Assistant Provost gives perspective to Oscar Ritchie scholars


Hannah Potes

Kent State’s new assistant provost Said Sewell gave an inspiring speech to a crowd at the Student Center Wednesday night as a part of an event held by the Multicultural Center.. Photo by Hannah Potes.

Hannah Kelling

Editor’s note: The article previously stated the presentation was in Oscar Ritchie Hall. This has been corrected in the story below.

A splash of clapping and cheers crashed against the walls of Room 204 in the Kent State Student Center at 6 p.m. Wednesday as students gave themselves a hearty round of applause.

Said L. Sewell, the assistant provost, encouraged the enthusiasm as part of an appreciation of self, one of his key topics at the Oscar Ritchie Scholars Guild Speaker Symposium. The first of its kind, the symposium was one of two that the guild hopes to present each academic year.

The students present at the event, making up the majority of the approximately 40 attendees, are members of the guild and recipients of the African American, Latino American and Native American scholarships. Shana Lee and Trinidy Jeter, faculty in the Student Multicultural Center, advise the group.

Cassaundra Bronson, sophomore biology major and the president of the guild, introduced the speaker.

“It’s an opportunity to hear from someone that we view as a scholar, someone we can network with, someone we can look up to,” Bronson said.

Taking the stage, Sewell commended a number of faculty members for their dedication to diversity efforts. Describing himself as a “boy who many said would not be much,” he said he was invited to tell his story as that of a man who had managed to “make it” in trying circumstances.

Sewell, however, took a different spin on the invitation.

“I haven’t made it yet,” Sewell said, saying that while he has done a lot, he has goals he has not yet achieved. He spoke about the power of positive thinking and speaking, two things which he said will help him to become president of a small liberal arts college in the future.

Following a “What I Learned at the Gym” series of lessons, Sewell created what Bronson called an “intimate” atmosphere. He taught the students four key ideas:

· Other people will jump to your weights as soon as you put them down. “Don’t lose sight of what truly matters,” he said.

· You don’t always have to call a crowd to go to the gym with you. “It’s okay to be alone, or to pull back from the world. You need time to put yourself back together again,” he said.

· When other guys are curling 50 pounds or more, you might be comfortable with only 35 or 40 at a time. “What other people think of you is irrelevant – you were created uniquely,” he said.

· If you go religiously and sweat like crazy, you still might not look the best. “Don’t give up,” he said.

Sewell, who entered the historically black Morehouse College at age 16 and was recently promoted to the job of assistant provost, said that education has created a “no-excuse” mentality in his life.

“Only a fool gets down and stays down,” Sewell said. “You understand that education is transformative – that’s why you are all scholars.”

Urging the students to strive for advanced degrees, he said that men and women who obtain more degrees often find themselves better off in an economic downturn.

In an effort to reach those academic goals, freshman public health major Phyenicia Haynes said the guild has been a great help.

“It helps us to successfully go through the academic year,” Haynes said. She was inducted into the guild on Oct. 2 of this year.

Yuberniz Orengo, freshman fashion merchandising major and first generation college student, echoed these thoughts. She said that the guild and speakers like Sewell encourage students who come from challenging backgrounds to succeed.

Jeter said she agrees.

“Dr. Sewell is definitely a representation of what Oscar Ritchie scholars strive to achieve,” she said.

Finishing the symposium with praise for the qualities of honesty, humility and hard work, Dr. Sewell said he simply hoped to be as good a mentor to his students as his mentors had been to him.

Contact Hannah Kelling at [email protected].