‘Alumni Experiences Through The Decades’ panel told stories from James Meredith through today

Posted on Mar 3 2018 - 9:40pm by Lindsay Dawson

The Black Alumni Reunion hosted a panel discussion Saturday morning highlighting alumni from different classes and generations.

The Black Alumni Reunion panel gave successful alumni the chance to talk about experiences in life, at the university and after. While on stage, the panelists told stories of their days at school and how these experiences still shape them today. 

Ole Miss alumni James Meredith (left); Nic Lott, the first African-American student body president at UM (middle); and Teresa Jones, current Deputy Executive Assistant to the Democratic Minority Leader (right), discuss their experiences as a student at Ole Miss during the “Alumni Experiences Through Decades” panel Saturday morning, a part of the Black Alumni Reunion. Photo by Logan Conner

The panelists included James Meredith, the university’s first black student; Trevor K. Williams-Martin, CEO and founder of Book and Bag Travel; Ryan Upshaw, assistant dean in the engineering school; Tersea Jones, deputy executive assistant for U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer; and Nic Lott, the first black ASB president.

Kimberly Dandridge, the first black female ASB president, moderated the panel.

Dandridge, now an attorney, began the panel asking how it felt to be back at the university.

Lott said the look of the student population has changed since his time at Ole Miss.

“It’s been great to walk around campus and see minority population has increased drastically,” Lott said.

Jones said she’s been overwhelmed, just as she was when she first stepped on to campus her freshman year. She spoke about seeing how far the university has come, and also how much further there is to go.

James Meredith, the first African-American student admitted into Ole Miss, speaks about his experience as a student in Oxford during the “Alumni Experiences Through Decades” panel Saturday morning, a part of the Black Alumni Reunion. Photo by Logan Conner

She said students and alumni have made tremendous strides together.

Williams said coming back to the university was a “sigh of relief” and giving him time to reflect on life.

While many of the alumni have moved to other states, Upshaw has a job at the university and is also working on his Ph.D.

He said it’s important for students and alumni to “stay interconnected and support each other.” He encouraged students to become involved with the alumni association after they leave, in order to make lasting connections with current students and old peers.

All of the alumni agreed their experiences at Ole Miss shaped them as a person and later shaped their professional careers.

The event closed with James Meredith reading a passage from three of his books. He reflected on why he returned to Mississippi as an alumni, the past of the university and how far it has come today with his fellow alumni, but still the distances it needs to go.