OXFORD, Miss. — Sandra Cox-McCarty, associate dean for administration and diversity initiatives, has been named Staff Council’s Staff Member of the Month for June. To help us get to know her better, she answered some questions for Inside Ole Miss.
IOM: How long have you worked at Ole Miss?
Cox-McCarty: Since November or December 1992
IOM: What is your hometown?
IOM: Talk about your favorite Ole Miss memory.
Cox-McCarty: I enjoyed the celebration of the first group of African American law school graduates and their return to this campus.
IOM: What do you enjoy most about your position or the department in which you work?
Cox-McCarty: I enjoy providing service to all whom we serve. This includes the faculty, staff, alumni, students and other departments on campus. It is always something new and different happening every day.
IOM: What do you like to do when you are not at work?
Cox-McCarty: I walk every morning with a walking group around 5 a.m., and we have walked together over 10 years. I volunteer at the Ford Center because I love the theater. I am campus adviser to the undergraduate members of the Theta Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. I am a member of the graduate chapter of Upsilon Iota Omega of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., where I am the treasurer. I am a member of the Mississippi Roses, a chapter of the Links Inc., where I recently served as president. I am a member of Our Time Book Club. As you can tell, I am always busy!
IOM: What is one thing on your bucket list?
Cox-McCarty: I want to learn how to ride a horse.
IOM: What is your favorite movie?
Cox-McCarty: “Cinderella” and/or “Black Panther”
IOM: What is your favorite Ole Miss tradition?
Cox-McCarty: I enjoy attending athletics events.
IOM: What is a fun fact about you?
Cox-McCarty: I love to go to garage sales. I also love to cook.
IOM: If you could have lunch with anyone alive or dead/fictional or real, who would it be and why?
Cox-McCarty: I would love to have lunch with my deceased mother and grandmother because they have been the most impactful persons in my life.
IOM: What are three words you would use to describe yourself?
Cox-McCarty: I am loyal, direct and dependable.
IOM: If you could visit one time or place in world history (past, present or future), what would it be?
Cox-McCarty: I would love to have an opportunity to speak with my deceased grandfather. He had 11 brothers.
IOM: If you could be an animal for a day, you would be ____ .
Cox-McCarty: An eagle.
To nominate a colleague for Staff Member of the Month, email email@example.com with the name of the individual you’d like to nominate as well as why you feel that person should be recognized.
OXFORD, Miss. – University of Mississippi law student Ethan Booker, of Oxford, is spending his summer working with the Queens District Attorney’s Office-Homicide Unit in New York, an opportunity made possible by support from the School of Law‘s faculty, staff and dean.
“The best thing the Ole Miss law school provides its students is an incredible faculty and staff,” said Booker, a third-year law student. “We are not just a number at this law school. Our professors want to see us succeed as individuals. That goes a long way with students.”
Booker said he also appreciates the school’s commitment to providing hands-on experiences for students, such as externships and positions on advocacy boards that prepare them for work in the field.
A new $25,000 gift from Susan Duncan, who joined the school as dean in August 2017, will help ensure resources continue to be available to support such opportunities.
“Her gift means so much,” said Booker, who is a member of the Trial Advocacy Board, LatinX Legal Student Association and president of the UM Graduate Student Council.
“The great thing about this law school, and the university as a whole, is that we are all part of the Ole Miss family, which means something. I think Dean Duncan’s gift reflects her commitment to the students and this school.”
The gift supporting the School of Law Fund is a worthy investment, Duncan said.
“I believe in the mission of the law school, and I want to invest in our future lawyers and leaders,” she said. “I know firsthand about the great things we are doing on such a small budget. We have bold plans, which require resources, and I am excited to be part of this upward trajectory.”
Contributions to accounts such as the School of Law Fund enable the school to send teams to oral advocacy competitions, help Mississippians in need through clinics, provide scholarships and offer top-notch student services.
“Because state funds are very limited, we depend on the generosity of our friends and alumni,” the dean said. “We could not achieve what we do without their support.”
Natalie Lowry, a third-year law student from Macon, describes Duncan as a supportive dean and proactive leader.
“Dean Duncan exemplifies a person who truly cares about the success of her students as well as her faculty and staff,” said Lowry, a clinical student at the MacArthur Justice Center and vice president of the Black Law Student Association.
“She is heavily involved in the academic and extracurricular activities of the students, and it shows in her ability to be present and support the student organizations at the law school. It has been an honor to be under her leadership during my time at the law school and to see her give to a fund that will have positive impact on law school classes in the future.”
In the 2022 U.S. News and World Report rankings, the Ole Miss School of Law rose 13 points over the previous year – an achievement Duncan credits to the school’s faculty and staff.
“Our faculty and staff are dedicated to our students and give 150%,” she said. “I always tell students, ‘Come to the University of Mississippi if you want to learn from professors who are national experts in their fields; have a staff that is student-centered; engage in award-winning programs including our oral advocacy program, clinics and concentrations; study in a state-of-the-art building on the most beautiful campus in the nation; and pay a fraction of the cost of other law schools!’”
The School of Law Fund is open to receive gifts from individuals and organizations. Those interested can mail a check with the fund noted in the memo line to the University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS, 38655.
UM Law’s Innocence Project has represented Flowers since 2015
This week, the Southern Center for Human Rights awarded the Curtis Flowers defense team, which includes the George C. Cochran Innocence Project at the University of Mississippi, the 2020 Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award.
This past September, more than 23 years since after his arrest subsequent conviction and death sentence, the charges against Flowers were dismissed. Flowers was tried six times for the 1996 murder of four people in a furniture store in Winona, Mississippi. Each of the convictions and deaths sentences in the first three trials was overturned by the Mississippi Supreme Court for prosecutorial misconduct, including racial discrimination by the prosecutor in jury selection in the third trial. The fourth and fifth trials ended in hung juries. The conviction and death sentence in the sixth trial also was overturned, this time by the United States Supreme Court in June of 2019. Flowers was released from prison in December 2019, awaiting a seventh trial. On Friday, Sept. 4, the state of Mississippi dismissed all charges against Flowers.
The case garnered national attention as evidence of Flowers’s innocence emerged in recent years, brought to light by the legal team that includes Hogan Lovells law firm, the George C. Cochran Innocence Project, and the Cornell Law School Capital Punishment Clinic. The case was also the subject of the award-winning, investigative reporting podcast series, In the Dark by American Public Media.
Tucker Carrington, UM Law Associate Dean for Clinical Programs and Innocence Project Director, has been part of the Flowers defense team since the post-conviction phase in 2015.
“Mr. Flowers’ persecution was shameful but, in the end, not without a silver lining. His name is now on a U.S. Supreme Court case, and that stands for something,” Carrington said. “That something is fortitude, and strength, and courage, and ultimately it stands for the right and decent thing – the rule of law.”
Sara Tonochi, executive director of the SCHR, said the Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award recognizes and celebrates individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the enhancement of human rights in the justice system. Previous honorees include Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) and author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson.
“The Southern Center for Human Rights is thrilled to honor Curtis Flowers’s Defense Team with our 2020 Frederick Douglass Human Rights Award,” Tonochi said. “With this award, SCHR honors their bold advocacy; unshakable commitment to speaking truth to power; and the palpable compassion that they express for those whom society would discard.
“This Award recognizes the awe-inspiring and instructive way the team combined its immense talents for a multi-pronged approach to save Mr. Flowers’s life and expose the rampant injustice in his case,” she added. “As did the great Frederick Douglass, this extraordinary team strives to protect and promote human rights and ‘agitate…agitate…agitate’ on behalf of the disenfranchised and oppressed, and we are proud to pay tribute to their remarkable work.”
The award was presented virtually at the 24th Annual Frederick Douglass Awards ceremony, which featured remarks from members of the defense team and from Flowers.
“I had some dark days – the day I was arrested and the days I was convicted for a crime I did not commit. But there have been some bright days, too,” Flowers said in a video message. “I will never forget the day the judge granted bail and I walked out of jail. I will never forget the day, some months later, when my lawyers told me and my family that the charges had been dropped, and I was truly a free man again.”
Flowers also had a message for those who are fighting for justice and lawyers fighting for them – to keep the faith and keep fighting.
“It may be a long one, but there is hope in justice,” Flowers said.