Connections start here; Graduating in your home state
Sonya Bell grew up in Tecumseh, only 40 minutes away from the University of Oklahoma, so from an early age, she felt that OU was the obvious choice for her college career. In high school, when beginning to consider different college choices, Bell’s English teacher, an alumna of the University of Central Oklahoma, encouraged her to tour the UCO campus and see what it had to offer.
There were many schools Bell considered but ultimately UCO provided the support and affordability to fit her needs. UCO provided Bell with a scholarship that covered three years, but she had to make sacrifices to support herself through school including working two jobs. Bell worked her way through college, which further motivated her to finish her two degrees within four years. When she arrived at UCO she was immediately given guidance on her four-year degree plan and transition into the workforce. Bell credits her college experience as an important step on the path to her current career in marketing at Cox Communications.
At UCO, Bell valued having professors who listened and worked with her to fulfill her goals. Dr. Terry Clark, head of the journalism school, was instrumental in helping Bell stay on her four-year track. He connected her with opportunities that would help her land a professional position as soon as she graduated.
“He knew my educational goals and helped me graduate in four years. He knew I had the skills to start as a journalist right out of school.”
The opportunities that Bell had in college increased her network. She fondly remembers joining the UCO news bureau to work as a student reporter. During her time there, she gained experience as a feature writer, and also wrote for the student paper, The Vista. Being a student reporter gave her access to what was happening on campus and gave her inroads to professional local newsrooms, including The Oklahoman.
“The connections I made at UCO planted a seed. Those early relationships helped me years and even decades later. It is one of the reasons I’ve had such great job opportunities right here at home.”
Bell first came to the UCO campus as an introverted freshman unsure of her new journey. Her professors helped her learn to be more assertive and confident in her abilities and her own voice. Their encouragement for her to speak up and share her opinion, along with honing her communication skills, prepared her for various professional roles both in the public and private sectors.
By the time Bell was a senior, she had created strong relationships with her professors thanks to the smaller class sizes and the one-on-one attention she received. Those relationships helped her find three amazing internship opportunities - she ultimately accepted one with the American Association of Advertising Agencies. From the day she stepped into the business world, the connections she made during her time at UCO have continued to impact her career at each step in her journey.
“I encourage high school students to consider how regional universities can be a great education option. They are close to home, more affordable and can open doors to continued professional success.”