The Student Government Association of Southern Miss held homecoming elections Sept. 25 and 27. Meet the winners of Mr. and Ms. Southern Miss, Jonathan Brent and Imani Harris.
Mr. Southern Miss Jonathan Brent is a senior accounting major from Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Being in close proximity to campus has facilitated a lifelong love for Southern Miss for Brent. Both his parents and grandparents attended Southern Miss, and his grandfather even taught at the university.
“Southern Miss has always been in my blood,” Brent said. “I’ve always been here on weekends for games and stuff. Every stage in my life, Southern Miss has always been a vital part in it. My college decision wasn’t hard at all for me.”
Being a student at Southern Miss has given Brent a new personal attachment to the institution. Going to sports games on campus and serving the community has been an influential part of Brent’s Southern Miss story. He has served as a member of Southern Style and is a part of the Honors College, Eagle Connection, Eagle Elite, SGA, the IFC board and Pi Kappa Phi, among other organizations.
Brent decided to campaign for Mr. Southern Miss to represent the university and encourage student involvement.
“I see all the drop-off in involvement—whether that’s a lack of people running for elections, not associating with any organizations, or a lack of people going to and staying at football games,” Brent said. “I think that there’s an increase in the students who may hop in their car, go to class, go back in their car and go home.”
Brent hopes to instill a love and sense of pride for Southern Miss in students and change the culture of non-involvement.
“I hope you can see that’s kind of the common thread of how much I love and would do for this place, and I hope others can feel that love and dive-in like that, whether they have one year left, one month left, or all four years left,” Brent said.
Brent is appreciative of everyone who voted for him and offered him support through this election.
“It’s been one of the craziest weeks of my life, but I would love to thank everybody. Know it’s for them and it’s not just for me. Thank you Southern Miss,” Brent said.
Imani Harris was elected as Ms. Southern Miss. Harris is a public relations major from Petal, Mississippi.
“I am passionate about women, helping them find their purposes and creating spaces for them to explore identity and find their voices. I think my involvement portrays that fact very well,” Harris said.
Harris was a part of Southern Style 2018 and is current the student advisor and past president for the Afro-American Student Organization. She is also the founder and president of Queens Uplifted, an organization dedicated for creating safe space for black women on campus to explore identity.
Harris’ journey to becoming Ms. Southern Miss was a long-running dream.
“I decided to run because it has always been my dream to be Miss Southern Miss. My sophomore year it started out as a superficial or shallow thought, but it slowly became a title I truly believed I embodied,” Harris said.
Harris originally deterred herself from running because she believed her lack of Greek affiliation would not allow her to win. She said that she is grateful for winning because of the meaning behind the vote.
“This has meant the most to me because of the implications of me winning,” Harris said. “It implies that Southern Miss doesn’t care who you are or where you come from. It implies that you can be and do whatever you want to do at this university. It implies that you can put a little trust in the fact that people will see your work, your heart, and want to reward you for it. It implies that you can trust Southern Miss.”
Harris ran a campaign called “Find your Voice,” where she highlighted others’ Southern Miss stories through a blog and other social media platforms.
“The ‘Find your Voice’ campaign is an extension of my Southern Miss story,” Harris said. “It’s the idea that Southern Miss takes you where you are, embraces you, loves you, and then places you back and your feet feeling like you are more of yourself than you’ve ever been. This university equips you and helps you to find and learn to use your voice to better yourself, the people here, and this university as a whole.”
Like Brent, Harris also wants to help students find their place on the Southern Miss campus and reach their full potential. Harris showcased the stories of prominent student leaders to help inspire those who haven’t found their voice to do so at Southern Miss.
“Southern Miss helped me find my voice by giving me the space to create an organization that helped me figure out who I was by helping other women through the processes of finding themselves. I have been able to directly involve myself with helping other people find their voices and create their Southern Miss stories,” Harris said.
Harris aims to keep sharing stories of confident, capable student leaders in order to show others that they can find their voices, spaces and community on campus.
“This campaign isn’t something that should just stop because the elections are over. I also would love to take this project into the greater Hattiesburg community to help younger students begin to find their voices as well. My Southern Miss story is awesome but it would’ve been a lot less painful if I knew a little bit of who I was before I got here. Students don’t have to wait to decide,” Harris said.
Mr. and Ms. Southern Miss will be featured in the homecoming parade at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, and will be recognized at the homecoming football game later that day.