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East Central University’s Foundation Hall in the Chickasaw Business and Conference Center will be the setting for the first Oka’ Institute Water Sustainability Conference, Wednesday-Thursday, Oct. 26-27.

After a 5 p.m. reception on Wednesday, Oct. 26, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby will deliver the keynote address shortly after dinner to open the conference. Anoatubby will be introduced by Chancellor Glen Johnson, of the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education.

Among the other featured speakers are: Dr. Sally Gutierrez, director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program with the Office of Research and Development (ORD), and Rowan Schmidt, who has led Earth Economics’ finance and investment program since 2010.

The focus of the conference will be on such topics as sustainability; challenges of regionalization; drought resiliency; a technical panel discussing reuse, recharge, water 2060 and soil health and a policy panel, involving the Northwest Water Plan, The City of Ada, rural water districts and conservation.

Other topics include information on the Oka’ Institute and ECU’s new and unique master’s degree in water policy resources and management program.

ECU’s newly-established Oka Institute, is designed to bridge the gap between sustainable water management and economic development. Oka’ means water in the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages.

The conference resumes Thursday, Oct. 27, with a daylong list of activities, speakers and panel discussions.

The registration for the conference is $150 per person, which includes a dinner on Oct. 26 and a pastry breakfast and lunch on Oct. 27. However, an early bird special is available for $125 by Oct. 17. The student rate is $25. You can register by calling 580-559-5151 or going online at

Here are biographies of three of the featured speakers:

Gov. Bill Anoatubby

Anoatubby, an ECU alumnus, has served as governor of the Chickasaw Nation since 1987 after consistently being re-elected to that position. In 1979, he was elected the first lieutenant governor of the Chickasaw Nation. In his first term, Anoatubby established goals of economic development and self-sufficiency for the Chickasaw Nation and its people.

Today, the Chickasaw Nation is well on the way to achieving those goals. In 1987, the tribe had about 250 employees and today, the Chickasaw Nation employs nearly 14,000 people.

Dr. Sally Gutierrez

The EPA’s Environmental Technology Innovation Cluster Development and Support Program seeks to advance environmental protection in tandem with economic development through the formation of community-based public, private partnerships.

Gutierrez has been leading the EPA’s efforts to leverage its research and development capability in Cincinnati, Ohio with community-based assets to establish the region as a water technology innovation hub and is leading an effort to network water innovation clusters across the United States.

Rowan Schmidt

Areas of the Earth Economics’ finance and investment program, led by Schmidt, include: providing valuation of natural resources and natural resource damages to inform government investment decisions; leading research on the nexus between accounting and natural resources, including watersheds that provide and filter water; improving asset management approaches for natural resources; enhancing bond disclosure standards to include watershed and natural capital conditions and adjusting water utility rate structures to support natural capital investments.

He has also advised a number of federal agencies on natural resources accounting, valuation and asset management.



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