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This I Believe: OU

Join us Tuesday, February 18, 2020 for This I Believe: OU from 3:30-5 pm in the Meacham Auditorium, located in the Oklahoma Memorial Union, 900 Asp Avenue, Norman, OK. A select group of first-year students who took Gateway in Fall 2019 and faculty, staff, alumni, and community members will present their personal "This I Believe" essays. This event is a wonderful opportunity to come together as a community, share perspectives, and grow in our deepening understanding of human flourishing. 

"This I Believe: OU" was created in partnership with OU's Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing. The Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing was founded on the belief that humans flourish when they develop to their fullest potential as rational and moral creatures living in healthy communities. The Institute promotes, cultivates, and measures nine virtues, character traits humans need in order to flourish. Each presenter will share one or more virtues connected to their personal "This I Believe" essay. To further explore the nine virtues, click here.

2020 This I Believe: OU Presenters

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe is a catholic nun of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus based in Juba, south Sudan, and a doctoral student in Instructional Leadership and Curriculum at OU's Rainbolt College of Education whose humanitarian work has drawn global attention and admiration.

Sister Rosemary has saved thousands of children during the violent and destructive war throughout northern Uganda. Warlord, Joseph Rao Kony, and his militia, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), battled government forces for control over the region and regularly abducted children, forcing them into becoming child soldiers and sex slaves. Openly defying Joseph Kony and the rebel LRA, Sister Rosemary has enrolled more than 2,000 girls who had previously been abducted by the LRA or abandoned by their families at St. Monica's in Gulu, Uganda. Sister Rosemary has taught these brave girls to find their worth and hope in the love of Jesus and in community together. She has also taught them valuable trades in sewing and catering, in turn giving them self-reliance and a way forward in peace. 

Sister Rosemary was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2014. She is the subject of the book Sewing Hope and a 2013 documentary by the same name, narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Forest Whitaker. She has received the United Nations Impact Award and was named a CNN Hero in 2007. 

Sister Rosemary continues to work diligently to heal these children and the region. She advocates for those who cannot speak for themselves through work with the Sewing Hope Foundation, Pros for Africa, and various other organizations and individuals. Sister Rosemary and her community, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Congregation, have expanded their work in the region, opening schools and centers in Moyo, Adjumani, and a 100-acre farm in Atiak, serving women, children and orphans fleeing violence.

Carlie is a freshman at OU majoring in Advertising and minoring in Art. Originally from California, she moved and graduated from Rick Reedy High School in Texas. At OU, she is an active member of the Union Programming Board and other clubs that suit her interests. Carlie’s true passion is art--in all of its forms--and writing. She cannot wait to see what her future has in store for her, only hoping she finds happiness!

Dr. David Surratt currently serves as the Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students at the University of Oklahoma.  He is responsible for leading teams that support various programs focused on student access, student support and advocacy, leadership development, and personal care for students at the University of Oklahoma which includes the Norman campus as well as campuses in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and an international location abroad in Arezzo, Italy.  

Dr. Surratt has 17 years of higher education experience with several colleges and institutions including Penn State University, St. Peter’s University, Rosemont College, and the University of California – Berkeley.  He most recently served as the Assistant Vice Chancellor & Associate Dean of Students at the University of California - Berkeley and has served in various leadership roles there since 2013 including interim Dean of Students and interim Associate Vice Chancellor.  In his previous role, he was responsible for a broad array of student affairs programs including protest and demonstration management, residential life, student leadership and advising, Recreational Sports, New Student Services, and the Student Environmental Resource Center. Prior to this role, he was the interim Associate Vice Chancellor at UC Berkeley where he managed housing, events and facilities, campus dining, Cal 1 Card Office, and the early childhood education program.  He also held positions as dean of students, chief housing officer, and other student affairs roles at the previously mentioned colleges and institutions. 

David holds a doctorate in Higher Education Administration from George Washington University and is also an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma earning a bachelor's degree in English Literature and a master's in Human Relations.  Dr. Surratt serves as a member of several national professional associations and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated.  


Rickey Hewitt Jr. is a freshman from Dallas, Texas. He is a Letters major with minors in Spanish and Theatre. On campus, he is a Global Engagement Fellow, President’s Community Scholar, and a member of OU’s Black Student Association. Rickey has a passion for artistic performance, reading, and debate. He plans to one day utilize those passions as both an attorney and stage actor.

Rayle is a Freshman at OU who, before traveling back to her home state of Oklahoma, lived in Dallas for 6 years. The time she spent away from her culture-rich hometown of Tahlequah Oklahoma has greatly impacted her perspective on her Choctaw/Cherokee culture and made it all the more important in her life. She loves teaching basket-weaving for AISES/AISA members and taking care of her plants. Rayle is currently pursuing a degree in Botany with a minor in Native American studies and hopes to one day become a family physician at a tribal clinic in her community. 

Garrison Watkins is a freshman from McAlester, Oklahoma, majoring in Biology with the intent of entering the graduate program of Forensic and DNA Analysis. He is a member of the 59th Presidential Leadership Class and a member of the Baptist Collegiate Ministries. Garrison is very dedicated to his family and has passion for volunteerism. Garrison's future goals include obtaining his degree in Forensic and DNA Analysis and pursuing a career with the FBI or OSBI. 

Miguel is the son of Mexican immigrants and a first-generation college student who is currently a junior at the University of Oklahoma. Miguel is studying sociology and women's and gender studies and his research interests are centered at the intersections of race, poverty, and educational access. Although his biological family consists of his mom, dad, and little brother, the people he's met through his involvement in the President's Leadership Class, Crimson Club, and Withrow Leadership Scholars will forever be family. Miguel's passion for justice and equity led him to create Miracle Mindset, which is an early outreach college access program that has awarded thousands of dollars in laptops and scholarships to first-generation, low-income high school students since 2017. Ultimately, Miguel aims to spread hope and create positive contributions to every space he enters.

Caitlyn Middleton is a freshman Biochemistry major and Pre-Med minor. She is from the Kingdom of eSwatini in Southern Africa. She attended the United World College of Southern Africa (UWCSA). Caitlyn is a feminist and believes strongly in advocating for young girls who are not given a voice. She volunteers at the OU Food Pantry. Caitlyn is excited to be a part of This I Believe and grateful for the opportunity to share her beliefs. 

2019 This I Believe: OU Presenters

Tavana is a freshman from Norman, Oklahoma. She is an International Business major with a minor in Spanish. At OU, she is a member of Soonerthon, Student Government Association, the Multicultural Business Program and a Panhellenic sorority. Tavana has a passion for different cultures, languages, and most of all, learning. Tavana aspires to dedicate her life to helping others by becoming an Immigration Lawyer one day, like her father. 

LeDarrien is a freshman here at the University of Oklahoma and is also a first-year member of the Pride of Oklahoma and the Sound of the Sooners. He is also currently in the process of becoming a full pledge member of Kappa Kappa Psi. LeDarrien is from a small town named Eufaula, Oklahoma and graduated from Eufaula High School. He is majoring in Education in Biological Sciences with a minor in Pre-med. Currently, he is unsure if he wants to go into the education field right after college or go to medical school and become an oncologist. He also has entrepreneurial ambitions and hopes to launch his very own business in the next few years. However, whatever he does, he has one goal and that is to have a positive impact on the lives of those around him.

InAnna, originally from Ohio, is a freshman at OU. She loves to read and intends to major in Political Science, then go on to law school. She’s grateful to be able to share her story at This I Believe. 



Abeer is a Freshman at OU majoring in Biology. Abeer is originally from Saudi Arabia and has lived in Lawton, Oklahoma for the past 13 years with family. Abeer is currently a member of several student organizations on campus including the President’s Leadership Class, Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art Ambassadors, and Oklahoma Blood Institute Outreach. She is also serving as the CAC Spark Random Acts of Kindness Week Chair. Abeer’s passions include serving her community and positively impacting everyone around her. Upon graduation, Abeer plans to become a Pediatric Optometrist.

Robert Con Davis-Undiano is a third-generation Mexican American born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1948. He went to public schools in southern California and attended Cal-State University, East Bay, and the University of California, Davis, where he graduated in 1979 with a Ph.D. in American literature and literary theory.

In 1974-75, before receiving the Ph.D., he was a Fulbright Professor at the University of Pisa in Italy and in 1980 came to the University of Oklahoma.  At OU, he currently wears many administrative hats.  He is a full professor in the Department of English and one of the editors of the journal GENRE. He was the editor of the international book series “Introducing Ethnicity” (Edinburgh University Press 2004-2010) and founded and directed (with Ronald Schleifer) the influential book series “The Oklahoma Project for Discourse and Theory” (University of Oklahoma Press 1994-1999).  In 1999, he became executive director of the World Literature Today organization and the holder of two university chairs—Presidential Professor of English and Neustadt Professor of Comparative Literature.  

He is the current editor of the acclaimed University of Oklahoma Press book series “Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Americas,” which has published 21 prestigious volumes.  In addition to other duties, he directs OU’s Latinx Studies Program and chairs many university executive committees and oversight panels, including those for the College of Professional and Continuing Studies and the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies (parent organization of the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education).

Publishing in Chicano Studies, American studies, and literary criticism and theory, he is author, co-author, or editor of 14 books and over 60 articles. His books include The Paternal Romance: Reading God-the-Father in Early Western Culture (1993); Culture and Cognition: The Boundaries of Literary and Scientific Inquiry (co-author; 1992); and Criticism and Culture: The Role of Critique in Modern Literary Theory (co-author, 1995).  Since the late 1990s, he has worked on Chicano/a and Mexican American topics. His most recent book, Mestizos Come Home!  Making and Claiming Mexican American Identity (2017), won the 2017 International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for many national book prizes.

In 1993, he received the Rufus G. Hall Faculty Achievement Award and in 1994 was awarded the Kenneth E. Crook Annual Faculty Award.  In 2004, he received the prestigious Sullivant Award for Perceptivity.  He was Dean of the OU Honor’s College from 2005 to 2009 and has been faculty of the year several times for his work with Latino students at OU.  In 2017, he was Oklahoma’s “Hispanic Literary Artist of the Year.” Over the last decade, he has also been the host of a public radio show and two public television shows—the “Power of Ideas” and “Current Conversations.” He is a mentor and role model to Chicano and other minority writers, students, and faculty. Students credit him with changing their thinking, their attitudes, and their lives.  In 2018, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame.

Matthew Morris is a freshman Human Relations major with a minor in Psychology from Norman, Oklahoma. He was previously an Arts and Entertainments writer for the OU Daily and is currently a lead cast member in this spring's Sooner Scandals show. He is also a lifeguard at the Cleveland County YMCA and plans on using his degree to become a career counselor or counseling psychologist.

J.D. Baker is an Oklahoma City native and 2018 OU graduate, earning his Bachelor's degree from Gaylord College. During his time at OU, he was active in the university community and served as the Student Government Association president in 2017. He was recognized with the Glenn Snider Human Relations Award by the Oklahoma Education Association for his advocacy in mental health, disability concerns and LGBTQ issues. He also received the Clara Luper Department of African & African-American Studies Leadership Award. He currently serves as the special assistant to the Oklahoma City Mayor and also serves in several capacities on local boards and volunteering for local youth programs. J.D. is a member of the OU Black Alumni Society and a board member of the OU LGBTQ Alumni Society.

Makayla Napier is a Junior Psychology Pre-med major from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is a member of various organizations on campus including Black Student Association, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and serves as a Residential Advisor in Adams Center.

Dr. Janna Storey Martin (Dr. J.) is from Southeast Oklahoma and she graduated from Haworth High School. Following high school, Dr. J. received a Bachelor of Arts Degree from East Central University with a major in speech/theatre education. After graduation, Dr. J. taught high school for two years at Pleasant Grove High School in Texarkana, Texas. Dr. J. graduated from Oklahoma State University with a Master’s Degree in Organizational Communication Consultancy. She completed a Ph.D. in Instructional Communication from the University of Oklahoma. Dr. J. taught at Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma for one year and was in charge of their Speech Education Program as well as teaching multiple classes in public speaking and communication.

Dr. J. has taught on the collegiate level at Oklahoma City Community College, Rose State College, Oklahoma State University, Cameron University and the University of Oklahoma. She has been an instructor at the University of Oklahoma for 17 years. In past years she trained and developed new graduate teaching assistants in the Department of Communication at OU as well as taught classes in group dynamics, interpersonal skills, presentation skills, debate and public speaking. She has taught classes in the Women and Gender Studies Department at OU and currently teaches in the Department of Human Relations at OU. Dr. J. typically teaches four classes every semester (Interpersonal Skills/Group Dynamics and Service Learning/Capstone). She has presented multiple convention papers in Instructional Communication as well as published a book chapter on “Postpartum Depression.” She was recognized with an “Inspiring Teacher” award from OU Athletics, has spoken at the OU Greek Forum to Sororities and Fraternities, and most recently taught a graduate class for military students in Washington D.C. Dr. J. is currently a faculty member in the Department of Human Relations at the University of Oklahoma.

Dr. J is married to Russ Martin, who is the Pastor of the Seeker Church in Norman Oklahoma. They have been married for 25 years and together have three children: Michael, Megan and Matthew. Two of her favorite quotes are: “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi:) and “Education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world.” (Mandela)

Hailing from the great state of Colorado, Clarke Stroud became a Sooner in 1986. He made the official transition as a Sooner, completing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and then rounding out his OU career serving as University Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students for 18 years. He currently works for OU Football as the Director of Football Operations for Coach Lincoln Riley.

Clarke’s great loves are his family, OU students and fly-fishing. When he’s not on the football field, he loves to spend his time in the solitude of the Colorado rivers

Watch the presentations from This I Believe: OU 2017

Watch the presentations from This I Believe: OU 2018