UM-Tupelo Alumni, Executive Director Among Tupelo’s ‘Top 40 Under 40’

Former business students and administrator honored for 2018

Albine Bennett

TUPELO, Miss.­­­ – Two former University of Mississippi at Tupelo students and the campus’ executive director have been named to northeast Mississippi’s “Top 40 Under 40” list of influential leaders.

Business, civic, and community leaders who are 40 years of age and under are nominated by community members and evaluated by an independent panel. Hosted by the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, the official awards ceremony was Oct. 25 at Tupelo’s “The Hub” in Journal Business Park.

Among those selected for the honor were Tupelo regional campus graduates Albine Bennett and Blakley Moore Young and UM-Tupelo Executive Director Derek Markley.

Bennett is a 2011 graduate of the Tupelo campus with a bachelor’s degree in managerial finance. She serves as director of communications for the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, where among other duties, she coordinates the annual “Imagine the Possibilities” career expo.

“My time as a student at UM-Tupelo helped me not only gain knowledge in my field, but it also helped me gain confidence in myself,” Bennett said. “I was able to meet different people from all walks of life, which helped me to broaden my horizons.”

Bennett said she appreciated the connections she made in the community as an active member of various student organizations at the Tupelo campus. She volunteers for several area nonprofit groups, including Sanctuary Hospice House and the Salvation Army. She is also a board member for the local women’s leadership group New Expectations for Women in Mississippi.

Derek Markley

Markley has been executive director of the university’s Tupelo and Booneville regional campuses since 2014. He is also an assistant professor of leadership and counselor education, and enjoys volunteering as a youth soccer coach and with several Tupelo-area organizations including the Community Development Foundation and CREATE.

“It is a humbling experience to be included with such a great group of hardworking people,” Markley said. “As a university, I think we’re fortunate to have campuses in northeast Mississippi so we can be a part of the growth and development of this region.

“I was very honored to be in the same room with so many people committed to the success of Tupelo and the surrounding areas.”

Young is a 2007 graduate of the Tupelo campus with a bachelor’s degree in marketing. She is the digital sales manager for television station WTVA, where she was named one of the Top 50 Leading Business Women in the state by the Mississippi Business Journal.

“The University of Mississippi Tupelo campus helped prepare me in so many ways,” Young said. “The classes that I took there provided me with the education and insight I need to now assist my digital agency clients as they look to grow their businesses.

“As a leader in my organization, my management classes were invaluable to the work I do now.”

Blakley Young

Young serves as a board member with the Tupelo Sanctuary Hospice Junior Auxiliary and volunteers with The Shepard’s Hands organization, which provides assistance to at-risk women and children in north Mississippi. She also is involved with several other professional organizations, including the Public Relations Association of Mississippi and Tupelo Young Professionals.

“My time at UM-Tupelo helped to lay the foundation for being involved in my community and giving back,” Young said. “It also provided lifelong relationships both personally and professionally that I am forever grateful for.”

For more information about the UM Tupelo regional campus, visit