Contact: Lisa Sollie
Nursing and accounting may seem an unusual pairing to most people, but not to Meridian resident Tricia LaBiche, recently named Outstanding Undergraduate Student for the Division of Business at Mississippi State University-Meridian.
A highest honors graduate and Riley Scholar, LaBiche spent 18 years in the nursing field before she and her husband owned and operated his family’s jewelry business in downtown Meridian. After returning to her nursing roots, the now 53-year-old also decided to return to school to study accounting.
“When I graduated from Meridian High in 1987, I didn’t know if I wanted to be a nurse or study accounting. I decided on nursing because I could do that locally, and it would take less time to finish. After my husband and I separated, I put my nursing degree back to work when I was hired at Home Instead, working with seniors who desire to age gracefully in their own homes,” she said.
While she immersed herself in her new job, LaBiche’s 25-year-old daughter, who was finishing the Master of Taxation program at Mississippi State in Starkville, inspired her mom to return to school.
“We would talk about her classes and what she was learning, and it really interested me, so I thought why not. My personal life was a mess but earning an accounting degree was something I could do for myself now that would also help position me for the future,” LaBiche said.
As she investigated going back to school, the expense was daunting. Undeterred, LaBiche took prerequisite classes at Meridian Community College and qualified for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Once she received the scholarship provided by PTK and was named a Riley Scholar at MSU-Meridian, the only thing standing in her way of earning a degree was herself, she explained.
“All I could think of was, can I really do this? Can I be a fulltime student and work fulltime with a 12-year-old still at home?” she said. “I wasn’t getting any younger, and I thought I should probably go ahead and get it done. So, I buckled down and did it.”
LaBiche is proud of her hometown and the growth of Mississippi State, particularly the addition of the Riley Campus in downtown Meridian.
“Education is so important, especially accessibility to it. I never would have been able to earn my degree if not for the Meridian campus, as well as the support I had from my employer and those who helped with my son,” she said. “I also appreciate all my business professors—how nice and helpful they all were—and the fact I could take a mixture of face-to-face classes, as well as online which worked perfect with my schedule.”
After graduation, LaBiche plans to continue working at Home Instead, primarily in nursing, but she also will help local franchise owner Charissa Shirley with statistics and metrics used by the franchise. She also has her eyes set on her next goal.
“Going back to school in my 50s was different, but good. Mentally, I was in a much better place and my desire to approach my studies with the goal to learn something useful, get a good grade and produce something worthwhile, provided the motivation I needed to persevere,” LaBiche said. “I feel like I’m in a good place to continue—either to take the Certified Public Accounting Exam or the Certified Management Accounting Exam—I’m still weighing which would be the best fit,” she said. “Whichever route I take, there will be a lot more studying in my future.”
In addition to being recognized Outstanding Undergraduate Student in the Division of Business, LaBiche has another reason to celebrate. Due to the COVID pandemic, her daughter, Jessica Morris, did not get to walk after earning her master’s degree two years ago. Now, mother and daughter will have the opportunity to walk across the stage together.