Q&A - January 1, 2016

When my wife and I moved to Oklahoma just over four years ago, before we purchased our house in Okmulgee, we had at least three very well-intentioned locals who tried to advise us not to buy property in Okmulgee. We were surprised by how many people would “talk down” their own town.

We didn’t follow their advice and have been very satisfied with our choice to live in Okmulgee. The sad thing is that if this was the type of advice we received, what are other newcomers being told about Okmulgee? Is it any wonder why Okmulgee, over the decades, has one of the fastest declining populations in the state? How are we ever going to change this if we keep telling people not to buy property here?

My focus this week is on a couple of questions that I hear in the community from time to time about OSUIT faculty members:

Q: Wouldn’t it be good if all of the OSUIT faculty could be required to live in Okmulgee?

Recognizing that OSUIT is one of the largest employers in Okmulgee, it would undoubtedly be very nice if all of our employees lived in the community, but that will never happen in a free society. Let’s just think about it for a moment. How many Okmulgee residents live in Okmulgee and work in Tulsa? What if all Tulsa employers required their employees to live in Tulsa? How many people would that leave in Okmulgee? It would be pretty frightening if employers had this level of control over workers in the United States. Frankly, I am grateful that all workers have the freedom to choose where and how they will spend their personal time.

We have a great faculty at OSUIT. In our academic areas, we have brilliant instructors with outstanding credentials in their disciplines of study and in our technical areas, we attract men and women with years of advanced industry experience. This combination of talent makes our faculty very diverse and highly skilled—a true and valuable asset to OSUIT.

Q: There always appears to be vacant positions at OSUIT. Why is this?

OSUIT does not hire professional teachers, we hire professionals who teach. With certain faculty positions, I will admit that OSUIT struggles to keep talent. Many of the industry trained professionals that we hire to teach our technical programs have skillsets that are also in high demand within the private sector. Perhaps more than any other college or university in the state, OSUIT directly competes for talent with the private sector, and we sometimes lose out to the deeper pockets of the corporate world.

On the positive side though, as the image of Okmulgee improves, the turnover rate at OSUIT will provide more opportunities for the community to attract newly hired faculty members to live and work in Okmulgee.

Good jobs exist at OSUIT and with many other local employers. Okmulgee offers a very desirable way of life. We really need to do a better job of selling the merits of our community to newcomers. Please continue to send your questions to osuit-president@okstate.edu.