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Oxford's Giles Takes on Community Enrichment Position with UM

Local looking forward to organizing inspiring programs and continuing education opportunities.

Gazel Giles

Gazel Giles of Oxford has taken the reins of UM's Communiversity enrichment program to plan their fall slate of classes. The Oxford native is looking forward to helping community members learn new hobbies as well as enhance their skills for business and professional development.

OXFORD— After graduating from Lafayette High School in 2002, Gazel Giles had a dream of helping others. She wanted to go into the nursing field but family responsibilities and needing to work 40 hours a week left little time for her to attend college so she trained for a position as a dialysis technician at a clinic in Oxford.

“I enjoyed working with patients,” Giles said. “Knowing that I was making a difference in their lives made it enjoyable to come to work.”

Giles took courses at Northwest Community College in Oxford part-time when she could, and in 2011 she was ready to pursue her dream of completing her bachelor’s degree. She enrolled at the University of Mississippi to begin classes in the psychology program.

“I was thinking of working as a counselor or case manager,” Giles said. “I felt like I was called to continue making a difference in others’ lives.”

After graduation, Giles needed to stay in Oxford as she was raising her children. She took a position in the Rebel Reserve temporary clerical pool and began serving as a secretary in the UM Athletics Department and later in the UM Facilities Planning Office.  A full-time position became available in facilities planning, and Giles was then selected to fullfill the role.

As a receptionist in the facilities planning office, Giles said she learned more about the SAP data management system, billing, organizing projects, and working with architects and contracts.

“I really enjoyed learning new things and meeting new people,” Giles said. “It was a great experience for me.”

In 2014 Giles joined the UM Staff Council to represent her department. In 2016 she was elected by her peers to serve as the president of the staff council for that year.

“I saw this as a way to represent my fellow staff members and help solve problems in a positive way,” Giles said.  “I wanted to make a difference. This position taught me so much about working with university and community leaders.”

During this time Giles was also continuing her education as she took classes toward a master’s degree in higher education. She graduated in May.

This spring Giles applied and was chosen for a position in the UM Division of Outreach as a coordinator of continuing education programs.

“I felt I could be a strong example of the benefits of continuing your education,” Giles said.  “I took classes when I could, raised my family, stopped classes, worked, and started classes again.  I had a dream and just pursued it when the opportunity came along.  I’m grateful that I had those opportunities.”

In her new position Giles will work with UM’s non-credit, professional development, and lifelong learning programs.  She will coordinate the Communiversity short-term, non-credit classes that support community members who want to learn new skills. These programs are open to anyone in the community, including retirees, Ole Miss students, and family members of all ages.  

Mary Leach, director of UM’s Office of Professional Development and Lifelong Learning said that Giles’ outgoing personality and experience in event planning will be factors that will contribute to her success in this position.

“She has outstanding customer service skills,” Leach recently said. “She’s willing to go the extra mile in getting the job done. I think her experience as president of the staff council will add to our department’s mission by fostering relationships on and off campus that will help us provide quality programs to those that we serve.”

In a recent ballroom dance class offered by Communiversity, Giles said she was able to witness first-hand how this program is enriching other’s lives.

“I watched one participant who was nervous and unsure of himself as the class began, but by the end of the session he was smiling and happy. He was able to spin his wife around the dance floor with confidence.”

“When I saw that, I knew for sure that this program was something I wanted to be a part of.”

For more information about UM’s Communiversity program, please visit outreach.olemiss.edu/communiversity.