BLUE, an acronym for Building Leadership, Understanding & Education, is set to take place on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. in the Pope Banquet Room of Hogarth Dining Center at Mississippi University for Women. BLUE 2023 will be streamed live for participants who wish to participate virtually.

“Whether you’re a college student, a recent graduate at the start of a career, or a seasoned professional, you’ll find inspiration, wisdom and motivation from BLUE,” said Symone Bounds, president of the MUW Alumni Association and 2012 alumna of The W.

Inger Hampton Chandler

Inger Hampton Chandler, an associate judge in Harris County, Texas, and a 1995 graduate of The W, will deliver the keynote address centered around the theme for this year of “Pivot: How to Keep Moving When the Unexpected Happens.” Following the keynote address, she will join a panel of W alumni who will share wisdom and perspective from their own pivotal career moments.

Panelists include Kristen Barnes,’10, exceptional education teacher for Jackson Public Schools; Dr. Christie Collins,’07, professor of creative writing and literature at Mississippi State University; and Jeffery Johnson,’15, certified personal trainer and owner of Jeffery Johnson and Team, LLC.

Chandler earned her juris doctor degree at South Texas College of Law. She was a criminal defense lawyer, appellate lawyer and a prosecutor prior to being appointed an associate judge. She was employed as a prosecutor with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office from 2003 through 2016 and worked in multiple divisions. She spent her last three and a half years with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office as the chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit, where she litigated post-conviction requests for DNA testing, investigated claims of actual innocence and handled mass-notification case reviews. After leaving office, she opened a solo criminal defense practice focused predominantly on felony indigent defense at the trial and appellate level. In 2018, she obtained her Board Certification in Criminal Law from the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and on February 1, 2022, she was appointed to the bench to serve as an associate judge for Harris County, Texas.

Kristen Barnes

Barnes is a statewide celebrated teacher and science education consultant known for her creativity, humor and ability to empower her students through her mantra, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” She obtained her bachelor of science degree in biology from The W before earning a master of science degree in biological science at Mississippi College and a specialist degree in educational leadership from Liberty University. She has taught several advanced science courses, including biology AP, biology I and biology II during her five-year teaching career in Mississippi. She currently teaches children with autism and intellectual disabilities at Chastain Middle School in Jackson, where she has taught for the past four years.

Dr. Christie Collins

Collins recently moved back to Mississippi after a decade away. She teaches courses in creative writing and literature at Mississippi State University. Prior to her return home, she lived in Cardiff, Wales, where she completed a doctorate in critical and creative writing at Cardiff University. She has also taught at Louisiana State University and Cardiff University. Her critical and creative work has been published in “Stirring,” “Phantom Drift,” “Kenyon Review Online,” “North Carolina Literary Review,” “Entropy,” “Cold Mountain Review,” “Appalachian Heritage,” “Poetry South,” “Poetry Wales,” “Still: The Journal” and “So to Speak,” among others. Her chapbook titled “Along the Diminishing Stretch of Memory” was published in 2014 by Dancing Girl Press. Her full-length collection of poems titled “The Art of Coming Undone” is due out soon from the London-based publisher The Black Springs Group.

Jeffery Johnson

Johnson is a native of Memphis and earned his bachelor of science in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in art, physical education and education from Mississippi State University. He attended The W from 2010-2013 before transferring to MSU to become a member of the 2014-2015 men’s bulldog basketball team. He founded Jeffery Johnson & Team LLC, a group that works to improve the skills and confidence of athletes on and off the court. He is a certified personal trainer and youth exercise specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine and uses biblical principles to train and develop the holistic growth of young people. In addition to being a trainer, he is also a published author, motivational speaker and spoken word artist.

“Our W students have lived through tremendous, unexpected changes over the last few years as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kym Golden Gore, a 1997 graduate of The W and chair of the committee that planned this event. “This year’s BLUE Event will give students insight on how our keynote speaker and panelists have navigated difficult choices, made the best of less-than-optimal circumstances and persevered. I look forward to learning from their experiences.”

In-person or online attendance is free for students, faculty and staff of The W, $15 for alumni, and $20 for community members. Registration and sponsorships are available at through 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 17.

About The W

Located in historic Columbus, Mississippi, The W was founded in 1884 as the first state-supported college for women in the United States. Today, the university is home to 2,227 students in more than 70 majors and concentrations and has educated men for 40 years. The university is nationally recognized for low student debt, diversity and social mobility which empowers students to BE BOLD.

Be Bold. Tower with Blue.