Category: Langston University

Soli Pannell (left) and Asher Bellavigna flash the L's Up while wearing their nursing scrubs and standing in front of an LU backdrop.

Nursing Students Save Man’s Life During Spring Break

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by Jet Turner and Ellie Melero

The sound of running water and chittering animals filled the late March air as the river cut its way around rocks, whisking up droplets of water that splashed the faces of the four Langston University students who had come to the Blue River for spring break.

Asher Bellavigna, Jalani Doolin, Mykah Sellers and Soli Pannell had come to the Blue River in Tishomingo to escape the stresses of school, but their peaceful afternoon was interrupted when a gunshot echoed through the hills.

Pannell’s first instinct was to run––they were too close to the campsites for it to have been a normal hunting shot––but Bellavigna, an Ardmore native and regular to the Blue River campgrounds, figured there must have been an animal in a nearby campsite someone was trying to scare away.

“There’s a lot of wildlife out there,” Bellavigna said. “So that’s what I was thinking it was, there’s an animal or there’s something nearby. Maybe he shot a snake, or maybe it was just an accident.”

The group waited, listening intently for any other strange noises, and relaxed when no other shots followed.

By then the sun had begun to sink behind the dead pines, so Bellavigna asked his friends if they wanted to continue exploring around the river or head back to his parents’ campsite, where they would stay for the night.

Surprising even himself, Doolin suggested they keep exploring the river.

Students Jalani Doolin, Asher Bellavigna, Soli Pannell and Mykah Sellers at Blue Creek.
(From left to right) Jalani Doolin, Asher Bellavigna, Soli Pannell and Mykah Sellers took this selfie about 5 minutes before they heard the gunshot.

“I’m not really like an outside person,” Doolin said. “I just had a feeling like we should just keep walking around. It was just a feeling. And it turned out to be something bigger than expected.”

The group trekked up a nearby hill and cut to the left, heading back toward the main campground road. A weird, eerie feeling began to settle over Pannell before she felt two hands push her to the side.

Bellavigna was the first to hear a faint car engine, and as the Game Warden’s vehicle barreled up the road, he pushed his friends to safety. He watched the car disappear down the road in the direction they’d just come, and he knew there must be an emergency somewhere for the warden to drive so fast in the campgrounds. Suddenly, the sound of a blaring car horn drew his gaze to the campsite the warden had just passed.

A 12-year-old boy was frantically honking the car horn while a man lay on the ground by the fire pit, clutching his chest.

Bellavigna sprang into action, running straight for the campsite and calling for Pannell to follow after him.

“I did start running over there thinking, ‘Heart attack, what am I going to do?’” Bellavigna said. “Then I see the blood, and that was when it registered: gunshot.”

It was later revealed that in a bizarre accident, the man’s loaded pistol had fallen out of his breast pocket when he stumbled on his way to make popcorn, firing a bullet that ricocheted against a rock before going through the man’s knee and lodging itself in his chest.

Pannell arrived at the campsite right after Bellavinga, with Doolin and Sellers in tow. She, too, realized this must have been the source of the gunshot and immediately began looking for the weapon. After quickly verifying the gun wasn’t in position to go off again, Pannell and Bellavigna got to work.

Both third-year nursing students at Langston, Pannell and Bellavigna’s training kicked in as they assessed the man’s injuries. Bellavigna began applying pressure to the man’s chest while Pannell scanned the campsite for anything that could be used to help Bellavigna staunch the flow of blood. She found a clothesline with clothes and towels hung to dry, grabbed them and handed them to Bellavigna.

“Asher worked on putting pressure on the guy’s knee where the bullet had entered at first,” Pannell said. “Then, as I’m looking up, I see that his upper half is covered in blood, so I’m trying to get his jackets and stuff off while holding pressure on the wound that was up there.”

As Bellavigna and Pannell worked, Doolin and Sellers got out of their way. Doolin’s face had gone pale at the sight of the man’s injuries, so Pannell directed him to chase after the warden’s car and bring him back. She asked Sellers to check on the boy, who had stopped honking the horn and was trying to wrangle his clearly distressed dog.

Doolin, a psychology major, ran for what felt like a mile to the end of the campground road until he finally caught up with the Game Warden’s vehicle. Doolin got the warden’s attention and told him that, if he was looking for someone who needed help, he passed him and needed to turn around.

The warden quickly turned the car around and headed back toward the campsite, leaving Doolin to walk back.

“I ain’t never run like that in a minute,” Doolin said. “I walked back. I took my time. I needed to catch my breath.”

Meanwhile, back at the campsite, Bellavigna and Pannell continued to administer first aid. The duo found themselves using the knowledge they learned in Langston University’s School of Nursing and Health Professions, such as the ABC’S (Airway, Breathing, Circulation and Safety).

Asher Bellavigna and Soli Pannell assist EMS and police while tending to an injured man.
Bellavigna and Pannell continued to assist the officers and EMS workers by holding flashlights when help arrived.

The man was experiencing an adrenaline rush in addition to the obvious blood loss, and he rambled as he tried to piece together how he shot himself. Because he was talking, they knew his airways were clear. The bullet clearly did not puncture his lung, and his breathing, although rapid from the shock and adrenaline, was uninterrupted. He was pale from blood loss, and the nursing students knew if he passed out there would be a whole other set of issues to deal with. So the two students tried to keep him talking.

“The main goal was for sure to keep him alert and oriented,” Pannell said. “You never want someone who’s losing that much blood to lose consciousness. So just keep them talking and everything like that.”

As they waited for help to arrive, Bellavigna and Pannell worked together as a team. Although they had never worked in clinical situations together before, they both said it felt seamless to work with each other. They kept cool heads, they communicated clearly and efficiently, and they didn’t let their senses of urgency turn into panic.

It was getting dark when the Game Warden arrived about 10 minutes later, and the group had begun using their phone flashlights to see. Bellavigna and Pannell had already put the man’s leg in a makeshift tourniquet, and they were cutting away clothes to find where exactly the bullet had lodged so as to better apply pressure. The warden was already on the phone with an emergency operator.

About 20 minutes later, the campsite was illuminated with the red and blue lights of an ambulance.

“Once the ambulance showed up (a paramedic) came and got me because I was still in the mode of trying to lock in,” Pannell said. “(The paramedic) said we did what we needed to do, so we stepped back and gave the story to the Game Warden and police for reporting.”

Bellavigna and Pannell, along with Doolin and Sellers, continued to help by holding flashlights for the paramedics as they picked up the work the two nursing students began.

The injured man was eventually airlifted to a hospital where he received life-saving treatment.

The friends returned to Bellavigna’s parents’ campsite, talking about everything that had happened as they tried to process the shocking turn their spring break trip had taken.

As the night pressed on, Bellavigna found himself unable to sleep as the events of the evening rushed through his head. He knew there was nothing more he could have done, but he couldn’t stop wondering if there was anything different the nursing duo should have done. For Pannell, the reality of saving the man’s life didn’t set in until the next day.

Although they had come to the Blue River to forget about school and destress, helping to save a man’s life confirmed for both students that they had chosen the right career path and were pursuing it at the right institution.

“Before I even got into nursing school, I knew I wanted to work in the ER or ICU,” Bellavigna said. “I like the faster pace and adrenaline. This is what I want to do; I wouldn’t mind spending a good portion of my life doing things like this… I’m on the right path. I’m on the right track.”

“I’d say similar feelings,” Pannell said. “I definitely had a realization of, ‘Oh, I can do this.’ … Having that type of experience just on a random base, a random moment, it really did confirm, ‘You’re good. You’re in the right field. You can do it.’” 

Students Jalani Woods, Asher Bellavigna, Mykah Sellers and Soli Pannell after saving a man's life at Blue Creek Campgrounds.
(From left to right) Doolin, Bellavigna, Sellers and Pannell’s quick actions helped save the gunshot victim’s life.
Dr. Corey Moore headshot

Langston University Awarded U.S. Department of Education-Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services Grant Totaling $1.25 Million to Prepare Personnel to Serve School-Age Children with Mental Disabilities

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OKLAHOMA CITY––Langston University, Oklahoma’s only historically Black college or university, has been awarded a $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Servies (OSERS) to establish a new specialized course of study to prepare personnel to serve school-age children with mental disabilities.

The grant, which will total $1.25 million over five years, will be used to establish the “School-to-Work: Preparing Personnel to Serve School-Age Children with Mental Disabilities (STW-SACMD)” track within the university’s existing CACREP accredited Master’s of Science Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling Program. Dr. Corey L. Moore, a professor in and the founding chair of the Department of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies, will serve as Project Director for this grant.

Moore is also the Principal Investigator at the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR)-funded Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Research and Capacity Building for Minority Entities (LU-RRTC) and Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Advancing Employment Equity for Multiply Marginalized People with Disabilities (LU-2ERRTC).

“This initiative is important to the field of disability and employment as it affords our program the opportunity to train and prepare our students for rehabilitation positions that serve school-age children with mental disabilities from minority backgrounds to achieve a smoother transition from the secondary grade school system to the world of work,” Moore said.

The STW-SACMD project presents an exceptional approach to student development through LU’s partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services, Tulsa Public Schools and other local education agencies in Oklahoma.

Significant attention will be devoted to cross-fertilizing STW-SACMD and on-going LU-RRTC and LU-2ERRTC trainings, including with webinars and community of practices, to increase students’ knowledge about the delivery of transition and mental health services to school-age children with mental disabilities from minority backgrounds. The goal is to increase the supply of fully credentialed rehabilitation and mental health professionals from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds available for employment in local educational and/or rehabilitation agencies.

The grant will pay for tuition and fees and will provide a living stipend for 36 students in the Rehabilitation Counseling Program, which was ranked #19 and highest across all HBCUs by the U.S. News & World Report in the publication’s 2023 rankings of Rehabilitation Counseling Programs in America.

“I am immensely proud of the continued success of Dr. Moore and scholars within Langston University’s Department of Rehabilitation and Disability Studies,” said Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson, President of Langston University. “This $1.25 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education is further evidence of the impact of their work in preparing our students for success and addressing needs across underserved communities.

“This significant investment supports our institutional priorities of offering quality academic programs, engaging in purposeful partnerships, and ensuring access to education for all.”

This OSERS priority (ALN 84.325M) focuses on personnel preparation of special education, early intervention, and related services personnel at HBCUs, Tribally controlled colleges and universities, and other minority-serving Institutions under focus area (B)- preparing personnel to serve school-age children with disabilities.

The funded STW-SACMD initiative at LU is in direct response to identified needs related to personnel development issues and demands and the improvement of services and results for school-age children with mental disabilities, especially those from racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds, including those who are multilingual.

45 Year Anniversary logo

Langston University urban campuses to commemorate 45 years with celebratory luncheons

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Purchase Tickets for the LU-Oklahoma City Luncheon
Purchase Tickets for the LU-Tulsa Luncheon
The Langston University urban campuses located in Oklahoma City and Tulsa will commemorate their 45-year anniversaries this June with celebratory luncheons.
These celebrations will honor the hard work done by the faculty, staff and site administrators at these campuses to provide quality educational opportunities for students in Oklahoma City and Tulsa since 1979. They will also serve as fundraisers to support the campuses as they continue to promote excellence in higher education and research in Oklahoma.
In January 2023, Griffin Media made the largest corporate donation in Langston University history when it gifted the university its KWTV News 9 building located at 7401 N. Kelley Ave. in Oklahoma City. The building has become the new home of the LU-OKC campus and a focal point for the Broadcast Journalism program.
In March 2023, the LU-Tulsa campus held the grand opening for the new Tulsa Allied Health Facility. The 17,000-square-foot building, home to the School of Nursing and Health Professions in Tulsa, includes simulation labs with mannikins powered by artificial intelligence, spacious classrooms, a lecture hall, conference and meeting rooms, and department and administrative office spaces.
These recent additions to each of the LU urban campuses reflect the university’s efforts to expand its footprint and impact in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and the state as a whole.
LU-OKC will celebrate its 45-year anniversary with a luncheon in the Embassy Suites OKC Northwest on June 6. The deadline to purchase tickets is May 30. Tickets can be purchased for $45 at
LU-Tulsa will celebrate its 45-year anniversary with a luncheon in the Doubletree by Hilton in Downtown Tulsa on June 13. The deadline to purchase tickets is June 6. Tickets can be purchased for $45 at
(From Left to Right) Sen. Lankford, State Rep. Talley, Sen. Boozman, President Jackson, and Dean Whittaker at the E. (Kika) de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research.

Senators Lankford, Boozman Visit Langston University to Discuss Agricultural Research, Extension

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LANGSTON, Okla.––Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and John Boozman (R-AR) visited Langston University to tour the school’s agricultural research facilities and discuss the work the university does to help small farmers in Oklahoma and around the world through agricultural extension and research.

The Senators met with representatives of the university’s administration during their visit to the Langston campus on Friday, including newly appointed president Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson and the dean of the Sherman Lewis School of Agricultural and Applied Sciences, Dr. Wesley Whitaker. Joining the tour was Oklahoma Representative John Talley (R-Stillwater).

During their visit, the Senators toured the Dairy Herd Information Lab for Goats and the Central Lab before visiting the E. Kika de la Garza American Institute for Goat Researchs Main Farm, where Sen. Lankford and Sen. Boozman were able to tour the Kid Barn.

Senators Lankford and Boozman discuss Langston University's beekeeping program with honey beekeeper Hank Baker.
Senators Lankford and Boozman discuss Langston University’s beekeeping program with honey beekeeper Hank Baker.

“This was truly a high impact visit by two prominent American senators,” Dr. Whittaker said. The enthusiasm they expressed in seeing the quality and quantity of our work was truly palpable, and it will go a far way in helping to tell the success stories of Langston University and the 1890 land-grant community.”

Langston University is one of three land grant universities in Oklahoma, along with Oklahoma State University and the College of the Muscogee Nation. As an 1890 landgrant institution, one of the Langston University’s key missions is to conduct necessary research to support and promote agriculture accessibility, continued food security, and cooperative extension to provide resources and education to communities and farmers throughout Oklahoma and beyond. Many of Langston’s research programs aim to help small rural farmers make better use of their resources in innovative ways and solve problems facing the agriculture industry.

Prior to their visit to Langston University, Sen. Lankford and Sen. Boozman hosted the Senate Farm Bill Agriculture Stakeholder Roundtable in Oklahoma City, which was moderated by Secretary of Agriculture and Regent for the Oklahoma A&M System, Blayne Arthur. Sen. Boozman is the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee.

“We are honored to host Senator Lankford and Senator Boozman at Langston University’s Sherman Lewis School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences,” Dr. Jackson said. “Their support highlights the significance of our work in agricultural education and research in food security and small farming. We are proud to showcase the talents and innovations of our students and faculty.”

A goat at the E. (Kika) de la Garza American Institute of Goat Research.

President Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson

A Special Message from President Ruth Ray Jackson, Ph.D.

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Dear University Community,

I am honored to greet you today as the 17th president of Langston University. This marks a very important day in my life and for that of my family. My husband John, our daughter Leah, and I are thrilled to continue our service to this great institution.

After spending my entire career in education and having been raised by educators, this presidency represents much more than the culmination of a professional pathway. I am the product of a Historically Black institution and have a deep appreciation of the work we do and the students we serve. I am so grateful to the distinguished leaders who came before me in this role; those who led our institution and positioned Langston University for a bright future. I am incredibly humbled to continue the work of those sixteen individuals and so many others who care deeply for our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters.

I want to express my sincere gratitude to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community for their support throughout my tenure as interim president and now upon my appointment. I also extend my thanks to the presidential search committee for their significant contributions to the search process, and to the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents for placing their confidence in my vision to lead Langston University.

I am thrilled to participate in the 124th Commencement with our graduates, their families, our faculty, and staff this weekend. Commencement is my favorite day of the year. It is fitting that presiding over this most special of ceremonies is among my first official duties as president. I hope you will join us on Saturday, May 4, for the celebration!

During my term as interim president, I introduced my presidential priorities to guide us through a transitional year. These priorities include people, programs, processes, partnerships, and public relations all rooted in our purpose. I am excited to continue this work into my tenure as president.

People – We will cultivate a culture allowing for the continual recruitment of bright students and talented employees who understand and support our mission.

Programs – We will invest in the right academic programs leading to career attainment for our students, support dynamic co-curricular experiences aimed at leadership development, expand our online presence with academic and certificate programs, and offer professional development opportunities for all employees.

Processes – We will modernize and streamline our administrative functions, support student success through excellent customer service, and implement effective and routine training for employees.

Partnerships – We will build strong relationships with academic and community partners throughout the state of Oklahoma and beyond as we continue to build strategic relationships with corporate, philanthropic, advocacy, and shared services organizations.

Public Relations – We will continue to elevate our brand visibility and reputation by sharing our accomplishments and by leveraging our individual influence and networks as members of our university community to highlight and share the good news that happens on our campuses.

Purpose – We will remain true to our mission of access and opportunity for all people, serve as a model for student success, and build upon our momentum to foster innovation and research globally.

I invite all of you to join me for a come-and-go reception today, Wednesday, May 1, from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. in the Multipurpose Building on the Langston Campus. There will be no formal program for the reception, as my hope is that it will serve as a time for our university community to celebrate the conclusion of the academic year. This reception will also serve as an opportunity for me to express my gratitude for your continued support of Dear Langston.

Our work together begins now. I am excited to listen and engage with you to continue the success of Dear Langston far into the future.

I very much look forward to serving our institution with purpose, together.


Ruth Ray Jackson, Ph.D.

representatives of Langston University and Redlands Community College pose in front of an LU backdrop

Langston University School of Nursing and Health Professions, Redlands Community College sign agreement to expand nursing education opportunities

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A new agreement between the Langston University School of Nursing and Health Professions and Redlands Community College will allow graduates of Redlands’ nursing program to more easily obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from Langston University. The agreement was formally signed Friday on the LU Langston campus.

According to the agreement, students who graduate from Redlands Community College with an associate degree in nursing will be able to transfer all prerequisite courses in which they earned a grade of “C” or higher to Langston University. Additionally, they will be given Advanced Placement credit for up to 30 hours for classes such as Fundamentals of Nursing Practice, Childbearing Family Nursing and Psychosocial Nursing. These benefits will allow students to complete their BSN degrees more quickly and at an affordable price.

The agreement was first signed on Dec. 6 and was effective immediately, but the April 19 signing was a more formal event to commemorate the new partnership, which will benefit both Oklahoma nursing students and the nursing profession as a whole.

“We want to help increase the number of nurses who have earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree,” said Dr. Teressa Hunter, the dean of Langston’s School of Nursing and Health Professions. “According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, ‘BSN nurses are prized for their skills in critical thinking, leadership, case management, and health promotion, and their ability to practice across various inpatient and outpatient settings.’

“I fully support their statement and want to help meet the goal of educating more RNs who have earned a BSN. This articulation agreement with Redlands Community College is a significant step to help meet this goal.”

The School of Nursing and Health Professions offers students multiple ways to earn their BSN degrees. Students who prefer in-person instruction may take classes at Langston University’s Langston or Tulsa campuses or at the University’s Ardmore site. Students who are already registered nurses (RN) may also choose to complete their BSN online.

“We look forward to working with Langston as we continue to grow the nursing pipeline in the state,” said Redlands President Jena Marr. “We have dedicated substantial resources to meeting the demand for nurses, particularly in rural and tribal areas. An associate degree in nursing is a great step in this direction, but we are excited to partner with Langston to expand our efforts by supporting Redlands nursing graduates who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree.”

Langston University launched its online RN to BSN program in October 2023, allowing students to attend classes and complete assignments on a schedule that suits their needs with the convenience of not having to leave home. This format will also offer a personal connection within a supportive environment, which has decreased attrition, led to higher student satisfaction and enhanced learning. Students who are RNs can earn a BSN in 9 or 12 months, depending on their chosen course plan.

The deadline for applications for fall 2024 admission to the LU traditional nursing program has passed, but the application deadline for spring admission to Tulsa and Ardmore is Oct. 1, 2024. The deadline for fall admission to the RN-to-BSN program is July 27, 2024. The deadline to apply for admission to the Redlands’ general nursing program has passed, but the LPN-to-RN application opens Sept. 1, 2024.




Langston University is Oklahoma’s only Historically Black College or University. Made up of six academic schools and offering 40 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, LU provides students with a world-class education that includes hands-on learning through impactful research and beneficial internships. LU has campuses in Langston, Oklahoma City and Tulsa as well as a site in Ardmore.

Redlands Community College provides a learner-centered environment committed to academic excellence strengthened through service and civic engagement. Redlands’ rich academic environment provides opportunities for continuous growth through a challenging and rigorous curriculum enhanced by the application of research and technology, and the college engages in collaboration with public and private partners that reinforce the value of service to others and strengthen ethical development and civic engagement.

Aniyah Robinson poses next to an HBCU night t-shirt design

Broadcast journalism student earns prestigious Rhoden Fellowship

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Aniyah Robinson is the first Langston University student to become a Rhoden Fellow

by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

Earning the Andscape Rhoden Fellowship is a dream come true for Aniyah Robinson.

A broadcast journalism junior from Wichita, Kansas, Robinson has been interested in sports and sports media since elementary school, and now she has the opportunity to work with ESPN during a yearlong fellowship with Andscape.

“I’m looking forward to being in a space with like-minded individuals and just being able to do stuff that we love,” Robinson said. “And I’m really excited to be able to work with the other fellows this year.”

Andscape, part of the ESPN portfolio and formerly known as The Undefeated, is a Black-led media group dedicated to highlighting and uplifting Black stories. As part of the United Negro College Fund-Disney Corporate Scholars program, Andscape sponsors the Rhoden Fellowship.

Named for award-winning sportswriter William C. Rhoden, the Rhoden Fellowship is a prestigious one-year sports media program for aspiring journalists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The program includes a 10-week summer internship, various professional development opportunities and a $5,000 award.

Aniyah Robinson is Langston University’s first Rhoden Fellow, and her journey to get there has been one filled with hard work and determination.

Little Girl, Big Dream
A young Aniyah Robinson poses in front of NBA player cut-outs with her younger brother and sister.
Robinson (left) has dreamed of working in sports media since she was a child.

Robinson was in fourth grade the first time she told her grandmother, Kim Ross, that she was going to be on ESPN one day.

“I just kind of shoved it off when she was little because she was a kid,” Ross said. “We all thought, ‘Oh, you know, she’s just talking right now. She don’t know what she want to do.’

“Because when you’re a kid you don’t really know,” Ross reasoned. “You’re gonna have 15 different things you’re gonna wanna do by the time you graduate high school.”

But as Robinson got older, Ross realized this goal was more than just a passing childhood interest. Robinson was still talking about it when she was in sixth grade. And in seventh grade. And in eighth grade.

By the time Robinson was a sophomore in high school, Ross had realized working for ESPN really was Robinson’s dream job.

“Even her friends were like, ‘Uh, yeah, Aniyah is going to do this. She wants to do sports. She’s going to be on ESPN someday,’” Ross said. “It’s just something she’s always said, and she’s striving for it.”

Ross knew pursuing this dream would mean earning a college degree, and she always told Robinson to make her education a priority. So Robinson worked hard in high school to get accepted into her dream school: Prairie View A&M University.

Robinson was excited to attend Prairie View, but then her best friend, Kennadi, broke the news to her that she would not go to Texas with Robinson in the fall. Kennadi had been accepted to Langston University, the school where her mother and sisters had gone, and that’s where she wanted to go.

Faced with a choice between her dream school and her dream of going to school with her best friend, Robinson decided to give Dear Langston a chance.

“Langston was closer to home, it was less expensive, and it was just ideal,” Robinson said. “It’s still small, but it’s the perfect size to where we’re all just a big family. So here I am, third year!”

Putting in the Work

When Robinson came to Langston, one of her first classes was with Daniel Thompson, an instructor of communication and the advisor for the LU Gazette, Langston University’s student newspaper. Thomspon said as a freshman, Robinson was a very quiet student. She didn’t talk a lot in class, and he could tell she didn’t quite have her feet under her yet. But that soon changed.

Aniyah Robinson takes a selfie with her best friend Kennadi Graham
Robinson (right) ultimately decided to attend Langston University after her best friend, Kennadi Graham (left), decided to attend LU.

Robinson made a conscious effort to get more involved on campus her sophomore year, and that included getting involved with the student newspaper. She began writing for the Gazette and has risen to the role of managing editor. She will be the editor-in-chief in the fall.

The summer after her sophomore year, Robinson pursued an internship with KSN, a news station in Wichita, and she returned to Langston in the fall with confidence and motivation.

“Doing an internship that early on has such a massive impact on students,” Thompson said. “She came back just more confident and more capable.”

Robinson didn’t just get involved with already existing organizations, though. Langston students are often encouraged to find organizations that reflect their interests and goals, and if they cannot find one, they are encouraged to start one. Robinson did just that, and she said restarting the LU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) has been one of her most memorable achievements at Langston.

Robinson first learned about NABJ when members of the NABJ Tulsa chapter came to speak to one of her classes about the organization. Then one of her friends at the University of Missouri told her about how beneficial the organization had been for her. Robinson decided Langston students should have an opportunity to receive those benefits, too.

“I felt like that’s a good organization to bring to Langston,” Robinson said. “So I worked with Mr. Thompson a lot to get that started, and it’s just been amazing ever since.”

Langston had a chapter of NABJ years ago, but membership fizzled out and the chapter became defunct. Over the years, several students tried to restart the chapter, but all were unsuccessful. Robinson wouldn’t let that deter her, though.

She worked with Thompson to formulate a constitution, recruit students to be consistently involved in the organization, earn the approval of the regional director of NABJ, earn the support of the Tulsa chapter, and receive letters of recommendation from both the Tulsa chapter and regional director to NABJ’s national board.

“Aniyah was able to get the student support and the momentum, and she was diligent enough to push through this new chapter,” Thompson said. “Just the amount of effort and time it took to get that started back up, to get the constitution in order, to get all the documents in order, to set up the meeting with the national association, it was a lot of work.

“She really did that work, and she’s almost entirely responsible for NABJ coming back.”

Between writing for the Gazette, restarting NABJ and maintaining good grades in all her classes, Robinson still found time to pursue an on-campus internship. She became an intern in the Department of Athletics under the supervision of Sports Information Director Kyle Taylor.

A group photo with members of the NABJ
Robinson spent months working to restart the LU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

As an Athletics intern, Robinson helps with anything from game-day live streams to running the football video board. She is a quick learner who’s constantly looking to add skills to her repertoire, and Taylor said Robinson is one of the hardest working interns they have.

That’s why when Taylor received an inquiry for potential Rhoden Fellowship applicants, Robinson was one of the first people he thought of. After requesting more information about what the Fellowship was looking for, he was certain Robinson was the perfect candidate.

“Aniyah really kind of stuck out as a potential candidate because part of what they were looking for was a writing component,” Taylor said. “Aniyah has been a part of the Gazette for a while and she’s written quite a lot, so this seemed really up her alley.”

A Black Woman in Sports Media

ESPN Senior Editor and LU alumnus Eddie Maisonet knew that though Langston University had never had a Rhoden Fellow before, there were tons of students with incredible potential. That’s why he reached out to Director of Alumni Affairs Rachel Belmon and asked if there were any students who stood out as promising potential fellows. Belmon, in turn, reached out to Taylor, and Robinson began her journey to becoming Dear Langston’s first Rhoden Fellow.

Robinson worked with Taylor and Maisonet to prepare her application and prepare for her interview. After months of preparation and waiting, the 2024 UNCF Disney Corporate Scholars were announced in February. Robinson was one of six students selected for the Rhoden Fellowship, which this year happens to be an all-woman cohort.

“This is the first time they’ve had an all-woman cohort,” Robinson said. “So, all of us wanting to work in sports, being Black women, I feel like it’s gonna be just such an awesome experience.”

Robinson will spend the summer in Bristol, Connecticut, as an intern for Andscape. She will work with her fellow interns to cover sports as well as other news and cultural subjects, especially Black culture, and Andscape will take the fellows to various events and experiences as the opportunities arise.

Robinson has wanted to work in sports media since she was a child, and she always knew it would take a lot of hard work and dedication to be successful in such a male-dominated industry. She said her experiences at Langston University have shown her she is capable of anything, and she is excited to continue pursuing her dream of being a Black woman in sports media through the Rhoden Fellowship.

“I feel like often-times Black women are not taken seriously, especially in an industry like sports media,” Robinson said. “It’s really hard for us to move up in the rankings. But it’s really amazing that I’ve been able to see women in the sports industry, especially Black women, come together and support each other, and that is just an amazing thing to now be a part of.”

LU students smile and pose on the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball court after the "Careers in Sports Event with OKC Thunder."

Langston University students visit OKC Thunder headquarters

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LANGSTON, Okla. — In an exhilarating blend of education and sportsmanship, over 30 Langston University students had the exclusive opportunity to step into the fast-paced world of professional sports with a career-focused visit to the headquarters of the Oklahoma City Thunder, the freshly crowned No. 1 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference.

As the Thunder gears up for a promising playoff season, students from the School of Business, the Department of Communications, and the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation attended the “Careers in Sports Event with OKC Thunder.” This initiative is part of an ongoing effort to strengthen ties with leading organizations and open new horizons for students.

Professor Ralph Grayson, Chair of the Computer Science and Management Information Systems Departments, spearheaded the event and emphasized the importance of integrating practical experiences with academic learning.

“Our students are not just studying the theory; they are out here, experiencing real-world applications of what we teach,” Professor Grayson said.

LU students sit around a table smiling during the "Careers in Sports Event with OKC Thunder."
Langston University students get a rare opportunity to network with professionals in The Thunder organization.

During the visit, students participated in roundtable discussions, engaged in panel sessions, and enjoyed a comprehensive tour of the Thunder’s arena. They interacted with team executives who discussed various roles within the sports industry, from analytics and event management to health and player development.

Professor Carolyn Ross from the Department of Communications highlighted the transformative nature of the experience.

“Learning about media relations or sports marketing in a classroom is one thing,” Professor Ross said. “It’s another to see those roles in action during the high stakes of NBA playoffs.”

The event provided valuable professional insights and showcased the potential career paths available within the sports industry. Both professors intend to foster this budding relationship, ensuring continued student engagement and learning opportunities.

Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson headshot and the seal of the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents

Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson Appointed Langston University’s 17th President

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LANGSTON, Okla.The Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents announced the appointment of Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson as the seventeenth President of Langston University. Dr. Jackson’s selection follows an extensive eight-month national search that attracted several qualified candidates.

“Dr. Jackson’s appointment underscores her exceptional leadership and vision for our institution. During her tenure as Interim President, Dr. Jackson maintained continuity and stability and managed to build momentum. Her unwavering commitment to Langston’s mission and her ability to navigate critical transitions have been commendable. We are confident that under her guidance, Langston University will excel,” commented Board Chair Joe Hall.

Dr. Jackson served as Vice President for Academic Affairs prior to assuming the role of Interim President in July 2023. Prior to advancing to the Vice Presidency, she also served as the university’s Associate Vice President for Student Success. Dr. Jackson’s association with Langston University began in 2014 as Dean and Professor for the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

Before joining Langston University, she spent 11 years at Louisiana State University in Shreveport as a faculty member, graduate program director, and department chair. Before transitioning to higher education, Dr. Jackson worked as a high school English teacher, assistant principal, and principal in public education.

“I am honored to lead Langston University into its next chapter,” commented Dr. Jackson in response to her appointment. “I love this university and believe in its faculty, staff, students, and alumni. Our mission must be focused on empowering students, celebrating student success, and contributing to the betterment of Oklahoma and beyond. Together, we will build upon Langston’s legacy and create a future where excellence knows no bounds.”

“As a proud graduate of Langston University, I wholeheartedly applaud the selection of Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson as our next President. Her admiration for our beloved institution and the excellent job she did as interim President have been truly remarkable. Dr. Jackson’s leadership embodies the spirit of Langston, and I am confident that she will continue to elevate our university to new heights,” commented Sherman Lewis, a distinguished Langston University alumnus and member of the Langston University Presidential Search Committee.

“Our search for a new president attracted an impressive pool of candidates, which is a testament to Langston University’s potential and the importance of its mission. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson on her selection as the next President of Langston University. We appreciate the support of the members of the search committee and the Langston University community as Dr. Jackson leads the university to new heights,” commented A&M Regent Billy Taylor, who chaired the Presidential Search Committee.

About Langston University: Founded in 1897, Langston University is a beacon of educational opportunity, social justice, and community impact. As Oklahoma’s only Historically Black College or University (HBCU), Langston continues to shape the lives of generations of students.

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.