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:


March 9, 2023

Contact: Tyler Wheat

(662) 241-7863

Four Mississippi University for Women students won prizes at the Mississippi chapter of the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) annual conference and Student Auditions finals Feb. 24-25.

 Aaron Rishel, Shakia Butler, Dr. Susan Hurley, Jerry Brown and Moira Cairns. 

Held at Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi, 69 students participated in the auditions, representing high schools, colleges, universities and independent music studios around the state.

“I’m extremely happy for our W singers,” said Dr. Susan Hurley, associate professor of voice at The W. “They’ve done the hard work in preparing for public performances such as this competition and it’s an extra reward for us all to see the outward evidence of their success. This is the fourth semester in a row that several of our W vocal students have scored competition triumphs. That speaks volumes about the quality of vocal music training here at The W.”

Moira Cairns, a music therapy major, won first place in Younger Student Adults; Jerry Brown, a music education major, won first place in Older Student Adults; Shakia Butler, a music education major, placed second in Upper College Musical Theatre Trebles; and Aaron Rishel, a performance major, placed third in Senior Tenors, Baritones, and Basses.

Dr. William Reber, of the music faculty, accompanied the singers at the piano during each round of the competition. All of the W singers are in the studio of Hurley.

Students competed Friday afternoon in preliminary rounds that were adjudicated by panels of voice teachers. Each singer offered a list of three to four songs and/or arias. Singers with the highest scores in the Preliminary Round were named Finalists on Friday evening. The Final Round took place Saturday morning. Each singer offered one piece in the Finals, and an awards ceremony took place immediately following the Finals.

At the finals, Cairns performed “Er ist gekommen in Sturm und Regen“by Clara Schumman; Brown performed “Lord, I just can’t keep from crying sometimes” by Margaret Bonds; Butler performed “Almost There” from “The Princess and the Frog” by Newman; and Rishel performed “Questo amor, vergogna mia” from Puccini’s “Edgar.”

NATS is the largest professional association of singing teachers in the world. Founded in 1944, NATS members include faculty in higher education, elementary and secondary schools, and teachers at independent music studios. NATS offers workshops, intern programs, conferences and masterclasses that provide ongoing professional development to members worldwide.

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.

Seniors in the Gordy Honors College at Mississippi University for Women were recently recognized for their research at the 2023 Mississippi Honors Conference held at Itawamba Community College Friday, Feb. 3.

Left to right: Lillian Ergle, Crystal Adams, Kayla Redmond, Mackenzie Pearce, Alyssa Cox

“We are very proud of the meaningful research these students are doing. All their projects have real-world applications, and it’s really exciting when they get to share them with a wider audience,” said Dr. Kim Whitehead, director of the Ina E. Gordy Honors College.

“The conference is also a great opportunity to network with other young researchers and get feedback from faculty across the state.”

Mackenzie Pearce won the top prize in the University Humanities/Social Science Poster Category for her project “The Women of the Magnolia State: Understanding the Status of a Contemporary Women’s Movement.” Crystal Adams placed second in this category for her project “An Exploration of How Nontraditional Students are Defined and Supported in Mississippi Four-Year Universities.”

Also presenting in the Humanities/Social Science category was Alyssa Cox for her project “Fostering Inclusive Behaviors in College Professors: A Glimpse into the Effect of Professor Behaviors on LGBTQIA+ Students.”

Two other Gordy Honors students tied for second place in the STEM Poster Category. Both students work in the lab of faculty member Dr. Benjamin Onyeagucha. Lillian Ergle placed for her project “Investigating SCUBE3 Nuclear Localization in Presence of DOX Treatment in the Cell” and Kayla Redmond for her project “Characterizing EGFR Function in SCUBE3 Over-Expressed TNBC Cells.”

The W’s presenters were among more than 30 students presenting from four community colleges and three other universities, including Mississippi State University, University of Mississippi and University of Southern Mississippi.

In 2024, the conference will be hosted by Mississippi State.

Laura MacLellan

Laura MacLellan, junior culinary arts major at Mississippi University for Women, was recently named one of 19 randomly selected winners in Sodexo’s “Dishing Out Dreams Sweepstakes” as part of its fall resident dining promotion series.

This national prize sweepstakes gave students across the United States the chance to win one of 19 $500 donations. These donations are made in their name to a food-related charity of their choice. McLellan selected We Will Go Ministries as her charity beneficiary. In addition to the donation, she will receive a $575 Best Buy gift card to use toward a choice of a tablet.

“I was honestly super shocked. Is this real?,” said MacLellan. “I chose we will go ministries in Jackson, Mississippi… they’re just like part of my family. So, it’s like, yeah, let me give back to them.”

MacLellan and family volunteered with We Will Go Ministries from 2007-2012 and continues to support the organization. For her, the choice was easy. MacLellan said she is donating her gift card to her sister who is a senior in high school.

MacLellan said, “I talked about it with my parents. I’m going to give them the gift card to help my sister before going to college.”

Featured at more than 600 Sodexo-managed colleges and universities nationwide, Sodexo’s fall resident dining promotion series included several enjoyable events for students in addition to the Dishing Out Dreams Sweepstakes. Two core dining showcase events, GrEAT Expeditions and Imagine That!, were filled with palate and planet-pleasing options, fantasy-inspired mash-ups and more!

About Sodexo

Founded in Marseille, France in 1966 by Pierre Bellon, Sodexo is the global leader in services that improve Quality of Life, an essential factor in individual and organizational performance. Operating in 56 countries, Sodexo serves 100 million consumers each day through its unique combination of On-site Services, Benefits & Rewards Services and Personal & Home Services.

The 2023 Nursing and Health Sciences Career Fair will bring approximately 30 state and regional healthcare providers to Mississippi University for Women Thursday, Feb. 9 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Pohl Gymnasium.

“This event connects all our health science students with employers in their respective fields. They are given the opportunity to engage with numerous potential employers, and most of our students are able to solidify employment before graduation,” said Dr. Brandy Larmon, dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

Baptist Memorial Hospital- Golden Triangle, DCH Health System, Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, North Mississippi Health Services, UAB Medicine and University of Mississippi Medical Center are among the employers participating.

“Representatives will have the opportunity to present W students with career opportunities available at each of their respective hospitals, clinics and businesses. These partnerships with The W help to increase the quantity and quality of health care in Mississippi while supporting economic development for our state. The career fair is an important process for these employers with the critical shortage of nursing and healthcare staffing,” said Ashley Morgan, development officer at The W.

All students attending are encouraged to bring a resume and be prepared to talk to future employers.

Larmon said, “We are grateful for the partnership with our Career Services office in order to make this happen for our students.”

College of Nursing and Health Sciences is home of the Department of Health and Kinesiology which offers a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, Bachelor of Science (B.S.) or Bachelor of Applied Science (B.A.S.) in Public Health Education and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degrees in Kinesiology.

The W’s nationally ranked Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), BSN and Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) programs all were ranked No. 1 in the state of Mississippi for 2022. The W’s RN to BSN program was ranked #17 in the Nation; Best in the South by  Students and graduates have received numerous local, state and national awards and recognition including the National Spirit of Nursing Award, the National Pfizer Advanced Nurse Practitioner Award for exceptional contributions to health care and the National Organization for Associate Degree Nursing Educator Award.

The Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology Program is nationally accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The graduate program has a distinguished reputation and prepares individuals to work in any setting where speech-language pathologists are employed. Graduates have enjoyed a 100% employment rate as well as high pass rates on the national exams.

Feb. 6, 2023
Tyler Wheat
(662) 241-7863