For many students who have participated in the McLaurin & Lewis Leadership Conference, the experience played a key role in their decisions to attend the University of Oklahoma.
Named for George McLaurin, the first African American student admitted to OU, and Sylvia A. Lewis, the first African American to serve on the OU Board of Regents, this conference is a college preview program for African American students during which they are introduced to current student leaders, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Students who have been admitted to OU for Fall 2021 are invited to attend one day during the on-campus McLaurin & Lewis Leadership Week, scheduled for February 22-26. Saturday, February 27, will feature the McLaurin & Lewis Leadership Virtual Conference, open to both students admitted for Fall 2021 and students interested in applying to OU in the future.
OU senior Te’a Williams attended the conference in high school and has volunteered every year since, including the last three in a mentor role. MLLC played a big part in Williams’ decision to attend OU, introducing her to a vibrant and welcoming environment.
“That was a big push for me, seeing people who looked like me, students of color with great ambitions like myself,” Williams explained.
“That was a big push for me, seeing people who looked like me, students of color with great ambitions like myself."
- Te'a Williams
As to why she continues to volunteer at the conference, Williams said it changed her perspective on OU and she wanted to be a part of that change for other students.
“Especially for our students of color we want to show that you guys have a space, and I really just wanted to be there to show if you needed anything I’m here," Williams said. "And really to build those relationships, intentional conversations with students of color so they can go ahead and start their journey here and leave their legacy.”
Williams, who grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has found her fit on campus in a variety of organizations. Currently she is the community affairs chair for the Black Student Association; an intern in Diversity Enrichment Programs; the emcee for High School Leadership Conference; a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.; a McNair Scholar; and a Winthrow Leadership Scholar. Williams also studied abroad three times while at OU, going to Arezzo, Italy; Clermont-Ferrand, France; and Puebla, Mexico.
After graduating in December, Williams, who is majoring in international studies and criminology with a minor in Spanish, plans to attend graduate school abroad. She said she hopes to secure a fellowship with an international governmental sector, working in an area like human rights, international affairs, or humanitarian aid.
Devin Brown, a psychology and chemical biosciences student from San Antonio, Texas, also attended MLLC. Like Williams, he said the conference ultimately convinced him to attend OU.
“After MLLC, I knew that I would have people and a community that would look after me and help me succeed in college,” Brown explained. “The staff and students at the conference were interested in seeing me do well at OU and made me feel wanted during those short two and a half days. Seeing people that looked like me and not having to hide part of my identity made the university feel more like home. Not only did the conference make OU seem so much more welcoming, but this conference helped make OU more of a financial reality for me with the scholarships that they awarded. Without this conference, I’m not sure that I would be at OU. And after the time I’ve spent here so far, I couldn’t be more glad that I landed at this university. I have to thank MLLC for that.”