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2023 Outstanding Senior: Jackson Conner

2023 Outstanding Senior: Jackson Conner

By Will Cornelius

“Everyone has a story to tell; some are just better at telling it than others.” This sentiment guides many Gaylord students as they hone their craft during undergrad. For Jackson Conner, it led him to be named Gaylord College’s 2022 Outstanding Senior.

Each year 16 OU undergraduates are chosen as Outstanding Seniors for their remarkable achievements in service and leadership for their given college.

“Jackson is an outstanding student not only here at Gaylord College but at OU, and he’s a deserving recipient of the Outstanding Senior Award for the college,” said former Dean Ed Kelley.

A native of North Little Rock, Arkansas, Conner has always had his eyes on the prize. “When I came into OU, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. For years I wanted to gain the background knowledge to work in political communications and hopefully move to Washington D.C.”

When he graduated in May 2022, he gained that background knowledge with two degrees to his name -- one in public relations from the Gaylord College, and one in political science from the Dodge Family College of Arts and Sciences.

Jackson hit the ground running with a mission. “When I first came into Gaylord, my goal was to learn how to be a better storyteller so that I could translate that to the specific audience of politicians, hoping to better tell their story and educate the public prior to elections,” said Conner.

As any Gaylord grad knows, our careers develop out of passions that are discovered during our time in undergrad.

“I fell in love with what I was learning at Gaylord and now have so much more appreciation for the public relations side of things – the major that was once a means to an end for me has now become my passion.”

Jackson Conner’s successes haven’t come without help along the way.

“There are many faculty and staff members who have made an impact on my time here at Gaylord, always being there as a support system and pushing me to be the best that I can be,” Conner remarked. “Two professors that have constantly pushed me to be my best are Carla Holmes and Associate Dean Elanie Steyn.”

Conner recalls Professor Holmes pushing her students to reach their full potential, as well as being a pillar of support. His appreciation for Associate Dean Steyn came from taking her Business of Media class.

“It’s an amazing, practical class where Dean Steyn is able to break everything down while forcing the class to come to conclusions on our own.”

Jackson also touched on the support of staff members within the halls of Gaylord.

“I loved the relationships I made with Kathy Sawyer, Lee Reynolds, Kennedy Patrick and Paige Uhr. (They are) just some examples of staff members who have always been there for me, willing to make a connection or just sit and listen to me vent – whatever the day required. That is something that I will always be thankful for.”

There are plenty of choice spots to study, write, edit, or work on projects within Gaylord College. Personally, my go-to was the computer lab in 1020. There was a semester where I even had my own Keurig hooked up because I was writing or editing there so often. So, naturally, I asked Jackson about his favorite study spots in the building.

“The best spot to study in the building is in the editing bays. There is a funny story that I always tell on tours about falling asleep in the professional writing wing’s leather chairs.”

A reality of studying in Gaylord College is that, eventually, you’ll find an odd couch or chair to fall asleep on. Any communications professional knows the power of a good catnap.

As we wrapped up our conversation, Jackson Conner had some pro tips for prospective and current Gaylord students.

“My greatest piece of advice is for students to get involved early and get involved often. College is all about figuring out who you are, what you enjoy, and the thing that you are passionate about – lessons that are often learned most practically outside the classroom. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and get involved.”

“Your time at OU is yours for the taking, and nobody should be able to set limits on your success while you are here.”

Jackson Conner.