Dr. Joe L. Alexander continues to expand his portfolio.

In the process, Alexander, a professor of music at Mississippi University for Women, keeps earning accolades as a world-renown composer.

Dr. Joe L. Alexander

Two of Alexander’s most recent compositions, “DJ2 Extravaganza” and “Ruffner Mountain Express” received Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nominations in the Music Composition, Classical category.

“I am extremely happy to find out I had been nominated for the MIAL awards,” Alexander said. “I am very pleased with both of the pieces and look forward to getting them performed.”

This is the second time in as many years (and second overall) Alexander has been nominated for a MIAL Award. He is one of five people with ties to The W to be recognized for the annual awards. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) was nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“DJ2 Extravaganza” is a quarter for euphonium, two tubas and percussion. It was commissioned by James Gourlay, a world renown tubist, at the 2019 International Tuba/Euphonium Conference (ITEC) at the University of Iowa. Alexander said Gourlay, an adjunct professor of tuba at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh who also is a leading performer, teacher and academic and a member of some of Europe’s finest orchestras, suggested the instrumentation and that they try and schedule the piece for the next ITEC. There hasn’t been a live conference since the COVID-19 pandemic. The group would consist of Gourlay, Joanna Ross Hersey, Danielle Moreau and Danielle VanTuinen.

“Ruffner Mountain Express” is a six-part trumpet ensemble piece that earned its name from Ruffner Mountain, a privately held, 1,040-acre urban nature preserve in Birmingham). Alexander said he often performs in recitals with Dr. James Zingara, a trumpet teacher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and last December we played on a show in Gainesville, Georgia. While preparing for the concert, we talked about me writing a piece for his group, the UAB Trumpet Ensemble.

Alexander completed both pieces in late December 2022 and is looking forward to having both performed.

“I need to write large chamber ensemble pieces and both pieces fit that bill,” Alexander said. “Even more important that the piece, having James Gourlay ask to write a piece is a dream come true.”

The desire to provide greater care and lasting relationships brings two nursing alumni back to Mississippi University for Women.

Dr. Lindsay Kemp (right) demonstrates suturing for graduate student Lauryn Hicks

Each week, 21 nurses from Mississippi and neighboring states assemble on the campus of Mississippi University for Women as part of the university’s Master of Science in Nursing program. The program is available to nurses with a baccalaureate degree and two years of registered nursing experience. Upon completion, graduates are prepared to be a direct provider of care and eligible to sit for national board certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).

As part of the Advanced Procedures course, students receive personal, hands-on instruction from seven graduate faculty members on such skills as suturing, basic radiology and chest x-ray overview, EKG interpretation, physical therapy ordering, palliative care practice considerations, dermatological procedures in primary care and diabetes/obesity management.

The on-campus course allows students to network and build collaborative relationships with faculty and statewide experts such as nurse practitioners, physical therapists, specialty nurses, physicians and surgeons. The on-campus relationships help to prepare the future nurse practitioners to become safe, competent and cost-effective healthcare providers.

Dr. Alena Groves

“The in-person classes offer a connection for the students that they do not receive in online programs. It allows them to get to know the faculty and allows the faculty to better support, guide and mentor the students with weekly face-to-face advisor meetings. The W provides a ‘connective’ educational experience that is difficult to achieve with online programs,” said Dr. Alena Groves, coordinator for the Master of Science in Nursing program at The W.

For labor and delivery nurse Lauryn Hicks becoming a nurse practitioner is the next step in furthering relationships with her patients.

“Making the bond with the patient is the biggest reward at the end of the day, especially after a tough day. Nurse practitioners diagnose, manage and follow patients. It’s a continuous relationship,” said Hicks.

From her time at Forrest General Hospital, Hicks developed a passion for women’s health. She sees a need for more women’s health nurses and a better quality to care, especially in rural settings.

Austin Black discovered his passion as a Veterans Affairs nurse in Tupelo.

Austin Black

“At the VA, I guide the care more than I was exposed to in a hospital setting. I really enjoyed being involved in the patient’s care. I wanted to continue learning the why behind physicians’ decisions and how to help the patient.”

As alumni of the university, furthering their career at The W was an easy decision. The opportunity to have face-to-face classes from expert faculty was at the top of their list of priorities when choosing a program.

Groves said many nurses return to pursue their master’s degrees to improve access to care among their communities and their state in order to improve health outcomes in areas that historically have poor health and nutrition and have a lower socioeconomic status when compared to other states.

“Nurses in advanced practice, such as nurse practitioners, are in a position of influence among their communities with regards to the policies that affect nursing practice and the overall health outcomes of their patients. They have reach, rigor and drive. They affect their local commerce by reducing detrimental health effects, reducing health care costs and even providing employment,” explained Groves.

The W is the only program offering an on-campus advanced procedures skills workshop. The program is a three semester, face-to-face family nurse practitioner program offering a personal, connected learning experience. Learn more about The W’s hybrid MSN program at: https://www.muw.edu/nhs/graduate.


March 9, 2023

Contact: Tyler Wheat

(662) 241-7863

Dr. Valentin Bogdan wants to push the boundaries.

Dr. Valentin Bogdan

As an artist, that’s the only way Bogdan feels he can grow and evolve as a pianist and as a composer.

Bogdan’s willingness to challenge himself explains his interest in Mihai Eminescu, a novelist, journalist and Romantic poet from Moldavia who is considered the most famous and influential Romanian poet. Bogdan, a native of Romania, is familiar with the “inherent sense of wondering, of searching for something more” in Eminescu’s work, which is why he sought to recreate the overall character of that poetry in a classical composition.

Bogdan’s effort, “Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu,” recently received a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination in the Music Composition, Classical category.

Bogdan, a professor in the Department of Music at Mississippi University for Women, is one of five individuals with ties to The W who were nominated. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking”) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon”) was nominated in the Visual Arts category, and Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express”) also was nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3, 2023, at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“I am very honored,” said Bogdan, who has been nominated three times for a MIAL Award. “This is a prestigious award for artists in our state. I am equally honored by the fact MUW colleague Dr. Bridget Smith Pieschel took interest in my work and nominated it. I am very thankful to her for doing so.”

Bogdan wrote “Three Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu” for University of South Carolina professors Janet Hopkins (soprano) and Armen Shaomian (piano) and completed it in 2021. He said Hopkins and Shaomian are “incredible musicians” and he tried to keep their high level of artistry in mind when he was working on the complex piece.

The work was premiered at Freeman Sundays, a concert series of University of South Carolina, in January 2022. It also was performed at Music at the Moritz in Augusta, Georgia, and at the Mississippi Music Teachers Conference in November 2022 at Mississippi College.

“I knew I could challenge myself as a composer, without worrying whether the piece would be too complicated,” Bogdan said. “I knew I could write almost anything and Janet and Armen would perform it flawlessly.”

Bogdan said he also was motivated to bring to light the accomplishments of Eminescu, who died in 1889 at the age of 39. He said it was challenging to interpret work by Eminescu one reviewer said incorporates “metaphysical, mythological and historical subjects.” Bogdan said his music tries to capture those feelings, especially in the last two movements. 

“Eminescu’s genius is not well known outside Romania,” Bogdan said. “I wanted listeners to learn more about him as a poet and as a human being. I also debated writing these in English, using a translation, but I decided against because that would drastically change the poet’s language.”

Bogdan opted to use “word painting” as his compositional technique. In that process, the music literally reflects the meaning of a text. He also said he tried to emphasize various special moments via additional compositional methods.

“This is one of my most significant compositions, not just due to its length and the multiple times it was performed, but also because the poetry has a special role in my heart,” Bogdan said. “The fact that it was also written specifically for Janet and Armen, musicians I admire tremendously, also makes the work quite special.”

Time offered Ian Childers a chance to reflect upon and to connect with his past.

Ian Childers

Childers spent a lot of that time with his dog, Simon, a pit bull he rescued as a puppy nearly eight years ago. Late in 2019, Simon was diagnosed with lymphoma and had to undergo six months of chemotherapy.

At the end of Simon’s treatment, Childers, an associate professor of ceramics in the Department of Art and Design at Mississippi University for Women, was set to begin a sabbatical in California, so he decided to take Simon with him.

A bittersweet adventure turned out to be a one-way trip.

Simon’s death due to cancer in August 2020 created a gap in Childers’ life that prompted him to pause and look back. It also led to an epiphany and work on a project that examines Childers’ artistic journey.

Childers’ latest collection “Pots for Simon” recently received a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination in the Visual Arts category. This is the first time Childers has been nominated.

Childers is one of five individuals with ties to The W who was nominated. C.T. Salazar (“Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking”) and T.K. Lee (“Scapegoat”) were nominated in the Poetry category. Dr. Valentin Bogdan (“3 Songs on the Poetry of Mihai Eminescu”) and Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express”) were nominated in the Music Composition, Classical category.

The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

“These pots were a sort of reflection of that entire time in my life, and a bit of a look back into my original roots in art, which were when I was a teenager writing graffiti in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,” Childers said. “Writing graffiti was the first artistic endeavor I took seriously. The first book I bought for myself was ‘Spraycan Art’ by Henry Chalfant. It was the first thing I studied on my own and purely for myself. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a major step toward taking my art seriously, and that first step into learning to learn for myself.”

Childers said Simon enjoyed three good months living with him in a redwood forest in northern California before he died. When he returned to Mississippi, Childers said his daily routine had changed so much and he had time to think about how he could connect parts of his artistic lives. Childers said the resulting pottery is a bit of a personal diversion from his standard practice and features large wheel thrown forms with spray paint and paint markers.


Childers said “Pots for Simon” provided an opportunity to test his skills and to push his limits in a way that is different from the trial-and-error chemistry process and the technology he uses to grow two-dimensional crystals on the surface of pots.

“Making the same work over and over can get boring,” Childers said. “I like to divert from time to time just to reacquaint myself with my passion for making and for ceramics. The work was new and old and blended some of the art worlds of my past with my present.”

Childers said he has fond memories of his days as a graffiti artist and still follows his graffiti-writing friends. He also cherishes the time he spent with Simon and hopes it will continue to provide inspiration in the future, which includes four shows this year that will showcase more of his traditional crystalline glazed work.

Thomas K. Lee wants you to take a chance.

T.K. Lee

It doesn’t matter if it is the second, third or 40th opportunity because Lee believes it’s crucial that everyone listens to the voice in their head and takes a chance.

That message is at the heart of Lee’s latest collection of poetry “Scapegoat,” which was published in September 2022, and recently earned him a Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters (MIAL) Award nomination.

Lee, an assistant professor of English / creative writing at Mississippi University for Women who writes under the shorter name of T.K. Lee, is one of four individuals with ties to The W who were nominated. C.T. Salazar also was nominated in the Poetry category for his collection “Headless John the Baptist Hitchhiking.” Ian Childers (“Pots for Simon,” Visual Arts), Valentin Bogdan (“3 Songs on the Poetry of Michai Eminescu,” Music Composition, Classical) and Joe L. Alexander (“DJ2 Extravaganza” and “The Ruffner Mountain Express,” Music Composition, Classical) also were nominated.

The winners will be announced June 3 at the 44th Annual Awards Gala in Oxford.

This is Lee’s second nomination in four years. He received his initial nomination for his first collection of poetry, “To Square a Circle.” He joked that if the third time is the charm, then he needs to get to work on his third collection.

“But I do understand better now how much an honor it is to be nominated: Realizing someone else found enough merit in your work that they, of their own volition, put your name forth to be considered means they already see you as having those winning qualities, as it were,” Lee said. “That’s truly a humbling realization.”

“Scapegoat” features the unnamed narrator Lee introduced in his first collection in more intimate moments of vulnerability: Having Love and Having Loved.

He said the poetry “ebbs and flows, catching and releasing the reader along with the narrator, as he struggles to learn that to fully live, one must finally leave … whether that be a job, a home or a marriage.” Unfortunately, Lee said the narrator fails to learn each time he leaves and, like the prodigal son, “he gives in and returns to his childhood home, to wait until something becomes familiar again.” Fate is waiting for the narrator when he returns home, Lee said, “to make sure he doesn’t miss the bigger lesson: That giving in is not the same as giving up.”

Lee said the poems paint a stark picture of the Southern experience, of family and sacrifice, but he added that taken together they reveal a much higher purpose, telling a collective story of resilience, of forgiveness and of second chances, especially those we must grant ourselves.

“They weave a deeper story that speaks to the human condition,” Lee said. “‘Scapegoat’ attempts to stretch traditional forms of poetry with experimental ideas and representations in how it manipulates some poetic forms and expressions with contemporary reads on its subject matter.”

In a Jan. 30, 2023, review for “The Southern Literary Review,” Claire Matturro writes that “Scapegoat” features “intricately layered” poems that “are like looking through a kaleidoscope so that with each new viewing, something different and intriguing emerges from the words, images and structures. These poems vibrate with words that dance about on the visual page with unique placements as well convey their own meanings in a linguistic sense. Often bitingly stunning, sometimes tinged with loss, bold with conflict, but always creative, these poems have a vitality that shines.”