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.

In his spare time, he enjoys being around his family, church activities, and fishing. 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, Secretary 

image (1)Arlanda Washington serves as the 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.




 Sara Baker, VISTA Leader

Sara Elizabeth Baker served two terms with the University of Mississippi AmeriCorps State program, College Corps before graduating with a BA in English in 2015. She went on to serve as the North Mississippi VISTA Project’s Student Opportunities VISTA, building capacity for College Corps and other University of Mississippi programs. She now serves as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader for the North Mississippi VISTA Project.






Shannon Curtis, VISTA Leader

Since graduating with a BA in English from Mary Baldwin College in 2009, Curtis has worked in the publishing, marketing, and grassroots nonprofit fields. During her first year of service with AmeriCorps*VISTA, Curtis started Sustainable Oxford, a nonprofit community program that advocates for and educates the Oxford and Lafayette County communities about sustainability and stewardship. She now serves as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader with the North Mississippi VISTA Project.

In addition to her service work, Curtis is also a writer who has contributed to publications like The Bitter Southerner, Mashable, and The Riveter Magazine.






 Marquiel Dodson, Undergraduate Intern

Marquiel DodsonMarquiel Dodson is a sophomore at the University of Mississippi majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is from Horn Lake, Mississippi. Marquiel is currently interning with the McLean Institute and serves as a student worker for the Telecommunications Center on campus. He is a hard worker striving for success.