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UM Hosts Rebel Upward Bound Institute

Audra Parsons, a graduate student in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education, instructs RUBI students during a recent classroom session. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications
Thirty-two students from area schools benefited from a new summer math program at the University of Mississippi.
The Rebel Upward Bound Institute, which ran June 1-22, was conducted by UM’s Department of Mathematics and the Center for Mathematics and Science Education. The outreach project, affiliated with the federally funded education program Upward Bound, met on Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Jackson Avenue Center, Room B01. Participants were rising freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors from Bruce, Calhoun City, Coffeeville and Vardaman high schools.
“The program was created for underserved communities to have an opportunity to expand their understanding of mathematics,” said Audra Polk of Mobile, Alabama, a master’s student in the CMSE who served as RUBI’s event organizer and an institute instructor. “We are focusing on critical-thinking skills and mathematical perseverance in problem-solving, which are important in any higher-level math course.”
Each session focused on a different aspect of mathematical knowledge. Topics included algebra, geometry, probability and statistics.
UM, faculty serving as instructors in the program included James Reid, chair and professor of mathematics; Laura Sheppardson, associate professor and associate chair of mathematics; and Thái Hoàng Lê, assistant professor of mathematics and co-lead instructor of the institute. Michael McCrory, an assistant professor of mathematics at Blue Mountain College, was the other co-lead instructor.
“Summer programs like this keep students engaged in math and give them a head start on the fall semester,” said McCrory, who earned his bachelor’s, master’s and Ph.D. in mathematics from UM. “We try to keep it fun and engaging while remaining educational.”
The students said they enjoyed RUBI.
“I came because I wanted to begin preparing for college,” said Marissa Petitgout, a sophomore from Bruce High School. “It’s taking me out of my comfort zone. I’m learning how to better work with numbers.”
Tavarius “Bob” Ford, a sophomore at Calhoun City High School, said he sees the program helping him achieve his personal goals one day.
“I want to go to college (on) an athletic scholarship, playing either basketball or football,” Ford said. “Here, I’m learning how to manage money and be more mature. Those skills will definitely be useful when I start my own business in the future.”
Two attendees had participated in a previous Upward Bound program in Coffeeville and joined this summer’s program partly to share what they had learned.
“Without Upward Bound, I wouldn’t have chosen to go to college at all,” said Joshua Bailey, a junior finance major at Jackson State University. “I’m a first-generation college student. Upward Bound changed my life.”
Tonesha Johnson, a recent JSU graduate who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education, agreed.
“Thanks to Upward Bound, I was able to attend and graduate from college debt-free,” she said. “I wouldn’t have known I could even do that without this program.”

By Edwin B. Smith

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