UM-Grenada, BGS Student Changes Career Plans and Excels

Bethany Miller earns UM's Taylor Medal for academic achievement

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Bethany Miller on being awarded a Taylor Medal. Photo by Robert Jordan/Ole Miss Communications

GRENADA, Miss.­­­ – After graduating from Grenada High School in 2011, Bethany Miller enrolled at Holmes Community College’s Grenada Center, where she served as a student ambassador and a student worker in the vice president’s office.

She graduated with an associate’s degree in social work in 2013 and started classes in the nursing program the following fall. But after a year in the program, Miller’s career path seemed less clear and she withdrew from the program.

“I tried the clinical practice and nursing classes, and I decided that this was not the direction for my life,” Miller said. “I wasn’t sure what was next for me, so I took some time off from school to think about what I might want to do careerwise.”

Just a few short years later, Miller seems to have found her calling in higher education and looks to help others in her community pursue their educational goals. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi this spring and was awarded the university’s highest academic award, the Taylor Medal.

Before she enrolled at UM, Bethany was working full-time at an urgent care clinic in Grenada, but she truly missed working at a college. So when she saw an opening in the financial aid office at Holmes-Grenada, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I missed the college environment and working with students,” Miller said. “Financial aid is such a crucial part of students getting the opportunity to pursue their dreams.

“I still wanted to help people, just not in the medical field anymore, and this job was the perfect way for me to do that.”

During her time in this position, Miller realized that she wanted to start taking classes again to complete her bachelor’s degree and pursue her own career goals. She already knew about the University of Mississippi at Grenada, housed on the Holmes-Grenada campus, because her husband, Trey Miller, had completed his Ole Miss degree there in 2013.

Bethany Miller of Grenada was honored during UM Commencement exercises in Oxford. Miller served as the student speaker for the Bachelor of General Studies graduation ceremony as well as the program’s banner bearer for the day’s events.Submitted photo

Trey, who works as an assistant program manager with Effex Management Solutions, has since completed his Master of Arts degree in human services counseling online. The Millers met while helping cater an event at Holmes-Grenada and were married in July 2014.

 

After receiving several scholarships, including the Community College Excellence and First Generation College Student scholarships, Bethany enrolled in the Bachelor of General Studies program at the Grenada campus in fall 2015.

“I loved the diversity of this degree program,” Miller said. “I was leaning toward going into education, but I still had a lot of interests. This program let me study subjects I am really interested in.

“It feels like it’s three degrees all wrapped up into one.”

Miller minored in education, English and sociology while at UM-Grenada. One of her favorite classes, she said, was the Transfer Student Experience, taught by UM instructor and Carrollton native Matthew Deloach.

“I just loved the opportunity to get some of the same experiences as Oxford campus students,” Miller said. “Mr. Deloach shared the journey with us and gave us ideas for being successful in our path to complete our degree.”

Deloach said he admired Miller’s work ethic as she worked full-time and maintained a full-time college course load. He also mentioned her drive to help others and take on leadership roles.

“In class, Bethany would share experiences from her life and her work at Holmes to help other students,” Deloach said. “She seems to enjoy supporting and encouraging her classmates. I think she is positioned well to make a positive impact in her community.”

In late 2016, Miller moved into a new position at Holmes as assistant to the vice president and the academic dean at Holmes-Grenada.

“I have really enjoyed new challenges in this position as well as continuing to work with students, faculty and staff,” Miller said. “I get to help with events, help students build schedules and work with area businesses.”

Miller hopes that she can share her experiences to inspire students even further as she looks to pursue graduate classes in the hopes of one day teaching at the college level.

As one of the top students in UM’s Bachelor of General Studies 2017 graduating class, Miller was asked to serve as the banner barrier during Commencement exercises earlier this month in Oxford. She also was nominated to address her fellow graduates during the program’s graduation ceremony.

“I wanted to encourage everyone to enjoy the journey of education and life,” Miller said. “Looking at the blank pages of our future after graduation can be a bit intimidating at first. I believe that once we get started, it will all come together, just like it has for me.

“I hope I don’t forget to enjoy the ride, even as it takes me around different corners in my career and life.”

Grenada Hospital Employee Benefits from Scholarships at Regional Campus

Simpson family working toward college degrees with help from employee benefit

Sonia Thompson (seated) and daughter Jennifer, both of Grenada, are enrolled in college courses together this fall at the University of Mississippi at Grenada. The Thompsons are taking advantage of scholarships available to full-time employees and their children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Grenada hospital.

Sonia Thompson (seated) and daughter Jennifer, both of Grenada, are enrolled in college courses together this fall at the University of Mississippi at Grenada. The Thompsons are taking advantage of scholarships available to full-time employees and their children at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Grenada hospital.

GRENADA, Miss. – Sonia Simpson never imagined that she would one day be sitting in a college classroom with her daughter, but this fall semester she is doing just that as she works to complete her junior year of courses at the University of Mississippi’s Grenada campus.

“This has been a personal goal of mine for a long time,” Simpson said. “And now I have the help I need to meet that goal.”

Simpson works as a clinical supervisor over ambulatory care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Grenada hospital. Previously, she worked for 20 years with Grenada Family Medicine before she joined those three providers who transferred to the hospital staff.

“My director encouraged me to take advantage of the employee scholarship that is available to hospital employees,” Simpson said. “I just go across the street after work and take my classes. It couldn’t be any more convenient.”

As a full-time employee of the Grenada hospital, Simpson soon learned that not only could she take advantage of scholarship benefits for herself, but she could also apply for a half-tuition scholarship for daughter Jennifer as well.

“The university strongly supports professional and personal development,” said Pam Johnson, UM assistant director of benefits and compensation. “As an institution of higher learning, we encourage continuing education to help create a stronger employee base.”

Simpson is a 1987 graduate of Grenada High School and received her associate’s degree in accountancy from the Holmes Community College Grenada campus. Her daughter graduated from Grenada High School in 2011 and also went on to take her freshman- and sophomore-level courses at Holmes-Grenada

Sonia and Jennifer both received the UM employee benefit scholarships and are enrolled this fall at the regional campus.

Full-time Grenada hospital employees who have worked for the institution for at least a year are eligible to apply for scholarship benefits for their single, dependent children under the age of 25 who are interested in completing their first bachelor’s degree with Ole Miss.

This scholarship covers 50 percent of tuition costs each semester.

“It’s great to be share this journey with my daughter,” Simpson said. “We are both taking the transfer student experience class this semester. It has really helped me get back into the expectations of college classes. It is really exciting to be learning together.”

Jessica Hughes, associate director of the Grenada campus and instructor of the transfer student experience course, said she enjoys having the Simpsons in her class, and that there is even a bit of friendly competition between mother and daughter.

“It’s funny how they get a little competitive when grades come out after a test,” Hughes said. “They are happy for each other, but they both want to get the top grade. They are engaged in class and encourage one another. It’s a great dynamic for the classroom.”

Sonia is taking upper-level courses to complete her bachelor’s degree in business. Jennifer is working on minors in education, history and psychology to earn her bachelor’s degree in general studies.

“I already see where my classes are helping me,” Simpson said. “Of course, my business courses are giving me new insight into the fundamentals of a successful business, but they are also helping me learn more about working with people and improving my writing skills.”

The Grenada campus offers most live classes in the afternoons and evenings as well as a selection of online course offerings.

Earning a degree at the campus is a family affair for the Simpsons. Sonia’s husband, Herman, who retired as Grenada’s fire chief in 2013, completed a degree there in 2015.

Upon retirement, he decided to enroll in classes and went on to complete his bachelor’s degree. He now works for the Social Security Administration office in Grenada.

Sonia said she isn’t sure whether she would be able to continue pursuing her education if not for the scholarships available to UMMC employees.

“It will be such an accomplishment for me to complete my bachelor’s degree,” Thompson said. “I’m excited to put this on my resume. I’m very happy to have this opportunity and have it work out so well for my family.”

For more information on the UM-Grenada campus and tuition scholarships available to full-time employees of UMMC’s Grenada hospital and their dependent children, contact Jessica Hughes at 662-227-2348 or visit http://www.olemiss.edu/grenada.

Grenada UM Graduate Invests in Community and Education

LC Smith hopes his 20-year journey to a degree inspires others to go to college

Montgomery County Constable LC Smith was one of the keynote speakers during the University of Mississippi at Grenada's 2016 graduation celebration. He was also an honored guest as one of the university's Class of 2016 graduates.

Montgomery County Constable LC Smith was one of the keynote speakers during the University of Mississippi at Grenada’s 2016 graduation celebration. He was also an honored guest as one of the university’s Class of 2016 graduates.

GRENADA, Miss. – Over the past 20 years, LC Smith, of Duck Hill, has made it his mission to spread the message in his community that education can lead to a bright future.

He’s served as a law enforcement officer throughout those years, but he also has been serving as an example to his community by working to complete his own college degree.

He accomplished his goal earlier this month, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Mississippi’s Grenada campus.

“I believe in the power of education,” Smith said. “You can do anything you want, and sometimes you’ve got to invest in yourself and your own education. It is worth your time and effort.”

One of the missions he takes seriously in his various leadership positions is not only protecting and serving the citizens of his community, but also inspiring them to better themselves. For the past several years, he has attended the pre-K graduation at a local day care in Duck Hill.

“I bring the kids a bag with little trinkets and gift certificates,” Smith said. “I want them to learn early that hard work pays off, and working hard in the classroom can be rewarding.

“Our community needs to invest in educating every child.”

With his own graduation, Smith has completed what he has stressed to area youth and what he himself has been working toward, little by little, for more than 20 years.

“I’m just so happy that I could finally finish my college courses and get that degree in my hand,” Smith said. This is a huge personal accomplishment for me.”

Smith began taking classes at Holmes Community College in Grenada in 1994.

“I would take a class here and there when I had time,” Smith said.

Time was something that Smith hasn’t had a surplus of during his years in law enforcement.

At one time, he was serving as a police officer in Grenada, a constable for Montgomery County, the police chief of Duck Hill, a reservist in the Army National Guard and taking college courses, all at the same time.

“I was pretty busy,” Smith recalled.

His career in service began immediately after graduating from Grenada High School in 1988. He joined the U.S. Army and began training in Fort Seale, Oklahoma. During his four-year enlistment, he spent 18 months stationed in Geissen, Germany.

“Working abroad was a learning experience for me, but I was ready to get back home.”

After his four-year contract with the Army was completed, he opted to join the Army National Guard reserves and move back to Grenada County. He was quickly hired by the Grenada Police Department and later went on to serve at the Winona and Duck Hill police departments.

In 1996, he decided to run for election as a constable in Montgomery County. He is serving his sixth consecutive term in this position.

“I enjoy serving as the constable,” Smith explained. “I get to help people with their problems. I get to talk with my neighbors and support them. I work with my area judge and serve as a bailiff when he is on the bench. I feel like I am a part of my community.”

The idea of completing his college degree stayed on his mind. After taking pre-requisites at Holmes, Smith drove to the Ole Miss campus and began taking classes in the School of Education in the early 2000s.

“I just enjoyed being around people who had big plans for their lives,” Smith recalled. “Students and teachers were working together and having important discussions. It seemed like everyone was really trying to accomplish something, not just go to school. I was really inspired.”

He eventually changed his major to criminal justice and continued taking classes in Oxford when he could, but in 2004 he had to leave college unexpectedly.

“I got a free plane ticket to Afghanistan,” Smith said.

He served with his National Guard Unit overseas for over a year. In April 2006, he returned home and became police chief in Duck Hill and continued serving as constable.

In 2013, he met Jessica Hughes, a fellow guardsman and associate director at the UM Grenada regional campus.

“Jessica asked me if I had thought about completing my degree,” Smith said. “I told her I had, but that driving to Oxford wasn’t feasible for me at the time. She told me that Ole Miss now offered classes in Grenada and made an appointment for me to come by the office.

“Before I walked out of her office that next day, she had most of my paperwork ready and had worked out a schedule for me. She made it too easy. I just needed to sign my name.”

Smith began his taking courses at night in Grenada in fall 2014 and has taken classes each semester since.

“Because he is more mature, LC didn’t take anything for granted,” said Amy Vanderford, UM legal studies instructor. “When he came to class, he was fully engaged. He was there to learn.”

Vanderford said that having LC in her classes actually helped other students grasp the material better.

“His maturity and experiences in law enforcement brought a lot of ideas to the table that other students could learn from,” she said. “It really helped me to have a student of his caliber in my classes.”

Smith says he hopes to continue on helping others.

“I would love to teach one day or assist in training,” he said. “I’ve met a lot of people, and seen a lot of things and I know that educating yourself and learning to see things from other points of view is the key to a great community.”

For more information about programs offered at the university’s Grenada regional campus, go to http://www.olemiss.edu/grenada.