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Oakwood University, a student’s perspective

256 Today has invited local student writers to share their post-secondary education experiences in North Alabama. This week’s feature comes from Huntsville native and Oakwood University Student Desiree Brown.

My name is Desiree Brown, and I am finishing up my last semester at Oakwood University as a pre-medicine student with a Spanish major and minor in biology. I decided to attend Oakwood University due to my time at the university’s immersive experience known as, “Oakwood Live.” During this time, high school juniors and seniors are invited to stay on campus and experience Oakwood Life. None of my visits to any campuses compared to the life-changing one I had during this God-centered and action-packed weekend. What made Oakwood University different from all the other schools I visited was the immediate sense of belonging I felt, and still feel, to this day. From the time I stepped foot on campus, I immediately felt welcomed into the ecosystem of Oakwood students and staff.

Oakwood University is a private, historically black Seventh-day Adventist university located in Huntsville, Alabama. To date, there are approximately 1,500 undergraduate students that participate in various degree programs. Among them, I am greatly benefiting from the School of Arts and Sciences where I have successfully matriculated through the linguistic and biological courses offered. Additionally, my time at Oakwood has enriched my life with opportunities like studying abroad in Spain for an academic school year, participating in international medical mission trips, and becoming a published author within the exciting field of neurobiology. These things, coupled with the vibrant social and spiritual life of the campus are the reason why I am incredibly thankful for Oakwood’s lasting impact on my life. There are over 30 clubs and organizations available for students to get involved and active on campus. Oakwood is unique because it prioritizes the spiritual and social well-being of its students. Because of this, students at Oakwood can benefit from professional clubs and mentorship catered to their career field and engage in spiritual fellowship through small group ministries and large church gatherings.

After graduating from a Huntsville-based science and technology magnet school known as New Century Technology High School, I would have never been able to guess that I would be leaving Oakwood University as a Spanish major. The plans for my future have been ever-evolving, however, I am hoping to finish this year up with my bachelor’s degree in Spanish and take a gap year to further my passion for language learning and travel. Given that the circumstances allow, I will be taking a gap year in Cologne, France to learn French. Upon returning, I will return to the vocation of medicine where I plan on obtaining my MD to practice in the field of psychiatry. I have a deep-rooted passion for mental health, and I am well-acquainted with the plague it has taken on the world around me. There are so many around me who suffer from mental illness, and I am an advocate for treating and dealing with issues of the mind just like we do any other part of the body.

Contributed/Desiree Brown

The most impactful experience during my time at Oakwood University is my experience running for and being the 29th Miss Oakwood University. The role of Miss Oakwood is to serve as a representative of Oakwood University. Particularly, Miss Oakwood is seen as a spiritual, progressive, uplifting person who seeks to care for the well-being of herself and others. My time as Miss Oakwood has been the most impactful experience I’ve had at Oakwood because of how the process has refined my courage, resilience, and strength as a leader.

The reason I decided to run for Miss Oakwood was due to what I saw on campus and what I believe God was calling me to do in response. I ran under the platform entitled “Welcome.” This word ties together the central focus of my platform which is wellness and community. I could think of nothing more applicable to the daily lives of students at Oakwood University than the message of taking of oneself and showing up for one’s community.

The pandemic forced me to grow and blossom in many ways, and it is my earnest desire to use the tools and lessons that I have collected to positively impact the campus of Oakwood University. The pandemic has isolated the students of Oakwood and caused a lot of turmoil. As a student body, we have had to experience the extremes of online learning coupled with the stripping of our physical safety net of peers and faculty. The shutdown has changed the rhythm of our lives and now we need to find a new sense of wellbeing and community.

My time as Miss Oakwood has given me the ability to collaborate with other leaders and students on campus to push initiatives that I believe will improve campus wellness and community. My platform was a call against the deterioration of the preciousness and sanctity of life. My platform stood as a call to implement self-advocacy through the intrinsic self-evaluation of our holistic wellness coupled with the prioritization of community.

If there is anything this year has taught me, it is the importance of human connection. The most impactful experiences that I will take with me from my time as Miss Oakwood were the moments that I did not have my crown and sash on. There is not one initiative or event I would trade for the impact that the people of Oakwood have made on my life. Within the confines of human connection, God has revealed His love woven within the meshwork of a healthy and consistent community. It is God that places and surrounds us with the people who are going to get us through the trials and celebrate our victories. He does this well. Being Miss Oakwood taught me the power of showing up consistently for my community, even if I had to do so imperfectly.

The most exciting thing I see for my future is simply the idea of where it could take me. I understand that my passions, talents, and gifts are multifaceted. There are so many opportunities to explore and ways to grow, so I look forward to seeing how all the pieces will fit together.

Oakwood has given me so much, and I cannot wait to see how all the things I have learned here and all the ways I have developed will push me forward in making me the person that I was created to be. I’ve had a glimpse of my vision and I am looking forward to seeing how all the pieces fall into place. This is my last semester at Oakwood University as a Spanish major with a minor in Biological Sciences. I plan on taking my MCAT in the summer of 2022 and for my gap year, I plan on studying abroad for a second time but this time in France to learn my third language (French).

I am incredibly proud to be an Oakwood student. I can speak with honesty when I say that my experience with Oakwood has been one of the most impactful and life-changing experiences I have ever had.

Additionally, the people and network I have forged here is one that I will never be able to lose and would not want to. I am proud to be an Oakwood student because this is God’s campus and the way that He moves, develops and trains its students is something that forms the basis of my testimony. Oakwood University is more than just a school — it’s an experience that I would not trade for anything.

I cannot wait to see how all the little pieces, refined and developed on this campus, will create a bigger picture that I can step into confidently in the years to come. Oakwood’s motto is “Enter to Learn, Depart to Serve,” I look forward to all the ways I will be able to service the world at large with the gifts and talents that nourish my soul. Many things make me proud to be an Oakwood student, but one of the main things is knowing that I am a part of a community that embodies black excellence and gives glory to God. It is an amazing place to be, and it is an experience I would not trade for anything else.

If I were to describe Oakwood to someone who’s never heard of it, I would say that it is the perfect college for those who want a quality education coupled with spiritual and vibrant social life. Oakwood University is breeding for success in so many areas of life I am so thankful for my time at this university.

Read “University of North Alabama, a student’s perspective” here.

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