OSU's President Shrum discusses her vision for the university
Wednesday, August 25, 2021
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Dr. Shrum embraces being OSU's first female president
Following Burns Hargis’ transformational presidency, Dr. Kayse Shrum is ready to hit the ground running as Oklahoma State University’s 19th president. Just prior to her taking office, STATE magazine sat down with Shrum at her ranch in Coweta, Oklahoma, to discuss her vision for OSU’s future, what it means to be the first female president and how she aims to elevate the university’s commitment to the land-grant mission and serve all OSU institutions and the state of Oklahoma.
What are you most excited about when you think of the future of the university?
I think there are so many great things about Oklahoma State University. We not only have an amazing education to offer, but we do a lot of research that has a high impact on society. Kind of the precursor to this for me was watching how Oklahoma State University played this pivotal role during the pandemic and how we had the human capital, the intellect and the facilities to really make a major impact on the state of Oklahoma.
I think that is an example of what excites me about being the president of Oklahoma State University, because we do cutting-edge things every day that make a difference in the lives of people and how we translate that and how we apply that to society is what makes Oklahoma State University great, and a wonderful place for students to get an education.
So just being a part of imagining that and leading how we can have that type of presence at Oklahoma State University is really exciting to me.
What does it mean to you to be the first female president of this university?
The thing I always try to lead with is I feel very fortunate to have had a career that’s prepared me and made me the most qualified to be here. … It hasn’t always been easy being the first female to do things. But I really have never focused on that too much. I just go to work every day and do what I need to do and solve the problems and engage. But I don’t miss the significance of how historic it is and how excited people — like my niece — were when they found out. And when I visit with the female students on campus or other students, I think the global student body is excited that Oklahoma State University is the first public research university in Oklahoma to have a female president.
Sometimes there are those moments where I’m sitting in the car or just a quiet moment and I’m like, ‘Wow.’ It sinks in for a little bit. You can get so busy, and doing that just allows you to really wrap your mind around it. But I’m very proud of that. Regardless of what a wonderful support system you have around yourself, you have to see people that are like you as role models or have someone to encourage you.
And so I think that’s very important for women, young women, I mean, anyone actually, to see a female serving in a different role than they’ve traditionally seen. I hope in me that they see that they have no limits. If they want to do it, they can achieve it. And you just focus on that and become the best and most qualified candidate for that particular position and be bold enough to dream it.
Since you were officially named president in April, you’ve done a lot of listening to leaders, to students, to board members. What are the biggest takeaways from listening to those people?
I think everyone is so excited about Oklahoma State University and everything that’s going on. I mean, everyone really loved Burns and Ann and the legacy that they left, and I’m one of those people. So you hear a lot of that. They’re excited to see what the future holds under my presidency, but what everyone talks about is the wonderful culture, the great education and what we can do in the future that elevates Oklahoma State University. We want to be the leader when people look to land-grant universities and find ways to solve pressing societal needs.
We want them to look at Oklahoma State University and overall that’s what I’ve heard, but everyone has been so kind. I mean, if you’re part of OSU, it just seems like there’s this family atmosphere, and that has just been wonderful. And everyone I’ve met has just been so welcoming and excited.
What is your hope for our students this year as they return to what we hope will be the first normal year since 2019?
My hope is that they have a normal college experience. My youngest children graduated from high school during the pandemic. That wasn’t normal for them, and their freshman year in college wasn’t normal, either.
So I know that’s true for all of our student body. And so I’m looking forward to them coming back on campus and being able to have that experience of being in the classroom and being a part of the community. I’m really looking forward to that.
Next July, we’ll be one year into your presidency. What do you hope to have accomplished by then? Or what would a successful first year look like to you?
I plan to continue listening and learning, but I hope in this next year I have an opportunity to get engaged with the community at OSU, to build that relationship and have them get to know me better. I want to have a strategic plan put together and finalize the vision for where we’re going in the future and build a team of people around me that can help me to carry out that vision and the strategy for success for Oklahoma State University.
I’m sure one year will go very, very fast, and I’m really looking forward to that. But I think a first successful year is getting through the school year, getting students back on campus, being able to enjoy athletics and Homecoming and all those things that we love.
And at the same time, we’re focused on the work that we’re going to do in the background of our planning and talking to alumni and engaging with students and really getting prepared for what Oklahoma State University is going to look like in the future.
What are the next steps for Oklahoma State? What is your vision for arts, academics and athletics?
I think arts, academics and athletics are all part of what makes the university great, and each has its own unique place here at OSU. So as we look to the future, we’re looking at what our strengths are and how we can leverage those. What are the areas that we can grow to kind of establish something unique at Oklahoma State University? The McKnight Center, which is just beautiful, is a great example of something that enriches the OSU experience and makes us unique.
What are the academic areas we can continue to grow? What are the areas of our workforce or industries that an education in that area can put an Oklahoma State graduate ahead in the workforce? That’s what we want to look at and see where we need to go in the future. And then of course, athletics. You know, we want to win as many national championships as we can, and we’re looking at ways we can support our student athletes and our Cowboy community.
Dr. Shrum becomes OSU's first female president
For more articles from this edition of STATE magazine on the beginning of the Shrum era:
A letter from the President: https://okla.st/3BfNlij
Meet the First Cowboy: https://okla.st/38foSNW
Dr. Kayse Shrum's achievements mark her path to leading the OSU system: https://okla.st/2WlZ8N2
Photos By: Gary Lawson and Provided
Story By: Monica Roberts | STATE Magazine