The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education have honored three Oklahomans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help students prepare for and succeed in college.
University of Tulsa chemistry professor Dr. Robert Howard, education advocate Dr. Dana Darby of Altus and Metropolitan Tulsa Chamber of Commerce Vice President Susan Harris are recipients of the State Regents' second annual Champions for Student Success award.
The award, which is presented annually in December, is a way that the State Regents can honor members of the Oklahoma community who have demonstrated a high commitment to student success during the past year. Last year's recipients were State Senator Cal Hobson; Stan Lybarger, president and CEO for Bank of Oklahoma and chairman of the Oklahoma Business and Education Coalition (OBEC); and Joy Culbreath, director of education for the Choctaw Nation.
“We are very pleased to present these awards to Dr. Howard, Dr. Darby and Ms. Harris,” Chancellor Paul G. Risser said. “Each has gone the extra mile to help make sure that our students acquire the necessary tools and skills to succeed in college. Preparation is a key to future success, and we owe a great deal of gratitude to these three individuals who are making a difference in the lives of students living in and around their communities.”
In addition to serving on the faculty for the state's largest private university, Howard has spent countless hours in service to Oklahoma's state system of higher education and to all Oklahoma students. He has provided leadership in the state to help improve teaching and learning in science and mathematics throughout K-16. He has volunteered much of his time on numerous committees for the State Regents, including the Student Preparation Task Force, and has served as principal investigator for the National Science Foundation funded Oklahoma Teacher Education Collaborative.
He has also been an officer for the Coalition for the Advancement of Science and Mathematics Education in Oklahoma and provided excellent leadership in several Summer Academies in Math and Science.
Darby is a founding member and this year's president-elect of the Oklahoma Association for the Improvement of Developmental Education (OKAIDE). She spent 10 years as an adjunct math instructor at Western Oklahoma State College in Altus and more than two years as a full-time faculty member. She taught at Altus High School for three years and in her spare time has recently opened the Advance Learning Center in Altus, which offers a critically needed tutoring program for public school students.
Harris currently serves as vice president for community betterment with the Tulsa Chamber. She is a member of OBEC's Education Policy Board and has been an active promoter of the State Regents' Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP) and Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Program (GEAR UP). She was instrumental in developing GEAR UP's ability to garner many business and industry contributors this year to the annual state GEAR UP conference and has afforded State Regents' staff the opportunity to provide public engagement materials and resources to business and community leaders affiliated with the Tulsa Chamber. This has allowed the State Regents to expand their ability to promote OHLAP to young students and to bring the student success message that GEAR UP promotes to communities in northeast Oklahoma.
The State Regents place a high priority on student preparation, and the Champions for Student Success program recognizes Oklahomans who support that focus. The program will also annually honor the work of Chancellor Emeritus Hans Brisch by ensuring that individuals receiving the award additionally embody the focus on student success strengthened in the Oklahoma higher education community through Brisch's leadership.
Brisch, who served as Oklahoma's higher education chancellor from 1988 through early 2003, spent a great deal of his time and energy as an advocate for student preparation.