TU student connecting young people with their roots - The University of Tulsa
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TU student connecting young people with their roots

DeNiesha Barkus

DeNiesha Barkus, a film studies major with a creative writing minor, has been tapped by the John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation for a summer internship as a social media platform administrator. Barkus will be modifying and contributing to the organization’s social media presence as part of their efforts to move Tulsa – and Tulsans – “from tragedy to triumph.”

Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin Center for Reconciliation is a nonprofit organization formed in 2007 with the intention of taking the bitterness and mistrust caused by the long history of racial division and violence and transforming it into a hopeful future of reconciliation. The center, in partnership with the city of Tulsa, maintains Reconciliation Park and plans to build a formal home that will feature galleries, archives, and conference spaces. Among the many projects that the center manages each year are the Reconciliation Dinner, now in its 12th year, an annual speaker symposium, and a variety of scholarship opportunities.

Barkus was introduced to the John Hope Franklin Center by two Kendall College of Arts & Sciences faculty members: Jeff Van Hanken, chair of the Department of Film Studies and member of the center’s board, as well as Kristen Oertel, chair of the Department of History. Immediately, Barkus was captivated by the center’s mission. “I enjoy providing a voice to others, because I have been at a place where I had no common knowledge of my history and felt stuck in class or felt too untaught to answer a question during black history month,” she said.

It did not take long for Barkus to get involved. She volunteered at center dinners and provided ideas for further engagement with students. Eventually, she was offered a social media internship for summer 2024, which she eagerly accepted. “I wanted to create a medium for people around my age and younger to seek historical information that John Hope provides,” Barkus said, “to show them that they have access to hidden knowledge, and to help them never feel disconnected from their roots.”

Van Hanken said this kind of arrangement is not uncommon.

“The University of Tulsa and its faculty and students have a rich history of working side-by-side with the community of Tulsa. As just one example, Dr. Wennette Pegues (MS ’75, EdD ’78), the widow of JHFCR founder Julius Pegues, is a TU graduate,” he said. “As faculty, we are always looking for real-world opportunities for our students to apply their classroom instruction. Internships are a vital part of the TU curriculum.”