Two University of Mississippi employees who see helping Ole Miss students grow and excel during their time on campus as a top priority have been honored for their unparalleled service to students.
Michael Barnett, chair and associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Film, and Cindy May, associate director of financial aid, have been selected as this year’s Frist Student Service Award honorees.
The two UM employees were chosen from among dozens of nominees, submitted by students, alumni, faculty and staff. A committee appointed by the chancellor is tasked with weighing nominations and making the selections.
“Congratulations to Michael and Cindy on this well-deserved honor,” Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks said. “They are both greatly deserving of this recognition and provide great examples of service to others.
“I commend them for their tireless dedication and commitment to serving our campus community and for the significant impact they have on the success of our students.”
Any full-time faculty or staff member, except previous winners, is eligible for the award, which includes a $1,000 prize and a plaque. They also will be acknowledged Saturday (May 11) during the university’s main Commencement ceremony.
In glowing letters of recommendations from students and colleagues, this year’s winners were lauded for their continuous efforts to put students first and foremost in everything they do.
“One of the best qualities of Michael is that he always wants what is best for the students and the future of this department,” one of Barnett’s students wrote in a recommendation letter. “He is a great listener. … He has guided me with my transition into professional theatre and into the next phase of my life every step of the way.”
“Even though Cindy is a manager who constantly juggles administrative duties, she advises many, many students and parents personally,” a colleague of May said in a recommendation letter. “She is very hands-on with customer service – even offering to walk students to other offices to ensure that they get the help they need.”
A Franklin, Tennessee, native, Barnett has been part of the UM faculty for 12 years. He was hired as a faculty member in lighting design and has since taken on administrative duties as chair of the department.
Even with those additional responsibilities, Barnett said his focus has and will always remain on the students.
“The relationships that I have been fortunate enough to develop with my students over my 12 years at this institution have been the most satisfying aspect of my career,” Barnett said. “To work with them as they struggle, and as they thrive, to see them falter and then ultimately succeed is incredibly rewarding.
“The opportunity to serve as a mentor for so many extremely talented students has been wonderful and makes me excited to come to work each day.”
Originally from Michigan, May moved to Oxford when she was 14 and found a new, welcoming home in the LOU community. She’s approaching her 16th year at the university, working in the Office of Financial Aid throughout her time on campus.
Besides other duties, May oversees the department’s scholarship area, which gives her an opportunity to work with students across campus many times throughout their entire college careers.
“We have such amazing students who do great things while on-campus and go on to become incredible professionals,” May said. “I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and am honored to help students achieve their goals.
“I am very grateful to be able to work with students in such a supportive atmosphere.”
The Frist Student Service Awards were established with a $50,000 gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist, of Nashville, a 1930 Ole Miss graduate. Previous winners of the Frist Award include faculty members Luca Bombelli, Denis Goulet, Aileen Ajootian, Don Cole, Charles Eagles, Ellen Meacham, Terry Panhorst, Ken Sufka, Eric Weber, Donald Dyer, Robert Brown and Kerri Scott; and staff members Anne McCauley, Carol Forsythe, Thelma Curry, Dewey Knight, Valeria Ross, Marc Showalter, Linda Spargo, Whitman Smith, Leslie Banahan and Ryan Upshaw.
By Rod Guajardo