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Southern Miss College of Arts and Letters Welcomes New Student Leaders PDF Print E-mail
Friday, January 22, 2010
Contact Tearanny Street, 601.266.6823   

Leadership, recruitment and retention training were the focal points of the first official gathering of the Student Leadership Circle, the newly formed student ambassador group for the College of Arts and Letters at The University of Southern Mississippi.

This past fall semester, 23 Arts and Letters students were welcomed to the Circle in the hopes of positively impacting college recruitment and retention efforts for the 2009-10 academic year. Members of this group have a grade point average of 3.2 or higher and all represent majors within one of 15 schools and departments in the college.

In 2004, the college merged what originally was the College of Arts and the College of Liberal Arts into one. Today, Arts and Letters is the largest degree-granting college at Southern Miss. The latest figures from the Office of Admissions reports Arts and Letters enrollment stands at 3,359.

“This puts us in a unique position to significantly impact the number and quality of students entering and graduating from the university,” said Denise von Herrmann, dean of the college. “The Student Leadership Circle is an integral part of our communication with prospective and current students.”

Student Leadership Circle members include Krissen Womack, a political science major from Belle Chase, La.; Molly Peresich, dance education major from Ocean Springs, Miss.; Meredith Kresge, a graphic design major from Hattiesburg; Sarah Moulder, an English major from Brandon, Miss.; Jennifer Melerine, an English major from Picayune, Miss.; Monica Labit, a Spanish major from Lucedale, Miss.; Maria Morris, a communication studies major from New Orleans, La.; Laurie Benvenutti, a Spanish and business administration double major from Bay St. Louis, Miss.; Kacie Bailey, a journalism major from Terrytown, La.; Esther Dollar, an art education major form Wilmer, Ala.; Fairchild East, a foreign language double major from Pascagoula, Miss.

Katherine Quin, a theatre major from McComb, Miss.; E. Sarah Hoffman, an English major from Mobile, Ala.; Darren Hayes, a theatre major from New Orleans, La.; Kyndal Owens, an English and history double major from Hattiesburg, Miss.; LaTara Houston, an English major from Pontotoc, Miss.; Jennie Scrivner, a history major from Collinsville, Miss.; Sharon Ragland, a paralegal studies and social work double major from Louisa, Va.; Santee Ezell, a sociology major from Calhoun City, Miss.; Laurin Smith, a history major from Gulfport, Miss.; Elliot Freeman, an English major from Long Beach, Miss.; and Christopher James, a political science and entrepreneurship double major from Vicksburg, Miss.

Participating in events such as Black and Gold Day, Honors College Day, Golden Eagle Welcome Weekend, High School Dance Day, School of Music audition days and special visits to area junior colleges, these students will share their personal Southern Miss stories with prospective students throughout the nation.

National Merit Finalist and theatre major Darren Hayes had his pick of universities to attend after high school, but chose to pursue his passion in Southern Miss’ Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I found Southern Miss to be warm and welcoming, not to mention it’s only two hours from my home,” he said. “The theatre program is top-notch. I’ve been in numerous performances where I’ve learned and experienced so much. This is definitely the place for me and I’m eager to help more students make the decision to study in Arts and Letters.”

Students will also assist with strategic retention efforts and programming like the Stay on Track program, which is an umbrella for practices such as Junior/Senior Check-ups, which is already in place. The newest addition to the program is peer-advising and Circle members are at the center of this effort.

“Faculty, staff and students share the responsibility for retention. Student groups can play an important role, because they can help new students avoid problems before they happen,” said Jerry Ross, director of student affairs for Arts and Letters. “We’re happy to have these students represent the college in a number of capacities, but most importantly we’re excited about what this means for the future of recruitment, retention and ultimately enrollment for Southern Miss.”

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
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