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Prospective Students Get MOST From Annual Conference

By Edwin Smith

University of Mississippi

MOST mentors give a group of participants a look around some of the University of Mississippi’s recreational facilities during this year’s MOST Conference. The three-day conference is designed to give participants a supportive network and a glimpse of college life. Photo by Srijita Chattopadhyay/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Eight years after the University of Mississippi relaunched an innovative summer program designed to draw rising African American high school seniors from across the state to campus, the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, Conference continues to have a lasting impact on prospective and current UM students.

More than 300 participants are attending the second session of the three-day conference, which began Sunday (July 16). The first session ran June 23-25. Sponsors said that the event has become widely known for its friendly people, informative sessions and fun activities.

“Our goal is to recruit, retain and graduate MOST Conference participants,” said Lauren Jones, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement, which organizes the event. “That said, we are committed to enhancing programming and exposure to resources to meet the needs of our incoming program participants.”

Since its inception, MOST has grown in terms of length and conference offerings. The center hosts two summer conferences, a MOST reunion during the fall semester, the MOST Living Learning Community and a MOST peer mentoring program.

Success for conference attendees comes in both tangible and intangible ways, said Karrye Tynes, assistant CICCE director.

“Ultimately, we’d like for students to apply to the University of Mississippi” Tynes said. “For that to happen, they must first see themselves as potential UM students through a sense of belonging and know that this is somewhere that they can be successful and accomplish their goals.”

A successful experience with the conference is defined differently for each participant.

“Undoubtedly, each participant’s reason for even choosing to attend the conference varies from simple curiosity to those who are actually interested in learning more and connecting with the university,” Tynes said. “Nevertheless, the level of exposure to the university’s resources, meaningful connections, support and endless opportunities is unavoidable when you attend the MOST Conference. 

“While we’d absolutely love to capture the hearts and attention of every participant, realistically, we understand that not all will choose the University of Mississippi. The conference, if nothing else, gives participants a supportive network and a small glimpse of college life, along with the expectations and responsibilities that await them during their senior year and beyond.”

The MOST Conference allows participants to develop and maintain a supportive community of peers, current students, and faculty and staff before ever becoming students at the university, Tynes said.

“(Thus) it allows for a deeper level of comfortability and confidence as an entering freshman, which in return ensures a successful experience, both academically and socially,” she said. “MOST Conference participants receive the university’s blueprint and are equipped to excel and thrive as students because of the structure and intentionality of the MOST Conference and programs.”

MOST alumna Brittany Banks, of McComb, who was a participant in 2018 and a program mentor in 2021, became a peer coordinator for both the 2022 and ’23 conferences.

“Without the MOST Conference, I don’t believe I would’ve attended UM as an undergrad student,” the 2023 graduate said. “MOST was that deciding factor in my decision to choose UM. I saw that I had a family here. 

“Choosing to come here was the best decision I could have made for myself and my future.”

Mentors and attendees have praised this year’s event.

“The most gratifying thing about mentoring students is seeing the bond we form after only a few days together,” said Imani Hartman, a mentor from Clarksdale. “I enjoy seeing students open up to me about their worries or dilemmas on decisions for school. 

“I also love just being a person in their life that they know and want to continue to talk to about their milestones in life.”

Madyson Dixon, a senior at Murrah High School in Jackson, said she wanted to come to MOST after meeting Ole Miss admissions officers at Jackson Public Schools College Day.

“So far, they have given us way more than I was expecting,” she said. “I enjoyed the Silent Disco Party Sunday night and want to see more.”

Newton resident Isyss Jones, who attends Newton High School, said she talked with Faith Hardaway, who attended one of last year’s conferences and shared how much fun she had on campus.

“So far, I’ve had more of a learning experience, but that’s not a bad thing,” Jones said.

The conference also has been a great experience for Newton High School senior Hannah Hardaway, Faith Hardaway’s sister.

“Before I came to MOST, I hadn’t considered going to Ole Miss,” she said. “Based on what I’ve learned about the School of Business (Administration), I am definitely considering coming next fall.”

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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