Creating Pathways to Opportunity for Diverse Students

Founded in 1897, Langston University is one of the 1890 land-grant universities established to teach agriculture and the mechanical arts and to make higher education more accessible to the average U.S. citizen. It is also one of the nation’s more than 100 Historically Black Colleges and Universities—educational institutions founded prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans. While most HBCUs are found in the southern and eastern regions of the U.S., Langston is the nation’s westernmost HBCU. Its main campus is located outside of Guthrie, Oklahoma with satellite campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Continuing the agricultural mission of land-grant universities, Langston University is home to the world-renowned E. Kika de la Garza American Institute for Goat Research as well as a robust cooperative extension program through its Sherman Lewis School of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. However, today’s Langston offers a total of 36 degree programs in a wide range of fields’ including biology, chemistry, nursing, urban education, international studies, physical therapy and biotechnology. The university draws students from across the U.S. and globally.

In 2020, the Farm Credit System joined Congress’ HBCU Partnership Challenge with a goal of elevating its HBCU relationships and finding new opportunities to develop the next generation of diverse leaders in agriculture. As part of this effort, CoBank began exploring ways to engage with Langston University, the only HBCU within its wholesale district. That exploration culminated in 2022 with CoBank’s commitment of $500,000 to a multi-year pilot program developed in partnership with Langston University leadership.

Dubbed the “Langston University CoBank Scholars’ the effort is a multi-faceted approach to education and engagement that will introduce Langston students to CoBank and the Farm Credit System and create connections for those pursuing educational and career opportunities in banking and financial services.

“Like many employers, CoBank strives to hire the best and most qualified talent,” said Faye Tate, vice president of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at CoBank. “To achieve that goal, we need to reach the broadest possible pool of candidates, including those from diverse communities. We know that HBCUs are a tremendous source of talent, but many HBCU students simply are not aware of the vast range of rewarding career opportunities offered by CoBank and the Farm Credit System. Our hope is that our partnership with Langston University will help us to change that.”

“We are so excited about the opportunities our partnership with CoBank will bring to Langston University students,” said Theresa Powell, vice president for Operations at Langston. “As an agricultural and mechanical college situated in a rural setting, we share many values including a focus on transforming small communities and supporting the rural economy. We believe that we are poised to build an excellent program wherein CoBank will bring expertise directly to our students in Langston and beyond, leading our graduates to demonstrate those shared values of collaborative community development as professionals.”

The Langston University CoBank Scholars pilot will launch in 2023. The program will include scholarships, coaching and mentoring, an on-site immersion experience at CoBank’s Colorado headquarters, and internship opportunities. “Our students have already benefited from experience gained through internships with CoBank which have led to career opportunities,” said Powell. “I am excited to see our partnership grow and to expand those opportunities to even more Langston University students.”

This story was originally published in the CoBank 2022 Sustainability Report.