Twenty-seven business and higher education partnerships throughout the state were recently recognized for innovative collaborations that strengthen 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 for 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 tuition waivers.
“These successful partnerships link real-world business experiences to the higher education process,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “One of the key benefits from these partnerships are the results-driving solutions generated to resolve business problems.”
The partnerships being recognized include the following:
Cameron University and the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill – CU enjoys an ongoing partnership with the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill. When base realignment and closure discussions began seven years ago, President Cindy Ross joined a team of Lawton and Fort Sill leaders on a trip to Fort Bliss, Texas, to discuss the impending move. CU has since established a computer lab at the Truman Education Center on Fort Sill for military service members and their families. CU students have partnered with the defense contractor Lockheed Martin in solving algorithm problems, saving the Department of Defense money and resulting in the commanding general at Fort Sill awarding each student a certificate of achievement. CU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) continues to be among the top 15 percent of programs in the nation, and much of that success can be attributed to the access Fort Sill provides for CU’s ROTC cadets.
Carl Albert State College and JoB Construction Inc. – JoB Construction Inc. of Poteau, Okla., has been a strong partner of CASC for many years. Owners Jodi and Bill Hoffman, along with their son and daughter-in-law, Billy Ray and Starla Hoffman; daughter and son-in-law, Kim and Tim Wilson; and other family members, all work within the company and are avid supporters of CASC. The Hoffman family provided funds for the naming rights of the W.D. Hoffman Scholars Dorm, the Jodi Hoffman Endowed Professorship and the Hoffman Family Scholarship. In addition, they dedicate countless time, effort and gifts to the college. The Hoffmans’ passion for student success sets a prime example for others in the community to see firsthand what can be accomplished when local organizations partner with the college in order to provide affordable, accessible and exceptional educational opportunities to the region.
Connors State College and City of Muskogee Foundation – The City of Muskogee Foundation has provided CSC $300,000 in funding to develop the Muskogee Difference Healthcare Scholarship, the largest scholarship gift in the college’s history. This program provides full tuition, fees and books to students residing within Muskogee County who are studying nursing, pre-nursing or allied health. CSC’s nursing program is one of the largest in the state, boasting a National Council Licensure Examination pass rate that exceeds state and national averages. Muskogee Difference Healthcare Scholarship recipients are required to sign a two-year work commitment, ensuring all residents have access to quality educational and degree completion opportunities while also encouraging job growth and economic development in the regional health care sector.
East Central University and Holcim (US) Inc. – ECU is celebrating its 103rd year of partnership with Holcim (US) Inc., formerly Ideal Cement, in Ada. As environmental leaders in the Ada area, Holcim and ECU teamed up to lead the Oklahoma Green Expo and its signature event, the “Tour de Green” bicycle rally. Holcim and ECU are actively involved in the nationally recognized and nationally awarded Southern Workforce Board. Last year, employees from the Holcim Ada plant provided more than 1,300 volunteer hours in community service. Holcim has endowed an annual scholarship in environmental health sciences to ECU students, as well as hired its graduates. Holcim Ada employees are active in promoting youth career development as evidenced by the highly successful ECU Career Discovery Day and an ACT test preparation day for high school seniors.
Eastern Oklahoma State College and Choctaw Nation Health Center – The Choctaw Nation Health Center has a long-standing partnership with EOSC in training health care workers in southeastern Oklahoma. Health center employees have attended and facilitated student learning in a simulated learning environment at the EOSC nursing skills lab. Students also utilize equipment within the hospital setting at the health center. The work students do within the cardiac simulation lab provides them with a better understanding of trauma care equipment. In addition, this partnership is invaluable in providing funding to students in EOSC’s nursing program through scholarships and grants. Many graduates have also obtained gainful employment with Choctaw Nation health care services upon passing the National Council Licensure Examination.
Langston University and Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma – LU approached Mason Weaver, Urban Harvest director at the Regional Food Bank, and proposed a collaborative project that would not only provide food for senior and traditional communities but create meaningful, enjoyable activities for them as well. The outcome of this effort is a successful partnership with the Regional Food Bank to assist in the establishment and sustainability of three federally funded, community garden projects located in the northeast Oklahoma City area. These community gardens provide food, grown from seeds donated by the Regional Food Bank, for the people of the North Highland Community Housing Addition, the Mount Olive Senior Cottages community and the Temple Gardens Senior Apartments community. Weaver has even committed to supply crop seeds for future planting seasons for the life of LU´s senior garden program, a testament to his dedication to the overarching mission and motto of his agency.
Murray State College and the Johnston County Board of Commissioners – MSC’s partnership with the Johnston County Board of Commissioners has led to the development of nine industrial properties in Johnston County. In addition, MSC has developed recreational facilities, two health clinics, a water tower and a new road through the industrial park. Site preparation ranged from cutting a new road through a forest of trees to digging a deep foundation for a water tower to preparing previously rocky, boggy areas for building foundations. They showed their ingenuity in building retaining walls for one project, allowing MSC to utilize more of the property. On another project, they built a three-truck loading dock, which allowed MSC to entice an international company to Tishomingo. The completed projects have created almost 150 new jobs, with an acquisition cost of approximately $9 million.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma – The Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma and NEO have partnered to develop a wetland project on NEO property. Ottawa County, home of the Peoria Tribe and the college, was heavily mined for lead and zinc from 1908 to 1950. Extensive efforts have been implemented by various agencies, organizations and communities to remediate the lead and cadmium contamination. Unfortunately, the levels of waste materials in the water supplies of northeastern Oklahoma remain a major concern. The Peoria Tribe, in partnership with NEO, received grant funding from the Environmental Protection Agency to develop a wetlands project on NEO property bordering Tar Creek. The purpose of this project is for researchers to develop specific plant species that will uptake heavy metals and help reduce the flow of heavy metals through areas of northeastern Oklahoma.
Northeastern State University and the City of Tahlequah – A new era of partnership between NSU and the city of Tahlequah began in 2001 with the passage of a city sales tax. The funding supported a $2 million renovation and expansion of the NSU football complex – Gable Field at Doc Wadley Stadium – and a hard-surfaced walking track that is open to the public. With the money saved, Tahlequah Public Schools funneled unused funds into new classrooms, a school performing arts center and a new high school gymnasium. A new sales tax for community capital improvements was the focus of another Tahlequah-NSU partnership. Items included $1.5 million to fund streets, sidewalks, walking trails and the expansion of the recently launched NSU Multipurpose Event Center. This 85,000-square-foot venue center, scheduled to open in fall 2013, will provide meeting and breakout rooms for the community.
Northern Oklahoma College and the City of Enid – Through the city of Enid partnership, NOC has addressed infrastructure improvements to the failing baseball field; demolition of the old communication building; enhancement of campus safety with main parking lot repairs and crossing lights; the addition of community bus stands; and beautification projects, including the recent walking trails grant. NOC works with the city to host events and activities such as the annual Tri-State Music Festival and hosting visitors from Enid’s sister cities and accommodating Enid Public Schools in college facilities for athletic events. Also, NOC partners with the city in efforts to retain and improve Vance Air Force Base by advocating on behalf of the base with federal and state government entities and by administering the city´s scholarships for military members and their dependents.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University and the Charles Morton Share Trust of Alva – The Share Trust made its first major investment in NWOSU in 1989, establishing the Charles Morton Share endowed chair in education. This gift led the way for NWOSU to secure commitments for 22 endowed chairs. In 1999 the Share Trust provided $1.5 million in private funding to help create the J.R. Holder Wellness Center, a 42,000-square-foot wellness facility on campus. In 2007, when NWOSU announced its Vision for Victory Campaign for athletics, the Share Trust once again stepped forward with a lead gift of $1.5 million. This gift inspired many more donors to help NWOSU raise nearly $4 million to construct new facilities and renovate existing facilities. The Share Trust also supports the Northwest Oklahoma Concert Series, university homecoming activities and the Heartland BEST robotics competition.
Oklahoma City Community College and the Oklahoma Speech-Language-Hearing Association – Responding to shortages of speech-language pathologists in Oklahoma, OSHA, with guidance and support from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, partnered with OCCC to design and implement the first and only speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA) program in Oklahoma. OSHA led efforts for legislative changes in licensing and practice, opening the door for the program and SLPA graduates. Additionally, OSHA facilitated communication among the Oklahoma State Department of Education, the Oklahoma Board of Examiners for Speech-Pathology and Audiology and OCCC regarding program design and policy procedures and practice. The entirely online SLPA program trains graduates to provide communication therapy services in schools and health care settings across the state.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the Guymon Chamber of
Commerce – The partnership between OPSU, the Guymon Chamber of Commerce and, more recently, Main Street Guymon provides a variety of collaborations that benefit community and workforce development. Jada Breeden, Chamber of Commerce director, and Melyn Johnson, director of Main Street Guymon, use Facebook, e-blasts and their event calendars to promote OPSU news and events, including the Dust Bowl play written by OPSU professor Dr. Sara Jane Richter and the campus preview of the Ken Burns PBS Dust Bowl documentary. They have sponsored many campus activities, such as “Lunch With an Aggie,” a coupon book for students and several student group fundraising efforts, and utilized an OPSU student intern at the chamber. OPSU also hosts meetings of the chamber education committee on a monthly basis, and OPSU's communications/sports information director, Laura Nelson, serves on the board.
Oklahoma State University’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center and U.S. Roaster Corp – USRC, a manufacturer and rebuilder of coffee roasters, first contacted OSU’s Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center (FAPC) in July 2008 requesting help with roaster-testing methods. In 2011, USRC successfully completed a two-year, grant-funded project that resulted in the development of a new, advanced coffee roaster called the Revelation. FAPC and USRC submitted a $423,000 grant to develop and commercialize the Revelation. FAPC’s services include engineering design and assessment; equipment testing and analysis; sensory testing; laboratory analysis; and business planning and development. FAPC is also improving USRCs existing coffee bean cooler/mixers utilizing a team of biosystems and agricultural engineering senior design students. This award will be used to assist ongoing student and professional projects at USRC coordinated through the FAPC.
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and Aggreko LLC – OSUIT and Aggreko partnered to create the SelecTech program. As finding technicians to maintain and repair engines, generators and temperature control equipment became increasingly difficult, Aggreko began partnering with OSUIT in 2008 to provide new technician training. The Aggreko SelecTech program trains technicians in portable diesel-powered electricity generation and temperature control systems. The program began with 18 students and expects 50 new students each year by 2017. Aggreko SelecTech students receive paid internships, scholarships, required tools, a company cell phone, cash advances for business-related travel and, upon graduation, the opportunity to accept full-time employment with Aggreko. Other OSUIT support includes curriculum advisement, facility and equipment support, and location and support of high-quality instructors, including professional development, payment of faculty travel for internship visits and training, a company cell phone and a computer.
Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County – OSU-OKC partnered with Oklahoma County on two collaborations. The first was to extend and resurface Jerry D. Carroll Drive during fall 2012. This allowed OSU-OKC to change a vital traffic pattern on campus in anticipation of the construction involved with a new three-story parking garage. The county generously provided the labor while OSU-OKC purchased all the materials. The second collaboration was the SHINE program. SHINE (Start Helping Impacted Neighborhoods Everywhere) is a comprehensive initiative to clean up county District 2. The program aims to improve economic development, prepare future generations to be responsible citizens, efficiently utilize and expose resources through community partnerships, and create an overall nicer place to live. Five OSU-OKC students participated in the SHINE program and donated 100 certified hours to community service, with 30 of those hours spent on beautification efforts.
Redlands Community College and Nucare Nutrition – Nucare partnered with RCC and Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance extension agent Mike Raymond to formalize their business strategy and assist with company growth. This partnership has allowed Nucare to move into a larger facility in Kingfisher and participate in ExporTech training that led to a significant increase in the existing export sales of their private-label products. Nucare also created a new manufacturing company, Viacore Nutrition, that will supply the nutrition products previously sourced outside the state. Nucare will also offer contract manufacturing or co-packing services to other companies. Owner Mike Myers has stated that the expansion will create 15 additional jobs in Kingfisher and generate new revenue to support the community. This strategic plan will save Nucare more than 20 percent in outsourcing expenses and add more than $450,000 to the payroll. Nucare will use this grant to support ongoing employee educational programs at RCC.
Rogers State University and MidAmerica Industrial Park – MidAmerica has generously supported RSU by funding student scholarships and other key initiatives. Its support reached a new level when park administrators announced that they would fund and construct a 38,400-square-foot building on an 84-acre site to serve as the new RSU-Pryor campus. The largest single gift in RSU’s history, the $8 million project more than doubles the size of the existing campus. The two-story facility will feature classrooms, computer labs, science labs, library, food service and dining facilities, a bookstore, faculty and administrative offices, meeting rooms, and a 150-seat auditorium. Construction started in 2012 and will be completed in late summer 2013. The RSU-Pryor campus will join Northeastern Technology Center and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology at MidAmerica, creating a regional educational hub serving northeastern Oklahoma.
Rose State College and the Civic Center Music Hall – In 1998, RSC launched a visionary management agreement with the Civic Center to provide operational management, bring Broadway productions to eastern Oklahoma County, provide an additional entertainment venue to the metropolitan area, expand school-age arts education programs and offer centralized scheduling and box office operations. Additionally, the partnership offered workshops and activities to increase student enrollment and enhance the total academic experience. Serving approximately 88,235 attendees each year, this dynamic partnership has provided programs, activities and classroom space to more than 1.2 million students and members of the community. The Communications Center serves a diverse audience including students, educators, RSC drama productions, local and national celebrities, personnel from Tinker Air Force Base, parents and relatives of performers, and business and civic organizations.
Seminole State College and UpSource – A partnership between SSC and UpSource has resulted in great things happening in economic development for Seminole and surrounding communities. Faced with the need to rapidly expand, in 2008, UpSource partnered with an existing call center outsourcer in Seminole – AmeriContact. Together with SSC, AmeriContact had built and grown a call center in the heart of the Seminole community. Now, more than five years later, UpSource remains in that same location and has grown to almost 100 employees at the Seminole location alone. During 2012, UpSource paid more than $2 million in wages to its Seminole-area employees, providing economic support to the community. Working with SSC in the college’s Dan Boren Business Development Center, UpSource is making a positive difference in Seminole’s economic health.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University and TAPS Public Transit – TAPS Public Transit is now a reality for SE students and business commuters from Texas to Oklahoma. This two-state shuttle project had its kickoff in fall 2012.Through a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation, TAPS provides public transportation to businesses, such as Alorica, Choctaw Casino, Delaware North and numerous others. The commuter system is providing a vital service for students and employees traveling to Oklahoma for school or employment. Based on feedback from SE’s admission counselor at Grayson College in Texas, many students would forego completing their degree programs without the shuttle service. The future goal for this service is to grow its ridership and continue to connect Oklahoma and Texas for a positive economic impact on the region, its employers and future SE graduates.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the City of Weatherford – The SWOSU Event Center, a state-of-the-art facility, is the product of a partnership between SWOSU and the Weatherford community. Voters designated sales tax funds for the center, while city and university officials will assist in the center’s oversight. Scheduled to open in 2014, this 93,000-square-foot center will seat 4,000 people and is expected to draw an average of 150,000 visitors per year to western Oklahoma. The event center will be the only facility of its size and type in an area stretching from Amarillo, Texas, to Oklahoma City and from Wichita Falls, Texas, to Dodge City, Kan. A focal point of the facility will be the SWOSU Foundation Club Suite, which will be furnished and equipped for functions ranging from VIP galas to student recruiting events.
Tulsa Community College and the Tulsa Fire Department – The Tulsa Fire Department, the city of Tulsa and TCC have begun construction of the first phase of the Tulsa-area Fire and Emergency Training Center. The state-of-the-art center is being built on TCC´s Northeast Campus and will serve fire, police and emergency service providers in northeastern Oklahoma and encompass the latest developments in fire and emergency preparedness training. The center will also house the fire department´s Homeland Security Facility, which will provide training targeting terrorism and address natural disasters through advanced training programs in technical and specialty rescue. An increase in community preparedness programs for citizen and business groups will be also be offered at the facility. The center allows for an increase in training capabilities at a reduced cost through shared resources.
University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma City Public Schools – UCO and OKCPS have long served as partners in the preparation of education professionals. The Urban Teacher Preparation Academy began in 2009 to engage teacher candidates in the principles, knowledge and experiences of urban classrooms so they are prepared to facilitate student learning in urban settings. Teacher candidates participate in a yearlong clinical experience with mentoring from an OKCPS classroom teacher and, later, from a nationally board-certified teacher; participate in an online learning community; and receive support from UCO supervisors and faculty. Another partnership is the Cooperative Principal Preparation Cohort Program, where district leaders and UCO faculty members guide a cohort of 30 students through the master’s degree program in educational leadership. Then, in 2012, the College Board launched the Affinity Network initiative. Oklahoma is one of five states selected for this program. Partners include UCO, OKCPS and Oklahoma City Community College.
University of Oklahoma and ICEdot LLC – Over the fall 2012 semester, a team of students from the OU Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth (CCEW) partnered with ICEdot to develop an iPad application for a new product called HITdot. This advancement will help athletic trainers detect possible concussions in high school football players in real time through a helmet sensor that wirelessly relays impact. With this award, OU would like to deepen its analysis of new markets for ICEdot, including military, action sports and other team sports. To achieve this, OU interns will craft in-depth product development/modification and market-entry plans. The internship will be managed in conjunction with the OU Corporate Engagement Office (CEO), a sister organization of CCEW within the OU economic development function. Fundamentally, CEO acts as a portal to OU’s assets for external partners, economic development activity, and business and market analysis.
University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and the City of Chickasha/Chickasha Economic Development Council – The Chickasha Economic Development Council’s office currently operates on USAO’s campus. From this new base of operations, the EDC will have routine working contact, communication and collaboration with the experience and expertise of USAO faculty and the energy and enthusiasm of its students. In addition, faculty and students alike will benefit from opportunities this partnership will provide that will allow them to make meaningful contributions to the quality and economy of the community. Overall, it will provide the EDC and city government a much-enhanced public profile and visibility for advancing Chickasha and regional development projects.
Western Oklahoma State College and Shoestring Enterprises – Both WOSC’s agriculture program and rodeo team are indebted to their partnership with Shoestring Enterprises owners Tim and Lisa Drury. In 1976 Tim Drury was one of the students instrumental in the creation of the rodeo program. In fact, in 2006 when WOSC started to expand its agriculture and rodeo facility north of Altus, he saw an opportunity to give back to the program he helped to start. Countless hours of equipment use and personal expertise have helped transform the facility into a present-day showpiece. Additionally, Drury serves as a member of WOSC’s agriculture advisory board, which offers guidance and community input to the agriculture program. WOSC’s continued partnership with Shoestring also includes offering practice livestock for the rodeo team and various lab opportunities for animal science classes.
More details about the partnerships will be available on the State Regents’ website at www.okhighered.org/econ-dev/partner-recog.shtml.