Oklahoma State University’s next president Dr. Kayse Shrum is no stranger to high-profile, high-pressure situations and they all seem to have prepared her for the role she’s about to step into.
During a meet and greet held last week at the McKnight Center, she recalled attending a softball clinic at OSU as a 13-year-old and watching students building what she thought were forts – actually homecoming decorations – on the front lawns of their fraternity houses.
“I remember back to that day and as that 13-year-old girl, I would have never imagined that I would be here today,” Shrum said.
Whether she was competing on the softball field, attending medical school, becoming the first female dean of a medical school in Oklahoma or serving on Gov. Kevin Stitt’s Cabinet as Secretary of Science and Innovation, Shrum has been someone people looked to for leadership.
During her time leading the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine, she helped developed programs to meet the medical needs of people in rural areas like her hometown of Coweta. She also played a role in developing the first tribally affiliated medical school in the U.S., the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation.
When Shrum becomes OSU’s 19th president on July 1, she will be the first woman to hold that position.
Shrum said the power of that isn’t lost on her.
“I recognize the historic nature of all this and the fact that I almost immediately have a following of a lot of women,” she said. “A lot of little girls want to take pictures with me.
“And I recognize it is a challenge and it’s not easy to have a family and have a career and I would just say I hope that this moment inspires all of those women, young and old, to dream big and if you want to have a family and a career it’s possible. But also to cut yourself some slack.”
Through all the honors and accomplishments, she remains the same girl from Coweta, her husband Darren Shrum said.
“She’s really a ball cap and jeans-type person, that’s really what she’d rather have on right now,” he said. “She’s down to earth and she’s always remembered where she came from and I think it just helps her to really relate to people. People are attracted to her personality and overall just able to trust her.”
Shrum said as president she wants to build on the transformation and momentum the university has developed under President Burns Hargis.
“He has done a tremendous job bringing people together around Oklahoma State,” she said.
She wants to continue focusing on academic excellence and growing the university’s academic programs and research while building on the student experience.
Darren Shrum, who was introduced as the “first First Cowboy” said he has already met with “First Cowgirl” Ann Hargis to learn about the role he’s taking on.
“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” he said. “It’s just such a huge opportunity and I think the thing I’m looking forward to most is probably interacting with the students. I’ve always worked with youth, younger people in various capacities outside my professional career. I just can’t wait to get involved.”
The Shrums have six children, five of whom attend OSU: Colton, Kyndall, Joseph, Kilientn and Karsyn.
One son, Kason, attends the University of Arkansas on a soccer scholarship and couldn’t join the family because he had an exam.
"Mom said no," Shrum explained.