DeSoto Campus Students Honored with Taylor Medals

School of Education seniors land university's highest academic award

Yasmin Ali Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Yasmin Ali. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. – Two seniors at the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven have been awarded the Marcus Elvis Taylor Memorial Medal. Yasmin Ali and Lauren Carson, both elementary education majors, accepted their medals April 7 during the Spring Honors Day Convocation at the Oxford campus.

The Taylor Medals, established in 1904, are the university’s highest academic award and recognize no more than 1 percent of the student body each year. To be considered, a student must have a GPA of at least 3.90.

“I know I speak for all of our faculty and staff when I say that we are so proud of Yasmin and Lauren,” said Rick Gregory, executive director of the Southaven campus. “The Taylor Medal is indicative of dedication and hard work in the classroom. We are pleased to have two recipients from UM-DeSoto this year.”

Ali was born in Staten Island, New York, but moved shortly thereafter to Palestine, where she became fluent in Arabic. She returned to the U.S. when she was in third grade, where a teacher changed her life.

“I did not speak English at that time,” she said. “My third-grade teacher was so caring and supportive – I will never forget her. She thought I could do anything. She gave me the same expectations as everyone else, and I did not feel left out. I aspire to be like her when I get my own classroom.”

Graduating a year early from high school, Ali attended Northwest Community College and received an Associate of Arts degree in 2014. She then enrolled at UM-DeSoto to pursue a degree in education.

Throughout her time at the Ole Miss regional campus, Ali has enjoyed working for the Writing Center. The center provides free writing and critical thinking support to students of all majors.

“(Working for the center) gives me the opportunity to help so many diverse students such as nontraditional students, English language learners and students with disabilities,” she said. “Working with students allowed me to share my knowledge and skills during my tutorial sessions.

“Along with tutoring, presenting with other writing consultants has helped me become an effective communicator and collaborator.”

Not only has the experience helped Ali hone her skills, but it has also provided her with close friends. She said she loves working in an environment where the goal is to “help people become better writers and learners.”

Lauren Carson Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter congratulates Lauren Carson. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Communications

An Independence native, Carson never expected to end up as an education major.

“My whole family is full of teachers, so growing up I said I would never become one,” Carson said. “I started college as an interior design major and ended up changing my major to education the end of my sophomore year. I love it and haven’t turned back. Teaching is something that I am passionate about.”

Graduating with an associate degree from Northwest Community College in 2014, Carson has “loved every minute” of her time at the regional campus, specifically mentioning the convenience of its location and helpful faculty and staff.

“Looking back on my time at UM-Desoto, the main thing that sticks out to me is the classroom in which I completed 99 percent of my class time,” she said. “Education majors take most of their classes in the same room. I remember walking in for the first time and being so nervous.

“I met so many amazing people in that classroom, and so many relationships were formed in that room. I know I will be friends with those people for the rest of my life.”

Carson said that it was “unbelievable” to be presented with the university’s highest honor.

“There are so many amazing students at the university,” she said. “Being able to be recognized with those students was an unforgettable experience. I am so thankful.”

After graduation, Carson plans to begin her teaching career. Ali also hopes to teach elementary school and pursue her master’s in education. Both Ali and Carson credit their families for love and support during their years at the university.

Housed in the DeSoto Center in Southaven, the regional campus offers undergraduate (junior and senior) and graduate programs for traditional and nontraditional students. For more information, visit or call 662-342-4765.