Every W student has a story to tell. Each story has unique beginning, but all have a common thread that ties them all together - The Long Blue Line.
Sayonara Jones returned home to Columbus in 2006 looking for family and a new style. She would find both at The W.
Jones started her career as a stylist. After 15 years of working in the business, in both Georgia and Mississippi, she decided it was time for a change. This is when she decided to visit The W. "I became interested in The W because of its broad communication department, which touches on all aspects of mass communications," said Jones. "I made my final decision once I visited the campus. The staff was so friendly and eager to answer all my questions, and the campus was really nice."
The senior communications major still remembers her official campus tour and meeting with her admissions counselor. She can still recall how beautiful the campus was that very day. But, not much has changed since that day for Jones.
"I love the environment at The W. All the professors treat you like family and are genuinely concerned about your performance educationally and professionally," stated Jones.
Not only does Jones appreciate the beauty and relationships that have been made on campus, but the drive it has given her to be the best she can. She especially credits Dr. Melissa Smith, assistant professor of communication, with having a huge influence on her career.
"She taught me the meaning of hard work by never accepting any excuses, never accepting anything less than my best, and she is always encouraging and truly concerned that each of her students has the tools that they need when they leave the communication program. What you got from Dr. Smith, you earned!" explained Jones. Jones currently works as a student worker in the Office of University Relations and is expected to graduate in May. During her time at The W, she has continued to raise two teenage girls. Her oldest is a senior at Columbus High School and is expected to graduate this May as well. Her youngest, 15, is a varsity basketball player and straight A student. Jones will also be interning with the City of Columbus' Main Street Association this spring.
"By being able to go to school and raise my daughters, I am able to show them that hard work pays off and no matter your age, you can do it," commented Jones.
After graduation, Jones hopes to gain experience and continue to work in public relations. Her ultimate goal is to one day start her very own agency.
"It's the closest thing to home to me," said freshman Allon Collins. Many people dream of sunny California. Maybe the glamour of Hollywood, the roses of Pasadena or cruising down Rodeo Drive, but not Collins.
When you ask Collins where he is from, he smiles and says, "Los Angeles."
During his senior year of high school, he began to research different universities to attend. The first universities that came to his mind included the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles. After looking at both universities and realizing that both have an enrollment of 40,000 students plus, he realized they were not the place for him. Collins was looking for a university that could provide a quality education, personal attention and a place where he would not be distracted from his education.
He began this quest by talking to family and friends. This would lead all the way to the Mississippi Delta, Indianola to be precise. It wouldn't take long before The W was brought to Collins' attention. At first he thought, "A women's school?" But he looked closer.
"I don't trust Wikipedia, so I went straight to the university website and learned the history of MUW," said Collins as he described his research process. "I knew I could learn at The W. The faculty-to-student ratio was small. I could see the professors one-on-one."
When Collins arrived on campus, he found just what he expected.
"Campus is peaceful, friendly and family oriented," said Collins. "The professors here are exceptional in their fields of study. I learn a lot from them."
While at The W, Collins is majoring in general business with the hopes of one day becoming a chief executive officer. But before he becomes CEO, he hopes to start working in the local community to build local relationships. Being a freshman, there are many aspects of his life plan still in the works. He does plan on continuing on to graduate school, though he has not determined which one.
"Los Angeles is radiant and full of life, but I may stay in Mississippi," replied Collins when asked where he hopes to live. He does point out that the biggest difference is the climate. It's not always sunny and 75 in Mississippi. "Everybody here is just friendly," said Collins to sum up his college experience.
Sadhana Thapas mother's dream was to educate her daughters and see them grow to be strong and intellectual women. Being married at the age of 13 and having three children by the age of 20, this was one dream she could not accomplish for herself. Being from Nepal, Thapa's journey of education began with a one-hour walk to school every day. She estimated the walk to be about three-kilometers oneway. "We had a government school in our village, but the standard was not the best. So, Mother would send me, my elder sister and my younger brother to the next village to attend a private school together," said Thapa.
Thapa's greatest motivation would not come from the classroom, but from an early childhood friendship with Kabita that would go against everything in her culture and the values of her family.
"I did not know that I could not make friends with people from the lower caste. I cannot remember how we met. I just knew that she was very nice and we became good friends," stated Thapa.
When Thapa would bring her friend to meet her family, her grandmother would warn her that her friend was an untouchable. Thapa's mother continued to encourage her, stating that with time and education these things would change.
At the age of 13, Thapa established a children's club where everyone could meet to play games, write poems and make art at the local temple. Thapa's friend would join her at these club activities. During their club meetings, Thapa would teach others about the importance of the clean environment and show them how to make paper bags from old newspapers- -a skill taught to her by her mother. Local shops would take the paper bags initially to replace plastic bags, but later rejected them because they knew the same paper bags were made by the low caste girl in the club. Thapa's effort of turning the village into a "plastic-free zone" failed.
One unforgettable Saturday, the club gathered and Thapa witnessed her friend being beaten by the village's religious leaders to send the message that her friend didn't belong and could not enter temple premises. After that day she would never see Kabita. "I was just helpless. I was very sad at that time," she said. "If I were to save her, I would be punished too."
Years went by. Anytime Thapa was asked to write for school, she would write about the friendship she once knew. One day, determined to see her friend, she ventured to her friend's village. She would learn that day that her friend was no longer living and passed away from an illness.
"My friend died never seeing school. I was disturbed with this reality for a long time during my school life. Now, I have this opportunity to have a university education that I can utilize to uplift lives of the underprivileged women back home who do not have access to education."
Thapa shares her mother's dream of education, more specifically an education in America. "I know that having an American education would gain me respect in Nepal. It would give my words value."
Later, while studying at the University of Texas at Arlington, Thapa consistently heard about The W from a friend who was attending Mississippi State University.
"The name of The W is important to me. I want to motivate women in Nepal," said Thapa. "Since arriving at The W I have become more aware of women's status in America. I want to build a good society between men, women and different classes." She attributes her success at The W to unlimited support she has received from the faculty and campus community, especially Dr. Bridget Pieschel and Dr. Erin Kempker. Thapa is currently doing independent research on her home country of Nepal. With the help of the faculty, she has been able to research the caste system and women's roles in Nepal.
"Professors are family and they treat you like family," she said, describing W life as energizing--so much that she is tentatively making plans to extend her time at The W by pursuing her master's degree. Thapa hopes one day to receive her doctorate degree and return to Nepal to make an impact.
It is rumored that things are bigger in Texas. But, Liz Kennedy already knew that bigger didn't mean better. From a young age she heard stories about The W from her grandmother, and it wouldn't take long for her to discover some things never change.
A W leadership day first brought the senior communications major to The W all the way from Rogers, Texas. Once arriving to the friendly campus, she realized it was just the way her grandmother Frances Hairston described. Kennedy immediately fell in love with the atmosphere of the university and everyone she met.
Francis Hairston first graduated from The W-- then named Mississippi State College for Women--in 1961. She would later return to her alma mater and earn another degree in 2013. "She tells stories of how they loved The W so much, and students love it now just like they did," described Kennedy. "We just don't have the rules, like having to be in the dorms at 11, like she did." At first, it was the affordability that really piqued Kennedy's interest in The W. She knew that going to a university or college outside of Texas could provide some challenges, but quickly found answers with the scholarship opportunities at The W.
Kennedy was grateful for all of the answers that the admissions office provided her. She remembers that Cassie Derden was always friendly and willing to help. Derden was the director of admissions at that time, but has since retired.
"They answered any questions that I had, whether it was about financial aid, tuition or helping with classes."
From being a member of the Revelers Social Club to being involved with the Baptist Student Union, Kennedy has made many connections and friendships on campus. But, the ones that have meant the most have come from the faculty. "I appreciate Dr. Melissa Smith for providing real-life experience, Dr. Brian Anderson for the ability to have sit-down conversations and Dr. Paul Mack for just knowing my name even after I finished his class," she explained.
Kennedy plans to graduate in May. She hasn't decided on whether she will stay in Columbus or not, but said she will probably continue with her self-described nomadic ways and move on. Until graduation, she looks forward to exciting spring classes, interning at GHS graphics and working in The W's Writing Center.
"I am most excited about my upcoming senior seminar class where all my work comes together and I put together my very own portfolio," she said.
A career in nursing has always been the goal of W junior Nick Crump. Whether inspiration came from his mother, who is a former nurse, or his enjoyment of helping others, Crump has always known the path for him.
Crump's college career started at Holmes Community College where he enrolled to complete his basic courses. Knowing that he would need to be well-trained and knowledgeable in the field of nursing, he began searching for a university that could equip him for success. "I knew that The W was the best in the state and was at the top of the list," he said. "With the NCLEX pass rate being 98.95 percent, it really drew me in," said Crump. "The NCLEX is a big deal."
Crump first visited The W with his family on an official campus tour. Crump recalled meeting with admissions counselor Timothy Hopkins and touring campus, finding everyone friendly and welcoming.
"Coming here, at first, threw me off. I have always liked big, big, big. But, because The W is small, I've gotten to know the students and professors. You create a bond with each other because you see the same people every day," said Crump.
Not much has changed since his first tour, except he is now an ASN nursing student. He still finds faculty welcoming and most importantly caring for his success and future. Crump realizes that nursing school is challenging, making him find his inner drive and improve his study habits. But, this has not slowed his academic work ethic. He continues to challenge himself by taking trigonometry while being in nursing school this semester.
"Going to the hospitals to work with patients, showing them compassion and using my skills is what I enjoy the most," answered Crump when asked his favorite part of nursing school. The Brandon native hopes to return home after graduating. He has the ultimate goal of completing his bachelor of science in nursing and going on to become a nurse practitioner after a few years of practice. Crump hopes to use his nursing skills in a hospital with the goal of helping others.