MOST Conferences Double Reach for Minority Students

Annual UM recruitment event extended to two weeks; digital literacy series added for fall

Norris ‘EJ’ Edney, assistant vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, addresses high school students during a breakout session as part of the annual Mississippi Outstanding Scholastic Talent conference earlier this week on campus. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Two weeks were better than one, especially when it came to the University of Mississippi‘s annual Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, conference.

MOST is a three-day, two-night experience that exposes attendees to leadership activities, academic offerings, campus resources, and faculty, staff and student leaders. Due to the conference’s rising popularity, it was offered twice this summer for the first time. The first week ran July 10-12, while the second began Sunday (July 17) and ended Tuesday (July 19).

Participants said they had a wonderful experience during their stay on campus.

“The bonding activities had the deepest impact on me,” said Makiyah Davis, of Jackson, a junior at Murrah High School. “They caused me to interact with everyone and form new, important connections.”

Calvin Johnson, of Jonestown, said he came to MOST because he had been hearing about it through his peers and wanted to get a feel for the campus.

“I think all the of sessions were really great,” said the Coahoma County High School junior who plans to study dentistry at Ole Miss. “I learned a lot from each session and gained more knowledge about college life.”

The conference is led collaboratively between the university’s Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement and Office of Admissions with internal support from the offices of the Chancellor and Provost, Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and a host of other campus departments and partners.

In the past, organizers had to turn away about 100 students every year because of capacity limits. Having two conferences increased the number of students able to participate.

“The biggest takeaway that I hope each participant gained is knowing that we (UM) are committed to providing them with the resources and support needed to become a better version of themselves, academically and personally, while at the University of Mississippi and beyond,” said Karrye Tynes, assistant director for access and recruiting initiatives and MOST coordinator.

Erica Avent, program director for the university’s Luckyday Residential College, addresses ‘Family Matters: Doing What’s Right for You’ during the annual MOST conference. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“Having been a former MOST participant years ago, I can attest coordinating the MOST conference is indeed a full-circle moment for me.”

Cameran Brand, of Sandy Hook, said he didn’t know what to expect before coming to the conference but was impressed by what he discovered upon arrival.

“I’d never even thought about going to Ole Miss,” said the Mendenhall High School junior. “I still haven’t decided if I will attend Ole Miss or not, but Ole Miss did show me a great time. I am now definitely considering it.”

Conference highlights included the official welcome program, “This is Your University” panel, and a faculty and staff networking dinner. Breakout sessions led by university staff took place on the afternoons of the second day.

Ole Miss upperclassmen, many of whom are former MOST participants, served as mentors. They led small group sessions and will stay in contact with mentees throughout their high school senior year.

The students will return on Nov. 15 to reconnect with their mentors during the annual MOST Conference Reunion.

Attendees who choose to enroll at Ole Miss – usually about 30% – often stay connected with their mentors throughout their freshman college year as well.

The MOST Scholars Initiative, which launches this fall, will enhance mentorship by addressing digital-access barriers.

“Students from MOST are from lots of different backgrounds,” said Norris “EJ” Edney III, assistant vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. “Some experience barriers to digital access. We plan to equip our mentors with more information about that divide, asking them to work with their groups to see which students might be experiencing this.”

Mentors will invite MOST participants to enroll in a digital literacy series. Taught in part by the mentors, the series will take place once a month during the 2022 fall semester and includes workshops and presentations on skills such as career exploration and preparedness, social media etiquette and computer literacy.