Oscar Leal '05, '06

While Oscar Leal is as comfortable whether he’s playing cello or working in the south Mississippi banking industry, the road for this University of Southern Mississippi graduate seemed an unlikely path from his native Mexico.

Leal says it was his passion for playing the cello that opened the opportunity to come to Southern Miss. While visiting his sister in Hattiesburg, Leal had the chance to audition for the University’s symphony orchestra. After hearing him audition, director Jay Dean offered Leal a full scholarship.

A native of Mexico City, Leal played in the Southern Miss Symphony Orchestra for four years while earning bachelor’s degrees in both music and finance. Leal has been honored to play on the same stage with such prestigious names as Placido Domingo, Itzhak Perlman and Doc Severinsen.

Leal describes the University as a place of immense opportunity and is just one example of a growing international and diverse student population at Southern Miss. About four percent of Southern Miss’ enrollment is international students.

“I’m really glad to have gotten my education at Southern Miss,” Leal said. “It offered me all of the possibilities I could have ever imagined, but the University also had everything I was looking for, the chance to play in a prestigious orchestra and to major in business and finance as well.”

Leal knew relatively little English when he came to Mississippi six years ago. Despite the obvious cultural and language barriers, Leal graduated with honors in both of his selected majors while learning English in a “trial by fire” fashion.

Last summer he earned his Master of Business Administration along with the Outstanding Graduate Student Award from the College of Business. It is the achievement of a graduate degree that has brought Leal the greatest sense of achievement while preparing him for success in the business world.

Now a resident of the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Leal works for Regions Bank in Gulfport as a credit underwriter in commercial lending and says the bank is a great place to work and develop as a professional.

When asked if he would recommend the University to other students, Leal said, “absolutely.”

“I love the whole college experience, the symphony, college football, and the College of Business,” Leal said. “I think it’s a great place to go as far as opportunities. Most of the memories I have at Southern Miss are good. I would go back.”

Leal says he hopes to one day earn his doctorate and begin teaching at a university.