Vying for internships reveals unfair playing field

Sorting out summer plans is stressful for college students who have been applying for internships to fill their summer. Political science and women and gender studies sophomore, Destinee Dickson, has started applying for internship programs in Washington D.C. in hopes of taking that first step toward her ultimate career goal: a seat on the Supreme Court.

For Dickson, her summer internship hunt poses a dilemma. Many of the government internships that would be her first pick to apply for, including the White House, Congress and Supreme Court, don’t offer paid internships. These entities told Dickson that paying an intern just isn’t in the budget for these entities and that the experience interns would receive would trump getting paid.

Although Dickson’s mother supports her plans and will help her with traveling costs, she cannot afford to pay for her daughter’s living and food expenses for the entire summer, but will help her with travel costs, Dickson said.

“It’s difficult,” she said. “I’m a black woman, so I’ve always been disadvantaged for most things in life so it’s just another obstacle that I have to work through.”

Dickson has started applying to over ten internship programs at businesses, law firms and even the Smithsonian Institute because they have a connection to the government. She believes that having even the slightest interaction with the government could get her foot in the door for future jobs in the area.

“It’s not ideal but it’s a step in the right direction,” Dickson said.

Getting internship experience is more important now than ever, Director of OU Career Services Robin Huston said. They allow students to apply what they’ve learned in class to real life work situations, determine whether or not they are interested in a field and also boost self-esteem, she said.

“Employers look for students with internship experience on their resume which makes the student a more attractive candidate,” Huston said. “Many employers use internships as a way to decide if they want to offer that person a full time position once they graduate.”

However, certain career fields are more likely than others to offer paid internships, which can make it difficult for students like Dickson to find a resume bolstering internship that meets her financial needs.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers published research last December on “The Impact of Unpaid Internships on Career Development” that indicated that male agriculture and business majors were more likely to receive paid internships while journalism, political science, international affairs and nutrition majors, among others, were more likely to take unpaid internships. Overall, more students in the study took unpaid than paid internships, according to the research.

OU’s political science department understands how difficult it can be to live somewhere in the summer and work for no pay so they do their best to provide fellowships and scholarships to offset some of those costs, a political science presidential research and associate professor Deven Carlson said.

For example, the Carl Albert Center’s Ewing Fellowship is specifically for students interning in D.C. to assist them with housing and food for the summer, Carlson said. The Thousands Strong crowdfunding campaign that was launched last spring also raised money for several scholarships for political science students to help afford unpaid internships, he said.

While the political science department, among other departments, does what it can to support their students in pursuing internships, there is a certain level of economic inequality when it comes to unpaid internships.

“It’s an issue, it’s a problem that the opportunities that are available to students are, to some degree, only available to those who can take the financial costs,” Carlson said. “We do what we can to make costs not be a hurdle but I think that internships are one more issue in a long line of issues of inequitable opportunities between students who come from high income and lower income backgrounds.”

Jeremy Villanueva, a 2016 graduate of Sam Houston State University had a leg up when interviewing for his position as the Assistant Sports Information Director at the Southland Conference in Frisco, TX. Villanueva had a college internship at FC Dallas, a sports entity that sometimes works with the Southland Conference to put on events.

A mass communications major and longtime soccer fan, he applied for and got a digital content internship at the professional soccer club in the summer of 2015. He managed FC Dallas’ blog, Snapchat, Twitter and other social media platforms for no pay but course credit. That course credit allowed for him to graduate early, he said.

His family lives in Mesquite, TX, about a 45 minute drive from Frisco so he was able to live at home and commute, saving him from having to pay for housing.

The internship helped improve his writing and challenged his creativity on social media and to make the most of a post’s parameters, he said.

“It’s very neat, not that many people get those kinds of opportunities,” Villanueva said. “I felt like I was ahead of the next guy when I got back to school and it helped me get the next thing.”

Political science junior Daniel Williams interned with the Daniel Pae Campaign in Oklahoma City, OK this past summer and found his experience to be rewarding and worth course credit despite not getting monetary compensation. He’s already been able to apply what he learned in the summer to his classes this semester, he said.

“I would probably still [have] done the internship if I had not received the college credit [because] some of things in political science can only be learned through experience,” Williams said. “However I worry [that] the lack of paid internships in the poli sci field will hinder students ability to secure internships and remain financially stable.”

According to Carlson, there are upsides to unpaid internships because they introduce you to people that could help you later down the road and provide lessons that can’t be taught in the classroom. For some, the benefits of networking and work experience may be enough compensation in it of itself, but others may not be able to justify working for no pay, it’s an individual decision, he said.

Junior anthropology major Taylor Emery wouldn’t have been able to have interned at the Smithsonian Institute this past summer if he hadn’t received a research grant from the National Science Foundation through his internship that was able to cover his housing and a subway pass in D.C.. He used his own savings to pay for his flight and food, Emery said.

The archeological research project he worked on in the summer helped him see that he would like to work in museums, he said. While his time at the Smithsonian made an impact on him, he doubts that he would pursue another unpaid internship again since it was such a costly venture, he said.

“Getting funding would bridge that privilege gap for so many people,” Emery said. “I don’t know that I would ever do another unpaid internship again unless I [got] a larger stipend or if they simply [paid] me”

OU student, professors, discuss political activism in the Trump era

Deon Osborne took his place at the podium at a Norman city council meeting Oct. 24. Backed by a team of allies holding signs around the outskirts of the room, the young activist and OU student delivered his bold message with poise and firmness: Norman has a race issue that must be confronted. DeBarr Avenue, a street named after Ku Klux Klan member Edwin DeBarr, must be renamed.

The message was heard loud and clear — the council voted unanimously that night to change the street name by June 1, 2018.

For Osborne, the night marked a victory not only for the entire city of Norman, but an important turning point for his own blossoming role as a prominent community activist.

“He found his voice,” said George Henderson, a long-time Norman activist who considers Osborne a friend and mentee. “When and where I don’t know, but he found his voice in terms of social justice.”

Osborne is one of a new generation of young activists nationwide whose political involvement was largely sparked by President Donald Trump’s election in 2016. Osborne said he thinks Trump’s victory created a group of individuals bent on upholding the rights of marginalized minorities.

“If Hillary would have won, would we be facing some of the issues we’re facing now? No. But would we be shedding light on a lot of the issues we’re shedding light on now? No,” Osborne said. “Because Trump won, he’s created an entire group of people who says we’re not going to let you decide what America becomes — we’re going to decide what America becomes.”

Keith Gaddie, chair of OU’s political science department, said there has been an intensification of political activism, both across the country and among students since the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Activism today is shaped by the competing voices of many identity groups each demanding fair and equal treatment, he said.

“That’s what this round of protests is about—it’s about dignity, it’s about human dignity, and the right to be treated with dignity and not bullied…that’s where people find common ground,” Gaddie said. “And that’s where the sophistication of modern activism comes from. It’s about a broader concept of justice that’s invested in a deeper understanding of human rights and human dignity.”

With an eye and ear trained closely on his community, Osborne is a social justice advocate for countless groups he considers allies. He has collected friends from every underrepresented group — Native Americans, environmentalists, Latinos and Latinas, LGBTQ+ individuals and more.

That’s one way in which activism has shifted over the years, Henderson said.

“He’s a broker between cultures,” Henderson said. “The DeBarr (issue) is just symbolic of what he does: he finds an issue, he finds allies. If more of us could do that, we would solve more of our problems around here, and it would be not just one group advocating for one another, but all of us advocating for one another.”

Henderson recalls a time when the issues were black and white, literally. Other minorities were forgotten, left behind in the intensely narrow focus of the civil rights movement, he said.

“I focused on race, just black or white, and I forgot about the Hispanics, the Latinos. I forgot about the white allies. I forgot about the Asians. I forgot about the Native Americans. I forgot about those people because for me, I had a narrow vision,” Henderson said. “His is a broad vision. And that comes with the kind of maturity that most of us didn’t have.”

Osborne said he believes power lies at the intersection of movements. When groups with various interests come together, each is able to learn from the others’ perspectives, while also gaining more traction as a team, he said.

“It builds power and it builds legitimacy,” Osborne said.

With this mentality in mind, Osborne this fall helped found the Norman Citizens for Racial Justice group, a loose coalition of allies across various social justice movements whose mission is to educate and advocate for a variety of social justice issues in Norman.

“A lot of times activists and politicians will feel good about themselves because they got something done and they’ll let that go to their heads and think, ‘OK, I’m the champion of this, and if anyone wants to work on this issue, you have to go through me,’” Osborne said. “That’s the opposite of what we want to do. We want to empower students to become their own leaders and to become their own agents of change.”

Beyond the current political climate, Osborne’s commitment to social justice is rooted in his upbringing and past experiences. Growing up in the small town of Lawton, Oklahoma, he had the n-word and bottles tossed at him at the age of 10. In Norman, he’s been called the n-word walking to work as a server at a restaurant, especially on game days, he said.

“I’ve had enough happen to me and enough happen to my family to know that this is an epidemic that we can’t just sweep under the rug any more,” Osborne said.

But he doesn’t like to focus on his own struggles. Brushing aside his own experiences, he is focused on being a representative for others, through social media campaigns advocating for various causes and a video production business he uses to shine a light on suppressed voices.

“Even though I’m an African-American, bisexual, there’s still a lot of privilege that I have, especially now, having the council’s ear, and I want to use that privilege to help those who’ve had worse experiences than me,” Osborne said.

Although Osborne first became involved in campus protests by filming and documenting them, he has gradually shifted to a more vocal leadership role. He regularly attends rallies and engages in community conversations via social media, even though he said he is naturally a quiet person who would rather stay home.

Still, he has a lot to fight for and plenty of reasons to continue advocating.

“This is a dark time right now and we need to show people in the nation who are scared to walk out of their doors, there’s people who will walk out of those doors for you,” Osborne said. “We will go to those city council meetings for you. We will protest for you if you don’t want to come. We’re not going to let them scare us into staying inside — not anymore.”

Looking at Osborne today, Henderson sees himself reflected in the energetic, committed young leader.

“There are very few individuals who I honestly believe were born and given the gift of being the honest brokers of justice,” Henderson said. “He’s one of them.”   

OU policy restricting employees’ political ambitions under review from faculty

When Breea Clark considered running for Oklahoma House District 45 earlier this year, she found herself choosing between the political position and her job of 10 years.

Clark, associate director of academic integrity programs at OU, was preparing to announce her candidacy for the House seat when she and her superiors realized she couldn’t if she wanted to stay in her position at the university.

Clark and all other OU employees cannot publicly announce candidacy for a county, state or federal elected position without first leaving their job at the university due to an OU policy that is gaining new scrutiny from the university’s faculty.

“I just find it really discouraging and truly unfortunate that thousands of people aren’t even able to consider running for a county, state or federal office — it seems almost anti-democratic,” Clark said.

The Board of Regents’ Candidacy for Political Office Policy, which dates to 1943, prohibits any conflict of interest by mandating that a university employee “offer his/her resignation to the Board of Regents, without reservation” before declaring candidacy for a partisan political office.

OU press secretary Matt Epting said in an email OU “avoids a variety of administrative conflicts of interest” between partisan candidates and a publicly-funded university with the policy, which is evenly applied to all university employees.  

Epting said while the state of Oklahoma’s policies no longer prohibit state employees from announcing candidacy or running for office, state ethics policies still contain “similar conflict of interest principles” to those enforced by OU’s Candidacy for Political Office Policy. State ethics regulations mandate that state employees “show impartiality when discharging their duties,” that they “should separate their time, funds, and resources as a state officer or employee from that used for campaigns” and that a state employee not hold two state positions at once.

OU’s policy has drawn scrutiny from the university’s faculty senate, which decided to investigate the policy in its Nov. 13 meeting. Faculty senate chair Sarah Ellis said the item was brought to the senate’s discussion simply “because faculty asked us to,” and faculty senate secretary Joshua Nelson said the policy is an issue “faculty senate executive committee members heard about from a few faculty members in general conversation.”

While Ellis and Nelson declined to comment on the senate’s ongoing review of the policy, Nelson said in an email the policy is currently moving through investigation from the Faculty Welfare Committee, which reviews policy issues concerning the senate and recommends changes.

The senate’s Nov. 13 agenda, which notes the body’s intention to look into the policy, conveys the senate’s view that the policy “effectively precludes some of the most qualified among our citizenry from serving in public office and divests them of the right of civic participation.”

Even if the faculty senate investigated the policy and supported change, true amendment must happen at the Board of Regents’ level, said Cindy Rosenthal, director of the Carl Albert Congressional Research & Studies Center and former Norman mayor. According to the faculty senate’s agenda, the senate would consider a leave of absence for employees running for office as an acceptable alternative to resignation.

At a public institution that promotes civic engagement in its student population, Rosenthal said expecting immediate resignation of employees with higher political ambitions sends students mixed messages.

“(The extent of the policy) really deters a lot of people from being able to make a commitment to public service,” Rosenthal said. “I think it’s at odds with the philosophy that has been espoused for encouraging our students to become active and engaged members of the community.”

Rosenthal said while it’s “not unusual” for public institutions to avoid conflicts of interest by prohibiting dual office holding, OU’s policy is “particularly severe” in its mandate that employees resign upon announcement.

“Comparatively, there’s no question when you look at other institutions of higher education or other public institutions and public schools — it really is very punitive on people that want to give back to their community,” Rosenthal said.

The faculty senate agenda compares OU’s policy to that of other public universities, noting that institutions like the University of Missouri and the University of Nebraska grant a leave of absence to employees who declare candidacy and only require resignation if that employee is actually sworn into office.

Oklahoma State University’s policy requires that employees receive approval from supervisors and potentially the president’s office before announcing candidacy (in order to evaluate conflicts of time and interest), grants unpaid leave of absence during campaigning and requires resignation if an employee assumes the position.

Rosenthal said she thinks a leave of absence is an appropriate requirement, but OU’s current policy puts employees in a tough position economically.

“In my own case, as a tenured faculty member, are you going to give up your rights to tenure in order to throw your hat in a campaign? Probably very unlikely,” Rosenthal said.

Clark has been able to serve in a city government position as Norman’s Ward 6 councilwoman for the past year, a position not restricted by the policy because of it doesn’t require party affiliation. But Clark can’t go any further than city positions if she wishes to retain her job at OU, a position she helped found and enjoys.   

“That would be the problem,” Clark said. “Is that I now have to choose between a job where I work with young people that I’m very good at because I’ve been doing it for 10 years that I really think makes a difference for future professionals, and running for higher office and serving my constituency and the residents of Oklahoma, which I think is entirely unfair.”

Barry Switzer, Lincoln Riley share same passion as Sooners head coach

Barry Switzer stands in a coaching tower, glaring down on his team during one of their first practices with him at the helm.

“Speed,” he’d yell at his team from the tower above them. “Quickness.”

Switzer had just been named Oklahoma’s new head coach after serving under future NFL coach Chuck Fairbanks as the Sooners’ offensive coordinator for six years. He had perfected the wishbone offense in previous years, and with running back Joe Washington and quarterback Steve Davis leading the way, a 35-year-old Switzer was primed for a successful first year

“The coaching staff was in place, the Selmon brothers didn’t leave, Joe Washington didn’t leave — I knew we were going to be good,” Switzer said.

Switzer’s Sooners would go 10-0-1 in 1973, finishing No. 3 in the AP Poll.

Forty-four years later, Lincoln Riley stands in the middle of the Sooners huddle, addressing his team before its first practice under the then-33-year-old head coach.

“Let’s get out to a great start,” Riley said to his team.

Just a couple months earlier, it was announced Riley would replace legendary coach Bob Stoops after 18 seasons. Creating one of the most lethal offenses in the country as the offensive coordinator during his previous two years at Oklahoma, and returning senior quarterback and eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Baker Mayfield, Riley, too, had all the tools to have a historic first season.

Four months later, Riley’s Sooners have gone 12-1, winning a third-straight Big 12 Championship, and have their eyes set on the program’s eighth national title.

“I look at what he’s accomplished similar to my first year,” Switzer said. “He knew he was going to be good, he had the same staff, the only person that left was Bob Stoops.”

Riley and Switzer both started their head coaching careers in similar ways — young, passionate and with an already loaded team. They both had strong relationships with their quarterbacks, Davis and Mayfield, kick-starting their careers with offensive success.

However, the two have their differences: Switzer was brash and bold, while Riley is calm and collected.

“I’m probably more crude than he is. He’s probably a little more polished than I was,” Switzer said with a laugh. “He’s more erudite than I probably was.”

But while Switzer and Riley may have some differences, there’s one thing they share for certain — winning.

“Switzer and Lincoln can be real passionate about something, especially winning” said Washington, who now serves as the director of the Varsity O Association. “When they talk to you, they’re getting after it, they’re feeling it.”

***

With his eye on a young Davis, Switzer watched his quarterbacks warmup one practice before his first season as head coach. Davis slipped as he let a pass go, the ball landing in the stands next to Switzer.

“You’re going to have to get a whole hell of a lot better if you want to play football here at the University of Oklahoma,” Washington recalled Switzer saying to Davis.

Switzer was hard on his quarterbacks, expecting a lot of them — similar to Riley. When Riley first stepped onto campus at Oklahoma, he had a decision to make at the quarterback position: a highly-recruited baseball player, a Sugar Bowl MVP or a walk-on transfer from Texas Tech, who’d thrown nine interceptions in eight games.

It seemed like an easy decision, but Riley made it a difficult one. He gave all three a chance, taking away their titles and viewing them just as players. Riley would eventually choose Mayfield, the best decision of his career.

“I just gave him an opportunity,” Riley said Saturday night after Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy. “Bob (Stoops) and I when we came in, we opened that competition up, (Mayfield) won the job. He showed me very early on he had what it takes inside of him to be a great player for us.”

Mayfield and Riley have left their legacy at Oklahoma, just as Switzer and Davis did years ago. Mayfield has had his ups and downs throughout his OU career, sometimes stirring controversy along the way.

Much like Riley has dealt with Mayfield, Switzer also had many outspoken players, such as Brian Bosworth. But Switzer praised Mayfield, saying Bosworth took some things too far, and that he wouldn’t make Mayfield change anything.

“I wouldn’t change a damn thing” Switzer said. “(Mayfield) gets more attention because he’s the quarterback, but he’s the most positive guy on our team too. I don’t want him to change. Keep on being what you are. Keep being Baker.”

Even when Mayfield created one of the biggest controversies in college football this season when he grabbed his crotch and yelled obscenities at Kansas, Switzer could relate.

“I’ve seen those things happen before and, you know, I’ve had players that didn’t have the cameras on them as much, but I’ve had players turn around and give other players the finger on the field,” Switzer said with a laugh. “In this case it was (Mayfield) being filmed on the sidelines, you know, grabbing his crotch. People making too much out of it. By god, if you want to see people grabbing your crotch go to YouTube right now and find all you want, probably a bunch of ‘em.”

The way Riley has handled Mayfield’s outgoing personality is a testament to the strong relationships he’s built with his quarterback. Riley’s and Switzer’s success can be attributed to the trust they’ve had in their quarterbacks on and off the field.

For Mayfield, Riley is the reason he’s where he is today.

“The thing I’m most thankful for is, (Stoops) hiring coach Riley,” Mayfield said as he thanked his former coach during his Heisman acceptance speech. “That changed my life.”

***

In the spring of 2017, Riley’s future was unknown. With whispers of him being a candidate for multiple head coaching jobs, including Houston where he apparently “killed” the interview, Riley had a decision to make.

Stay at Oklahoma and maybe one day be the head coach, or leave and hope a larger opportunity eventually presents itself.

It was the same decision Switzer had to make over 40 years ago.

“I felt like I could handle the job and I was ready for the job. I had been offered jobs and I turned them down when I was an assistant here at Oklahoma, and they weren’t what I wanted,” Switzer said. “I’m sure Lincoln has had the same opportunities and offered jobs that he probably turned down too because they weren’t what he was looking for. We were both looking to coach at Oklahoma.”

When Riley first arrived in Norman, the team had just finished 8-5 that season, which ended with a 40-6 loss to Clemson. Now, since Riley has taken over the offense, with  Mayfield right by his side, Oklahoma has finished in the top seven for total offense in all three years. Riley also became the first head coach in program history to win 11 games in his first year as head coach.

Riley has created a welcoming, exciting atmosphere at Oklahoma, one that former players would still want to play for today.

“The one thing I do know, when you see our offense moving, you got guys that would want to play, I’ll promise you that,” Washington said. “I’d love to come to Oklahoma and play football on this football team.”

Riley’s quick success is no surprise though, learning from past mentors Mike Leach, Ruffin McNeill and Stoops. The future was always bright for Riley, who was handed the reigns of an already great team. Just as Davis helped kick-start Switzer’s career, Mayfield has done the same for Riley.

“Without him, without the way the team played my first two years at Norman I wouldn’t be the head coach,” Riley said. “I think that’s pretty obvious.”

But Riley has brought more than wins to this program. From his weekly highlight videos, to becoming a part of the Jumpman brand, Riley has brought a fresh perspective to a tradition-rich program.

He’s taken what was left behind from Switzer and Stoops, and not only made it better, but also made it his.

“Lincoln is that old soul in a new energetic body,” Washington said. “Lincoln has definitely put his signature on everything, and what he’s done with what Bob left, he’s enhanced it.”

Expanding social circles through dating apps

Jaclyn Jacobs had just gotten out of a tough relationship.

The biochemistry and microbiology junior decided she did not want anything serious, but wanted some intimacy, so she sought out Tinder, a phone app typically used for hooking up and one-night stands.

“I was embracing the stereotype of Tinder and just rolling with it,” Jacobs said. “I was kind of just busting through it. … I very much went into it with the mindset of ‘this isn’t anything serious,’ every single time.”

The app allows users to match with others by liking them, or swiping right. If a user wants, he or she is allowed to message whoever they match with and go from there. Sometimes users will meet up once or twice and then end things, no strings attached, but some find romantic relationships.

For Jacobs, though, any time the other party began getting too serious, she ended things.

“I didn’t know how to actually initiate it, but when (someone) was forward with me…I didn’t know how to deal with this,” Jacobs said. “Then I got scared and got too busy with school and stuff and peaced out.”

However, her and a few of her friends used it to just talk to people or increase their social sphere.

“It’s more of a thing where they just talk to people, (it’s) more like a way to talk to guys in different fraternities and go to parties and stuff like that,” Jacobs said. “It’s more getting to know people in all sorts of different ways thing than a ‘I want to find my next boyfriend.’”

When strategic communications graduate student Dakota Ratley set foot in Norman for school, he didn’t know anyone.

Instead of moping about, the then-public relations freshman found friendship and solace in Tinder.

Ratley also used Bumble, a similar app to Tinder, but differs in that women are required to message men they match with first within 24 hours of the pairing. He made friends from that, too.

“I think one of the keys (the apps) is to not take them too seriously,” Ratley said. “I mean, there are going to be people who are looking for relationships.”

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center study, 27 percent of 18-24 year olds use online dating, a 17 percent increase since 2013.

The research also found that two-thirds of those who used online dating actually went on dates with people they met online.

In an effort to help users meet people for platonic purposes, the apps made a few modifications.

In July 2016, Tinder released “Tinder Social,” which allows groups of friends to match with other groups of people while going out. The update has since been removed from the app, but that doesn’t mean some people don’t have accounts on Tinder purely to find friends.

Although Tinder took their social specific avenue away, Bumble, one of Tinder’s competitors, added “bumblebff,” but they didn’t stop there.

At the very beginning of downloading Bumble, users are able to select who they are looking for first: dates (known as “bumble”), new friends (known as “bumblebff”) or a network (known as “bumblebizz”). The app assures users that, “you’ll only be show to people looking for the same thing as you and you can always change your mind later.”

According to Bumble’s website, the company received a multitude of requests to make a friend-finding feature on the app, so they did.

However, Tinder and Bumble are still not regarded as a typical or serious way to meet significant others and are far less taboo — that is left to websites like eHarmony, OkCupid and PlentyOfFish.

“With the latter two, I think there’s a little bit of a taboo for them since those are strictly looking for relationships,” Ratley said. “A lot of people would think that if you’re on those then you can’t find somebody in  the real world. I think with Tinder and Bumble and kind of behind the genius of marketing those is that they’re marketed as more casual.”

History of the Heisman trophy, Heisman Park

By Abby Bitterman

After Baker Mayfield shook all the hands of his fellow Heisman winners and said all his thank yous in his acceptance speech, he walked across the stage and picked up his Heisman Trophy. The trophy the senior quarterback hoisted in New York City had traveled just as many miles as he had to be there.

Since 2005, the Heisman Trophy has been made by MTM Recognition, a company located 18.3 miles north of Gaylord Family – Oklahoma Memorial Stadium in Oklahoma City. The company has been around for 46 years and has become one of the nation’s top awards companies. It makes the trophy for Jostens, said Jack Nortz, director of sculpting for MTM Recognition.

In addition to the Heisman, MTM Recognition makes a lot of other awards and trophies for the college football world. It makes several bowl trophies, conference trophies — including the Big 12 Conference Championship trophy the Sooners won on Dec. 2 — and other individual awards, like the John Mackey Award won this year by junior tight end Mark Andrews and the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award Lincoln Riley is a finalist for.

The Mackey Award is one that Nortz sculpted himself, and, being a big Sooner fan, he was excited when Andrews won it last week.

“As OU fans we get really excited about them winning,” Nortz said. “We (the Sooners) won the Big 12 Championship, and that’s another one that we do and it was on TV and gave us a lot of notoriety, so that’s cool too.”

As Oklahoma’s sixth Heisman winner, Mayfield gets more than just a trophy to add to his shelf. He will get a statue of himself in Heisman Park alongside the greats that came before him, and it’s possible that MTM Recognition could be involved with that one, too, though no plans have been announced yet.

The first four statues to go up in Heisman Park — Billy Vessels, Steve Owens, Billy Sims, Jason White — were made as part of Oklahoma’s centennial celebration in 2007. The four statues were commissioned by the Centennial Commission, and the effort was led by Lee Allan Smith, an alumni of the University of Oklahoma and friend of Vessels. Smith led the fundraising effort for the sculptures, which he said can range in cost from $100,000 to $175,000 and were all made by different sculptors from Oklahoma.

It took Jim Franklin of Perry, Oklahoma, about a year and a half to make Billy Sims’ statue. He said the Centennial Commission sent him a photo of Sims taken during a game the year he won the Heisman to be his pose. Franklin found other photos from the time Sims was playing and used them as reference material to help him make an 18-inch maquette — a small scale version of the statue. He made the statue without his helmet on because while Sims was playing football he was known for his big afro, and Franklin said he wanted to show it off.

Franklin presented the model for approval to some people in the Oklahoma Athletic Department, Barry Switzer, Smith and Sims and his wife, he said. There was one comment from Sims and his wife that stuck out to him.

“His wife said ‘well that doesn’t really look like you,” Franklin remembered. “And he says ‘of course it doesn’t look like me because that was back in 1978 and I’ve changed a little bit since 1978.”

After the maquette got approved, Franklin said it was sent to a foundry where it was scanned, and computer programs digitally enlarged it and created a foam base the size of what the statue would be — about 9 feet. The foam base was delivered to Franklin’s studio where he assembled it and then sculpted clay over it to establish all the details and textures. Before he sculpted the clay on, though, he said he painted the foam with a latex paint to make it easier to work with.

Once the clay sculpture was approved, it was sent back to the foundry where a wax replica was made. That wax statue was then encased in a ceramic shell. The wax was melted out and bronze was poured into make the final statue. This process is called the lost-wax bronze process, Franklin said. When it was done, the statue weighed about 500-600 lbs and had to be transported by a flatbed truck.

“It’s one of the greatest honors of my career in sculpting — to have that piece at OU just outside the stadium,” Franklin said.

The process was similar for Jason White’s statue and all the others. The pose, though, is different for every statue. It’s what makes them unique and what immortalizes Oklahoma’s Heisman winners forever in the minds of Sooner Nation.

Sculptor, Jay O’Meilia of Tulsa, said he picked the pose of White — who O’Meilia said he had to force back into his Oklahoma uniform to make sketches of him.

“Being a great long-distance quarterback — he had a great arm on him, and I wanted to show that,” O’Meilia said. “Now he could throw a ball 60 yards down the field, so that’s the pose I wanted because that’s what people knew him for, his great arm strength.”

O’Meilia wanted to make the statue more of a portrait of White, so he asked for approval to make the statue without a helmet on his subject. Of all the Heisman winners, Vessel’s is the only one with a helmet on his statue.

Nortz and MTM Recognition made the most recent addition to the park — Sam Bradford. There was a bit of controversy surrounding the statue when it was first installed in Heisman Park because people were unsure whether it looked like him.

Nortz said he thinks he knows where that sentiment comes from, though. When Bradford was playing at Oklahoma, he would cut his hair short at the start of a season and then let it grow until the end. When he made the maquette, Nortz gave Bradford his longer, curly, end-of-the season hair style, but he said Bradford wanted his statue to have short hair.

Plans for Mayfield’s Heisman Park statue aren’t yet known, but some have already weighed in on what they think his pose should be. Before Mayfield even won the Heisman, a petition had already been started on Change.org for the pose to depict him planting the flag on Ohio State’s field. The petition had 7,446 online signatures as of 1:30 p.m. Sunday.

On an ESPN radio show on Dec. 8, though, Mayfield said he doesn’t think that will get approved. He did have some ideas of his own for what he’d like to see his statue look like.

“You have to have the bandana, that’s a trademark,” Mayfield said on the show. “Maybe a temporary handlebar (mustache) for Bedlam week.”

Collectively Struggling

On a Wednesday at 3 p.m., Collected Thread, a small boutique gift shop, is devoid of customers. Lindsay Zodrow, the store owner with round glasses, a fern-colored fleece and a beaming smile, has just left to retrieve her toddler from daycare. Past the shelves of soft pink and blue scarfs, past the quirky cards that read “Happy Birfday,” and past the mid-century room divider is Collected Thread’s backroom. The backroom acts partially as a storage room and a personal office for Zodrow. Above Zodrow’s desk in the backroom hangs a postcard on a corkboard which reads:

“Lindsay, you are always a creative inspiration for me. Your passion and vision is shaping OKC for the better. Hang in there! 🙂 Happy Valentines Day! – Morgan.”

The postcard was from the owner of the Green Bambino, a baby clothing boutique in Oklahoma City. The last line reading “hang in there” is appropriate given the fact that locally-owned businesses like Collected Thread have been financially struggling for over a year and a half due to successful online retail shopping models employed by Amazon and other sites.

Last summer, after another frustratingly slow season for the local Oklahoma City business scene, Zodrow attempted to challenge that model.

On June 28, 2017, Lindsay Zodrow took a chance. She believed that, in order to gain the attention of local consumers, pleading to her customers through her online blog would help the metro public realize the hardships of running a small business. Although a blog post wouldn’t solve any problems on its own, Zodrow sought to unveil the affliction behind the inner workings of small businesses.

“It is a huge fight right now,” Zodrow said. “Most of the local businesses here don’t have loans, don’t have investors, and are doing it all on their own. You can’t sustain that.”

On average, Zodrow receives about 30 to 40 visitors to her website on a daily basis. On June 28 and the following day, over 4,000 people clicked on Collected Thread’s website to read her blog post.

Titled “Fight For Us!” the post cited the online shopping model of Amazon as the main cause for local business woes. Zodrow went on to list some local Oklahoma City businesses such as Chirps and Cheers, a stationary store in Midtown, Cuppies and Joe, a small coffee shop on 23rd Street, and The Social Club, a card store and salon in Norman, as having unique shopping experiences but also being affected by the slow local shopping season.

Since November 2014, NewsOK reported that since oil prices spiraled downward, the local economy also suffered if looking at the sales tax for retail over the past two years. In November 2014, Oklahoma received $35.7 million in sales tax, but that price dropped during the next consecutive three Novembers to $34 million, $33.4 million, and fortunately, $35.1 million. That upsurge indicates a rebound for retail, but is still $800,000 short of 2014’s sales tax mark.

However, this trend is not exclusive to Oklahoma City. According to a CNN report, more than 300 retailers have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2017 in the United States. RadioShack closed most of its stores in March of this year due to high rates of electronic sales online. Payless closed 525 out of 4,400 stores in April. Most prominently, Toys ‘R’ Us recently filed bankruptcy in September, but has yet to close any of its stores as of late.

With online retail and immediate digital shopping that allows a user to order an entire wardrobe without stepping foot over a front door threshold, the existence of small, local businesses is threatened.

Several businesses in the metro are actually pushing forward, and doing so successfully. Chirps and Cheers, the stationary store in Midtown owned by Sami Ready and Susan Kropp, a mother-daughter duo, haven’t experienced a decline as many other shops around the area have. Sami believes it has to do with their location

“With all of the hotels and apartment complexes…people are always popping in for a greeting card, and we get to help people with invitations to weddings,” Ready said. “We love our sweet friends that come into the shop and support us, and we just love the community.”

Chirps and Cheers opened in 2009 in an Edmond location for the first five years of business, but has since moved to Midtown. Besides selling stationary, the small business helps sorority hopefuls build their packets and resumes for submission before entering college, sells school supplies and hosts crafting workshops. Their utilization of different fields within stationary along with having a strong community following seems to attract a loyal a sufficient amount of customers to comfortably keep operations up and running.

Dana Scott and Erica Smith, owners of the Social Club in downtown Norman, were best friends when they decided to combine their talents—business wit and salon styling—to bring those concepts together to create their half salon/half gift shop. Regarding Zodrow’s blog post, Smith agrees that Amazon has altered the model of small, local business shopping.

It has never been more convenient to shop from the comfort of your own home,” Smith said. “But the thing you miss out on when you do that is the experience.”

Scott and Smith continue to operate The Social Club in Norman despite the shortfall of local business in Oklahoma. However, when comparing The Social Club and Chirps and Cheers, both have similar models of success: the stores are co-owned by friends or family and offer specialty services, such as haircuts at The Social Club and workshops and stationary services at Chirps and Cheers. This consolidation of ownership and variety of amenities may be the ticket to combating Amazon’s online shopping model.

Cuppies and Joe, once an urban house but now a converted coffee shop known for handmade cupcakes and Oklahoma-sourced coffee, sits on 23rd Street. The shop’s owner, Elizabeth Fleming, believes that the strength of small businesses in Oklahoma City can be found within the connection they share with each other.

“It’s nice because it is not cut throat. I feel like we are all rooting each other on and want each other to succeed because we know how hard it is,” Fleming said. “We have each other’s backs too; if someone is out of cups or lids, we can call on each other until our order gets in.”

Zodrow’s Collected Thread has now been open for nine years in the Plaza District. The shop itself is tucked in a cozy nook right across from some of the district’s biggest eateries like The Mule and Aurora Cafe, which is a plus. A case can be made for the variety of products Zodrow offers, which range from infant clothing to garments and accessories for fully clothed women. As a mother, Zodrow annually offers events for mothers and children alike during Mother’s Day, which acts as a catalyst for community building and an incentive for sales.

“I think I thought about [starting the shop] for two months, and then did it, which is crazy,” Zodrow said. “I’m still figuring it out.”

As Zodrow’s post said, many businesses may not be around the metro come January 2018. Several business owners and professionals have different opinions on how to stress the importance of keeping community businesses alive. Within these examples of local metro shops, it appears that tailored, curated services for the customer is the best advantage local businesses have over online retailers.

“To me, small businesses that create experiences for their customers put themselves in a position where they can’t possibly be replaced by online retailers,” said Dr. Jeremy Short, professor and Rath Chair in strategic management at the University of Oklahoma. “There are no online festivals with local food carts, for example. This kind of experience is communal, personal, tactile and can’t be replicated online.”

Bryce Bandy, co-founder of Keep It Local, a business that incentivizes metro dwellers to shop at local businesses by allowing exclusive discounts with a purchase of a Keep It Local card, affirms the experience aspect of small businesses. “I think you’re going to find a lot more creativity popping up and people trying to build it around experiences,” Bandy said.

The gap between local and corporate seems to widen as time passes. Either individuals are fiercely passionate about sustaining local businesses and their one-of-a-kind, handmade brands, or they resort to cheaper options on the web. However, the relationships that owners build with their customers and the experiences they provide will hopefully keep these hyperlocal staples afloat.

The essence of a community is its people. Without the distinct eateries and shops that reside in Oklahoma City’s many districts, areas could potentially face an identity crisis and, in turn, residents could lose touch with their surrounding neighbors.

“When you can put a face and a name to a local business and what they provide and you know the care that went into their product you want them to succeed,” Fleming said. “People don’t realize all that small business owners sacrifice and pour into their businesses.”

For Zodrow, the future is uncertain. “I go back and forth between being really hopeful and really concerned,” Zodrow said. “Everyone I know is on a budget, no one I know has money to shop. If it gets to the point where we’re just an online store, I don’t want to do it anymore. The community is too important to me.”