Real Stories, Real People, Real OU

By Caitlyn Epes

This ongoing photo series captures the many different faces of the OU community. There is more to a person than the face they present. “Who Are yOU” explores the smaller details of people from all walks of life here at the University of Oklahoma.

If you would like to participate in the project, click here.

“It’s interesting when you’re a musician, or at least when you’re an artist of some sort, especially in a bigger institution, you kind of feel separate from the rest of the university.”

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize about our program is that we’re a really tight knit group… And, like, I guess, no matter what happens, no one’s gonna stop us.”

“Now that I am finishing up my time here, I want to take what I’ve learned and pass it on to the next group entering in and kind of help them out and you know, guide them along the way of navigating the School of Music culture for what it is.”

“I have three, three big things that I really defined for like myself. First, and most important is I’m a musician, and that means that I have a I have a cultural responsibility to basically feed the soul…The second is I’m a proud rainbow citizen… and then that brings its own set of challenges…The third is that I’m a Chicagoan, and they have grit…I’m proud to be from my city.”

-Solena Rizzato, music major, organist/violinist

“Steady. Steady is kind of a good word…I came in not knowing what was going on and everything getting thrown at me…but I’m staying afloat, so that’s all I can ask for.”

“I don’t have to like put myself through too much for people to realize who I am, which always gave me like a sense of like, stability and comfort.”

“I fit into the culture by people just embracing me to be myself.”

“Trust me. You would never think you’d be doing some of the things you do now, but just embrace it once the opportunity comes and just reminisce about it later.”

-Zackary Frye, OU psychology senior

“I am someone who believes in people…no matter what, I try to find something positive in people. I try to do my best at every point in time to try to bring out the best in people or try to give people the best of me.”

“I really enjoy work…it’s a way for me to go back to like, how it was being at home and being in that situation having to work for what I have. That’s pretty much how I learned to function growing up.”

“…Every day was, you know, ‘Are we going to eat today?’ or every day was, ‘Are we going to have enough money to pay the electric bill?’ It was growing up like that I had to kind of focus on being positive because there are a lot of times where being negative would have been the easier thing to do.”

“I fell in love with the idea that, you know, I could be something great for my family, especially because they hadn’t had something like that before.”

“People have the opportunity to truly care for each other here and to truly put their best foot forward and not only get themselves up to that next level that they’re trying to be at, but to get everyone that they’re around up to that next level.”

-Alex Baron, OU broadcast journalism senior

“Quiet, but not… I’m introverted at first but then, once I get to know you, I mean, no problem.”

“I’m kind of the person who can deal with the sports side, like, follow all the sporting events, but I can also be pretty nerdy and dive hardcore into that.”

“I just want to work behind the scenes in the athletic world after college, and so having a job inside athletics is important. It’s more who you know than what you know… I’ve gotten to meet a lot of different people I wouldn’t meet otherwise.”

“When I’m around campus, to the most part of the population, I’m just kind of sitting in a corner, just kind of minding my own business, but once you get to know me, I open up. I reach out to you. It’s kind of an interesting dichotomy.”

-Davis Dunkleberger, OU track and field equipment manager

“I chose ‘Giving’ because that’s all I know to do…I’d like to believe that I’ve given my most to those who needed it the most.”

“I just want to be able to not leave my mark, but to help improve understanding of my people, understanding of who we are, what we do and everything.”

“My little brother, he looks up to me, and I have other family who’ve been to college and who have wanted to make an impact with our tribe and in their lives and everything. Just being another example for them to continue doing this is something that I always look forward to and always remind myself to keep doing what I’m doing.”

“Showing people who like want to join clubs….they don’t have to strive to be the greatest, they just have to strive to be as great as they think they are. In the end, that’s all that matters in terms of finding yourself and being able to improve not only your state here at OU but also just improve your outlook on everything.”

-Ozzie Willis, Choctaw and OU graduate student

“Intentionality is a big thing for me. Instead of letting life happen to me, or letting relationships form, I try to put effort into my relationships, the work that I do and the decisions that I make about how I want to live my life.”

“A lot of times, people don’t think about gender or sexuality until, you know, someone comes along that forces them to think about it.”

“In media, you see a lot of coming-out stories that are either like, one end of the spectrum or the other, right? Either your family’s totally accepting and supportive, or they like, kick you out of the house and disown you. But in my experience, and in the experiences of a lot of queer and trans people I know, reality can sometimes fall somewhere in between…”

“(Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher) was instrumental in desegregating higher education…In a lot of ways, that’s what I am trying to do on campus, in terms of like, queerness and non-binaryness, is being the person that opens up the doors for other people that follow me.”

“Erin (Simpson) was like, ‘Leadership and Volunteerism has been trying to change campus awards for forever. They just haven’t had a good reason to,’ and then I was like, I’ll be that reason. I’ll do it.”

-Leanne Ho, LGBTQ Program Advisory Board Chair

“Thoughtful. I just think about everything…I never disconnect.”

“Living as a biracial individual, you have to exist in both spaces, you know, because you have to exist as a black male in the eyes of society and you have to exist as a white male in the eyes of, you know, black society or black culture.”

“I really just had a really hard time figuring out my identity, you know, because having to exist as both, but also none of them at the same time, is really hard to navigate.”

“I was shocked to find out there were clubs on campus, I had no idea you know that there are organizations here…”

“…as I got really got involved in student government, I really started to understand that people’s experiences are different and not everyone is having a great time…”

-Adran Gibbs, OU senior and SGA President

(Check back weekly for new stories)