Annual OMWC event hosts JSU students, partners with RCK Lecture Series

The PULSE 2024 Leadership Conference is already one of the premier leadership conferences offered to University of Mississippi students. Yet the annual conference enhanced its reputation earlier in the spring semester by welcoming students from Jackson State University.

“The 2024 PULSE Conference was a great success,” said Candie L. Simmons, a member of the Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC), the scholarship organization that hosts the event.

“We had an incredible speaker lineup with engaged students and record attendance,” Simmons said. “This year’s conference included a collaboration with the Jackson State University Women’s Council Scholars, and we look forward to having them back on campus when the PULSE Conference returns early in 2025.”

Rhea Williams-Bishop, director of Mississippi and New Orleans Programs and the chair of the JSU Women’s Council, said she and the other members of the JSU group, which included seven students, a staff member and a volunteer, attending the PULSE Leadership Conference were impressed by all the annual event had to offer.

“It was so worthwhile because the PULSE Conference provided our students with an opportunity to be exposed to new experiences, gain some additional resources and network with some outstanding people,” Williams-Bishop said.

“The speakers were great, and the Ole Miss Women’s Council should be applauded for hosting this event for students,” she said. “We look forward to returning to PULSE, strengthening our relationships, acquiring even more resources and learning from the inspirational and informative speakers who so generously share their knowledge and expertise with the students.

“We also look forward to inviting Ole Miss students to JSU for learning experiences in the near future.”

Another new element introduced at PULSE (Preparing Undergraduate Leaders, Student Experience) this year was partnering this event with another OMWC initiative – the Robert C. Khayat Lecture Series. Held periodically throughout the year, the lecture series brings celebrated thought-leaders, entrepreneurs and philanthropists to campus to inspire others by sharing their ideas and experiences.

The PULSE Conference students were invited to a private meet-and-greet with Dexter McCluster, the former Ole Miss and NFL standout who returned to UM as an RCK Lecture Series featured speaker. The students then enjoyed McCluster’s presentation at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

Several university organizations participated in the conference by sharing information and materials about campus resources. These included the Counseling Center, the Career Center, the William Magee Center for AOD and Wellness Education, the Center for Community Engagement and the Writing Center.

All conference attendees were invited to presentations that focused on Igniting Your Career, Personal Branding, and Entrepreneurship. Students could also select among various breakout sessions that explored topics such as The Art of Public Speaking, Work-Life Balance, Burnout and Setting Boundaries, The Empathetic Leader and Demystifying the Interview.

“These breakout sessions are always one of the unique strengths of the PULSE Conference because they allow students to tailor their conference experience to their specific needs and interests,” said Miley Ray, an OMWC Scholar from Jackson, Mississippi, who graduated in May.

Ray recalled that when she participated in her first PULSE Conference as a freshman in 2021, she and the other attendees had to do so virtually because of the pandemic. While she enjoyed the conference and gained much from the experience, she appreciated having the opportunity on the PULSE Student Advisory Committee to share her input on the subsequent conferences held during her sophomore and junior years.

“I jumped at the chance to help influence the organization and promote the event so it could bounce back from the challenges that COVID-19 created,” she said.

When she began her senior year in August 2023, Ray volunteered to assist with the conference one last time.

“I thought it would be beneficial to have the input of a student who had attended the conference as a guest and as an assistant planner,” she said. “The conference is a great way to connect with like-minded students from different campus organizations and groups and foster the development of skills critical to being efficient leaders.

“I love the direction the conference is headed in as more students from Ole Miss and other universities are getting engaged and its exceptional reputation is expanding across our campus and around the state and region. I’m grateful for all the leaders and speakers who share their diverse expertise with undergraduate students during an important stage of our lives.”

For Aspen Treadwell, a JSU student, this year’s PULSE Conference was her first to attend. She said she was enormously impressed by the event. One of her favorite conference sessions focused on how to better maintain a healthy work-life balance.

“As involved and fully engaged college students, we tend to lose our work-life balance, and then we experience burnout because we sometimes forget how to say, ‘No,’” she said. “This session was very insightful as to what we as students can do to better manage our work-life balance, avoid burning out, learn how to set boundaries and still be productive, stress free and impactful.

“All of the speakers were knowledgeable and purposeful – and I had so much fun!”

For more information, visit the OMWC’s website at

By Jonathan Scott/UM Development