Robert Edison, a member of the “OC 18” who was recognized in a public ceremony last March, will return to the Oklahoma Christian University campus next semester as a distinguished visiting professor.
Chief Academic Officer Scott Lamascus and Dean of Liberal Arts Tina Winn met with Edison this summer to discuss his potential role as a visiting professor.
“We visited, and he sent in his materials, and we worked through what it would be like to have him on campus to see a bigger presence for some African American studies and courses,” Winn said. “He is just so excited to be here.”
Oklahoma Christian students will have the ability to take Edison’s African American history course this upcoming spring. The course will become a part of the university’s first-ever African American history minor. Students enrolled in the class will also have an opportunity to attend the Civil Rights spring break trip.
Citing a lack of minority professors on campus, students in the Black Student Union (BSU) created a petition last semester to increase the amount of diversity within Oklahoma Christian University’s faculty.
Sophomore Kiva Maxwell, who was among the first to sign the petition last semester, advocated for its implementation. She said she wanted to encourage people to sign the petition because it would better the Oklahoma Christian community as a whole. She also wanted people to be able to have access to the same information she had in her own home.
Maxwell said she is excited about what Edison will add to the Oklahoma Christian community.
“We haven’t had a minority professor here in a moment,” Maxwell said. “It’s going to be amazing to have someone back on campus who has made history in the past 50 years. There are minority students who need to see themselves in faculty members. They need to see themselves represented. They need role models here on campus.”
Though Edison has deep roots in Dallas after serving in the Dallas Independent School District for over thirty years, he plans to commute to Oklahoma to visit the campus on a weekly basis. Along with faculty collaboration, Edison will develop the curriculum for the class this semester.
“He’s so approachable, and he wants to be here,” Winn said. “He wants to meet students; he wants to know the culture of campus; he wants to be part of the community of OC so he can build the course.”
In Dallas, he worked as a social studies teacher, ran the African American heritage center and eventually became the director of social studies for the district. He also had a career in museum education, receiving a national endowment for the humanities three times and a Fulbright fellowship in Cairo, Egypt.
According to Winn, his history with Oklahoma Christian also gives him a complex perspective on race and culture.
“That he was a member of the OC 18 and wants to come back and teach and be involved and engage with our campus community,” Winn said. “I think that’s such a beautiful story of healing and redemption. He has a connection with us in a potentially negative way and turned it into a positive. He is such a humble person.”
Maxwell said she is filled with gratitude to attend an institution like Oklahoma Christian where campus leaders acknowledge the school’s history.
“I feel like we are turning a new corner this year in this space at OC,” Maxwell said. “We are trying to learn from our mistakes. It would’ve been one thing if we hid this and never talked about it and this came back. But we’ve owned it, we’re teaching from it, and now we get to sit at the feet of greatness. I’m really excited about this.”