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University of Mississippi – 2020 Outstanding Program Award Finalist

The M Partner program at the University of Mississippi is one of the 2020 Outstanding Program Award finalists!

Every year, EPIC-N celebrates outstanding contributions by university programs and community partners through the 2020 EPIC-N awards.

In 2018, former Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter challenged the University of Mississippi to partner with Mississippi communities to improve quality of life through its EPIC-N program, M Partner. This innovative, collaborative program seeks to match diverse and comprehensive university resources with community goals and needs. Whether those needs relate to health care and education, economic development and policy, marketing and tourism, resiliency, or core government systems, the goal of M Partner is to create substantial and sustainable results for community partners.

M Partner embodies our vision for how the University of Mississippi conducts purposeful and impactful community engagement to fulfill its public purpose as our state’s flagship university. We are indebted to the faculty, staff, students and community partners who contributed to the success of the pilot phase, and we look forward to the next phase of M Partner.

Glenn Boyce, University of Mississippi Chancellor

M Partner leverages talent and expertise from across the University of Mississippi to create value in partner communities. In the pilot phase, M Partner has aligned university resources and expertise with community-driven projects. To create results for the partner communities, M Partner affiliated with credit-bearing courses, offered community service opportunities, conducted research, and provided technical assistance to advance community projects. The community-driven projects identified by community members revolve around educational attainment, economic development, health and wellness, and beautification and tourism.

The 2018 year served as a pilot year for M Partner, during which the university engaged three communities for two years. The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, which was invited to lead implementation, had longstanding partnerships in Charleston, but had not done work in Lexington or New Albany. Additionally, the communities are located outside of Oxford – Charleston and New Albany are a one hour drive, and Lexington is a two hour drive. There was also an expectation that faculty and staff from the University of Mississippi Medical Center would be involved with M Partner, which is located 2 ½ hours away in Jackson.

The interest from across campus has been tremendous. Faculty from a range of academic disciplines – and the medical center! – have led courses and projects in conjunction with M Partner. To date, M Partner has collaborated with faculty from the College of Liberal Arts, Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, and the Schools of Applied Sciences, Education, Engineering, and Pharmacy.

In the pilot phase, M Partner did not seek any funds from partner communities. With the funds provided by the Office of the Provost, the McLean Institute was able to provide funding for 14 courses and leveraged resources to complete nearly 70 projects, special programs and events, and partnerships through the North Mississippi VISTA Project. One of the M Partner courses resulted in a $50,000 Healthy Hometown grant award for the City of Lexington. Another collaboration through the North Mississippi VISTA Project led to a $47,500 grant award from the Toyota Foundation to the City of New Albany.