UM Senior Prepping for International Service

Outstanding general studies student working toward education to serve others

UM Outstanding Student in the BGS program, Connor Edwards, with his 7th and 8th grade students in Satun, Thailand where he first taught English during the summer of 2014.

Connor Edwards (center), the UM Outstanding Student in the BGS program, with his seventh- and eighth-grade students in Satun, Thailand, where he first taught English during the summer of 2014.

OXFORD, Miss.­­­ – Although University of Mississippi senior Connor Edwards is from a small town – Pickens, in Holmes County – he has his sights set on some big-world experiences and has set his future in motion with the goal of helping people on the other side of the world.

A transfer student from Holmes Community College, Edwards has excelled during his time at UM. He recently was named the 2016 Outstanding Senior in the Bachelor of General Studies degree program as well as the class marshall. He will deliver an address during the university’s May 14 graduation ceremonies.

“I knew Connor was a remarkable young man when I began recruiting him to transfer to Ole Miss,” said Jason McCormick, a UM development officer and former community college admissions counselor.

Edwards earned the prestigious Lyceum Scholarship when he transferred to the Oxford campus  to begin his junior year in fall 2014. When he arrived at Ole Miss, he was considering a career in the medical profession, but a summer trip to Thailand changed his mind.

“I spent the summer before coming to Ole Miss as an English teacher for seventh- and eighth-graders in Thailand, and my whole mindset changed,” Edwards explained. “I wanted my future career to be one where I could help change people’s lives for the better. That is when I decided that completing a well-rounded education would be of great use to me in the real world.”

Edwards changed his major to a specialized BGS degree. The BGS program at UM is a cross-disciplinary degree plan offered to maximize opportunities for individuals who want to reach personal goals, meet job requirements and advance their careers. Students can choose any three minors offered at the university and create a specialized educational path.

“By changing my major, I was able to study things I was interested in, like language and philosophy,” he said.

Edwards’ degree comprises minors in biology, chemistry and religion.

“I had taken many science classes preparing for the medical field,” he said. “These classes helped me learn to think through problems and really examine situations in a thorough way. I’m grateful for the skills I learned.”

The travel bug had bitten and in the summer of 2015, Edwards headed back overseas to teach English to college students in Japan.

When he returned, he helped start the “Global Café” on the Oxford campus to give international students an opportunity to meet and foster friendships with American students.

“I enjoy languages and learning about different world-views,” Edwards said. “It’s exciting to see communication and friendship come out of our exchanges. It has really been a learning experience for me to find ways to connect with others even when we are speaking a different language.”

When Edwards returned to campus following his Japan visit, his learning didn’t stop. He dove into a strenuous senior year of courses and continued to achieve. His hard work paid off as he was selected to receive membership in the prestigious Phi Kappa Phi academic honor society in November.

“The significance of this honor is that it recognizes Connor’s school and service work as being at the highest level for a college student,” said Tony Ammeter. UM dean of general studies.

Upon graduation in May, Edwards plans to pursue his master’s degree in Teaching English as a Second Language.

“I think this career path will be very rewarding,” Edwards said. “I can help others learn a new skill that could possibly improve their future.”

McCormick said he has stayed in touch with Edwards since his arrival in Oxford and has been especially proud of his work with international students.

“Connor is the definition of a servant leader; you don’t find kids like him every day,” McCormick said. “We were lucky to have him at Ole Miss. He really found his niche working with international students, and he’s a great ambassador for Ole Miss.

“A unique student like Connor has reached out and done a great job welcoming others into the university.”

For more information about the BGS program at UM, visit http://www.generalstudies.olemiss.edu.