In a way, Stephanie Barrett’s life has come full circle.
Raised in Starkville, Mississippi, by her widowed mother along with the help of her maternal uncle and both grandmothers – strong and dedicated family members who became her role models while supporting her financially – Barrett is now helping shape the lives and future career paths of University of Mississippi students.
With a $250,000 gift to the university, the Oxford, Mississippi, nurse practitioner and co-owner of Oxford Urgent Care Clinic established the Stephanie Gibson Barrett Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship Endowment.
Ole Miss Women’s Council for Philanthropy (OMWC) scholarships, at $40,000 each, are now among the top awards at Ole Miss. A total of 147 male and female students have benefited from the program.
“I am the first person in my family to graduate from college,” said Barrett, who earned her nursing degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in 1995. “Because I was that nursing student struggling financially and working multiple jobs to get through college, I decided to give this endowment to help others like me in the world.”
The OMWC began with a group of dedicated women committed to promoting philanthropy to sponsor innovative programs that would attract and develop students through leadership, scholarship and mentorship.
Barrett is one of those women. In 2016, she volunteered to help guide young people the way her matriarchs mentored her.
“Through a lot of prayer, time spent with my mentee and, after reflecting on my career and profession, I realized how important it is to establish this endowment,” Barrett said. “I hope it will help instill the qualities I’ve gained through my experience in the nursing profession into other young men or women who will then go on to do great things.”
In addition to financial assistance, Barrett’s mentees gain clinical experience and self-confidence working in her clinic.
“I learned so much and gained such valuable experience in this role that I have been able to apply as a student nurse,” said Amelia Dewitt of Alexandria, Louisiana. “Stephanie helped me feel prepared and confident to begin nursing school, and I am so grateful for the time and effort that she invested in me.”
Dewitt graduated from Ole Miss with a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, having majored in psychology. Now living in New York City, she credits the OMWC program and her relationship with Barrett for giving her the opportunity to pursue a nursing degree at New York University.
“Stephanie is more than just a mentor to me; I consider her a part of my family,” Dewitt said. “She helped me grow into the person I am today. Stephanie is extremely generous and unbelievably kind, and she knows how to brighten anyone’s day. Her selflessness is so inspiring, and I look up to her as my biggest role model.
“Stephanie is a nurse practitioner, business owner, mentor, donor, mother and wife, and I can only hope I can become half the woman she is one day.”
Barrett completed her nursing prerequisites in two years as a biology science major at Mississippi State University before finishing her undergraduate degree at The University of Mississippi Medical Center. She continued to work at UMMC as a registered nurse for three years before returning to school to earn her master’s degree in Nursing at Mississippi University for Women.
Barrett then resumed work at UMMC as a nurse practitioner in the emergency room before transferring to Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi.
In 2010, Barrett and her family moved to Oxford, Mississippi, where she and a business partner acquired Oxford Urgent Care Clinic after its first year in operation. Four years later, she helped open State Urgent Care Clinic in Starkville, Mississippi, which she continues to oversee as a partner with her sister.
Barrett and her husband, Richard, have three children: Lawson, 22, Mary Cannon, 19, and Anna, 18.
“Stephanie is giving those students dedicated to enriching the well-being of others the opportunity to build their healthcare futures through the well-rounded programming initiatives of the Women’s Council,” said chair Mary Susan Gallien Clinton of Naples, Florida.
OMWC scholars meet regularly with their mentors, weekly with OMWC staff members and once monthly enjoy a Red Plate Supper that offers home-style meals and inspiring speakers.
Women’s Council endowments can be created for $125,000 for a general scholarship or $250,000 for a scholarship designated for a particular major, such as Barrett’s for students seeking degrees in nursing.
Each scholarship is recognized with a dedication ceremony in the OMWC Rose Garden at the intersection of University Avenue and Old Taylor Road. The Mentor, a bronze sculpture at the center of the garden, watches over thousands of Ole Miss students as they pass by each day.
Other ways to support the OMWC include joining the Global Leadership Circle to help students study abroad or pursue internships. Memberships in the Rose Society and Rosebud Society help provide additional resources for student programming.
“Stephanie has served the Women’s Council as an excellent mentor, giving her scholars opportunities for hands-on clinic experience that they may not be able to have elsewhere. This really gives them great exposure to their field of interest,” said Suzanne Helveston, OMWC development associate.
“We are so grateful to Stephanie for establishing this scholarship, which will help generations of our scholars achieve their dreams of becoming nurses.”
For more information about establishing a scholarship, or joining the Global Leadership Circle, Rose Society or Rosebud Society, contact Suzanne Helveston at 662-915-2956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition, individuals can view the OMWC’s website (https://omwc.olemiss.edu).
By Lexie Harper