Twenty-six 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. State Regent Michael C. Turpen served as master of ceremonies for the event, held March 9 at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Institutions involved in these partnerships provide $500 for tuition waivers to employees of the partnering businesses; internships that enable current students to work at the partnering businesses; faculty externships with the partnering businesses; and/or enhancement of the partnerships with additional equipment, materials or supplies. The State Regents provide a $500 match to the waivers.
“Our colleges and universities continue to collaborate successfully with public, private and nonprofit partners to strengthen economic and workforce development across our state,” said Chancellor Allison D. Garrett. “The State Regents and I are proud to celebrate the positive impact of these partnerships as we all work together to build the skilled workforce required to make Oklahoma competitive on a global stage.”
The partnerships recognized for 2022 are:
Western Oklahoma State College and Western Equipment
Western Oklahoma State College has a longstanding relationship with Western Equipment. What started out as a family-owned business in 1916 has grown into a multi-location equipment dealership, with 21 locations in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and a service area that spans much of the southwest. The company provides WOSC with valuable resources that assist in providing quality experiences to students in the classroom, as well as in extracurricular activities; provides scholarships for the agriculture program; and assists physical plant and athletics with equipment and consultation necessary to maintain a well-groomed campus and functional athletic facilities.
University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma and Chickasaw Nation Industries, Inc.
The partnership forged between Chickasaw Nation Industries (CNI) and the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma goes beyond a campus electrical upgrade. CNI was contracted to upgrade the electrical infrastructure of the historic campus, enhancing safety for the campus community. CNI found building drawings to ensure that the systems were brought up to code while maintaining the historical integrity of the structures. Science & Arts is proud to support the economic development of the Chickasaw Nation and to contribute to its mission of enhancing the overall quality of life for the Chickasaw people.
University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Heart Hospital
The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the nursing shortage and decreased clinical training availability for nursing students’ preparation to enter the workforce. With support from Oklahoma’s Nursing Initiative, the University of Central Oklahoma Department of Nursing set in motion a fast-track to increase the number of nursing graduates to help fill this need. The Oklahoma Heart Hospital has stepped forward as a key partner to assist by supporting both the UCO fast-track and traditional programs. The partnership between Oklahoma Heart Hospital and UCO’s Department of Nursing provides guaranteed clinical training for nursing students and is a critical contribution to addressing the shortage of nurses in the state.
Tulsa Community College and Madison Strategies Group
For more than three years, Tulsa Community WorkAdvance (TCW), an extension of Madison Strategies Group, has partnered with Tulsa Community College to deliver training programs in Information Technology, Accounting (Bookkeeping), and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). In total, the partnership has helped more than 100 students who were unemployed or underemployed to receive training at TCC, earn industry-recognized credentials/certifications and find placement in jobs launching new careers with starting wages averaging $15 per hour. This partnership began as part of a JP Morgan Chase grant initiative and continued beyond the terms of the grant, not only sustaining the programs created with grant funding, but also growing the program to multiple cohorts each year and new program offerings.
Southwestern Oklahoma State University and Weatherford Regional Hospital
Weatherford Regional Hospital (WRH) is an important partner and supporter of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, providing a training environment for nursing, pharmacy, radiology tech and medical lab tech students that includes clinical encounters for nursing students, imaging modalities for radiology tech students, rotation experiences from informatics to chemotherapy for pharmacy students, and laboratory procedures practice for medical lab tech students. SWOSU assisted the hospital with its summer 2021 Affordable Care Act assessment, and WRH plans to work with the SWOSU Business Enterprise Center to offer courses to their employees with SWOSU instructors as subject matter experts.
Southeastern Oklahoma State University and AllianceHealth Durant
AllianceHealth Durant and Southeastern Oklahoma State University have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship for more than 20 years. During the COVID-19 pandemic, AllianceHealth physicians provided student-athletes with additional tests, including cardiac testing, pulmonary function testing and follow-up care, if needed. Team physicians led the response to ensure these athletes were spared COVID-19 side effects that would place them with an increased risk to injury or illness. The expertise of these physicians allowed SEOSU to maintain some sense of normalcy while students were able to continue their education.
Seminole State College and Wrangler/Kontoor Brands
The partnership between Seminole State College and Wrangler/Kontoor’s has spanned more than 60 years, from the days of the first sewing room opening in Seminole in 1961 under the company name of Blue Bell through today. In 1971, Blue Bell donated $10,000 to start a women’s basketball program, the Belles, at then Seminole Junior College. They were the first junior college program in Oklahoma to award basketball scholarships to female athletes. In 1986, VF Brands purchased Blue Bell and changed the name to Wrangler. The company continued to support the college’s Educational Foundation scholarships for students, aid for faculty enrichment activities, donations to capital ventures to improve the campus and special funds to support the President’s Leadership Program.
Rose State College and United Dynamics Inc.
During 2021, Rose State College enjoyed a remarkable relationship with United Dynamics Inc. (UDI). UDI strengthened its Oklahoma City engineering presence with its new “Center of Excellence” in the premier Leadership Square complex. It also recognized the importance of supporting RSC in the pursuit of leading-edge, 3-Dimensional/Additive Manufacturing (3D/AM) work and critical training for the benefit of the United States Air Force. The team collectively developed a multi-prong Congressional Program Add submission to accomplish this work that is still under study. UDI also partnered with RSC to conceive, develop and launch an innovative “energy-to-aerospace” engineering bridge course and participated in the inaugural teachings of the class, which can link high potential energy-world engineers with desperately needed aerospace opportunities.
Rogers State University and Claremore Main Street
Claremore Main Street and Rogers State University have created a partnership to strengthen the relationship between the institution and the business community, provide a conduit for student engagement and promote working and living in Claremore after graduation. Each fall, Main Street and RSU partner for Food Truck Thursday, a main kickoff event for the academic year. Students and community residents gather downtown for an evening of food, music, games and events. During homecoming, Main Street hosts a Paint the Town Blue event as businesses invite RSU groups to paint business windows with homecoming themes. Main Street also has purchased RSU flags to hang on light posts in downtown.
Redlands Community College and El Reno Masonic Lodge #50
El Reno Masonic Lodge #50 continues its community service legacy through 15 years of generously supporting Redlands Community College’s agriculture program. In 2015, RCC instructor Ed Zweiacher and Lodge Secretary Melvin Payton collaborated with the Aggie Club to create a matching scholarship fund to benefit RCC students pursuing an agriculture degree. Over the years, nearly $100,000 has been donated by the Masonic Lodge to benefit agriculture students, matching funds raised by the Aggie Club. Club members participate in community service projects, as well as assisting at local and regional livestock shows and the Oklahoma Youth Expo. Each May the club hosts a banquet and auction fundraiser, and the Masonic Lodge #50 matches the funds raised at the event.
Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City and OG&E Energy Corp.
For more than two decades, OG&E Energy Corp. has collaborated with Oklahoma State University-Oklahoma City in the development and promotion of the institution’s Power Transmission and Distribution Technology program. Since 2000, OG&E has served as an exceptional partner by providing a range of financial, in-kind and other forms of support, including student scholarships, instructional equipment and adjunct instructors. In addition, OG&E collaborates with OSU-OKC in the recruitment of students, assisting the institution with addressing a workforce need that directly impacts safety and well-being. As a leading employer of Power Transmission and Distribution Technology program interns and graduates, OG&E also assists with the placement of students with subcontractors and other employers in the power transmission industry.
Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology and Public Service Company of Oklahoma
Public Service Company of Oklahoma was one of the primary forces behind the creation of the High Voltage Technician program at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology, one of the most popular and successful programs, serving approximately 130 students. The impact of this partnership is seen across campus, from the lounge in the student union that bears the company name and logo to the equipment and supplies donated by PSO to support the academic programs in the School of Engineering and Construction Technologies. PSO employees serve on advisory committees for the High Voltage Line Technician, Power Plant Management and Instrumentation Engineering programs. The company provides numerous paid internships every year, providing hands-on experience to OSUIT students and possible employment for program graduates.
Oklahoma State University and Baker Hughes
The relationship between Baker Hughes and Oklahoma State University fosters energy research and development and resulted in the donation of the Baker Hughes facility in Oklahoma City to OSU, offering a unique opportunity for academia and industry to work side by side and develop cutting edge solutions. In the past year the partnership has focused on several outreach events, including a STEM camp for inner-city youth, on-campus recruiting and a campus-wide luncheon on diversity, equity and inclusion. It created two innovation programs for OSU students, the Decarbonization Contest and Hack OKSTATE, both seeking sustainable energy solutions. The partnership also explores new areas of research for many diverse projects across colleges — including the Ferguson College of Agriculture, the College of Engineering Architecture and Technology and the College of Arts and Sciences.
Oklahoma Panhandle State University and Guymon Industrial Foundation
Oklahoma Panhandle State University and the Guymon Industrial Foundation’s partnership began in 2021 when the Foundation donated 12 acres in the Guymon Industrial Park to OPSU for the Panhandle Technical Education Center. The Center is a joint collaboration with High Plains Technology Center (HPTC) and Guymon Public Schools supported by a $1.5 million grant from the United States Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. Students can earn their welding certificate from HPTC while also taking classes at OPSU to earn credit toward an associate and bachelor’s degree. This project addresses the direct need for a highly skilled, technical workforce in the panhandle region and will have a direct impact on the region’s economic development and the industries’ ability to expand its operations.
Oklahoma City Community College and Prairie Surf Studios
As the state seeks to diversify its workforce, a series of new opportunities are developing in movie-making. To help encourage this growth of an estimated fiscal impact of $161 million in Oklahoma, Prairie Surf is partnering with Oklahoma City Community College’s long-established Digital Cinema Program. Prairie Surf Studio’s facilities, located in downtown Oklahoma City, offer extensive room to attract even more productions. The Digital Cinema Program focuses on the technical side of movie-making and provides students with the opportunity to gain experience using professional equipment. This past January, OCCC started a new Grip and Electric course located at its outreach location at Capitol Hill. Plans are currently under way for additional courses, such as set construction.
Northwestern Oklahoma State University and Western Plains Youth and Family Services
Western Plains Youth and Family Services has a long history of supporting Northwestern Oklahoma State University students. WPYFS has hosted seven social work practicum students in the last four years, along with other practicums for students with different degree focuses. As part of a field experience at WPYFS, students are exposed to multiple social services, including housing stability, outpatient counseling, infant mental health and early childhood consultation, emergency youth sheltering, and juvenile detention treatment. Students develop technical skills, learn to research areas of intervention and select practices effective for working with children and families within rural Oklahoma.
Northern Oklahoma College and Dillingham Insurance/Dillingham Foundation
For more than three decades, Northern Oklahoma College and Dillingham Insurance have enjoyed a partnership centered on higher education and economic development. As a fourth-generation, family-owned business headquartered in Enid, the Dillinghams are focused on community leadership with a passion for affordable and accessible higher education. The Dillingham Foundation has provided significant endowed student scholarship funding and various other support to NOC and the NOC Foundation. With the desire for Enid and northwest Oklahoma to continue to have access to higher education, Dan Dillingham, along with other community leaders, aided in the 1999 purchase of NOC Enid, formerly Phillips University.
Northeastern State University and Northeastern Community Health Centers Inc.
Since 2016, Northeastern Community Health Centers Inc. (NeoHealth) has monitored the health and well-being of Northeastern State University’s students, faculty and staff. NeoHealth, in partnership with another clinic near the Broken Arrow campus, worked to ensure students would have immediate access to health services. These partnerships allow NSU students low-cost medical services on or near the university’s three campuses. During the pandemic, NeoHealth and NSU secured over 4,000 BinaxNOW Ag card tests for students to utilize at no cost. NeoHealth and NSU have successfully kept positive cases low across all three campuses. NeoHealth has also provided NSU with financial assistance, totaling approximately $27,000, which supports student scholarships, a veterans’ monument and other critical needs.
Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College and Bartlett Co-Op Association
The Bartlett Co-Op Association is a patron-owned agriculture cooperative with seven locations in southeast Kansas and one location in northeast Oklahoma. Having a location near Miami is a great benefit to Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College’s agriculture department; over the years, Bartlett Co-Op has contributed to the growth of the department and its students. A Bartlett Co-Op employee is an adjunct professor for the agriculture department, and co-op employees may attend classes at NEO and receive an Equine and Ranch Management two-year certificate. Students also participate in internships with the co-op, which may transition into full-time jobs. The Bartlett Co-Op Association provides financial support for agriculture students, serves as Plant and Soil Advisory board members, provides sponsorship for NEO Aggie Days and donates seed, equipment and fertilizer for many NEO projects.
Murray State College and Nitro-Lift Fabrication
Nitro-Lift Fabrication partnered with Murray State College for its recently launched Manufacturing Technology program. In the first year, MSC’s manufacturing program shared computer-aided (CAD) design classes, instructors and equipment with its gunsmithing program. Nitro-Lift helped to raise $10,000 in funding from Ameristate Bank and First United Bank, and contributed its own funds to purchase five new computer systems and create a stand-alone manufacturing CAD lab. Nitro-Lift also has agreed to pay tuition, books and fees for a student to work in their fabrication shop with an experienced CAD manager. The student would then be eligible for a full-time position upon graduation. The CAD manager will also teach a CAD course at MSC and offer additional internships in the future.
Langston University and Cowan Miller & Lederman Law Firm
Pamela Cowan, the founding partner of Cowan Miller & Lederman Law Firm, has practiced exclusively immigration law, specializing in the needs of businesses and professionals. She is a frequent speaker on immigration law, including presentations at AILA National Conferences, Washington State Bar Conventions and to human resources and technology sector groups. Steve Miller joined the firm in 1990 and is a featured speaker and author on business immigration law. Miller and Cowan are strong advocates of Langston University’s mission. Since 2016, they have been committed to providing students with critical funding to complete their educational goals and dreams by providing scholarship support to LU students.
Eastern Oklahoma State College and Caring Hands Healthcare Centers
Eastern Oklahoma State College and the Caring Hands Healthcare Centers have partnered to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on the college’s Wilburton and McAlester campuses by providing rapid and PCR COVID-19 testing for students, faculty and staff through scheduling coordination with the Office of Student Services. Group testing services were also provided to athletic and agricultural teams who needed a negative test to participate in sports/activities. This partnership enabled EOSC’s COVID-19 response coordinators to schedule and manage all testing for students, faculty and staff through one office and one testing location. They provided an efficient and effective process to manage the college’s COVID-19 response, track cases for needed contact tracing and successfully navigate the challenges of a pandemic to provide a safe environment for EOSC.
East Central University and Valley View Foundation
In 2013, Mercy and Valley View Hospital Corp. entered into a 40-year long-term lease. The Valley View Foundation was formed to improve the health and wellness of the residents of the City of Ada and surrounding areas, with an emphasis in Pontotoc County. For more than 85 years, Valley View Foundation has served the community, awarding millions of dollars that include more than $715,000 to East Central University. With the support from Valley View Foundation, ECU is able to continually advance its School of Nursing. The foundation has provided support for nursing SimLab manikins, renovations, equipment, technology upgrades and so much more. The ECU School of Nursing is now better equipped to ensure students are ready to enter directly into their chosen profession, thus serving the community.
Connors State College and Green Country Behavioral Health Services, Inc.
Connors State College’s partnership with Green Country Behavioral Health Services, Inc. reflects the critical impact that mental health can have on the ability of individuals to engage effectively with the world around them and contribute to the economic ecosystem. CSC recognizes the importance of trauma informed advocacy and that the ability to provide rapid response for mental health issues promotes a better student experience, increases graduation rates and improves employment rates. The current program allows students to have direct access to mental health services through in-person appointments and virtual technology. Remote appointments are accessed through tablets provided by the organization. The partnership also helps reduce the fear and uncertainty related to mental health treatment among the student population.
Carl Albert State College and The Lodges of District 26 and District 2 and The Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma
Through an endowment from the Masonic Charity Foundation of Oklahoma, Carl Albert State College created the CASC Leadership Empowerment and Development (LEAD) Program, which provides educational and leadership learning opportunities to community college students while empowering them to become change agents both on campus and in the community. The Lodges actively support CASC scholarships through their participation in the Adopt-A-Scholar Program, which is for students who demonstrate strong academic and leadership capabilities. Since 2004, the Lodges have helped about 500 students achieve their educational goals to transfer to four-year institutions, graduate and/or begin their professional careers. Local Masons also serve as CASC trustees on the Foundation Board.
Cameron University and The UPS Store 6690 Lawton Town Center
UPS Store 6690 Lawton Town Center and the owners, Yvonne and Jim Landmark, have helped Cameron University meet printing needs for swag, signage, and face masks, and provided on-site consultations to find the right products to match CU’s branding. The Landmarks also excelled in fulfilling last-minute commencement items, including bulk orders of volunteer t-shirts and signage. Besides being President’s Partners and donors to the university, the Landmarks serve as mentors to CU students in the Lawton Business Women Student Mentorship Program, which is run in collaboration with CU’s Emerging Technology and Entrepreneurial Studies business incubator. They also collaborate on numerous CU community initiatives and serve on CU boards and committees.
For more information about RBPEA and this year’s partnerships, visit www.okhighered.org/econ-dev/partner-excellence.