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Rep. Stephanie Bice delivers keynote address during OSU's spring commencement.

Rep. Bice advises class of 2024 at 148th commencement

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Media Contact: Sydney Trainor | Communications and Media Relations Specialist | 405-744-9782 |

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, an Oklahoma State University alumna, returned to her alma mater as the spring 2024 commencement speaker to impart wisdom and encourage graduates Saturday in Gallagher-Iba Arena.  

OSU played a pivotal role in the fourth-generation Oklahoman's life as it’s where she earned a Bachelor of Science in marketing in 1995, where she met her husband, Geoffrey, and where her daughters chose to attend college.  

Bice took this opportunity to share with more than 3,900 undergraduate students how two small words that make one simple question — "Why not?" — profoundly impacted her personal and professional life.  

The university’s 148th commencement speakers consisted of OSU President Kayse Shrum; OSU Provost Jeanette Mendez; Bice; Dr. Brandt Gardner, OSU faculty chair; Joe Hall, OSU A&M Board of Regents chair; and Ashley Peterson, Student Government Association president.  

Bice’s father insisted she attend college to open doors of opportunity. Likewise, Bice knew her ultimate goal was to receive a college degree, so she enrolled at OSU. At the end of her sophomore year, Bice was told her father couldn’t pay for college anymore, prompting her to ask, “Why not?” 

Determined to finish what she started, Bice returned to OSU for her junior year.  

“I marched myself into the financial aid office, and I applied for student loans,” Bice said. “Then, I headed to the Student Union to look at job boards to try to figure out what I was qualified for. My junior and senior years here were challenging. I worked 20 hours a week, took 15 to 18 hours a semester to try to finish in four years. But I look back and realize that it took perseverance to make it happen.” 

Bice began her public service career in 2014 when she was elected to the Oklahoma State Senate.  

Prior to that, she had never thought of running for public office, but when she saw Oklahoma ranked No. 49 in the number of female legislators, Bice knew that statistic had to change.  

So, one afternoon when she picked up her daughters from school, Bice told them she was considering running for office and that it would require months of campaigning and possibly being gone some nights.  

“My smart, thoughtful and somewhat reserved 12-year-old daughter looked over at me from the passenger seat and said one simple question, ‘Why not?’ I was proud that my daughter thought nothing of the fact that I was putting myself out there and taking a huge leap of faith for something I'd never really thought about doing,” Bice said. “So, I put my name on the ballot, and I won a runoff election in 2014 to represent Senate District 22.” 

For a third time, those same words — "Why not?”— popped in her head when she was asked to run for Congress. In 2020, she was elected to represent Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District. 

"The point I really want you to take away is that life can be difficult, but don't shy away from those ‘Why not?’ moments,” Bice said. “Once you leave these halls, the world can seem challenging. Every day, we face adversity, apprehension, uncertainty. Whether it's changing careers, relocating to a new city, accepting your first full-time job, professional career decisions can be daunting, but those decisions are not permanent. 

“Take the leap of faith. Don't be afraid to go after something even if you aren't sure it'll work out. You never know where the road will lead to next. Don't box yourself in, instead think about this. Sometimes, the answer to your question is as small and easy as two small words and one simple question. Why not?” 

Several graduates in the class of 2024 did not have a high school commencement ceremony due to the pandemic, Hall said. He welcomed all the graduates into their new role as OSU alumni and the responsibilities it comes with. 

“The Board of Regents says thank you and appreciation for a job well done,” Hall said. “On special days like this, it's a good time to realize how OSU has made a difference in all our lives. As you become OSU alumni, we hope you stay connected, and always remain loyal and true. We know that this takes a lot of hard work to get to this point and to overcome a lot of adversity.” 

Gardner congratulated graduates on joining a select group of individuals who have graduated college and hold a degree from OSU.  

“As college graduates, you have achieved something that most people throughout the world don't,” Gardner said. “As you now prepare to leave OSU and take that next step, allow me to offer just one suggestion. Whatever you end up doing with your life, and whatever you may think of your circumstances or your standing in our society — compared to the rest of the world — you are very fortunate, some might even say wealthy.  

“Because of who you are and because of this degree that you're about to receive, each one of you will find yourselves in a position to lift and help others. You will interact with people who have fewer opportunities, fewer resources and more challenges. I encourage you to look for opportunities in every situation to extend a hand, offer encouragement and show support. Leave each person better than you found them. This is the Cowboy way. Whatever you become, always remember that you are Cowboys first.” 

Peterson is also graduating with a degree in marketing from the Spears School of Business. She addressed her fellow graduates, encouraging them to carry the Cowboy spirit wherever they go, constantly striving for excellence and competing with integrity.  

“As we gather here at Oklahoma State University, we are not just celebrating the culmination of years of hard work and dedication, but we are also celebrating a journey of transformation and growth,” Peterson said. “When we first set foot on this beautiful campus, we came with dreams, aspirations and a thirst for knowledge. Today, as we stand ready to embark on our next adventure, we carry with us not just a degree, but a treasure trove of memories, experiences and lessons that have shaped who we are. Our time at OSU has been nothing short of extraordinary. 

“As we step into the future, let us remember that graduation is not the end; it is the beginning. The world is filled with endless possibilities and opportunities, and it is up to us to seize them. Most importantly, let us step into the future together.” 

Payton Lyyski, a native of Ellensburg, Washington, came to OSU four years ago and studied agribusiness and accounting. Although she walked across the stage Saturday to cap off her undergraduate career, she will be continuing her education at OSU.  

"I will be getting my master's of accounting while sitting for CPA exams,” Lyyski said. “I plan to pursue a career in tax and hopefully get back into the agricultural industry to help farmers and ranchers with their accounting needs.” 

As she sat and listened to each speaker, Lyyski reflected on her undergraduate career and looked ahead to her future.  

“It’s crazy to look at the person I was four years ago,” Lyyski said. “Oklahoma State has truly built me into the person I am today and prepared me for my future. I am so grateful I made the decision to move halfway across the country and I am so thankful for the opportunities and benefits I have received through this great land-grant university. I will forever be loyal and true.” 

Saturday morning’s exercises recognized students from the Ferguson College of Agriculture and the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology. The afternoon consisted of ceremonies for the Spears School of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Education and Human Sciences, and the College of Professional Studies. 

Graduate students and the College of Veterinary Medicine had their ceremonies Friday. OSUIT had its ceremony on April 19. OSU-Tulsa will hold its commencement ceremony on Monday and OSU-Oklahoma City held its graduation Friday. 

The OSU Center for Health Sciences will have its ceremonies at 5 p.m., May 16, at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University. 

All commencement ceremony videos can be found on Inside OSU. 

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