Click here for the Winter Institute Advisory Board

The Honorable William F. Winter

WLW Current Photo-smaller Born in 1923 in Grenada, Mississippi, William F. Winter served in the armed forces in World War II and the Korean War. He was awarded a BA from the University of Mississippi in 1943 and an LL.B. in 1949. He has since been awarded over five honorary degrees. His credentials within the academic community are long standing: Jamie Whitten Professor of Law and Government at the University of Mississippi School of Law (Fall 1989); Eudora Welty Professor of Southern Studies at Millsaps College (Spring 1989); Fellow, Institute of Politics, Harvard University (1985) and President, Ole Miss Alumni Association (1978). He continues to practice law with the Jackson, MS, firm of Watkins Ludlum Winter & Stennis, P.A. which celebrated its one hundredth anniversary in 2005. William Winter is most well known, however, for his role in leading the charge for publicly-funded primary education while he was the fifty-eighth governor of Mississippi from 1980-1984. His governance echoed his belief that all people, regardless of race or class, should be entitled to the same rights and privileges as the most privileged enjoys. In a substantial way, Governor Winter’s accomplishments were honored in 1997 when President Bill Clinton initiated “One America,” an unprecedented national conversation on race. Winter served on the board of One America, helping to bring the only deep-South public forum to the University of Mississippi. President Bill Clinton has called Winter a “great champion of civil rights.” Positive changes stem from great leadership, and William Winter is one of many guiding lights for Mississippi and America. On May 12, 2008, Governor Winter was honored at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston. Click here to read his acceptance speech.

Institute Staff

portiae-thPortia Ballard Espy is the Director of Community Building at the Institute. She previously served as Chief Administrative Office for Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office and Assistant Director of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Mid-South Delta Initiative. She is a graduate of Southern University in Baton Rouge and Loyola University in New Orleans, and she is a Ph.D. student in the Public Policy and Administration Program at Jackson State University. Portia considers herself a griot and enjoys collecting the data (through traditional and nontraditional means) that have become her family’s American story.
RoyDeBerry-smRoy DeBerry is the Activist-in-Residence at the Winter Institute. A native of Holly Springs, MS, he recently retired as Vice President for Economic Development and Local Governmental Affairs at Jackson State University. In 2007, he co-created his own organization, The Hill Country Project, a non-profit organization, located in Benton County, MS, which focuses on oral history, education, economic development and community capacity building ( DeBerry works to encourage and expand parent, community, alumni and business support for K-12 through higher education.
melodyf-thMelody Frierson is Youth Engagement Coordinator at the Winter Institute. She holds an M.A. in Afro-American studies from UCLA and B.A. degrees from the University of Mississippi in Psychology/Gender studies and African American studies. As an undergraduate at UM, Melody worked as a student intern at the Institute, and co-organized and facilitated programs like the Summer Youth Institute, One Mississippi, and several anti-racism/oppression workshops. Her most recent non-profit work took place at the Barbara Jordan/Bayard Rustin Coalition (JRC), a Los Angeles-based Black LGBT political advocacy organization. Melody ran her first half-marathon (13.1 miles) in April 2014 and is still trying to figure out how she did it.
susang-thSusan M. Glisson has served as the Institute’s Executive Director since 2002. (Click here for her cv.) She is a native of Evans, Georgia, and earned Bachelor’s degrees in Religion and in History from Mercer University, a Master’s degree in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. Glisson specializes in the history of race and religion in the United States, especially in the black struggle for freedom. She has numerous publications, has been quoted widely in the media and has supported community projects throughout the state for the Institute since its inception. Susan’s first publication, “Peanut Butter Crisscrosses” appeared in the Warren Baptist Church Cookbook, when she was 20 years old.
vong-thVondaris “Von” Gordon is a native of Moorhead, MS, in Sunflower County. He joined the Institute to develop and coordinate youth programs as Youth Engagement Coordinator. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he was a student leader and helped organize the first Statewide Student Summit on Race. He served as a founding board member of the Winter Institute and the only student representative. He has worked in the private sector in franchise and corporate multi-unit restaurant operations and in business development for one of Pepsi’s top franchise bottlers. Von is the married father of two, and he is passionate about equipping youth to build stronger communities through education, empowerment, and racial healing. He thinks the best salads in the world are the ones with no dressing.
aprilg-thApril Grayson is Community Building Coordinator for the Welcome Table. A native of Rolling Fork, MS, April was Documentary Educator at the Institute from 2005 through 2008. She has led community oral history and documentary projects in Philadelphia, McComb, Tallahatchie County, and other communities. Her oral history project on the integration of the University of Mississippi School of Law and Medical School, in conjunction with Kate Medley, won the Mississippi Historical Society’s Oral History award. She has a Master of Fine Arts in Film from San Francisco Art Institute. Her short films have shown in film festivals, galleries, and museums in the United States, Canada, Europe, Africa, and South America. As a teenager, she was an avid waterskier.
DawnJeter-smDawn Jeter is the Winter Institute’s operations manager. She has over 25 years experience in marketing, advertising, graphic design, and operations management, most recently at the University of Mississippi’s Overby Center for Southern Journalism and politics. She has received advertising and marketing campaign awards from the Mississippi Press Association and the American Hospital Association; has been lead graphic designer and manager of pre-press operations for a major beverage retailer magazine; and has worked national trade shows hosted by the restaurant and hospitality industries. Prior to joining the Overby Center, Dawn worked as operations manager for the National Center for Justice and the Rule of Law, a federal grant program at the University of Mississippi. She was also webmaster for the University of Mississippi School of Law. Dawn has two children: Alana Rose, 20, and Alex, 17. She is also a musician, singer, and journalism major.
jackiem-thJacqueline B. Martin is a civil rights veteran from McComb, MS, and serves as the community liaison for the Civil Rights/Labor History curriculum development project at McComb School District. She has served as civil rights tour guide for high school and college students, as well as teachers and other interested citizens. She has organized many of McComb’s civil rights tours and commemorations, especially those honoring local civil rights veterans. She joined the Institute as a Community Building Manager and participates in intergenerational community work in Mississippi. She has a B.S. in Business Administration from Belhaven University and is a certified Training Professional through the WLPI at the University of Southern Mississippi. Jackie enjoys mystery novels and western movies.

jakem-thJake McGraw is the coordinator for Rethink Mississippi and editor of, a collaboration of emerging leaders in Mississippi to begin critical discussions about the state’s long-term issues. Jake has deep-seated passion for combining the power of ideas with community organizing methods. While studying public policy and economics at the University of Mississippi, Jake co-founded the campus integration initiative One Mississippi as well as a community empowerment organization in San Mateo, Belize. Jake also has significant experience working in both state and national politics. A native of Oxford, MS, Jake researched the history of progressive education policies in the South while attending a master’s program at “the other Oxford” in England. He returned home to join the Winter Institute in spring 2013. Jake is an avid golfer and squash player–a frequent source of ridicule among his colleagues.

schultz-thChristopher Schultz is the Institute’s Director of Development and Communications. We’re proud to have been among the very first clients of Chris’s idea-development consultancy, Start Here Project Development, which has worked with clients worldwide to help them develop and fund projects for more than ten years, securing contracts and funding surpassing $12 million. Additionally, Chris is the co-author (with his sister, Heidi Schultz Adams), of Planet Cancer, a book for young adults and their loved ones affected by cancer; his writing has appeared in the New York Times, Esquire, Men’s Journal, ESPN: The Magazine, and other publications, including Shenandoah, a literary journal founded by Tom Wolfe. A former U.S. Navy logistics officer, Chris has both catapulted off of and landed on an aircraft carrier.

jen-s-thJennifer A. Stollman Ph. D.  is the Academic Director at the Winter Institute. (Click here for her cv.) Jennifer is responsible for campus professional development, anti-oppression training, curricular and co-curricular development, crisis management, and is a consultant for detecting and eliminating institutional and interpersonal bias.  She works with campuses across the region including the University of Mississippi, Delta State University, University of Southern Mississippi, and Tulane University. Jennifer spent 18 years in graduate and undergraduate classrooms as a professor of history and gender and women’s studies.  She specializes in issues related to the construction, projections, and deployment of individual and collective identities.  Jennifer is committed to equity work ​taking place across campuses.  She loves spending time with her family and friends, is an avid cyclist, and is devoted to her Scottish Terrier, Lincoln.

charlest-thCharles H. Tucker, a Cary, MS, native, is the Institute’s Associate Director. He holds a degree in mass communication and journalism from Jackson State University. Tucker was a newspaper reporter and photographer and a writer for the Associated Press. He has worked in development for the Piney Woods School, where he also tutored and taught creative writing seminars. He served in the Office of Public Information at Jackson State University. Most recently, Tucker was the public information officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation on its Mid-South Delta Initiative. He is a facilitator and community builder for the Welcome Table model and helps develop and coordinate the Institute’s national and international partnerships. Tucker is a National Book Foundation Summer Fellow and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the Solstice Program at Pine Manor College. He is not Groot.

Institute Interns

eleanorEleanor Anthony is a senior from Jackson, MS, pursuing Philosophy and Mathematics majors with minors in Computer Science and Neuroscience from the University of Mississippi. She is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and conducts research as a member of the Lazarus Project research team, specializing in multispectral imaging technologies and handwriting recognition. She serves as an editor of Populi Magazine, formerly known as Koi Talk, an online student publication she helped found in August 2013 that works to promote a vibrant campus discourse at the university. She also serves as staff member and co-founder of the Honors College Student Union, a new student organization as of January 2015, which will be working to expand community action, tutoring, and alumni networking opportunities for Honors students, while also trying to emphasize the cultural component of students’ experiences at the college with a new Arts Initiative.
AllenAllen Coon is a freshman at the University of Mississippi. He is a native of Petal, MS, and is double majoring in Public Policy Leadership and African American Studies. He currently holds leadership positions with the College Democrats, College NAACP, Students for a Green Campus, and the state-wide Young Democrats of Mississippi.
WI-Logo-4FBMercer Ann McKee is a senior majoring in Public Policy Leadership and minoring in History and Political Science. A native of Ridgeland, MS, Mercer has previously served on Panhellenic Council as well as holding leadership positions within her sorority, Delta Gamma. She is also serving as a teaching assistant for the EDHE class and is excited to be working for the Winter Institute!
brittneyBrittney MacDonald is a first-year graduate student in the M.A. in Higher Education/Student Personnel program. While she grew up in Grand Rapids, MI, she now calls Dawsonville, GA, home. Brittney works as a Graduate Community Director for the Department of Student Housing in the Northgate Apartment community. Prior to attending the University of Mississippi, Brittney attended the University of Georgia, where she earned a B.S. in Family and Consumer Sciences.
WI-Logo-4FBLydia Stewart is a second-year graduate student in the Master of Arts in Higher Education/Student Personnel program. Lydia serves as the Graduate Assistant in the Office of Student Disability Services at the University of Mississippi. She has also served as the Graduate Intern in the office of Equal Opportunity and Regulatory Compliance. She attended Louisiana State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in History. As an undergraduate student at LSU and Dillard University, Lydia was a Ronald McNair Undergraduate Scholar and was an Executive Board member of NAACP, National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC), National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), and the Omicron and Gamma Pi Chapters of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
WI-Logo-4FBHal Sullivan is a senior from Starkville, MS, majoring in English and Southern Studies. He has served as the Vice President of Public Relations for the Ole Miss Interfraternity Council, an Ole Miss Ambassador, and an Orientation Leader. He has also worked for the past three years for Duke Youth Programs in Durham, NC, as a counselor and administrator.
aidaAida Solomon is a senior at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA. She is majoring in communication with a focus on cultural communication. After working as a mentor at SYI 2014, Aida is now interning with the Winter Institute for the semester, focusing on youth engagement and campus relations. While in Mississippi, she is also working on her thesis, which examines the racial and ethnic labels between African Americans and African immigrants.

Affiliated Colleagues

KevinFong-thKevin John Fong works with the Institute by helping facilitate Welcome Table circles. Born and raised in Hawaii, Kevin is a nationally recognized and respected facilitator, trainer and speaker in leadership, organizational design and building beloved communities. He has extensive experience in working with clients in the public and private sector, especially with diverse, multicultural/multi-lingual groups. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Kevin resides in San Francisco.
Heather_S-thHeather Symmes, from Winston-Salem, NC, is a Research Associate at the Winter Institute. She is a North Carolina Certified Paralegal. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History with a minor in Arts Management from Salem College in 2008 and an Associates degree in Paralegal Technology from Forsyth Technical Community College in 2010. She has a passion for music, particularly country. She enjoys playing piano, traveling, reading, exercising, and songwriting.