This story is part of the "Journey to Commencement" series that highlights University of Mississippi students and their academic and personal journeys from college student to college graduate.
Every morning, five days a week, after working an overnight shift in the Memphis area, Emma "Lee" Floyd kisses her husband and two children goodbye and drives an hour to Oxford to study dietetics and nutrition at the University of Mississippi.
When her boys were 5 and 6 years old in 2015, Floyd, who lives in Olive Branch, decided to leave the workforce and pursue a college degree. She enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Southaven to study human resource management but quickly learned that her personal passion for health and nutrition was too strong to keep her on the HR career track.
"(My passion) actually started back in 2000," Floyd said. "I was going through a pretty tough time in my life and gained a lot of weight. Within five months, I lost 60 pounds. I completely changed my diet. I studied nutrition, like what and when to eat. I ran and worked out every day but Sunday."
Floyd's physical transformation and her desire to provide her family with evidence-based nutrition education were driving forces behind an early transfer to UM's Oxford campus, where she met Emmy Parkes, director of the didactic program in dietetics.
"Lee worked nights for most of her undergraduate career in order to pay for school," Parkes said. "When I had her for medical nutrition therapy class, she arrived for our 8 a.m. class straight from an overnight shift, and she was never late and never fell asleep."
Floyd works almost 40 hours a week as an overnight stocker at the Sam's Club in Bartlett, Tennessee. She explained that in her final undergraduate semester at Ole Miss, she is taking only nine hours – a break from the 18 hours she took in the fall and full course loads in previous semesters.
Emma "Lee" Floyd will earn her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition in May. Among many other faculty members, she credits Janie Cole, registered dietitian who teaches undergraduate coursework and directs the Coordinated Program in Dietetics, with helping along her commencement journey. Photo by Megan Wolfe/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services
Fostering relationships with faculty members, including Parkes and associate professor Laurel Lambert, was the most significant part of her experience at Ole Miss. But Janie Cole, registered dietitian who teaches undergraduate coursework and directs the Coordinated Program in Dietetics, is at the top of her list of great faculty mentors.
"They have been really great at helping me and giving me the confidence to keep going on," Floyd said.
Tears well up in Floyds' eyes when asked if anyone in particular helped her along her journey. She explained that unending support from her husband, Brad, and two children, Braxton and Bryson, who are 10 and 11, respectively, was critical in achieving this first milestone in higher education.
After Floyd walks across the graduation stage in May for her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and Nutrition, she will begin the competitive UM Coordinated Program in Dietetics in August. She is interested in practicing as a registered dietitian in pediatric nutrition or food service administration.
Story by Sarah Sapp/University of Mississippi School of Applied Sciences