Seven Freshmen Enter School of Engineering With Impressive Achievements

First-year students emerge as front-runners in an already exceptional class

Holly Pitts

OXFORD, Miss. – As the fall 2013 semester begins, seven incoming freshmen have already impressed University of Mississippi School of Engineering faculty and staff with their outstanding high school achievements.

Sara Bolen

The students include Benjamin Branson and Sara Bolen of Madison, Sam Mossing of Oxford, Kenton Wong of Germantown, Tenn., Jordan Houry of Corinth, Acacia Santos of Southaven and Holly Pitts of Indianola.

“I welcome Benjamin, Sara, Sam, Kenton, Jordan, Acacia, Holly and the entire engineering freshmen class to join the family,” said Alex Cheng, dean of the School of Engineering. “We are seeing more and more outstanding students choosing Ole Miss Engineering. We are growing in numbers, too. This fall, we are seeing another 20 percent increase in undergraduate enrollment, surpassing the 1,200 mark.”

A National Merit Finalist, Branson, of Madison Central High School, knew he had a number of college options. He considered Vanderbilt, the University of Virginia, Stanford University and Virginia Tech before deciding to study mechanical engineering at Ole Miss.

“I chose Ole Miss because the Center for Manufacturing Excellence with the School of Engineering seemed outstanding, and everyone that I met at Ole Miss was eager to help me during my decision process,” said Branson, salutatorian of his class. “Also, I received a great deal of financial assistance, which was great for me and my family.”

Branson, who scored a perfect 36 on the ACT, is an inaugural recipient of the Stamps Foundation Scholarship, which provides full tuition. While still deciding his career plans, his is certain about his major.

Benjamin Branson

“I have always enjoyed figuring out how systems and machines work,” he said. “I would be happy building and inventing things for the rest of my life.”

Acacia Santos

Mossing, of Oxford High School, is another National Merit Finalist. His early interactions with Ole Miss faculty helped him choose a double major in computer science and mathematics.

“I was able to take courses at Ole Miss during high school, and I greatly respect all the professors I’ve had,” Mossing said. “They are very knowledgeable and easy to talk with when I have questions or just to talk about my interests. That definitely influenced me to attend the university.”

Mossing also scored a 36 on his ACT and received a John G. Adler scholarship from the School of Engineering.

Similar to Mossing, Wong’s interaction with Ole Miss faculty while yet a Westminster Academy high school student influenced his decision.

“The biggest factor influencing my choice was probably the Summer College for High School Students program,” the Germantown, Tenn., native said. “It gave me an inside look into the university, and I liked what I saw.”

The National Merit Finalist plans to attend medical school after earning a mechanical engineering degree. Wong also received a Henry C. Brevard Jr. scholarship from the School of Engineering.

Two incoming chemical engineering majors, Houry and Bolen knew that UM was the right fit after visiting campus.

Jordan Houry

“I love Ole Miss’ campus and atmosphere,” said Houry, who graduated from the Mississippi School of Mathematics and Science with a 4.0 grade-point average. “I considered Mississippi State, the University of Alabama and the University of Michigan as well. Ole Miss just feels like home more than any other college considered during my college search.”

The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science emissary said he anticipates earning his master’s or doctorate to obtain a position as a professor.

“I visited the campus during the fall of my senior year and knew it was the place for me as soon as I stepped on campus,” Bolen said. “The support of my future goals by School of Engineering staff had a huge impact on my decision.”

The Madison native was named a National Merit Commended Scholar and is one of the “25 Students Who Will Change the World” by Portico magazine in Jackson. She received a Brevard Engineering Scholarship and hopes to attend medical school.

Making an impact on the world around them helped National Achievement Finalist Santos and Indianola Academy valedictorian Pitts choose to study engineering at Ole Miss.

Kenton Wong

“I want to study engineering because I realized it is one of the best ways to better the world,” Santos said. “Engineering, it seems, is a gateway to improving all aspects of life. I knew that Ole Miss had a great engineering program and an atmosphere that I wanted to be a part of.”

After considering Louisiana State University and Vanderbilt, Pitts chose Ole Miss because she hopes to one day make a difference through design.

“I hope to further my education by earning a master’s degree in architecture after earning my civil engineering degree from Ole Miss,” she said. “I want to build bridges, buildings and anything else my mind can imagine.”

All seven freshmen are members of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

To learn more about the School of Engineering, visit