Faculty & Staff

Albert Nylander, Ph.D., Director

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss CommunicationsDr. Albert Nylander is Professor of Sociology and the Director of the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. The Institute’s mission is to advance transformative service throughout the University and to fight poverty through education in Mississippi. Dr. Nylander has more than 20 years of service as an administrative leader in Higher Education. At the University of Mississippi, he directs the community engagement efforts at the McLean Institute.

Prior to joining the University of Mississippi, Dr. Nylander served as Dean of Graduate Studies & Continuing Education, and Department Chair at Delta State University. His academic leadership focuses on developing and institutionalizing programs with an applied development emphasis. While serving as department chair he developed an academic program in community development, graduating more than 100 students in an 11-year period. Many of these students remain employed throughout community and economic development organizations.

During the past five years directing the McLean Institute, Dr. Nylander has supported the efforts to institutionalize community engagement at the University of Mississippi. Under his leadership, the McLean Institute has developed multiple programs to fight poverty through education and to create transformative experiences for Ole Miss students. One significant project that has created pathways for community-campus partnerships has been the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development program, a $1.6 million dollar grant from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

Dr. Nylander’s research interests involve examining social networks and power structures of institutions, particularly education, and the importance of these social structures in changing life opportunities for those seeking to improve their social and economic standings. As an academic entrepreneur, Dr. Nylander has written and participated in more than 30 proposals, receiving more than $5,000,000 in external funding. Dr. Nylander is known for developing and leading practical and multi-disciplinary programs in leadership and community development in the social sciences.


Laura Martin, Assistant Director

Laura MartinLaura brings nearly 10 years of experience working on poverty alleviation programs at the grassroots and public policy levels. After college, she facilitated service learning trips and managed a community development project in rural Nicaragua. Most recently, Laura worked as a Policy and Research Coordinator at the Texas Association of Community Health Centers, where she analyzed legislation and regulations impacting health centers, and coordinated trainings for a federal grant to conduct CHIP and Medicaid outreach and enrollment in the Rio Grande Valley. As Legislative Director for Texas State Representative Armando Walle, Laura developed legislation regarding juvenile justice and stemming the high school dropout rate.

Laura holds dual undergraduate degrees in Hispanic Studies and International Relations from Brown University, where she graduated with honors. Additionally, she holds a Master of Public Affairs degree from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin, where she completed a Portfolio Program in Nonprofit and Philanthropic Studies. Laura volunteers with the Lafayette County Literacy Council, the Tree of Life Clinic in Tupelo, and serves on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Mississippi.


JR Love, Ph.D., Project Manager

On July 9th, 2015, Dr. J.R. Love assumed the position of project manager at the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi. In this role, he manages a $1.6 million dollar grant to lead the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (CEED) Initiative. He is responsible for supervising undergraduate and graduate students as well as supporting faculty research around community and economic development in Mississippi.

He also serves as an instructor for the BUS 400: Values-Based Entrepreneurship in the Mississippi Delta course though Study USA at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Love was born in Greenville but grew up in Glen Allan deep in the MS Delta.

He has held faculty and administrative positions at the university and community college settings including Mississippi State University, Delta State University, Kansas State University and Barton Community College. Before coming to Oxford, he served as an instructor of leadership and management for Barton Community College at Fort Riley, KS (United States Army). Dr. Love earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Mississippi State University, a Master of Business Administration from Delta State University and a Ph.D. in Higher Education in Student Affairs from Kansas State University.

As an undergraduate student at MSU he served as president of the student body and also chaired the student body president’s council of MS.  Also, while at MSU he worked in the Office of the President for retired four-star general (USAF) “Doc” Foglesong serving as the Assistant Chief of Staff. He served as the inaugural graduate recruiter for Delta State University in the Division of Graduate and Continuing Studies. While at Kansas State University, he taught leadership courses in the Staley School of Leadership Studies while completing his doctoral degree.

From 2010-2015, Dr. Love served as the leadership director to a 120 member student organization, the Delta Upsilon chapter at Kansas State University.  During this time, the DU chapter won the top international chapter award for three consecutive years – 2012, 2013, and 2014.  Dr. Love is an active member of NASPA – the national organization for student affairs administrators in higher education.


Janae Owens, Program Coordinator

Janae Owens is a native of Natchez, MS. She graduated from the University of Mississippi with a master’s degree in Health Education and Promotion. Janae has a passion for serving others through community engagement. She previously worked with the McLean Institute as a Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Fellow, where she implemented an after school program in Quitman County. As the program coordinator on the Rebel Well grant, she will continue to further promote overall health and wellness throughout the LOU community and Mississippi.


Arlanda Washington, Administrative Secretary 

Arlanda Washington serves as the adminstrative secretary for the McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement. She is a native of Holly Springs, MS and now resides here in Oxford, MS. Before obtaining employment here at University of Mississippi, she served for 6 years as Secretary to the Division of Education at Rust College, in Holly Springs, MS. Arlanda also holds an undergraduate degree in Business Administration from Rust College.



 Edy Dingus, VISTA Leader

Edy Dingus is a 20-year resident of Mississippi whose experiences within the rural public school system have developed a steadfast interest in quality education for all Mississippians, particularly children ages 0-5. After a prolonged stint as an undergraduate at the University of Mississippi, Edy graduated with a degree in English literature and a desire to experience other parts of the world. In 2015, Edy was the lead English and music instructor at a pre-school in Dalian, China, where she emphasized to parents and children the importance of kinesthetic learning environments and helped to triple program enrollment. In Spring 2016, Edy returned to Mississippi and enlisted in AmeriCorps as a member of the North Mississippi VISTA Project.  Until Fall 2017, Edy supported local educators, families, children as the programmatic VISTA for the early childhood education coalitions housed at the United Way of Oxford and Lafayette County. In August 2017, Edy joined the McLean staff as the AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader for the North Mississippi VISTA Project, where she supports multiple VISTA members and the development of program sustainability in the service area. Because of the deep community connections and awareness she gains through her VISTA experience, Edy volunteers with local organizations like LOU Excel by 5, LOU Reads, and Team 36, who work diligently and creatively to alleviate poverty in Mississippi through education.


Virginia Dorris, VISTA 

Virginia Dorris is a native of Crystal Springs, MS. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Classics from the University of Mississippi in 2017. As an undergraduate, Virginia joined College Corps as a tutor for the Boys and Girls Club of North Mississippi. She served over 300 hours mentoring students enrolled at the LOU Barksdale Clubhouse. This service year ignited in Virginia a passion for empowering communities. After graduation, Virginia joined the North Mississippi VISTA Project and currently serves as the McLean Institute’s Program Development VISTA for Horizons, a summer enrichment program for young students. She works to alleviate poverty by developing educational programming and sustainable community partnerships to strengthen the impact of her site.


Christina Lawler, Undergraduate Intern

Christina Lawler is a senior at the University of Mississippi majoring in Public Policy Leadership. She is from Denver, CO. Christina is currently interning with the McLean Institute while serving in the Trent Lott Leadership Institute, UM Student Alumni Council and Kappa Delta sorority. She also serves as the 2017-2018 UM Homecoming Queen.