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Southern Miss Spring 2022 Graduates Celebrate Achievements, New Beginnings

Mon, 05/16/2022 - 14:40pm | By: David Tisdale

Shania Young

Shania Young is moving on to the next chapter in her life after graduating from The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) May 13, while also reflecting fondly on a place and core group of faculty, staff, and fellow students who she credits for “making her the woman she is today.”

Young, a native of West, Mississippi was among approximately 2,000 USM graduates for the spring 2022 semester. Commencement ceremonies were held for graduate and undergraduate students, respectively, at ceremonies held at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus May 12-13 and for USM Gulf Coast students at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum Saturday, May 14.

An elementary education major with an endorsement in social studies, Young already has a job lined up to teach first grade students in the fall, and says she plans to be a positive force for change whenever and wherever it is needed to help her students achieve.

At USM, Young was a student assistant in the Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students offices and served as vice president of the organization Queens Uplifted, whose goal is to empower African American women to know their worth and continue setting the bar high. She praised Assistant Dean of Students Delores McNair and her sisters in her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta, for their mentorship, friendship, and encouragement throughout her college career.

“During my time here, Ms. McNair served as a great mentor,” Young said. “She was always in my corner, pushing me every step of the way. She was my mother away from home. I’m truly blessed God allowed us to cross paths. And I’m extremely thankful for all my 24 sorority sisters.

 “All these individuals inspire me because they are hardworking African American Women who are striving for greatness and did not stop even in the face of hardships or challenges,” Young continued. “That is what kept me motivated during my time at USM, I knew I had an end goal I was trying to reach, and trouble doesn’t last always, so I needed to keep pushing throughout the challenges.

Cole RussellCole Russell of Niceville, Florida graduated with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and minor in management. After considering in-state universities, he decided to follow an older brother to USM and says it was one the best decisions he’s ever made.

‘I’ve loved my time at USM, and as I reflect on graduation, it reminds me of my decision to attain my minor in management just to be able to stay here a little bit longer,” he said.

Russell said getting involved in campus activities allowed him to gain more from his college experience and deepen his love for his new alma mater, including as a tour guide for the USM Office of Admissions.

After graduation, Russel begins work as a graduate assistant with the USM Alumni Association as her works to complete an MBA degree at USM before sitting for the CPA (Certified Public Accountancy) exam. He has accepted a job work for KPMG Birmingham in the fall of 2023.

“Some of my favorite memories while at USM have come from late-night study sessions with friends, movie marathons that led to late-night study sessions, and working in the Office of Admissions. While working as a tour guide, I had the opportunity to show incoming students and their families why USM is the best university in the state.”

Shane HandShane Hand of Birmingham, Alabama earned a doctorate in history from USM during the May 12 ceremony for graduate students. Hand earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Alabama and then a dual master’s degree in history and library and information sciences from USM before pursuing his Ph.D.

“As a professor once warned me, I spent a decade - nearly one quarter of my adult life - working for the Ph.D. in U.S. History. And I would do it all over again,” Hand said. “To be sure, graduate study came with sacrifices, and one of the most important persons in my life, my dad, is no longer here to have seen me cross the finish line­, although I know he would be proud.”

Hand, who currently works as a reference librarian with the University of Houston’s M.D. Anderson Library, expressed gratitude to a corps of USM History program faculty members for his success, and in particular his mentor and dissertation advisor, Dr. Andrew Haley.

“I met Dr. Haley during my first semester of graduate school when I showed up during his office hours to tell him I wanted to study the history of American capitalism.,” Hand said. “He smiled and asked me ‘Which part?’ As an ambitious first-year student, I told him I wanted to study all of it. He said that was great, but I would have to narrow down the topic.

“It took me a year to find a workable project, but Dr. Haley always welcomed me in his office and encouraged me as I progressed in my studies and struggled to develop my own disciplinary perspective. I would not be graduating without the time, patience, and insight that Dr. Haley generously gave to my research project.”

Hand characterizes his time at USM as one “full of objective gains, real progress, and meaningful enrichment.”

“Indeed, I met my wife and best friend Emma on the fourth floor of the LAB (Liberal Arts Building), when I apparently annoyed her by yawning loudly while studying in the hall.” Hand continued. “Academically, I’ve developed the analytical and writing skills crucial for success in the professional world. Personally, I’m leaving USM a better person who is more well-rounded, empathetic, and excited about the future.”