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OU to Host Fifth Annual Conference for First-Generation and Minority Students

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OU to Host Fifth Annual Conference for First-Generation and Minority Students

logo for the Sylvia Lewis Women's Leadership Conference


NORMAN – The Office of University Community at the University of Oklahoma will host its fifth annual George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Leadership Conference, a program aimed at connecting OU with talented first-generation and minority students.

The George McLaurin & Sylvia A. Lewis Leadership Initiative is OU’s premier bridge program for these underrepresented students. The initiative is a comprehensive effort by the Office of University Community to recruit, award, mentor and retain outstanding underrepresented students from Oklahoma and Texas.

The initiative’s fifth annual flagship conference, welcoming high school students and incoming college freshmen, will be held March 9-10 on the OU campus. Student attendees will hear directly from faculty and staff about the benefits of an OU education with an array of session topics covering ACT preparation, admission, scholarships, financial aid and campus life. Sponsor representatives are invited to present college-related topics to the students as well. Special conference speakers include OU alumni Caroline Bennett and BerThaddaeus Bailey.

Many students at the conference will be awarded gift aid during a scholarship banquet. The Office of University Community continues to engage with program participants, known as George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Scholars, throughout their time at OU. The scholars boast a retention rate and average GPA that outpace those of the general student body.

The initiative and conference are named after pioneers for civil rights at the University of Oklahoma. George McLaurin was the first African-American student admitted to OU. A protracted legal battle to challenge his segregation from white students culminated in George W. McLaurin v. Oklahoma Board of Regents for Higher Education, a 1950 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that struck down segregation in public higher education.

Sylvia A. Lewis was the first African-American to serve on the OU Board of Regents. Appointed in 1986 by Gov. George Nigh, Lewis had already established a long record of achievements as an educator, administrator and civic leader. She earned a master’s degree in education from OU in 1954.