06/20/2023 – 01:03pm | By: Christy Kayser
The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at The University of Southern Mississippi
(USM) has announced four recipients of the 2023-2024 Conville Endowment Award for the support
of initiatives related to community engagement and service-learning.
Mac Alford, professor in the School of Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences,
was awarded funding for the creation and placement of educational interpretive plant
signs developed by students in his Plant Systematics class. These informational signs
are developed based on students’ observations and interactions with staff and visitors
during in-class visits to local trails and parks and after students conduct research
on important facts such as plants’ historical uses and unique aspects of their biology.
“I am delighted that this award will put some of the students’ great work into public
view and highlight how what they learn can be translated into service for the community,”
Sherita Johnson, associate professor of English and director of The Center for Black
Studies, received funding to support her service-learning project with the Historic
Bay Springs School. Built in 1925 and located in the Kelly Settlement area of Forrest
County, the Bay Springs School is one of the few remaining rural Rosenwald Schools
in Mississippi designed for the purpose of educating African Americans during segregation.
Students in Johnson’s Service Learning in Black Studies class will assist with documenting
and preserving the history of the Bay Springs School. This work will lay the foundation
for a new community-engagement partnership between the Center for Black Studies and
the caretakers of the Bay Springs School, with the long-term goal of maintaining the
school as a cultural heritage site open to educational programming.
“This project will bring attention to the local efforts made by African Americans
to achieve a quality education in rural areas even during segregation,” said Johnson.
“The Bay Springs School is a very important cultural heritage site in South Mississippi
that unfortunately has not yet received the recognition it deserves.”
Laura S. Malone, assistant director of the School of Interdisciplinary Studies and
Professional Development, received funding for in-class activities to promote teambuilding
and community among students in her UNV 110 class and to increase engagement opportunities
with her community partner, the Institute for Disability Studies.
UNV 110 is an integrative experience for students in the RISE (Reaching, Including,
Supporting and Educating) program to learn alongside first-year university students
about areas such as mental, physical, and emotional health, academic and professional
success, and recreation and leisure. The class provides an opportunity for traditional
first-semester freshmen as well as RISE participants to learn about Hattiesburg and
the University of Southern Mississippi communities, with students working together
to develop a final project beneficial to future RISE participants and first-semester
“It is extra special to receive the Conville Endowment Award because it was in Interpersonal
Communication (CMS 605), taught by Dr. Conville, in which I first participated in
a service-learning project,” said Malone. “This award will benefit students in University
Studies (UNV 110) and will help facilitate student-group teambuilding, strengthen
the student-community partner connection, and foster learners’ sense of community
John Winters, assistant professor of history, was awarded funding for a project with
the Ellisville State School (ESS), a historic residential school for persons with
mental and developmental disabilities. The project will result in a Master Preservation
Plan (MPP) for the school’s on-site cemetery which will aid preservation efforts and
increase accessibility for the ESS, residents, and families.
Student interns from USM will help catalogue the cemetery, photograph and take rubbings
of faded headstones, develop a site map to identify those interred, and catalogue
headstones and gravesites in need of more substantial restoration. The plan includes
the eventual creation of a map for the historic cemetery that would be posted on the
ESS website for relevant public, ESS, and family use. Students involved in this project
will receive training with hands-on preservation, planning, and disability sensitivity
that will be of use in their future careers.
The Conville Endowment for Community Engaged Teaching and Research Award was established to honor Dr. and Mrs. Richard L. Conville and to support and reward
excellence in community-engaged teaching and research.
The award is funded through the Richard L. Conville and Mozella P. Conville Center
for Community Engagement Fund for Excellence and provides funding for conducting or
developing community-engaged or service-learning research; implementing and planning
a new, significant, and sustainable community engagement initiative; advancing and
promoting service-learning or community engagement at USM; integrating service-learning
or community engagement into a college or department degree plan; developing or re-designing
a service-learning class; or collaborating across disciplines or institutions on community
The Center for Community Engagement promotes service and service-learning on The University
of Southern Mississippi campus and throughout the Hattiesburg community. Visit the CCE website at Southern Miss or call 601.266.6467 for more information.