Students and alumni shared their experiences as minority students at a predominantly white institution and why they chose to further their education at the “Real Talk, Day of Dialouge” panel Friday afternoon in the Triplett Alumni Center.
The panel consisted of senior integrated communications marketing major Zacchaeus McEwen, senior public policy and philosophy major Malik Pridgeon, class of 1981 alum Robbie Morganfield, senior business management major Terry Davis and class of 2010 alum Princeton Echols. Current students Makala McNeil and Nekitta Beans led the panel with class of 1981 alum Brenda Luckett.
Luckett, a Clarksdale native, first visited Ole Miss in 1976 after scoring exceptionally well on a national merit achievement test. She said it changed her life.
“They sent me here one weekend to tour the university and see the dorm and everything and that’s all it took,” she said. “One weekend away from my house at Ole Miss with some of my home folks that were already there, and I fell in love.”
While Luckett initially came to Ole Miss to study political science to be a lawyer, she ended up majoring in communications sciences and disorders. She said that one of the most important things she learned at Ole Miss was how to successfully conduct business.
“I learned how to conduct business in a manner that gets things done because I had to maneuver my way through the system at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “I learned more in the Lyceum than I did in my classes.”
Morganfield said coming to the university was continuing a family tradition. He first spent three semesters at Alcorn State University, but after researching different schools with strong journalism programs, he decided to follow in his family’s footsteps at Ole Miss.
Some of the current students on the panel spoke about struggles they have faced over the past few years, and outlined things they would like to change.
Pridgeon said he came to Ole Miss struggling to find his identity and a place where he fit in. He wanted to find people who supported him, and when he couldn’t find that place, he decided to create it.
“Socially, it’s hard to find your niche,” he said. “You have to find people that support you like a mentor and what it is that you’re passionate about, so for me I had to create a space here. I created Queer People of Color, dedicated to advancing the social networking and spiritual interest of queer people of color.”
When McEwen came to Ole Miss, he didn’t consider coming to the university a culture shock, despite the fact that he came from a high school that was majority black. He did struggle with the fact that as an African American, there was a lack of diversity in some of the programs he became involved in.
“I’m in Air Force ROTC here on campus, and when I came in it was only three of us that were black. It was just hard to make yourself known in those spaces,” he said. “Getting over that and creating new spaces for yourself was my biggest challenge.”
At the end of the discussion, Luckett said there is absolutely nothing she would change about the university, despite the fact that some still see flaws.
“I wouldn’t change anything about the University of Mississippi because we already changed the university,” she said.