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Ja’Terrica Wilson Earns Degree from USM, Taking Next Step to the Top

Fri, 12/08/2023 - 09:00am | By: David Tisdale

“The future rewards those who press on. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I’m going to press on.” —Barack Obama

USM Graduate

There were both smooth paths and rocky terrain enroute to graduation for Ja’Terrica Wilson, a Magnolia, Mississippi native who received her diploma during fall 2023 commencement exercises at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM). More than 1,300 students were candidates for degrees in the fall 2023 semester; graduation ceremonies were held Dec. 7-8 at Reed Green Coliseum on the Hattiesburg campus.

Wilson, a native of Magnolia, Mississippi, transferred to USM from Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Co-Lin) to pursue a degree in broadcast journalism, her eyes fixed on a career in television. Mission accomplished, as she graduates today from USM’s School of Media and Communications and prepares to start work as a reporter for a Mississippi television station in January.

“I wanted to further my education and gain more experience in my field, so I had to choose a university I knew had a good communications program,” Wilson recalls of her decision to attend USM. “I did my research and found that USM’s graduation rate in communication studies was higher than any other institution I was considering.”

On her first day at the university, she found out in class that news anchor auditions for the campus television operation, Southern Miss TV, were being held that same week.

“I immediately got excited because I was already beginning to see the hands-on opportunities USM has to offer,” she explained. “I got dressed up, did my hair and makeup, and I walked into the auditions with confidence knowing God was right there with me.”

Since February of 2022, Wilson has been an active news anchor for Southern Miss TV, a writer for the Student Printz (student newspaper), and a news reporter/content creator. Her talents have been noticed beyond USM, as she took first place in the category “Television Continuing Coverage” at the Mississippi Association of Broadcasters (MAB) Conference in Jackson.

“Being recognized for my hard work in front of big-time news anchors from stations like WLBT, WJTV, WAPT 16, as well as students from other universities, was remarkable and an honor,” she said.

This year, Wilson held an internship at WJTV-12 News in Jackson, Mississippi where she learned the inner workings of television news, from production to commercials and how the meteorologists give their weather reports, among many other facets of the operation. During her internship she created stories, did teleprompter reads and went out into the city on assignments with her main mentor, Kayla Thompson, quickly building her demo reel.

“The news reporters at WJTV always offered their guidance, and I took it,” Wilson explained. “I asked a million questions each day because I was eager to learn and become better at being a journalist.”

The pathway to completion wasn’t always easy for Wilson. She had to take a timeout from her studies to deal with an illness and accompanying surgery, resulting in her missing out on certain events, classes, and activities. The loss of two beloved family members during this time compounded her grief and further threatened to derail her momentum.

“There were days I would come to class or work, smile like everything was OK, and then go home and cry,” Wilson recounted. “I would be in so much pain I had to take ibuprofen just to come to campus. And coupled with the loss of my Aunt Hazel and grandfather, I thought I might have to drop out of college.

“But even through all of that, God kept his hands on me and brought me to the end. My peers, coworkers, and leaders here at USM and SM2 never gave up on me. They were supportive, comforting, and pushed me to the end.”

Buoying Wilson through both the rough seas and calm waters were Dr. Edgar Simpson, Jonathan McGowan, Dr. Jason Beverly and Cordaveon Carter - faculty and staff in the School of Media and Communications - as she sailed toward her destination.

“Not only did these four men believe in my talent and my dreams, but they also pushed me to be the best version of myself,” she said. “They guided, supported, and helped me throughout my time here at USM, and because of them I’ve had multiple opportunities outside of USM in my field, and I’m so thankful to God for them.”

Dr. Simpson, who serves as director of the School of Media and Communication, noted that Wilson exemplifies the USM tenacity he and his colleagues often see in their students. “Ja’Terrica was a joy to work with, and we’re all delighted to be a part of her journey,” he said.

Wilson has little time to celebrate as she readies to begin her new job. But for now, she’ll reflect on the bittersweet moment of her graduation, one shaped by joy, gratitude, and her resolve to press on through the good and the bad.

“This will be the last time I’ll see my friends and peers for a while, but I’m truly excited for the future that God and USM has properly prepared me for, and so happy to be a Southern Miss grad,” she said. “SMTTT!”