Seven University of Mississippi programs are better equipped to enhance the student experience thanks to the generosity of the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council (FLC).
More than $100,000 in private funds from the council has been directed to strengthen areas of UM’s Division of Student Affairs, including the FLC contributing to an endowment — funds that will be held permanently with the annual income used to promote development of student leaders and participation in student organizations.
“To be able to donate money and have the ability to direct where it is allocated gives us a sense of involvement,” said Kim Eickholz of Paducah, Kentucky, a council member. “We feel like we are part of the departments that we financially support. We believe the council is able to help in areas that are vitally important to the quality of education for students.
“In addition, sitting around a table with other Family Leadership Council members to allocate funds really makes you appreciate other people’s viewpoints and ideas,” said Eickholz, who with her husband, Dr. James Eickholz, earned undergraduate degrees at Ole Miss. “Learning details about the different programs has opened our eyes to opportunities to support students and help them excel.”
The FLC facilitates interactions between parents and the university, while improving services for students. Council members learn about new initiatives on campus and hear from Ole Miss leaders during fall and spring meetings and through ongoing communications throughout each year, said Brett Barefoot, development officer for parent and family leadership.
Sixteen states are represented on this year’s council, which directed support to these areas:
- Student Disability Services, $25,315 — Staff offices and a conference room will be brought up to accessibility standards and made more welcoming for students with disabilities. The SDS ensures equal access to a quality education for qualified students with disabilities.
- The Student Affairs Leadership and Engagement Endowment, $25,000 — The endowment’s annual income will provide sustainable resources for student leadership development opportunities and students’ involvement in co-curricular activities and organizations. To recognize this gift, a conference room in the Student Union will be named for the FLC.
- Counseling Center, $15,150 — New technology will be provided in order for staff members to more efficiently serve students. Also, funds will cover outreach materials and a golf cart for the Violence Prevention Office, which oversees prevention training and response to sexual violence.
- Campus Recreation, $14,600 — Personal training sessions will be offered through a pilot wellness program (in collaboration with the Counseling Center) aimed at addressing anxiety and depression in students. Other funds will make way for South Campus Trail enhancements: benches, an information sign and bike station. Other FLC resources will sponsor hydration stations during the first two home football games. • Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, $10,000 — Resources will expand veteran and military recruiting.
- Career Center, $5,000 — The FLC will cover expenses for staff attending the Handshake Software users conference and partial costs of the software. The group also chose to purchase an iPad Air and name tag printer for use at career fairs.
- Dean of Students Office, $4,495 — Funding will cover student-of-concern folders, departmental brochures and one cargo-style bike as alternative campus transportation.
FLC members say they fully recognize and understand the importance of private support.
“Sally and I were thrilled to join the Family Leadership Council,” said Bill Coker of Spartanburg, South Carolina, a University of Virginia graduate. “Both of our children are Rebels, and we have seen first-hand the superior academic opportunities and overall college experience that Ole Miss offers.
“At the same time, we know that as public funding for state institutions decreases, tuition dollars alone can’t keep pace with the rising cost of operating a top-tier university in the competitive higher education landscape. We hope that through the power of collective vision and combined resources the Family Leadership Council will continue to fund many needed projects and programs that might otherwise not receive funding,” Coker said.
Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Brandi Hephner LaBanc said that the annual spring meeting with the FLC is one of her favorites as “incredibly generous and caring parents” determine what student initiatives to support.
“Their decisions have the potential to impact all students on campus. I am incredibly grateful for the council’s support, which continues to grow each year with new members and returning members. The council’s financial investments have had an immense impact on the Division of Student Affairs but more importantly a positive impact on our ability to serve our students.”
The spring meeting featured Jeff McManus, director of landscape services, whose team is responsible for the national accolades the Ole Miss campus receives on its beauty, and Bill Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak, author William Faulkner’s home. Council members were joined by their students to enjoy a reception at Carrier House, the home of Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and First Lady Sharon Vitter.
To be council members, parents of Ole Miss students donate $2,500 annually. To learn more about the Ole Miss Family Leadership Council, contact Brett Barefoot at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-2711.
By Tina Hahn