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Cowboy Culture

Cowboy culture

Through soaring triumph and heart-breaking tragedy, the Cowboy family has been knit together by a set of ideals and standards that are timelessly durable yet imminently adaptable: simple enough to express the ethos of the storied institution, yet subtle enough to accommodate the complexities of the 21st century. We call it Cowboy Culture, and it distinguishes and drives everything we do.


Over the course of a year-long conversation featuring hundreds of on- and off-campus engagements and more than 3,500 virtual inputs, the Cowboy family has expressed the fundamental elements of its unique culture. At its best, Cowboy Culture inspires servant-leaders who humbly give of themselves to impact communities, improve society and steward the land and its people. It embodies the tough, practical sensibility of the Land-Grant vision that solves problems instead of merely identifying them. It looks you in the eye, tells the truth and offers a helping hand, acting with both excellence and integrity. The standards of its culture demand that Cowboys treat every individual with dignity and respect, recognizing that, as with all families, differences can serve to strengthen and enrich the fabric of life. It welcomes questions in the spirit of honest inquiry and does not shy away from asking the big questions. Cowboy Culture drives determined resilience even as it exudes quiet confidence. Cowboys are at home in the company of the elite … but never give way to elitism.


Embracing hospitality and esteeming kindness, Cowboy Culture is nonetheless fierce in competition. Faculty, staff, students, coaches, donors, alumni and fans roll up their collective sleeves to be the best – whether in academic achievement, professional practice or athletic competition. To be a Cowboy is to compete with integrity.


In fields as diverse as livestock judging, nationally-competitive scholarships and intramural and club sports, a Cowboy competes to win – with respect for the rules central to this culture.

Imperative 3

Compete with integrity and excellence

Objective 1: Consistently vie for championships and finish in the Top 30 of the Directors Cup of competitive men’s and women’s Division I athletics.

One high-profile expression of this sustained commitment to competitive excellence is the Cowboys’ position in the top echelon of Division 1 intercollegiate athletics, placing Oklahoma State among the top four institutions in the country in total collegiate national championships. Recognizing that excelling in athletic competition plays an essential role in campus life and creating a world-wide community of Cowboys – driving vital participation ranging from student applications to donor giving – as well as developing a competitive spirit and individual character within its student-athletes, Oklahoma State University will compete at the highest levels of intercollegiate athletics.


Objective 2: Consistently rank among the Top 30 public universities for the awarding of nationally- and internationally-competitive scholarships.

OSU has a rich history of success and recognition in scholar development, positioning its student-scholars among the most notable in the land for awards including the Goldwater, Truman, Marshall, Fulbright, Udall, Rhodes and others. OSU will pursue competitive scholarships with vigor and will invest in high-level coordination that avails its students of these prestigious and enriching opportunities. While the aspiration is expressed in competitive terms, the real benefits of committing to increasing levels of preparation for our highest-achieving students is a worthy and valuable end in and of itself, and the processes that prepare them as competitive candidates will prepare them more generally for success and contribution, irrespective of their selection status.

Over the decades, the elemental attributes of Cowboy Culture have cohered into a code – both a statement of aspiration and a succinct summary of mutual commitments:


The Cowboy Code


We end the day knowing we gave it everything we had.
Cowboys carry a work ethic of tenacious integrity.


We dream only as big as the sky.
Cowboys are creative innovators with boundless imagination.


We know challenges come with pain, but pain will not win.
Cowboys seize and respond to opportunities, no matter the obstacles.


We have a passion to do what’s right, even when it’s hard.
Cowboys help others and embrace a commitment to ethical excellence.


We stand for what matters, even if we stand alone.
Cowboys understand that responsibility and leadership can sometimes be lonely.


We finish what we start.
Cowboys stop when the task is done —  not when the sun goes down.


Being a Cowboy isn’t in our clothes, it’s in our character.
Cowboys conduct themselves with devotion and sincerity —  ever Loyal and True.

Beyond merely describing its ideals, Oklahoma State University will leverage its unique Cowboy Culture to specifically develop its students, to interact with its stakeholders and to impact society.


Learn the Cowboy Code

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