IFC president shares vision of unity, inclusivity
Wednesday, March 4, 2020
Caileb Booze made history at Oklahoma State University by becoming the first black president of the Interfraternity Council (IFC). Now, he is looking toward the future.
His main goals are to foster unity among the Greek community, to bolster philanthropic efforts and inclusivity.
The Edmond North graduate came to OSU in 2015, immersing himself in campus life as a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity and a tour guide. Just two years in, he answered the call to join Valley Creek Church in north Texas, where its leadership program took him around the world to destinations such as New York City, Uganda and India.
When he returned to OSU in the fall of 2019, he knew he wanted to get involved, having already served on the IFC Executive Team. After an encouraging meeting with fraternity and sorority affairs coordinator Casey Domnick, Booze decided to pursue the role of IFC president.
“It was a wild thing, because I had been gone for two years,” he said. “I met all the previous chapter presidents and asked how I could serve them, how I could help them be the best they can be.
“When you look at other universities across the country, whenever you think of Greek, you may not think of leadership. You may not think that these are the ones to lead the next generation, but I think here at Oklahoma State to be Greek is to have another gear — that initiative and tenacity to get things done. I want to build on that. I want to carry that torch.”
As he carries that torch, he knows he’s also carrying another.
“The first word that jumps to mind is ‘heavy,’” he said of his election. “It’s heavy because there is a lot of significance tied to that, as I am realizing more and more. It means that I, hopefully, will be able to encourage and inspire continued growth and change.
“As we grow as an IFC community, my hope is that this milestone will encourage someone else who doesn’t fit the perceived mold that’s been portrayed. They can look at me and say ‘Hey, I can do that, too’ and be invited into this community, because that’s what fraternities are about. It’s about brotherhood and finding a place to belong. If I can be a part of helping someone else find that sense of belonging, then that’s a win.”
Booze said his election is a reflection of the steps the university and the Greek community have taken to foster inclusivity, something he hopes to build on as a leader with the creation of an Inclusion and Diversity Committee.
Still, having talked with other IFC presidents from other universities, he said OSU stands above when it comes to its culture.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I was able to see Oklahoma State’s intentional, vocal stance on diversity and inclusion,” Booze said. “You didn’t have to look hard to find it. They were very open about encouraging diversity and inclusion and the value that adds to the learning environment. Because of that I felt supported in pursuing whatever I wanted. IFC is predominantly white, and that could be an intimidating environment in a different setting, but because of how IFC and OSU work to encourage diversity and inclusion, I felt empowered.”
When it comes to the Greek community, Booze called OSU particularly supportive.
“They have an open door. They listen. Whether that’s faculty or staff, or even just the accessibility to places in the union to meet. Dr. [Doug] Hallenbeck, President [Burns] Hargis, the staff on campus, they are Greek life supporters. They’re big advocates, and that helps us make an impact. There are universities where that’s not the case.”
Booze credits university leaders like OSU vice president for Institutional Diversity and chief diversity officer Dr. Jason F. Kirksey for pushing an inclusive vision. Meanwhile, Kirksey credits the work of students like Booze for shaping the future of the university from within the student body.
“Caileb Booze’s election as the first African American IFC president at OSU further illuminates the culture of inclusion we continue building,” Kirksey said. “His election demonstrates the level of respect this young man earned from his peers, and evidences and elevates the university’s status as a national leader and an aspirational pacesetter in higher education.”
Kirksey said there is still work to be done, but OSU continues to build in the right direction.
“A quick survey of OSU reveals a Native American provost, Dr. Gary Sandefur; a Latino dean, Dr. Carlos Risco; Leon Jones, the African American chief of police; two women leaders serving as campus presidents, Dr. Pamela Fry (OSU-Tulsa) and Dr. Kayse Shrum (OSU-CHS); and that is just a cut across the top of the institution.
“While we clearly have much more work to accomplish, it is obvious the record number of nationally prestigious awards and recognitions are not the only thing that sets OSU apart. It is also the continued efforts, actions and behaviors of the entire university community that makes this a phenomenal place to learn, work and live.”