Tag: dr ruth ray jackson

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 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.”

Dr Ruth Ray Jackson speaks at the 2023 Opening Convocation


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by Ellie Melero and Jet Turner

Langston, Okla. – Interim President Ruth Ray Jackson spoke about her goals for Langston University and her plans to achieve them over the next year during the Formal Opening Convocation Ceremony at I.W. Young Auditorium on Thursday.

“As we embark on this year of transition and prepare for a new chapter in the history of our institution, let’s embrace each opportunity to recommit to our institutional vision statement,” President Jackson said. “‘To foster an environment which cultivates leaders, innovators and engaged citizens who meet the challenges of local, national and global communities.’”

The Opening Convocation marked the formal opening of the university for the 2023-24 academic year. President Jackson, who assumed office on July 6 after President Kent J. Smith, Jr.’s, retirement, took the opportunity to address the Langston community and discuss her Presidential Priorities, or Five P’s, for the university during her interim presidency.

The Five P’s are People, Programs, Processes, Public Relations and Purpose.


People refers to the Langston community: students, future students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends. President Jackson spoke about the need to take care of all members of the Langston family and the ways in which the university is doing so.

“We are committed to providing a safe and comfortable environment for our students to learn and live,” President Jackson said. “For our employees, we will cultivate a campus culture that allows us to recruit and retain talented people who, first and foremost, understand and support our mission.”

Student retention and graduation rates have increased, and graduate student enrollment has increased by 43%. Campus housing is at capacity, and Langston has taken occupancy of its new Oklahoma City campus on Kelley Avenue.

Additionally, the university has welcomed nearly 40 new faculty and staff since May, and university employees recently received a 3% raise, partially facilitated by funding from the State Regents and Oklahoma legislature.


Programs refers not only to the various associates, bachelors, masters and doctoral programs offered at Langston University, but also the various cocurricular and extracurricular activities which help to enrich the lives of Langston students.

Langston’s academic programs are continually evaluated and updated as needed to ensure students receive quality education which fully prepares them for competitive fields and industries. In addition to program updates, Langston is also working to increase its online graduate and certificate program offerings.

President Jackson also announced that Langston will soon offer a Master of Science in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security, which means four of Langston’s six academic schools will offer at least one graduate degree program.


The third P, Processes, refers to President Jackson’s goal to update, optimize and streamline as many of the necessary processes and procedures of the university as possible. Many procedures and platforms are currently under review to determine how best to accomplish this goal.


“There is an African proverb that says, ‘Until the lion tells the story, the hunter will always be the hero,’” President Jackson said. “We must tell our story.”

President Jackson encouraged students, faculty, staff and alumni to not only share their stories with the university’s Public Relations team, but also with their own networks of friends and families.


President Jackson’s final P is Purpose. As one of only 102 Historically Black Colleges and Universities and one of only 19 Historically Black Land Grant Institutions in the United States, Langston University has a higher calling than simply teaching students.

Langston provides affordable access to all students, regardless of background, to career oriented higher education, and it empowers them to make lasting impacts in the world through critical teaching and research.

“Since our founding in 1897, we have provided a nurturing environment for our students, especially those most at risk for not completing college,” President Jackson said. “We play a critical role in fostering upward mobility and helping diverse students achieve their educational, professional and personal aspirations.”

President Jackson ended her remarks by reading Langston University’s Mission Statement, which aligns with the Five P’s:

Grounded in its rich traditions as a historically Black college and university, and a land-grant institution, Langston University offers quality post-secondary education to diverse populations through academics, research, community engagement, extension, and co-curricular experiences that lead to professional competence and degree completion.

“This is what we were founded to do,” President Jackson said. “This is what we have done for 126 years. This is what we will continue to do this year and for many more to come.”

Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson headshot


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LANGSTON, Okla. – The Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural & Mechanical Colleges has appointed Dr. Ruth Ray Jackson as interim president of Langston University, beginning July 6, 2023. Dr. Jackson will serve until a nationwide search for President Smith’s successor is completed and the University’s seventeenth president assumes office.

“We appreciate Dr. Jackson’s willingness to step forward to lead Langston University through this upcoming transition,” said Jarold Callahan, Chair of the OSU/A&M Board of Regents. “Her knowledge and dedication to Langston ensure we will maintain operational and program continuity. With capable interim leadership in place, we can devote our time and energies to conducting a comprehensive search to find the right person to lead this critical University moving forward.”

Dr. Jackson has been with the Langston University since 2014 and currently serves as the Vice President for Academic Affairs. She has held other leadership positions at the University including Associate Vice President for Student Success and Dean of the School of Education and Behavioral Sciences.

“Dr. Jackson has more than 20 years of progressive leadership experience in higher education and an appreciation of Langston University’s role in the state, region, and nation,” said Dr. Kent J. Smith, Jr., who announced plans to retire after 11 years as Langston University’s president. “I appreciate her willingness to serve and have full confidence in her ability to lead the University through this transition.”

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

Dr. Jackson holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from Southern University and A&M College. She earned a Ph.D. in education and human resource studies from Colorado State University.

“I appreciate the confidence of the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents in asking me to serve Langston University during this transitional period,” said Jackson. “I look forward to collaborating with the campus community to ensure continuity and remain focused on our mission.”