OSU president Kayse Shrum hardly got any sleep last night.
Her excitement for Thursday morning's press conference, where she was officially sworn in as OSU's first female president, kept her filled with energy. You can't blame her. After all, Shrum said this moment was a lifetime in the making.
"To be quite honest, I feel as though I have been preparing for this moment my entire life," she said.
For Shrum, the transition process from president designee to president of OSU has revolved around one crucial thing: listening.
As she starts her first official day as president on July 1, Shrum said the past few weeks saw her gather various perspectives across the university in order to make her more knowledgeable about the daily tasks. Where did Shrum learn these listening skills? By raising her children.
“I’ve been on a listening tour and having intentional meetings with faculty, staff, alumni, donors and legislators,” Shrum said. “I’ve also enjoyed some time with students who always amaze me with their energy and ideas. As a mom of six, that’s a true comfort zone for me, speaking with young people and hearing their perspectives.”
Shrum begins her $650,000 per year job during an important time for OSU students. Now that the university announced social distancing and masks will be a thing of the past, many students are about to live through the “college experience” for the first time.
“I’d say that the social distancing isolation that came with COVID is not what college life is all about,” Shrum said. “Don’t judge your university experience on the past year because we all had to adjust and get through it. Now that we have the opportunity to embrace a more normal social life again, I’d say try to limit time on your devices and spend more face-to-face time with your friends because nothing quite compares to that.”
Shrum, who served as president of OSU’s center for health sciences since 2013, has a strong background in public health. In addition to encouraging students to have fun, she’s also encouraging them to get vaccinated –– despite not requiring it.
“Based on what we know today, I think (the fall semester) will look a whole lot like semesters before COVID,” Shrum said. “Classes are back to full capacity as are student events and certainly athletic events will be back to normal. We’re still very much encouraging our students to be vaccinated, so that is our focus from a public health perspective. I for one am excited to be back in Boone Pickens Stadium for football season soon.”
Shrum has big shoes to fill though. Burns Hargis served as OSU’s president for 13 years, a period where OSU erected many buildings and raised $2.2 billion. Nevertheless, Hargis is ecstatic about the Shrum hire.
“(Shrum is) very deliberate, very detail-oriented and she just gets stuff done,” Hargis said. “That’s why I’m glad the regents decided to pick her.”
Although it’s only been one day, Shrum’s already seeing how busy the job can be. Her first tasks are continuing to listen to the OSU community and to name a core leadership team to surround her. She can’t wait for the opportunity to lead OSU.
“So many people have been gracious to assist (her husband) Darren and I with the process so it’s been relatively smooth over all,” she said. “I’ll be glad to be settled both at home and at work because we have a full agenda ahead of us.”