excellence in Nursing Education
In June, USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions received renewal of a federal grant worth $2.8 million over four years as part of the Advanced Nursing Education Workforce (ANEW) Program.
The ANEW Program provides funding to…