Gazel Giles takes on Community Enrichment position with Ole Miss

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, August 1, 2017

By Pam Starling

University of Mississippi

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

“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 a 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 Ole Miss Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and later in the university’s Facilities Planning Office.

A full-time position became available in the facilities planning office, and Giles landed the job. As a receptionist there, Giles 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,” she said. “It was a great experience for me.”

In 2014, Giles joined the UM Staff Council to represent her department. Two years later, 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 continued her education by taking 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 works with UM’s noncredit, professional development and lifelong learning programs. She will coordinate the Communiversity short-term, noncredit 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.

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

“She has outstanding customer service skills,” Leach 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 firsthand 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.”