Twenty-seven 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 Economic Development Grant for the 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 of the institutions 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.
“Oklahoma’s colleges and universities are enhancing our state's economic future by strengthening partnerships with business and industry, ensuring our academic programs continue to align with the needs of business in each region of the state. Through these partnerships, students receive hands-on, career-related experiences and broader preparation for college,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “These partnerships with business make vital contributions to Oklahoma’s economic growth through investments in education, research, job training and service.”
The partnerships recognized for 2014 are:
Cameron University (CU) and Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma – CU enjoys an ongoing partnership with Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma. In 2006, Dr. Ben Cooper, a local physician, rallied community organizations to come together and do something about a report by the Center for Disease Control that stated today’s children would be the first generation whose life expectancy would not exceed that of their parents. The result was the formation of Fit Kids of Southwest Oklahoma. CU developed initiatives to address each of the three factors considered to be most important in influencing health: physical activity, nutrition and smoking. Through the Coaches University program, CU coaches provide expertise and time to community members with information about training, motivation and health issues. Aggie Mile, a public walking path through CU’s beautiful campus, provides a low-impact fitness opportunity for faculty, staff and visitors. In addition, CU opened a community garden, provides healthy menu options daily in the cafeteria, and became a tobacco-free campus in fall 2012. The coalition’s programs will have a significant long-term economic impact on the community by creating a healthy workforce, reducing health care costs and improving community well-being.
Carl Albert State College (CASC) and Buddy Spencer – Buddy Spencer has been a driving force behind CASC’s success at its Sallisaw location. He has seen the Sallisaw campus grow from a handful of classes to the thriving campus it is. His influence was a key factor in the passage of two Sallisaw sales tax issues that funded the expansion of the campus, including the construction of a two-story classroom building and library. As chairman of the CASC Sallisaw Committee for Excellence, he leads an annual campaign to raise funds for more than 60 scholarships. One of the most prestigious scholarships available to Sequoyah County students is the Buddy Spencer Academic Scholarship. Spencer serves on the CASC Development Foundation Executive Committee, and in 2009, was inducted into CASC’s Hall of Fame.
Connors State College (CSC) and the Town of Warner – Since its founding in 1908, the town of Warner and its residents have been steadfast supporters of CSC and its mission of higher education. On the Warner campus, the town of Warner partnered with CSC to provide $60,000 in signage, infrastructure and road improvements to beautify the college and community. The town of Warner provided an additional $80,000 for a new entrance road to alleviate congestion and increase the safety of students and the community traveling to the campus. Most importantly, the town of Warner has worked to provide more than $1 million for vital infrastructure improvements that ensures CSC provides exceptional facilities and educational opportunities to students and the community for many years to come.
East Central University (ECU) and KXII-Channel 12 – ECU’s beneficial partnership with Grey Television and KXII-Channel 12, headquartered in Sherman, Texas, has led to a 345 percent increase in ECU news coverage from fall 2012 to fall 2013. KXII has featured more than 500 30-second television commercials. Two ECU students are eligible for internships with the station each semester, giving ECU communication majors a real-world experience in the fast-paced world of television production, news gathering and building media relationships. Through a master services agreement, ECU returns value to the relationship by providing offices and access to university technology to KXII. From ECU, KXII television operates their Pontotoc County hub to cover news and events from the surrounding area.
Eastern Oklahoma State College (EOSC) and Carl Albert Mental Health Center – Carl Albert Mental Health Center (CAMHC) and EOSC have a long-standing partnership of training health care workers in southeastern Oklahoma. CAMHC has been instrumental to EOSC’s nursing program. EOSC’s second-year nursing students study mental health nursing and do clinical rotations at CAMHC in McAlester. This partnership allows EOSC’s nursing students to gain a better understanding of mental illness and how inpatient and outpatient units benefit the community. CAMHC continues to provide leadership in addressing the need for improved health care in the area of mental illness to area citizens. Heather Spiegel, a sophomore nursing instructor at EOSC, says the interdisciplinary team at CAMHC has embraced the students and provides real-life clinical experiences that are invaluable to future nurses in the community.
Langston University (LU) and Eagle Scout Troop 120 – LU’s Center for Community Engagement developed and currently maintains five urban gardens located in northeast Oklahoma City. While encountering cuts in grant funding, the Center for Community Engagement relies heavily upon community partners and volunteers to assist with maintaining these gardens. Eagle Scout Troop 120, especially scouts Ken Davis and Timothy Roy, supported two of the urban gardens by supplying materials and labor to construct a fence around a pick-and-eat garden located on Northeast 23rd Street and supplying materials and labor to construct raised beds for the developmentally challenged clients at the Oklahoma City Better Metropolitan Living Center. They also donated $750 to purchase a marquee for the garden to honor Miss Cetta, a deceased client of the Metropolitan Better Living Center. Food grown in the garden at the center is used by the kitchen to incorporate into the meals served to the clients.
Murray State College (MSC) and Nitro-Lift Technologies LLC – Nitro-Lift Technologies is an industry leader in on-site nitrogen-generation services and an innovator in technologies that help increase oil and gas recovery. Nitro-Lift provides employment to Johnston County residents and employs a number of MSC graduates. As a part of MSC’s economic development initiative, it worked with Nitro-Lift to provide a new building suitable for heavy-duty manufacturing. The company provided input during the process to ensure that the finished building had the proper doors, features and dimensions to accommodate the workload. Through the cooperation and expertise of Nitro-Lift and their willingness to work as a partner with MSC, Johnston County now has a multipurpose building that could be repurposed if needed. The customization process also gave valuable experience to those who worked on the project – experience that can be applied to any future manufacturing construction endeavors.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College (NEO) and the Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau – The Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) and NEO have partnered together on multiple projects, including Rodeo Miami, Oklahoma Freewheel, Eight-Man Football and multiple NEO spirit events. Staff at the CVB recently helped NEO plan the East Central Bridge dedication by developing event ideas, participating in on-campus meetings and securing speakers. During homecoming festivities, the CVB worked with NEO to obtain special hotel rates for students and their parents, as well as donated the goody bags. They also work with NEO during the biggest recruiting event of the year – the annual high school basketball tournament – where hundreds of students, parents, coaches and fans flood Miami to participate.
Northeastern State University (NSU) and the City of Muskogee Foundation – The City of Muskogee Foundation has demonstrated tremendous support and leadership by providing a $900,000 grant over a three-year period to help offset startup costs for NSU’s occupational therapy program on the Muskogee campus. Occupational therapy is one of the most in-demand health care occupations in the region. Cultural sensitivity to the American Indians served in the area is integrated throughout the curriculum and complements the professional programming within the coursework. The Master of Science in occupational therapy program expands NSUs long-standing role as a provider of quality health care education. Other programs include the Oklahoma College of Optometry, nursing, dietetics and nutrition, speech language pathology and medical laboratory science.
Northern Oklahoma College (NOC) and Phillips 66 – For more than 14 years, NOC and Phillips 66 have enjoyed a partnership centered on higher education as well as community and economic development. In 1999, the company worked with NOC to develop a two-year curriculum based on specific competencies of the petrochemical industry, culminating in the Associate in Applied Science degree in engineering technology (process technology option). Over the life of the program, most of the process technology adjunct faculty have been Phillips 66 employees or retirees. Most recently, the process technology student team, coached by two NOC adjunct instructors who are also full-time employees from Phillips 66, took second place among the eight finalist college teams participating in the Process Troubleshooting Skills in Energy 2013 National Troubleshooting Competition. The team’s travel was sponsored by a Phillips 66 donation. In the previous year, the 2012 national competition award banquet was hosted by Phillips 66 at its Ponca City refinery location. The company also donates equipment, such as valves, pumps, vessels and turbines, which students dismantle and reassemble to gain hands-on experience. The company has employed a significant number of the graduates, placed internships and given many plant tours. In addition, the establishment of the Phillips 66 Process Technology Scholarship Fund has provided 120 students with approximately $64,000 in scholarship assistance.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University (NWOSU) and the Wisdom Family Foundation – NWOSU and the Wisdom Family Foundation have established a vibrant partnership in two areas: support of the region’s agricultural heritage and advancement of the arts. In August 2008, the foundation, led by Dr. Peggy Wisdom, began its transformational impact on NWOSU with a gift of $250,000 to establish an endowed chair in art. The intent was to re-establish an art program at the institution to honor the legacy of Wisdom’s mother, Grace, who had a strong passion for the arts. But the family’s roots were tied to agriculture, and the foundation saw the merit of NWOSU’s new agriculture education program and established another faculty chair in that department, in addition to the donation of several pieces of farm machinery. When the need arose to construct a building for the program, the foundation once again stepped forward with the lead gift for this facility. To ensure that students had opportunities be part of the program, the foundation established another endowment of $205,000 for scholarships. Ensuring its success, the foundation also endowed a chair in the art program, allowing NWOSU to begin offering courses in art for the first time in more than 20 years.
Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) and the General Motors Automotive Service Education Program – OCCC has been in the business of training automotive technicians since 1978. The college also established a partnership with GM Automotive Service Educational Program (ASEP), which is now in its 26th year. The ASEP program allows a student to earn an Associate in Applied Science degree while obtaining genuine GM training through specific online courses, hands-on laboratory experiences and courses designed to introduce students to new GM products. The two-year program requires a student to participate in an internship at a GM dealership to obtain relevant on-the-job experience. This experience, along with the latest training on current vehicles, allows students to service very complex systems. More importantly, students receive college credit for successful completion of the internship requirement. This partnership has produced approximately 300 new technicians for an industry with high demand, high wages and excellent opportunities for advancement.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University (OPSU) and the City of Guymon – OPSU has a long history of interacting with the city of Guymon on economic, community and workforce development. Kim Peterson, mayor of Guymon, has long been a supporter of OPSU. He is an OPSU graduate and member of the Panhandle State Foundation board of directors. Many of Guymon’s city employees are also councilmen who graduated from OPSU and/or teach or taught at OPSU. Guymon is a strong supporter of OPSU rodeo through their tourism committee and allows OPSU to utilize their Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena for the annual Doc Gardner Rodeo. They provide representatives from the police department to serve on the OPSU COPS/CLEET advisory board and internships for OPSU students in the fire protection program, and the Community Development Office promotes OPSU news and events on Facebook, e-blasts and event calendars. OPSU’s collaborative contributions include the Guymon Citizen of the Year process; educational seminars, including EMT training, for the city and community through the OPSU Guymon classroom; financial support and participation in the annual Fire School; support of staff/faculty participation in the Leadership Guymon program; and scholarships to the Fiesta King and Queen each year. Additionally, OPSU provides water quality testing for the city of Guymon at the Murphy-Brown Water Quality Testing Laboratory on campus.
Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Backwoods Food Manufacturing Inc. – OSU’s Food and Agricultural Products Center has partnered with Backwoods Food through business and market development, food safety training, process flow planning and equipment identification for both its existing facility and the new facility to be built in the Tahlequah Industrial Park. Tahlequah-based Backwoods Foods is an established food manufacturer that produces dressings, sauces, salsas, pickles and other thermally processed, shelf-stable foods primarily as a toll manufacturer. Backwoods Food started its business in 1998 by producing gift baskets with homemade food products for the holiday season. These products were made after hours using the local community building’s kitchen. By 2000, the business had constructed a small production facility that was later expanded to the current 8,400-square-foot facility that employs 12 people. Due to the company’s success, it will be moving into a 24,000-square-foot facility by the end of 2014 and will employ nearly 50 people. Backwoods Food first contacted FAPC in 1999 for assistance with product development, and subsequent food safety, training safety and technical assistance continues. This award will be used to cover training fees for Backwoods Foods employees.
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology (OSUIT) and the Oklahoma Career Technology System – OSUIT and CareerTech jointly host regional events for high school and adult learners to promote career pathways. Cooperative alliance agreements allow students enrolled at technology centers statewide to take concurrent courses at OSUIT at a discounted rate. Approximately 1,000 students benefit from this opportunity every semester, and 350 students transition to become full-time OSUIT degree seekers annually. OSUIT and CareerTech’s collaboration on grants has advanced significant state and federal initiatives, including a U.S. Department of Education grant facilitating a faculty/student exchange program with Brazil. Their combined efforts have also earned U.S. Department of Labor funding for projects such as the Community-Based Job Training Grant, the Green Jobs program and the Greenovation Initiative. Partnering to provide industry training and services, as well as youth and teacher career academies, OSUIT’s MidAmerica Industrial Park Center, in collaboration with Northeast Technology Center, serves the needs of employers in the park and surrounding region. The demand for synergistic relationships between educational institutions will rise as the need for a highly qualified, highly skilled workforce grows.
Oklahoma State University–Oklahoma City (OSU-OKC) and the City of Oklahoma City – OSU-OKC has enjoyed a long, rich relationship with the city of Oklahoma City. The city worked with OSU-OKC to provide a right-only turn lane on northbound Portland Avenue onto eastbound Northwest 10th Street. Due to a high volume of traffic in that area, the right-only turn lane has decreased congestion and increased traffic flow at the intersection. Councilwoman Meg Salyer, key in identifying this need, worked with Eric Wenger and his team in public works and did an outstanding job in building the turn lane. In an effort to raise sustainability efforts in the metro, the city’s office of sustainability, along with OSU-OKC Farmers Market and Great Plains Coca-Cola Bottling Company, hosted a rain barrel workshop for attendees to receive a free rain barrel kit, instructions and supplies to create rain barrels for their homes. Oklahoma City partnered with OSU-OKC and the Tree Bank Foundation to host the Great OKC Tree Give-Away, during which 800 free trees were made available to Oklahoma City residents living in areas affected by the May 2013 storms. OSU-OKC developed and provided training for sections of Oklahoma City’s public works department. This new partnership allows OSU-OKC’s construction management program to interface with staff from the city, provide professional development for city employees and build relationships with its construction programs.
Redlands Community College (RCC) and Temtrol – Temtrol, an Okarche-based manufacturer of air-handling equipment of the highest quality for commercial and industrial users, partnered with RCC and Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance (OMA) manufacturing extension agent Mike Raymond to expand its capacity and streamline its manufacturing operations. Vice President and General Manager Andy Halko worked closely with Raymond to qualify for the Oklahoma Development Finance Authority’s Economic Development Pooled Finance Program. This allowed Temtrol to initiate a $7.5 million expansion project. In 2013, Temtrol’s sales increased by $6 million, and they hired 20 new employees and projected to increase payroll by $3.4 million over the next two years. The partnership between RCC and Temtrol helped the manufacturer increase its output by 25 percent with assistance from the OMA’s application engineer program. With a wide range of customers such as the Devon Tower, the National Weather Center in Norman, Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater and customers worldwide, Temtrol is positioned to grow and succeed far into the future while partnering with RCC and OMA.
Rogers State University (RSU) and Pelco Structural – Pelco Structural President Phil Albert and his wife, Jo, have been honored as Champions for Higher Education by the RSU Foundation for their selfless support of RSU and its students. The Claremore-based company employs more than 180 employees and is a national leader in custom pole products for the traffic control, utility, lighting and communication industries. Their generosity has funded RSU student scholarships, enhanced campus facilities and supported major university initiatives including RSU Public Television, the Bit by Bit Therapeutic Riding Center and the President’s Leadership Class. In 2008, Pelco Structural donated light poles for the Diamond Sports Complex, RSU’s on-campus home for baseball and softball. The company has created internships for area college students while also being flexible with its employees to allow them to attend college and complete their degrees. The Alberts have helped make it possible for area high school students to attend university events, including the annual Constitution Award event that brings legal scholars to campus. Pelco Structural also recently adopted a Claremore elementary school, Catalayah Elementary, as a Partner in Education. The Alberts fully understand the power of education to transform lives, and each gift they give has one end result: improving the lives of our state’s greatest resource, its students.
Rose State College (RSC) and Mid-Del Public Schools – The 43-year-old partnership between RSC and Mid-Del Public Schools shares a common agenda to foster, promote and support lifelong learning and provide career pathway connections for all students. RSC was proud to partner with Mid-Del Schools on a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) initiative to host all Mid-Del sixth-graders on RSC’s campus during fall 2013. Nearly 1,100 students were exposed to six specific areas of STEM-related careers. Students rotated through a series of STEM demonstrations and hands-on activities. RSC and Mid-Del are also solid champions of Tinker Air Force Base, an economic mainstay. They teamed up to develop an aerospace education and industry partnership program established in collaboration with industry and community representatives like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and local chambers of commerce. Through this program, key aerospace leaders are uniting to create an education and training pathway that will stimulate economic growth for the community, provide rigorous and relevant learning opportunities for students, and develop the workforce of tomorrow.
Seminole State College (SSC) and First United Bank – A partnership between SSC and First United Bank has resulted in great things happening in economic development for Seminole and surrounding communities for many years. The local bank has demonstrated its support and commitment to the SSC Educational Foundation by sponsoring annual back-to-school dinners for employees and providing top-level support for every fundraising event hosted by the foundation. For several decades, SSC has partnered with East Central University and First United Bank to recognize hundreds of outstanding high school students and their parents at a formal spring reception for their academic achievements. The bank has been active with the SSC Rural Business and Resources Center in recruiting new businesses and helping sustain existing businesses in the SSC service area. First United Bank joins SSC in actively participating in community service projects and Chamber of Commerce programs for the betterment of Seminole.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Oklahoma Department of Commerce Workforce Development – Southeastern Oklahoma continues to experience an economic boom that started in 2004 with several new industries locating in Durant, creating new jobs and boosting the region’s economy. The area’s businesses and workforce board came to the quick realization that it had a shortage of qualified workers, with no quick fix in sight. At that time, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODOC) was starting a new workforce development program, which has been the conduit for success in southeastern Oklahoma. ODOC continues to provide strong leadership and support for southeastern Oklahoma regional workforce initiatives. The latest is a pilot program – New Day, New Way – a statewide workforce system certification. The goal for this program is having a skilled workforce, which will support business retention and attraction and expansion; create wealth for Oklahomans and provide a sustainable economy.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU) and Emergency Site Protection LLC – Accidents that occur on isolated rural roads and drilling sites, far away from professional assistance, can be deadly. Oilfield veterans David McCoy, Michael McCoy and Darryl Howell saw the need firsthand and knew they could do something to improve the odds for their injured co-workers. They founded ESP in 2010, an on-site emergency protection service specializing in the oilfield industry. In July 2011, David McCoy contacted SWOSU´s Center for Economic and Business Development (CEBD) and expressed ESP’s desire to expand to meet demand but noted a lack of capital to purchase the expensive equipment required to make that happen. SWOSU CEBD Director Doug Misak met with David McCoy, reviewed ESP´s original business plan and toured one of his emergency response trailers. Impressed with the fledgling startup, Misak offered to help the three partners make their case to bankers. A collaborative effort between SWOSU and ESP´s executives resulted in the creation of a loan request package for $4 million. With that infusion of capital in early 2012, ESP added several new protection units and has quadrupled its workforce. Revenue has topped $25 million to date.
Tulsa Community College (TCC) and Enoserv – Enoserv is a Tulsa-based software company that pioneered the idea of universal/multiplatform system protection testing for power companies and that has a 100 percent focus on the power industry, specifically in protection and control. As a software and service provider, Enoserv is constantly aware of the urgent need for good relay technicians. Enoserv President and CEO Dennis Loudermilk said, in his efforts to hire qualified employees, he found a need for a hands-on substation technician training program. TCC and Enoserv are partnering to offer classes in a new electrical substation technology program. TCC is one of the few community colleges in the country to offer the training associated with this program. The classes and curriculum were developed in partnership with Enoserv and industry experts after TCC learned about the need for skilled workers both for power utility companies and large manufacturers that depend on their own electrical substations. In addition to helping secure knowledgeable industry instructors for the courses, Enoserv donated $100,000 and relay equipment to TCC.
University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and Oklahoma City-County Health Department – OCCHD and UCO regularly collaborate on projects that enhance the campus and metropolitan community. On campus, OCCHD works with the Mercy Clinic at UCO to provide immunization clinics and educational opportunities like Sexual Health Awareness Week. Students in UCO’s Department of Kinesiology and Health Studies also enjoy field experience through internships and practicums with the OCCHD. Students have worked on a tobacco prevention program, consumer health issues and fitness programs. Many graduates from the community/public health program are now employed at OCCHD and continue to serve the campus as assessors of student research at the UCO Kinesiology and Health Studies Symposium. Several alumni employed at OCCHD also serve on UCO’s Community/Public Health Advisory Council. Another example is the “5-2-1-0 Project,” co-sponsored by the YMCA of Oklahoma City. UCO dietetic students held a contest to create recipes for young people. The recipes highlighted fruits and vegetables and were posted on the 5-2-1-0 website.
University of Oklahoma (OU) and NextThought LLC – In spring 2013, OU collaborated with NextThought, a Norman-based technology company, to build Janux, a unique learning community that aims to enrich the OU student experience and expand the reach and efficiency of delivering higher education to learners everywhere. Using NextThought’s learning platform, Janux offers an integrated approach to education with rich social interaction and courseware, including video, text and assessment tools. Since May 2012, OU faculty have built 20 open courses, including Native Peoples of Oklahoma, Understanding the Global Community, Law and Justice, Understanding Severe and Unusual Weather and Introduction to Computer Programming. OU students can earn course credit, and Janux courses are also accessible to the public in a no charge, noncredit environment. This award will enhance public-private collaboration and workforce development by providing student internships focused on direct participation in continuous platform improvement and new course development efforts.
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), the City of Chickasha and the Chickasha Economic Development Council – USAO, the City of Chickasha and the Chickasha Economic Development Council have partnered to restore a historic campus building, Robertson Hall. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 1935 structure will become the Center for Community and Economic Development. A $1.5 million project, its design will facilitate communication and collaboration among all local, regional and state entities involved in community and regional social and economic development. It will office the Chickasha Economic Development Council, the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition, and all USAO programs and staff related to external relations and provide off-site space for entities such as SWOSU’s Center for Economic and Business Development and others. It will provide meeting space, interactive teleconferencing and access to all USAO electronic and Nash Library data and information development-related sources as well as to student and faculty expertise, research and internship options.
Western Oklahoma State College (Western) and Great Plains Regional Medical Center – Western has a long-standing partnership with Great Plains Regional Medical Center (GPRMC) in Elk City. Western opened an additional nursing location in Elk City in 2006. At that time, GPRMC´s board of trustees committed funds to support Western through the endowed chair program. Over the years, the medical center has provided adjunct nursing faculty as well as a building to house the nursing program. GPRMC recently sold the existing building and provided the school with a new location on GPRMCs campus, across from the hospital. It provides classroom, office, computer lab and clinical skills lab space for Western at no cost. This updated facility provides an excellent learning environment for the students and faculty. The desire of this partnership is to provide well-trained, highly educated registered nurses to meet the health care needs of southwest Oklahoma.Learn more about the partnership program and other economic development initiatives on the State Regents’ website at www.okhighered.org/econ-dev.