University of Mississippi

Featured Alumni

Chad Hammons

I am a partner in the Jackson office of Jones, Walker, a multi-state law firm headquartered in New Orleans.  I practice primarily in the areas of creditors’ rights and bankruptcy, and commercial litigation arising out of the debtor/creditor relationship.  Much of the legal work I perform is for banks and other lenders; I also do quite a bit of work for commercial landlords.  I live in Madison, Mississippi, with my wife and two children.

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly how the sociology program at Ole Miss has affected my work life and law practice.  The short answer is that there is no direct relationship.  Representing creditors in the business world, in business disputes, is far removed from graduate work in sociology.  Notwithstanding that shorthand response, the longer answer is more complex.  Attending graduate school in sociology at Ole Miss, along with studying, working, and playing with the faculty and other graduate students was one of the great formative experiences of my life.  When I look back at “the good old days,”  that period of time was the good old days for me.  Let me rattle off some examples:  serving as Vaughn Grisham’s graduate assistant, and participating for two years in his leadership development group; getting out of hand (to put it politely) at conferences with Larry DeBord, C.B. Hopper, and Michael Reese; having long hair and writing a weekly column for the Daily Mississippian; studying theory and learning to write concisely under Gary Long; the bull sessions in the sociology lab in the basement of Bondurant Hall; .  .  . . The list goes on, and I smile fondly when I think of those days, which is often.

Moreso than providing any concrete job skill, my MA in sociology took me to a new level of understanding of – to borrow part of a definition of sociology here – human society and social interaction.  For me, it’s not a work skill.  It is a life skill.


Clark Casteel

Since graduating in 2001 I have been involved, in one way or another, with rural community and economic development.   I have been fortunate to have worked with some of the nation’s best in the field and traveled the country to learn from people working to improve their communities. Currently, I’m a Senior Program Officer with the Danville Regional Foundation in Danville, Virginia.  We are focused on transforming the economy and creating a prosperous culture by making long-term investments to improve education, economic vitality, community health and wellness, financial stability and civic capacity for citizens throughout our region.

The great challenge for communities today is that we are in the middle of a fundamental transition of our economy.   Globalization, technology, and demographics are completely changing the way we live, work, and learn, and every community is struggling to find their foothold.  One feature of our changing world is that knowledge is becoming obsolete increasingly fast, which has led to conversations everywhere about the role of education.   I’ve argued that the best education for this dynamic global economy is one that allows learners to develop a love of learning, where they can find and develop their passion, and then be guided to that intersection where passion and skills meet opportunities to make a difference in the world.   In my experience, there are few places that do this as well as the Sociology Department at the University of Mississippi.

In my work, and life, every week I find myself sharing some insight, or using a particular skill, that I can directly attribute to the faculty and staff in the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Ole Miss. When I moved to Mississippi in 1999, I was lucky to have two options of departments in which to enroll.  At the time I struggled to justify my choice to some friends and family, yet today I’m convinced that my decision has made all the difference in my life.

Ryan Johnson

BA 2008

I am currently in the second and final year of the Master in Urban and Regional Planning program at UCLA, focusing on transportation planning and policy. My particular interest is the promotion of non-automobile transportation modes, i.e. cycling, walking, and transit. Last year, I interned with Bike Long Beach and with the Urban Land Institute, which advocates for transit-oriented development in the Los Angeles region. This summer, I spent two months in Ahmedabad, India, looking at issues around pedestrian access to proposed metro stations. This year, I will be researching how to expand and institutionalize a popular event called “CicLAvia,” during which major streets in neighborhoods are closed to vehicular traffic on Sundays so people can walk, bike, and play in a safe and fun environment.

My experience as a Sociology student prepared me for life and work in the very diverse city of Los Angeles. The classes teach you to look more closely at the world and to think about the way everything, and everyone, fits together. Every person has a unique life story, yet “no man is an island.” This is especially true in our cities, and the sociological perspective I gained in the Sociology Department has helped me tremendously as an urban planner.

Mary Sullivan

MA 2007

Getting my masters degree at Ole Miss was a great choice. I’m now teaching anthropology at a community college in Florida, which was the reason I went for my MA in the first place. Although I’d majored in anthropology as an undergraduate and worked in the field for four years prior to starting my MA, once I got on the “other side of the chalkboard,” I realized my grasp of the subject had increased significantly after being at Oxford.

The structure of Ole Miss’s program really appealed to me. We did classroom work for a year and then we focused on our individual thesis projects. I was given the latitude to do the research I wanted (continuation of a project in South America using geophysics). I’m a very independent student, but the help I needed was immediately available when I asked for it. In fact, many people gave generously so that I would have a successful defense.

Another major asset to the program is the Center for Archaeological Research. I had many opportunities to do paid fieldwork in the area (including cutting edge geophysics research), which was beneficial in terms of money and experience. Most archaeologists work in CRM, so making those opportunities available for terminal masters students is not only valuable, but in my mind, necessary.

Finally, I moved from Honolulu (where I was accepted into the MA program at UH) to Mississippi for my degree, and I don’t regret it for an instant. The availability of financial aid, community, and fun was so palpable on my campus visit that I cashed in tropical paradise for catfish country. And it was the best decision I could have made.

Erin Stevens

MA 2006

I graduated in 2006 with an MA in Anthropology and the kind of preparation that only a department as uniquely focused as the University of Mississippi’s can provide. The faculty’s open-door policy and commitment to teaching encouraged my development as a beginning researcher and laid the foundation for professional relationships that have continued into the present. I was able to work with the Center for Archaeological Research on a number of research projects throughout the Southeast, many utilizing the innovative geophysical techniques the Center is known for. My thesis research focused on political aspects of the mound building practices of people living in the northern Yazoo Basin in the mid-15th century. After graduating from Ole Miss, I entered the Ph.D. program at the University of North Carolina, where I have worked with the Research Labs of Archaeology on projects in South Carolina, Mississippi, and Peru. I am excited to get back to the Delta for my dissertation research and look forward to continuing collaborations with the Anthropology Department at Ole Miss.

Polly Held

MA 2004

After graduating from Ole Miss in 2004, I landed a fantastic job as an Archaeologist/ Principal Investigator at a major Cultural Resource Management consulting firm in Austin, Texas. Every job–whether a bridge replacement, pipeline, or land development project–consists of the same basic approach that mirrors the work that goes into an Ole Miss Master’s thesis: conduct archival and historic background research, perform field survey, analyze findings, and draft reports including conclusions and recommendations. Every report is almost like a mini-thesis. My Ole Miss grad school experience gave me a great professional training in CRM, as well as the confidence to use these skills to run projects of my own. My job takes me to different places around the country to conduct research, and what makes it particularly fun for me is exploring a variety of contexts and figuring out solutions to new challenges on a day-to-day basis.

Hayley Smith

BA 2007

After I graduated from Ole Miss in 2007, I got involved with the Student Conservation Association, which sponsors internships for students in conservation, preservation, and interpretation. I had the unique experience of spending the summer at Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley National Park as a living history interpretation intern. After Death Valley, I moved to Lava Beds National Monument, where I worked as an interpretation intern and librarian. Thanks to my degree from Ole Miss and being accepted into a graduate program, I was hired as a National Park Service interpretation ranger I used the skills and knowledge that I gained at Ole Miss every single day as a ranger. My job required working with local American Indian groups and interpreting their culture for visitors; what I learned at Ole Miss was a crucial starting point for that work. Classes at Ole Miss also taught me how to research, something that is critical to working in any kind of academic field. After leaving the Park Service, I joined the Department of Anthropology at Vanderbilt University as a graduate assistant. The anthropology program at the University of Mississippi more than prepared me for graduate school. I am very thankful that I went to Ole Miss- it’s one of the best things I could have done for my career.

Pamela Edwards Lieb

MA 2003

I graduated from the University of Mississippi in 2003 with a Master’s Degree in Anthropology, having gained the necessary theoretical and methodological knowledge needed for a successful career in that field. My goal upon graduation was to work at the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH), the state agency that serves as the central information center for all of Mississippi’s archaeological information. I achieved that goal and currently serve as the Chief Archaeologist and Curator of Archaeological Collections at MDAH. While at Ole Miss, I had the opportunity to work with many professionals in Mississippi archaeology, with various American Indian tribal representatives, attend state and regional conferences, and participate in cultural resource management work. Not only did Ole Miss provide the appropriate curriculum to prepare me for a career in my field, I also received hands-on experience in archaeology and was able to work with remote sensing technology and other tools of the trade that are so vital in today’s archaeology. These experiences at Ole Miss not only prepared me for the job I have now, but they also fostered friendships and connections that continue to benefit me on a daily basis. As the Chief Archaeologist for the state, my job includes working with various federal, state and local agencies; consulting with American Indian tribes; developing programmatic agreements, memoranda of agreements; coordinating the Mississippi Archaeological Research Grant program; reviewing cultural resource survey reports and assessments; and serving as curator of the state’s archaeological collections. I am thrilled to have had the opportunity to attend and graduate from Ole Miss and encourage all future archaeologists to apply.