Taking An Unexpected Road

Amyaha Graham finds scholarships, mentor lead to success

Fewer than five years after enrolling at the University of Mississippi, Amyaha Graham is earning her second degree: a master’s in accountancy and data analytics.

Amyaha Graham and the other Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy seniors traveled to Denver, Colorado, prior to graduating from the University of Mississippi in 2023.

It’s just one of Graham’s many remarkable accomplishments. She’s received two scholarships, graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy, served as Class Marshal at the 2023 Patterson School of Accountancy commencement, was named a Taylor Medalist — the highest academic honor a UM student can receive — maintained a perfect GPA every semester, served as a mentor to other students, held jobs on and off campus and passed the CPA exam.

Graham also learned to drive a car, thanks to Margaret Seicshnaydre, Graham’s Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy life mentor.

“Because of Margaret’s patience and guidance, I’ll be able to drive myself to Nashville, Tennessee, this fall to begin my career with PwC, one of the Big Four accounting firms,” the 2024 graduate said.

Enrolling at Ole Miss was not part of her plans because the Clarksdale, Mississippi, native thought UM was too close to home.

Then Mark Wilder, dean of the Patterson School sent an email. Graham said: “It changed my life and put me on my path of true success.”

Wilder told Graham he thought she would flourish at UM’s accountancy school. He also offered her the Mississippi Delta Accountancy Scholarship, which provides financial support to students graduating from public high schools in the Mississippi Delta who are interested in pursuing accountancy degrees.

“It was an offer I could not pass up,” she said.

Margaret Seicshnaydre (left) served as Amyaha Graham’s Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy life mentor while Graham was a student at the University of Mississippi.

Also, Graham was invited to interview with the Ole Miss Women’s Council and offered a scholarship, which included mentoring, leadership training, and cultural and travel opportunities.

“I accepted both scholarships and started planning for my new life in Oxford,” she said.

Academically, the Patterson School was a perfect fit. Graham’s professors encouraged and challenged her, offered invaluable advice and guided her toward a rewarding profession.

Eager to start on a career path, Graham immediately explored possible internships as a freshman and received two offers. She chose one from PwC in Nashville, where she was able to shadow professionals and gain exposure to the world of data analytics.

More internship opportunities followed, and by the time she was finishing her degree, PwC offered her a full-time position as an assurance associate.

Amyaha Graham of Clarksdale, Mississippi, served as the Class Marshal at the 2023 Patterson School of Accountancy commencement.

“We in the Patterson School could not be more proud of Amyaha,” said Dean Wilder. “She provides a wonderful example for other students to follow and shows what hard work and discipline can accomplish.

“We believe Amyaha’s decision to come to Ole Miss and the Patterson School will change the trajectory of her life and her future generations. She is a true success story and I look forward to seeing all that Amyaha will accomplish professionally.”

Graham wants her career to serve as an example to Black students, who are underrepresented in the accounting profession.

“When I was in middle and high school, I didn’t know what accounting was,” she said. “I hope I can encourage more young African Americans to become a part of what I have found, which is a challenging, rewarding and fascinating profession.”

The Women’s Council’s scholarship provided Graham with access to another important support system she needed in the unfamiliar world of higher education.

“Aside from the financial benefits, the OMWC helped me become acclimated to campus,” Graham said. “Considering that I did not have many connections, the Women’s Council became my home away from home.”

OMWC Scholars receive a $40,000 scholarship and other benefits, such as meeting regularly with staff mentors as well as life and career mentors who offer extra support and guidance — just as Seicshnaydre provided Graham.

“Mentors like Margaret offer encouragement and advice that can be life-changing for our students,” said Suzanne Helveston, OMWC program director.

“These mentor-mentee pairings provide our scholars with a familiar face on days that can be challenging and someone with whom they can celebrate their accomplishments. Mentors can offer insight, wisdom and skills which cannot be acquired in the classroom.”

Seicshnaydre, a licensed professional counselor, provided Graham with invaluable guidance far beyond the automotive world.

Graham said during her freshman year, her mental health was “in a terrible place.”

In addition to earning two degrees during her five years as a student at Ole Miss, Amyaha Graham learned to drive a car thanks to her life mentor.

“Margaret put me in contact with a specific counselor in the university’s clinic known as the Center for Outreach and Personal Enrichment, or COPE. This counselor has been amazing,” she said. “She helped me deal with some buried emotions and provided me with the tools necessary to face difficult situations.”

Seicshnaydre helped Graham study for her driver’s permit and secure her first driver’s license.

“Margaret helped me when it came time to buy my first car and her husband has even taught me how to do some basic maintenance on my car, such as replacing a taillight, checking the tires and knowing how often to change the oil,” Graham said.

Having Seicshnaydre, Graham realized how important mentoring can be. Consequently, during her sophomore year, she began serving as a peer mentor to another student majoring in accountancy.

“Upon starting my graduate degree, I had my second opportunity to serve as a peer mentor,” she said. “Both opportunities have been amazing learning experiences and have been integral to my personal growth.”

Graham’s commitment to her goals, desire to take on new challenges and courage to step outside her comfort zone continually impresses Seicshnaydre.

“Amyaha is someone who doesn’t let anything stand in her way,” she said. “She regularly pursues opportunities to expand her life experiences. Amyaha’s courage, commitment, energy and work ethic inspire me again and again.

“In addition to her serious commitment, she’s a lot of fun and is always up for an adventure. Over the years, I’ve helped her celebrate her successes and we have shared many meals, walks and long conversations. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her family and she has become like a member of mine.”

Jonathan Scott/UM Development