MOST Conference Reunion Brings Mississippi Seniors to Campus

The message is clear: 'We want you here'

High school seniors play networking games to connect with incoming freshmen during the 2021 MOST Conference reunion. The Nov. 16 reunion was the first MOST event held in person in two years. Photo by Logan Kirkland/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – For the first time in two years, high school seniors from around the state were able to gather at the University of Mississippi for the Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, conference reunion.

The last two conferences have been held virtually due to COVID-19, but a group more than two dozen of the 2021 attendees and their parents met and experienced campus life in person on Nov. 16.

Karrye Tynes, assistant director for access and recruiting initiatives, kicked off the event Tuesday morning by making her intensions clear.

“We want you here,” she said. “We know this place is impactful and there is something for everyone here. Having been a former MOST participant years ago, I can attest that the experience students have during the MOST reunion and other MOST programs serve as only a small glimpse into the impact that the University of Mississippi can have on the students’ lives.”

MOST is designed to recruit, retain, and graduate African American students from Mississippi. The program provides opportunities for rising high school seniors to experience community, mentoring and personal development alongside academic success.

“Given the racial history of the university, it is important for Black students to witness current students who have found a supportive network and are thriving as students and leaders while building their legacies at the university,” Tynes said.

EJ Edney, director of the Center for Inclusion and Cross Cultural Engagement and a 2006 MOST participant, told students that his MOST mentor continued to offer advice and counsel after graduating himself. The two stayed in touch and Edney has had an opportunity to return the favor.

A panel of UM students answers questions from prospective students and their parents during the 2021 MOST Conference reunion, held Nov. 16. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Fast forward – I get married and have children first, and now this person who has mentored me is entering into those phases of life,” Edney said. “He was helpful in getting me through the university well, and we’ve continued to be able to be beneficial to each other’s lives.”

Over the course of the reunion, visiting students were assigned mentors, some who were themselves MOST participants. Mentors facilitated networking activities with the seniors, took them on residential college tours and introduced them to advisers who provided information and curriculum guides for their chosen majors.

A panel of student leaders fielded questions from seniors about the experience of being a Black student at the university and shared information about on-campus living, academic programs, scholarships and student organizations.

Edney said he believes in the transformational power of the university and is passionate about making sure students have equitable access to the opportunities afforded by that power. But many high school students in the state don’t have generational experience navigating the university, or higher education in general.

“It’s doesn’t have to exclude folks who don’t have automatic access to a tent in the Grove to go to or generations of family who’ve had the opportunity to choose this institution,” he said. “It’s about recognizing where certain sets of lived experiences present unique needs, and there are lots of opportunities in that realization.”

Already planning the 2022 MOST conference, Tynes said next year will feature two conferences in an effort to provide opportunities for even more students and to regain momentum lost in 2020.