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Green Completes UM Degree after 30-Year Break

Phyllis Green celebrates completing her bachelor’s degree at the University of Mississippi after a 30-year hiatus as part of the statewide Complete to Compete program that helps Mississippians with some college coursework to finish their degrees. Submitted photo

There were quite a few cheers when Phyllis Green, of Oxford, walked across the stage to receive her bachelor’s degree in university studies during the University of Mississippi’s Commencement exercises last month.

“I always wanted to complete my degree and things just didn’t work out, but I always wished that I had,” Green said.

Green, 59, graduated from Byhalia High School in 1977 and attended Northwest Community College in Senatobia for two years. She transferred to UM, majoring in education.

“I’ve always felt it is so rewarding to teach a child, especially when they are building the foundation for their education,” she said.

Green completed elementary education, special education and library science courses at Ole Miss before taking time off from school in the early ’80s.

“Life just goes in different directions, and I needed to work and care for my family,” Green said.

She worked as a department manager at Walmart in Oxford for more than 20 years. She still felt the calling to teach, so she took a teacher’s assistant position at Bramlett Elementary School in Oxford in 2010.

“I never forgot my dream of teaching,” Green said. “I just thought I couldn’t pass the math that I needed to in order to complete my degree. It was always in the back of my mind, though.”

In 2016, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery to remove the tumor, along with radiation treatment.

About 18 months ago, Green read about a local student who completed her college degree after many years out of school through the statewide Compete to Complete, or C2C, program.

“I thought, ‘If she can do it, I can too,'” Green said.

The purpose of the C2C program is to find adults in Mississippi who have some college coursework and encourage them to complete their degrees, with the goal of positively affecting the state’s economy.

The mother of two and grandmother of three, Green completed the C2C online form and quickly was contacted by UM’s C2C academic coach Audra Trnovec. After a review of her college transcripts, Green learned that she needed only one more course to complete her degree requirements: a math course.

“Can you imagine how intimidating that was for her to come back after all that time?” Trnovec said. “She recognized it was going to be a challenge, but she went for it.”

Kevin Holmes is an Ole Miss mathematics instructor who met Green last fall during the annual UM CareWalk that supports Baptist Cancer Center-North Mississippi. She let him know that she would be enrolling in his online class in the following semester.

“Math online is not the easiest course, but she was willing to take the time to learn it,” Holmes said. “I could check online each week to see how much time students were spending in the online modules. She was usually logging in the most hours.

“We would meet once a week to go over anything she was having trouble with, and before she knew it, she was having some success.”

Green finished the course with an A.

Trnovec said what impressed her most about Green is her grit.

“You’d think she might be nervous about going back to college after all those years, but she stayed enthusiastic and upbeat,” Trnovec said.

“I’d get regular email updates from her, letting me know how her class was going. She gave it her all.”

Green plans to use her degree to tutor students in the community.

“I want to help kids learn the basics so that they get a good head start in life,” she said.

Green is among more than 220 students who have earned their UM degrees through the statewide Complete to Compete initiative that has cast a wide net to help Mississippi residents who have earned some college credit complete their degrees. For more information on the program, visit http://c2c.olemiss.edu.

By Pam Starling

Adam Brown
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