For Madison Gordon, Ole Miss was as good as destiny.
“From the beginning, my family always knew Madison was going to go to Ole Miss,” she said. “Of course, once senior year came around, I started to venture out. But there was of course, as cliche as it sounds, always something that was pulling me back to the University of Mississippi.”
Gordon, who was elected Miss Ole Miss, hails from Meridian, Mississippi, a town two and a half hours south of Oxford. A public policy leadership major on the pre-medical track, Gordon’s time at Ole Miss has been marked by engagement, involvement and chiefly, a commitment to service — which was a large part of why she decided to run for Miss Ole Miss.
“There are a number of procedures and positions that come with just the homecoming court, but this one stood out to me the most, especially because of the service aspect that’s attached to it,” she said. “I think that our university has a heart for giving back.”
Her campaign, “Growing with Gordon” was largely centered around a service initiative. Gordon worked with Operation Fit Nation to raise money and assemble health and fitness kits. The local organization aims to address Mississippi’s health crisis by empowering underserved communities. At the intersection of Gordon’s policy, public health and medicine interests, Operation Fit Nation was exactly the kind of organization Gordon wanted to use her campaign to spotlight.
“I just really felt like working with them and partnering with them was going to be something tangible,” Gordon said. “And so, I was definitely wanting that to kind of connect, you know, with my major with the campaign with the message. I wanted everything to kind of intertwine.”
Gordon equated the campaign process to running — literally.
“I’m gonna be honest with you,” she said. “It felt like I was running. For a very long time.”
But because of the community around her, though — her family, sisters at Tri Delta, friends, and campaign managers to name a few — the process was smoother and ultimately, successful. Olivia Jordan, a senior public policy leadership major, and one of her campaign managers, described working with “Growing with Gordon” as fun.
“We tried to keep things very high energy and funny so everyone would stay engaged and excited about the campaign throughout the two weeks,” she said. “Everyone on Madison’s campaign team was so fun to be around and just excited to go to work for her so that made the campaign period so much better for everyone involved. It was a fun group!”
“They were there for me. And so, of course, it’s not the scale of a presidential election or anything. But you know, there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of things that you have to pay attention to,” Gordon said. “There’s also a lot of humility that comes with the process, which I think is very important. And I experienced that. But also when the time came that Tuesday night, and they had announced the number as well as you know, my name attached to that number…I don’t really, I don’t really know.”
Upon hearing that she had been elected Miss Ole Miss, Gordon fell to her knees, overwhelmed by the surreal feeling.
“Grateful is the word for it,” she said. “Because having their support — you know, whether it was watching the live stream, or they’re physically like them actually being there for me, and like, wanting that for me. It’s just, it’s honestly something that’s invaluable. And like, still to this day, incomprehensible. I’m beyond grateful. It was a feeling that was hard to put into words. And so I’m just…I’m just forever grateful.”
As mentioned earlier, Gordon has a long track record of involvement in a variety of clubs, organizations and events. One of her favorites, she explains, was being a member and later director of one of the Associated Student Body’s First Year Engagement programs, Council.
“Being a director of FYE Council kind of brought it full circle. I think also being a part of that program really shows the example that the university can set when it comes to mentors and role models,” she said. “They really kind of break down the whole stereotype of someone you look up to, or someone you admire, having to be someone that’s older than you. And I would definitely say I really enjoyed being part of that, because it kind of sets an idea of what future generations of the University of Mississippi will look like.”
In addition to her involvement with FYE Council, Gordon has also been active as an Orientation Leader, the Minority Association for Pre-Medical Students and the Big Event to name a few.
When describing some of the more challenging moments she has faced at the university, Gordon points to the experience of navigating Ole Miss and its spaces as a person of color.
“If I’m going to be honest, as you know, as a black woman, you’re always kind of finding affirmation how other people respond to what you do for them. And so I think that that’s something that, you know, it just kind of comes as is,” she said. “African American women a lot of the time kind of bear the brunt of a lot of things. And so I think it’s just always having to make sure that you are continuously accepted in certain environments, in certain areas and, you know, sometimes that can be a personal problem. So you know, you just kind of have to roll with the punches.”
Even when faced with challenges, Gordon continues to strive for that which makes her and the world around her better — a part of her nature that people close to her can attest to.
“I’ve been friends with Madison for 3 years now. She is not afraid to challenge those around her — in the best ways possible. She’s the kind of person you want in your corner, always supporting her friends and cheering you on,” Jordan said. “Madison pushes everyone around her forward and I know she’ll do the same for Ole Miss.”
Her mother, Stephanie Wright, has seen these qualities in Madison throughout her entire life and is proud to see her thrive in them throughout her time at the university.
“It brings me joy to see my precious Maddie setting out to accomplish the desires of her heart,” she said. “She’s been outgoing, loving and passionate about people all her life. I encourage her as Miss Ole Miss to continue to lead with love and serve all for the greater good.”
As the year continues, Gordon is looking forward to working with Mr. Ole Miss and the rest of the homecoming court to continue service initiatives and make an impact on the university. She plans on going to medical school and pursuing a master’s in public health. But for now, Gordon is focused on making the most of what remains of her time at Ole Miss.
“But I’m definitely allowing myself to live an enjoyable time as a senior. But also putting my academics first. I think I’m always just kind of making sure that I’m satisfying everyone, whether it’s my family or my friends, but also, like, still having fun and remembering that like, I’m literally 21,” she said. “So you know, just being able to find a balance, but also enjoy those bittersweet moments that come with senior year, you know, all those first lasts. So yeah, I would definitely say just enjoying the moment, for sure.”
In a word to the Ole Miss student body, Gordon encourages everyone to make the most of their time by stepping out of their comfort zones and into something greater.
“I would definitely say learn how to be comfortable in the uncomfortable. Because I think that there are so many people who live a life where their day-to-day basis is uncomfortable. So the least that we can do is step outside of ourselves, and learn how to be uncomfortable,” she said “I think that that creates more of a community. Because there’s a sense of empathy. There may not be understanding. But yeah, there’s empathy. So learn how to be uncomfortable. Comfortable in the uncomfortable.”
The homecoming game is taking place Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway against Arkansas. The homecoming court will be presented during the game.