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OSU Polytech launches with focus on improving STEM education access, workforce development

Statewide System Initiative aims to prepare graduates for in-demand careers and boost Oklahoma economy


(TULSA, Dec. 12, 2023) — Oklahoma’s leader in advanced technology education has unveiled a new initiative to expand STEM education access and enhance workforce development across the state: OSU Polytech.


The OSU Polytech initiative will align academic programs with industry needs; expand innovative curriculum in science, technology, engineering and mathematics; and weave emerging AI technology into programming.


The initiative will offer students across the state greater access to flexible learning opportunities and real-world learning experiences at Oklahoma State University’s Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee institutions, which have faithfully served the state for a combined 164 years. 


By expanding access to workforce development education in high-demand fields across all academic levels, from certificate to doctoral, the state’s largest university system aims to provide flexible education options, increasing value for both students and employers. 


The announcement was made Tuesday morning at the Helmerich Research Center on the OSU-Tulsa campus, where OSU President Kayse Shrum was joined on stage by featured speakers OSU/A&M Regent Chair Joe Hall, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief David Hill. 


The event, which was sponsored by Explorer Pipeline, featured STEM demonstrations from OSUIT, OSU-OKC and OSU-Tulsa — including VR training modules, fiber splicing, a robotic arm and examples of how engineers work in the energy sector. 


The event also included a workforce development panel featuring:

Chuck Hoskin Jr. | Cherokee Nation Principal Chief 

Dr. Paula Marshall | CEO, The Bama Companies

Leigh Anne Strahler | President and COO, PSO

Bailey Siegfried | VP, Culture, Communication and HR, NORDAM 

Ryan Plotkin | President and CEO, M-D Building Products


"OSU is the state’s undisputed leader in advanced technology education. This new OSU Polytech initiative is reflective of our land-grant mission to serve the state, our longstanding tradition of service through our Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Okmulgee institutions, and our commitment to a student-focused approach to higher education. As the state’s largest university system, OSU is uniquely positioned to ensure that Oklahoma is open for business in the fast-moving areas of science and technology," Dr. Shrum said. 


"Working collaboratively with industry and communities across the state, we aim to cultivate ideal graduates capable of meeting the state's emerging workforce needs and addressing society's most pressing challenges. This systemwide effort is an opportunity for us to better position our academic campuses to deliver on that promise and expand STEM education access and excellence statewide."


OSU has delivered technology-based education for over six decades at its Okmulgee institution — OSUIT — which boasts an employment rate of nearly 90% for its graduates and a median pay range for alumni between $50,000 and $55,000. College Values Online named OSUIT the No. 2 Most Affordable College for STEM in 2023. 


OSU-Tulsa offers engineering degrees at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels, and OSU-OKC has certificate and degree programs in information technology, manufacturing and fire protection.


The initial focus will be expanding OSUIT’s footprint in the Tulsa area, with plans to expand to Oklahoma City and other parts of the state. The existing academic structures of the institutions — including OSU-Tulsa, OSU-OKC and OSUIT — will remain unchanged, and each institution will maintain its respective accreditation.


To ensure OSU Polytech aligns with job market demands, the transformative vision for OSU Polytech was developed in collaboration with industry representatives from across the state and will include ongoing input from industry leaders to maximize system efficiency and shape programming to meet the needs of students and the Oklahoma economy. 


OSU will launch an industry leadership advisory council to support OSU Polytech in gathering market intelligence to determine what industry-aligned academic certificate and degree programs should be priority development areas. 


The council will have six committees that represent the following key industry sectors for Oklahoma:

• Aerospace and Aviation

• Advanced Manufacturing

• Energy and Power

• Health Care and Life Sciences

• Information Technology and Telecommunications

• Supply Chain and Operations


Additionally, the plan calls for the creation of internal committees to address seamless credit transfer from campus to campus and improve academic program alignment across campuses. 


“As regents, we support programs that benefit our students and help our state,” Hall said. “OSU Polytech builds on the successes of OSUIT’s industry-driven approach. It enables partnering between businesses, industries, public and private organizations, and multiple governments for a single purpose — workforce development. With strong partnerships, we can provide companies with a capable workforce from day one. As regents, we believe OSU Polytech will benefit our students, citizens, industries and the state.”


“There is a gap that needs to be filled in Oklahoma's workforce,” said Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell. “For Oklahoma to be open for business, we must prioritize science and technology. OSU is a proven leader in advanced technology education, and OSU Polytech will empower our workforce to meet industry demands and grow the state economy.”


OSU Senior Vice President for System Affairs Kyle Wray said the latest steps are in line with the comprehensive We Are Land-Grant strategic plan the university released in the fall of 2022 — a plan Wray said is deeply rooted in the university’s land-grant mission to serve the public good and advance STEM education and workforce development in Oklahoma. 


“We are here to serve Oklahomans at every stage of their educational journey, whether they are high school students, traditional college students, or non-traditional adult learners,” Wray said. 


“Oklahoma has untapped economic and human potential. We need a tremendous amount of human talent to power our state's economy, yet we face a shortage of highly skilled workers to help our businesses grow and compete in a technologically driven global economy. We've seen headlines about Oklahoma losing opportunities to bring high-tech companies and large scale manufacturers to the state because of a shortage of high tech workers. As a land-grant institution, OSU has an obligation to help lead the state’s response to these workforce challenges.” 


Hoskin and Hill expressed excitement about increased collaboration with OSU, which has been a faithful partner on major initiatives, such as the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at Cherokee Nation and the creation and accreditation for Muskogee Nation colleges. 


“I love Oklahoma State University,” Hoskin said. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart, because when OSU says that they want to be your partner, they mean it. When they talk about respecting stakeholders and respecting people in the community and respecting tribal nations, they mean it. Those aren't just words — they put those words into action.”


“These types of initiatives are the way of the future, and it's up to us to seek out partnerships with institutions like Oklahoma State to make sure our students have what they need to pursue these types of careers and keep our economy strong,” Hill said. “I'm so thrilled to be here today and celebrate together because that's how we become greater in this state — working together, working in collaboration and combining our resources.”


Upcoming OSU Polytech areas of focus

  • Innovative STEM-based curriculum 
  • Industry-aligned academic programs — Developing new workforce-responsive degree programs, ideally with hybrid and applied components
  • Flexible learning opportunities — Developing new workforce-responsive online degree and certificate programs at all levels
  • Real-world learning experience — Establishing new advanced technology learning partnerships that include student internships at partner companies as part of their degree programs