Omar Nelson, Esq.
BS, Political Science, 1994
How did USM prepare you to achieve your goals?
As I transitioned to USM, it was a vital first step for me to grow as an adult, learn important life skills, and gain a quality education that would provide the foundation I needed to elevate to success in my current profession as a lawyer. As one might expect as an entering freshman, I had a very nominal understanding of what fate laid ahead, but I was wide-eyed to experiencing everything I could that would help me achieve my personal goals.
Looking back over my experience at USM, I am constantly reminded of the generous people who were sources of strength, encouragement, and counsel who discovered something in me that would eventually make my career path a little easier.
I vividly recall a vast spectrum and diverse display of student organizations promoting
their groups during orientation and inviting new students to become involved in the
USM experience. I recall how encouraged I was to see the active involvement of staff
and administrators in this effort. It was personable and made you feel like your
services were not only wanted but vital. Through an array of organizations – academic,
social, and civic – I discovered the outlet I needed to develop a strong leadership
This became my training ground. Through the activism of so many great students and assistance from administrators and staff, I became absorbed into student leadership. I learned how to motivate people around common goals, develop a strategy to implement plans, build self-confidence, and always have an unselfish concern for the welfare of others.
Looking back over my experience at USM, I am constantly reminded of the generous people
who were sources of strength, encouragement, and counsel who discovered something
in me that would eventually make my career path a little easier.
As a lawyer for 20 plus years now, I still utilize the skills I acquired at USM and believe that because of the introduction and development in leadership, I was fundamentally prepared to achieve my personal goals.
What would you tell your younger self?
I would tell my younger self to stay prepared, stay focused, and don’t let anything take you away from achieving your personal goals. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. You will suffer downfalls and failure. Develop a strategy not to repeat mistakes. Learn from your trials. Surround yourself with motivated, inspired people who have life-goals and a plan to achieve them.
Words of wisdom to Black college students?
Life on a majority white campus might make you feel hidden and unrecognized if you’re not in that majority. Overcome reluctance to step out of the shadows. Your gift to the world will never be known unless you understand that your worth is not minimized by your race. You have an obligation to those who made your path possible to speak your mind, express your thoughts, lead, and meet resistance with confidence, knowledge, and a profound understanding that you have earned and deserve your place. People are not known nor recognized for their silence, but their willingness to stand and pursue causes when no one else would expect. Be bold, be motivated, and be the leader you were born to be.
Was college worth the investment?
College was definitely worth the investment. It provided me with the foundation I
needed to achieve my life goals. It raised me as a person, taught me important traits
I needed in life, and put me in a position to raise and support my family.
What was the most impactful topic covered in The Unheard Word?
I don’t think I can relegate The Unheard Word’s significance to a single topic. This publication played an important role at the University. It displayed the intellectual talents of its writers’ gifts in journalism; it brought to the forefront many causes, achievements, and relevant stories of the African American experience on campus; and it was a catalyst for the administration and community to understand minority thought. It was extremely relevant during my tenure at USM and was necessary reading for our community.
Accomplishments at Southern Miss: