As a child, Ian Pigg dreamed of becoming a zookeeper or a vet. As an adult, he’s figuring out his dream after college — deciding between working in fundraising and development or going to graduate school to get an MBA.
Right now, as a college student, Pigg is fulfilling another dream: being Mr. Ole Miss.
The senior public policy leadership major was elected Mr. Ole Miss on Sept. 21 and will be recognized as such on Saturday at the homecoming game against Arkansas.
Pigg’s campaign, “At the Table,” was inspired by one of his favorite songs, “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen, and he featured the song in one of his campaign videos. The song is about having a full table and a seat for everybody.
“(Ole Miss) gave me a seat at the table and I’m some random first generation college student from some town (Clifton, Tennessee) that nobody has ever been to Ole Miss from,” Pigg said. “So (my campaign) kind of morphed into ‘At the Table’ because I want to celebrate the people who have found their places, but also make sure that everyone feels like they have a seat at the table because we have the capacity for it. I think we’re a really welcoming student body and we have people who are really trying to make change and be the best that Ole Miss can be, but it just takes a little bit more work.”
Winning the title Mr. Ole Miss proved his campaign correct, he said.
“I think it speaks to the whole idea of my campaign that everybody has a seat at the table no matter where you come from, if your parents and grandparents and great grandparents went to Ole Miss or if your parents didn’t even go to a four year university, so it’s been really awesome,” Pigg said. “It just shows you can be whatever you want to be here, like you don’t have to have this pedigree to succeed here.”
Surprisingly, Pigg wasn’t initially set on attending Ole Miss. Pigg said he was dead set on going to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but his mom was against it because the UT campus is six and a half hours away from their home.
“My mom was like, ‘Ian, you’re not doing that.’ So of course that made me want to do it even more,” Pigg said. “But she’s like, I really think you should go look at Ole Miss. I’d never heard of the University of Mississippi. Come to find out it’s two and a half hours from my house, I had no idea.”
Pigg toured the university twice while in high school, once in the fall and once in the spring. He said he didn’t love it in the fall because the leaves were gone and he was generally in a bad mood that day, but he loved it when he came back in the spring. What really sold him, however, was the Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship, for which he interviewed.
“At the end of the call they were like, ‘How sure are you that you’re coming to Ole Miss?’ And without thinking about it I was like, ‘You know I’m 99% sure, 100% sure if I got the scholarship,’” Pigg said. “I got off the phone call and I was like, ‘Did I just say that? I’m literally about to pick a roommate at UT Knoxville.’ But (the Women’s Council) called me and offered it to me, so here I am.”
Pigg isn’t new to campaigning for homecoming elections. Last year, Pigg, along with senior integrated marketing communications major Kylie Cockrell — one of his best friends who ended up being one of his own campaign managers — were campaign managers for Lilli Gordon, who won Miss Ole Miss.
“It was a full circle moment when Lilli called me (the night I won). She said, ‘Hey, welcome to the club,’” Pigg said.
He said he thought campaigning — whether as a campaign manager or candidate — was a great experience.
“I really love supporting my friends, and it’s a completely different experience when it’s your name on the ballot, but not in a bad way,” Pigg said. “I was so surprised by the outpouring of support I got from so many people across campus.”
While Pigg did win Mr. Ole Miss, he didn’t consider running until this year, when his friends started encouraging him to run.
“I was just scared that people wouldn’t really identify with what I wanted to talk about,” Pigg said. “So I thought about that and I thought about the past three years, like all the friends I’ve made and how much this place meant to me. I was like, ‘I might as well take a shot at it.’”
Deciding to run for Mr. Ole Miss may have been a difficult decision to make, but deciding who would be his campaign managers was not. Cockrell and senior mathematics major Harrison Grimes are two of Pigg’s best friends and were easy choices as campaign managers.
“Kylie was actually my first Ole Miss friend. We met during orientation,” Pigg said. “Then with Harrison, I feel like we’ve done everything on this campus together.”
Cockrell said when Pigg asked her to be a campaign manager, there were a lot of emotions. As they were each other’s first friend at the university, Cockrell said she has shared some of her best memories with him and has loved watching his love for the university grow.
“I know how much this university and the people he’s met mean to him, and I was so proud to help him bring all of it together into a campaign that was important to him and this place,” Cockrell said. “It was still weird, though, because I felt like we should still be freshmen living in Pittman, goofing off in the study rooms until 2 a.m. Seeing the impact Ian has made on so many people here makes me so proud to be his friend.”
Grimes said Pigg was one of his first friends at the university as well, and they have been involved in many of the same organizations, such as the Student Activities Association and Columns Society. Grimes said he really enjoyed being able to watch Pigg’s college journey, and having Pigg be a part of his.
“When (Ian) decided to run for Mr. Ole Miss, I was super excited when he asked me to help with it. It really meant a lot to me, because I was really excited to have the opportunity to help get the word out to others how awesome he is, because I knew all his friends and all these people that he’s been working with for three years, and all the different things he does on campus and with the community,” Grimes said. “They’ve all known how great he is for three years, and then it was time to get the word out to the rest of the community.”
As Mr. Ole Miss, Pigg will work with Madison Gordon, who was elected Miss Ole Miss, to put together a service project. Pigg said they’re good friends and are excited to work together for the rest of the year.
“Madison’s one of those people that you look at and you’re like, ‘I have no idea how or where I met you, I just feel like I’ve always known you,’” Pigg said. “I think we’re going to try to kind of mix both of our interests so I think we’re going to try to raise money for a scholarship fund for first generation students, and also really help with her Operation Fit Nation, like making wellness boxes. I think it’s going to be really cool.”
Pigg said part of what makes the university special to him is the people, whether it be people that have helped him throughout the past few years or people communicating with each other.
“I think people at Ole Miss are kind of forced to face or have tough conversations and really communicate with each other, so I think that also makes us a really tight knit group of people and people who really are working hard to kind of make this place a more welcoming campus and I think that’s also really unique,” Pigg said.
This leaves just one question. Does Pigg think he’s one of those people who’s helped make the university a more welcoming campus?
“I hope so,” Pigg said. “I’ve really tried to. I hope people think I did.”