Wilson Credits Degrees for Successful Businesses, Political Career

Wilson Credits Degrees for Successful Businesses, Political Career

Some know her as the dog lady. Others call her councilwoman.

She’s also a mom, wife and farmer, sharing her life on an acreage in southeast Norman with her husband, Rob, who owns Yellow Dog Coffee Company, and a host of goats, donkeys, chickens, pigs, honeybees, cats and, of course, dogs.

No matter what hat she’s wearing, though, Sereta Wilson credits the knowledge and skills she received at OU Extended Campus for preparing her for the many and varied roles she enjoys today.

Wilson holds both a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Master of Arts in Administrative Leadership from Extended Campus. When she started the liberal studies program in 2004, she was working full time managing field staff for Cox Communications. Working odd hours while raising two young children (or letting them raise her, she’s still not sure which) kept her busy.

She was determined to get a college degree, but traditional college classes weren’t an option. The online classes offered by Extended Campus gave her the flexibility she needed to earn a degree while still managing things at work and at home. Tuition assistance offered by her employer helped her afford it.

“I had my daughter one month after I finished high school. I was a very busy, working, single mom. My career was already doing great, so I didn’t want to lose momentum,” she said. “The online option made it possible to complete my education, have a career, support my family and be a mom doing all the mom things.”

Wilson previously majored in aviation before entering the liberal studies program in 2004. When she made the switch, she did it with the intent of not stopping until she finished graduate school. True to her goal, she completed her master’s degree in 2008.

Finishing school helped her move up some at work, but she wasn’t happy. She was used to working in a predominately male-dominated field, but she wasn’t used to being confined to an office.

“My career achievements, on the top of the list, include having started a very successful business from nothing,” she said. “Sometimes I look around and am proud that I turned an empty warehouse into a bustling business that is well respected in the community.”

“I really disliked the work I was doing,” she said. “I went from a field technical type of job to being in a cubicle and meetings for most of the day. I was great at the job, but the job wasn’t great for me.”

In January 2009, Wilson made a big decision. She left the company she’d been with for 16 years and made a complete career change. Using the research skills she developed at Extended Campus, she began studying what types of businesses Norman lacked and what the city needed. She discovered there were no dog daycare facilities in the city.

“I also looked at other types of businesses, but they just didn’t jive,” said Wilson.

In May 2009, Wilson opened Annie’s Ruff House, a dog daycare and boarding facility, and later started Annie’s Rescue Foundation, a nonprofit animal rescue. She’s set to open a second Annie’s Ruff House location soon and has plans for a third.

“My career achievements, on the top of the list, include having started a very successful business from nothing,” she said. “Sometimes I look around and am proud that I turned an empty warehouse into a bustling business that is well respected in the community.”

Wilson believes putting in the work and finishing her degrees helped her make that step.

“I learned in school how to research and apply knowledge to critical decisions, and I also learned a lot about leadership principles, communication and discerning accuracy of information,” she said. “I use all of these skills daily.”

In the midst of keeping her businesses growing, she’s preparing to run for a second term as Norman’s Ward 5 city councilwoman. Wilson said she became interested in running for city council after attending Norman Animal Welfare Oversight Committee meetings.

“After I started my nonprofit, I realized the animal shelter had policy issues. I went to every committee meeting, every council meeting. Anything you could go to, I went,” she said. “I attended every meeting and every study session for a year, then I announced I was going to run for Ward 5.”

Wilson drew two opponents in a special election held to fill an open seat, but knocking 2,000 doors and attending all of the meetings paid off. She was elected in an April 2017 runoff and seated that July. She’ll run for another two-year term in February 2019.

“There’s a lot left do,” she said. “We haven’t fully funded a senior center, and I’d like to fund at least one, maybe two. I’d also like to see a storm water resolution and to make cuts or increase revenue to balance the city’s budget.”

Wilson said she’d also like to see changes in road safety standards in her ward, which contains a particularly dangerous stretch of State Highway 9.

“If you would have asked me two or three years ago, I would have told you I’d never run for office,” she said. “Today, I’m very proud of having been elected to represent Ward 5 as a city council member in Norman.”

Another city council term and a couple of growing business are only the beginning for Wilson, who doesn’t know how to function unless she’s busy.

“I want to write a book, and I’ll be launching a fourth venture in the fall called the Business of Bark, a pet care and training consultation business,” she said. “And I hope to run for state office, and maybe take a nap.”

Read more stories about OU Extended Campus students and alumni.

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Tami Althoff

Tami Althoff holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is a reporter with more than 20 years’ experience working for newspapers, including The Oklahoman. She has covered everything from breaking news to local music and art. She loves sports, especially OU football and basketball games, where she often embarrasses her children by yelling too loudly.