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 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.

“To solve the workforce development challenges facing Oklahoma, our colleges and universities continue to work collaboratively with leaders in the private, public and nonprofit sectors,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “These partnerships between business and industry and our state system institutions ensure that we continue building the skilled workforce needed for Oklahoma to be globally competitive.”

The partnerships recognized for 2019 are:

Cameron University and the McMahon Foundation
The McMahon Foundation has been a steadfast supporter of CU since 1963, providing over $16 million to the university through the years. Previous gifts include the largest single gift in CU’s history, $4 million for the McMahon Centennial Complex. Other gifts include $1.25 million for the McMahon Learning Center at Cameron Village and $1 million respectively for the Academic Commons and for McMahon Field and Athletics Center. Additionally, the foundation has provided funding for scholarships; support for academic programs; KCCU-FM broadcasts; athletics programs, including tennis, golf and baseball; and construction of the Louise D. McMahon Fine Arts Complex and the McMahon Foundation tennis courts. Most recently, the foundation donated a $100,000 grant to discover the Next Big Business Idea for Lawton.

Carl Albert State College and First National Bank
FNB has served as a financial institution in the college’s residential housing expansions on the Poteau campus with gifts to the foundation and through its commitment to community service. FNB actively supports CASC scholarships through its participation in the Adopt-A-Scholar program and the Gold Dust Gala. FNB has three locations in Poteau and Heavener that proudly employ CASC alumni.

Connors State College and Warner Hardware
Warner Hardware, led by owner Jerry Stretch, has been a consistent supporter of CSC since starting his business in 2004. Stretch is a behind-the-scenes partner at many of CSC’s organization fundraisers, including becoming an indispensable part of the fundraising efforts of the rodeo and equine programs and overseeing the smoking of 150 lbs. of meat from start to finish for the programs’ annual Spring Gathering event each year. Stretch and the other members of the board have worked to build scholarships and program support for the students of CSC.

East Central University and the City of Ada
The City of Ada has contributed greatly to advancing higher education in the region and supporting ECU. The city provides a cardboard recycle service to the campus, maintains the crosswalks and signage around campus, as well as the ECU signage through the downtown area, and assists with the homecoming parade. The city is also an effective partner in helping ECU’s School of Fine Arts with several projects that include the development of the arts district at the edge of the university; assistance with AdaFest and East End Eats, a music and food venue held each Thursday afternoon; establishment of a sculpture garden in Wintersmith Park; and assistance placing sculptures on Main Street.

Eastern Oklahoma State College and the Health and Wellness Center
EOSC originally partnered with the Health and Wellness Center in 2015 to provide general health care services to its students in Wilburton. Services include treatment for minor illnesses and injuries, physical exams, lab tests, X-rays and other tests. These services are provided free of charge for students without health insurance. In 2018, the EOSC and Health and Wellness Center partnership was expanded to offer mental health counseling services both in person and through a telehealth program.

Langston University and Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores
Over the years, Love’s has generously contributed thousands of dollars in support of student scholarships and other LU programs and initiatives. Love´s has been a contributing sponsor for LU’s Annual Presidents Scholarship Gala, used to provide funds for need- and merit-based scholarships awarded to LU students. Love’s has also been an active contributor to the annual Women in Leadership Luncheon and is also an ongoing participant in on-campus engagement with LU students, including involvement in LU’s semiannual career fairs and professional development training and workshops for students, which lead to internship placements and full-time employment opportunities for LU students and graduates.

Murray State College and BancFirst
MSC has partnered with BancFirst and the Rainbolt family to secure the legacy of the late Lynn Colbert, who created the Lynn Colbert Charitable Foundation through BancFirst, to ensure his investments and mineral rights would benefit others after his death. Through expert management, leadership and guidance from BancFirst and the Rainbolt family, MSC and the foundation have provided opportunities for Oklahoma students who might not otherwise have been able to obtain a college education.

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Architects in Partnership
The partnership between NEO and AIP has supported the work of the NEO Foundation, NEO athletics and the construction science program with generous donations through their time serving the students and faculty of NEO. AIP has designed project work ranging from new student housing to athletic facilities to multipurpose recreational use and the performing arts. Frequently, the firm has produced exceptional concept work that has helped NEO raise more than $10 million in public and private donations.

Northeastern State University and the Northeast Oklahoma Regional Alliance (NORA)
Ten years ago, NSU and the Cherokee Nation embarked on an effort to enhance regionalism in northeast Oklahoma. With many individuals, organizations and businesses joining forces, NORA was formed, and a strategic plan was created to spur actions addressing issues vital to the economic development of the 14-county region. Recently, NORA created a workforce development plan for the Cherokee Nation focusing on manufacturing, health care and hospitality. NSU graduates are a major part of the talent pipeline for these initiatives. NORA and NSU continue to collaborate, providing workshops and presentations that support regional stewardship efforts.

Northern Oklahoma College and the Renfro Family Foundation
Carl Renfro and the Renfro Family Foundation continue to invest in NOC, making meaningful contributions to students and programs while enhancing the quality of life in northern Oklahoma. Renfro is a community and state leader promoting arts, education, economic development and the preservation of Oklahoma history. Carl and the late Carolyn Renfro donated $100,000 in 2006 to establish the Carl and Carolyn Renfro Endowed Lectureship Program. This endowment provides support to cultivate and enhance cultural and community enrichment offerings in northern Oklahoma to include guest lectures and a performance series on the campus, touching nearly 10,000 individuals. In 2017, the Carl Renfro Scholarship Fund was established to assist deserving students from single-parent households or single-parent students in reaching their goals.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University and LaDeeda
LaDeeda clothing shop has provided thousands of dollars in new clothing to the Teacher’s Closet at NWOSU. The Teacher’s Closet was founded in June 2017 by NWOSU professors Dr. Jen Oswald and Dr. Jennifer Page to supplement the professional clothing needs of NWOSU’s education majors. Over the last 18 months, the program has expanded to serve students in other majors and provided more than $15,000 in clothing to NWOSU students.

Oklahoma City Community College and Dell
OCCC and Dell computer technology company have a long-standing partnership which affords students viable employment opportunities in the high-demand field of information technology. Additionally, Dell representatives participate on the Computer Science Advisory Board at OCCC and provide critical industry input to guide curriculum decisions based on industry needs.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Goodwell Public Schools
Goodwell Public Schools has provided OPSU with funds to develop a modernized, $1.2 million artificial turf football and soccer stadium, which both OPSU and Goodwell Public Schools utilized for the 2018 season. Goodwell Public Schools provided $250,000 in funding, in conjunction with $250,000 in-kind from Texas County and an undisclosed gift from Anchor D Bank. The partnership also includes an after-school program, a shared faculty and counselor, a special education program, and a shared farm and ranch, as well as an early-college program to allow high school seniors to earn an associate degree when they graduate.

Oklahoma State University’s New Product Development Center (NPDC) and Bullet Fence Systems LLC
OSU’s NPDC teams with entrepreneurs, inventors and manufacturers to provide engineering solutions that result in new products, optimized processes and business starts. One success is the partnership between the NPDC and Okmulgee inventor Ron Goedecke, who started Bullet Fence Systems LLC. Goedecke enrolled in the NPDC’s Inventor’s Assistance Service (IAS), a program sponsored by the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, and requested engineering and commercialization assistance with his Fence Bullet concept, which would provide a no-weld pipe fence connection option for those in areas where high-fire danger or welding accessibility problems exist. The NPDC’s business interns worked closely with Goedecke to analyze his product’s marketability and with NPDC engineering interns and IAS staff to finalize his product design.

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and Komatsu
OSUIT’s Komatsu Advanced Career Training Program (ACT) trains students to diagnose, service and maintain Komatsu equipment using factory-recommended procedures, special tools and service information. In fall 1997, the first Komatsu ACT classes began with six students. In the last 21 years, this program has flourished to graduate 149 students from 14 states and Mexico. Komatsu NA and Komatsu dealers have also donated to this program, including two excavators, two loaders, one backhoe, and numerous training aids such as transmissions and final drives.

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Amazon
OSU-OKC’s Community Impact Center is the home to Amazon’s staffing operation that serves multiple corporate sites across the metro area. In 2018, Amazon named OSU-OKC an Amazon Web Service (AWS) Academy. As an AWS Academy, OSU-OKC is approved to deliver curriculum and hands-on learning experiences to prepare students for employment in cloud-computing roles through the academy’s 40-hour course. Participants have access to course manuals, online knowledge assessments, hands-on labs, a free practice exam and a discount voucher for the certification exam. In partnership with Amazon, OSU-OKC has scheduled a series of executive briefings and training seminars to support current AWS clients and to introduce the platform to business and industry leaders across a multistate region.

Redlands Community College and Symbiotic Aquaponic (SA)
The collaborative partnership between RCC and SA was formalized in 2016 with the construction of a state-of-the-art aquaponics system. In addition to the installation of the original system, SA has partnered with RCC in offering workshops and continuing education in sustainable agriculture, including target training for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and agriculture educators. At the same time, SA has promoted the degree and certificate programs offered at RCC, in order to generate a more qualified workforce.

Rogers State University and more Claremore
Since moreClaremore’s inception, the organization has helped RSU tell its story through its website, social media outlets and video production and has helped RSU promote numerous events and on-campus opportunities, such as Big Tent Day and the annual Hillcat Hacker Golf Tournament. With moreClaremore’s help, RSU has made numerous connections between community-related organizations and individuals.

Rose State College and Advantage Bank
The partnership between RSC and Advantage Bank is driven by a common passion to foster and promote higher education and deliver unrivaled service to small businesses and the communities they serve. One example is the firm’s cooperative partnership with the Small Business Development Center at RSC. Bank CEO Randy Smith has been instrumental in the operation and sustainment of the local SBDC, a valuable community resource. Showing leadership to the Rose State Foundation, Advantage’s finance leader and educational champion has displayed a commitment to education.

Seminole State College and the City of Seminole
Since SSC’s separation from the local high school in 1969, the city has stepped forward to assist with SSC’s critical needs. Working with Seminole citizens, a sales tax was passed to fund SSC until state funding could be put in place, and the city donated 40 acres for the campus building site. Decades later, city leaders proposed a sales tax extension to support the building of a new residence hall, providing much needed housing for the campus. In 2017, SSC took on a project to build a $7 million “Field of Dreams” baseball complex to serve as the home of SSC Trojan Baseball, as well as a venue for regional and state tournaments. Realizing the potential economic impact of such a facility on the community, the city committed $450,000 to the project for water, sewer, and street improvements. Additionally, the city´s tourism council committed an additional $100,000 for construction costs and to fund a full-time project recruiter for tournaments.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Julian Construction
Julian Construction, owned and operated by Southeastern alumnus Tommy Julian, has been a generous supporter of Southeastern and its students for the past decade. Julian and his company have provided several enrichment opportunities for Southeastern students and alumni. This includes hosting a student retreat in Broken Bow and hosting students, alumni and friends at various recreational and entertainment events in the Oklahoma City area. Among the activities supported by Julian and his company are the Gold and Blue Scholarship Gala, the Presidential Golf Classic, the McCurtain County Classic, Presidential Partners, donations to the baseball field renovations and contributions to the football program.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Leadership Weatherford
For the past 21 years, SWOSU has collaborated with Leadership Weatherford to provide speakers, training facilities, transportation and meals throughout the nine-month program. Leadership Weatherford class members spend one day a month in classes covering economic development, civic engagement, legal issues, education, health care and other topics augmenting their team-building and leadership skills. Class members get access to SWOSU facilities, faculty members and the president. Using the SWOSU ropes course at Crowder Lake University Park, engaging in SWOSU faculty-led sessions, and touring the Oklahoma State Capitol led by SWOSU President Randy Beutler, SWOSU is hands-on with the class members.

Tulsa Community College and Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma
In response to its students’ needs, TCC’s Metro Campus formed a partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. The first TCC food pantry, established in 2017, was named The Fuel Pantry, and due to its success, the program was expanded to three other TCC campuses. The pantry provides food and personal items to students in need and, as of October 2018, has served more than 400 students. This partnership serves as a model the Community Food Bank has replicated to expand offerings to other colleges in eastern Oklahoma.

University of Central Oklahoma and the City Management Association of Oklahoma (CMAO)
The CMAO/UCO partnership enhances the quality of city government activities in Oklahoma by investing in UCO’s Master of Public Administration program. This relationship provides CMAO with a cadre of high-quality prospects as students graduate from the program. CMAO provides consulting and guest lecturing to the program and hosts its annual conference in Edmond to make it accessible to students.

University of Oklahoma and the Pat Tillman Foundation
OU was selected as a Pat Tillman Foundation partner in 2015. Since then, the foundation has awarded a number of scholarships to OU students for undergraduate and graduate programs. Additionally, the foundation sponsors a yearly leadership summit and has created the Tillman Scholar Community to provide a support network for student veterans. The Tillman Scholars Program focuses on building the leading fellowship program for military veterans and spouses. Founded in 2008, the program supports active-duty service members, veterans and their spouses with academic scholarships, a national network and professional development opportunities.

University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and the Chickasha Festival of Light Board of Directors
In fall 2018, the Chickasha Festival of Light Board of Directors partnered with the USAO’s Principles of Marketing Class. The class created and presented a marketing plan to the Festival of Light Board, pitching them incredibly unique ideas of how to continue the festival’s success with new events, programs and services. Far from being just another class project or helpful entry on a résumé, working with the Festival of Light gave USAO students a chance to learn firsthand about how the nonprofit sector operates and how important such organizations are within Oklahoma and its communities.

Western Oklahoma State College and Comanche County Memorial Hospital (CCMH)
WOSC has a long-standing partnership with CCMH in Lawton. WOSC established its nursing program in 1981 and opened an additional site location in Lawton on the Cameron University campus in 2003. CCMH offers access to the most critical areas of nursing care. From 2004-11, CCMH has donated more than $850,000 to support the WOSC nursing program. CCMH has also provided an excellent clinical experience for the nursing students with many of CCMH’s own employees serving as clinical instructors for the program. In 2018, WOSC started an online LPN-to-RN track as part of the nursing program and is scheduled to graduate more than 100 nursing students in 2019.

For more information about RBPEA and this year’s partnerships, visit