Bill Backstrom (B.S. accounting, ’76) received the 2023 Council on State Taxation Paul Fankel Excellence in State Taxation Award during the annual meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a partner and tax practice group leader with Jones Walker LLP, one of the largest 135 law firms in the U.S. 


David Bowman (B.S. civil engineering, ‘88) earned the 2023 Teddy Roosevelt Award from the Mississippi chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies. He is a senior vice president at Neel-Schaffer with more than 35 years of experience with the company as a project engineer and manager on a variety of projects.


Julie Liddell Whitehead (B.A. communication, ’90; M.A. English, ’92) will release a short story collection through Madville Publishing in August 2024. “Hurricane Baby” began in 2005 as a work of fiction exploring the traumatic effects of Hurricane Katrina. Part of the manuscript was produced as a play in 2010 and won an award at the Eudora Welty New Plays Festival at New Stage Theatre in Jackson. It is available for pre-order through the publisher’s website.


Kentorri Garmon (B.S. agricultural economics, ’00; M.S. geosciences, ‘04) is now deputy commissioner for the Department of Public Works in Atlanta, Georgia. He previously served as the director of performance and innovation delivery within the organization. Prior to joining the public works department, he spent 17 years in the private sector with AT&T where he held numerous positions and was instrumental in managing operational forces for the restoration and rebuilding of telecom infrastructure in the wake of natural disasters on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and in the Pine Belt region. 

Nathan Moore (B.S. political science, ‘02; M.S. public policy and public administration, ‘09) is now deputy chief of staff to the president of the University of Georgia. He first joined the UGA president’s office as a graduate student in 2018. Since then, he has built his responsibilities to include executive communications, strategic planning and special initiatives. Upon completion of a doctoral degree from the McBee Institute of Higher Education, he became a postdoctoral fellow. He was named an assistant to the president in 2021. Prior to UGA, he held numerous positions at Mississippi State including director of corporate and foundation relations and director of development for the College of Architecture, Art and Design.

Dave Nussbaum (M.S. geosciences, ’03) is now chief meteorologist for WIAT CBS 42 serving the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa-Anniston market in Alabama. He joined the station in 2021 providing severe weather coverage and has more than two decades of experience forecasting and covering across the Gulf Coast. He previously was a television meteorologist in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, during which time he provided 30 hours of continuous live coverage of Hurricane Katrina.

Josh Harris (B.B.A. ‘04) is now president of Darlington Raceway. He previously served as vice president of business operations for the “Track Too Tough to Tame.” He has more than a decade of experience within NASCAR, including director of ticketing at Talladega Superspeedway and vice presidential roles with NASCAR’s Southeast Region. 

Amanda Koonlaba (B.S. elementary education, ‘04) was named to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Champions in Education program. A teaching artist coordinator for Mississippi Whole Schools, she is one of 11 selected nationwide to collaborate with experts, share experiences and disseminate research findings about new instructional strategies.

Josh Patrick (B.S. biological sciences, ’08) and Justin McElroy (B.A., M.A. English, ’07, ’09) of Eye Care Associates of Laurel were recognized by the Mississippi Optometric Association. Patrick earned the 2023 OD Community Service award while McElroy was a finalist for the 2023 Helen St. Clair Young Optometrist of the Year. 


Jennifer Sloan Ziegler (B.S., M.S. civil engineering; Ph.D. engineering, ‘10, ‘12, ‘13) earned a 2023 Edmund Friedman Young Engineer Award for Professional Achievement from the American Society of Civil Engineers. She is an environmental senior project manager at Neel-Schaffer Inc. Earlier in 2023, she was named one of the Top 20 Under 40 Rising Stars in Professional Engineering by Engineering News-Record.