OSU celebrates 'Capitol Cowboys Day' with Oklahoma lawmakers
Friday, April 8, 2022
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From early in the morning till late in the afternoon on Wednesday, the Oklahoma Capitol building was a sea of orange, with “orange power” and O-S-U cheers echoing through the halls.
Capitol Cowboys Day, hosted by the OSU Alumni Association, was a chance for Oklahoma State University alumni and students to visit with state lawmakers about their OSU experience and share areas where they would like the university and the legislature to further partner.
“With our land-grant mission — and more than 140,000 alumni living in the state of Oklahoma — the Cowboy family serves the entire state,” said OSU Alumni Association President Rob McInturf. “Today is about the loyalty we exemplify as Cowboys. It is part of our culture. We want lawmakers to hear firsthand from students and alumni about the positive impact OSU has had on their lives.”
At the lunchtime program, OSU President Kayse Shrum addressed the crowd.
“It is so great to see all of this orange in the Capitol today,” Dr. Shrum said. “We are so grateful for all the support that our state leaders give to Oklahoma State University. And we look forward to a bright future and continuing to work with them.”
Gov. Kevin Stitt also shared words of encouragement and support for the students and his alma mater.
“I know that you guys are leaders in not only the state, but the university, because you're here and you're involved,” Stitt said, addressing the students and alumni in the crowd. “And I just want to encourage you that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. So dream big.”
Jessica Russell, director of public policy for the OSU/A&M Board of Regents, works daily as a liaison between OSU and legislators.
“I love seeing orange everywhere. Everybody's so excited and engaged,” Russell said. “It’s a great opportunity to celebrate OSU.”
Russell is a familiar face for Oklahoma’s lawmakers, but she thinks this was a unique chance to connect them with other OSU faces.
Many of the lawmakers at the event had a connection to OSU already. As the representative from District 34, which includes OSU and Stillwater, Trish Ranson is very familiar with the university.
“What I've experienced here at the Capitol during my tenure is just how far the connections go from Oklahoma State,” Rep. Ranson said. “And you know, especially with being a land-grant college with Extension [offices] in every county, there are quite a few representatives who are either graduates of OSU or they have connections with OSU. Because of that, it's fitting that we have the event here today and celebrate that connection.”
For Ranson, the partnership with the state and OSU is important.
“We're good partners in the sense that, what we decide here at the Capitol impacts our campus, but it also impacts our students and our alumni,” Ranson said. “So how do we work together to make sure that the policies that we're passing help the population going forward?”
However, working together goes further than just benefiting Oklahoma.
“This is it; is not just about the state,” Ranson said. “We have alumni all over the nation and the world. So how are we using those relationships to make sure that OSU can go forward and be a better partner worldwide?
And being a better partner worldwide starts with building connections.
“Our students and alumni are well rounded and great leaders — there’s no better advocate for the university,” Russell said. “OSU is a great partner in all endeavors, and we hope that really resonates with state leaders today.”
Ranson’s counterpart in District 33, Rep. John Talley, said he was impressed with the dedication students showed at the Capitol.
“Students went to every representative's office and talked to us,” Talley said. “They spent the first couple of hours going to offices and meeting representatives and talking to them about policy — really just showing how much, as an OSU student, they care about government and what legislators think. And I think that helps a lot.”
In their meetings with lawmakers, alumni and students focused on a handful of topics.
“Being able to share my love and pride of the university with legislators was amazing.” said Natalie Evens, a chemical engineering senior. “By giving me the opportunity to provide our elected officials with a student’s perspective of how what they are doing impacts my life and my future, shows how OSU values student input.”
Alumni also enjoyed the experience.
“As graduates of Oklahoma State, we understand that it’s our responsibility to be civically engaged,” said Tina Parkhill, chair of the Alumni Association Board of Directors. “Today was about communication and building relationships to enhance our elected officials’ understanding that OSU is important to their constituents.
“We were so well received today, and it was extremely gratifying to watch our students connect with legislators. These students are Oklahoma’s future leaders and our future is bright orange.”
Talley said hearing what people at OSU needed was informative, and he appreciated getting that insight.
“It's all about communication,” Talley said. “Just exactly what OSU is doing. We have to keep working at that, letting the government know what the needs are of state institutions. We need to let the government know how what happens at OSU helps the whole state, whether it be research or graduates going into our workforce.”
During the daily floor sessions, McInturf, Pistol Pete and Shrum were formally recognized on the floor and received a citation honoring and thanking the university. As the senator from District 21, Tom Dugger was asked to officially recognize OSU on the Senate floor.
“It's really nice to have the opportunity to have a little Cowboy orange all through the Capitol,” Dugger said. “Higher education is extremely important to the state, and OSU is a premier player. The people of Oklahoma deserve an educational leader and Oklahoma State University fits that bill.”
Organized by the OSU Alumni Association with the assistance of key legislators, the event will become an annual staple that continues to grow the relationship between OSU and Oklahoma.
For OSU, the future looks bright.