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Mentorship Cornerstone of Women’s Council

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Ole Miss Woman’s Council scholarship award recipient / Photo Courtesy of University Communications

From University Communications

Groundbreaking program provides scholars with funds, support for success

The Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy is known for providing scholarships to help deserving students attend the University of Mississippi, but just as important is the council’s mentorship program to support those students as they go through their college careers and prepare for the professional world.

The OMWC scholarships cover tuition and books, and match scholars with a team of mentors to guide them in developing a career path and networking with alumni and other profession­als, as well as nurturing and caring for them as indi­viduals.

Rising freshman who are awarded an OMWC scholarship receive $8,000 annually in scholarship support and training in leadership skills, career development and personal growth. The mentorship com­ponent truly differentiates this scholarship program from others at the university said Ellen Rolfes, a founding member of the OMWC.

“Mentoring is the process of scholars and fel­low students, staff and volunteers building a relation­ship that focuses on caring for, supporting, and even challenging each other,” Rolfes said. “Those involved in mentoring, either as mentor or mentee, contribute to the personal growth of each other which culminates in both being stronger and wiser.”

Brea Rich, a junior pre-pharmacy major from Ripley, said she considers herself incredibly fortunate to be an OMWC scholar.

“The Ole Miss Women’s Council is full of oppor­tunities,” Rich said. “It is probably the most worthwhile group I’ve been a part of while in college.”

At the beginning of her sophomore year, Rich was paired with a life mentor and career mentor. OMWC member Vicki Sneed serves as her life mentor, while Donna West-Strum, chair and associate professor of pharmacy administration, acts as her career mentor.

One important lesson that Sneed taught Rich was how to make each person she meets feel important. “Ms. Vicki always says that you need to treat ev­eryone like they’re wearing a sign that says, ‘Make me feel like I’m important,’” Rich said. “And she does that towards me, too. Whenever I’m talk­ing to her, she’s all there. She is 100 percent.”

Rich, who was recently admitted to the UM School of Pharmacy, is a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, Na­tional Society of Collegiate Scholars and Gamma Beta Phi Society.

Mentoring Rich has actually been a symbiotic relationship, said West-Strum, who serves not only as her career mentor but also as her thesis adviser.

“I always enjoy being around Brea because she is so energetic, and that, of course, energizes me,” West-Strum said. “Whenever I leave, I always think, ‘Wow, she’s on fire!’” Rich says that having West-Strum as a career mentor made working on her thesis much easier. “When she was assigned as my thesis adviser, it was so much easier because we already knew each oth­er,” Rich said. “We were able to jump right in and begin brainstorming and planning.”

Rich, along with fellow OMWC schol­ars, meets with Bonnie Brown, the program’s mentor­ship coordinator, and Susan Hayman, life coach, once a week.

At the meetings, Brown and Hayman discuss anything and everything, such as troubleshooting class schedules to resolving problems with friends. “Both women are extremely special to me,” Rich said.

“They have dedicated time and effort to help me be successful, and I have learned so much from each of them.”

Founded in February 2000 by 28 female leaders and philanthropists, the OMWC has built an endowment of more than $8 million that supports more than 60 scholarships. New scholarships are recognized with a dedication service in the council’s Rose Garden, beside the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on University Avenue.

Students are represented by the roses in the garden, which features “The Mentor,” a sculpture depicting the program’s nurturing energy. Council scholars participate in a series of leadership symposiums using the philosophy of servant leadership as the core curriculum.

Upon graduation, each scholarship recipient is expected to pledge a modest amount of financial support to the OMWC Scholarship Endowment Fund for at least five years to “reseed” the program. The OMWC also works to broaden students’ overall college experiences by providing such opportunities as travel to cultural locations and monthly dinners. To find out more about the OMWC scholarship program, visit http://omwc.olemiss.ed –– MOLLY JARABICA

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