By Ryan Welton
Sometimes we have to create our own luck and our own destinies, and we do so with hard work, great timing, and mastering the art of the pitch.
Lucky for voters nationwide, they will have a Gaylord College graduate from the University of Oklahoma covering the 2024 presidential campaign. It was an opportunity seized by 2022 graduate Libbey Dean earlier this year. Like many Gaylord alumni, she has the work ethic required of a successful journalist, and the hunger to take on big challenges.
What separates Libbey from many of us professionally is the fortitude to 'make the ask' in hopes of creating your own opportunity.
It's what landed her a role with Griffin Media's News 9 in Oklahoma City a couple of years back as the station's first OU campus correspondent. She pitched the idea and then served in that role for a semester.
"Now I hear that you get paid for it?" Libbey quipped with a chuckle.
She forged her own path while in school at Gaylord, and has made ways for other students, too.
And now Libbey Dean is with NewsNation covering the 2024 presidential primaries. It wasn't an opening she applied for while she was at WFLA in Tampa, Florida, serving as Nexstar's state Capitol reporter for all their stations in Florida. It was an opportunity born of her relationship with Gaylord professor and esteemed journalist Mike Boettcher.
"He knew Michael Corn, NewsNation's President of News Programming," she said.
Dean called Corn, pitching the idea of embedding herself in the presidential campaign of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. She was already familiar with him having covered the Capitol in Tallahassee.
Her life since that call in September has been coast-to-coast from New Hampshire to California with Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida in between.
Libbey grew up in Friendswood, Texas, on the southeast side of the Houston metro area. It's an area she still calls home thanks to her new job in the national spotlight.
Dean spends the majority of her time covering former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, day in and day out. And it means that she's become quite familiar with their policy positions and routines.
"Each candidate has their stump speech. I've heard them all before, but I'm listening for what's different," she said.
There is still the quest to break news on the road like she did the day former Vice President Mike Pence dropped out of the race to win the Republican nomination for president.
"NewsNation got it on our air before other major news networks," Libbey said.
But before she was at NewsNation, WFLA, or News 9, Libbey Dean was working in Washington, D.C., as part of Gaylord News. That work as a student cultivated her passion for political journalism.
"I first discovered how exhilarating and impactful covering politics could be during my time working for Gaylord News in D.C.," she said.
The passion for politics was met with practical people skills in our nation's capital. Libbey Dean learned the importance of cultivating relationships.
"The relationships I had at Gaylord News with faculty like Mike Boettcher helped me with the journalist I wanted to be and helped me cultivate the relationships within the newsroom," Dean said.
"There's no way I could have gone straight on-air without OU and without my work at News 9," she added.
Boettcher saw something special in Libbey early on, and she reminded him of another journalist he knows.
"Libbey Dean, in several ways reminds me of one person with whom I worked - Diane Sawyer. Outsiders might think I'm talking about her physical appearance. I am not. She reminds me of Diane because of her drive to know all she can know and her commitment to do all she can do," he said.
Independently of that high praise, Dean had her own praise for Boettcher -- and some advice to incoming students at Gaylord College.
"Passing up a chance to work with Mike Boettcher is passing up a chance to live a life in journalism," she said.
And that life is about chasing your dreams, "even if you think it's out of reach," Libbey said.
Even if there isn't a job posting for it.