University of Southern Mississippi senior Christy Reynolds sees the new College of Business Honors House as another door opening on the journey to achieving her academic dreams.
“When they called and invited me to be a part of the first group to live there, I thought it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” said Reynolds, an accounting major from Selma, Ala. ”A lot of wonderful things have happened to me since I’ve been at Southern Miss and this is just another one of them.”
The plan calls for a total of 12 female and 12 male College of Business students to comprise the inaugural occupants of the new Honors House, which represents a growing trend toward living/learning communities on university campuses nationwide.
Southern Miss officials renovated the former Kappa Sigma fraternity house to create the Honors House, which is scheduled to be ready for the upcoming fall semester. Kappa Sigma lost its charter at Southern Miss over a hazing incident last September. Subsequently, the university entered into an agreement with the College of Business and Kappa Sigma to utilize the building for three years as a part of the Honors House pilot project. Once the agreement has expired, Kappa Sigma has the right to re-occupy the house if the fraternity meets certain requirements. Otherwise, the original agreement would likely be extended.
Each resident will have a separate bedroom, suite bathrooms and two large closets in the three-story house, which also features a large meeting room and laundry accommodations. The male and female students will live in different wings of the house that are restricted by card access.
Dr. Lance Nail, dean of the College of Business, said the Honors House puts Southern Miss on a par with elite universities such as Texas and Ohio State in offering business honors living/learning communities.
“Being able to offer something comparable to universities such as those in our region is really a fabulous recruiting tool for us,” said Nail. “This house provides our gifted students a cohesive, collaborative experience where they learn to live and work together in groups.”
Students from the sophomore-graduate levels are eligible to live in the house. Minimum requirements include 30 semester hours with a 3.5 grade point average or having shown great leadership capability. Residents also receive scholarship assistance ranging from $2,500 to $8,000 per semester.
Dr. Brian Lee, a former colleague of Nail’s, recently resigned his faculty position at the University of Alabama-Birmingham to become a professor in practice at Southern Miss and the Honors House’s faculty in residence. Two residence assistants will help Lee oversee day-to-day operations of the new program.
“When Lance offered me the chance to teach, coupled with the opportunity to head up an honors house, I just couldn’t believe it,” said Lee. “I can’t wait to get back on a college campus. At UAB, it’s set up more like an urban campus.
“My hope and vision for the Honors House at Southern Miss is that it will become a revolving door of faculty in and out of the residency working with the students there in a highly integrated learning environment. And I think that’s one of the big benefits of having it located right there on campus.”
Honors House residents will collect three semester hours of credit in the fall and spring sessions. Part of the curriculum will include weekly seminars led by university faculty, book discussions, outside executive speakers, special topics seminars and 4-6 service learning group projects. Each student will also have a mentor from the business community. Students must be invited back each year to retain residency.
Reynolds spent last year as a resident in the Chi Omega sorority house. She served as secretary of the sorority and president of the Cardinal Cabinet within the Southern Miss chapter of Chi Omega. She said relinquishing those positions and moving out of the Chi Omega house was both difficult and rewarding.
“I will miss those girls terribly and I’m still assisting as a consultant,” she said. “But I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to live in the Honors House. I’m excited about the idea of getting to know people with the same goals – living and learning in the same environment. I see this as a true blessing at this point in my life.”
Chris Crenshaw, director of student housing at Southern Miss, credits Gary Kimble, Sid Gonsoulin and Ernie Olivares for their teamwork in getting the renovations completed in time for the fall semester. Kimble is director of conference and fraternity housing; Gonsoulin serves as associate vice-president for auxiliaries, while Olivares is associate director, maintenance and custodial services. But Crenshaw believes the lion’s share of praise should go to Nail for turning the dream into a reality.
“I can’t say enough about Lance and his commitment to making this really special,” said Crenshaw. “From the first conversation we had about possibly creating a facility like this, he has really taken the ball and run with it.”
Shannon Woodward, director of development in the College of Business, stresses that this type of environment will not only instill in the students traditional business education but also help sharpen their networking skills.
“This program is sure to put the College of Business at Southern Miss on the map,” she said. “No other university in the state has a program where students can be completely immersed in business education in a living and learning environment.”
1. Southern Miss senior accounting major Christy Reynolds stands outside the new College of Business Honors House on the Hattiesburg campus.
2. Reynolds hangs a photo in one of the 24 rooms being renovated to accommodate the Honors House residents. – photos by Steve Rouse, Southern Miss Communications
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.