College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

MOST Conference Offers Unique Insight into College Life, Experiences

Nearly 500 high school seniors participated in UM recruiting and empowerment event

JULY 19, 2018 BY EDWIN B. SMITH

By participating in interactive team building activities, students are empowered and learn valuable lessons during the 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference. Photo by Marilee Crawford

By participating in interactive team building activities, students are empowered and learn valuable lessons during the 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference. Photo by Marilee Crawford/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

As the University of Mississippi’s 2018 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference came to a close Tuesday (July 17), high school seniors in attendance raved about their three days of pre-college experiences.

“With 465 prospective students here, this was the largest MOST conference we’ve ever had,” said Alexandria White, assistant director of the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement. “Because of the increase in attendance, we had to make some changes logistically in order to better accommodate the students.

“We’re very proud that the responses, both internally from participating students and externally from their parents and others following the conference on social media, has been so positive.”

Several participants said that being on campus transformed them in unexpected ways.

Based on the university’s history, Savion Price, of Macon, wondered whether or not  African-American students really would be welcome at the university. The Noxubee High School senior said he was pleasantly surprised by the inclusive atmosphere he experienced.

MOST mentors said they understand why some students may have reservations about coming to campus and volunteered because they want to help alleviate those anxieties.

“After I came to the 2016 MOST Conference and had a great experience because of my mentor, I felt it was important that I give that back to other high school students,” said Trevor Abram, a sophomore mechanical engineering major from Horn Lake. “I want to see other people of color attend this university and to make the same meaningful, positive connections with its staff, faculty and students that I have.”

The attention of MOST mentors was appreciated by the students they guided and has provided helpful information for students as they begin their college search and selection process.

“Since I’ve been here, Ole Miss has definitely moved up on my list,” said Chelsea Smith, a senior from Columbus who plans to major in pre-med and business administration. “The mentors helped us a lot by letting us ask questions and giving us real answers.

“Because of them, I’m planning to stay focused and be responsible wherever I decide to go to college.”

Activities during the event included informational sessions, panel discussions, a talent show, Greek and campus organization presentations, small-group meetings and a closing awards ceremony. But the conference is far more than just “fun and games.”

“There is definitely real substance to the conference,” said Nicholas Crasta, a sophomore biology and political science major from Vicksburg who volunteered as a mentor even though he’d not attended a previous conference.

“There’s been a balance between empowerment activities for minorities and entertainment. Everything’s just been perfectly constructed for the maximum pre-college experience.”

A MOST Conference reunion is scheduled for Nov. 13. Several students said they are already anticipating that meeting as well.

“This has truly been a wonderful experience that I would recommend to anybody,” said Tyreek Hayes, of Madison, a senior at Germantown High School. “They opened more than just their facilities to us. They opened their hearts and let us know we are wanted and welcomed here.”

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter spoke during a faculty and staff networking dinner and applauded the students’ participation in the conference.

“Our university cares deeply about establishing and maintaining a culture of respect and inclusion,” Vitter said. “This outstanding conference is among those efforts because it is a wonderful opportunity to engage ambitious and exceptional students such as yourselves.

“We hope that after your amazing experience at MOST that we will see all of you back here next year at freshmen orientation.”

Preparations already have begun for the 2019 MOST Conference, White said.

“We send out a post-conference survey as soon as they return home,” she said. “Our committee members have been busy observing and providing meaningful feedback. Based on these, we’ll make improvements and tweaks so that next year’s MOST conference will be even bigger and better.”

A partnership between the Office of Admissions, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, the conference is made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, Fed Ex, the Caterpillar Foundation, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, FASTtrack and the LuckyDay Scholars Program.