Sundance Fellow to Compete for Memphis Film Prize

We are pleased to share an update on Kevin Brooks, the Communication major at the University of Memphis who received a fellowship from the Sundance Film Festival through the Ignite Fellows Program. His film, Marcus, is one of the top ten films, out of more than fifty submissions, that were entered in the Memphis Film Prize contest, a local film festival in its inaugural year. Filmmakers were asked to submit a short film, five to fifteen minutes in length that must be shot within Shelby County.

Judging for the prize is determined by two groups, the first is a set of celebrity judges from the film industry and the second is the audience members at the festival’s screening dates. Both sets of judges will cast their votes at the festival, where they will watch the films together. All of the top ten films will be screened at Studio on the Square in Memphis on August 12 and 13, and the winner will be announced on August 14 and will receive $10,000.

Brooks’s film, Marcus, “tells the story about a young man who is struggling with the consequences of Karma derived from decisions he has had to make to survive.” Brooks is proud of his work and feels that it brings together the city of Memphis and the University of Memphis. He says, “I filmed most of the film in South Memphis and personally I feel like it touches on some very real issues that young men face in urban settings. Most of the cast and people behind the scenes are University of Memphis alumni or are currently students.”

Brooks’s film is more than just entertainment; it speaks to larger issues that face many people. He elaborates, “I really wanted to show my audience the problems that many people of color face in these urban settings. I made sure to make the film seem as realistic as possible while also adding a layer of artistic visual shots, to better take you inside of the mind of our main character and the psychological conflict that he is dealing with throughout the film. I also feel that this film could resonate with many people because it’s also a story about a man who is looking back at his life and wishing that things would’ve have been different and if he had one more chance to go back, he would’ve went down another path. I feel that is something that many people, regardless of race or gender can identify with.”

This project brings together several majors and degree programs. Asia Sims, a University of Memphis graduate student in Film/TV Production, who plans to graduate in 2017, is the producer of the film. Ricky D. Smith is the main actor and UofM alumnus who graduated in 2014 with a degree in Communication. Scovia Wilson, who graduated in May 2016 with a degree in Public Relations, is also an actor in the film. Brooks and his colleagues are excited to share their work, saying “We really would love if people could come out to watch and support this film. I hope to get the film into more festivals and just get the word out about this piece to as many people as I can.”

Brooks encourages everyone, “Please come support the film and vote at the festival!” A trailer for the film can be found at

Marcus Poster

Dr. Gayle Beck Receives Florence Halpern Award

Beck PhotoDr. Gayle Beck, the Lillian and Morrie Moss Chair of Excellence in the Department of Psychology, has been selected as the 2016 recipient of the for Distinguished Contributions to Clinical Psychology by the Society of Clinical Psychology, Division 12 of the American Psychological Association. The Halpern Award honors psychologists who have made distinguished advances in psychology leading to the understanding or amelioration of important practical problems and honors psychologists who have made outstanding contributions to the general profession of clinical psychology.

Beck’s Athena Project is a research clinic, housed at the University of Memphis, that offers services to traumatized members of the Memphis community, with a special focus on working with women who have experienced domestic violence. The Athena Project’s website describes the process, “We start off with an assessment that is focused on how the woman is coping emotionally. For many people, the assessment suggests that some form of treatment (counseling) might be helpful. We are in the midst of developing a specialized treatment for women who are having trauma-related problems stemming from their experience of domestic violence.  We also have a large referral network and can suggest a care provider who has the skills to help if our program is not appropriate. Typically, we ask that the woman complete the assessment first, in order to personalize the treatment recommendation.”

Dr. Terence Keane, a colleague of Beck’s, highlights that “The Athena Project is a uniquely promising effort as it may help change the current environment in agencies responsible for protecting women subjected to domestic and intimate partner violence. The work might contribute to a seismic shift in the field.” Dr. Beck’s work is even more remarkable because all of the Athena Project’s services are offered at no charge.  Keane suggests that this work is potentially revolutionary, as she is “developing a rapid, brief screen for mental health problems such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and related conditions. Heretofore, the shelter systems considered the precise nature of any psychological condition present at the time of custodial care was transient and a direct function of the abuse. Work in the field suggests that the actual situation is more complicated. Assessment, evaluation, and screening for key mental disorders are now viewed as competent and even critical components of care for the individuals involved. Gayle Beck has contributed to the evidence to substantiate this change nationwide.

Dr. Beck will be presenting on the research that led to her receiving this award at the upcoming meeting of the APA in August, Denver, CO.

If you would like to learn more about this award and the past recipients, visit To learn more about the Athena Project, please visit

Education: A Family Story at the University of Memphis

Today we have  a special guest post from Carolyn S. Head, who is the Executive Director of Library Services at Southwest Tennessee Community College. She and her family have a long history as students at the University of Memphis, and she wanted to share their story. 

Carolyn and Daughters

Carolyn Head (1982 graduate Masters – Urban Anthropology), Beth Head (Campus School graduate), Denise Head (1993 PhD – Clinical Neuropsychology)

My parents did not obtain college educations. My mom completed high school and my dad received his GED late in life. However, education of any nature was highly valued. My parents helped support my mother’s youngest sister so that she could obtain her bachelor and master’s degrees. It was always understood that my brother and I would attend college. I don’t recall this being verbalized, just implicitly understood. Education in our household and community was valued and cherished.

I moved to Memphis in 1974, after my then-husband and I completed our master’s degrees in librarianship at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. I immediately enrolled in a graduate class at the University of Memphis, then Memphis State University, just for the fun of it. That class was in anthropology and taught by Dr. Stan Hyland. Eventually he persuaded me to seek a master’s degree in urban anthropology, and later he was instrumental in my obtaining a critical and much-needed fellowship. Dr. Hyland also made certain I graduated by insisting I take my comprehensive exams during my pregnancy rather than waiting until the following fall. My youngest was born in February and three months later she attended my May graduation in 1982.


Dennis Head (2016 Masters in Public Administration, 1993 B.A. in Graphic Arts)

Two other professors at the UofM that have been important to me and my family and whom I admire are Dr. Charles Williams and Dr. Reginald Martin. I was inspired and encouraged by Dr. Williams, who set an example by his dedication to the field, and as an African American role model in academia. There were very few students of color in the Anthropology program during the late 1970s and early 1980s, and if memory serves me correctly, at the time he was one of the only instructors of color in the program. Dr. Martin influenced not only me, but also my son. I credit Dr. Martin with positively impacting my son’s academic career during his undergraduate career. After hearing so many great things about Dr. Martin and witnessing the change in my son’s academics, I had the pleasure of auditing one of his classes. Being able to learn and benefit from the same professor at the University was a uniquely special experience for my son and me, and one that I continue to value.

The University of Memphis has been an educational touchstone for my entire family, as every member of my family has had important experiences there. My husband received his law degree from the University (and my son attended law school). My son will graduate this May with a master’s in public administration. He also received his bachelor’s in graphic arts from the University. My oldest daughter received her doctorate at the University in clinical neuro-psychology. Although my youngest daughter did not attend the University she (along with both her siblings) attended the University’s Campus School.  They are 34, 44, and 47, so our association with the institution goes back more than 30 years.

I have continued my education at the University by auditing classes the past five years as a senior audit student—an amazing benefit the University offers for those who are 60 and older.  This is an ideal opportunity to participate in an enlightening and informative lifelong learning experience. It is an opportunity that I deeply value. I have encountered so many dedicated, committed and enthusiastic instructors (Dr. John Gilmore, Dr. Andre Johnson and Dr. Brandy Wilson to name a few), as well as often experiencing invigorating interactions in the classroom with both undergraduate and graduate classmates.

I hope to continue my educational experience at the University for years to come.

Student Athletes’ Excellent Academics

The Center for Athletic Academic Services has recently announced that they have had “unprecedented success” in helping student-athletes achieve great scores in the classroom. Fall 2015 had some very impressive academic statistics, a few of them include being the 10th consecutive semester with students’ departmental GPA at 3.0 or above, with 15 out of 17 teams having a collective team GPA of 3.0 or above, and 41% of freshman athletes having a GPA of 3.5 or above. Especially impressive is the Women’s Soccer team, which had a 3.74 team GPA and the Men’s Tennis team, which had a 3.5 team GPA.

Women's Soccer

Women’s Soccer Team

Tom Bowen, the Director of Athletics, says that “it is a culture that we have created here in Athletics, and the standards of excellence are our minimum standards for all that we do every single day.” He wants all of the University’s student-athletes “to become a true culture of champions, where every single student-athlete knows our standards and our expectations. They all have a shared focus, and are student-athlete community driven to be the best. Our goals are still not fully attained, and this fall academic success is just one aspect of our overall commitment for the 2015-2016 athletic year.”

A major contributor to the success of student-athletes at UM is the Center for Athletic Academic Services program. Through CAAS, student-athletes have access to comprehensive academic support services, including, but not limited to: intrusive advising, academic monitoring, academic mentoring, tutoring, structured study hall, and personal and professional development services through the PAWS program (Preparing Athletes for Winning Success). In addition, there is very close collaboration between the CAAS staff and athletic coaches, which strengthens the impact of CAAS’s services for the student-athletes. Coaches at UM also take great pride in recruiting the “right” type of student-athletes. By creating a culture of excellence in all areas, these young men and women, who not only want to compete at the highest level to win championships for our institution, but also want to prepare for life after sport.

Interestingly, there is a strong connection between better academics and better performance in sports. Bob Baker, Director of CAAS, says, “one example that represents that connection is the football program which has recently been winning on the field and in the classroom. The team had its highest team GPA in institutional history in spring 2015, and had 23 out of 23 student-athletes earn their degree during the 2014-15 year; that’s a 100% graduation rate for the year–a year in which they also won their first conference championship in a very long time.”

Men's Tennis

Men’s Tennis Team

Part of CAAS’s success lies in its customized programming for each student. Some student-athletes have daily study hall and academic support appointments, while others have appointments twice per week or weekly appointments. CAAS also reaches out to faculty via the Retain program, electronically requesting progress reports twice each semester, and then works with coaches to ensure students are on the right track academically. Baker praises the coaches, “They do an amazing job at supporting the CAAS staff’s efforts to help their student-athletes.”

CAAS’s work is important in changing how athletics and academics are understood at the University level. Baker says that he and the CAAS staff “take pride in helping all student-athletes one way or another, consistently challenging all of our student-athletes to grow socially, academically and pre-professionally while they are here at the University of Memphis.”


Senior Communications Major Awarded Sundance Film Festival Fellowship

One of the University of Memphis’s own participated in the Sundance Film Festival this year in Utah. Kevin Brooks is studying communication with an emphasis in film and TV production. Brooks describes how he became interested in filmmaking: “I was drawn to film at an early age because I watched the film The Matrix and it really caught my attention because it showed me how emotional and visual a movie can really be. Coincidentally that same year, my dad brought home a video camera and he taught me how to use it and from then on my interest in filmmaking just really took off.”

Brooks received a fellowship from the Sundance Film Festival through the Ignite Fellows Program. This program flew Brooks to the five-day festival this month, where he attended screenings and had exclusive access to experienced filmmakers discussing their creative processes. It is the beginning of a yearlong mentorship in which each fellow is assigned a Sundance alum to provide feedback on the fellow’s scripts and productions and guidance on their careers. A press release from Sundance says: “The Ignite Fellows Program is a competitive and intensive Sundance Institute experience designed to provide meaningful opportunities for engagement, mentorship and industry exposure for emerging filmmakers 18 to 24 years of age.”

Historically, Sundance has always been part of granting young filmmakers the chance to create their vision and get it shown to a wide audience. They chose the age range of 18-24 years old because so many classic films that came out of the Sundance program were created by people within that age range, such as Kevin Smith with Clerks and Robert Rodriguez with El Mariachi to name a few. They chose the finalists by hosting a short film competition online with the theme “What’s Next.” The film had to be between 1-8 min long and they were looking for films that were innovative, bold, and stylistically adventurous.

BrooksBrooks says that he was “drawn to film because it is such a powerful tool that can be used to better our culture and to better our way of thinking. It is a way to bring millions of people together and have them experience different emotions and reactions to the work of art that is placed on screen, and I just felt as an aspiring filmmaker, my responsibility is to create films that will better people and cause them to think in ways that will push forward our society.” Brooks’s goals for his films resonate with the University and Memphis community, so it is not surprising that he was drawn to the University of Memphis: “I felt their program was a great platform for me learn great things in my studies and they are super helpful with their students on the steps they should take after graduating from college. I learned a lot from my recent Documentary Writing class with Professor Leake, I never really considered making documentaries but after taking this class my view on documentary changed and honestly the lessons I learned in there I can also apply to film. I just really loved the honesty that has to go into documentaries and even though narrative film is fictional, I still want them to feel honest.”

This fellowship will help Brooks pursue his goals and meet many people who are already established within the industry. He is particularly excited about having a mentor: “I think that by having a mentor, I will learn many things that I didn’t know before and he will help on advising me with upcoming projects that I want to work on and getting those films shown in festivals around the world.”





Finish Line Program Helps 70-Year-Old Student Graduate

Seventy-year-old Eva Jones’s journey to earn her bachelor’s degree began in 1963, when she enrolled at Southwestern Christian College in Terrell, Texas.  After two years, she felt it was time to go home to Memphis.  Eva turned down a full scholarship to a college in Oklahoma in order to return home.  She began studying at the University of Memphis (then Memphis State) in 1965. She took courses at Memphis State steadily for a few years, but as time went by she found it difficult to balance the demands of school with the responsibilities of work and family.  After attending on and off in the 1970s, Eva decided to put her dream on hold.  Since then, she has proudly watched both of her children and one grandchild go on to earn bachelor’s degrees.

In early 2015, Eva’s older sister recommended that she get in touch with Graduate Memphis, one of the University’s community partners, to inquire about completing her degree.  As one of thirteen siblings, Eva was one of the few who had not yet completed a degree, and it was her time.  With her sister’s encouragement, Eva contacted Graduate Memphis, who ultimately connected her with the Finish Line program at the University of Memphis.  Finish Line assists prior U of M students who left the institution just shy of earning a degree.  The program provides several benefits, including dedicated academic advisors who provide support to students from initial meeting to graduation day.  Eva says, “My advisor simplifies things for me.  It was like I was taking so many steps, and she took all those steps with me.”

Eva Jones with her Finish Line Advisor, Ashley Coffer

Eva Jones with her Finish Line Advisor, Ashley Coffer

With Finish Line’s help, Eva learned that she only needed three courses in order to graduate.  She chose to complete her courses online in order to have the flexibility of studying from home.  Acclimating to online courses has been somewhat challenging for Eva, but with a determined spirit she has proven that she can handle whatever comes her way.  Eva completed two courses online over the summer 2015 semester, earning high grades in both.  She even found joy in them, saying, “by the end, it was fun!”

Some folks have asked Eva what she plans to do with her degree, to which she replies, “I will encourage other people to do the same, to help them realize their dreams too.”  Eva has a plan for her diploma as well.  “I’m going to hang it on the wall and say, look at what I did!”

Although she did not set out to become an inspiration, that is exactly what happened.  “I didn’t realize the effect it would have on other people,” she notes.  The Memphis chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women recognized her with a scholarship this past summer.  After the ceremony, a young woman in her twenties, and fellow University of Memphis student, approached Eva to say, “If you can do it, so can I.”  When young people see someone in her seventies actively choosing to complete a degree, the importance of education resonates with them.

Eva just completed her final capstone course, in which she wrote a fifteen page research paper.  “It’s never too late to learn,” says Eva.  Fifty-two years after starting her journey to earn a degree, Eva graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.  Regarding graduation day, Eva states, “I’m looking forward to December 13th with great anticipation.  My daughters are just as excited as I am.”


MALS Program Offers New Hope to Graduate Student

One of the most unusual degrees on campus is the Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) in the University College. It allows graduate students to design their own interdisciplinary degree. The University College describes the degree as “designed for those seeking the personal enrichment provided by liberal learning, this degree encourages the development of intellectual skills necessary for lifelong learning—critical reading, scholarly writing, and the art of interpersonal communication.” Given the broad nature of the degree, it attracts a wide range of students from a variety of backgrounds. One such student is Deveeshree Nayak, who came to the United States from India in 2013; she completed her MALS degree in August 2015 and has gone on to pursue masters degrees in the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, as well as in Business Information Technology.

NayakDevee Pic was very impressed with the support and individual attention in the University College, saying “many people encouraged and believed in my potential. Dr. Keith Sisson and the entire liberal studies department played a vital role in my success. I was blessed to have him as my professor and mentor.” After struggling in a different degree program, Nayak realized that she was looking for a different kind of degree. She sought out Dr. Sisson, who helped her outline her own graduate degree that incorporated her existing graduate credits while also fulfilling both the Graduate School’s requirements and the MALS degree requirements. While creating a unique degree might seems daunting, Nayak felt confident, “I never looked back again. The MALS program offered me the flexibility to choose my own courses. Dr. Sisson was very encouraging. I am always proud to be a Memphis Tiger and my dream is to finish a Ph.D. at the University of Memphis.”

As an international student, Nayak faced challenges of which American students might not be aware. Legally, international students cannot work off-campus and may only live in University housing, which can make life very complicated if they need to take a semester off or if they are placed on academic probation. Many traditional students who are placed on probation or have personal crises are able to take off a semester to regroup, save money, and then return to their students, but international students do not have this luxury.

Despite facing these challenges on top of the usual rigors of graduate study, Nayak has excelled. She has been awarded several scholarships, including the 2014 Facebook Security DEFCON scholarship, and is involved in her discipline, presenting papers and attending conferences. She has also been awarded a number of National Science Foundation (NSF) and other travel grants to attend a variety of conferences, including the Women Institute for Summer Enrichment (WISE), Security Education (SEED) Workshop, and the Google I/O conference. She credits her family and the supportive faculty and staff of the University College for her success; she was thrilled to find a path that is well-suited to her interests and career goals.

Finish Line Program Offers Hope for Returning Students

One of the most inspiring initiatives at the University of Memphis is the Finish Line Program, which targets students who previously attended the University of Memphis and have completed 90 or more credit hours but have regrettably had to abandon their dreams of completing a college degree. Many of these students have demonstrated the ability to be successful in college and are within a single academic year of successful graduation. Yet the primary reason for withdrawal at 90+ hours is exhausted financial aid and related external situations, such as needing to work full-time to support a family.

Karyn Tunstall

Karyn Tunstall, August 2015 Graduate

We are especially pleased to have this wonderful program featured in a blog post by Monica Herk, on the Committee for Economic Development’s website.  Herk highlights the impact of this program, writing, “Since being launched in the fall of 2013, 123 Finish Line students have graduated from the University of Memphis at an average cost of $1,649.  Over two thirds (68%) of the beneficiaries were women, with an average age of 36.” The entire essay may be found here.

The University of Memphis’s faculty and administrators are very proud of the program and its results.  Dr. Richard Irwin, Vice Provost of Academic Innovation and Support Services, says, “The Finish Line continues to thrive thanks to executive-level program support and the collaborative efforts of faculty and staff across campus.  A record number of Finish Line students are expected to complete degrees at the end of fall term.”

Kimberly Shields, August 2015 Graduate

Kimberly Shields, August 2015 Graduate

The students enrolled in Finish Line are equally pleased with the support and opportunities it offers. According to Kendra, who graduated in August 2015, “The Finish Line program changes lives! It gives students another option when we feel as if all options have been exhausted.”  Brian, who also graduated in August 2015, was relieved when the program began, “What earning this degree means to me is indescribable. Beyond the impact it will have on future opportunities professionally, it means a great deal personally. Leaving college before completing my degree had been the great regret of my life. I lost a great deal of confidence in myself and the prospects for my and my family’s future. Although I had not given up on my dream, I had run out of options to pay for school and could not see how it would happen. The Finish Line Scholarship was an answer to my prayers. I will eternally be grateful for this opportunity.”

The Finish Line Program is focused on helping students achieve their college goals in an affordable and timely manner, but it is also about giving students opportunities after they finish their degrees.  Dwanyel, a December 2014 graduate, summarizes the hope and promise that the program provides: “Through all of my barriers, the Finish Line Program gave me a chance that I did not think would be possible. The bachelor’s degree has opened so many doors for me that no one can shut because I have a piece of paper to back me and say I am skilled and disciplined enough to complete college.”


Profile of a Recent Graduate

Terrence Brittenum

Among our favorite stories are those of local Memphians who become successful and are able to give back to their communities.  One such story is that of Terrence Brittenum.  He graduated as Valedictorian from Trezevant High School in 1995 and knew that he had to go to college.  He says, “I was told by my mother and other family friends that education would provide me access to a better life.”  Determined to achieve a better life, Brittenum participated in the University of Memphis’s Adventures in Teaching Institute which offered collaboration and field experiences, which seemed second nature since, as he recalls, “At the age of 4, I would teach younger family members and other kids in the neighborhood. I always knew I would be a teacher.”

As an undergraduate, Brittenum served as the President of the Golden Key National Honor Society at the University of Memphis, learning valuable lessons regarding the importance of hard work, community service, resiliency, perseverance, and demonstrating courageous character and integrity in the face of adversity.  Upon graduating from the University of Memphis with a B.S. in Education, he began his teaching career, eventually becoming a school administrator.  He is currently serving as the principal of A. Maceo Walker Middle School.

Recently, Brittenum returned to the University of Memphis. The University’s now-retired First Generation PhD Fellowship program offered support during his rigorous program of study.  Brittenum says, “It is extremely difficult to work on a doctoral degree and work full time, but I am able to use my research in my everyday work.” He cites Provost Karen Weddle-West and Dr. Bonnie Cummings with fueling his passion for teaching, and one of his favorite memories at the University includes working as a graduate assistant in the College of Education under the leadership of former Dean Nathan Essex. Brittenum remembers that, “Dr. Essex always encouraged me to be my best and to push past adversity.”

Along with Terrence’s family and friends, the University is proud of Terrence and the many students like him.  He graduated with a 4.0 G.P.A. on Saturday, August 8, 2015, with his Doctorate of Education degree in Leadership & Policy Studies.  He is the first person in his family to complete a doctoral degree.

Living History: Tuskegee Airmen

Susan judging NHD 2012

Dr. ODonovan, center, judging NHD in 2012

Along with her graduate student assistant, Micki Kaleta, Susan O’Donovan, an Associate Professor in the Department of History serves as coordinator for West Tennessee History Day (WTHD). A subsidiary of both Tennessee History Day (THD) and National History Day (NHD), WTHD is an educational outreach program geared towards middle and high school students. This highly successful and ever-growing program always produces interesting projects that help the students learn critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills to prepare them for success in college and beyond.

This year, however, was different. One of the projects really stood out to Dr. O’Donovan and Ms. Kaleta. With the support of their teacher, Jeff Golson, Maya Harris and Logan Miller of Dyersburg High School in Dyersburg created a project about the Tuskegee Airmen that combined their interests in military history and aviation. The project was thoughtfully researched and placed 2nd at the WTHD contest and 1st at the THD contest before going on to the national contest held in June at the University of Maryland, College Park.

What really made the project special is that Maya and Logan wrote to all 25 living Tuskegee Airmen to request interviews. Lt. Col. George Hardy was so impressed by their letter that he not only agreed to be interviewed, he flew from his home in Florida to visit Maya, Logan, and their entire school. When Lt. Col. Hardy learned that Maya and Logan had won 1st place at THD and had been invited to showcase their exhibit at the National Museum of American History, he decided that he could not miss that either. The state history day coordinator, Jennifer Core, accompanied the students to the national contest and wrote this about the experience: “So he is here. A Tuskegee Airman. Hanging with our students. Not only has he befriended and encouraged Maya and Logan, he has also introduced them to the other members of his chapter. During the trip, the Washington DC area Tuskegee Airmen hosted Maya and Logan at a dinner and examined their exhibit. Maya and Logan had them sign their THD shirts.” This is a profound experience for all involved and will impact not only Maya and Logan, but other as well, since the pair has raised $2500 for the Tuskegee Airmen’s education fund.

Maya Lt. Col. Hardy Logan at UMD

Maya, Lt. Col. Hardy, and Logan at the University of Maryland

Ms. Core went on to share how important History Day is for students, and also for teachers and administrators of the program: “Maya and Logan have made professional and personal connections that will last them a lifetime. They acquired cognitive skills and exercised their creativity. They learned. According to Maya’s mother, she even started cleaning her room more often. Their teacher feels rejuvenated. Next year, he vows, ALL of his students are participating in History Day.” Mr. Golson commented that, “This is what teaching should be. This is what we are missing.”

istory Day sparks enthusiasm because it is so effective. A study commissioned recently by National History Day confirms that students who participate in the program out-perform their non-history day peers across the board: they are better critical thinkers, they are better problem solvers, they are better readers, they are better students, and they have far better oral and written communication skills. These gains can be measured in their post-collegiate careers. More than five million NHD participants have gone on to positions in business, law, medicine, and academics. In 2011, President Obama conferred a National Humanities Medal on NHD for its success in advancing the study of the humanities.

Maya Logan Mr. Golson at NMAH

Maya, Logan, and Mr. Golson with their presentation

This program is also a great opportunity for Ms. Kaleta and all of Dr. O’Donovan’s other students, who are involved in every aspect of the program. Dr. O’Donovan states that, “The graduate assistants who have worked with me share in all these endeavors.  I don’t run a hierarchical shop.  The work is too important.  Micki, her predecessor Caroline Mitchell Carrico (now with the Pink Palace Museum), and her successor, Ashley Dabbraccio, who begins her History Day assistantship this fall, do it all.  They are teachers as much as administrators.  They judge, they participate in workshops, they field scholarly as well as logistical questions, they mentor both students and teachers, they coordinate between our office and the state office at Nashville, they attend the district coordinator meetings, and they play a very important and central role in the ongoing work of expanding participation in West Tennessee History Day. We would not be enjoying the marvelous gains we’ve witnessed over the past four years if it weren’t for the work these graduate students do.  They are an invaluable part of the program.”

The University of Memphis is pleased to support this important work by our dedicated faculty and graduate students, since it is clearly so central to our mission of education and community engagement. The 2016 district contest will take place on Saturday, 27 February 2016, at the University Center. Dr. O’Donovan invites everyone, “Please come. I guarantee you a wonderful experience.”