When Dr. Adrienne Sanogo decided to participate in the annual Cowboy Way drive last year, she had no idea her gift would grow into an endowed scholarship opportunity for students in need.
As part of the Brighter Orange, Brighter Future campaign, Sanogo agreed to share her story about the financial support and guidance she received while a student at Oklahoma State University. A first-generation student who at times had to sleep in her car, she credits the help she received from faculty and staff members for a large part of her success.
“You have this cadre of faculty and staff, and they help you see the path,” she said. “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.”
While sharing her story, the OSU graduate and now associate dean for the College of Education and Human Sciences inspired many fellow Cowboys to give to the campaign to help students struggling with food insecurity, housing and financial roadblocks.
The Brighter Orange, Brighter Future campaign has reached 58 percent of its overall goal of $375 million for educational access and student support. The campaign also entails internships, study abroad opportunities, programming for academic achievement and general student well-being.
“With the continued squeeze on state funding, the burden of financing higher education is increasingly shifting to individual families,” said President Burns Hargis. “These families and their students need our help.”
The OSU Foundation wanted to recognize Sanogo for her assistance with the campaign and willingness to talk about her experience as a student.
At a January staff meeting for the College of Education and Human Sciences, Hargis and Dean Stephan Wilson presented a $25,000 endowed scholarship in Sanogo’s name. Her colleagues and peers rose to their feet with applause.
“Seeing the response as the scholarship in Adrienne’s name was announced was incredibly uplifting and heartwarming,” Wilson said. “Her colleagues were genuine in celebrating and honoring her. Adrienne serves as an inspiration for believing in oneself and persevering to reach educational and professional goals. She is passionate about providing opportunities for our students to succeed, and I am proud to work alongside her.”
Tears filled Sanogo’s eyes as she posed for photos and shared hugs and shook hands. Those tears continued well into the weekend as she realized the impact this gift will have on OSU students, she said.
"A lot of people have the potential to give a little, and that little bit goes a long way."
“I was in complete shock,” she said. “My first thought was, ‘I get to meet that student!’ I hope they can hear my story and be inspired to work hard toward their dreams.”
But Sanogo’s hopes for the scholarship go beyond the students who will receive the award. She hopes it will inspire her family, as well.
“This is part of the legacy for my children,” she said. “I gave with a giving heart last year, and it turned into this amazing opportunity. I hope it reminds them that giving back is important and doing the right thing pays off. Ultimately, I hope it creates a ripple effect of giving.”
Sanogo has continued this spirit of giving by agreeing to serve as a co-chair for the Cowboy Way this year — the same drive that started this whole journey for her last year.
“This is an opportunity to invest in someone else’s future,” she said. “A lot of people have the potential to give a little, and that little bit goes a long way.”