Naturalized citizen named MSU-Meridian Outstanding Graduate

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MERIDIAN, Miss.—For many in Mississippi and around the world, COVID-19 brought heartbreak and loss. For one Mississippi State-Meridian graduate student, however, the pandemic brought an opportunity for growth and personal achievement.

Grounded from traveling due to COVID restrictions, Mariam Khmaladze, a native of the Republic of Georgia, spent her spare time knocking out two important personal goals.

The first was to return to school, so she enrolled as a Master of Business Administration student.

“I had been thinking about going back to earn my MBA for a while and when the GMAT was waived at State because of the pandemic, I thought this would be the perfect time,” she said.

As a result of her hard work and dedication, Khmaladze recently was selected Outstanding Graduate Student for the Division of Business at the MSU-Meridian campus. She also recognized as Distance Student Volunteer of the Year and Individual Excellence in Community Service by the MSU Maroon Volunteer Center and Student Leadership & Community Engagement. 

Now a credit analyst II at Citizens National Bank, Khmaladze went to work at the financial institution after earning her undergraduate degree in business at MSU-Meridian where she also was recognized as 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Student, as well as the recipient of the university’s premier Spirit of State Award.

“I honestly never thought I would end up in banking since all my work experience has been in retail and my minor was in marketing,” she said. “But when I got the opportunity through connections I’d made at MSU-Meridian, I jumped on it.”

Although apprehensive because she did not have much experience in banking or as a credit analyst, Khmaladze realized once she was on the job just how well-prepared she was.

“My professors and the accounting and financial classes I took—specifically financial ratio and statements—gave me the background I needed,” she said. “Combined with the practical on-the-job experience CNB has provided, as well as the incredible company culture and supportive team of people who help me, the knowledge I gained at MSU-Meridian prepared me for success. Now, I really can’t imagine doing anything else.”

When not at the bank or doing schoolwork, Khmaladze, who moved to the U.S. in 2014 from the Republic of Georgia, was busy with another goal—to become a naturalized citizen, which she accomplished in 2020.
“I’ve wanted to do this for years, but I had to wait until I’d been a permanent resident for at least five years,” she said. “That didn’t happen until 2019. It took the pandemic to light a fire under me to get it done. I couldn’t be happier!”

With an insatiable desire for learning, Khmaladze is already contemplating her next goal or project once she graduates.

“It may sound odd, but I have been considering working part time in a restaurant on evenings and weekends,” she said. “I think it would help me gain a better understanding of what it takes to operate a business in the food industry, which in turn would help make me a better analyst at the bank. I also have a dream one day, way off in the future of course, of opening a Georgian restaurant to introduce people to the food and culture of my birth country. Whether or not that ever happens, I feel the experience working in a restaurant now would benefit me.”

A trip to Spain this fall is also on her calendar. She plans to tour the country with a few childhood friends from the Republic of Georgia.

“I’m not sure how we are going to cover all the cities and places we want to go on this trip, but we will figure it out and will have fun doing so,” Khmaladze said. “I’m just grateful I am able to go and for all the opportunities I’ve had in my new country. It’s been hard, first to learn English, then my college studies—but it’s been worth it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”

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