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University Update - Spring 2021

Artwork Recognizes Honorable Profession

Man and woman standing by artwork
Photos by Josh Robinson

Acclaimed Choctaw artist D.G. Smalling donated his painting, “Abeka Apesychi,” to Oklahoma City University. The work—and Native American culture—celebrates the impact of the nursing profession on the world. Following a presentation in October, the painting was displayed in the University Center before taking its permanent place in the Kramer School of Nursing.

“We are extremely honored that an artist of D.G. Smalling’s stature would bestow this wonderful gift to the university,” President Martha Burger said during the dedication. “(In 2020), we have seen tremendous acts of compassion and kindness, especially from the students and graduates of the Kramer School of Nursing.”

Smalling was moved to create the piece after events surrounding OCU’s virtual graduation ceremony last year. 

The Show Must Go On

Actors onstage, one with arms spread wide
Performance of Love and Information. Photo by Bryan Cardinale-Powell

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, OCU’s performing arts departments have remained committed to providing students with essential performance experience. The schools’ holiday performances, which continue to be student and audience favorites, looked a little different in 2020.

Jason Foreman, OCU’s head of design and production, said people didn’t previously consider how many hands touched a prop or costume. To ensure safety, actors and crew members skipped costume changes, wore masks at all rehearsals and performances, and participated in “hand sanitizer breaks” every hour.

“We are used to social interactions that are closer than a 6-foot ‘bubble,’ but this is a new factor for the scenic designs,” Foreman said. “We have to provide larger, open spaces so performers can stay socially distanced and still feel like they are sharing a space so they can perform together. It’s been an interesting challenge to think of new ways to produce shows and achieve our learning outcomes.”

While many university events had to be canceled or postponed, performing arts students and instructors had to adapt because as dance program chair Jo Rowan noted, the classroom setting is “important to learning technique, but the stage work gives you the artistry.”

The Ann Lacy School of American Dance and Entertainment typically auditions about 200 students for the American Spirit Dance Company, Pep Dancers, and the Spirit of Grace Liturgical Dance Company on the first day of each semester, which was made impossible with social distancing protocols. In their place, Rowan formed the Star Dancers group, which rehearsed with about 170 students in a reduced number of blocks to meet distancing and sanitation guidelines.

Each Friday in the three weeks leading up to Christmas, the Star Dancers released a video of their performances online. The recordings were instantly popular and met with enthusiasm, Rowan said, and the format gave students the opportunity to adapt to an increasingly virtual world.

“We have established a history of teaching dancers to respect not only their art but also the stage management teams who make everything go smoothly,” Rowan said. “Now, we’re also preparing students to dance for television, for the screen. The logistics are vastly different, but we want our dancers to be ready for the changing industry.”

Along with the change in format, the Star Dancers’ Christmas performance required changes to the company’s daily practices. Costumes were sanitized before and after use, including accessories such as Santa’s beard, and recording was limited to one dancer, one videographer, and one choreographer in the studio at a time.

The university’s Vespers service, held annually during the holiday season, also featured a recording this year with graduating choral students and a select ensemble from the OCU Symphony Orchestra. The socially distanced group performed the traditional candlelit Advent anthem, “Night of Silence,” to keep with the essence of the performance.

Dr. Mark Belcik, associate dean of music and interim associate dean of theatre, said the flexibility of the faculty, staff, and students made the shows overwhelmingly successful and even reach a wider audience.

“The faculty and staff developed extensive protocols based on the most recent research and best practices in the professional world,” Belcik said. “The ability to live stream our productions and concerts allowed an audience from around the world to watch our students perform.”

New Health College to Explore Shared Learning

Dr. Mark L. Britton smiling
Dr. Mark L. Britton

Oklahoma City University officials have announced the formation of a new college within the university aimed at strengthening relationships with health care partners in the community and demonstrating OCU’s commitment to addressing the increasing demand for health care professionals.

The College of Health Professions will include the university’s Kramer School of Nursing, Physician Assistant Program, Physical Therapy Program, and any additional health care programs established in the future.

OCU President Martha Burger said the college will help leverage the strengths of the university’s existing health care programs.

“As the demand for skilled health practitioners grows, the College of Health Professions will position OCU to contribute to the human capital needs of the health care industry, while offering our students an excellent education and a bright pathway towards a fulfilling career of service,” Burger said.

The college will be led by Dr. Mark L. Britton, who currently serves OCU as clinical professor in the Physician Assistant Program and as assistant to the provost for Health Professions Programs.

Britton, an ambulatory care clinical pharmacist by training, has been a member of the OCU faculty since 2016. His career has included numerous academic and leadership roles dating back to 1982, including almost 30 years as a professor, director, associate dean, and senior associate dean at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center College of Pharmacy.

“I am honored to facilitate the creation of this new college for Oklahoma City University and look forward to developing collaborative, synergistic relationships among the health professions in education, practice, and discovery,” Britton said.

The move to create the new college will allow OCU’s health programs to share educational resources and enhance interprofessional development for undergraduate and advanced practice nurses, physician assistants and physical therapists. This will include exploring shared learning experiences in the anatomy lab and simulation laboratories.

In addition to these learning opportunities, the creation of the college will allow the school to build on efficiencies created through common leadership and administration, Britton said.

OCU Hires Kevan Buck as CFO

Kevan Buck smiling
Kevan Buck

Oklahoma City University has hired Kevan Buck, with extensive finance experience in higher education, as its new chief financial officer.

Buck comes to OCU after 20 years as the University of Tulsa’s executive vice president and treasurer. In this position, he served as a liaison to the Board of Trustees and was responsible for managing all university assets, including TU’s and the Gilcrease Museum’s budgets.

As CFO, Buck reports directly to OCU President Martha Burger and oversees all areas of finance and university facilities. He is responsible for budget oversight and guiding the university’s financial position and long-range financial strategies.

“We are excited to welcome Kevan to Oklahoma City University and look forward to his impact on our institution,” Burger said. “Kevan has an outstanding reputation and a wealth of experience in private higher education, and we are thrilled to have him join OCU’s executive leadership team.”

Buck holds an MBA from Wright State University in Ohio and a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Michigan Technological University. He previously served as the vice president for business and finance at Wilmington College and comptroller for Ashland University, both in Ohio.

“I am eager to join OCU, working with the president’s team to collaborate across all campus disciplines,” Buck said. “I have been impressed with what the existing business office staff has accomplished during a time of extreme industry stress. There is a solid framework for continued success.”

Light, Works on Paper on Display at Campus Gallery

Last fall, OCU’s art gallery featured works from the Christian Keesee Collection, curated by Julie Maguire, in conjunction with Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center’s inaugural exhibit, Bright Golden Haze.

The exhibition included a Shadow Projection Lamp, 2004 by Olafur Eliasson; series of etchings, Shadow, 2007 by Anish Kapoor; and other photographic works dedicated to the manipulation of light. The exhibition also commissioned a video projection light installation piece by Chad Mount, Meadow Rhythms. Mount’s installation was a playful examination in frequencies of atmospheric color shifts and drifts he observed while sitting in an Oklahoma meadow, accompanied by auditory rhythms captured by the artist.

“Keesee’s collection highlights how a single collector can amass a diverse body of work spanning time periods, subject matter, and movements, all relying on a single element to bring them to fruition: sight,” said Heather Lunsford, director of OCU Studio Arts and Design.

The show was made possible by a grant from the Kirkpatrick Family Foundation to celebrate Oklahoma Contemporary’s inaugural exhibition.

Three artworks: Show poster, woman in dress, and rabbit
Art by Bert Seabourn

Seabourn at 90

This summer, the campus gallery will feature works by OCU alumnus Bert Seabourn, a painter, printmaker, sculptor, and teacher, for his 90th birthday. Bert Seabourn on Paper, curated by Lunsford, “shows us a side of Seabourn that has not been previously exhibited,” she said.

Seabourn has compared his art to the Oklahoma wind in its ever-changing nature.

“Some days I want my paintings to be more abstract and other days more realistic,” he said. “I find myself constantly changing, growing, and finding new directions. This stylistic diversity is what keeps my life, and hopefully my art, interesting. I love to paint, and I hope it shows.”

Bert Seabourn on Paper will be available for viewing at the Norick Art Center from May 10 to Aug. 6. The gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Alumni Group Workshops Defy Pandemic

A year ago, two of Oklahoma City University’s most active alumni groups were about to host their popular annual spring break workshops and explorations into life after college when the pandemic struck.

Months of planning the OCUNYC (New York City) and OCU:DC (Washington, D.C.) workshops were wiped away.

This year, the alumni groups reimagined them as virtual events before the spring semester began. (OCU adjusted its academic calendar to nix spring break and finish the semester early to reduce travel.) Several group members pitched in to give presentations and provide connections. Some even contributed financially to help cover fees for students who had to cancel last year.

“It was a major bummer, especially because (we had to cancel) 72 hours before students were getting on planes,” said Jeff Poulin (BS Entertainment Business ’12), OCU:DC event chairman.

“That said, the nine months in between allowed us to normalize online interactions and make the most of a digital event this year. We were able to still connect with amazing leaders, OCU alumni, and a bunch of diverse institutions to build a network, learn together, and relate what is happening in OCU’s arts management classrooms to real life.”

OCUNYC President Peyton Royal (BPA Dance ’02) was expecting to mark the workshop’s 15th anniversary last year.

“Alas, it wasn’t meant to be,” Royal said. “We were able to solidify our relationship with our studio venue. … They were pleasantly surprised by our good-faith desire to hold up our end of the contract (because no one else had), and they ultimately gave us a full refund. Because of their generosity, we were able to offer a full refund to each of the 130 students who’d registered for the workshop.”

The OCUNYC group used its creative instincts to put together a successful virtual event.

“We made a conscious effort to make this workshop unique—crafted to this moment in time and specifically for the virtual nature of this year,” Royal said. “This year, our Virtual Welcome Party utilized multiple breakout rooms that allowed more direct interaction with new people and even included a fun OCU trivia game. It was a great mix of reuniting with old friends and making new connections.”

Grad Swag

The COVID-19 pandemic ruined any chance of a proper graduation sendoff for the class of 2020, so the alumni office sent gift boxes to recognize the class for its hard work and dedication and welcome graduates to alumni status. “We want to let our newest alumni know how proud we are to welcome them into our Star family,” said Megan Hornbeek Allen, director of Alumni Engagement. 

Gift box with keychain, frame and other items
Photo by Eric Gomez
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