Lisa Smith-Jack, Ph.D., tries to come back every year for the OU Extended Campus College of Professional and Continuing Studies alumni tailgate.
“I just think the camaraderie is awesome,” she said. “I can’t even get my husband to come with me. I just come by myself and have a good time.”
Lisa, who lives in Midwest City, lives and breathes everything OU.
“OU has been good to me,” she said, her voice brimming with heartfelt emotion. “I’ll always love it. Sometimes, I just go down there to go to the bookstore to see what they are teaching, and buy a book, or to ride around on campus and see how it’s changing. I will always have that very deep passion for OU and completing my master’s degree there.”
While Lisa’s passion for attending OU was present from childhood, her route to earning a master’s degree in Human and Health Services Administration was not direct or easy. A standout student in high school, her life path was altered when she had a child at 16.
“I got pregnant at 15,” she said. “I got tired of hearing ‘You’re not going to amount to nothing. You’re just going to end up on welfare.’ I thought, ‘I’ll show you!’ so I went to summer school and night school and graduated from high school a year early.”
That determination led her to start her undergraduate career at Langston University in Oklahoma City. But the two years she spent there were unfulfilling, as she wanted to devote her time to being a mother to her child. After moving to Dallas in 1978, Lisa eventually completed an associate degree at Richland College, but it wasn’t until her return to the Oklahoma City area more than 20 years later that her pursuit of a higher education resumed in full force.
“I wanted that experience. I started back to school later in life. I was 48 when I started work on my master’s degree, but there was always a desire to complete my education and go as far as I could."
She returned to Langston to complete her bachelor’s degree program in cultural studies in 2004, and by 2007, the siren’s song of OU had once again found her ears.
“Earning my bachelor’s degree drove me to work harder,” Lisa said. “I started researching master’s degrees, and that’s when I found the online program at OU.”
She enrolled in what is now OU Extended Campus in 2007 along with a classmate from Langston. Although both were pursuing different degrees, Lisa found that the unique challenges they faced as adult learners taking online courses at that time were easier to handle with a friend.
“This was the first time for me to be in an online program,” Lisa said. “It was very important to be able to encourage and motivate each other. That was really big.”
Being there for someone and encouraging them to believe in themselves is a core aspect of Lisa’s character. She wants to help people see how they can make their own lives better. That attribute was reinforced by her interactions with her professors.
“I had professors that were caring and that would help you be successful,” Lisa said. “One professor, John Duncan, his comments on my writing, my content, his advice and his critiques really made me feel like he was concerned.
“When I teach now, I want my students to be successful, and that’s how I feel like my professors were like at OU. They weren’t there for you to fail. They want you to be successful.”
Lisa earned her master’s degree in Fall 2009 and eagerly took part in the Fall Convocation, including hiring a photographer to document the moment that she shared with her friend, who graduated alongside her. She also returned in Spring 2010 to walk as part of the larger Spring Convocation.
“I wanted that experience,” she said gleefully. “I started back to school later in life. I was 48 when I started work on my master’s degree, but there was always a desire to complete my education and go as far as I could.
“One of my favorite pictures from my convocation is with my dad. He loved OU, and I know that he was so excited to be able to see me walk across the stage and take a picture with me in my cap and gown, so there’s a lot of satisfaction with pressing forward.”
If there is something that you really want to accomplish, then you should do everything in your power to go after it because the only person who can stop you from achieving your goals is you.
Lisa earned a Ph.D. in Christian Education from Newburg Theological Seminary and College of the Bible in Newburg, Indiana, after completing her work at OU.
“I think earning my degree from OU allowed me to see my purpose,” she said. “That led me to feel like I could go and get a doctorate. It helps me to teach in my church, in my volunteering and in my service of others. I’ve always liked helping people, but I think it enhanced my desire to help people in this way. It gave me the skills I needed to do what I do now.”
She currently works as Health Management Program Coordinator for the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, where she tries to be a positive force for her co-workers and her clients by sharing with them the most impactful lesson she learned during her time at OU—if there is something that you really want to accomplish, then you should do everything in your power to go after it because the only person who can stop you from achieving your goals is you.
“Most adults who return to school are serious,” Lisa said. “You have to make a sacrifice. Nothing is going to be given to you. You have to work for it. There were times I had to sacrifice spending time with my husband, spending time with family, doing fun things.
“I’m just so proud that I got a degree from OU, and that I’m going to be a Sooner for life.”