Classes are now underway at Oklahoma State University with a new woman in charge.
Dr. Kayse Shrum is the 19th president at OSU, the first woman president and the youngest.
President Shrum was thrust into the spotlight as part of Governor Kevin Stitt's COVID task force, but she's been making a name for herself for on OSU's campus for almost 20 years.
She worked her way up from faculty member to dean of the university’s medical school to now the youngest president in school history.
“It was, I think, just a natural course for me, having played softball and athletics most of my life,” Shrum said. “I was a pitcher. You really learn to be a leader on the team, and I’ve always really had the attitude that if there’s a problem, there’s a way to fit it, there’s a way to solve it. I always wanted to make things better.”
All this while, she and her husband, now First Cowboy Darren, were raising a family of six kids: three biological children and three boys they adopted from Ethiopia.
“It has been a tremendous blessing to us. They're wonderful kids,” Shrum said. “Our oldest daughter, someone asked her a question about what was it like. The kids were 10, 12 and 13 when we adopted them, and they're the same ages as our biological children. And someone asked her, ‘What was it like?’ And she said, ‘Well, I feel like they've always been my brothers. It just took them longer to come home.’ And so, we just don't really remember what life was like before we had six children.”
All, by the way, between the ages of 19 and 24. When Kelly asked her how she had five kids in college at the same time.
“I’m very sensitive to tuition and fees,” Dr. Shrum laughed.
Dr. Shrum took over as OSU's president July 1 and made history as the university's first woman president.
“I think where I feel it a lot is when I meet female college students or little girls,” Shrum said. “Or, you know, some of our older alums where they just come up, and they're so, you know, proud or and want to you know, learn from me what I did, how I did it. ‘How did you have kids? How did you manage these things?’ So I think from that perspective I feel that it is, in some regards for people, a big deal, and I want to be very sensitive to that because when I decided to go into medicine, it was because someone took the time to encourage me.”
However, there would be no easing into the job. Weeks after taking office, news broke that the University of Oklahoma and the University of Texas at Austin were planning to leave the Big 12 Conference for the Southeastern Conference.
“Were you guys truly blindsided by it?” Kelly Ogle asked.
“Yes,” Shrum said.
Shrum said she then called OU president Joseph Harroz, Jr.
“We had a brief conversation about it,” Shrum said. “I think they, I'm sure, they believe that they did what was in the best interest of the University of Oklahoma, and you know, we will now just move forward.”
For the future, Shrum envisions OSU as what she calls “a modern-day land grant university.”
“If we are true to our roots and we’re focusing on solving society’s most pressing needs, I think funding follows, prestige follows, and so, I’m very passionate about that land grant university mission and what it can do,” Shrum said. “Not only for the state of Oklahoma but for the world.”