Legacy Story: Charissa Dunn
By Kameron Nettleton
A LIFETIME AT OKWU
“It’s all about the people.”
That’s the refrain of Charissa Dunn (’82) as she reminisces about her experience at Oklahoma Wesleyan University. And after more than 45 years since she first set foot on campus, Dunn has seen many people cycle through the college.
Dunn grew up knowing she would attend Bartlesville Wesleyan College. Her father was a district superintendent in Arizona and served on BWC’s Board of Trustees, and the family frequently hosted visitors from BWC. When the time came for Dunn to make her college decision, the choice was clear to her.
After her parents moved from Arizona to Indiana, Dunn accepted a position as the secretary for the Dean of Students at BWC. While she worked full-time, she was able to attend several night classes. As she accumulated credits and worked, she first earned her business administration degree and then decided to add an education degree.
“I took the eight-year plan,” she joked, working full-time on campus and earning academic credits on the side. She graduated in 1982 and immediately moved to the classroom, working as a high school teacher in Copan, Oklahoma, where she taught for 12 years.
A PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE
In 1994, Dunn returned to run BWC’s Learning Resource Center and work as a professor in what was called the Education Division at the time.
“Our school was the first in the state of Oklahoma to have so many required hours in classrooms before you graduate,” she said. Dunn spent two decades in the classroom as the department’s Student Teaching Supervisor and Practicum Placement Coordinator. In 2020, she transitioned to a new role at OKWU – alumni director.
“One of the things I really tried to do is figure out how we can get people back on campus and reconnected,” Dunn said.
She notes the success of the alumni benefits cards that give alumni discounts on campus and free admission into games. She also spearheaded the digitizing of old yearbooks, all of which are now available on OKWU’s website.
A CONTINUED LEGACY
Dunn will remain involved with the alumni planning team on a volunteer basis for the foreseeable future. She will continue to be a key part of planning OKWU Homecoming, as well.
As she looks back on her OKWU experience going back to her time as a student, Dunn is emotional. She thinks back to choir trips with the Lewis family, which she remembers fondly, as well as her classes that prepared her for working in public schools.
“You just don’t realize going through the day-to-day how it all builds and all the things and experiences you’ve had,” she said. “The professors were very helpful. They cared about you. They have high standards and expected you to meet them.”
Even though she will be transitioning into a new era of her affiliation with OKWU, Dunn is likely to remain a fixture at events in the years to come. Since 1974, this place has been home. Though she may not have an office on campus anymore, her legacy of service to the university will endure in the years to come.