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Department of Psychology
University of Mississippi

College of Liberal Arts Celebrates Outstanding Accomplishments

Recognizes stellar students, teachers, staff, and alumni

Program cover for 2023 CLA Awards CeremonyAPRIL 28, 2023 BY STAFF REPORT

Students, teachers, staff, and alumni were honored by the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts at a campus celebration on April 27.

“The inaugural College of Liberal Arts Awards Ceremony celebrates some of the outstanding individuals who make our university a special place,” said Lee M. Cohen, dean of liberal arts. “This has been a vision of mine for some time, recognizing recipients of the College level teaching and research awards for faculty, newly created staff awards, student Ventress Medals and the first College of Liberal James Meredith Changemaker Award, and notable alumni awards.

“It is an occasion for members of the College community with family and friends of prize winners to join and salute these remarkable accomplishments.”

At the ceremony, Cohen noted, “Today we honor some of the best the College has to offer.

“The College of Liberal Arts is a thriving group of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who play a pivotal role in advancing the University of Mississippi on its path of excellence. Today marks the first time we have come together across all areas in the College to recognize some of their accomplishments. I am grateful for the opportunity.”

Dean Lee M. Cohen

Dean Lee M. Cohen

The award recipients follow with remarks by the dean:


  • Rebecca Katherine Marchiel, associate professor of history
    Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students (tenure track)
  • Rebecca Symula, instructional associate professor of biology
    Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students (instructional)
  • Maria José García Otero, Croft instructional associate professor of Spanish
    Howell Family Outstanding Teacher of the Year
  • Beth Spencer, senior lecturer in English
    University of Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year


  • Sarah Baechle, assistant professor of English
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Humanities
  • Joseph Wellman, assistant professor of psychology
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Social Sciences
  • Elizabeth Hearn, assistant professor of choral music education
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Fine and Performing Arts
  • Eden Tanner, assistant professor of chemistry and biochemistry
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics
  • Jason Hoeksema, professor of biology
    Melinda & Ben Yarbrough, M.D., Senior Professor Research Award for the Natural Sciences

“Our dedicated faculty is a community of researchers, scholars, performers, and teachers whose work expands the boundaries of our knowledge and creativity. Their teaching encourages lifelong learning and prepares our students for the future.


  • Victoria Hughes, project coordinator for mathematics
    Student Support Award
  • Kim Dunnavant, operations coordinator for psychology
    Newcomer Award
  • Matt Ward, operations manager for psychology
    Commitment to Administrative Excellence Award
  • Tyler Flynn, Gwen Rogers, Candece Stewart, Lance Sullivan, Adam Thebeau for biology
    Teamwork Award

“Our exceptional staff uphold the mission of the College in countless ways. They support and advise our students and work alongside faculty and administrators to provide the expertise necessary for the day-to-day functioning of a complex university, which is vital to our success.


  • Faith Deering, Jorge “Andy” Flores, Bobby Hudson III, Reinhard “Matt” Knerr, John “Jack” Meadows, Logan “Bobby” Thomas, Arquvas “Quay” Williams, Morgan Yhap
    College of Liberal Arts James Meredith Changemaker Award Finalists
  • 32 Ventress Scholar Awards

“Our students are among the best in the country, winning competitive national awards for their academic achievements, and playing a vital part in leading efforts for positive change at the University and in our communities.


  • Adrian Cartier, Christin Gates-Calloway, Patrick Woodyard
    Early Impact Award
  • Mike Edmonds, Frances Permenter Smith, James Meredith
    College of Liberal Arts Hall of Fame Award

“And our inspiring alumni are engaged in original and transformative achievements in their personal and professional lives. They serve as brilliant mentors and role models, exemplars of the outstanding liberal arts education they received on our campus. Further, they are making their marks on just about every profession and walk of life imaginable—proof positive that a liberal arts education is of tremendous value in today’s society.”

For more about the winning students, teachers, staff, and alumni, visit the College website.