University Honors Staff Members Earning Degrees

Annual Red and Blue Celebration recognizes 29 employees for overcoming challenges

Chancellor Glenn Boyce (left) congratulates Melissa King, program manager in the School of Pharmacy, on Wednesday (May 10) at the annual Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement for earning her master’s degree in higher education. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Earning a degree while working full time is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. Twenty-six University of Mississippi staff members who succeeded at this task were recognized Wednesday (May 10) at the annual Red and Blue Celebration of Achievement.

During the ceremony at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts, Provost Noel Wilkin presented each of the graduating employees with red-and-blue cords.

“As an educational institution that seeks to educate the citizens of the state of Mississippi, the nation and the world, it is wonderful that so many right here, at our own institution, are taking advantage of that opportunity,” Wilkin said. “This is a tremendous benefit to our employees, who will gain additional abilities from this academic credential, and our university, that benefits from their additional abilities and talents.

“It also helps our employees to appreciate or remember what it is like to be a student and strive toward earning a degree. This builds empathy for our student population in ways that are hard to develop.”

Participating employees came from departments across campus. Several recipients recalled the various challenges they encountered as they earned their degrees.

Terrye Davis, recruiting coordinator in the Career Center, said it has been a long and trying road to earn her master’s degree in higher education and student personnel.

“My experience in the online higher education program has been monumental from the beginning,” she said. “I remember feeling hesitant to apply, not knowing how I well I would find my balance between school and work, but one quick conversation with Dr. George McClellan affirmed that I was ready and capable.

Provost Noel Wilkin (left) congratulates Margaret Walden, associate director of application and implementation, for completing her Master of Business Administration while working in the Office of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Planning. Photo by Thomas Graning/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

“It has been an honor to learn more about higher ed, to become acquainted with my cohort members and to apply specific ideologies to my everyday work.”

Rachael Durham, assistant director of the Center for Student Success and First Year Experience, said she is thankful to all of her family, friends, coworkers, cohort members and advisers for continuing to push and challenge her to complete her Doctor of Education.

“It’s been a challenging journey, one that’s taken a little longer than expected, but I have been so blessed to have such an amazing and supportive village,” Durham said.

Telley Flemmons, senior receptionist in the Office of Admissions, decided to return to class to finish her degree after being out of school for 10 years.

“My children were adults and out on their own, so I no longer had an excuse for not finishing,” said Flemmons, who has completed her bachelor’s degree in psychology. “One of my great friends, Sirena Brannon, always encouraged me to go back and finish my degree. After watching her finish, it inspired me to go back.”

Melissa King, a program manager in the Office of Research and Graduate Programs in the School of Pharmacy, said she appreciates the support she received from professor George McClellan while earning her master’s degree in higher education.

“(He) is a fantastic professor, adviser and student advocate,” King said. “His guidance and support throughout the program made a huge difference. He is a wonderful role model for all of us higher education professionals.”

Erin Ridout, assistant to the dean for academic support in the Patterson School of Accountancy, who is receiving a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications, finished her bachelor’s degree at Ole Miss in 2011 and came back to work at the university in 2013.

Ridout said the skills she’s learned have helped broaden her perspective when considering best practices and creating recruitment and retention efforts for the Patterson School of Accountancy.

“I’m thankful that the university provides the opportunity for staff to continue their education, and I’m forever grateful for my coworkers, and especially my husband, for being so supportive along the way,” she said. “The journey to finishing this degree is a major milestone in my life, and I’m thrilled to be a two-time Rebel grad.”