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, Associate Director

Laura MartinLaura brings nearly 15 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.

At the McLean Institute, Laura works to engage faculty, staff, students, and community partners in mutually beneficial efforts to improve quality of life in Mississippi. She directs M Partner, Chancellor Vitter’s signature community engagement initiative, and supervises staff and graduate assistants leading the North Mississippi VISTA Project and LOU Saves.

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. 


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.

Robert J. Patterson, Project Manager

Robert Patterson is the new Project Manager at the Mclean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement here at the University of Mississippi. He is a native of Tate & Panola Co., MS and grew up on the edge of the MS Delta. Robert graduated from the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in 2011 and attended the University of MS, where he attained his B.S. in Exercise Science, M.S. in Health Promotion and a focus in Exercise Psychology & Community-Based Health Research. His research is published in the Journal for Behavioral Health.

He has spent his past few years as a graduate student working for the Mclean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement as a CEED (Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development) Fellow. Along with other UM students, faculty, and MS community leaders, Robert established the first Entrepreneurial Learning Center, ELC- Charleston, MS. The mission of the ELC is to provide a fun, educational experience for students and to promote
entrepreneurship and economic development in Tallahatchie county. The goal is that children are continuously learning, developing healthy habits, and participating in experiences that build an entrepreneurial mindset approach to sustainable solutions.

Robert’s duties as a project manager include planning,developing implementing, and evaluating activities for the AmeriCorp VISTA and other programs that fall under the umbrella of the Mclean Institute. He will build and maintain collaborative relationships that will support project activities. Robert one day aspires to create a facility in North MS that provides educational, recreational, and health resources and aids in creating sustainable solutions in MS. 

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.





Virginia Dorris, VISTA Leader 

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.




Brittany Hawkins, LOU Saves Graduate Assistant

Brittany Hawkins is a graduate student studying social work, and a graduate assistant at the McLean Institute specifically with the L-O-U Saves program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social work from Delta State University. Her interests within social work include working with people who have special needs, people suffering from mental illnesses, and families living in poverty. Brittany has interned in an elementary school in the Delta, and most recently with The University of Mississippi Medical Center in Grenada, MS where she focused on discharge planning of patients.