Sarah Winburn of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, earned a prestigious Gates Millennium Scholarship, which is awarded to 1,000 of the most brilliant minority students across America each year. The Gates Foundation-funded program covers all expenses, from tuition to room and board. Winburn utilized the scholarship to attend New York University, choosing to return to the city where she was born and raised, before tragedy brought her back to Oklahoma.

Her brother, Jerry, was a year older than Winburn. He had been a student at Oklahoma State University for two short weeks before a fatal car accident. The proud member of the U.S. Army died at 19.

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Z. Randall Stroope received the Eminent Faculty Award, “the highest honor given to a faculty member who has made sustained contributions to scholarly creative activity, instruction and service, bringing honor and recognition to the university,” during the University Awards Convocation on Dec. 4.

Stroope is the Greenwood School of Music’s director of choral and vocal studies, and holds the Doug and Nickie Burns Endowed Chair in Music. He has previously received the Regents Distinguished Research Award and the College of Arts and Sciences Faculty Mentor Award, as well being voted Outstanding Faculty Member of the College by the Greek Councils at OSU.

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Josie Akosa grew up more than 6,000 miles from Oklahoma State University in the West African nation of Ghana. Her father—a civil engineer—and her mother—the head of the equivalent of a community college—pushed their five children to aim high, which is how Akosa wound up in OSU’s Department of Statistics as a Ph.D. candidate.

“My dad always said, ‘I know I can give you money to do whatever you want, but I would rather invest in your education,’” said Akosa, who graduated Dec. 14. “I think he has done that pretty well.”

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Jason Wallace was in kindergarten when he won his first art contest. Since then, his artistic journey has led him through a variety of majors, media and careers, leading to his current position as a graphic designer at the College of Arts and Sciences.

“We moved around a lot when I was a child, so I don’t feel like I’m from any one place,” Wallace said. “Art and photography stayed with me through every move. When I was a child, my mother sent me and my brothers to keep my father, a high school teacher, company in the high school darkroom. At seven years old, I watched a photo come to life on a blank page. That’s magic, and it stuck with me forever.”

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Shanley Wells-Rau, a non-traditional student in the Oklahoma State University master of fine arts poetry program, applied to graduate school after a 20-year corporate career.

“This is the degree I have always wanted,” she said. “When I was younger, I could not figure out a pathway to poetry. It did not fit with a viable career plan.” 

Wells-Rau has always been a poet, and writing has been an integral part of her life.

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For students who struggle in math, it doesn’t matter which of the 27 public institutions governed by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education they attend. With the help of a team of mathematicians from Oklahoma State University, all of the colleges are working together to improve student success in entry-level math courses, and the pilot results have been astounding.

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Jeanette Mendez fondly remembers voting in mock elections while she was in elementary school. In 2011, when she was head of the OSU Department of Political Science, she was disappointed to learn that her children, Gwendolyn and Elias, would not have that experience at Stillwater’s Sangre Ridge Elementary School. So, she decided to do something about it.

She reached out to the school, which gladly granted permission for one of Mendez’s classes to teach the children about elections, including facilitating a mock vote.

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It was a cool, quiet day across Paris on July 15, 2018, as Ana Solis sat on the edge of her seat staring at the TV. The whole city was silent even with the windows open. Then, France scored the final goal to win the 2018 World Cup. The city erupted.

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