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University Update - Fall 2022

Kiec named provost, VP of Academic Affairs

In March, Oklahoma City University President Kenneth Evans named Michelle Kiec as the school’s new provost and vice president of Academic Affairs.

Kiec joined the OCU campus in this role on July 5, following a 10-year stint in various positions at Kutztown University, in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. At that institution, Kiec served as interim vice provost for extended and lifelong learning; dean of graduate studies; acting dean of the College of Education; and dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Her experience at Kutztown included leadership for programs related to certificates, accelerated degrees, embedded certifications, study abroad, workforce training, articulation agreements, graduate education and adult learning, all within traditional, hybrid and online learning formats.

“Michelle’s broad base of experience, notably in the spaces of online and non-traditional learning, is an ideal fit for the various enrollment initiatives now underway at OCU,” Evans said.

Kiec (pronounced “kick”) holds Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in clarinet from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University. She earned a pair of undergraduate degrees from the University at Buffalo – Bachelor of Music in music performance and Bachelor of Arts in German.

“I know I’ll feel right at home in OCU’s performing arts culture,” Kiec said. “I’m also excited to be able to play a role in supporting and advancing all of the university’s academic areas.”

MSB, OKC Thunder announce partnership

The Oklahoma City Thunder and the Meinders School of Business earlier this year announced a partnership to launch dynamic learning opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate business students at the university.

The highlight of the announcement was the creation of the Thunder Leadership MBA program. Curriculum for the Thunder Leadership MBA includes collaboration with senior leadership from the NBA team administration, who will provide insight into strategic business initiatives and guidance to graduate students as they complete a semester-long project that culminates with a presentation to team executives at Paycom Center.

“The opportunity to engage Thunder Leadership MBA students in present-day case studies and offer unique job-shadow experiences aligns with our vision to create the optimal conditions for people to thrive,” said Brian Byrnes, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing for the Thunder. “We are honored to collaborate with OCU’s MBA program and provide an innovative forum that will positively impact their professional journey.”

The partnership also includes opportunities for OCU undergraduate business students to leverage the home game experience as a Thunder practicum, enriching their understanding of business operations. Selected students will participate in a variety of exercises such as event planning, curating guest experiences, understanding marketing analytics, content design and multi-channel distribution.

More information about the collaboration is available at okcu.edu/thunder.

Nursing school summer camp lands BCBS grant

The Kramer School of Nursing was among the grant recipients from a Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) initiative intended to improve the health and wellness of people in local communities.

The nursing school’s Camp Kramer Way, a summer camp for high school students, was one of 14 projects to benefit from BCBSOK’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative. Camp Kramer Way was created to help address the ongoing nursing shortage and recruit high-performing, diverse and academically motivated high school students from across Oklahoma into the Kramer School of Nursing.

“We are incredibly grateful for the grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma,” said Gina Crawford, interim dean of the Kramer School of Nursing. “This grant allowed us to host a three-day, two-night summer nursing camp for 20 high school students, in addition to offering one camp participant a college scholarship.”

The June summer camp was open to high school sophomores, juniors and seniors from across the state interested in learning more about the nursing profession.

Photo of a summer camp student practices nursing skills on a manikin.
A summer camp student practices nursing skills on a manikin.

“Utilizing the Kramer School of Nursing’s advanced facilities, high school students got to experience some of the many inherent rewards of nursing,” said Crystal Westmoreland, camp leader and chair of OCU's traditional BSN program. “With staffing shortages across the country, especially rural areas, we feel it is imperative to introduce nursing as a potential career to the next generation.”

Camp participants stayed in the university’s housing facilities, with meals and off-campus activities included, all free of charge.

Created in 2011, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative supports nonprofit organizations providing various health-related services with proven sustainable and measurable programs. The initiative includes funding for programs that reach children and their families in four key areas: nutrition, physical activity, preventing/managing disease and supporting safe environments.

“For 10 years, the Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative has helped improve health in communities through our partnerships,” said Dr. Joseph R. Cunningham, president of BCBSOK. “In total, HKHF has awarded nearly $10 million to more than 150 organizations across the state to make a positive impact for all Oklahomans. It’s imperative we continue to invest in programs to offset health factors that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and present ongoing health challenges for Oklahomans.”

Beldona assumes leadership role at MSB

Following a nationwide search, OCU officials named a new dean for the Meinders School of Business.

Sri Beldona, a former professor of management at the University of Dallas, started July 5 as dean of the business school.

Beldona started in 2001 at the University of Dallas, serving as associate dean for international initiatives and associate dean of academic affairs. In the latter role, Beldona was responsible for introducing multiple STEM-designated programs, stackable degrees and microcredentials. Prior to his time in higher education, Beldona worked in the private sector as a vice president of strategic planning at a Fort Worth, Texas, brand marketing firm.

“Sri brings the right mix of business acumen, higher education experience and innovative thinking to our business dean position,” OCU President Kenneth Evans said at the time of Beldona’s appointment. “His track record of developing and implementing a variety of educational programs and degree options will serve our student body, prospective students and the Oklahoma business community well.”

Beldona holds a Ph.D. in business administration and a Master of Science in international business from Temple University in Philadelphia; a Master of Business Administration with an emphasis in marketing from Pune University in India; and a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Gulbarga University in India.

“Students and faculty at the Meinders School of Business play a key role in supporting and growing business in the region,” Beldona said. “I hope to continue and build upon the Meinders legacy.”

Online program manager partnership begins in earnest

The first cohorts of students in the university’s new online nursing programs began classes in August.

Classes launched in the online RN-BSN and Master of Science in Nursing programs, the result of the university’s partnership with online program manager Everspring.

A Chicago-based company, Everspring supports higher education partners in growing enrollment by providing technology, marketing, admissions and student retention services for selected online programs.

The partnership between Everspring and OCU was announced in February, and faculty and staff at the Kramer School of Nursing, along with staff members from various university departments, worked closely with the company to ready for the August class start.

“In order to advance existing nurses in their careers and bring new nurses into the profession, it is vital that nursing schools provide flexible, accessible programs with the support students need to complete their programs successfully,” OCU President Kenneth Evans said at the time of the Everspring announcement.

The partnership with Everspring may include the launch of additional online programs as the university aims to carve out a broader foothold in the online education marketplace.

President Evans begins Presidential Faculty Fellowship

President Kenneth Evans in the spring of 2022 announced the inaugural recipients of the Presidential Faculty and Student Research/Creative Activity Fellowship.

The professors, their student assistants and projects are:

  • Sabina Amanbayeva, associate professor of English; Nathan Do (sophomore English major). Amanbayeva’s research titled “Transcultural Influences in Soviet and Russian Animation” aims to demonstrate the richness of cross-cultural links between Russian and Western animators.
  • Tracy Floreani, professor of English; Cameron Austin Brown (senior acting major). Floreani’s research agenda centers on two books, 1) a biography of Fanny McConnell Ellison, the wife of novelist and public intellectual Ralph Ellison (winner of the 1953 National Book Award for “Invisible Man”), and 2) an edited collection for the Modern Language Association’s long-running and influential Approaches to Teaching literary pedagogy series.
  • Jacob Johnson, associate professor of musicology; Caroline Morath (senior music theater major). Johnson’s research is tentatively titled “Beverly Hills Housewife: Betty Freeman, the Music Room, and a Story of New Music in Los Angeles.” This digital gallery examines a series of musicales hosted from 1980 to 1994 by one of the most important music patrons and art collectors of the 20th century.
  • Lance Marsh, professor of theatre; Kristen Chua (senior acting major), Emmett Reese (senior acting major), Mackenzie Shaw (senior acting major) and Lauren Smith (senior acting major). Marsh’s current and ongoing research project explores the intersection of classical theatre in performance with modern spaces, as well as modern actor and audience sensibilities.
  • Yi Shao, professor of psychology; Rae Hundley (junior psychology major), and Abigail Willis (junior psychology major). Shao’s research focuses on memory under the influence of metacognitive, cognitive and social factors.

The fellowship was established to identify, recognize, reward and support faculty research and creative projects. Thanks to the generosity of donors, OCU is able to advance the important work these recipients produce.

“One of my objectives since arriving at OCU has been to find more ways to facilitate faculty members’ scholarship in their respective areas of study, then share that expertise with the rest of campus,” Evans said. “This fellowship program is one tool in helping to accomplish that goal.”

Recipients are selected based on their demonstrated potential for outstanding scholarly research or creative activity in their field, and their intentional engagement of OCU students in meaningful roles in their scholarly or creative projects.

The fellowship provides cash stipends for faculty members and students, as well as funding for professional development, travel or other expenses related to their projects.

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