By Chase Rheam
STILLWATER, Okla. —
The newest incoming class to Oklahoma State University gathered to hear words of wisdom from noted speakers and fellow students as part of the new student convocation inside Gallagher-Iba Arena Friday.
OSU President Burns Hargis began by welcoming everyone.
“This ceremony is really to commemorate, to symbolize the movement into a new chapter in your lives, the academic community of scholars at Oklahoma State University,” he said. “I think you will find that this place is going to change your life forever, if you’ll let it.”
Hargis described OSU as a community of faculty, staff and peers who are willing and eager to work with new students.
“We actually do listen to our students,” Hargis said. “A lot of the initiatives on campus came from our students. Our sustainability efforts and all the recycling efforts, those ideas came and were implemented by our students. The smoke-free campus, we were the first in the Big 12; I think, still, the only totally smoke-free campus in the Big 12. That too was brought by our students. And there’s many others.”
Hargis described the freshmen class’ time at OSU as a journey before introducing Director of the Henry Bellmon Office of Scholar Development and Recognition Joshua Ward. Ward graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s of science in cell and molecular biology and a master’s degree in biological anthropology before attending the University of Cambridge in England where he received his Ph.D. in genetics.
Ward said at one point in his life, he was stuck within a seven-mile radius. Everything he did that involved day-to-day activities with friends, high school, family and entertainment, all fit within a seven-mile radius of his home.
“Life was comfortable,” he said. “Life was familiar. Life was black and white. But life was about to change. I was about to embark on a journey full of opportunity and for some of you, this realization will come quickly. For others, years here may pass with opportunity unnoticed and still further, some of you may never see the opportunities around us. But I was fortunate. Oklahoma State University was always on the horizon.”
Ward said he did all he could while attending OSU.
“I was insatiable and had built an impressive resume for sure, but was a complete mess with as much direction as a solar burst,” he said. “At the end of my freshman year, however, I embarked on what would become two of the most influential weeks of my life.”
Ward described traveling to the University of Cambridge as part of a study tour program. His seven-mile radius had burst at the seams and he had begun a love for travel, he said. He began to buckle down and put in the hard work to make his dream of attending Cambridge for graduate studies a reality.
“Today, right now, you have made the decision to attend a university that values thoughts and ideas,” he said.
He said he was not going to present a list of personal benchmarks and checklists for students to complete.
“But I am here with a simple and profound challenge — to stay informed,” he said. “Those who stay informed realize opportunities and through opportunities, become scholars. Scholars become leaders. Leaders seek out opportunities and where they find them, they forge their own.”
Provost Pamela Fry said students are seeing the beginning of a new day.
“This is a new era in your life,” she said. “Make the most of it. You get to invent or reinvent yourself and set the course for your adult life.”
She said students should set academic and personal goals.
“Work hard to achieve both and seek help along the way when you need it,” Fry said. “Everyone you see in these robes behind me wants you to be successful. ... Success in college is hard work and at the same time, very rewarding. You can have a lot of fun along the way.”
Two current OSU students, Jake Akin and Morgan TwoCrow, also described their time on campus.
“I didn’t know anyone at OSU and I was the stereotypical intimidated freshman, but I knew I was where I belonged,” Akin said. “There was something in the air in Stillwater. Something familial and caring. It means a smile from strangers as you walk past them on the sidewalks.”
He said there is a constant hope of something bigger and better around the bend.
“Enjoy these years with wide eyes, open minds, curious ears, tons of laughter and most importantly, go Pokes,” he said.
TwoCrow made a point about diversity. Coming to OSU was a culture shock, she said.
“Country isn’t may favorite genre,” she said. “I’m not too fond of outdoors. I say Coke instead of pop. It didn’t take me very long to realize I wasn’t an Oklahoman, but as I’ve spent the last three years here, I realize that I didn’t need to be. I can be president of the Native American Student Association, act in my sorority and still be supported either way. I can completely embrace who I am and not be secluded to one label.”
Diversity is a key ingredient in OSU’s success, she said.
“No matter your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, political beliefs or any other ideologies, we will all walk across that stage and receive a diploma from Oklahoma State University,” she said.
Hargis agreed, saying the incoming class was one of the most diverse in the university’s history.
“It’s one of the highest ranking classes that we’ve ever had whether we we’re looking at ACTs or grade point averages or placement in class or valedictorians, there’s almost 20 percent of you that are first-generation college students,” Hargis said. “This is an exciting time and a bit scary, I’m sure.”
Hargis concluded his remarks by telling students that as they walk across the stage four years from now, the university will be a better place and so will they.