New Frontiers study room to be named after Louann Waldner
Tuesday, December 14, 2021
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Louann Waldner dreamed of creating a space in Oklahoma State University’s Agricultural Hall for students to call their own in the mid 1990s and early 2000s when she worked as the college’s first director of student and career services.
Hired in 1996 by Paul Hummer, associate dean for instruction at the time, Waldner handled anything from recruitment and career development and “everything in between.”
She left OSU before the Student Success Center opened in Agricultural Hall — but not before helping to lay the groundwork for what it has become today.
With the encouragement of Hummer and Associate Dean Ed Miller, Waldner improved career development, student recruitment and helped introduce programs still in operation like Freshmen in Transition (FIT) — a living and learning program that offers students academic and community mentorship along with extracurricular, professional and service activities that promote personal growth and development.
Waldner recalled bringing her children up to the residence halls where the FIT students lived, hosting student ambassadors for meals and building strong relationships with young adults who were finding their way.
Beyond the programming, she wanted to be sure students had access to someone who believed in them.
“It’s great to have a space, but my passion was hiring people who had a heart for helping people,” said Waldner, who is now the provost at College of the Sequoias in California.
Her service-to-others mindset clearly made an impact; a group of former Ag Ambassadors recently made a gift in her honor to name the Dr. Louann Waldner Study Room in the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall.
“I don’t even have words … I was nearly in tears when I found out,” Waldner said. “It’s amazing to me how easy it is to make an impact on someone, but that’s the amazing part of my job. What it really comes down to is being kind, listening and caring.”
The space is one of several flexible meeting rooms that will help support the Student Success Center when the facility opens in 2024.
Cynda Clary, associate dean of the Ferguson College of Agriculture, said the center’s existing space isn’t large enough to grow or facilitate all of its programs, services and outreach activities. In the New Frontiers Agricultural Hall, the Student Success Center will be prominently located on the first floor and will be equipped with 16 individual computer workstations, flexible collaborative workspaces, a graduate student ambassador support area, staff offices for program coordinators and direct access to flexible meeting rooms and tutoring rooms.
“You’ll feel that energy immediately when you enter the building,” she said. “Student interaction and involvement will be the first thing you see.”
Clary said it is meaningful to see alumni honor faculty and staff through the campaign.
“Alumni — both young and old — have this sense of pride, and they’ve created a tradition of giving to the next generation. They’re saying a certain person or program or space mattered to them and that they want similar experiences to be available for future students,” she said. “It’s a message of gratitude and a message of hope for the future that they’re trying to model.”
New Frontiers donors Christina and Yancy Wright said they were excited to learn that other young alumni were contributing to the campaign.
“I believe it’s a reminder that it is the people and relationships inside the building that impact students,” said Christina Wright, ’05 agricultural economics. “Long after the coursework ends and the students leave campus, the relationships formed are what stays. An individual leaving a legacy that impacts people generations later is synonymous with many OSU Agriculture graduates.”
She and Yancy Wright met while they were both students in the college and believe they have a responsibility to pay the generosity they experienced forward.
“Maybe we are biased, but we believe OSU is a premier land-grant institution and is poised to continue that mission successfully well into the future,” Yancy Wright added. “That being said, it’s time that there are facilities that match, that develop students for the industry demands of today, and support innovative research and extension programs.”
Waldner hopes people won’t think this story is just about her. She wants them to be inspired to make a gift to the campaign if they’re able.
“I hope people remember not only the time they spent at Oklahoma State, but also how their experience here developed them and made them a better person,” she said. “I hope people remember the significant influence people had on them.”
The New Frontiers campaign launched in January 2020 to raise $50 million in private gifts to support the creation of a new facility for OSU Agriculture. At this printing, less than $3 million of that goal remained, thanks to the generosity of nearly 400 donors.
Several naming opportunities, including for the Student Success Center, remain across a wide range of giving levels. Any gift, regardless the size, matters and can be made in honor of an influential mentor or member of the OSU Agriculture family.
Photos By: Courtesy of Louann Waldner
Story By: Amanda O'Toole Mason | STATE Magazine