Nearly 1,800 students will graduate from The University of Southern Mississippi on Friday and Saturday.
Among the graduates are mother, Colleen Mestayer, and her daughter, Allison Tharp. They received their doctoral degrees from Southern Miss on Friday.
Mestayer said the experience was monumental and serial.
“I can’t believe its happening and that I’m getting my doctorate at the same time as my daughter,” Mestayer said. “It’s wonderful.”
Mestayer worked in the communications field for 16 years and worked another 12 years as an English teacher before she decided to get her PhD in Communication Studies.
“Life just worked out for me and I said what do you think if I go back to USM and get my doctorate? She’s like 'Oooh maybe,'” Mestayer said.
Tharp received her third degree from USM on Friday; a PhD in English. She said she was honored to share the moment with her mother.
“I was a little uneasy at first,” Tharp said. “But it ended up being an awesome decision. We learned that we actually get along as roommates. We’re more friends than mom and daughter.”
The pair are in different fields of work, but said they are inspired by each other.
“We still have to do the same thing,” Tharp said. “Take comprehensive exams, dissertation is pretty tough work. So having someone there going through it with me who understood just made me feel very comfortable throughout the whole process.”
Mestayer said, “She’s the smartest person I know and I just her perseverance and her tenacity, it’s incredible. I could have never gotten a doctorate when I was 27."
Two-time Student government Association President Jeffrey George served as the commencement speaker on Friday at the Hattiesburg Campus.
Miss America first runner-up Hannah Roberts will serve as a commencement speaker for the Gulf Park campus on Saturday.