Dr. Kayse Shrum’s eyes lit up and her voice had even more confidence than usual.
After a 40-minute discussion about her journey as president of Oklahoma State University’s Center for Health Sciences, Shrum had a determined demeanor when the topic shifted to talking about a potential new role:
“I absolutely love what I do here and I love Oklahoma State University and I absolutely want whatever is best in the future for the OSU system,” Shrum said. “And whatever capacity that is for me in the system, I’m willing to consider that.”
When it comes to qualifications for the position, Shrum checks almost all of the boxes.
Current OSU President Burns Hargis told The O’Colly in October that he wants the next president to be a “people person,” have a background in research, be a consistent manager and have ties to the university.
Shrum is an OSU alumna, was named Journal Record’s 2019 Woman of Year, completed executive leadership and management training programs at Harvard University and is one of the leaders in Oklahoma’s COVID-19 response.
The part that motivates Shrum the most though is being able to help and interact with people.
“This position really gives me the ability to touch a lot of lives and really make me feel like I’m having a part of a positive change,” Shrum said. “Not only through the education we provide. Helping a student achieve their goal is great, having a part in helping Oklahomans achieve wellness, health, some of the partnerships we made with the Cherokee nation… I’ve had the opportunity to play a role in multiple things that I think are so positive for the state and Oklahomans.”
Shrum also understands the university from almost every vantage point. She’s been a student, assistant professor, department chair of pediatrics, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the medical school before becoming president of it in 2013.
“I’ve always taken opportunities when they’ve been presented to me and really enjoyed taking on challenges and really trying to make things better,” Shrum said. “I think just from those opportunities and being willing to take those opportunities, I’ve had the chance to do things that I would’ve never really thought… Then an opportunity came along to join the university and it just became this pathway to where I am today. “
These opportunities brought Shrum to a high level of prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, Shrum served on the state’s COVID-19 task force and was also Gov. Kevin Stitt’s secretary of science and innovation.
According to some OSU officials, her performance in these roles put her school on the map.
“Dr. Shrum’s leadership has been instrumental in improving the healthcare of all Oklahomans,” said OSU Senior Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Dennis Blankenship. “During her tenure as President and Dean, OSU medicine has established a presence on the national stage.”
In addition to her university knowledge, Shrum also makes her mark at OSU through her children. Out of six kids in the Shrum family, five attend OSU with the other one attending school in Arkansas.
Shrum’s children’s time at OSU has also kept her close to her favorite tradition: homecoming.
“There’s so many things I love about OSU and the traditions, but I think walk-around and homecoming is so unique to OSU,” Shrum said. “All the little things related to OSU that go on around homecoming is really neat. It’s something that you could bring your kids back to some day… The last few years, our two sons were in a fraternity and our daughter is in a sorority and they got paired and it just made it so much more of a family event even when it also felt like an OSU family event.”
Outside of the traditions, Shrum’s children recognize their mother’s leadership throughout this pandemic. That’s why Shrum’s daughter Kyndall, who’s a senior at OSU, is confident in her mom’s abilities to guide the school in whatever position she lands at.
“I think that wherever that my mom would be extremely lucky to have her," Kyndall said. "She will always fight for what’s right and do the things in order to make wherever she’s at a better place. And I think that she would be a great fit for wherever she goes and she would be someone who would continue to grow Oklahoma State no matter what. I will support her in any of her decisions in what happens.”