McLaurin Lewis Leadership Conference
The George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Leadership Initiative is a University of Oklahoma college preview program for African American students, hosted by Diversity Enrichment Programs on the OU campus in Norman. Attendees learn key developmental assets, tour the OU campus, network with other high-achieving students, and develop a strong connection with the OU community. Additionally, OU faculty, staff, and alumni present the benefits of an OU education with sessions on standardized test preparation, admissions, scholarships, financial aid, and campus life.
African American students that have been admitted to OU for Fall 2020 are invited to participate and are introduced to current African American student leaders, faculty, staff, and alumni. Our goals are not only to have these students attend OU but to become actively involved in the African American community at OU.
History of the Conference
In spring 2014, OU's Diversity Enrichment Programs held the first Developing Black Males conference, focusing on African American males due to their low attendance and six-year graduation rate in the U.S. At the time, only 37 percent of Black males that started a bachelor's degree completed the program, according to the NCES. Topics addressed in the conference included the importance of higher education, positive masculinity, mentorships, and positive relationships. The 2015 conference also addressed social issues facing the black community such as the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality, and the protest movement started in Ferguson, Missouri.
In response to conversations with students, the conference expanded in year three to include young African American women. These conferences would be held in conjunction and would be renamed to honor African Americans that left a legacy at OU.
The young men’s conference was renamed the George McLaurin Male Leadership Conference after the first African American student admitted to OU, and the young women’s conference was named Sylvia A. Lewis Women’s Leadership Conference after the first African American female to serve on the OU Board of Regents. The 2016 conferences featured Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, a noted college professor and scholar, as keynote speaker with over 100 students in attendance.
In the two years since this change, the conference has expanded in size and in scope, including sponsorships from companies such as OneOK, Williams Companies, and Devon Energy. In 2018, an emphasis was placed on students that have been admitted to OU, and the results were reflected in increased attendance numbers.
We look to continue the positive impact that the George McLaurin and Sylvia A. Lewis Conference has garnered in the community.