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A girl and her grandfather at Grandparent University.

Grandparent University celebrates two decades of fun and learning

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Media Contact: Mack Burke | Associate Director of Media Relations | 405-744-5540 | editor@okstate.edu

One of the greatest things about the Cowboy family is the presence of so many multigenerational families with OSU ties.

This year, the OSU Alumni Association commemorated the 20th anniversary of a program that celebrates the connection between the generations while also introducing the university to its future students.

Since 2003, the organization has welcomed OSU legacies ages 7 to 13 and their grandparents to campus for a unique intergenerational learning experience called Grandparent University, or GPU. The three-day summer camp is a fun-filled experience that actively engages kids in academics at OSU while creating memories for grandparents and their grandchildren.

From the moment they arrive on campus, the kids get to experience a small taste of college life while the grandparents get a warm reminder of what it was like when they attended OSU. All attendees reside in OSU housing, take classes taught by OSU professors and eat in university dining halls.

"It is so much fun. The faculty that interact with the grandparents and the students can relate to them and make it fun ... It is fantastic."

- Moh'd Bilbeisi, regents professor and L. Andrew Maciula professor

After two days of fun and learning, the legacies “graduate” with a certificate in their chosen major at a ceremony at the ConocoPhillips OSU Alumni Center. In addition to the classes, attendees enjoy a special opening session, a tailgate with appearances from OSU coaches and athletes, swimming at the Colvin Center pool and more.

“To have kids come in and spend a few days at OSU with their grandparents is a recipe for success,” said Tanner Roberts, a ’17 marketing graduate and former GPU grandchild attendee. “It’s extremely valuable to have that hands-on experience to learn what college might look like, even though it’s a ways down the road.”

The program originated 20 years ago after Anne Scott, a former Alumni Association staff member, saw a similar program being developed at the University of Wisconsin. The Wisconsin camp was provided by the university’s Extension program, but Scott thought it would be a great idea to bring Grandparent University to Stillwater as an Alumni Association program.

“I was really looking for something that would help the association become more integrated into the university community,” Scott said. “At that time, we didn’t have much interaction with the colleges or the academic side of the university. When I saw the program, I thought we could take this and run with it or give it our own spin.”

Moh’d Bilbeisi, a regents professor and L. Andrew Maciula professor, said he enjoys GPU every year.

“It is so much fun,” Bilbeisi said. “The faculty that interact with the grandparents and the students can relate to them and make it fun. ... It is fantastic.”

While the academic aspect of Grandparent University is a valuable part of each summer’s camps, the memories and experiences made by the attendees is what really sets the program apart from others. Grandparents arrive on campus each year excited to share their alma mater with their grandchildren.

OSU alumni and grandparents Karen and Terry Stewart of Stillwater have attended GPU for 12 consecutive years. When the program went remote in 2020 due to the pandemic, they even developed their own curriculum for their grandchildren to do at home.

“It is great to be able to spend one-on-one time with the kids,” said Terry, a ’72 chemical engineering graduate. “We love seeing them experience Oklahoma State University and what we had when we went to school there. It is a unique experience that you don’t get if you just go visit them.”

Karen said she thinks the program is a highlight of OSU.

“Seeing them appreciate and enjoy how loyal and true we are is a real benefit of the program,” said Karen, a ’72 elementary education graduate.

As grandparents and grandchildren looked back on their experiences at GPU, many of them mentioned how they continue to spread the word about the great program to other OSU alumni.

“I have told so many people about Grandparent University,” said Carolyn Hamm, Roberts’ grandmother. “I always explain what we experienced and several of my friends have gone on to take their grandchildren after they found out about it. The experience that we had there is unforgettable.”

In addition to the grandparents looking back on their time at OSU and GPU, legacies like Roberts have had the opportunity to experience the program before attending OSU himself. It’s a fun moment when these legacies have memories tied to certain places on campus before they enroll at OSU.

“As an OSU freshman, I went to visit a friend in his room, and it was in the same complex that my grandma and I stayed in during my time at GPU,” Roberts said. “It was kind of a full-circle moment for me.”

Grandparent University 2023 will take place June 14-16 and June 21-23 in Stillwater. In order to be eligible to attend GPU, children must be officially registered in the Alumni Association’s Legacy Program, which requires a parent or grandparent to hold an active membership in the association.


Photos by: Phil Shockley, Gary Lawson, Provided by Tanner Roberts, Anne Scott, Karen Stewart and OSU Alumni Association

Story by: Will Carr | STATE Magazine

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