The Women’s Studies Program at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast hosted a day-long educational event for high school junior and senior girls interested in achieving higher education.
More than 30 young women from Gulfport, Long Beach and Bay High Schools attended the “Day at Southern Miss” event, which included a tour of the Gulf Park campus, mini-class sessions and a luncheon featuring keynote speaker Dr. Frances Lucas, vice president and campus executive officer at Southern Miss Gulf Coast.
“I wanted to show young female high school students that higher education should be part of their lives,” said Dr. Marie Léonard, assistant professor of sociology and “Day at Southern Miss” organizer. “At Southern Miss Gulf Coast, we are a community that offers connections and mentorship, which we find can be lacking at times for young female students.”
In addition to promoting the need for students receiving a higher education, Léonard also wanted the students to understand the importance of women’s studies. The students took part in two mini-class sessions taught by Dr. Casey Maugh, who discussed gender and communication, and Dr. Deanne Nuwer, who reviewed women in history.
“With our event, I also wanted to introduce the students to the women’s studies minor at Southern Miss,” said Léonard. “I believe that when women choose fields in college, they don’t think of all the possibilities, especially studying gender and women’s issues. I think the students related to the mini-classes by understanding how women are a big part of society throughout history and today.”
Kayla Buckner, a junior at Gulfport High School who participated in the program, said she did not know much about women’s studies before the event. “I had heard of women’s studies before, but I had never really learned many details. Hearing about it today just really opened my mind about the subject. I learned how women can come together to get things done and that we can continue making progress with our gender.”
Students ended their day with a luncheon, dining with women from different professions across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The professionals included WLOX-TV meteorologist Carrie Duncan, oncologist Dr. Stephanie Fussell and environmental attorney Teri Wiley, among several others. During the luncheon, Lucas personalized her keynote address by describing her journey from high school through college and the importance higher education played in her life.
The “Day at Southern Miss” event was co-sponsored by the university’s Women’s Studies Program and Katrina Research Center. Although this was the first year for the event, organizers hope to continue and expand their outreach to local high school students with an event each spring.
For more information about Southern Miss Gulf Coast, visit www.usm.edu/gulfcoast.