Professional Staff Perspective | “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Valencia Walls, Coordinator for the Office of Multicultural Programs and Services at The University of Southern Mississippi… In 1998, this would have never been the answer given to the age-old question “What do you want to be when you grow up?”  But here I am, 15 years later!Valencia1

Believe it or not, judging by my credentials after high school, I could have been viewed as a “marginal” student.  I registered late, ACT score was less than stellar, and if I’m honest, my high school average was not what I would consider outstanding.  Nonetheless, in the fall of 1998, I arrived on the campus of Southern Miss eager and ready to conquer the world.  I was excited about leaving my mark on campus…but I was not sure how.  I graduated from a small high school (32 members of my Senior class) and I felt like a minnow in a sea of sharks.  I ended up spending much of my freshman year homesick and disconnected from what I thought were supposed to be the best years of my life.  I reached out to my Resident Assistant in Jones Hall who encouraged me to connect with my hall mates and to join some student organizations.  As my freshman year ended, I made a vow that I would not go through my sophomore year the same way.  I would get involved.  That was one of the best decisions I ever made.

When I returned for my sophomore year, I became a member of the Afro-American Student Organization where I was active in the gospel choir and served on the community service committee.  I was also active in an organization called S.L.O.O. “Students Looking Out for Others”.  I truly enjoyed my involvement in these organizations.  It helped me to connect with my peers, led to networking opportunities and paved the way for many other opportunities.

By my junior year, I had truly found my niche and began to explore the possibility of joining a sorority.  It was always something I wanted to do and is the one experience I truly credit with polishing my love for Southern Miss and my life in general.  In the spring of 2001 I was initiated into Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. Lambda Theta chapter.  At the time, I had no idea the opportunities and life decisions that would stem from this one experience.  Six months after my initiation into Zeta, my peers elected me as President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC).  As President I had the joy of working in the Office of Greek Life and working closely with my mentors and friends Mrs. Wynde Fitts, Dr. Eddie Holloway and Ms. Delores McNair. My experiences with such wonderful mentors and friends, as an undergraduate, helped to open many professional doors for me.  Upon graduating, I became the Administrative Assistant for the Office of Greek Life at Southern Miss and decided to pursue a Masters in College Student Personnel Services which later helped land a job at Louisiana State University and ultimately brought me back home to Southern Miss.  I count it a privilege and a blessing to give back on a daily basis to not only the university that has given so much to me, but also the organizations.  As a professional, I have advised, ALL of the organizations that I was once a member and I work side-by-side with those who mentored me along the way.  So, you see, involvement as an undergraduate has truly shaped my life!

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April 22, 2001- after my new member presentation show for Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

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Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. at the Student Activities Involvement Fair

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NPHC Regional conference in Atlanta, GA. where we swept awards for our council

Valencia7Residence of Jones Hall 3rd floor in 1998

Valencia8Hanging out on the Commons (that’s Centennial Lawn now)

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