Category: Feature Stories

Reece Wright holding a basketball.

Reece Wright: The Little Lion Who Became the Heart of Lions Basketball

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By Jet Turner, Assistant Director of Communications

Reece Wright looked at his mother and pointed to her nose, not noticing the tears welling up in her eyes.

“Nose!” he said.

Ally Wright, Reece’s mother, could not help but smile. At just two years old, Reece already knows how to keep his parents grounded and focused on what is most important in life: their family.

Unaware that just minutes earlier Langston University’s Men’s Basketball team and his father, Head Coach Chris Wright, watched the NAIA Men’s National Championship slip through their fingers, Reece again pointed to Ally’s face.

“Ears!” he said, a smile creeping across his face.

“Reece is just happy to be here,” Ally said. “He has no idea what’s going on or that we just lost, but that keeps us grounded and know that, yes losing and what’s going on in this moment is important, but this isn’t everything.”

Ally and Chris Wright embrace after losing the NAIA National Championship.
Chris and Ally Wright embrace after losing the NAIA National Championship. Reece is just happy to be here.

That has been among Reece’s variety of roles all season, as he has been a source of stability, strength, encouragement and joy for all members of the team.

But with all the support Reece has given this year, Reece needed his share of support too after a surprise diagnosis shocked the Wrights during basketball season.

During Reece’s regular 18-month checkup in May 2023, he failed his autism screening. This qualified him for a neuropsych evaluation, but his evaluation could not happen until he was two years old. An appointment was scheduled for December 2023.

Chris, Ally and Reece Wright after winning the Sooner Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship.
Chris, Ally and Reece Wright after winning the Sooner Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship.

“At that time, we weren’t really concerned,” Ally said. “We knew at that point Reece was a little speech delayed… and that is what his pediatrician thought was the reason for his failed autism screening, and it wasn’t due to something else.”

In July, just two months after the Wrights were told there was nothing to worry about, Reece had a severe speech regression. He lost all the words and sign language he knew at that time.

Ally and Chris called his pediatrician and were able to get Reece into private speech therapy. A follow-up appointment was made, and Reece was seen by his pediatrician again in August.

After having Reece’s hearing checked, the pediatrician reassured Chris and Ally that his regression was not related to autism, for autistic children usually also regress in motor skills, and Reece had no such regression.

Several months of private speech therapy passed and Reece began to not only relearn the words and sign language he lost, but also add more signs and words to his vocabulary. This progress continued through the beginning of basketball practice in October, and the season’s beginning in November.

At his 2-year-old appointment in December, Reece narrowly passed his autism screening test, but his pediatrician was becoming concerned about his mannerisms, with head shaking and arm flailing being new developments at the time.

The following day Reece had his neuropsych evaluation.

“It was pretty awful,” Ally said. “You’re in a very small room, and it’s just Chris, myself and Reece, who is only a day older than two, and this doctor for five hours. Reece was bouncing off the walls because you can only entertain a 2-year-old for so long, and Chris and I had to fill out a million questionnaires. We had to talk through our daily routine, what we love about Reece, what he struggles with, and more.”

It took four weeks for Reece’s results to come back. In the meantime, Reece was also evaluated for SoonerStart with the goal of getting Reece more speech therapy. SoonerStart is “Oklahoma’s early intervention program designed to meet the needs of families with infants or toddlers (ages birth to 3 years old) with developmental delays and/or disabilities in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA),” according to oklahoma.gov.

SoonerStart’s autism screening is on a much smaller scale than the neuropsych evaluation, and it additionally evaluates other items like fine motor skills and speech.

Reece’s autism screening through SoonerStart came back with little to no concern, and with only a 10% delay in his speech.

“I think it gave Chris and I a false sense of relief where we thought everything was going to be fine,” Ally said.

Finally, January 4, 2024, the day Langston University was slated to play its 12th game of the season against Mid-American Christian University (MACU), Chris and Ally went in to receive the results of Reece’s neuropsych evaluation.

The doctor began meticulously going over the results page by page.

“I’m agreeing with some of what (the doctor) said but some of it I don’t think is as severe,” Ally said. “(Reece is) only two. He’s changing all the time.”

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is currently organized into three classifications, with ASD Level 1 being the least severe, and ASD Level 3 being the most severe.

Reece was diagnosed with ASD Level 2, meaning Reece would need substantial support. This came just days after receiving a screening with little to no concern for autism from SoonerStart.

“You just don’t give a damn about a basketball game in that moment,” Chris said.

The Langston University Men’s Basketball staff knew what was going on, and Chris had to lean on them and trust his players more than at any other moment in his coaching career as they prepared for that afternoon’s game against MACU.

Langston University Men's Basketball Coaching Staff watch a play during a game.
Langston University Men’s Basketball Coaches, from left to right, Chris Vincent, Chris Wright and Jon Warren.

When Assistant Men’s Basketball Coach Chris Vincent found out about Reece’s diagnosis, he was ready to give the Wrights the support they needed.

“(They are) not alone,” Vincent said. “We are all here, players, staff, everyone. And all of us on that day could feel that emotion. Being able to uplift (the Wrights) was really important.”

Langston University went on to beat MACU 79-60.

Senior Toru Dean said he was happy the team was able to come together and continue winning for Coach Chris Wright.

“I feel for Coach Wright,” Dean said. “We’re in the middle of the season talking about winning a national championship and something like this happens, you find out Reece has autism, and it’s a heartbreaker because Reece is a little brother to us. Mentally, we are going through the same thing as Reece. We are all on this bright stage to do it for Reece.”

In the locker room after a win, the men’s basketball team will lock arms in a circle and chant the names of everyone who participated during the game in a tradition they call “put ups,” including coaches, players on the bench and others.

After the team’s win at MACU, Ally was not thinking about put ups until, suddenly, student assistant coach J.P. Walz came sprinting out of the locker room asking for Reece.

Walz explained that the team refused to do put ups without Reece. Being one of the few people who Reece will allow to hold him, Ally handed Reece to Walz, and Walz sprinted down into the locker room.

“I think there’s a lot of things about coaching college basketball that’s really difficult or maybe the average person just wouldn’t get,” Chris said. “But for me, the coolest part about being able to do this is we really get to do it as a family.”

Reece is a part of the team, and the team is a part of the Wright family.

For many players, if you are being recruited by Langston University, one of the first stops you make is at the Wrights’ home. Chris and his staff make it a point to not only recruit talented players, but players with a good heart as well.

Once you are on the team you not only get used to seeing Ally and Reece around, you expect it.

Ally and Chris worked hard to ensure Reece was comfortable around the basketball team from an early age. Reece was introduced to his first team while the Wrights were still at Talladega College when he was just 10 days old. Reece attended his first game when he was only a month old.

Ally and Chris Wright holding 1-month-old Reece Wright at Talladega College.
Ally and Chris Wright holding 1-month-old Reece Wright at Talladega College.

“Reece’s relationship with the big boys (Reece’s word for the basketball players) is everything I dreamed it would be,” Ally said. “I love that he’s obsessed with them. It warms my heart. I just think it’s so important he gets to know them. I think that’s part of being a coaching family. Families that don’t get to bond with their players like that and don’t get to make that connection miss out on so much.

“It’s so much more than just basketball. You get to have bonds with these players that you would never get to have with other people, and to extend that past Chris and I and have Reece get to form these relationships now is really special.”

To Chris, Reece has become another member of his staff. On game day in C.F. Gayles Field House, Reece is found on the Marques Haynes Court stretching with the big boys, passing the basketball back and forth, running sprints and much more.

Reece Wright on Marquis Haynes Court.
Reece helps supervise warm up before a home game.

To the players, Reece is their motivation.

Senior Cortez Mosley said seeing Ally, Chris and Reece still giving the team their all after the adversity they faced this year encourages him to play his hardest.

“Reece is our little energy guy,” Mosley said. “I need my high five from Reece every game. Reece man, with all the stuff he’s been through and coach and Ally, he just enlightens us. When I see Reece, I’m motivated to play good.”

And Reece, undoubtedly, loves his big boys.

During the NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship Tournament in Kansas City, Langston University’s team, including coaches and their families, shared a hotel floor. Once Reece realized all the players were staying around him, he wanted to spend all his time with them.

Reece, with toys in hand, would pace up and down the hotel hallway waiting for one of the players to leave their room so they could play with him. The players would help Reece put his puzzles together or play with his trucks. When they would leave, Reece would wait for the next one.

“Reece’s interactions with the players are great for him,” Chris said. “But I also think it’s really good for our guys. When you’re in such a high intense environment, like the national tournament, there’s so much adrenaline and the magnitude of each game is so big it really weighs heavily on you. Having Reece there hopefully makes them a little less stressed and helps them take a step back from their stress.”

Cortez Mosley lifts up Reece Wright after a game at C.F. Gayles Field House at Langston University
Cortez Mosley and Reece Wright play after a home game.

Langston University Men’s basketball team ended its season 35-2, winning the Sooner Athletic Conference regular season and tournament championships for the second straight year, capping off the season with a trip to the national championship game.

Even though the Lions lost the national championship in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Freed-Hardeman University 71-67, their team family is closer than ever. Reece is not just the glue that holds them together, he is the person that makes them special.

“I think Reece brings a lot of joy and positivity to our team,” Chris said. “We are a family, and he is an example of that. Reece is the most important thing in our life, and we trust them with him. I think that’s part of showing the team that you are part of our family, and we are going to treat you as such.

“It just solidifies the fact that our program is family.”

Langston University's Men's Basketball Team, along with University administration, celebrate a Sooner Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship.
Langston University’s Men’s Basketball Team, along with University administration, celebrate a Sooner Athletic Conference Regular Season Championship.
Amber Bradford-Nealy headshot

A New Generation of Healthcare Leaders Emerge from the Soil of Public Education

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OU Health Appoints Amber Nealy as Its First African American Chief Nursing Officer

by Deena V. Thomas, OKCPS Retired Educator and member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

Educational roots matter.

A child’s first teachers are their parents and grandparents, absorbing deep-rooted instruction in the home, followed by the fundamental academics of teaching and learning, cultivated and nurtured in common education. Lastly, the preparation process to enter the workforce is taught and mentored during the journey toward post-secondary educational attainment.

These pathways led Amber Bradford-Nealy to walk directly into executive nursing leadership, which she says is her God-given purpose.

Her purpose and His plan came to fruition. The University of Oklahoma (OU) Health named Amber Nealy, MSN, R.N., NE-BC, as the inaugural Chief Nursing Officer of Ambulatory and Cancer Services (CNO).

Nealy is the first black to hold this position of CNO at OU Health, earmarking a significant milestone in Black History within the Sooner State.

“In a quote for the organization, I was asked about diversity why it mattered to me, and why does it make a difference. Why does it matter whether or not we have a diverse workforce? I think it matters because Oklahoma City’s Eastside and Spencer community students and the next generation need to see people who look like them in places and spaces where they aspire to be. It is good to know they may have a similar background or upbringing as they have had, so then it lets them know what they aspire to be is not so far off,” Nealy said.

Since December 2020, Nealy served as Director of Nursing at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, infusing her knowledge, experience, and relationships, which propelled her into the CNO role.

Nealy has been with OU Health since 2008, starting as a Nurse Partner in the inpatient Adult Medicine Specialty Unit, where she worked as a Clinical RN, Clinical Supervisor, and Clinical Manager. Additionally, Nealy held the position of the Director of Adult Endoscopy.

Nealy has served as the Chair of the Nursing Ancillary and Advisory Council for Epic Implementation, as well as a vast array of other committees. She is a certified Nurse Executive by the American Nurses Credentialing Center.

Nealy was first introduced to the health field at the Oklahoma University Health Science Center (OUHSC) when she was a junior at Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS) Northeast Academy of Health Sciences and Engineering.

“We were the first graduating class of Northeast Academy of Health Sciences and Engineering, completing grades sixth through 12, and many of us referred to the academy as a social experiment of our time,” she laughs. “I remember my teacher, Mrs. Bessie Bryant, bringing us to OUHSC’s student union to attend class a few days a week. I had many great experiences while going through the OUHSC program, which opened up several healthcare opportunities right before my eyes,” Nealy said.

OKCPS Superintendent, Dr. Sean McDaniel heads up the state’s largest school district. He emphasized the most important key driving force is the collective relationship building that takes place in every school.

“Our building leaders, teachers, and staff know our students by name and by need and provide encouragement and counsel, while also connecting them to the resources that will help them on their journey to post-secondary success, whatever that may look like for each student. For students who have the desire to attend college, career tech, enter the workplace, or head to the military, it is imperative that the district offers a variety of resources and opportunities for them to be successful after graduation,” McDaniel said.

After high school graduation, Nealy had planned to attend a community college and seek a nursing degree, which would have been free. Instead, she went in a different direction and headed north to Langston University (LU). She qualified for the full-ride Edwin P. McCabe scholarship, which is awarded to first-time freshmen entering college after high school graduation.

“LU found me! Everything was paid for, my books, my food, my fees, and my room and board. I did not have to come out of pocket for anything, which was so comforting for me. Langston University’s nursing program was competitive and offered a challenging curriculum,” Nealy said.

LU’s interim President, Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson stands firm, saying its School of Nursing and Health Professions is shaped intentionally to exceed the nation’s nursing standards.

“Langston University’s nursing program goes beyond these fundamentals by integrating content that addresses healthcare disparities and seeks to improve health outcomes in underserved populations. Additionally, our program also places a strong emphasis on leadership development, preparing graduates to assume leadership and advocacy roles within a variety of healthcare settings,” Jackson said.

Dr. Teressa Hunter, LU’s Dean of the School of Nursing and Health Professions, says it is the school’s mission that drives the rigor.

“Langston University’s nursing curriculum is purposefully designed to be rigorous to support our students, so they are equipped to navigate clinical practice and leadership roles with a focus on the best outcomes. It is crucial to teach our students that when faced with challenges, they need to know how to respond positively, and when challenges come, rewards often follow,” Hunter said.

LU Director of Alumni, Rachel Goff-Belmon, and Nealy have four common bonds. The two are LU graduates, McCabe scholars, members of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., (DST), and were classmates during their undergraduate years.

“I served as the President of the Beta Upsilon Chapter of DST for several years in college. This position allowed me to grow my supervisory skills and experience in stewarding others,” Nealy said.

“Soror Nealy’s administration style is to lead by example. She demonstrated this by keeping the chapter in compliance with her organizational skills. She orchestrated the chapter’s efforts to implement programs that align with the sorority’s Five-Point Programmatic Thrust and modeled her commitment to academic excellence through her high graduate point average (GPA),” Belmon said.

Belmon stressed Nealy rendered wholehearted ‘service’ by assisting fellow nursing students while demonstrating a deep understanding of the importance of diversity in the nursing field.

Nealy says OU Health supported her desire to continue as a lifelong learner.

“OU Health as an organization has put in place many programs to pursue higher education and advanced training or advanced certification, which benefit the working adult,” she said.

Nealy completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2009, graduating Magna Summa Laude with, a 3.50 GPA. She earned a Master of Science in Nursing, with a focus on nursing management and leadership, made available by OU Health’s tuition reimbursement program. Currently, Nealy is working on her Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP), a degree-accelerated program, supported by OU Health partnership in collaboration with the OU College of Nursing, and the Fran and Earl Ziegler College of Nursing. Her DNP is a terminal degree, which is scheduled to be conferred in May 2025.

“As an OU Health employee, the program pays for my tuition, books, and fees. Each step has afforded me something different. In terms of the MSN level, I learned a lot about leadership styles and ways of communicating with your team. At the DNP level, we look at problem system-level issues and try to understand how we can improve the organization as a whole. OU Health has invested in me as an individual employee,” Nealy said.

Nealy’s family planted the first seeds into her future long before her birth. Those first seeds were germinated, watered, and fertilized by her parents, as well as the other public educational institutions. Now, those seeds have sprouted and bore fruit to reveal her journey and countless outcomes that are more far-reaching than one can calculate in dollars and cents – Priceless.

However, Nealy says it is the humble, sacrificial contributions of her grandparents. Both grandparents were farmers, the Watts from the all-black township of Boley, and the Bradfords from the small rural town of Mason. They gave all that they had in the selling of land and livestock that kept her grounded.

“My father, the second youngest of 10 children, tells stories of when he was a child and how there was not enough food to eat. His mother would go without eating, so her children would not go hungry. My parents always instilled in us kids that they wanted us to be better and go further than what they had done. I believe that part of my recognition of their humble beginnings is to go further because they have afforded me those opportunities. I can stand on their shoulders,” she said.

Amber Nealy is reaping the harvest, having earned a seat at the bountiful table, where healthcare decisions and policies are shaped and governed.

“From where I sit, I want to be a light,” Nealy said.

Langston University White House HBCU Scholars Lovette Mba and Charina Lancaster pose in front of a banner at the national HBCU conference

LANGSTON UNIVERSITY WHITE HOUSE HBCU SCHOLAR AIMS TO REVITALIZE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR

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by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

Lovette Mba has always been passionate about her community.

The daughter of Nigerian immigrants, Mba was raised in a tight-knit Nigerian community in Wichita, Kansas, alongside her brother and sisters. Their community was like a second family, and their communal Aunts and Uncles embraced the Mba children, giving them opportunities to learn about and participate in cultural activities that they may not have otherwise had an opportunity to experience growing up outside of Nigeria. These community relationships and experiences were an integral part of Mba’s childhood, and Mba knows she would not be the same without them.

“I’m Nigerian American and I grew up in the Nigerian community back in Wichita,” Mba said. “And honestly, I attribute who I am, my qualities to growing up in that community.”

Mba’s heavy involvement with the community was thanks to her parents. Her parents were entrepreneurs, and they instilled in their children Christian values and disciplined work ethics. They always encouraged their kids to find ways to give back, and that is a lesson Mba took to heart.

“Our parents have always instilled in us that it’s about giving back to the community, giving back to others and just basically having a higher sense of service over ourselves,” said Marygrace Mba, Lovette’s older sister. “So growing up, we were always involved in something, whether it was our church, whether it was our community, whether it was just a one day volunteer thing. Whatever it was, we were always willing to do it because that’s just what we learned.”

In high school, Mba became involved with Destination Innovation Inc., an organization dedicated to giving young people the tools and knowledge needed to become leaders in their communities through civic engagement, entrepreneurship and juvenile justice reform. These activities energized Mba, and she realized that’s what she wanted to do with her life: find ways to promote economic development in communities of color.

This is a task easier said than done, but Mba knew her first step would be to further her education. She knew she wanted to attend a Historically Black College or University, but her parents wanted her to stay close to home. This posed a problem because Kansas has no HBCUs.

“I dreamed of going to an HBCU,” Mba said. “But they’re all so far away. And my parents didn’t want me to go out of state, so I made a deal with them. If I could get a full ride somewhere, then they’ve got to let me go.”

So that’s what she did. She came to Langston University in 2020 as a business management major with an Edwin P. McCabe Scholarship, which paid for her tuition, room and board, and a textbook stipend. And then Dear Langston became her new community.

Despite starting college at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mba was determined to make the most out of her time in school. She learned how to create her own fun and make friends through social distancing, and she took advantage of every opportunity to get involved once the covid restrictions lessened. She joined multiple organizations, participated in the Student Government Association and even started a new student organization: the African Student Association.

“My main goal coming to Langston was to build community with like-minded people,” Mba said. “And I feel like I’ve been able to do that these past three years.”

Part of what has helped Mba achieve this goal, along with many others, is her ability to look for opportunities and take advantage of them when they appear. That’s what she was doing while scrolling through LinkedIn one night when she stumbled across the application for the White House HBCU Scholar program.

Since 2014, the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities has recognized exceptional HBCU students who have excelled in the areas of academic achievement, civic and campus engagement, and entrepreneurial ethos. While reading about the program, Mba realized that it aligned with her goals and could help her pursue her passion for economic development.

“That’s really what I’m passionate about: economic development, community revitalization,” Mba said. “I really felt like it was God leading me to this opportunity, so I applied.”

Mba waited for months after submitting her application with no word on whether she was accepted. Then, the White House published a press release naming the 102 White House HBCU Scholars for the 2023-24 school year, and her name was on the list.

She was ecstatic.

Not only was she being recognized on a national level for all her hard work, but she would also be given tools and opportunities to learn more about economic development and how it can be utilized to help people. Since July, the program has given her mentorship opportunities, the opportunity to attend the National HBCU Week Conference in Virginia, and she will have the opportunity to participate in a hackathon sponsored by NASA.

As a White House HBCU Scholar, Mba’s goal for this year has been to learn as much as she can and try to apply that knowledge to Langston University and the City of Langston. She said she wants to create an incubation program for student entrepreneurs to not only invest in their businesses, but to also allow them to reinvest in the City of Langston.

“There are so many student entrepreneurs on our campus,” Mba said. “And I truly feel that Langston, the City of Langston, needs transformation, and that can only happen from our student body on a more economic level, like promoting the entrepreneurs on campus.”

As she works with other off-campus organizations to try to establish this program, she is also making plans for her own future. She is considering earning a graduate degree in either urban planning or business administration, but she’s also hoping to work with a program in Wichita which promotes community revitalization through economic development.

Whatever she chooses to do, it will put her one step closer to achieving her goals.

“I picture myself going into communities of color and transforming them culturally, economically and creatively,” Mba said. “That’s just always been my dream, to go into communities of color and just transform them for the better, to be able to bring more business opportunities there and allow the community to really circulate their dollars and be able to invest in businesses that are also investing in them.”

Porsha Richardson headshot

A DREAM FULFILLED: A LANGSTON UNIVERSITY NURSING GRADUATE’S JOURNEY

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Jet Turner, Langston University Office of Public Relations

A DREAM IS FOUND

Porsha Richardson had to be strong for her granny.

At 6 years old, going to Granny’s house after school was the norm. But when Porsha eagerly opened the door, she did not see Granny on the couch or in the kitchen; instead, Porsha heard her call from the bedroom.

Even though she knew Granny was sick, Porsha could not help but feel thrilled to be back in the bedroom with her. Porsha learned how to play Solitaire and Go-Fish in the room-filling king-sized bed Granny would be resting in. Granny’s bright smile always shined in her memories.

But as she walked into the bedroom, Porsha did not see card games strewn across the bed. Granny was not smiling.

“Come here Porsha, I need your help,” Granny said.

Granny was laying toward the foot of the bed. One leg dangling off the footboard, the other wrapped in a bandage.

“I need you to be strong for me, Porsha,” Granny said. “I need you to put medication on my new scar.”

Granny’s battle with diabetes lead to her having half her leg amputated.

Porsha grabbed the ointment and began to remove Granny’s bandage as instructed. As the cloth fell the fresh stitching revealed itself, traversing Granny’s new leg like train tracks. Porcha looked into the eyes of her Granny, and they pleaded for reassurance. Any apprehension Porsha felt at the time melted away. She knew she could not show Granny the fear that almost overcame her.

Porsha swallowed her final traces of dread and began applying the ointment to her Granny’s new wound.

After the ointment was applied and a bandage was wrapped neatly around the wound, Granny smiled at Porsha.

“You did a great job,” Granny said. “You should consider being a nurse one day.”

Porsha agreed.

A DREAM IS EARNED

When it came time for Porsha Richardson to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse, Langston University was the only choice that made sense. Not only is Richardson the daughter and younger sister of Langston University alumni, but the highly touted School of Nursing and Health Professions drew Richardson to Dear Langston.

As she first walked into her Fundamentals of Nursing class, Richardson knew she was home.

“I was super excited to finally get a chance to be a part of the program, and to go to a school that my father and older sister had also attended,” Richardson said. “My dad was super proud.”

But Richardson quickly found achieving her dream of becoming a nurse was not going to be easy.

Dr. Lynnie Skeen greeted Richardson at the door as she found her seat in the plain classroom. Later, she would begin taking classes with Dr. Teressa Hunter. These professors quickly became mentors to the young nursing major who, initially, only wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse.

“Soon I found out that this is work,” Richardson said. “This is real work. I was not expecting nursing to be hard for me. I was thinking it would be the easiest thing because I always loved it.

“So Dr. Hunter pushed me. She pushed me to be better. She pushed me to be great. She did not settle for just anything. You had to earn every point, and so I earned every point. To this day it means a lot to me that I earned that degree.”

Richardson earned her nursing degree from Langston University in 2005 and was ready for anything the profession could throw at her.

But it was Dr. Skeen who told Richardson to not only consider graduate school but convinced her to be hands-on in her studies and move to Georgia so Richardson could attend her graduate studies in-person.

“I just took Dr. Skeen’s advice,” Richardson said. “If it were not for her, I would not have applied to graduate school. She knew my strengths and continued to invest in me as a student. These are things that I have always admired about the nursing professors at Langston University. The ability to see each individual student as unique individuals who have strengths and abilities that even they themselves may not know of.”

Richardson earned her master’s degree in 2009, from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA.

A DREAM IS HANDED-DOWN

Richardson has owned her own medical practice since 2018. Located in Midwest City, Uptown Medical Center allows her to continue her dream of helping and nurturing patients. During the Fall 2022 semester, Richardson received a phone call from Dr. Hunter.

“Dr. Hunter said she needed a Women’s Health Instructor,” Richardson said. “I ask ‘when do I start?’”

Richardson has always had a heart for service. From nursing her Granny at 6 years old to her medical practice today, she knew it was time to give to the next generation of Langston University nurses.

When it was time to be an adjunct professor at Langston University, Richardson answered the call to teach Childbearing (Women’s Health) and Psychosocial Nursing.

And she never forgot the treatment she received at Langston University. Dear Langston instilled in Richardson and all its nursing majors an unmatched worth ethic that persists throughout their careers. Richardson knows any of her patients can be trusted in the hands of Langston University School of Nursing and Health Sciences graduates. Nursing at Langston is not an easy major, but it will prepare you for the real world.

“I heavily believe in the nursing program at Langston University, and the foundation on which it stands,” Richardson said. “It has changed the trajectory of my life, and so I owe this program a lot. My school needed me, so it was the least I could do to answer the call. My professors and school helped me so much, and I wanted to give that same help back.

“I am still that same nurse that helped my Granny at 6 years old. Taking care of people is what I do, and I love what I do. I am contributing to my community, and I am helping it not only with my medical practice, but by teaching our future nursing students too. I am proud to be a Langston graduate.”

Lindsay Davis

LU GRAD FINDS SUCCESS AS THE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN TO OBTAIN PH.D. IN CHEMISTRY FROM UTA

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By Mary Zaragoza, M.S. Ed., Communications and Special Projects Coordinator

LANGSTON, Okla. – Lindsay Davis is a Langston alum from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma who is currently in the final months of her Ph.D. in Chemistry at the University of Texas in Arlington. Lindsay has not only broken barriers for herself but will break a new barrier by being the first African American to graduate with a Ph.D. in chemistry in program history. We sat down with Lindsay to take a deeper look into how Langston impacted her course of success, what her future holds and what she wants young people of color to take away from her experience.

Davis came to find Langston because of tradition; her mom, aunt, and sister all attended Langston. Davis always looked at Langston as a possibility but never practical until she was offered the McCabe Scholarship.

“Being offered that scholarship really sealed the deal for me,” Davis said.

Davis shared that mentors played a huge role in her academia, even if she didn’t know it at the time.

“These people just invested in me,” Davis states, “and they spent so much time helping me find opportunities, so I just want to give back to others. That’s how we keep the cycle going, that’s how we pull each other up.”

Davis worked closely with Dr. Alonzo Peterson and Dr. John Coleman during her time at Langston. She recalls meeting them in the eighth grade through the Math and Science academy.

“I was so excited to go to the Math and Science academy every summer,” Davis exclaims, “I went each summer that I could.”

From there she went on to the bridge program which is where she was first introduced to Chemistry.

“He (Dr. Coleman) recognized that I was pretty strong mathematically and that I had a general interest in chemistry,” Davis shares. “he introduced me even further so I wouldn’t be interested in anything else.”

From then on Davis was filled with confidence and encouragement to pursue a passionate career in chemistry.

When talking about struggles in her journey, Davis says that she was most challenged and taken back by the rigor. Unlike her previous research experience, this was a new kind of dedication. Internships played a large role in preparing Davis for the demands and obligations of her program. Davis said that each summer she obtained internships, each with different roles in Chemistry and that she’s glad she did, it would have been more difficult had she not spent her summers learning. Another struggle Davis spoke of was often being looked over. In the male-dominated field, Davis experienced isolation and not only had to shine as a minority but a female minority.

“We need more people to do it… We need people that look like us to do these things,” Davis says, “Ultimately you never know who you can inspire just by existing.”

Davis says that attending an HBCU was the best decision she made when it came to her education. She thinks everyone should attend an HBCU, “transitioning to a PWI has been kind of hard because not everyone Is as embracing to minorities… at an HBCU there is a greater sense of family and intimacy amongst peers and faculty.” Although Davis’ program is diverse with both international and domestic students, she says there’s nothing like that HBCU bond.

The College of Science, Black Graduate Student Association is an organization that Davis help found at UTA. Isolation played a huge role in her first few years in graduate school but after founding the organization, she has met many more black students in science. She now feels as though she has a sense of community. Davis shares how through the association, she met another black female interested in chemistry. She ended up joining Davis’ lab and will be the second African American to complete the program in school history. Had she not created the organization, she would not have a new friend and peer. Laughing, Davis shared that some of her biggest inspirations are actually black women in STEM on Twitter.

“They’re just hiding on Twitter apparently,” Davis says, “I’ve now been able to connect to these women.”

Since the YouTube story has been released, Davis says that not only has she received messages and notes of encouragement and celebration, but also offers of mentorship and guidance from other black women in STEM.

“They’re professors and where I want to be. This opportunity has opened so many doors for me. I’m grateful for that,” Davis shares.

When asked about how she has stayed motivated for the past six years, her answer was simple.

“For the first part of grad school, I was motivated by the fear of going home. I was too prideful, but towards the later part it was my son. Having my son really changed me and motivated me because not only am I changing my life, I’m changing his life. I want my son to grow up and think of college as a norm, I want him to say he’s going to college,” she answered. “As a woman it was hard, but I’m also a mother. I technically have two full-time jobs. I work during the day and I also take of my son.”

One of her favorite things to do with her son is adventure days. They go on walks; they go to the zoo and they often spend time in the lab so their son can be surrounded by the possibilities of the future. Davis shares how her boss, professors, and peers were supportive and understanding of her role as a mother. They allowed her to bring her newborn son to class often while he was a newborn.

Davis says she has many other interests than just chemistry. She enjoys dressing up, DIY projects, and listening to podcasts. Comedy podcasts, political ones, inspirational talks, and of course chemistry are just the tip of the iceberg for Davis, she hopes to one day start her own podcast so others can hear her story and be inspired to chase their goals.

Davis began to get emotional as we discussed what it meant for her to be looked at as an inspiration to others.

“To be someone’s inspiration is unreal because you don’t understand the impact you can make on someone,” Davis said. “I just feel so honored. Being a black woman in my department is… weird.”

She shares that to finally receive recognition after so often getting looked over is such a blessing.

“So many people didn’t want to work with me or help me and now that I’m here I’m just so grateful,” Davis says her journey has been difficult, but that she wouldn’t necessarily change anything about it. It has molded her into the student, researcher, and mother she is today. “I just want people to know that no matter what happens, you just have to push through,” Davis says. “Personal problems, family issues, stress, a job, they all need to be pushed through. I come back every day no matter what. I come back and keep going.”

Before closing Davis recalls a pivotal time in her journey, “I remember my very first exam (in graduate school). I got a 34%. I failed the exam; I was at the bottom and now I’m here. That’s a part of my story, my testimony. I want people to know that it wasn’t always easy and sometimes it won’t be but if you keep pushing through you can do it.”

When asked about her plans after graduation, Davis says she wants to complete her postdoc so she can be a professor and conduct research. “Wherever I go I want to make an impact. That’s the most important thing.”

Davis is scheduled to walk the stage with her Ph.D. in Chemistry in August 2021.

Junior natural resources major William C. Moore III teaches kids about wildlife during his internship with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

LANGSTON UNIVERSITY STUDENT WILD ABOUT SUMMER INTERNSHIP

Release Provided By

By Christina Gray, Media Relations Specialist

Langston University student, William C. Moore III, a junior Natural Resources Major was selected out of three applicants to work as a student intern for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The Student Conservation Association (SCA) aims to help students find internship opportunities through different environmental government agencies.

During Moore’s freshman year, his Associate Professor in the School of Agriculture and Research, Raymond F. Faucette, Jr., Ph.D. introduced him to a representative of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It was this contact that led Moore to apply for the internships.

Moore is currently working with the Environmental Education Specialist to facilitate two environmental camps for local kids in Soldotna, Alaska. ‘Critter Camp’ was geared toward outdoor learning about plants and animals, their habitats, life cycles, and adaptations.

Each day included trail exploration and arts and crafts activities. ‘Get Out and Get Dirty’ camp is a chance for kids to spend time outdoors participating in skill-based exploration of orienteering, plants, birds, fish, and other animals.

During the camp, he taught the kids a nature-related curriculum provided by the program about the salmon life cycle, parts of an insect and salmon migration. He also assists with tasks such as recycling and cleaning trailheads. Moore said the internship has given him the opportunity to receive valuable training and work experience. “I’ve been here for two and a half months and I can truly say that this internship has been a life-changing experience,” said Moore.

“This internship taught me how to work independently. I was able to interact with the employees, try new things, and step outside of my comfort zone.”

Moore is a McCabe Scholar and also a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge serves as an anchor for biodiversity on the Kenai Peninsula. Using the best technology available, they ensure that biological health is maximized and human impacts minimize the Refuge staff and partners work together to ensure that biological health is maximized and human impacts. To find more information, visit the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge webpage.

Langston offers more than 38 degree programs, including 5 masters degrees and one doctoral program. Langston University is located 12 miles east of Guthrie, Oklahoma. To learn more about Langston University, please visit the Langston University webpage.