Twenty-seven business and higher education partnerships throughout the state were recently recognized online 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.

“Despite the challenges of the 2020-21 academic year, our colleges and universities persisted in cultivating meaningful partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “The State Regents are proud to celebrate the impact of these partnerships on the workforce in our communities and the economic development of our state. Collaborations between businesses and our state system institutions advance Oklahoma’s efforts to build the skilled workforce required to compete in today’s global economy.”

The partnerships recognized for 2021 are:

Cameron University and City National Bank
Cameron University’s Center for Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies (CETES) and City National Bank & Trust (CNBT) partnered in the delivery of more than 20 online small business disaster assistance webinars that helped more than 500 small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic. The partnership was supported by the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center and the Lawton Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce. Jason Hensley, CNBT’s Senior Vice President and Chief Operations Officer and Dr. Samantha Lankford, Director, CETES, steered these financial experts and helped develop free, relevant and timely educational programs. This partnership has saved thousands of Oklahoma jobs by securing millions of dollars in federal and state grants and loans for small businesses.

Carl Albert State College and Armstrong Bank
Dr. Sinclair Armstrong, chairman of Armstrong Bank, is a strong supporter of Carl Albert State College and the Sallisaw Committee for Excellence. Armstrong has been a driving force behind the inception of the Sequoyah County Early Access Scholarship. Armstrong’s generous contributions to this program have provided financial assistance to high school concurrent enrollment students in Sequoyah County that can’t afford to attend classes or don’t have access. His vision, to make education more accessible, has also afforded the opportunity to equip Sequoyah County high schools with Zoom technology, allowing students to complete college-level courses without having to leave their high school campus. His support has enabled Sequoyah County students to graduate from high school better prepared to meet future opportunities and challenges.

Connors State College and American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance and Cooperative
Connors State College is extremely grateful for the continued relationship with American Farmers and Ranchers Mutual Insurance and Cooperative. AFR has been committed to providing auto, home, farm and life insurance, as well as education, legislative and youth programs within Oklahoma communities for more than 100 years. AFR provides CSC with valuable resources that assist in providing quality education experiences to CSC students. The organization has sponsored livestock contests, provided funding for student programs and filled volunteer positions within CSC since the early 1900s. Most recently, the organization created an endowment within the CSC Development Foundation. The $10,000 gift is named in honor of the first president of the Oklahoma Board of Agriculture and CSC’s namesake, Judge J.P. Connors, and will provide tuition scholarships to agriculture students.

East Central University and Pontotoc County Health Department
Once the pandemic struck, East Central University nursing students quickly became aware of the bigger picture and all that Pontotoc County Health Department (PCHD) does to serve its community. They were invited to be directly involved with PCHD vaccination clinics in the community, providing students immediate feedback that they not only had chosen the right field of study, but that their service to the community was a meaningful and measurable endeavor. Since this experience, ECU and the PCHD now have a Memorandum of Understanding in place. Nursing students will now be ready to assist when they are needed. PCHD staff was also very helpful to ECU Student Health Services (SHS). The staff made sure ECU SHS was trained to properly administer COVID-19 tests and provide timely test results. They also provided insight into how the pandemic was impacting local and state decisions involving intercollegiate athletic competitions.

Eastern Oklahoma State College and Great Western Dining Service Inc.
Eastern Oklahoma State College and Great Western Dining Service Inc. partnered in 2017 to offer meal service to the Wilburton campus and community. The partnership increased EOSC’s dining options for the campus and community with expanded menu options, unlimited servings for students and monthly celebration dinners for holidays. Great Western Dining employs 23 individuals which has expanded workforce opportunities for the surrounding communities and created part-time job opportunities for students. The organization also provides a much-needed catering and dining service for local businesses and service organizations, with few options available in a small, rural area. Great Western Dining has also been a generous supporter of EOSC’s annual Sapphire Ball, serving as a lead sponsor and providing the meal for the annual black-tie scholarship fundraiser. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Great Western Dining made the necessary changes to provide a safe and healthy dining experience for students, faculty, staff and the community.

Langston University and Dell Inc.
The Langston University Foundation and Dell Inc. Oklahoma City branch partnership secured employment opportunities for LU students and graduates, accelerated LU’s digital transformation, and created innovative programs and initiatives. Dell is committed to transforming businesses, shaping the future of innovation and developing technologies to drive human progress. Like LU, Dell has an unwavering commitment to equality, trust and advocacy for its partners and stakeholders. In the midst of the unprecedented circumstances of the last year, Dell leaned into the partnership with LU in historic ways. No collaboration was more central to the success of LU’s mission during the pandemic than Dell and its team of incredible leaders and experts.

Murray State College and Michelin
In order to introduce high school seniors and graduates pursuing two-year college degrees to opportunities available in advanced manufacturing, Michelin launched its Tech Scholars program. In 2021, Michelin and Murray State College became partners to invite and encourage manufacturing technology students to join Michelin’s comprehensive Tech Scholars program. Students in southern Oklahoma are gaining new and beneficial opportunities for career growth through this partnership. Participants work part time as Michelin employees while attending MSC, with Michelin providing full scholarships to cover tuition, fees and books. The program reinforces classroom knowledge through on-the-job training and, upon graduation, interested and qualified students join Michelin as reliability technicians earning salaries comparable to graduates with four-year college degrees. This partnership will produce Tech Scholar manufacturing graduates who will add energy and intellectual resources to Oklahoma through a 30-year-old program that brings together higher education and local industry.

Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and The First National Bank & Trust Company of Miami
First National Bank has contributed more than $200,000 to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College in the past decade alone. With a strong belief in the value of higher education, First National Bank has made supporting NEO students’ educational endeavors a priority by supporting the general scholarship fund and the Student Emergency Assistance Fund. Outside of academics, First National Bank supports NEO athletics through the purchase of a suite at Red Robertson Field. Combined with booster sponsorships, they also supported programs such as the NEO Agriculture Greenhouse and campus fine arts. First National Bank Officers and staff also contribute to the NEO Development Foundation at the annual fundraising gala with table sponsorships and large live auction donations. Their officers and staff members generously give their time to support NEO.

Northeastern State University and Broken Arrow Public Schools
In 2019 Broken Arrow Public Schools partnered with Northeastern State University to host its Early College High School program at the NSU-Broken Arrow campus. The program allows students to take high school courses at the NSU campus while preparing them to succeed in college coursework upon completion of the 10th grade. The program began with 165 students and now has 380 students The partnership between Broken Arrow Public Schools and NSU allows for course sequences focusing on pre-education and pre-manufacturing pathways that match the current workforce needs in the Broken Arrow community. These students are actively preparing for careers in industries with lucrative jobs located in their backyard. Broken Arrow Public Schools and NSU are working together to prepare tomorrow’s workforce that will generate thriving businesses.

Northern Oklahoma College and Enel Green Power North America Inc.
Northern Oklahoma College has developed a partnership with Enel Green Power, Oklahoma’s second-largest wind operator, to establish a new wind turbine technician program. This partnership is helping to meet the workforce needs of a growing industry in the state. Thirteen NOC students were enrolled in the inaugural Introduction to the Wind Energy course and other process technology courses as part of the program. Graduates will be qualified for work as a wind turbine service technician, by far the fastest-growing occupation in Oklahoma with 64.5% projected growth from 2018-28. Enel Green Power coordinated with NOC for more than two years to re-establish the wind energy program at NOC. They assisted in curriculum development, recruited and helped fund a program instructor, connected students with mentors and have facilitated instructional activities, such as a virtual wind turbine tour. Enel Green Power also established a scholarship in memory of senior manager Tim Knutson, who passed away in 2018. They have pledged $59,000 in funding through the 2023 academic year; with these funds, 13 students in the inaugural wind energy class at NOC were awarded scholarships through the Foundation. Through the partnership agreement, Enel also provided a supplementary stipend for the primary program instructor, to ensure students receive high-quality, dedicated instruction from someone with industry expertise.

Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Aurora Learning Community Association
Aurora Learning Community Association’s (ALCA) mission is to support educators and their students in integrating educational best practices and resources, technology, data-driven learning and teaching, as well as community involvement both online and local. ALCA started out partnering with K-12 entities and created a way for schools to track data. In 2015, Northwestern Oklahoma State University partnered with ALCA to provide education portfolios for bachelor- and master-level students, while also providing faculty with an online portfolio platform. The ALCA system also provides a platform for employees at NWOSU to track their institutional assessment plans and goals for each year. The team at ALCA gave NWOSU a personalized platform that was customized to their needs. Their headquarters are located within NWOSU’s 10-service-county region, and NWOSU is proud to support a local product.

Oklahoma City Community College and Federal Aviation Administration – Enterprise Services Center
Oklahoma City Community College is committed to improving student achievement and strengthening the cybersecurity workforce of the city. OCCC has partnered with Enterprise Services Center (ESC), a division of the Department of Transportation, located at the Federal Aviation Administration’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center. ESC offers an array of vital government information technology services and financial management to a wide range of federal agencies. The ESC members serve on OCCC’s Computer Science department advisory board, which facilitates curriculum reviews and provides guidance on building the skilled computer science workforce needed for Oklahoma. Their input helps OCCC faculty develop talented IT professionals who are ready to enter the cybersecurity workforce. This exemplary partnership is an example of how industry and higher education find ways to meet state and federal workforce needs, while focusing on student success inside and outside of the classroom.

Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation
Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s (ODWC) partnership began in 2016 when ODWC provided OPSU with planning and construction grants totaling $2.4 million to design and build a 320-acre collegiate and community shooting sports facility. The facility includes a rifle and pistol range, trap, skeet, and five-stand ranges, as well as 3D and Olympic archery. This facility was completed in the spring 2021 and is the largest public shooting sports facility in the state of Oklahoma. The facility is designed to house both educational and activity programs, including wildlife education and gun/archery educational programs, as well as collegiate shooting sports teams. The site also hosts community and law enforcement training and hunter safety programs. In addition, the center is available to host a number of events for organizations such as 4-H, Future Farmers of America, corporations, and gun-related clubs and associations.

Oklahoma State University and Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc.
In 2018, Kratos Defense & Security Solutions Inc. established an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) production plant in Oklahoma to develop the MQM-178 Firejet aerial target drone and the XQ-58 Valkyrie “loyal wingman” aircraft, as part of the Air Force’s $400 million Skyborg program. The 150,000-square-foot facility is increasing jobs available for Oklahomans and boosting economic development. In 2019, research collaborations began between OSU’s Dr. Kurt Rouser and Kratos’ Aaron Vander Hamm to gauge small turbojet engine performance and operability. The partnership also led to developing rockets for a rocket-assisted take-off (RATO) system, which enables an unmanned aircraft to quickly hit speeds sufficient for sustained lift. The partnership currently supports jobs for two graduate research assistants and four undergraduate researchers for design, analysis, fabrication and testing of high-performance solid rocket motors. In spring 2021, a 10-student senior team designed a RATO system for high-speed unmanned aircraft, a project that further feeds the OSU-Kratos collaboration. In 2021, work products from OSU students drew the attention of engineers from the NASA Glenn Research Center. This partnership has helped add more rocket design instructional and learning experiences to courses, developing student talent for future workforce needs in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and Toyota Motor North America
The Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology Toyota Technician Training and Education Network (T-TEN) program within the School of Transportation and Heavy Equipment has made a significant contribution to Oklahoma’s automotive workforce since 1987. OSUIT students in the T-TEN program are instructed by Toyota-certified professionals using the latest Toyota and Lexus vehicles available to diagnose, service and maintain equipment using factory-recommended procedures, special tools and service information. One of the longest-running partnership programs on campus, Toyota continues to innovate standards of excellence by modifying its T-TEN curriculum to reflect the ever-changing tide of advancements in automotive technology. Toyota has worked directly with OSUIT faculty and administration to update and implement a new curriculum that has since served as a model of standard for T-TEN’s other 34 schools located across the United States. Students graduate with more than five ASE certifications, increasing their marketability as highly skilled and qualified candidates for employment. As a bonus, the students also attend paid internships and have access to Toyota scholarships.

Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and Supreme Court of Oklahoma
In summer 2019, Chief Justice Noma Gurich asked Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City to consider setting up a court-reporting program due to a critical shortage of court reporters, especially in the rural areas of Oklahoma. At the time, there were only two court reporting programs in Oklahoma, and with the support of Justice Gurich and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the OSU-OKC Training and Development office had a program ready by spring 2020. The first cohort began classes in April 2020, and the students will graduate in October 2021. As of June 2021, OSU-OKC has three cohorts with more than 70 students enrolled, and a fourth cohort will begin in fall 2021. Upon successful completion of the program, students will be eligible to take the Oklahoma Certified Shorthand Reporter exam. Justice Gurich was also instrumental in procuring grant funding for scholarships and equipment through the Oklahoma Bar Foundation.

Redlands Community College and Canadian Valley Technology Center
Canadian Valley Technology Center (CVTECH) and Redlands Community College recognized early on that collaboration was the key to true economic prosperity in their service region. Together, they hired qualified faculty to meet Higher Learning Commission requirements in the teaching of mathematics while their science faculties collaborated to make sure courses taught in the Project Lead the Way Biomedical Sciences STEM Academy meet the necessary requirements for college credit. They co-sponsored a Manufacturing Extension Agent through the Oklahoma Alliance for Manufacturing and served as members of the Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition, providing numerous internship opportunities and service to industries throughout the region. In January 2019, they partnered to create the Canadian County Adult Basic Education program. This program offers ABE/GED services to help their citizens find productive employment, establish a base for their future educational goals, and provide opportunities for those individuals and their families. In January 2021, CVTECH and RCC collaborated with the El Reno Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a Small Business Development Center field agent to provide small business owners and start-up companies free services and networking opportunities to bring success to their businesses.

Rogers State University and Pryor Public Schools
Rogers State University and Pryor Public Schools have launched a new partnership that will result in the opening of the Pryor High School Innovation Center at RSU in August 2021. Establishing a high school innovation center on a university campus streamlines the educational experience for students and allows them the opportunity to make the most of their concurrent enrollment. The Pryor High School Innovation Center will be housed at the Pryor Campus of RSU in the MidAmerica Industrial Park. It will be home to the Pryor High School Esports program and Tech Lab. Classes held at the Innovation Center will include manufacturing, engineering and robotics. This partnership fits perfectly into RSU’s mission to provide a more highly educated workforce, enhance the economic development of the region and increase the quality of life for the residents of northeast Oklahoma. Through this new partnership, juniors at Pryor High School will be able to join an accelerated pathway toward earning a college degree. Students will earn high school and college credit at the same time, potentially earning up to an entire year of college coursework before high school graduation.

Rose State College and United Dynamics
When an opportunity to be part of the newly designated Center of Workforce Development for Aerospace and Cybersecurity at Rose State College arose, United Dynamics was one of the first to step up to be a part of the Advisory Council leading the Center. The mission of defending the homeland is vital to United Dynamics, an aerospace company based out of Shawnee. Through the Center’s advisory council, United Dynamics proposed an innovative engineering bridge program allowing out-of-work oil and gas engineers to transition to aerospace. The idea led to a multi-layer, higher education collaboration that turned a training concept into a deliverable training program within three months. In addition, United Dynamics recently proposed a collaborative endeavor which would bring together RSC, an aerospace contractor and the largest military depot in the world. The focus of the endeavor centers on Additive Manufacturing and the advancement of the technology in support of national security. This type of collaboration ensures the cross-training of existing workforces in the field of 3D printing while affording college students the opportunity to learn about up-and-coming technology shaping the future of the aerospace industry.

Seminole State College and SSM Health St. Anthony Hospital – Shawnee
SSM Health has worked with Seminole State College’s nursing program to provide SSC students opportunities to develop their skills through on-site clinical training to help prepare them to enter the health care field. In 2020, their partnership grew even stronger. The college’s nursing program director was called away to active duty for a 12-month deployment, leaving the position vacant for the next year. Eager to help, SSM Health worked with SSC on an agreement to bring in an interim director of nursing for the spring, summer and fall 2020 semesters at the college. This arrangement resulted in the temporary hiring of SSM Health nurse and administrator Linda Brown, with the hospital continuing to pay a large portion of her salary. Brown brought with her years of nursing experience, both administratively and in the field. She worked to maintain the integrity of the program and strove to provide her knowledge to the students and colleagues she worked closely with during her time on campus. As part of her leadership during the pandemic, SSC shared personal protective equipment supplies with SSM Health St. Anthony – Shawnee to assist with COVID-19 preparations at the hospital.

Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Region 9, Oklahoma State Department of Health
Southeastern Oklahoma State University has worked with the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Region 9, for many years to provide services to its campus community. They have been instrumental in vaccination efforts for influenza and other preventable disease, provided on-site outreach for men’s health and collaborated on wellness initiatives to promote eating better and moving more, just to name a few. This year, Southeastern has significantly relied on them and the Push Partner Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding put in place years ago for a pandemic such as COVID-19. This event’s partnership has helped keep employees at work, and students in class, by providing resources for free on-site testing capability. Southeastern also partnered with the regional health departments to bring refrigeration facilities to their area that could store vital vaccination resources for Bryan and the surrounding counties. During the setup process of these facilities, they assisted financially in retrofitting the refrigeration unit to meet the storage requirements necessary to make this available to the community. The Health Department also came to campus on two occasions to assist in insuring that faculty, staff and students received on-site opportunities for vaccination before they returned home for the summer.

Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Yukon Public Schools
Southwestern Oklahoma State University has a unique relationship with Yukon Public Schools (YPS). In early 2020, Dr. Chad Kinder, dean of the SWOSU College of Professional and Graduate Studies, began collaborating with YPS administrators, Dr. Jason Simeroth and Mr. Lance Haggard, on a program to encourage YPS faculty and staff to pursue advanced degrees from SWOSU. In the second semester of collaboration, YPS has 22 employees enrolled in undergraduate programs and 50 employees enrolled in graduate programs at SWOSU. This program allows YPS employees to take classes, offered by SWOSU practicing professionals, at Yukon Public Schools. The program is an incentive for recruiting employees who want to further their education at an affordable rate, retaining loyal employees who appreciate the investment, and building a more skilled workforce. This program has made it possible for many YPS paraprofessionals to earn bachelor’s degrees and remain with the school system as teachers. This has not only helped build the university’s education program, but now community members and employees from nearby schools are taking advantage of opportunities to take university classes in education, business, and technology right in their own hometown at Yukon Public Schools.

Tulsa Community College and Tulsa Tech
Tulsa Tech (TT) has been a collaborative and valuable partner in education with Tulsa Community College to maximize opportunities for students in the area to meet their educational needs. Examples include the Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in applied technology degree that allows TT students to transfer to TCC upon completion of their TT program and receive 9 to 42 hours of college credit toward an AAS in applied technology, resulting in up to 75% of an associate degree. This initiative gives students another avenue to college while also gaining workplace and technical skills. TCC and TT are developing an Earn and Learn program culminating in an earned associate degree and certification as an Advanced Manufacturing Technician. Students will attend TCC classes at TT two days a week and work at least 24 hours a week for a local, sponsoring employer while receiving a competitive wage. The two institutions recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to share personnel who will work specifically with aerospace and manufacturing companies throughout the region to analyze, design and implement training needs. A pathway is in the works where students start at TCC with Emergency Medical Technology training, transfer to TT for Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 Academy training, and return to TCC for Paramedic training and completion of an AAS degree in fire and emergency medical services. At the completion of each level, a student may go to work.

University of Central Oklahoma and Edmond Mobile Meals
Over the past decade, the University of Central Oklahoma has been in partnership with Edmond Mobile Meals (EMM) through long-standing faculty, staff, student and alumni involvements. The UCO community assists with delivery routes serving homebound residents throughout Edmond and parts of the surrounding metro communities. In addition to meal delivery, board members assist with fundraising efforts and collaborate on goals and directives to maximize resources and community services. Campus community volunteers serve as cooks and assist with programs like Little Chefs and EdFest. From 2012-19, more than 860 hours were tracked by UCO students alone. Community service partnerships with student organizations, such as the President’s Leadership Council, Leaders of Tomorrow and health students, have integrated into the community culture. Edmond Mobile Meals initiatives provide critical services to keep our community thriving. Through the work of the organizational leaders, board of directors and volunteers, over 53,000 meals were delivered to 450 homebound in Edmond during 2020, allowing them to remain safely in their homes.

University of Oklahoma and U.S. Air Force, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex
The Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex (OC-ALC) at Tinker Air Force Base and the University of Oklahoma entered into an Educational Partnership Agreement in July 2020 to improve and enhance education in science, mathematics, technology and engineering. The objective of the partnership agreement is to aid the education of graduate and undergraduate students and to stimulate research and development in engineering fields related to additive manufacturing, advanced materials, embedded software systems, radar and related sensing and communications systems, aircraft sustainment, cybersecurity, and environmental issues. The OC-ALC workforce now is able to collaborate with professors, have a better recruiting presence, and have access to new technologies, including state-of-the-art software development tools and processes. The partnership is focused on addressing engineering workforce shortage within the Department of Defense (DoD). Through the development of a new research-based education program, OU will help develop engineering and computer science students with the right skills and understandings of DoD needs to pursue successful career paths at the OC-ALC. It will also include opportunities for working professionals at OC-ALC to pursue advanced degrees at OU.

University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and RCE General Contractors LLC
RCE General Contractors LLC, owned by Tony Tuthill, has been a partner and supporter of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma for many years. RCE is a locally owned and operated small business and is currently involved in multiple campus projects, including construction and rehabilitation. Additionally, RCE is developing a broad-base internship for students interested in construction or small business management. This internship provides Science and Arts students with hands-on experience in engineering, plumbing, electrical, construction, and other small business aspects. This internship is a subset of the entrepreneur class.

Western Oklahoma State College and City of Altus
Although the city of Altus has always been a valued community partner to Western Oklahoma State College, their support during 2020-21 has been extremely beneficial. With an ongoing need for additional space for rodeo and agriculture science livestock, WOSC is always searching for growth opportunities. The city of Altus broke the traditional pattern of a public sealed-bid process and formed a Memorandum of Agreement with WOSC to use the property that once housed the city raceway. The additional acreage has allowed the agriculture department to increase its cattle herd, which has led to more hands-on learning opportunities for students. The property is also cross-fenced, making a perfect outside laboratory for rotational grazing experiments. The city of Altus was also instrumental during the historic 2021 winter storm and assisted campus physical plant employees with water and electrical needs while battling extreme temperatures and record snowfall. WOSC looks forward to a strong partnership for many years to come.

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