It’s 1958 and Dean Faulkner, 22 at the time, is about to walk down the aisle as she weds for the first time. William Faulkner, known by all as a literary legend, but to her as her dear Pappy, is about to give her away for marriage. Dean is on the cusp of adulthood and is leaving childhood things behind, yet one question still haunts her.
“Ghost stories were a family tradition, they grew up knowing and expecting them, it didn’t matter if they were told over and over again,” said Dr. Larry Wells, owner of Yoknapatawpha literary press in Oxford, and the second husband of deceased Dean Faulkner, William Faulkner’s niece.
Dr. Wells, who graduated from Ole Miss with a PhD in English, recently visited a library book club who read Dean’s book, The Ghosts of Rowan Oak. The book collects the ghost stories told to her as a child by Pappy that haunted Rowan Oak which he lived at for 32 years from 1930 to 1962 . More than 30,000 people visit Rowan Oak each year and according to Wells, thousands of people think these ghost stories are true because of Dean’s book. The book was published in 1980 by Yoknapatawpha Press and sold 15,000 copies. The book grew with editions in Italian, French, Japanese, Spanish, and even became a school edition ebook available on Kindle that is taught in Mississippi schools.
“If she didn’t do it, the stories would be lost,” Wells said.
Dean published three ghost stories for the book. These stories were told to Dean as a child on the steps of Rowan Oak in the dark of night with only candlelight or on hayrides down Old Taylor Road with her Pappy and cousins who loved to be terrified. Among the three tales one story seems to be their favorite: The story of Judith Scheegog, daughter of the builder of Rowan Oak.
“Everyone thinks their version of the story is right but since Dean wrote it down, that’s the one people are most familiar with, ” said William D. Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak University Museum and Historic Houses.
The story goes that Judith had fallen in love with a Yankee soldier when Oxford was occupied by Ulysses S. Grant’s army. Their forbidden love and his failure to ever show up again lead her to commit suicide by launching herself over the balcony of Rowan Oak and breaking her neck.
“They loved to be frightened at Rowan Oak, they really liked it,” Wells said.
Dean and her cousins were known to throw their rag dolls over the balcony style house to compete to see which rag doll looked the most like Judith and believed if a candle went out it was Judith who blew it out.
“Judith became part of the family, she was even toasted at New Years,” Griffith said.
Faulkner is famous for his belief that the past is never dead. His famous words rang very true during a recent tour of Rowan Oak’s historic grounds. Wells was telling the Judith story as he often does to visitors who tour the historic grounds. This time Wells told the story of Judith as they stood by the piano in the house. Wells explained how Dean and her cousins woke up in the middle of night because of a mysterious waltz tune coming from the paino. They shoot up out of bed and whispered to each other “Judith” because that’s who they thought was playing the waltz.
“Which waltz was it? Hum it for me,’ asked the visitor.
With no absolute answer to give them, Wells researched the past to help understand the present question. He contacted his friend, Ron Vernon, who was the symphony director at Ole Miss and asked what a music teacher in Oxford during 1940s would teach. After some research, Wells and Vernon agreed that Chopin’s Waltz in A minor would have been appropriate and fitting for the time and context. Wells reached out to Bill Griffith at Rowan Oak and they thought it sounded right and believed they had the sheet music for that specific waltz in the collection of things they found at Rowan Oak. If the sheet music is found, Wells was told it would be put on the piano forever.
Just like that and with one question, Judith’s story becomes more real.
“They learned the magic of storytelling from him, and I think that was his gift to them,” Wells said, “It made such a difference in their lives.”
The gift of storytelling that Faulkner passed has truly kept on giving to generation after generation. Many generations of children in Mississippi have grown up reading and being taught in school The Ghosts of Rowan Oak, making the stories legends and the fright a part of the Oxford heritage.
“Whoever tells the story whenever the school children go to Rowan Oak has done an excellent job. My grand daughter around Halloween will say ‘Oh yeah, Judith’ ” said Jane Waits, a book club member, who said she enjoyed every single page.
Wells recalls Dean hoping her Pappy would approve of The Ghosts of Rowan Oak and with its great success and ability to transcend generations and still spark questions today, it’s easy to think Faulkner would be very proud. Dean’s authentic ability to capture Faulkner’s love and talent for storytelling in her own words is what makes this book so unique. Just like Judith was so real to Dean it is no surprise that Judith’s story has become so real to so many. Walking off the steps of Rowan Oak headed to the car that would take her to St. Peter’s church with Pappy by her side, Dean finally got her answer.
“Dean, I made her up for you and the girls, but I believe in her don’t you,” Faulkner said.
Madison Barker, of Jackson, Miss., isn’t your average 17-year-old. She is a force of character with determination, and a lot of nerve. With mad makeup skills and a gift for applied art, Barker proves that The Mad Moxie movement is here to stay so get mad or get out of the way.
“I’ve always been fascinated with makeup ever since I was little,” said Barker. Barker a self-taught makeup powerhouse got her first bit of makeup in the 6th grade from her mom and it has been history ever since.
Drawing inspiration from the cinema and “life in general,” Barker comes up with a vision and goes for it. Making her own props and doing the hair, makeup and photography herself makes her quite the quadruple threat. While fans and followers of her work often only see the final product as a post on social media, for Barker it is the process that spurs her forward. “First it starts out looking like nothing then it turns into something very different,” said Barker.
Barker calls on her friends to help model her looks and it turns out they love her ideas as much as her friendship. Model, friend and Oxford high school sophomore, Sara Caroline Bridgers, says, “Her personality is contagious and it’s hard to leave her without being in a good mood. Her designs just get better and better every time I model, so I’m always excited to see what she does next.”
Madison Brock winner of Miss Mississippi Teen USA 2013 is an old friend of Barker’s and can’t help but rave about her. “I had chances to work with really amazing photographers and many talented people during my reign, but for Madison to only be 17 years old is what makes this story and these pictures so fascinating, and very different than anything I’ve ever been a part of,” said Brock.
When viewing her art, Barker’s main goal is to make friends and strangers feel a spark of creativity mixed with joy. “I just want to make people happy,” said Barker. It comes as no surprise that when she is creating Barker is at her happiest. “As an outlet, I absolutely love doing art all the time,” said Barker.
“Art has always been a way to express what I am going through,” said Barker. Barker, who in school struggled with Dyslexia and Social Anxiety has already received her high school diploma from the Ole Miss Independent High School. Barker worked hard to get her diploma doing two to three lessons in one subject a day and doing at least three subjects a day.
Since day one Barker’s mom, Holly Barker Clay, has always supported her. “Anything and everything I have ever done, I love my mom,” said Barker. She appreciates how her daughter uses her creative abilities to promote positivity. “What started out as a journey, has become an adventure,” said Barker’s mom.
The adventure continues for The Mad Moxie movement. This past weekend Barker and her mother attended a face-casting workshop hosted by Ben Rittenhouse, an Emmy award winning makeup artist, in Nashville at the Academy of Makeup Artistry. After seeing her portfolio he couldn’t help but to be impressed and urged Barker to take his five-month class beginning in January.
As for the future, it is no surprise Barker plans to continue to be a moxie of the arts. She sees herself as a licensed cosmetologist and makeup artist graduate from whatever program she chooses. “I will have some IMBD credits for movies that I’ve worked on and when I build up enough credibility I would like to open my own school in the South for makeup artistry,” said Barker.
Social media has made its way into college courses as a teaching tool and is taking a front seat in higher education inside the classroom, outside the classroom, and beyond.
Inside the classroom:
According to the study, Teaching, Learning and Sharing, How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media by Pearson Learning Solutions, the Babson Survey Research Group, and Converseon in April 2011 two-thirds of all faculty have used social media during class, and 30 percent have posted something for students to read on their own time. More than 40 percent of faculty members have assigned students to read or view social media as part of a course requirement, and 20 percent have issued students to comment or post to a social media platform.
Social Media platforms that used to be banned by teachers and seen as distractions to students are now entering many college classrooms at Ole Miss as a permanent teaching tool, not just a substitute.
Dr. David McElreath a professor of legal studies at the University of Mississippi uses YouTube in his Criminal Justice Emergency Management class as a teaching tool. “The reason I do is I think a lot of students benefit from the use of visuals, “ said McElreath via phone interview. When discussing homeland security in class McElreath uses relevant Youtube videos to grab student’s attention and show rather than tell. “It captures their attention, the concept disappears if I’m talking at them about border violence in Bishop Hall,” said McElreath via phone interview. 40 years ago there were slide projectors but now McElreath is embracing online video in his lesson plans, in fact Youtube is one of the most popular uses of social media among college professors. “The internet has proved to be a wealth of resources, why should we not try to tap it if we can use it in the learning experience?” said McElreath via phone interview.
For Lauren Portice a rising Senior and an Intergrated Marketing Communications major at Ole Miss, Facebook isn’t just a place to post pictures and share her shocking BuzzFeed quiz results, she also uses Facebook for her Editing by Design class. In fact, the class has their very own Facebook page. “I like having the Facebook page for my class because it is constantly being updated by the teacher and fellow students,” said Portice. By logging into her Facebook account and clicking the group page Portice is able to bounce ideas off of other students and post questions.
“The benefits of this Facebook page is mostly being able to ask questions and see questions and answers that students of I have instantly,” said Portice. Portice wishes her other classes would operate in a way that uses social media. “I absolutely believe that other classes should incorporate social media since this medium is growing vastly. It is easy, convenient, and accessible,” said Portice.
Charles D. Mitchell, assistant dean of the University of Mississippi Meek School of Journalism and New Media, views this recent wave of social media in higher education as full of possibilities. “I think it’s pretty exciting. My first year in college a student could be expelled from the university if caught using a calculator. By the time I graduated, calculators were required for many courses,” said Mitchell via email. Much like the evolution of pocket calculators in the classroom social media has grown from an out law to welcomed. The benefits of the power of social media in the classroom is moving from what once was guessing to now knowing. “The main thing is that if used properly, social media can be an enhancement to classroom learning,” said Mitchell via email.
Outside the classroom and beyond:
Social Media platforms are enhancing higher education in the classroom but are also an essential tool outside the classroom as well. Ryan Whittington, Assistant Director of Public Relations for Social Media Strategy at the University of Mississippi knows a thing or two about social media in higher education, considering he is the man behind the official Ole Miss twitter account, @OleMissRebels.
For Whittington social media is used as a tool in more ways than one. One is for reputation management of the university. With everyone being on twitter these days it is important not to be overshadowed by anyone else. In order to do this there must be strategy involved. “We want to make sure our message is out there and is presented in a way in which we want it presented so we have a presence on twitter,” said Whittington.
Another useful aspect of social media is research gathering. “We can see what people are talking about and we want to know what they want to see and we also want to know that they want to hear from us so we use twitter,” said Whittington. On the @OleMissRebels account Whittington follows a cross section of the Ole Miss community from faculty, staff, and students to parents, alumni, and fans. “I follow them because I want to know what they are talking about and that tell us what we should be talking about,” said Whittington
Whttington’s job title alone shows how much of an integral part social media now plays in higher education. It is important that universities are sharing their message with their audience, for Ole Miss it is no different. “The overarching message on all our social media platforms is to show people that we have individuals who attend Ole Miss who are leaders and will be leaders in their career, they are excellent academically, and also have a desire to be community servants while they are at Ole Miss and after they leave. We also want to show that Ole Miss is a very accessible university,” said Whittington. The strategy is in how those messages are shared to each different audience on each different platform. “We can show that we are excellent academically by sharing photos of our students winning cool awards. We can show photos of people being community servants at the Big Event, and we can show that we are accessible because we have such a diverse student body, and we can share photos of that diverse student body on Instagram,” said Whittington.
In what used to be a pamphlet and mail driven process for prospective college students researching colleges now is a process driven by looking up colleges digitally. According to cursivecontent.com, 66 percent of prospective college students believe schools should have a social media presence. 68 percent of high school students use social media to research schools, 38 percent have used social media as a resource when deciding where to enroll, and 45 percent said they have been influenced by a school’s engagement on social media. With the admissions department and university recruiters having their own social media accounts through Ole Miss’s admissions department, it is Whittington’s job to amplify their messages and provide a virtual tour of Ole Miss to those prospective students who can’t be on campus every single day. “Whether it’s sharing a photo of the grove, telling them about a cool forensic chemistry program that they can be apart of, or sharing with them that we had Nelly in the grove,” said Whittington.
An Instagram picture maybe worth 1,000 words but the real power lies in using 140 characters. “Twitter is an extremely powerful tool especially in the realm of higher education,” said Whittington. This short and concise post has the ability to share, link, and portray tone, which is exactly what people in the 21st century want: quick news. “People don’t want to read a 450 word press release they want to read 140 characters,” said Whittington.
Twitter allows people to gather information quickly and to also see the things they only want to see and not be bombarded by spam messages. “We have advanced to a point in our society where we are constantly on our tablets, cell phones, and computers and we don’t have time to read, as sad as it is. But we do have time to gather information, and that’s what people want more information,” said Whittington.
Ole Miss has kept up with the always-updating world of social media, but there still is plenty of room to grow. “The world of social media is very new to not only the University of Mississippi but higher education in general,” said Whittington. Having to adapt as quickly as an audience is a task. “How far we have come in nine years is a lot for a public relations communications person, but in the big scheme of things it’s not for someone who is 16, 17, or 18 years old. We have to adapt just as quickly as our audience is and some cases a lot quicker,” said Whittington. For Whittington, he would love to get the University of Mississippi involved in other forms of social media and that will come in time, for right now Whittington focuses on managing the ones he knows the students are interacting on. “We are also always looking for that next big social media network that will be coming, that takes up a lot of my job, researching the next big thing,” said Whittington.
While searching for the next big thing Whittington also has to focus on growing the University’s fans and followers. The trick is in the photos. “The use of photos on all of our social platforms are really what drives growth, fans, and followers,” said Whittington. It is different for every university and medium. On Facebook, photos of football after a big win over LSU really work attracting people.
Social media is a world in of itself in higher education. Each university and college campus in the United States has a distinct message they want to share and a massive audience following their every move. For example, Harvard University has more than two million Facebook fans Texas A&M has more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. “It’s interesting to me to interact with these individuals who run these accounts from all over the country, I would have never imagined before I got this job how intense and how serious they take their jobs, as they should, and I also didn’t know it was a world that was there,” said Whittington. For Whittington, it is also interesting to see the strategy of social media in higher education. “I always saw official university accounts as, ‘oh that’s the man trying to talk to me,’ that was from 2005 to 2009 when I was an undergrad here, but the world has evolved so much and the world of technology has evolved so much on social media that now universities can’t afford to have that type of perception around each of their official accounts. They have to be seen as a persona and someone has to spend a lot of time to develop these personas on social media,” said Whittington.
The hard work behind the Instagrams, tweets, and Pintrest pins is paying off. Ole Miss won two awards from PR Daily, a national publication. With social media awards every year these awards are given to organizations or institutions that display outstanding knowledge of the platforms. Ole Miss won awards for the their Pintrest page and for best use of Instagram. “It feels good to be awarded for something we put a lot of work into behind the scenes,” said Whittington.
Listen to the soundbyte below to hear Whittington talk about how incidents on campus are dealt with on social media at Ole Miss:
Any day of the week you will most likely find twenty-four-year-old, Mary Katherine Perry behind the counter of Katherine Beck, a gift boutique located on the charming Oxford Square. It is the end of a workday and the spotless space looks like it could just be opening. Mary Katherine is busy as she walks swiftly around the store in her bright red skirt, matching top, and sparkling earrings. She is making sure everything is in order, down to the last price tag on a package of decorative napkins.
In a store packed to the brim with jewelry, monogrammed everything, grove décor, and bright Easter decorations, etc. it is an Ole Miss prepster’s dream come true. When first walking into Katherine Beck you might miss Perry as her polished yet preppy style seems to match much of what is for sale at her boutique, which is much like her baby at the moment.
“I love babies, it’s a weird obsession. I’m 24 and I still will go babysit after work,” said Perry. Originally from North Carolina and a Class of 2011 Marketing major and Ole Miss graduate, Perry has watched her store transform from a mere idea into a flourishing business, just as a baby grows and into an adult.
Perry’s idea for Katherine Beck started as a secret in its early stages. “I remember coming down for double decker and I was secretly looking at spaces, nobody knew,” said Perry. The idea started in January of 2013 and the lease was signed at the beginning of this past July. The day after the lease was signed Perry left for market to buy everything for the store to start up. “It was pretty crazy, we went from an idea to store front in a really short amount of time because then we opened at the end of August,” said Perry.
It is evident that Perry, already a successful business owner, makes things happen and knows what she wants. “I have always wanted to do my own thing,” said Perry.
Being her own boss at such a young age has spurred others to wonder about Perry’s ambition but to Perry age is truly just a number. She believes no matter what age you are you can do anything. “I think when you’re young you have that much more of an advantage because I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I don’t have anything holding me back,” said Perry.
With nothing holding her back, Perry and Katherine Beck continue to be the monogram mecca for Oxonians. To Perry the best part of the store is meeting new customers who have traveled to Oxford and making sure they make the right purchase. “I love helping customers find whatever they are looking for,” said Perry.
But Perry wouldn’t even have customers without the support she has received. Thanks to her family, boyfriend Chip, close friends, and generous locals Perry has been able launch Katherine Beck into success. Her mother, Becky Jaskey, is a supporter and also an inspiration. The proof is in the boutique’s chic name. “My name is Mary Katherine and my mom’s name is Becky so we combined it to be Katherine Beck,” said Perry.
Jaskey serves Katherine Beck as creative director and proud mom. “It just feels like a major achievement. It feels like our seed was planted and we were able to see it actually come to fruition and just to watch it grow and her grow is pretty awesome as a mom,” said Jaskey.
Perry’s style is not one that only a mother could love because due to the store’s booming business it is obvious everyone adores Perry’s style. “My style is preppy with bright colors and southern traditional but modern as well,” said Perry. This unique personal style translates into the store. Every product that comes through the doors gets Perry’s preppy approval first.
But don’t let the business owner with the un-smudged monogram necklace fool you. The truth is, Perry is committed to another form of work she loves and sometimes it includes a not so glamorous hair net. Perry has been on three mission trips to Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda. She also arranged, the first ever college Pack-a-Thon (this is where the hair nets come in) to benefit the organization Feed The Hunger by packing nutritious food for the poor and malnourished people of Africa. Much like her devotion to her business her commitment to Feed The Hunger also started at a young age. “I always wanted to go to Africa,” said Perry.
As a sophomore in college, Perry went on her first trip to Kenya and Zimbabwe with New Directions International, an organization over Feed The Hunger. Jaskey found out about this opportunity through their church. Perry, Jaskey, and a sorority sister of Perry’s went on the trip and loved it. “We just saw a need and knew we wanted to help, there’s so much need all over the world and you can only do so much so we decided that Feed The Hunger would be perfect,” said Perry.
When Perry came back form the trip she was determined to make the Oxford community involved with Feed The Hunger. After telling her friends of her service in Africa their interest in going themselves sparked another trip to Africa. With multiple trips to Africa under her belt, Melinda Staples, a leader at Feed the Hunger, challenged Perry to do more. She challenged Perry to have the first ever college Pack-a-Thon. “We worked our little tails off and we were the first college to ever do a Pack-a-Thon,” said Perry. Perry was the leader of this endeavor and the event’s success is credit to her job well done and the support of the Ole Miss Campus.
The first Pack-a-Thon was a crazy experience for Perry but also a crazy success. In its debut the Pack-a-Thon raised almost $60,000 and packed 142,000 meals. “Much like starting the store that was a crazy whirl-wind too,” recalls Perry.
The meals and money raised went straight from Oxford to Africa to help the malnourished children. “Seeing the kids malnourished was so hard to see because you know they are dying. Then leaving them knowing you have to go and they have to stay was the hardest parts,” said Perry. But the most rewarding part of her trips with Feed The Hunger was seeing how much of a difference everyone could make by going on the trips or participating locally at the Ole Miss Pack-a-Thons.
Today Ole Miss Feed The Hunger Pack-a-Thons still go on and have packed all together a whopping 500,000 meals. Trips to Africa through Feed The Hunger also continue by taking girls from Perry’s sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma and giving them the chance to serve and deliver the meal packs made during the Pack-A-Thons.
Perry believes that through service you find yourself and the college experience is a pivotal time to find your niche in an organization you love where you can work to make a difference. “In college you’re trying to figure out who you are and I think giving back helps that,” said Perry.
Perry’s friends can’t help but admire her amazing accomplishments and feel inspired by the person she has grown to be. “I think it’s awesome that Mary Katherine started her own business especially being so young. Not only does she run Katherine Beck, she finds time to help with Kappa and Feed the Hunger. She is definitely someone I look up to,” said close friend, Alli Bridgers.
Just like the many monogrammed marked items flowing out of her doors at Katherine Beck into Oxford, Perry has also left a special mark that stretches from Oxford to Africa. Even with a successful business on her plate she knows it’s important for the unfortunate to have food on theirs.