Where I’m from, the question “Are you an OU or OSU fan?” tends to be fairly common. In fact, I can count the times someone has asked me that in the past six months and fill at least one hand. Bedlam is practically a state-wide holiday, and in all honesty, I’ve never quite been able to pretend to care all that much.
I’ve been on the campus of Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma numerous times. Both of them are beautiful, complete with massive buildings boasting some of the state’s most authentic architecture. They both have the look and feel you’d expect from a Division I school. I’ve never seen UGA, Yale, or Ole Miss. But I’m sure the campuses are very similar to that of OU and OSU. I never really bought into that feel, and to this day, I haven’t been able to really regret it.
During the summer between eighth and ninth grade, I attended a summer camp at the University of Central Oklahoma. I stayed in a dorm on the campus, ate lunch in the cafeteria. Classes were held in actual classrooms and our evenings were spent in the library, waiting for a computer to open up so we could get on AIM and brag to our friends.
It’s hard to remember the moment I fell in love with UCO. That week I spent on campus was fantastic, and between making friends (with whom I never really talked to after that) and enjoying the beautiful campus, I always sort of thought it was a good fit. I wasn’t even thinking about college, but maybe that’s because I already knew I’d found mine.
A few months later, I’d picked up baton twirling and was seated in the stands at a marching band competition. All of my friends were on the field and I was crossing every set of fingers and toes I could that they would bring home a good finish. The bands marched in to cadences played by the UCO Drumline, and for the crowd’s entertainment, the UCO Feature twirler was on the 50 yard line. I looked at the girl there and turned to my friend’s mom, proudly saying “I’m going to be her someday.”
I spent five seasons as the UCO Feature Twirler. For nine semesters, I worked toward my degree. Plenty of times, I had to explain to my family (mostly from up north, like Illinois and Michigan) that, even though they might not have heard of it before, UCO was important. My degree was going to be worth something, something more than just the name of my university.
Even now, working back at my alma mater, I’m constantly faced with the challenge of living up to the two bigger schools in our state. UCO isn’t the same atmosphere as either of the other schools. We have old buildings and pretty architecture, but we also have a culture that is completely unique to our school. We have value that is unrivaled. Nationally, we’re ranked and honored. UCO is quality that can’t be beat.
Central is currently celebrating it’s 125th anniversary year. Next week is homecoming, and despite the amount of work that means for my office, I’m so blessed to be a part of ensuring that it’s an unforgettable experience for our alumni. This year’s theme is “First and Forever Central.” The latter part of that theme rings truest to me. Central is more than four years. It’s more than a bachelors or a masters, it’s more than the degree you are working toward.
Central is community. It’s quality, value and substance. Central is home. Central is the people I met and the inspiration I found. Central is part of who I am as a person, it’s part of my story. It’s forever, and I am forever Central.