Honors College senior Annabella Sills overcame health issues to earn degree, make UM Hall of Fame
During her sophomore and junior years, University of Mississippi senior Annabella Sills may have spent more time seeing her doctors than she did her professors.
“I faced personal health challenges during those years that caused great difficulty for me,” said the Meridian native who recently completed her Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship. “It was hard to balance schoolwork and extracurricular activities with constant doctor appointments and testing.”
How did Sills, a Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College student and 2020 UM Hall of Fame inductee, manage to overcome her challenges? By relying heavily upon her faith and the support of her friends in Reformed University Fellowship on campus and at Pinelake Church in Oxford, she said.
“Having a supportive community found through Pinelake and RUF made the defining difference in me not letting these difficulties define my collegiate experience,” Sills said. “These communities supported and loved me at my lowest points, reminding me the importance of perspective and prioritizing what matters most in life at the end of the day.”
Sills said she learned valuable life lessons such as the importance and prioritization of family and friends and the day-to-day differences that come from having a perspective based on faith in Jesus.
“Without these communities teaching me how to rely upon a strength other than my own through faith and how to find peace in the midst of a personal storm, I would not be the same person I am today,” she said.
Years before entering Ole Miss as a freshman, Sills’ journey to Commencement began with her visiting Oxford for football weekends with her family.
“I always dreamed about the day I would get to call the university home as a student,” she said.
Her dreams ultimately became a reality when she was offered admission into the Honors College.
“The Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College has been the cornerstone of my academic experience at Ole Miss,” Sills said. “The faculty are the best professors on campus who constantly go the extra mile to support their students.
“They somehow have found the perfect balance between challenging and encouraging as they continuously push students toward excellence both within and outside the classroom.”
Sills said her Honors College professors and staff pushed her to expand her academic horizons, take professional risks and challenge herself to simply dream bigger. They then helped provide Sills with the tangible support to do so.
“Without the SMBHC, I would not be where I am today or the same person I am,” Sills said. “My collegiate journey would have had a completely different trajectory. I honestly cannot imagine my Ole Miss experience without my HoCo family by my side through all of it.”
Sills has been a remarkable student, said Douglass Sullivan-Gonzalez, Honors College dean.
“Annabella has always worked to accomplish goals, even when an impediment threatened success,” he said. “She is driven to be both citizen and scholar in her community, and we are very proud of her accomplishments.”
As Sills graduates, she said “tiny moments” that others might define as mundane are what she will treasure the most.
Such things include seeing a friend on Business Row and walking to the Honors College. Late nights spent studying at the J.D Williams Library. Walking around the Square with friends after classes on a Friday to look for a dress for game days. Having deep conversations debating opposing views during office hours with professors. Cheering on the Rebels from The Pavilion the night before a big test or “locking the Vaught” on a Saturday night.
“It’s these moments that get lost in the nuance of the day that I’ll cherish the most,” Sills said. “I will fondly look back on all these times because they are ones that define the true collegiate experience that one gets to be a part of as an Ole Miss Rebel.”
Sills’ plans are to serve as an AmeriCorps member through City Year to provide socio-emotional and academic support to children within high-need and low-income school districts. No doubt, Sills’ faith will continue to guide her as she sets goals and fulfills her destiny.
“I am excited to continue living out my passion of mentorship blended with my love of education as I spend a year of service before pursuing my MBA,” Sills said. “I am excited to use my year of service as a launch board into a career in which I hope to make a positive impact in society specifically through providing innovative and multidisciplinary solutions within the education sector.”
By Edwin Smith/University Marketing & Communications