Though moving to a new town and meeting new people may seem daunting at first, University of Mississippi students have many ways to find a place to call their own at the university.
Carley Wilemon, a senior vocal education major from Aberdeen, Mississippi, first gave the university a look because her father is an Ole Miss fan and she grew up as a fan too.
“I didn’t know if I would like being at a place like Ole Miss because the whole sorority and sports and Grove scene didn’t really appeal to me, and that is sort of all I saw and all I thought Ole Miss was,” Wilemon said.
Her dad still wanted her to visit to take a tour.
“My dad is such a huge Ole Miss fan, he was like, ‘I won’t have it any other way,’” Wilemon said.
She went to campus for her official tour but still was not completely sold. Her dad wanted her to give Ole Miss one last chance and tour the Department of Music and sit in on choir rehearsals.
“That made me realize, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Really anyone can find their niche at Ole Miss, and that is what sold it for me,” Wilemon said. “People have this perception of Ole Miss, but it is really false. You really have to come check it out yourself. I was so pleasantly surprised, and I cannot imagine being anywhere else.”
Her story is similar to other students who quickly made friends and found activities on campus to fit whatever their passions are.
Community in Columns
The UM Columns Society is a prestigious campus organization. Its members give back to the Ole Miss community by serving students, donors and alumni through a series of events every year including Commencement, Fall Convocation and fundraisers.
Scout Treadwell, a senior biochemistry major from Dadeville, Alabama, looked up to students who were members of the Columns Society and decided to apply her sophomore year.
“I was so excited to be a part of something that would help me hold myself to a higher standard,” Treadwell said. “This experience is truly immeasurable because it has helped me grow as a person in ways I never thought possible.”
Columns Society members wear special navy blazers to represent Ole Miss at every event. But Trip Johnson, a senior biology and chemistry major from Dyersburg, Tennessee, realized that joining the Columns Society was more than just wearing matching blue suits.
“I’ve learned how to be a leader in ways I didn’t know a leader could lead,” Johnson said. “I have become more selfless through meeting so many different people, and it has opened my eyes to the diversity we have here at Ole Miss.”
Bethany Thomas, a junior pharmaceutical science major from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said joining the organization allowed her to see Ole Miss in a way she had never imagined.
“Joining an organization was one of the best decisions and experiences I’ve had here at Ole Miss,” Thomas said. “I got to see parts of campus and meet people that other students never get to see.”
It’s not hard to find a friendly face while walking around campus, and the Ole Miss Ambassadors are some of the friendliest of them all.
The 75 students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, volunteer their time to help the UM Office of Admissions by hosting campus tours for prospective students and their families.
Martin Fisher, associate director of admissions for orientation and campus visits, said those students have a valuable chance to serve the university but also to learn.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to not only serve the university and share what’s so special about this place, but it’s also a way to develop transferrable skills that can benefit you in the future,” Fisher said. “Ambassadors have the opportunity to directly impact the lives of prospective students while also bettering themselves in the process.”
The applications to become an ambassador start arriving during the first week of each fall semester. The students selected to be ambassadors spend most of the fall semester training by participating in a series of activities such as shadowing veteran ambassadors’ campus tours and listening to guest speakers.
“Being an ambassador is all about service,” Fisher said. “Ambassadors volunteer their time to serve the university, and we are so grateful for their commitment.”
The students who are selected to be ambassadors are upbeat, outgoing and have a contagious love for Ole Miss. They aim to make visitors feel the welcoming sense of Southern hospitality for which the university is so well known.
Marlee Frances Young, a senior hospitality management major and former ambassador from Kernsville, North Carolina, credits her first experience with Ole Miss Ambassadors as giving her a positive impression of Ole Miss.
“When I started touring college campuses in high school, I was immediately in awe of Ole Miss because of the hospitality,” Young said. “My tour guide made me fall in love and feel at home at Ole Miss, which is why I decided to come to school here, be a hospitality major and become an ambassador.”
The student ambassadors also strive to make lasting, personal friendships with prospective students and their families so they can be assured they are in good hands at Ole Miss.
“My favorite part about being an ambassador was giving tours to families and staying in touch,” Young said. “It was always so fun to run into the students on my way to class the next year or seeing them in the Grove, being able to know I was able to make Oxford a home.”
Ambassadors work hard to leave their visitors with the most memorable and outstanding impression of Ole Miss and its student body they represent so prospective students will want to be a part of it.
Treadwell, who in addition to being in the Columns Society is also an ambassador, relishes the opportunity to show prospective students the best parts of Ole Miss.
“Becoming an ambassador gives you the unique opportunity to leave a lasting legacy at the University of Mississippi because students will join the Ole Miss family based on the tour you give them,” Treadwell said.
Those experiences stick with those who take tours.
“I have had fellow peers stop me on campus and thank me for the tour I gave them and mention that I am the reason they chose to come to Ole Miss,” Treadwell said. “To me, there is nothing more rewarding than this.”
Keely Kelso and Wilemon, both seniors, reflect on their four years as members of the UM Choir. It’s been positive for the two vocal music education majors.
“I could not imagine our lives without choir; it is something that is a part of our daily lives,” said Kelso, an Olive Branch native, who decided to attend Ole Miss when the Ole Miss Women’s Glee choir came to visit her high school.
“The professor at the time talked to me like she specifically wanted me to come to Ole Miss and that she really cared about me,” Kelso said. “Seeing how much the professors cared about specific individuals is really what sold Ole Miss for me.”
The Ole Miss choir brought Kelso and Wilemon together, and they have been best friends since freshman year.
“All music majors pretty much stay in the music building, so we are always all together,” Kelso said. “Carley and I stand next to each other in choir, we are in all the same classes, we are pretty much tied together.”
The love fest is mutual.
“Keely and choir have really been a constant throughout college,” Wilemon said.
But choir at Ole Miss is a warm, open environment for anyone.
“The Ole Miss choir is huge and welcoming,” Kelso said. “There is a bunch of different ensembles, it is not just one big choir. It is really just a come one come all, let’s make music together.”
It’s beneficial to anyone to be able to find such comfort in a group setting.
“Musicians crave the ability to make music and make mistakes in music too,” Wilemon said. “We crave that community of acceptance and a safe space, and the choir is that safe space.”
Kelso believes the experience has been rewarding in almost innumerable ways.
“Carley is my No. 1 best friend in the world, and, like, how silly is it that the Ole Miss choir is what made this happen,” Kelso said. “I have had some of my top five experiences in my life shared with my best friend through the Ole Miss choir, which is just insane.”
Check out UM’s more than 300 student organizations here.
Tristen Bloxsom, Madison Garvey and Caroline Cline are integrated marketing communications majors at the University of Mississippi and were interns in University Marketing and Communications during fall 2019.