Dear Engineering Alumni and Friends,

I am pleased to announce the great news that the School of Engineering welcomed the largest freshman class ever this fall, with an enrollment of more than 330 freshmen. While this is a bountiful year for the university, with a 20 percent increase in freshmen from last year, the engineering school leads all schools by reporting a nearly 50 percent increase in the freshman class.

The university also has seen a 7.2 percent increase in total undergraduate enrollment. Engineering again leads all schools in the category by having a 25 percent growth in undergraduate students.

Although the graduate student enrollment remains flat, the combined graduate and undergraduate student enrollment is 1,038. This is the first time in the school’s history that enrollment has broken the 1,000 mark!

Several new programs have launched to welcome this new class of students. By working with the university’s Center for Writing and Rhetoric, special sections of ENGL 101 English Composition were created for engineering students that teach discipline-specific writing, that is, technical writing.

This year also marks the first class of manufacturing emphasis students, part of the new Center for Manufacturing Excellence. Twenty-seven freshmen comprise this class. Their average ACT score is 30 and average GPA is 3.8. This elite class signifies a great future for the program.

In addition, the Engineering Student Body has launched a tutoring service. This student-run program offers four evenings of tutoring service. I am so pleased about these engineering students’ leadership and pursuit of academic excellence!

Please join me in welcoming this new class!

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Alex Cheng
Dean of the School of Engineering

Speed Racer
Engineering student modifies hot rod, races across desert

Jeffrey Ferguson never thought he would race on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

He also never thought he would set a land speed record at the 62nd Bonneville Salt Flats Speed Week in August, but that’s just what the 23-year-old Olive Branch native did.

“It was the most surreal experience in my life. I felt like I was in a movie,” said Ferguson, a junior mechanical engineering major at The University of Mississippi.

Ferguson has been salvaging and modifying old cars since he was a young child.

speed racer“My dad restores hot rods, and I discovered I had an interest and passion for them, too. I love to modify and build engines with my hands,” said Ferguson, the son of Jeff and Lori Ferguson of Olive Branch.

Ferguson started welding at age 12 and moved quickly to building and later racing hot rods.

After seeing “The World’s Fastest Indian,” a 2005 film based on Burt Munro’s quest to race his modified Indian Scout motorcycle in the Bonneville Speedway, Ferguson was determined to have one of his modified cars featured at Bonneville, too. Munro, a motorcycle racer from New Zealand, eventually won numerous land speed records in the 1950s and ’60s—many of which have not been broken.

Ferguson said he admired Munro’s tenacity and drive to accomplish his ultimate goal.

“I remember thinking, ‘That’s the person I want to be,’” he said. “At the time, going to college did not factor into my plans.”

Immediately after high school, Ferguson started working at a fabrication company, but he quickly grew bored, moved to modifying computers and later switched to motorcycles.

But, at age 20, Ferguson found himself reconsidering college when a friend transferred to Ole Miss to study engineering. Ferguson got excited and also decided to give Ole Miss a try.

He said his decision paid off.

“My desire to build hot rods is why I decided to study mechanical engineering. It seemed like the perfect match,” Ferguson said. “But, I’ve gotten so much more from being here. Studying engineering has shown me how cars and engines work. Before, I just knew what I knew. I would build it, and it worked. But now I understand the cause and effect of what I build. Simply, I’ve learned, ‘If I do this, then this will happen.’”

Ferguson’s new understanding of aerodynamics, statics, graphics and other core engineering curricula, as well as his innate ability, led him to the Bonneville Speedway in August with friend George “Bucky” Gallimore, a radiologist in Memphis and former drag car racer.

Gallimore recently had purchased a 1979 Trans Am on eBay and gave Ferguson an all-access pass to work his magic.

“I’ve been racing for 30 years, and going to Bonneville is a dream of all racers,” Gallimore said. “Jeffrey is a good kid and really talented. He did the roll cage and rear suspension for the racer, and I swapped the motor.”

It took the duo a year to modify the racer, and in May 2010, the “Buckwheat Racing Team” was ready for its first race in Maxon, N.C. By August, the two traveled 32 hours nonstop to Booneville Speedway in Wendover, Utah.

“That was a long drive. We asked ourselves at several points, ‘Are we having fun yet?’” Ferguson said.

In Utah, Ferguson and Gallimore worked their way up to an AA license, which meant they could race up to 300 miles per hour. After making a record backup run at 249 miles per hour, they were named official members of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club.

“We were blown away when we received our red caps after joining the club. It’s an honor. There are more people who have climbed Mount Everest than who are in the 200 MPH Club,” Ferguson said.

So, what’s next for Ferguson?

The Ole Miss student is trying to get a scholarship from the Southern California Timing Association. He found out about the scholarship during the race.

“I’m determined to finish my engineering degree,” Ferguson said. “I’m so proud I decided to come here. I have a new understanding of so much. I’m thinking more about my future now. Before coming to Ole Miss, I just wanted a job. Now, I’m thinking of starting my own business—JF Hotrods. Yeah, that sounds great.”


Dear Alumni and Friends,
As president of your Engineering Alumni Chapter this year, I am excited to share with you our first initiative we are calling “Game Day with the Dean.” Starting this weekend on Oct. 2, the dean, leadership of the school and our engineering student ambassadors will be hosting all engineering alumni for two hours prior to kickoff of Ole Miss vs. Kentucky in front of our new home, the Old Chemistry Building. There will be food, fellowship and fun for those in attendance, and all are welcome to participate in these festivities. In addition to this weekend, we will be hosting a tent on Nov. 6 for the ULL game, which is homecoming, and the Nov. 27 game versus Mississippi State.

Our goal this fall is to reconnect with alumni and build new relationships. We want to establish an active alumni chapter that can give back to the School of Engineering. There are so many opportunities for service, some of which include recruiting or mentoring students and assisting with engineering week. By now, you should have received a postcard with this information outlined, and we hope you will stop by and say hello.

We look forward to seeing you this weekend and in the future as we celebrate Game Day with the Dean for your School of Engineering. If you have specific questions or thoughts and would like to get more information about how to get involved with the Ole Miss Engineering Alumni Chapter, contact Joshua E. Waggoner at waggoner@olemiss.edu or 662-915-1601.

I hope to see you soon!

Ryan A. Holmes
President, Engineering Alumni Chapter