Category: Students

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.
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.

Langston University group photo at 2024 K-INBRE Symposium

Two Langston University students earn awards at annual K-INBRE Symposium

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by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Two Langston University students took home awards at the annual Kansas IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (K-INBRE) Symposium Jan. 12-14.

Senior crop and soil sciences major Kayla Smith earned a 2nd place Award of Excellence in Oral Presentations for her research on “Impairments in Cerebral Autoregulation and Cerebral Reactivity in Cancer Survivorship.” Junior biology major Daysha Isaac earned an Award of Excellence in Poster Presentations for her research on “Stalk Cell Movement in Drosophila: A model to understanding how migrating cells shape tissues and organs.”

“My experience was fun and also interesting,” Smith said. “It was my first time presenting oral presentations.”

Kayla Smith presenting at the 2024 K-INBRE Symposium
Senior crop and soil sciences major Kayla Smith earned a 2nd place Award of Excellence in Oral Presentations at the 2024 K-INBRE Symposium. Photo provided by Kayla Smith.

K-INBRE is a collaborative effort of medical and academic institutions in Kansas and Oklahoma to “promote multidisciplinary research networks with a focus on Cell and Developmental Biology,” according to the K-INBRE website. Langston University is the only Oklahoma-based institution partnered with K-INBRE.

The program offers LU students mentored research opportunities as well as opportunities to present their research at events like the annual Symposium. For example, Smith, a second-year K-INBRE participant, worked with researchers at Kansas State University.

This is Isaac’s first year participating in K-INBRE. She was introduced to the program by one of her biology professors, Dr. Kj Abraham, who helped mentor her in presenting her research. She also received advice on the structure and presentation of her research from Dr. Lindsay Davis.

Isaac has enjoyed her time in K-INBRE so far, and she was excited to present her research at the Symposium. She studied the ovarioles present in female fruit flies’ ovaries and tracked mutations and their effects on the stalk cells.

Daysha Isaac presents at the 2024 K-INBRE Symposium
Junior biology major Daysha Isaac earned an Award of Excellence in Poster Presentations at the 2024 K-INBRE Symposium. Photo provided by Daysha Isaac.

“This information allowed us to apply it to birth defects in infants,” Isaac said. “No way are we trying to cure it but gather more information about cell movement to make a connection. Such birth defects we compared it to were spina bifida and microcephaly.”

Smith is likewise passionate about the research she has helped conduct in K-INBRE, and she is confident her experiences in the program will aid her as she prepares to pursue medical school after graduation.

“I realize that my career goal is actually attainable,” Smith said, “and practice does make perfect.”

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


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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. Her community was a second family, and her communal Aunts and Uncles embraced her, providing opportunities to learn about and participate in Nigerian culture she otherwise may not have had growing up outside Nigeria. These community relationships and experiences were an integral part of Mba’s childhood, and she knows she wouldn’t 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 Christian values and disciplined work ethics in their children. They encouraged their kids to find ways to give back, 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 joined Destination Innovation Inc., an organization that gives young people the tools and knowledge needed to become leaders in their communities through civic engagement, entrepreneurship and juvenile justice reform. This 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, and 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. 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 she did. Mba 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 pandemic, Mba was determined to make the most out of her time in school. She created her own fun and made 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 started 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.” 

Mba loves to look for opportunities and take advantage 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 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 months after submitting her application with no word on whether she was accepted. Then, the White House published a press release naming the 2023-24 White House HBCU Scholars, and her name was on the list. 

She was ecstatic.  

She had not only been recognized on a national level for her hard work, but she would be given tools and opportunities to learn more about economic development and how utilize it to help people. Since July, the program has given her mentorship opportunities and the chance to attend the National HBCU Week Conference in Virginia, and she will also participate in a hackathon sponsored by NASA.

As a White House HBCU Scholar, Mba’s goal has been to learn as much as she can and try to apply that knowledge to Langston University and the City of Langston. She wants to create an incubation program for student entrepreneurs to invest in their businesses and allow them to reinvest in the City of Langston. 

“There are so many student entrepreneurs on our campus,” Mba said. “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 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 also hopes to work with a program in Wichita that promotes community revitalization through economic development. 

Whatever she chooses, 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.”

Langston University 2023 White House HBCU Scholars graphic


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by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

Langston, Okla. – Two Langston University students have been named 2023 White House HBCU Scholars, marking the first time two Langston students have received the honor in one academic year.

The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through Historically Black Colleges and Universities announced its 2023 HBCU Scholars on July 20, and Langston’s Lovette Mba and Charina Lancaster were among the 102 undergraduate, graduate and professional students to receive the honor.

“We are very excited that Lovette and Charina have been selected to represent Langston University as 2023 White House Initiatives on HBCU Scholars,” said Dr. Alonzo Peterson, the Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. “These two students represent some of the best and brightest students here at the university. They are not only great students but render great service to the Langston University community.”

Since 2014, the White House Initiative on 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.

Mba and Lancaster are the seventh and eighth Langston students to be recognized as White House HBCU Scholars since the program’s inception.

“I am honored to be chosen as a 2023 White House Initiative on HBCUs Scholar,” said Lancaster, a 2023 nursing graduate. “Being chosen is an exciting opportunity and I am proud to be a scholar representing Langston University, the only HBCU in the state of Oklahoma. Langston University has provided me with a great education, a wide range of opportunities, a powerful network providing many connections on campus within and outside of my major of nursing.”

This year’s cohort is the largest ever and includes students from 70 HBCU’s throughout the country.

White House HBCU Scholars will serve as ambassadors for the White House Initiative on HBCUs, the U.S. Department of Education and their respective academic institutions for the academic year. They will receive several networking and professional development opportunities throughout the year, including at the 2023 HBCU Week National Conference from Sept. 24-28.

“We know that they will take full advantage of opportunities to engage the other scholars, initiative staff, and industry partners on questions of innovation, leadership, and personal and professional development,” Dr. Peterson said. “Most importantly, we want Lovette and Charina to bring those experiences back to Langston University and share them with other students. This is a great opportunity for Lovette and Charina to help other Langston Lions with the knowledge they gain from the conference and the monthly master classes they will attend.”

Mba, a senior business management major, said she applied to the program because it aligns with her goals of community revitalization and economic development, and she’s excited to see what she will learn and what she can bring back to the Langston community.

“It is a great way to network with professionals in the industry I desire to work in and learn more about my passion for economic development on the national level,” Mba said. “I’m ecstatic to represent Langston University as a White House HBCU Scholar, and I cannot wait to experience all the new opportunities that come with the honor.”

Likewise, Lancaster said she’s excited to share her experiences and help the Langston community grow.

“I hope that by being chosen as a 2023 HBCU Scholar that I can help provide future high school graduates from New Mexico with information about Langston University and share my experience with them,” Lancaster said.

LU students, faculty pose with Dr Ruth Ray Jackson on the tennis courts


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by Ellie Melero, Media Relations Specialist

LANGSTON, Okla. – Students running around, laughing and having fun while their university’s president teaches them how to play pickleball is probably not what you’d expect to see on a college campus gearing up for midterms, but that’s what awaited any who made their way to the university tennis courts on Friday afternoon.

Langston University’s Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (LUAHPERD) and the ROARS Peer Educators held a “Cruising Into Midterms” event on Friday, which featured bike riding, pickup basketball and Pickleball with the President. The event was open to all students, and many took a break from studying to come hang out with their friends and decompress as they prepared for midterms.

“One of the priorities of the year is programming,” said Interim President Ruth Ray Jackson. “So, I’m very excited to see the HPER clubs adding programming to support good health and destressing for our students as they prepare for midterm exams.”

President Jackson encouraged everyone who came to pick up a paddle and hit the court, and many students were more than happy to learn a new sport from their president. Others preferred to ride bikes with their friends, and some just wanted to relax in the fresh air. Everyone who came was happy for a chance to get out of their rooms and stretch their legs before the grind of midterms fully began.

Kyara Swanson, a senior physical education major, said she thought the event was a fun way to relax, clear her mind and shake off some nerves as she prepared for her upcoming exams.

“Just simply riding the bikes or doing anything physical, it helps with your mental health,” Swanson said. “It helps you just clear your mind sometimes. You know, you’re in college and sometimes you just need a break.”

Giving students a break was the entire idea behind Cruising Into Midterms.

Dr. Desmond Delk, the chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation and one of the faculty advisors for LUAHPERD, said the goal of the event was to remind people to take care of their mental and physical health because doing so will help them succeed in their classes.

“We’re prioritizing mental health, we’re prioritizing physical activity, and we’re encouraging collaboration between our faculty, staff and students,” Dr. Delk said. “I really commend the students on organizing everything, promoting the activity and really just coming out and enjoying themselves.”

The event lasted two hours, and President Jackson was there the whole time, playing pickleball and getting to know the students. Laughs could be heard on and off the court, and many students were happy for an opportunity to spend time with their president and their peers.

“I have had a blast sharing my love of pickleball with our Langston University students,” President Jackson said. “I’m excited that there’s great interest, and perhaps in the future we can add this as part of our recreational programming.”


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Langston University Office of Public Relations

LANGSTON, Okla. – Langston University announced it will clear student balances through the use of HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) grant for students enrolled in the Summer 2022, Fall 2022, and Spring 2023 academic terms. The debt cleared through this initiative totals $4,587,485.82, and will directly assist students by immediately paying off debt owed to the university. This is the second time Langston University has cleared student debt through the use of the grant. The first debt relief initiative occurred in August 2021.

“Throughout the pandemic, our institution has sought ways to lessen the burden and remove barriers to degree completion for our students,” said Langston University President Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr. “We are excited for what this debt relief means to our students and to their families.”

This initiative will also eliminate balances for former students not currently enrolled at the institution as well as graduates who will now be cleared of any balance preventing them from receiving an official transcript, as long as they were enrolled in either the Summer 2022 or Fall 2022 semesters. There is no expectation or requirement for enrollment in a future semester to receive this benefit. This initiative will clear balances owed in tuition, fees, and fines. Students are still responsible for their federal, state, or private loans.

In addition to this transformational initiative, the Office of the Registrar will consider late applications for graduation due to the timing of this award.

The full letter from President Smith may be found at this link.

LU students pose in their graduation caps and gowns at graduation


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By Christina Gray, Media Relations Specialist

LANGSTON, Okla. – Langston University students and graduates have received life-changing news in a letter from President Kent J. Smith, Jr. Today, the University announced that it will clear student account balances for students enrolled in the Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, and Summer 2021 semesters through the support of the HEERF (Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund) III HBCU Award. The amount of student account balances erased through this initiative totals $4,654,112.06.

“We know the hardship that our community has faced over the course of the pandemic,” said Langston University Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Ruth Jackson.

“We care about our students and their families. It is our hope that this will ease some of the financial burdens and provide our scholars more financial freedom in the future. We know for many of our students this will provide them the opportunity to continue in the academic journey.”

This initiative will also include former students not currently enrolled at the institution as well as graduates who will now be cleared of any balance and hold preventing them from receiving an official transcript. There is no expectation or requirement for enrollment in a future semester to receive the benefit of the cleared balance. The funding allows the University to bring balances for students enrolled in a ‘pandemic semester’ to zero. This initiative will clear balances owed in tuition, fees, and fines. Students are still responsible for their federal, state, or private loans.

“At LU, we always put our students first and this initiative directly aligns with our mission to serve. This will provide our students with support to fully focus on academics and further support them in their journey to graduation and a successful career,” said Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr., Langston University President.

“We are excited for what this transformational gift means for our students, former students, and recent graduates!”

Students who are enrolled or plan to enroll in the Fall 2021 semester will be eligible for additional financial support through the HEERF III student aid fund. Read the full letter from President Smith here.


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By Christina Gray

LANGSTON, Okla. – Langston University welcomed more than 630 students for the 2020 incoming class, with multiple learning modalities giving students options whatever their circumstance. Classes began virtually on Monday, August 17, 2020. LU hosted a new student orientation, Lion Camp, for the incoming students coupled with a two-week intersession entitled “Fallmester”. Fallmester, along with Lion Camp, began on August 3, 2020.

The University was proud to welcome 100 new honors students within the incoming class, which is the largest honors class to date. LU scholars are required to take honors courses designed to develop communication skills, analytical thinking, creativity and leadership. The incoming freshmen class is among the most academically talented to ever be admitted to LU, demonstrating a significant improvement in both GPA and test scores over prior years.

“We continue to see the incredible interest of incoming students,” said LU President, Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr. “I am proud to report that LU received more than 10,000 applications for our Fall 2020 class.”

With the return of students on the campus, the Emergency Leadership Team (ELT) has done a tremendous job of increasing its monitoring, vigilance, and efforts related to the virus and the health safety of the campus community. Updated protocols and processes were implemented for student move-in and orientation. For more information about the campus safety efforts, please visit the LU Covid-19 Resource Page.

Langston University is a public historically black college and university enrolling a close-knit community of under 3,000 students. Founded in 1897, LU is located in rural Logan County and has urban campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. LU has been recognized as a top institution of higher learning for affordability, ranking number three among all Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the U.S., according to Langston offers more than 40 associate, bachelor, master, and doctoral programs across six academic colleges. Learn more at