Twenty-eight business and higher education partnerships throughout the state were recently recognized as innovative collaborations that further the education of Oklahoma’s workforce.
The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Regents Business Partnership Excellence Award is designed to highlight successful partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses and to further cultivate the higher learning environment through State Regents’ Economic Development Grants.
Institutions involved in these partnerships provide $500 for tuition waivers to employees of the partnering businesses; internships that enable current students to work at the partnering businesses; faculty externships with the partnering businesses; and/or enhancement of the partnerships with additional equipment, materials or supplies. The State Regents provide a $500 match to the waivers.
“Our colleges and universities partner with business and industry to link academic programs, including business, information technology, health care, aerospace, energy and bioscience, directly to employment needs in the state's wealth-generating ecosystems,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “These partnerships create opportunities for students to expand their academic credentials with work experience, better preparing them for the workforce.”
Cameron University and Southwestern Medical Center
Cameron University and Southwestern Medical Center’s partnership began in 1989 with the establishment of a scholarship benefitting students in medical fields, such as nursing and pre-med. In 2016 that program was replaced by the Southwestern Medical Center Endowed Lectureship in Sports and Exercise Science. This lectureship brings distinguished lecturers and workshops to CU, supports faculty development and instructional support, and facilitates student activities in exercise laboratories, which evaluates the effects of exercise and physical activity on health, disease and human performance. The center´s physicians, Drs. Ajay and Shireen Bhargava and Dr. Wayne Johnson, are also hands-on with the university. The center engages CU’s pre-nursing students, is actively involved with the CU Foundation and offers a wide spectrum of internship opportunities that lead to jobs for CU graduates.
Carl Albert State College and Central National Bank
Central National Bank and the Holton family are longstanding supporters of Carl Albert State College. CNB has helped with CASC’s residential housing expansions, donated to the CASC Foundation, participated in the Adopt-A-Scholar program and the Gold Dust Gala, and assisted with campus events including Senior Day. Steve Holton, CNB’s chief executive officer and chairman, currently serves as the CASC Development Foundation chair. Holton and his wife, Pam, were inducted in the CASC Hall of Fame in 2010 and created the Holton Hispanic Scholarship in 2011. Holton is a founding CASC trustee, established the F. L. Holton Endowed Professorship and helped fund the Genevieve Holton Music Scholarship. CNB’s president Chris Fenton and senior vice president Ron Hall also serve as trustees. CASC’s president Jay Falkner stated, “With partners like CNB, we know we have a bright future ahead as we work together to offer outstanding educational opportunities and enrichment to the communities we serve.”
Connors State College and the Health and Wellness Center
In spring 2014, Connors State College and the Health and Wellness Center began their partnership to bring much needed health care services to the Warner community. The center offers medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and optometry services, with fees based on household size and income. CSC provided the center free use of facilities on the Warner campus to hold clinical hours once a week for students, staff and the community. This allowed the center to begin serving patients in Muskogee County without large capital expenditures. As their demand for services increased, the center opened their seventh eastern Oklahoma clinical facility. Through this partnership, the center has increased the economic potential in the Warner community by providing accessible and affordable health care, creating several well-paying jobs, and investing in the local and regional economy.
East Central University and the Stonecipher Family
Harland C. Stonecipher, founder of Pre-Paid Legal, now known as LegalShield, along with his wife, Shirley, donated $2 million toward the funding of the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center on East Central University’s campus. This gift led to ECU’s School of Business being renamed the Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business in 2013. LegalShield also supports ECU through activities that include participation in the Career Expo, Oklahoma Business Week, the Governor’s Cup state entrepreneurship competition, student internships, and part and full-time jobs for ECU graduates. LegalShield has continued Stonecipher’s legacy of contributions to the university. Jeff Bell, LegalShield’s chief executive officer, and his leadership team supported the creation of the new Master in Management degree and created a tuition reimbursement program.
Eastern Oklahoma State College and Texas Instruments Inc.
Texas Instruments and the Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP grant program teamed up to help increase the number of low-income students who enter and successfully transition into postsecondary education. EOSC has received two GEAR UP grants. In 2006, it was granted a five-year, $6.7 million grant, and in 2011, a seven-year, $12.6 million grant. The federal grant requires an in-kind match each year, and TI has played a tremendous role in meeting the objective by providing nearly $184,000 for the 2006 grant and, to date, more than $1.5 million for the 2011 grant. TI has provided professional development, STEM workshops, and technical expertise and support. Through the partnership, 85 math and science teachers in 27 local schools now have TI-Nspire CX Navigators for use in the classroom. In addition, TI has provided registration and accommodations for 20 local teachers to attend the T3 International Conference.
Langston University and ONE Gas
ONE Gas is a committed supporter of Langston University. ONE Gas has financially supported LU’s athletic department and the President’s Scholarship Gala. In March 2016, ONE Gas made a multi-year gift for student scholarships. Not only does ONE Gas support LU financially, it invests time in LU students. Since 2014, ONE Gas employees have participated in spring and fall career fairs, hosted rèsumè workshops, conducted mock interviews and served as guest lecturers. LU students also participate in ONE Gas internship programs that often lead to potential employment. LU is grateful for the collaboration with ONE Gas and its belief in LU’s mission of supporting student success. ONE Gas’s financial gifts support retention and degree completion that allow LU students to lead productive lives and contribute to their communities.
Murray State College and the Johnston County Chamber of Commerce
Murray State College and the Johnson County Chamber of Commerce are making strides daily on behalf of the county they serve. MSC has brought resources to Johnston County in the form of talented faculty and staff, eager students, jobs that benefit the local economy, and national recognition for specialized programs. As the hub for Johnston County economic development, the chamber has moved the county forward by improving downtowns, supporting local businesses and reaching out to new industries. MSC has created thriving retail offerings in both downtown Tishomingo and Ardmore. Not only do the stores benefit communities by featuring items that are unique to the local market, but they bring a collegiate presence and attract visitors. Through combined leadership and outreach, a strong system of support has been formed within communities and brought about regional growth.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and the NEOAMC Foundation
From academics to athletics, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Foundation has worked to support student scholarships, faculty development, building projects and campus initiatives. Founded in 1983, the foundation has awarded more than $1 million in scholarship funding to hundreds of students. In 2009, the foundation implemented the President’s Partners annual giving program. To date, the partners have contributed more than $350,000 and generously supported several programs, including the Top Ten Freshmen scholarship program, study-abroad opportunities for students, ACT prep classes for future students, a textbook loan program, campus beautification projects and athletic travel to national competitions. The foundation hosted its 15th annual fundraising gala in November, raising a record-breaking $80,000 to fund scholarships and support the foundation’s mission.
Northeastern State University and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation
The Northeastern State University College of Education Robotics Academy for Critical Engagement (RACE) was established in 2013 to prepare educators to facilitate critical-thinking skills in their students by utilizing robotics. RACE, the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation (REC) and NSU have partnered using VEX Robotics the last four years. With financial support from REC, NSU faculty designed the rubrics for VEX’s regional, state and world championships. REC and VEX assist NSU by providing staff and equipment for international internships, support and equipment for regional and state public school competitions, and support for a Summer Robotics Academy for Youth grant. In 2015 and 2016, NSU and REC partnered to establish an all-girl robotics curriculum and team in Haiti. The Haitian students were granted a bid to the world championship and attended with the help of sponsors Dr. Allyson Watson; Miller Roberts III, REC vice president; Barbara Fuller, RACE; and the NSU College of Education.
Northern Oklahoma College and Evans and Associates Enterprises, Inc.
For more than 18 years, Northern Oklahoma College and Evans and Associates have enjoyed a partnership centered on higher education and economic development. Evans and Associates continues to serve the citizens through the construction of city streets, county roads, state and federal highways, airport runways, parking lots and driveways. In 1999, the company’s $5,000 contribution to the NOC Foundation established the endowed Evans and Associates Company Scholarship fund, which allows the annual awarding of scholarships to qualified Oklahoma residents enrolled at the Tonkawa campus. In 2015, the company formed the Enid Concrete Scholarship Fund, which covered students on the Enid campus. To date, the annual endowment support of $10,000 has provided a total of 19 students with more than $15,000 in scholarship assistance in northern Oklahoma.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Iofina PLC
Northwest Oklahoma is one of only three locations in the world where nature provides enough iodine to be commercially viable. A partnership between Iofina and Northwestern Oklahoma State University is providing valuable internship opportunities for students in this field. NWOSU associate chemistry professor Dr. Jason Wickham, and Rebecca Fenton, quality control and quality assurance coordinator at Iofina, worked to forward an award-winning application for the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology’s Intern Partnership program. The program enables students to work part-time for the company while finishing their degree. The development of new uses and compatibilities to form compounds has continued to increase iodine demand, particularly from pharmaceutical and industrial manufacturers.
Oklahoma City Community College and the Chickasaw Nation
The Chickasaw Nation has partnered with Oklahoma City Community College to facilitate payroll certification training for its payroll professionals. The project was launched in 2016 with a Payroll Fundamentals course that provided employees with the appropriate training to become nationally certified in compliance with the American Payroll Association. The Chickasaw Nation employs unique and innovative programs to enhance its employees’ professional growth within the tribe. These opportunities develop a strong relationship between the Chickasaw Nation and its employees, creating more familiarization, understanding and loyalty between the two.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Texas County Commissioner Jack Strain
District 3 Commissioner Jack Strain has been involved in the continuing development of Oklahoma Panhandle State University. He has contributed toward many infrastructure improvements on the campus and university farm. Recently, Strain facilitated site preparation of the OPSU shooting sports facility in conjunction with a Department of Wildlife and Conservation grant. The shooting sports facility will allow OPSU to add academic wildlife programs and shooting teams, local and regional shooting clubs, and high schools’ FFA and 4H events as well as corporate fundraisers. Strain is an OPSU graduate and serves on the OPSU advisory committee and the Panhandle Association of Alumni and Friends Board of Directors. Strain and his wife, Gwen, also an OPSU graduate, handle the score and shot clock during OPSU home basketball games. Strain was also an alumni hall of fame honoree in 2014.
Oklahoma State University and Central Electric Cooperative
The strong partnership between Central Electric Cooperative and Oklahoma State University has resulted in the formation of the NESI-SES Association. It represents a combination of OSU faculty working on energy research under National Energy Research Institute and Smart Energy Sources being led by David Swank at CEC. Swank’s innovative leadership and initiatives have led to funding several projects at OSU involving faculty at the Spears School of Business; the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology; the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources; and the College of Arts and Sciences. The partnership has not only led to funding for faculty research but to practical applications for the utility industry. Such capabilities are helping in the development of stronger data scientists at OSU, of smarter energy capabilities at CEC and of the state of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and Mabrey Bank
For more than four decades, Mabrey Bank and the entire Mabrey family has been a strong partner with Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, funding numerous programs such as the State Room restaurant renovation, improvements to the Student Union and the Donald W. Reynolds Technology Center, the Carlisle Mabrey Jr. Memorial Lectureship and the First National/Mabrey Bank Professorship. Most recently, Mabrey Bank has contributed to the OSUIT PROUD Campaign, which will provide funding to revitalize several downtown buildings into much-needed student housing. Mark Mabrey is leading this initiative by serving as committee chair for the campaign. OSUIT is honored to have a partner in Mabrey Bank and looks forward to continuing and expanding its impact in Okmulgee and the entire state.
Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City and Bank of America
Oklahoma State University – Oklahoma City and Bank of America’s three-year relationship has resulted in the creation of a unique partnership called Tutors in the Classroom. The premise was to place dedicated tutors in select remedial math classrooms in an effort to increase pass rates. Students who fail remedial classes often drop out of school and are lost to higher education. With the help of Bank of America, OSU-OKC has increased pass rates in these classes and streamlined remedial math. Through this partnership, OSU-OKC also combined certain remedial math classes with college algebra, and in these 16-week pilot classes, students have had exceptional pass rates. The students say that the program has allowed them to get the additional help they need, improved their study skills, increased pride in their work and motivated them to continue with their educational goals.
Redlands Community College and Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program
The collaborative partnership between Savannah Station Therapeutic Riding Program and Redlands Community College was established in 2016 to provide a community between humans and horses. At the station, special-needs riders and their families can work to overcome life’s limitations; achieve optimal physical and mental well-being; cultivate cognitive, social and emotional confidence; and defy their disabilities. Savannah Station trains RCC students, along with other volunteers, to work alongside the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International, PATH, certified instructors, providing a vital service need for the surrounding communities. This partnership allows RCC students to continue working with horses while attaining an agriculture degree at the college. This partnership works to provide hope and healing through interaction with the horses.
Rogers State University and the Cherokee Nation
In 2013, Rogers State University and the Cherokee Nation partnered to expand opportunities for Cherokee citizens to get a quality education. The Cherokee Promise program aims to create a cohesive, living-learning community among the scholarship recipients by providing housing for them together in RSU’s student apartments, along with special programing provided by RSU Residential Life staff and an academic adviser who is familiar with their needs. The Cherokee Nation College Resource Center also provides mentorship for the students. In addition to meeting academic benchmarks, scholarship recipients will be expected to complete a number of courses offered at RSU that focus on Cherokee history and culture, including Cherokee language classes. For both traditional students and those returning to school, the Cherokee Promise Scholarship provides a unique avenue for pursuing a college degree.
Rose State College and Tinker Federal Credit Union
Tinker Federal Credit Union has been a critical supporter and champion of a number of Rose State College initiatives. TFCU was instrumental in the development and sustainment of RSC´s Tinker Federal Civic Leaders Program. An extensive leadership development program offered to Tinker Air Force Base military spouses, the series includes character training, communication skills, teamwork and much more. In 2015, the partnership established the Innovation Station, an educational venue that inspires creativity, entrepreneurism and inventiveness. This collaboration allowed the Innovation Station to provide out-of-the-box workforce training and continuing education opportunities to the central business district. This exceptional partnership clearly accelerates civic engagement, stimulates economic growth and plants the seeds of entrepreneurism that will drive Oklahoma into a prosperous future.
Seminole State College and the Chickasaw Nation
The Chickasaw Nation has provided financial sponsorships for a number of Seminole State College Educational Foundation fundraising efforts. Most recently, the Chickasaw Nation stepped forward to assist with the building of the Dan and Andrea Boren Center on the campus. The facility, which will house federal grant programs and offices for the Student Government Association, includes a large, underground community safe room, which will help many citizens in the SSC area. The Chickasaw Nation also provides financial support through scholarships and book stipends each semester, hosts international students from Silkeborg Business College in Denmark, and has provided access to cultural events and activities to the SSC Native American Student Association. Chickasaw Nation president of corporate development Dan Boren serves as a trustee on the SSC Educational Foundation.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Envoy
The partnership between Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Envoy began in 2013 with the creation of the American Eagle Pipeline Program. This program prepares professional pilot students at Southeastern to enter American Eagle Airlines as first officers. Those selected for the program receive mentoring and, upon graduation, become Envoy employees. While employed, the graduates remain at Southeastern and work as full-time flight instructors until they accumulate the FAA-required 1,000 hours of flight time, and they then move on to the next class of Envoy first officers. The program benefits students by providing a clear career path after graduation, benefits Southeastern by providing a recruiting tool for prospective students, and provides a reliable source of well-trained professional pilots for Envoy. Furthermore, Envoy graduates receive a $10,000 scholarship incentive and a competitive compensation package. To date, 24 Southeastern students have participated in the program.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the Thomas Economic Development Authority
The Thomas Economic Development Authority has helped the town of Thomas increase capital investments, sales tax revenues and job creation. Financial incentives and availability of land and infrastructure, combined with SWOSU’s business resources of financial analysis, market research and return on investment analysis, have helped to attract and retain strong companies to the community. In recent years, Thomas has added the following businesses: Family Dollar, Dollar General, Supreme Trailer Sales, Supreme Show Supplies, Roy Well Services, Foam Tech, Hockaday Hardware, Willie’s Grill and Diner, Heart and Home Bakery, M2W, Variety Care and Body Works Physical Therapy. TEDA also serves as a conduit for school bond financing, which has made it possible for the community to build state-of-the-art facilities for their high school, middle school and gymnasium.
Tulsa Community College and Christiansen Aviation
By 2026, the United States is projected to face a pilot shortage of nearly 15,000. Tulsa Community College, through its long-standing partnership with Christiansen Aviation, is working to close that gap. Christiansen Aviation has provided TCC’s aviation programs with aircraft and maintenance support for the professional pilot degree program for more than 20 years. Christiansen Aviation currently provides six aircraft to support single- and multi-engine training for student use. This fleet of aircraft is essential for TCC students to earn a professional pilot degree and to achieve certificates and ratings from the Federal Aviation Administration. Christiansen Aviation´s support allows students to become well-rounded professional pilots and gain the aeronautical knowledge necessary to think critically and to serve as pilots in multiple segments of the aviation industry.
University Center of Southern Oklahoma and the City of Ardmore When the University Center of Southern Oklahoma was able to acquire 100 acres of property through the financial support of some local businesses and individuals, the city of Ardmore provided its pledged property, assistance in getting the property properly zoned and platted for campus development and $4 million to help underwrite the first phase of the new campus project. The University Center was able to leverage the city’s financial support and commitment for a new higher education campus into a $15 million capital campaign program to construct the Health, Science and Math Center, which opened for classes with the spring 2017 semester. Additionally, the Ardmore Police Department mobilizes a team of off-duty officers each semester to provide a comprehensive security force for the University Center.
University of Central Oklahoma and Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services
The partnership between Chartwells and the University of Central Oklahoma has led to increased financial return to the university, enhanced quality of dining provided for the campus community, and increased student support in the form of wages and scholarships. Chartwells operates the primary dining facility, manages nearly 750,000 meal transactions at Starbucks, Chick-Fil-A and Quiznos, and serves nearly 60,000 guests at catered events. Most recently, Chartwells and UCO signed a 15-year extension, and Chartwells will contribute more than $5 million toward a new campus dining facility. Chartwells continues to make UCO students a priority by employing more than 120 students every year. Of these employees, 75 to 100 are international students who can only work on-campus jobs. Additionally, Chartwells provides more than $100,000 of annual student support in the form of meal plan scholarships.
University of Oklahoma and The Harris Foundation
The University of Oklahoma; The Harris Foundation, headed by Dr. Bernard Harris Jr.; and ExxonMobil have partnered for 10 years to provide the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for underrepresented middle school students throughout Oklahoma. This partnership broadens the diversity of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) majors and professionals by increasing STEM awareness at the middle school level, while giving parents and community members the tools to support the students. The Harris Foundation and ExxonMobil helped to fund the two-week summer experience for 36 students, as well as follow-up programs throughout the year for alumni and their families. These students were able to attend classes and conduct experiments in college classrooms and laboratories headed by OU faculty in geology and geophysics. Students interacted with and asked questions of an ExxonMobil geophysicist, a former astronaut, Dr. Bernard Harris Jr., and other STEM professionals.
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and the Chickasha Economic Development Council
The University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and the Chickasha Economic Development Council have a long relationship of collaboration for forging a cooperative relationship that will make meaningful contributions to the economy and quality of Chickasha’s community. This year, the partnership has expanded to directly recruit USAO students as interns for projects. The organizations will work to provide connections for student internships with regional businesses and even help streamline job opportunities for graduates and to connect USAO students to available jobs in the area. Additionally, the CEDC is helping supplement academic programs with access to professional resources not necessarily available to the institution, such as speakers, mentors and project consultants.
Western Oklahoma State College and Southwest Technology Center’s Biomedical Science Program
Western Oklahoma State College and Southwest Technology Center in Altus developed an agreement to allow students to concurrently enroll in approved WOSC courses in conjunction with the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) biomedical science program hosted at SWTC. Students receive college credit toward an Associate in Science degree in mathematics and sciences as a concurrent high school student. These students are able to complete the courses – General Chemistry I, general biology, college algebra and elementary statistics, which equate to 15 credit hours – at no cost. This partnership allows students to receive college credit during the program instead of through advanced placement courses traditionally offered by these PLTW programs. This partnership encourages students to pursue education in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics areas and streamlines credentialed faculty.