JTC 24: Choosing Home

Daneel Konnar applies the value of hard work to academics, extracurricular activities and more

A young man wearing a gray T-shirt stands outside a brick building.

This story is part of the 2024 Journey to Commencement series, which celebrates the pinnacle of the academic year by highlighting University of Mississippi students and their outstanding academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.

In the 1980s, Daneel Konnar's parents immigrated to the United States from Malaysia, and his father began working for a hotel management company with a property in Jackson. His family moved to Meridian several years later to start their own hotel business.

"At a young age, my parents took a chance on the state of Mississippi as immigrants," he said. "That's how it became home."

As a child, Konnar often worked alongside his parents at the hotel, assisting the front desk, housekeeping and maintenance staff with tasks while learning the value of hard work and service.


Daneel Konnar (left) and Samantha Sepe, Mr. and Miss Ole Miss, wave to the crowd from the field at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium during halftime of the Rebel's 2023 homecoming game against Vanderbilt. Submitted photo

"This was such a pivotal part of my life growing up," he said. "During that time, my parents instilled in me the value of hard work, studying hard and going to college."

While Mississippi has always been home, Konnar longed to travel outside the state and explore new experiences at a young age. Initially, he didn't see himself attending the University of Mississippi.

"There was no draw," he said.

However, after attending the APEX Leadership Summit during the summer between his junior and senior years, Konnar was impressed by how the university could attract like-minded, hardworking students from across Mississippi.

He decided to consider Ole Miss, and, in November of his senior year, he and his family visited campus.

"That day was remarkable," he said. "Aside from my parents, my admissions counselor, Megan Thomas, was the reason why I chose Ole Miss. She went the extra mile to showcase the university to me and its impact on our state."

At the end of the tour, Thomas encouraged Konnar to apply for the Ole Miss Women's Council Scholarship, among others he had selected. Konnar was skeptical because of its name, but Thomas assured him and his family that the scholarship is awarded to students of all genders who demonstrate exceptional leadership skills.


Daneel Konnar (left), Emmie Burgess and Harrison Stewart stand at the U.S. Capitol during their summer internship for the U.S. House of Representatives. Submitted photo

Within a few months, Konnar interviewed and was awarded the scholarship.

"It was then that I realized that the (Sally McDonnell Barksdale) Honors College, the Trent Lott Leadership program and the Ole Miss Women's Council were providing me the opportunity to get a world-class education right here in my home state of Mississippi," he said. "I felt that Ole Miss had chosen me."

Konnar is graduating in May with a degree in public policy leadership, as well as minors in political science and higher education. During his time at the university, he served as the Student Activities Association executive director and vice president of the Columns Society, and was voted Mr. Ole Miss, IFC Greek Man of the Year and, most recently, inducted into the university's Hall of Fame.

However, his journey was not without its challenges. Konnar had to learn to strike a balance between achieving academic excellence and his overwhelming extracurricular activities. He credits the discipline instilled in him by his parents from a young age for helping him achieve his goals.

"You only have so much time in a day," he said. "And you need to respect that time, complete your tasks and also make the most of it."

Konnar advises prospective students on this as well. He emphasizes the importance of finding a community of people who can lift you up and of taking advantage of numerous opportunities on campus.

In the future, Konnar hopes to travel outside his home state for law school and eventually return to Mississippi to work on policy initiatives that will benefit the state and its people.

"Mississippi is home to me, the University of Mississippi has built me, and the least I can do is give back to our state," he said. "I will always be proud to say I am from Mississippi."

See more photos from Daneel Konnar's Journey to Commencement


Sri Chattopadhyay, University Marketing and Communications



April 29, 2024


Daneel Konnar

A family stands on a patio.

Daneel Konnar (left) spends time with his mother, Heather Konnar; father, Rama Konnar; and brother, Veshal Konnar, during a vacation. Submitted photo

A group of young people stands at a scenic overlook.

Daneel Konnar (right) takes in the sights with (from left) fellow Ole Miss students Shane Houston Stephens, Walker Jay Patterson, Alex Patterson and Patten Trotter during their summer study abroad trip to Florence, Italy, in 2023. Submitted photo

A group of people stands in front of an Ole Miss Women's Council banner.

Daneel Konnar (second from left) gets to meet country music legend Dolly Parton (center) with fellow Ole Miss Women's Council scholars at the 2022 OMWC Legacy Award event. Parton was presented the Legacy Award at the event. Submitted photo

Three young women and two young men stand together in front of a tent-lined park.

Daneel Konnar (left) hangs out with friends in the Grove before the 2023 Ole Miss vs. Louisiana-Monroe football game. Submitted photo

A group of men holds a giant check.

Daneel Konnar (third from right) and his fraternity brothers in Phi Delta Theta present a check to Chancellor Glenn Boyce (center) for the Live Like Lou Foundation for ALS Research. The fraternity has helped raise more than $79,000 for this cause. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Two young men and a young woman pose at a gala.

Daneel Konnar (left), Grace Barrett and Porter May attend a Mardi Gras ball in Washington, D.C. Submitted photo

A group of young people stands on concrete steps.

Daneel Konnar (back, center) gathers with friends outside Pittman Hall, their freshman year residence hall. Submitted photo

A group of young people wearing T-shirts pose for a photo.

Daneel Konnar (left) gathers with fellow Ole Miss orientation leaders during the annual orientation leader retreat at Camp Hopewell. Submitted photo

A group of young men stand on bleachers at a football stadium before a game.

Daneel Konnar (right) and friends gather in the south endzone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium before an Ole Miss football game. Submitted photo

A group of young people stand at a large table at the edge of a park.

Daneel Konnar (center) and friends man his campaign table for the Mr. Ole Miss election on the Student Union plaza. Submitted photo