Women's Council Program Helps Students' Dreams Come True

Global Leadership Circle funds 'experience of a lifetime'

Two young women cross a stone street in the Pompei archaeological site.

OXFORD, Miss. – For about as long as she can remember, Emmie Burgess, an Ole Miss Women's Council for Philanthropy scholar at the University of Mississippi, has dreamed of traveling to Italy, a nation that historians have long considered one of the cradles of Western civilization.

"I've had a lifelong interest in Italy," said Burgess, a senior public policy leadership major who also minors in Italian. "When I began studying Italian my sophomore year at Ole Miss, I fell in love with the language.

"I always wanted to study abroad, but the financial burden to do so made my dream to study in Italy difficult to achieve."

Two young women stand in front of a church in Naples, Italy.

Emmie Burgess (right), a senior public policy leadership major, and a friend enjoy visiting Napoli, a city in Italy that most visitors call Naples. The Ole Miss Women's Council for Philanthropy provided funding for Burgess to study in Italy through its Global Leadership Circle. Submitted photo

The Women's Council's Global Leadership Circle recently made her vision come true.

The OMWC established the GLC in 2017 to provide the financial assistance deserving students need to study abroad or participate in a national or international internship. Council scholars who have a minimum 3.0 GPA can apply for the support.

The GLC made it possible for Burgess and three other OMWC scholars to study abroad last summer: Caroline Brock, of Greenwood, traveled to Paris; Daneel Konnar, of Meridian, toured Florence, Italy; and Ben Oliver, of Jonesboro, Arkansas, studied in Geneva and Vienna.

Burgess said her four weeks in Italy were life-changing academically and personally.

When her father, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was stationed in Spain, he traveled to various parts of Europe, with Italy being especially memorable.

"My dad told me stories of his travels to Italy and claimed that the Amalfi Coast was the most beautiful place he ever visited," said Burgess, who grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas. "My classes were in Salerno, Italy, which is a small town on the Amalfi Coast, so I was able to see the same stunning area of the country he saw many years ago."

While the views were exquisite, this region of Italy also provided an opportunity for the student to enhance her language skills.

"Because this area is not a common tourist destination, few people who live and work there speak English, so I was forced to speak Italian everywhere I went," Burgess said. "This was an immersive experience that could not be replicated in the classroom.

"We are an interconnected world, and understanding how to properly interact with different cultures is an invaluable skill."

This is precisely why the Women's Council created the GLC, said Karen Moore, of Nashville, Tennessee, a Women's Council member who is one of the GLC founders and serves as its chair.

"The members of the council want to provide our scholars with a generous academic scholarship," Moore said. "We're also committed to sponsoring innovative study abroad and internship programs that offer unique opportunities for these scholars to be future leaders, mentors and philanthropists.

Two young women stand in front of a Greek temple.

Emmie Burgess (right) and a friend tour the ruins of ancient Greek temples in Paestum, Italy. Submitted photo

"The resources available from the Global Leadership Circle enable our scholars to expand their horizons, appreciate other countries and cultures and continue their commitment to making the world a better place."

While the many academic and cultural lessons Burgess acquired during her month abroad were often challenging, she said they were all indispensable.

"My classes were extremely difficult but yielded incredible results," she said. "Before I arrived in Italy, I didn't know enough Italian to properly order a coffee. By the time I left, I was able to converse – very slowly – with our servers and tour guides in Italian."

She completed all the academic requirements for her minor in Italian while enjoying a variety of cultural experiences. This also helped keep her on track to graduate this May.

The resources for Burgess' study abroad program included several meals and excursions, enabling her to enjoy the region's delicious cuisine, explore the southern Italian coast and visit the ancient city of Pompeii. She also took a pizza-making class.

"Prior to this experience, I had rarely traveled outside the southern United States," she said. "I would encourage other students to go simply because for me it was the experience of a lifetime."

For more information on the GLC or to make a gift in support of the program, contact Suzanne Helveston, OMWC program director, at shelveston@olemiss.edu or 662-915-2956.


Jonathan Scott


Office, Department or Center


February 13, 2024