BECOME A PART OF OUR FAMILY
In 1995, when the Energy Institute of the Americas was established at the Sarkeys Energy Center, Yoana Walschap a Colombia residing in Norman was named the assistant to the director. Her job however, started in Colombia for the first two months. During this time, she contacted the universities that had petroleum engineering departments and between 1996 and 1997, OU signed the first four cooperation agreements with Colombian universities: National University in Medellin, Santander Industrial University in Bucaramanga, Surcolombiana University in Neiva and America University in Bogota.
In 1997, the first two students arrived as exchange students; few years later, more agreements were signed with Universidad El Bosque, Universidad de Cartagena (medicine) and Universidad de Los Andes. In 1994, there were only 5 Colombian students at OU and by 2001 there were already around 66 students. (See Table with figures taken from: International Students Report. Prepared by Institutional Research and Reporting at OU). These figures do not include the exchange students, so it is necessary to add an average of 15 more students from the year 2000 and up. The increasing number of students provided the critical mass of people to have an organized association, and to build on the activities that were already taking place informally, and led by a group of Colombians from the general community such as Claudia Barajas, Claudia Tamayo Jury, Alba Janeth Villamil and Yoana Walschap.
The Colombian Student Association (COLSA) at the University of Oklahoma was founded in the summer of 2001, by the initiative of two people: undergraduate petroleum engineer student Andrea Alba and Yoana Walschap. Walschap and her group of friends had been organizing events for many years in Norman since her arrival on 1990, such as the Independence Day celebration at Westwood Park, the Novenas de Navidad at Christmas time, and the Mobile Consulate of Colombia (twice a year). By 2001 the Colombian community at OU was growing rapidly too because of the success of the exchange programs and the need for an association was getting stronger.
The first year for COLSA was very intensive and most funding came from memberships and outside sponsors from the Colombian community. Andrea Alba’s leadership as President was superb and after the first Colombia Night, COLSA was awarded the prize for best “small” student association, and best President. Yoana Walschap became the advisor.
Since 2002 COLSA has been growing in numbers and recognition as one of the most active student associations on campus. Although never too big, one characteristic is that it is open to any students from OU, no matter what nationality. This has allowed a great diversity of members within the organization.