Miss Ole Miss Uses Title to Spread Awareness on Mental Health
By Paige Briscoe
Jessica Tran, hailing from Hattiesburg, Mississippi is an Ole Miss senior studying biochemistry. She’s also Miss Ole Miss, and she’s using her title to raise awareness for mental health.
Through this honor, she represents the Ole Miss student population alongside Mr. Ole Miss, Chauncey Mullins. As Miss and Mr. Ole Miss, Tran and Mullins have teamed up under one platform: mental health awareness.
Miss Ole Miss serves as a representative of the University of Mississippi by representing the students of Ole Miss at various campus events and speaking engagements and also by establishing a philanthropic platform with Mr. Ole Miss.
It was during the spring of Tran’s junior year that she looked around and felt like something big was going to happen for her leadership career at the University of Mississippi.
“I had this gut feeling. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I really do love this place, and I want everyone to experience this powerful feeling,’” she said.
Tran wanted to see how she could reach as many people as possible for a good cause, and she knew then she wanted to run for Miss Ole Miss.
As the President of the Ole Miss chapter of Active Minds, an organization that empowers students to speak up about mental health in order to bring awareness to those around them, Tran was already a leader on campus for mental health awareness.
“Ole Miss is below average when it comes to mental health statistics and resources, especially compared to other SEC schools like Auburn,” Tran said. “Organizations like Active Minds on the Ole Miss campus help with programming efforts and let students know that it’s okay to feel bad sometimes.”
While she credits Active Minds as being a great outlet and awareness tool for students, Tran also realizes that Active Minds cannot professionally treat anyone.
“That is when I decided I was going to center my Miss Ole Miss campaign on mental health awareness,” she said.
Tran wanted to improve campus mental health resources, help students find support for their mental health and improve the stigma surrounding mental health.
During her Miss Ole Miss campaign, what guided Tran was a support system: her campaign team. The Ole Miss student body came out to help paint her sign, campaign on Business Row and rally behind her.
“One of the best feelings of the week was when someone would tell me how much fun they had meeting someone new while campaigning,” she said. “This brought so many students together from all types of backgrounds and interests. By having these people getting connected, it brought so much gratitude and strength to me during that crazy week.”
Throughout the whole campaign to become Miss Ole Miss, Tran says the best moment of the experience was during the primary election when she told her campaign team to meet by the Lyceum’s flagpole.
“I remember walking up to the crowd, and it was so chilling and moving to see all of these people supporting me and believing in me when I didn’t believe in myself,” she said. “This was by far the best moment of my life, over winning and over the whole process. That was my defining moment.”
Winning Miss Ole Miss wasn’t even the best part about her experience, Tran said. She looks forward to serving the Ole Miss community alongside Mullins and educating students on the mental health resources available for them, from the counseling center to the William Magee Center for Wellness Education.
Mullins called Tran one of the best leaders he has met.
“She is never too busy to help a friend, and she makes the best out of a stressful situation,” Mullins said. “While standing next to her on Business Row during the campaign, I saw her passion for this school and its people. She makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world during a conversation. I walk away from every conversation in a better mood, usually laughing and feeling like I can conquer the world.”
Tran is excited to have a platform for mental health awareness. As she continues to serve and educate the Ole Miss community, she says this is only the beginning for her future.