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Ole Miss

Student Leaders

Following are University of Mississippi students involved in political organizations, issues, interesting volunteer work or noteworthy projects. They are available for comment or interviews. Please use the direct contact information provided for each student.

Angel T. Brown

School of Medicine class president and philanthropy chair of the Associated Student Body

Angel, a fourth-year medical student, is a Barksdale scholar and recipient of the Dr. Virginia Stansel Tolbert Award for academic excellence and leadership. She is the only student on the Mississippi State Medical Association’s Council on Legislation and regional delegate to the American Medical Association. Before entering medical school, she worked as a coronary care and intensive care nurse.

“As a future primary care provider, I think it is my duty to be politically informed, and I’m proud that UM-Oxford will be hosting this debate. I’ve seen the devastating effects of the lack of access to adequate health care, so the issue of health care reform is near and dear to my heart.”

Major: Medicine
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-353-6748 /

Brent Caldwell

President of UM’s College Democrats and executive director of UM’s Roosevelt Institution

An ’08 Democratic National Convention attendee, Brent is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and executive director of the UM Roosevelt Institution, a student-run think tank that addresses social issues at local, state and national levels. He’s also active in Roots and Shoots, a campus environmental group, as well as the Associated Student Body and PFLAG, a gay rights advocacy group.

“What excites me most about this event is that we get to show off Oxford and Ole Miss on the national and international stage. People are going to get a glimpse of the new South, and I think they are going to like what they see.”

Major: Public policy leadership and philosophy
Hometown: St. Martin, Miss.
Direct Contact: 228-424-5784 /

Tyler Clemons

Editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian

Tyler is at the helm of a 15,000-circulation, student-run daily newspaper that’s been in print since 1911. He’s also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and UM’s debate student steering committee. 

“Having lived here all my life, I am excited for both the University and Oxford to emerge in the field of national politics. I am happy Mississippi really matters this year.”

Major: Journalism and history
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-801-5635 /

Melissa Cole

Deputy director of One Mississippi and a Columns Society member

A second-generation Ole Miss student, Melissa is active in local and campus organizations such as One Mississippi, the Columns Society, Leadership Council for General Ambassadors, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Club and a volunteer after-school program for the Oxford-Lafayette County community called Leapfrog. 

“A lot of times people overlook Mississippi’s potential. I think the debate is a chance for us to show how far we have come here. There are a lot of preconceived notions of how life in Mississippi is.”

Major: Biology
Hometown: Jackson, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-270-9777 /

Tyler Craft

President of UM’s College Republicans

Tyler is not only president of the Ole Miss College Republicans but also is vice chairman for the Mississippi Federation of College Republicans. He’s active in campus organizations such as One Mississippi, the Associated Student Body, UM Ambassadors and the debate student steering committee. He received the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s annual Barksdale Award and – as part of his thesis research – will spend his winter break in Africa, developing micro-financing business models to help small businesses.

“I think the debate is one of the greatest opportunities the University has ever had, and I hope it will change the national perception of Ole Miss and will be very valuable for the University’s future”

Major: International studies and political science
Hometown: Laurel, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-433-2213 /

Haley Crum

MTV citizen journalist and filmmaker

Haley is a citizen journalist for MTV's ’08 Choose or Lose Street Team, covering the 2008 presidential election from a youth and Mississippi perspective via weekly blogs and video packages. A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and the UM marching band, she was The Daily Mississippian’s campus news editor and online news editor.

“The debate is really exciting for everyone involved because it is a great opportunity for the University and community. I think it will give students a chance to get more active in politics. We have a great community, and once people visit it, they will see why so many people come here.”

Major: Journalism and English
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-801-5910 /

Damon Darsey

Flight paramedic

Damon, a third-year medical student, helped secure grant funding to establish a regional communication system (MED-COM) that allows ambulance dispatchers, paramedics, physicians and hospitals to call one number to get patients dispatched quickly to the right facility to improve their outcomes. “When I was working full time as a paramedic, I came to know the state’s pre-hospital care system very well. I decided I needed to be a physician to improve a system I believe in very much.”

“As the candidates debate, I will be listening closely to what they propose about health care. We have many challenges in Mississippi, but where there are challenges, there are opportunities, and I think the Medical Center is taking the lead in ending health disparities and in improving access to and delivery of health care.”

Major: Medicine
Hometown: Meridian, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-594-0187 /

Kaitlin Gilham

Community volunteer and debate Student Steering Committee member

A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Kaitlin organized a seven-week cardiovascular health outreach and education program for the local Hispanic community this past summer. She acquired financial support and coordinated health and nutrition experts to volunteer their time for the project. She’s an emergency room volunteer at Oxford’s Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and a member of the debate student steering committee. 

“The debate is a chance for students to take a more personal role in politics. I have seen some people who never feel like they are part of politics. Maybe this will get some people involved who have never been involved before.”

Major: Biology
Hometown: Corinth, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-808-1324 /

Claire Graves

Co-chair of UM’s Debate Student Steering Committee

An ’08 Republican National Convention attendee, Claire co-chairs UM’s debate student steering committee. She’s also a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, One Mississippi, UM Ambassadors, Honors College Ambassadors and the Associated Student Body. 

“One word describes my feelings about Ole Miss hosting the debate: opportunity. That is what brought me to the University of Mississippi – the absolutely astounding amount of opportunity that is found here.”

Major: Marketing and communications
Hometown: Ackerman, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-285-7054 /

Wade Holeman

President of the Inter-Fraternity Council

Wade is president of the IFC, which governs most of UM’s fraternities. He’s also involved in campus organizations such as One Mississippi and the debate’s student steering committee. In fact, he worked with UM’s Lott Leadership Institute to develop a class focused on domestic issues, the debate’s topic. 

"Hosting the debate shows the progress that not only the University of Mississippi has made, but also our great state as a whole. I think that having this debate shows we have taken steps in the right direction and I'm proud to call myself a Mississippian."

Major: Managerial finance
Hometown: Ridgeland, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-573-2649 /

Jenna Jones

President of the National Panhellenic Council

Jones is president of the NPC, which governs most of UM’s sororities and recruits more than 900 members each fall, and has held many leadership roles in her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. She’s a volunteer at Oxford Medical Ministries, which provides health care to Oxford’s uninsured residents. 

“I think it is such a compliment to our University to be able to host the debate. Anyone who has attended Ole Miss knows that it has a lot of history and has produced many politicians. I think it will be great for everyone else who knows nothing about a little town called Oxford, Mississippi, to see who we really are and how wonderful our University is.”

Major: Marketing
Hometown: Cordova, Tenn.
Direct Contact: 901-409-2526 /

Barnabas Kirui

Student Athlete

A junior banking and finance major, Kirui is a member of the Ole Miss track and field team, and has been named an Academic All-American by ESPN magazine. In 2007 he was an NCAA scholar-athlete of the year and earned athletic distinctions being named SEC male athlete of the year and SEC cross-country champion. He is a member of the Student Athlete Academic Committee and the African Caribbean Association.

"It is an honor for a debate of such magnitude to take place at our university. As an international student from Kenya, the debate will provide me with an insight in American politics. There is no doubt that the whole world is following the events as they unfold, so it will be interesting to see how the world's leading democracy will handle the debate."

Major: Banking and Finance
Hometown: Lintein, Kenya
Direct Contact: 601-503-8384/

Nickolaus Luckett

Member of UM’s debate Student Steering Committee

An ’08 Republican National Convention attendee, Nick is a sophomore in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. He is involved in student organizations such as the Associated Student Body, One Mississippi, UM’s debate Student Steering Committee and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. 

“It’s exciting to be here for the first debate in Mississippi, and I think it’s a great opportunity to show how different Ole Miss and the state are from what many people may think.”

Major: Public policy leadership and classics
Hometown: Drew, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-588-3198 /

Jake McGraw

Co-chair of UM’s debate Student Steering Committee and chief coordinator for One Mississippi

Jake is busy with several campus groups, including the Associated Student Body, One Mississippi, College Democrats and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. As coordinator for One Mississippi, he helps plan activities promoting conversation about racial diversity in the community. An ’08 Democratic National Convention attendee, he’s also co-chairing the Student Steering Committee for the debate and is a junior in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

“Hopefully, the debate will let us redefine who we are in Ole Miss and Oxford in the eyes of the world. For many people, 1962 left a lasting image. This will let us show how far we’ve come in the last 46 years.”

Major: Public policy leadership
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-816-1879 /

Natalie Montalvo

Orientation leader and Columns Society member

A native of south Florida, Natalie didn’t set eyes on the Ole Miss campus until her freshman orientation. She’s now an orientation leader and is involved with the Student Programming Board, Associated Student Body, Ole Miss yearbook, One Mississippi and the Columns Society. She’s also philanthropy chair for her sorority, Alpha Omicron Pi. 

“The University embraced me with open arms and I became a part of the Ole Miss family. This debate will allow the nation to see what it is to be a part of this family. It will help many Americans disregard the negative views they may have of the University and of the state.”

Major: Journalism
Hometown: North Miami Beach, Fla.
Direct Contact:
305-588-9559 /

Crystal Parker

President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council

Crystal is vice president of her sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho, as well as president of NPHC, the governing body of UM’s historically black fraternities and sororities. She has helped with such summer programs as freshmen orientation and JumpStart, and is a member of the debate Student Steering Committee. 

“I am very pleased that the presidential debate is coming to Ole Miss. Most people have a negative perception about the University of Mississippi, and this debate is proof that extraordinary things do happen here.”

Major: Marketing communications
Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Ala.
Direct Contact: 256-412-8840 /

Graham Purcell

President of the Associated Student Body

Graham, a St. Petersburg, Russia, native, is president of the ASB and serves as the student body’s representative to the administration. He’s also involved with campus groups such as One Mississippi, Army ROTC, executive management council and the debate Student Steering Committee. 

“Growing up in Russia, I always felt like American politics were so far away, and I’m really excited to see it here in our backyard. I have really seen this University change so much in the last three years. The debate is an awesome opportunity to show we are a progressive society.”

Major: Political science
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Russia
Direct Contact: 662-803-2660 /

Cacera Richmond

Chair of the Student Judicial Council

Cacera is chair of the Student Judicial Council, the group that helps enforce UM’s policies, including its tough new two-strike alcohol policy. She’s also president of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha. A member of the Ole Miss chapter of the Association of Black Journalists, she was a reporter for campus television and radio stations. 

“I think hosting the debate is a wonderful opportunity for Ole Miss, and we couldn’t ask for anything better. I really hope this serves Mississippi as a whole because we do get so much negative press. A lot of people still have the image of Ole Miss as it was in the 1960s.”

Major: Journalism
Hometown: Madison, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-212-7506 /

Artair Rogers

Member of UM Ambassadors and Columns Society

A member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Artair is active in the Associated Student Body, Black Student Union, Columns Society, One Mississippi, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, Minority Affairs Leadership Council, UM Ambassadors and the debate Student Steering Committee.


“The debate is going to help break some Ole Miss stereotypes. It will give the Ole Miss and Oxford community a chance to show off what we have to offer, to show that Ole Miss is a great American public university. Also, as a little kid growing up, you say you want to be a doctor or a lawyer or president. This debate will show minority students and everyone else on our campus that we can reach our dreams in whatever field we pursue.”

Major: Public policy leadership
Hometown: Guntown, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-397-3544 /

Ben Rowley

Columnist for The Daily Mississippian

Ben is heavily involved in UM’s Roosevelt Institute, a student-run think tank that addresses social issues at local, state and national levels. He’s also an opinion columnist for The Daily Mississippian and a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. As part of his senior thesis, he’s drafting a proposal for local government and nonprofit leaders on how to address Oxford’s need for affordable housing. He’s also working on plans to help struggling public schools in Como, Miss., options to provide affordable health insurance to UM’s staff members and ways to raise awareness of the community’s bike trails.

"I think there's a lack of information about what exactly is going on in Mississippi. Generally, Ole Miss has been in the nation's spotlight for negative things. Hopefully this debate will allow the University to address some of the stereotypes associated with both the South and Ole Miss.”

Major: Public policy leadership
Hometown: Brookhaven, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-757-0320 /

Brittney Smith

President of the Black Student Union

In addition to serving as BSU president, Brittney is community service director for Increasing Minority Access to Graduate Education. She’s also active in the Associated Student Body, specializing in diversity affairs at Ole Miss.

“Having the debate in Oxford, Mississippi, is a great opportunity for the students and the community to witness history. We have a chance to show our visitors real Southern hospitality and how amiable and acute Ole Miss students really are. I would like to sincerely welcome all visitors to the University of Mississippi.”

Major: Chemistry
Hometown: Oxford, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-801-9048 /

Elizabeth Vowell

Station manager for Newswatch

Elizabeth balances classes while supervising a 30-minute, student-run newscast five days a week. She is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, College Republicans and Delta Gamma sorority. 

“The debate is a unique opportunity to witness history in the making, not only for the University but also for Mississippi.”

Major: Journalism
Hometown: Quitman, Miss.
Direct Contact: 601-616-2410 /

McDaniel Wicker

Attorney general for the Associated Student Body (ASB)

McDaniel is the ASB’s attorney general, the Air Force ROTC’s commander and the College Republicans’ secretary. He’s involved with the Columns Society, Lott Leadership Institute, Student Alumni Council, Ole Miss Ambassadors, Habitat for Humanity, Sigma Nu fraternity and Campus Crusade for Christ. 

"Since I was very young, Ole Miss and Oxford have been very important and special places that have helped to shape who I am. With the debate, the University and the town get to play that role for the entire nation."

Major: International studies
Hometown: Tupelo, Miss.
Direct Contact: 662-321-9277 /

Patrick Woodyard

Student activist

Patrick received the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s annual Barksdale Award for generating campus involvement in fundraisers for such African causes as Darfur and hunger relief. He spent the past summer in Uganda, helping develop a nonprofit organization to benefit AIDS orphans. 

"Hosting a presidential debate at the University of Mississippi is a paramount event for our beloved institution. On a campus that received international attention a few years ago in regard to extreme racial tension, for Ole Miss to receive such an opportunity symbolizes the progress of not only our University but the United States as well. As our nation faces numerous challenges today, may September 26th contribute to a new era of peaceful achievement for our school, our nation and our world."

Major: International studies
Hometown: Hot Springs, Ark.
Direct Contact: 501-620-3474 /