skip to main content
Department of Psychology
University of Mississippi

Dr. Aaron Lee Recognized for Research

College of Liberal Arts Celebrates Outstanding Accomplishments

Spotlighting stellar students, teachers, staff, retirees, and alumni

2024 CLA Awards Ceremony Program CoverAPRIL 26, 2024 BY STAFF REPORT

Students, teachers, staff, retirees, and alumni were honored by the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts at a campus celebration on April 25.

“The 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. “Recognizing recipients of the College level teaching and research awards for faculty, staff awards, student Ventress Medals and the 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 path of excellence of the University of Mississippi. We come together today, across all areas in the College, to recognize some of the outstanding accomplishments of our faculty, staff, students, and alumni. I am grateful for the opportunity to gather and celebrate.”


“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,” Cohen said.

Established and endowed in 1948 by Cora Lee Graham of Union City, Tennessee, this award aims to help better retain professors who teach the freshman classes in the College of Liberal Arts.

  • Dr. James Bos, Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion
    Department of Philosophy and Religion
    Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students (Tenured/Tenure-track)
  • Bryan McAdams, Instructional Assistant Professor of Musical Theatre
    Department of Theatre & Film
    Cora Lee Graham Award for Outstanding Teaching of First Year Students (Instructional)

In 1985, the College of Liberal Arts began recognizing the Liberal Arts Outstanding Teacher of the Year. This award recognizes a College of Liberal Arts teacher for class instruction, intellectual stimulation of students, and concern for students’ welfare.

  • Dr. Marcos Mendoza, Associate Professor of Anthropology
    Department of Sociology and Anthropology
    Howell Family Outstanding Teacher of the Year

The College of Liberal Arts and the Mississippi Humanities Council cosponsor the Humanities Teacher of the Year Award, recognizing outstanding contributions of humanities faculty at the University of Mississippi through public lectures in Oxford and at the Mississippi Humanities Council annual awards ceremony in Jackson.

  • Tom Franklin, Associate Professor of Fiction Writing
    Department of English
    University of Mississippi Humanities Teacher of the Year


Endowed by Dr. Mike L. Edmonds, this award, recognizes tenure-track faculty members for exemplary performance in research, scholarship or creative achievement, and who have significantly enhanced the scholarly reputation of the College and University through exceptional contributions to their disciplines and demonstrated a positive impact on the success of their department.

  • Dr. Peter Thilly, Assistant Professor Department of History
    Department of History
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Humanities
  • Dr. Aaron Lee, Assistant Professor of Psychology
    Department of Psychology
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Social Sciences
  • Dr. Jake Bennett, Assistant Professor, High Energy
    Department of Physics and Astronomy
    Mike L. Edmonds New Scholar Award in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics

A tenured awardee is recognized for exemplary performance in sustaining communities, through research, scholarship, and or creative achievement at the national/international level while serving as a faculty member at the University of Mississippi.

  • Dr. Jodi Skipper, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Southern Studies
    Department of Sociology and Anthropology
    Sandford and Susan Thomas Senior Professor Research Award in the Social Sciences

Recognizes an outstanding tenured faculty member in the Natural Sciences and Mathematics. The award is given in recognition of sustained exemplary performance in research, scholarship, and/or creative achievement at the national or international level while serving as a faculty member at the University of Mississippi.

  • James Cizdziel, Professor and Interim Chair and Coordinator of Forensic Chemistry
    Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry
    Melinda & Ben Yarbrough, M.D., Senior Professor Research Award for the Natural Sciences


“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,” Cohen said.

This award is presented to a group within the College that has demonstrated exceptional collaboration and teamwork.

  • Rebecca Cleary, Communications Specialist; Kell Kellum, Operations Assistant;
    Bert Neal, Administrative Coordinator;
    Afton Thomas, Associate Director for Programs; Jimmy Thomas, Associate Director for Publications
    Center for the Study of Southern Culture
    Teamwork Award

This award celebrates the staff member who goes above and beyond in providing advising support and outstanding assistance to students.

  • Ingrid Valbuena, Academic Counselor II, College of Liberal Arts Student Services
    Student Support Award

The Newcomer Award recognizes the outstanding achievements of administrative professionals within their first three years of service.

  • Gwen Rogers, Operations Coordinator II
    Department of Biology
    Newcomer Award

Awarded to the most outstanding staff member of the year in the College.

  • Glenn Schove, Operations Coordinator II, Department of Writing and Rhetoric
    Commitment to Administrative Excellence Award


  • Chiarella Esposito, Associate Professor of History and Director of the Graduate Advisory Committee
  • Blair Hobbs, Senior Lecturer English
  • Kirk Johnson, Professor of Sociology and African American Studies
  • Crystal Jones, Administrative Coordinator II in Public Policy Leadership
  • Jeff Watt, Cook Chair and Distinguished Professor of History

Chosen from each of the four disciplines, Fine Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences, these four ambassadors have gone above and beyond in attending events, speaking with students, and showing why their department, discipline, and the College as a whole, are great places to learn and be part of a community.

  • Alyssa Sheppard, BA in Theatre Arts
    Fine Arts College of Liberal Ambassador of the Year
  • Harrison Dillard, BA in History
    Humanities College of Liberal Ambassador of the Year
  • Edward Hunter, BA in Political Science
    Social Sciences College of Liberal Ambassador of the Year
  • Ally Watrous, BS in Chemistry, BA in Physics and German
    Natural Science College of Liberal Ambassador of the Year
  • Rebecca Tse, BA in Psychology Excellence
    Excellence in Social Media
  • Samorria Williams, BA in Political Science
    Q&A of the Year


“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,” Cohen said.

  • 29 Ventress Scholars—graduating seniors in the College of Liberal Arts with a 4.0 GPA.
  • 6 Taylor Medalists
  • Jametrice Blanchard, a Political Science major; Tina Truong, a Biological Science major; Sara Austin Welch, Public Policy Leadership major; and Samorria Williams, a Political Science major
    College of Liberal Arts James Meredith Changemaker Award Finalists
  • Jonathan E. Dabel, an Economics and Public Policy Leadership major
    College of Liberal Arts James Meredith Changemaker Award Winner


“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,” Cohen said.

The Early Impact Award is given to a College of Liberal Arts graduate for exceptional accomplishments and service to community within 20 years of graduation from the University of Mississippi. The award distinguishes performance in early career through advancement in one’s profession, community engagement, and/or civic participation.

  • Eleanor C. Anthony, B.A. Mathematics and Philosophy ’06
  • Charlie Buckley, B.F.A. Art History ’04
  • Twuan Samuel, International Studies ’06, Juris Doctorate ’08
  • Dr. Marc Walker, M.D., B.S. Biology ’06
    Early Impact Award

The College of Liberal Arts Hall of Fame Award is the highest honor the College bestows upon a graduate or friend of the College of Liberal Arts. The award is given in recognition of the individuals’ achievements in their respective professional career and their commitment to the College through service, leadership, and giving across a broad spectrum. Recipients have managed or directed organizations that have made noteworthy national or international contributions to their field and have meritorious service and leadership in a professional capacity, in the broader community, and to the College of Liberal Arts.

  • Dr. Donald Cole, Ph.D. Mathematics ’85
  • Johnny McRight, B.S. Biology ’73, M.C.S. Biology ’75
  • Renvy Pittman, B.A. Classical Civilization ’77
    College of Liberal Arts Hall of Fame Award