OUS Celebrates 50 Year Anniversary with Gala

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tracey Hucks ‘87, above, hosted the OUS gala in honor of its 50 year anniversary. Academic Director of OUS Suzanne Spring and President Brian Casey spoke about their experiences with OUS.

Angie Diaz, Maroon-News Staff

The Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS) scholars program held a Gala in the Hall of Presidents to celebrate its 50th anniversary on Friday, April 13. The event, hosted by Provost and Dean of the Faculty Tracey E. Hucks ’87, MA ’90 and an OUS Scholar, aimed to bring the OUS community together to commemorate its legacy. In attendance was the extended OUS community, which exceeds the boundaries of its membership, consisting of a far-reaching family of both alumni OUS and non-OUS members. 

Academic Director of OUS Professor Suzanne B. Spring offered opening remarks, reminding current OUS students that this event was in honor of them and the program’s 50 year legacy. Spring thanked the OUS program and its students for the gift of being its director.

“What I have learned most from over these past twelve years on campus and especially these past 10 months as the OUS director is OUS students’ wisdom, generosity, compassion, critique, humor and deep joy,” Spring said. 

President Brian Casey spoke about OUS’ founding history and ultimate purpose. Established in 1967 through a Special Students Committee, the program became the University Scholars Program (USP) in 1968 and was renamed OUS in 1989. Casey noted that the program originally began with five juniors, seven sophomores and 14 first-year students. The program has evolved and grown at an exponential rate, reaching 125 total students by 1985, at which point the summer institute program was created for OUS students to complete coursework that combined the theoretical and practical aspects of the liberal arts. Casey ended his speech on a personal note, telling the story of his first welcome to Colgate. 

“When someone writes the history of OUS, I hope they write about the accomplishments you have all heard about here today, but I also hope that they have the sense and the grace to write that during the summer of 2016, Colgate’s 17th president moved in and fell in love with the OUS program and fell in love with its students, who welcomed me first and made it seem possible that Colgate could become my home,” Casey said. 

Hucks also reflected on her time in OUS. She entered the program when it was the USP and recalled how the word “scholar” was not embraced as widely as it is today; rather it held a double-entendre, conjuring a second-class racialized group of students. However, OUS students defied such labels. They embraced a global vision, Hucks explained, protesting for university divestment in South Africa. They also knew their own worth. 

“We came to Colgate forging a self-defined understanding of ourselves, bringing the presence of our hometowns with us, the confidence of our community and at that time the social defiance of hip hop. You have to imagine East Hall where the Harlem Renaissance Center used to be located and African American men on the steps with a boombox as big as this podium blaring Grandmaster Flash during class time. That was my OUS. I am not sure what that generation of faculty, staff or students thought of us but we knew what we thought of ourselves, and that was very highly,” Hucks said. 

Director of First-Generation Initiatives and Administrative Dean Drea Finley reflected on the radical love and care that makes the legacy of OUS, which includes both OUS scholars and the First-Gen Initiative, a program launched in 2015 as a sister program to OUS.  

“The unmatched network of support that we have created is something so special that many will not and cannot conceptually understand. I am truly grateful for those who came before us and demanded space and place because without them we would not be here,” Finley said.

Voices from OUS and First Gen communities closed out the Gala by reflecting on the impact these programs have had on them. Several students expressed gratitude for the way the community has picked up where home communities left off.  Another common sentiment was the fact that without the OUS and First Gen community, many students would not have stayed at, or made it through, Colgate. 

“OUS is a community that celebrated with me, laughed with me, cried with me, fought alongside me and informed me throughout my four years here,” senior Jehdeiah Mixon said. 

Attendees will remember the HOP as adorned with gold, black and white balloons, an array of flowers and golden tablecloths, Chef Lateef’s Caribbean food and mocktails, photo-booths and the OUS emblem projected on the wall of presidents. The music, which varied from hip-hop, pop, Latin pop and reggaeton, also set the tone for the evening.

Contact Angie Diaz at [email protected].