By Edwin B. Smith
University of Mississippi
The University of Mississippi Division of Diversity and Community Engagement will recognize outstanding accomplishments in community-engaged research, learning, service and scholarship Tuesday (April 12) during its annual Celebration of Service Awards.
The program begins at 2 p.m. in the Johnson Commons Ballroom. Honors to be presented include the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award, the Excellence in Community Engagement Award and the new Community Engaged Partnership Fund.
“This year’s Celebration of Service shines a spotlight on individuals who exemplify the value of selfless service, elevates a yearslong program that moves towards bridging the trauma and complexity our local history with the beauty of our potential,” said Cade Smith, assistant vice chancellor for community engagement.
“It also celebrates partnerships who are taking the next steps in building more resilient and trust-filled relationships between the University of Mississippi and communities and organizations beyond campus.”
Sullivan Awards recipients are Madison Alliston, a junior public policy leadership major from Hattiesburg, as the student awardee; Premalatha Balachandran, a senior research scientist at the UM National Center for Natural Products Research, staff; and Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean for student life, diversity and inclusion at Millsaps College, alumni.
The award was established in 1890 by the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Foundation to honor individuals who exhibit character, exemplified by selfless service to others and the community.
“This award is the University of Mississippi’s highest award in honor of service,” said Katlyn Tidwell, a graduate assistant in marketing and communication for community engagement. “Award criteria emphasize placing service to others and the community before oneself, while embodying the qualities of honesty, morality, ethics, integrity, responsibility, determination, courage and compassion.
“Each of these recipients embodies these characteristics within their community, campus, and inner circles.”
Alliston, who also serves as coordinator of food, housing and poverty areas for the UM Office of Community Engagement, has been involved in service activities since her freshman year. A member of the Luckyday program, she has worked to get fellow Luckyday student involved in the LOU community through such programs as Habitat for Humanity.
She has worked with the More Than a Meal, Doors of Hope and Oxford Community Market organizations and helped the UM School of Business Administration create a micro-internship program. After graduation, she plans to attend law school and specialize in advocating for vulnerable populations.
Balachandran serves on several university and community committees, including Staff Council, UM Dames, Chancellor’s Student Affairs Committee, Chancellor’s Library Council Committee, United Way of Oxford and the Leadership Lafayette Program Steering Committee.
She also has worked as a judge for Speaker’s Edge, Quiz Bowl and the UM Debate Competition, and has served as a mentor for the Lott Leadership Students program. Since 2015, Balachandran has volunteered as a poll manager for federal, state, city and county elections, and she has served in several committees in the Oxford School District. She has been awarded the Women of Distinction recognition by Girl Scouts Heart of the South and the UM Outstanding Staff Member Award.
A native of Moss Point, Upshaw served several years as assistant dean of student services in the UM School of Engineering before moving to Jackson in 2020 as director of diversity and outreach at Jackson Preparatory School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and both a master’s and doctorate in higher education, all from Ole Miss.
A graduate of Leadership Lafayette, he took the skills he learned and applied them to the Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership Program, a half-week summer camp for 11th-grade students that works to develop their leadership skills and potential. While on the Ole Miss staff, he was awarded the Frist Student Service Award, the university’s highest recognition for exceptional service to students.
The Lafayette County Remembrance Project is this year’s Excellence in Community Engagement Award recipient. Members include Anne Cafer, Janice Carr, Lisa Carwyle, April Grayson, Randon Hill, Alonzo Hilliard, Deanna Kriesel, Cynthia Parham, Pastor Andrew Robinson, Jonathan Scott, Hans Sinha, Robin Tannehill and Keiana West.
This award was created in 2019 to recognize outstanding accomplishments in engaged scholarship and community-engaged research, learning and service. Finalists get a $1,000 award to further their community-engaged work, and one overall award recipient is selected to receive a $5,000 award.
“The Lafayette Community Remembrance Project was selected due to their impact and involvement in the local community,” Tidwell said. “The project is a great example of a partnership that is led by the community and supported by the university in a way that is mutually beneficial to them and is mutually beneficial to humanity, the community and the university.”
The Community Engaged Partnership Development Fund is a program designed to provide support for development of partnerships between UM faculty, staff or students collaborating with a community. Communities are not limited to geographically defined areas, and also include individuals or groups connected by shared interests or practices, situational similarities or even culture and beliefs.
UM faculty, staff, students and registered student organizations can apply. Students must be enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate program of the university at the time of the nomination and for the period of funded activity.
Projects awarded funding include:
- Mississippi Creates/Southern Punk Archives Film and Performance Series Project; John Rash, team leader.
- H4H Healthy Foods for Healthy Hearts Project; Valerie Quach, team leader.
- OXCM Flower of Life Volunteer Squad Project; Jackson McArthur, team leader;
- Family Yoga Engagement Event Project; Alicia Stapp, team leader;
- Tunica County Community Development Coalition Empowerment Evaluation Project; Monica L. Coleman, team leader;
- Storytelling for Nonprofit Organizations in Oxford and Lafayette County Project; Jody Holland, team leader.
“We want to spread awareness of these awards, in hopes of having even more people apply next year,” Tidwell said.