Center for Students Success & First-Year Experience Staff
Dr. Ellis serves as the Director of the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. In addition to his responsibilities as Director, he co-chairs the University’s Retention Advisory Board and holds the faculty title of Instructional Assistant Professor of Higher Education. He received his B.S. in Health and Human Performance and M.S. in Education from the University of Tennessee at Martin. He earned his Ph.D. in Higher Education in 2011 from the University of Mississippi. His dissertation focused on academic advising experiences of first-year students who were undecided in their major.
Dr. Ellis is involved in several higher education professional associations. He has held many leadership positions within the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), including a three-year term on the Board of Directors. Additionally, through publishing, presenting, and attending conferences, he is active in the Consortium for Student Retention and Data Exchange (CSRDE), National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. Dr. Ellis’ book, It Takes A Campus: 15 Initiatives To Improve Retention, was released in March 2017. Through publications, presentations, and speaking engagements, Dr. Ellis is committed to growth and professional development, in order to ensure student success, satisfaction, and persistence.
Senior Administrative Secretary
Susan Parker is the Senior Administrative Secretary in the CSSFYE. Susie attended Western Kentucky University from 1988-1991 and moved to Oxford in 2008. She has 2 children, a son, Jacob, who is a senior at Ole Miss and a daughter, Katie, who is a Senior at Oxford High School. She enjoys attending sporting events and watching her daughter cheer and play softball.
Assistant Director for Retention
Jennifer Phillips is the Assistant Director for Retention and an academic advisor serving students majoring in Accounting in the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience. Ms. Phillips earned her B.A. in English with a minor in Business Administration (2003) and her M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel (2007) from the University of Mississippi. She also completed the Paralegal Studies certificate program in 2004.
She is currently writing her dissertation for completion of the Ph.D. in Higher Education and expects to graduate in 2018. She is an active member in the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), Mississippi Advisors’ Meeting (MAM), National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA), Center for Student Retention Data Exchange (CSRDE), and the coordinator for the Freshman Attendance-Based Initiative (FABI) which is a retention program targeting the attendance habits of students in 100- and 200-level courses. She also teaches a section of the Freshman Year Experience course for freshmen each fall, and coordinates summer orientation advising for the campus.
Assistant Director for Advising
Dr. Travis Hitchcock is the Assistant Director for Advising and an academic advisor for freshmen in the School of Engineering. He also teaches EDHE 105: Freshman Year Experience and EDLD 201: Career Decision-Making.
Born and raised in Oxford, Travis attended the University of Mississippi and earned a B.S. in Human Development, an M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education. Travis’ area of expertise and research interests lie within the field of career development and its impact on student retention. He is also a member of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) and of the National Career Development Association (NCDA).
Sarah Jay Gray is an academic advisor serving freshman within the College of Liberal Arts. In addition to advising, she serves as an instructor for EDHE 105 – Freshman Year Experience. Since earning both her Bachelor of Social Work and Master’s of Education in Counselor Education (2009) from the University of Mississippi she has called Oxford home. Sarah Jay has worked on the Ole Miss campus since 2016 and continues to support the goals and address the challenges of students by connecting them with academic and personal support services. She is a Board Certified Counselor (NCC) and a member of the American Counselor Association (ACA).
Molly Coleman is an academic advisor serving Freshman Studies (undeclared) students. She received her B.A. from The Ohio State University in International Relations, during which she studied abroad in Warsaw, Poland. After earning her bachelor’s degree, she taught conversational English at a primary school in Nyirbator, Hungary. She graduated in December 2014 with an M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel from The University of Mississippi. Prior to joining CSSFYE Molly worked as an international student advisor for the Study Abroad Office.
Jennifer Payne is an academic advisor serving business students with the last names A-K. Originally from Kentucky, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Political Science/Secondary Education and a Master of Business Administration, both from Murray State University.
Jennifer has worked in Higher Education for eight years with experience in Business Advising, Admissions, and Orientation. She is passionate about assisting students make a successful transition to college at Ole Miss.
Victoria McCord is an academic advisor serving Applied Sciences majors. She earned a B.A. in Psychology (2014) and a M.A. in Higher Education and Student Personnel (2017) from the University of Mississippi.
Victoria has worked in Higher Education for four years, with experience in Student Housing and Diversity and Community Engagement. She is passionate about helping students identify their goals and motivating them to overcome obstacles and exceed expectations.
Michael Smith is an academic advisor serving Freshman Studies (undeclared) students with the last names L though Z (freshmen) and last names H-L (upperclassmen). Originally from Mobile, AL, he completed his B.A. in International Studies at the University of South Alabama in 2009. He completed his M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel at the University of Mississippi in 2011.
Michael is returning to Ole Miss after serving students at LSU for over four years. He is passionate about helping students discover their strengths and identify opportunities to connect those strengths to potential academic majors and career fields. He also coordinates our StudentsFIRST program designed to assist first-generation students with the transition to college.
Matthew Weaver is an academic advisor serving freshman in the College of Liberal Arts. He is from Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated with his B.S. in Exercise Science in 2014. After graduating, Matthew spent 3 months living in Italy while teaching English to two children before returning to Ole Miss to complete his M.A. in Modern Languages with an emphasis in Teaching English as a Second Language. He then went on to complete his MBA at Ole Miss in 2017. While completing his graduate programs, Matthew taught Intensive English and EDHE on campus at Ole Miss. He has a passion for connecting students to resources that help contribute to their academic and career goals.
Dion Sanford is an academic advisor serving business students with the last names L-Z. He is from Courtland, MS. Dion graduated with a Bachelor’s in Accountancy in 2014 and a M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel in 2018, both from the University of Mississippi. He has a higher education background having worked in Procurement Services and the Office of Financial Aid on campus. He has a passion for helping all students succeed and start off on the right path.
R. Dewey Knight serves the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience as the Associate Director. Knight’s professional career in financial services and higher education spans some forty-three years. He holds a B.B.A. in Advertising and an M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel from the University of Mississippi. He is now completing the final requirement for his Ph.D. degree in Higher Education at Ole Miss. His graduate studies and research have focused on the psychosocial development of college students. He is a frequent presenter at higher education professional conferences and meetings.
Knight’s principal duties at the Center involve the leadership of the first-year experience initiatives and retention. He coordinates EDHE 105, the Freshman Year Experience course, which enrolls over 2,000 freshmen every year.
Coordinator of FYE
Rachael Durham is the Coordinator of First-Year Experience. She also serves as an instructor for EDHE 105 – Freshman Year Experience. She is originally from Memphis, TN, but now calls Oxford home. Rachael completed her B.A. degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations from the University of Mississippi in 2008 and her M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel in 2012.
VETERAN & MILITARY SERVICES
Assistant Director for Veteran & Military Service
Andrew Newby is the Assistant Director for Veteran and Military Services at the University of Mississippi, where he serves active duty, veteran, guard, and reserve students. His focus for the University of Mississippi is to ensure student veterans have a meaningful experience during their time at Ole Miss. He is passionate about implementing programs and works to ensure veterans have success after graduation. He is an eight-year veteran of the United States Marine Corps and holds his B.A. in Creative Writing from Auburn University. An Alabama native, he enjoys spending time with his wife and children, reading and writing, and flying airplanes.
Operations Coordinator – VMS
Aaron Rutkowski is the Operations Coordinator for Veteran and Military Services at the University of Mississippi, where he serves active duty, veteran, guard, reserve, and dependent students. He runs the day to day operations of the VMS office as well as ensure the VA pays students in a timely manner. He is passionate about ensuring veterans are successful in all aspects of life. He is also an ambassador for the prevention of veteran and military suicide for the State of Mississippi. A six-year veteran of the United States Army and he holds his B.S. in Criminal Justice from The University of Mississippi. He is currently a Master’s student in the Higher Education/Student Personnel program. He hails from Mississippi but comes to us from Fairbanks, Alaska. His passions include: sports, decorating, The Office, and memes.
ACADEMIC SUPPORT PROGRAMS
Assistant Director for Academic Support Programs
Dr. Rebekah Reysen is the Assistant Director for Academic Support Programs for the CSSFYE. She coordinates programs for the academically at-risk students at UM: EDHE 101 – Academic Skills for College, EDHE 202 – Fundamentals of Active Learning, the Contractual Readmission Program, and the Peer Leadership program. Rebekah also teaches EDHE 105 – Freshman Year Experience, EDHE 101, and conducts academic consultations and counseling sessions for EDHE 202. She also supervises counselor interns and teaches graduate courses for the Counselor Education department.
Originally from Napa, CA, Rebekah went to Purdue University and received degrees in psychology and theater. She received both her master’s and Ph.D. in Counselor Education from the University of Mississippi. Rebekah is a National Certified Counselor (NCC), a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), and Distance Certified Counselor (DCC). She has been published in a variety of counseling journals and on topics related to student motivation, career development, attachment, group therapy, and workaholism tendencies. Rebekah thoroughly enjoys her work with counselors-in-training and is passionate about helping students navigate their way through college.
Brittany Power Holly is the program coordinator for Academic Support Programs in CSSFYE. She is also an instructor for EDHE 101 and a counselor for EDHE 202. She is originally from Madison, MS, but has called Oxford home since 2011. She received her B.S. in Criminal Justice (2015) and her M.Ed. in Counselor Education (2018) from the University of Mississippi. Brittany previously worked as a graduate assistant for the Violence Intervention and Prevention Office and the University Counseling Center. She enjoys working with students and helping them find their individualized way to succeed at Ole Miss. She is a National Certified Counselor (NCC).
Steve Juliff is a Master’s student in the Higher Education/Student Personnel program. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, Minnesota, moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, and graduated from the University of New Orleans with a Bachelor of Arts in Film. His passions include: photography, sports, and helping students adjust to college life!
Jordan Richardson is a Master’s student in the Higher Education/Student Personnel program. He is from Brandon, Mississippi and received his undergraduate degree from Ole Miss in 2016 with a Bachelor of General Studies. Jordan serves the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience as a graduate assistant for the Partnership program as well as an EDHE 105 instructor.
Leanne Zimmer is currently enrolled in the Master’s program in Higher Education/Student Personnel. Her graduate assistantship is with the Center for Student Success & First-Year Experience, specifically in advising. Leanne received her B.A in Anthropology with a minor in Mathematics from Ole Miss. She is originally from Savannah, Georgia.