The University of Mississippi’s 2020 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent Conference is going virtual.
The annual event, scheduled for July 19-21, offers pre-college experiences for rising high school seniors. The conference’s goal is to present leadership activities, academic offerings, campus resources, faculty, staff and student leaders to prospective African American students in Mississippi.
The meeting, which is being shifted to a virtual format to comply with social distancing and health guidelines, is free and all materials and curriculum will be provided to participants.
“As the MOST team continued to monitor the public health response to COVID-19, we realized that an in-person fall experience may not be possible, but that we had enough innovative minds on the team to create a virtual summer experience,” said Tonika Ingram, coordinator of MOST programs for the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement. “Since that decision in early May, we have been able to create an experience for students and families that we are so proud of.”
The conference has earned a statewide and regional reputation for being an immersive experience. Students know to expect a lot of high energy and interactive opportunities. While some simply can’t be replicated virtually, this year’s conference retains many of the signature programs, Ingram said.
“Students and families will still participate in interactive activities; students and families will be exposed to the admissions and financial aid processes, current and former high-preforming students, leadership and career exploration activities, campus resources and so much more,” she said.
“We will host a virtual talent show and a virtual MOST After Hours, the official MOST Conference kick-back. We are really taking advantage of the various platforms that our students engage on. So, students will interact via Zoom, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and more.”
Ingram said she and her team also had to be conscious of the national climate.
“The pandemic challenged us with students’ junior year being cut short, financial insecurity, maintaining health and safety,” she said. “Now we once again are forced to confront the injustices that black people across the country face at the hands of racist systems.
“So, being aware of the inequities that students face and that for many of our students and families, we are committed to addressing those realities, as we always do, during our conference. And now, more than ever, we’re in tune with that need.”
Ingram said she hopes participants will emerge with a sense of the university’s support.
“We want them to be successful, proud, bold, courageous, scholarly black students at the University of Mississippi,” Ingram said. “Our Mississippi students are the leaders and creatures of tomorrow. They are our livelihood, and the MOST team and UM is committed to their success.”
A partnership among the Office of Admissions, Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, and the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Community Engagement, the conference is made possible through the support of the Office of the Provost, FedEx Corp., the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and other campus partners.
By Edwin B. Smith, UM Communications