OSU Foundation’s new fundraising campaign aims to assist students on their academic journeys
Dressed in her doctoral regalia, Adrienne Sanogo smiled as she congratulated Oklahoma State University graduates at the spring commencement ceremonies in Gallagher-Iba Arena. She shook hands and shared hugs with the newest alumni of the university that gave her a chance to change her life — and the lives of those around her.
As the senior associate dean of the College of Education, Health and Aviation and an associate professor of mathematics education, Dr. Sanogo has clearly made education a priority in her life. But without the help of the Cowboy family, it might have been a different story.
Growing up in Tulsa, Sanogo never thought her journey would lead to college, let alone a Ph.D. and a career shepherding students and peers to achieve their best.
With six siblings, her parents going through a divorce and her mother moving to subsidized housing, she didn’t know how she was going to be able to finance her education. On top of the financial roadblock, Sanogo was also the first in her family to pursue higher education.
“When you’re a first-generation student, your family doesn’t really know how to support you,” she explained.
At OSU, she found the support and help she needed from the college’s faculty and staff members, who helped her navigate the first- year experience and cheered her on when life got difficult after she took time off from her education to care for her newborn son.
“I had a professor who gave me a baby crib and a car seat. It was more than just a college — it was a family,” she said. “You have this cadre of faculty and staff, and they help you see the path. It’s scary, and you’re not sure what you’re doing. These people are on the path, shining a light on where to go.”
As Sanogo illustrates, the pursuit of higher education is more than merely enrolling in classes at Oklahoma State. It’s a journey unique to each individual who joins the Cowboy family.
This fall, the OSU Foundation is launching the Brighter Orange, Brighter Future campaign, which aims to ensure students have additional financial resources to attend Oklahoma State and increased access to support and life-changing educational experiences.
The campaign focuses on OSU students and their path from enrollment to graduation and beyond. It encompasses three main priorities:
• strengthening educational access,
• improving academic experiences and opportunities,
• and leveraging support for success.
“We seek to raise $375 million for student support,” said OSU President Burns Hargis.
"This will create a generations-long impact for talented students, some of whose financial circumstances threaten their success at OSU. It will also help OSU retain its reputation as a ‘best buy’ in higher education."
“This will create a generations-long impact for talented students, some of whose financial circumstances threaten their success at OSU. It will also help OSU retain its reputation as a ‘best buy’ in higher education.”
The campaign also focuses on internships, study abroad opportunities and programming that enhances academic achievement, student inclusion and general student well-being.
“Everyone should have an opportunity to pursue higher education,” said Kyle Wray, vice president of enrollment and brand management. “This campaign will allow donors to give students hope, because that is really what they are giving when they support scholarships and student programs.”
Of the $375 million fundraising goal, a large priority is set on scholarship funds, which are becoming increasingly important to retaining students and helping them succeed.
“With the reduction of state appropriations, the burden of financing higher education is shifting to the families,” said Chad Blew, OSU’s director of scholarships and financial aid. “These families need financial help.”
In addition to scholarships, the familial support and learning opportunities at Oklahoma State also help students navigate their journey.
“When a student enrolls at Oklahoma State, they become part of the Cowboy family,” Wray said. “We aim to provide the necessary resources to empower our students to thrive while on campus and after graduation.”
Those resources come in a wide array of academic success programs, such as the First Year Success Center and the OSU Writing Center, student inclusion initiatives such as the Office of Institutional Diversity, and student safety and well-being initiatives including Pete’s Pet Posse, Counseling Services and food security programs.
Experiential learning — whether in classrooms, internships or studying abroad — also empowers students to learn whether a career is a good fit while providing the skills that are vital to compete in the job market.
“Internships are about finding a good fit for the student and the company,” said Pam Ehlers, director of OSU Career Services. “You may have always thought you wanted to work for the oil and gas industry in Oklahoma, but how do you know you like working in that environment if you’ve never been in that environment?”
Ehlers is eager to see more donors and corporations support paid internships. She said many companies hire from their intern pools, sometimes offering positions months before graduation. Internships are also crucial for students entering fields with tight job markets.
“A lot of companies will not hire students unless they’ve had internships,” she said. “I worry about the student who doesn’t have the means to house themselves and accept an intern’s wage because they can’t afford to. More support would allow more students the ability to participate in these critical learning experiences.”
Like it has for many alumni, Oklahoma State has always been a haven for Dr. Sanogo.
After she received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2000, Sanogo and her family moved to Texas, where she worked as a math teacher.
She had just completed an online master’s degree when her husband died suddenly.
“I was left wondering, ‘Where do I go in life? Where did I get the best education, best foundation, support and love?’” she said. “The answer was Oklahoma State.”
As a single mother and widow, Sanogo returned to Stillwater to pursue her doctorate in mathematics education and needed financial support to complete the program. Two donors provided her with scholarships to finish her education.
“Their generous gifts made it possible for me to finish my dissertation and graduate,” she said, noting they inspired her to be a donor as well.
Today, Sanogo is one of the many faculty and staff members at OSU shining a light on the roadmap to success for students by helping them through their own challenges.
She looks for opportunities to encourage students, looking for signs they may be feeling adrift, struggling with life circumstances or simply feeling lonely.
Oklahoma State provides many programs and resources to empower students to thrive when hardships — whether a difficult class, a family crisis or simply a longing for home — cross their paths.
“So often we think of student support as just scholarships,” Wray said. “But student success is in the journey. Our goal is to ensure the student as a whole is taken care of and prepared to take on the world upon graduation.”
The education Sanogo received at OSU also produced positive ripples in her family. Because of the faculty, staff and donors who supported her, Sanogo was able to inspire her siblings to pursue their education as well.
“My little sister Jamie went to college and will receive a master’s in counseling psychology,” Sanogo said. “My older sister Lena went to OSU- Tulsa and graduated with a bachelor’s in human development and family science. My little brother Joshua is finishing his residency as a doctor of osteopathic medicine from OSU-Center for Health Sciences and graduated with a master’s in medical research.
“The education I received at OSU allowed me to show my siblings that anything is possible and that they can do it, too.”
Sanogo said her positive experience as an OSU undergraduate has influenced her journey the most. Part of her role now in the College of Education, Health and Aviation is to oversee scholarships. She wants every student to know about the opportunities for assistance.
“My aid package was a Pell Grant and subsidized student loans. I left OSU that first time with a lot of debt,” she said. “I didn’t know that after your first year, you could re-apply for scholarships. Our college does a really nice job of helping students understand how to apply for more aid.”
She also contributes financially to her students. This March, Sanogo pledged a gift to the College of Education, Health and Aviation’s general scholarship fund.
“To be able to give back to the university that shaped my future and continues to shape my present means the world,” she said. “It brings me great pride and joy to know that I can help bring these experiences and knowledge to another future or current student who may not have been able to have them otherwise.”
Kirk Jewell, president of the OSU Foundation, said Sanogo’s story is especially meaningful because of the immeasurable impact she continues to have.
“You never know what interaction has the potential to significantly change the outcome
of a student’s life, whether that is a faculty member reaching out to help, a student
who strikes up a conversation or a donor making a gift,” he said.
“That is what is great about the Cowboy family, and we hope to accomplish that through the Brighter Orange, Brighter Future campaign.”
SCHOLARSHIP ROADMAP for Parents and Students
The process of applying for scholarships and financial aid can take many twists and turns, especially for high school seniors. Check out these tips from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions to make the scholarship and financial aid process easier to navigate.
New students should apply as early as possible to be considered for the widest range
Nov. 1 is the Early Opportunity Scholarship Deadline, and we encourage students to meet that deadline if at all possible. Don’t wait for a new test score. OSU will always consider your top score.
"The Brighter Orange, Brighter Future campaign will allow donors to give students hope, because that is really what they are giving when they support scholarships and student programs."
The application for admission is your scholarship application.
The application will put you into consideration for all OSU scholarships. Some may require additional materials or interviews.
Continuing students will apply for scholarships through their respective colleges.
These deadlines vary, so it’s best to check with your college to make sure you’re taking advantage of all opportunities.
"A lot of companies will not hire students unless they’ve had internships. I worry about the student who doesn’t have the means to house themselves and accept an intern’s wage because they can’t afford to. More support would allow more students the ability to participate in these critical learning experiences."
FILL OUT EVERYTHING
When applying for admission, also complete your leadership résumé and essay questions
to make sure you’re considered for all applicable scholarships.
Don’t be humble. Tell us all that you’ve done, including your work experience.
"With the reduction of state appropriations causing an increase in tuition, the burden of financing higher education is shifting to the families. These families need financial help."
FAFSA COUNTS, TOO
Don’t forget to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (fafsa.ed.gov) as soon as possible beginning Oct. 1.
All students should apply for federal aid regardless of their financial situation as some scholarships require a completed FAFSA for consideration.