The University of Southern Mississippi Honors College has three of a kind among its freshman class of 2013.
Triplets Olivia, Ross and Rachel Paris-Harbison are Southern Miss Presidential Scholars from Mobile, Ala. where they graduated from McGill-Toolin High School. When the three tried to establish a hierarchy of choices as they looked for a college to attend, one held on to first place following their visit to the Hattiesburg campus.
“Southern Miss just kept popping back to the top,” said their mother, Susan Paris-Harbison. “They walked on campus and found the university to be the perfect blend of multiple opportunities through different majors, plus being big enough to meet all your needs but not where you feel like just a number.
“They’re so different – personality-wise and interests, so it was just a blessing. We came to visit the Hattiesburg campus and, boom, it met everyone’s needs.”
Honors College Dean David R. Davies said the triplets represent the diverse range of interests Honors College students bring to Southern Miss. “Olivia, Rachel, and Ross are not only accomplished in academics, but have worked in extracurricular activities ranging from robotics to wide-ranging service projects,” he said. “We’re absolutely thrilled to have them at Southern Miss.”
Paris-Harbison said Rachel is “quiet, studious and driven,” trying to learn Japanese and planning to study abroad, while Olivia, a yoga enthusiast who fell for the university’s “Southern charm” is more outgoing with plans to major in graphic arts. She describes Ross as an avid reader who likes to play chess, golf and write short stories.
“I wasn’t pushing for them to go somewhere together, but I was very happy when they all decided on Southern Miss,” she said.
Their dad concurs. “I’m glad our kids are going to a really good school so close to us," said Dale Harbison. "It's encouraging that so many kids from our area go to USM and love it."
Olivia echoed her parents’ sentiments. “We just all happened to like the same place,” she said. “USM is not too far from home - just two hours - and it’s the perfect size. Not too big and not too small.”
Ross noted that on his first visit to campus, the university felt “very welcoming.” “Everyone seemed to know each other,” he said, adding that the Honors College offers a strong curriculum and “an opportunity to study hard and achieve.”
Rachel plans to go to London during her time at Southern Miss and participate in the university’s British Studies Program. The active learning component of the Honors College curriculum, in which students benefit from combined theory and experience through field trips and other activities, is another item on her academic to-do list.
She’s also glad her brother and sister are along for the ride. “We didn’t plan to stay together in the beginning when we started looking at colleges, but after we all decided on Southern Miss it was nice knowing that I’d be here with them,” she said.
For information more about the Southern Miss Honors College, online visit www.usm.edu/honors.