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Pictured are ECU professors Dr. Jessica Brumley (left), Dr. Christine Pappas, and Dr. Robin Roberson, Megan Hawley, and Dr. Saba Tahmassebi (right) at Ada High School.


ADA, Okla. – East Central University faculty and master’s students, along with Ada High School students, heard the same message recently from EPA Director Dr. Saba Tahmassebi: There are jobs in water.

Tahmassebi joined Oka Institute for a visit to AHS on Sept. 5. Ms. Megan Hawley’s AP Environmental Science class invited him to discuss careers in water. The visit kicks off the emerging collaboration between Oka Institute and Ada Public Schools. “W is for Water” curriculum will be introduced to students at all levels.

ECU professors Dr. Robin Roberson and Dr. Jessica Brumley also discussed careers in water and waste water plant operation. W is for Water will continue this fall with a day of field trips for the AHS students as well as a visit to Ms. Maria Ruiz Blanco’s third graders at Washington elementary school.

On Sept. 7, Tahmassebi visited ECU professor Dr. Christine Pappas’ Native American Water Rights class. This class is part of the Water Resource Policy and Management master’s degree program at ECU. The program has graduated 55 students, many of whom are working in water planning and management in the Ada area.

Tahmassebi explained the many ways that the EPA interacts and collaborates with Native American tribes. The EPA has several national councils, which include tribes, when writing policy statements. There are also special grant programs that are available to tribes.

During his visit, Tahmassebi spoke about the relationship among the EPA, the Chickasaw Nation, the City of Ada and ECU and the Oka Institute. This “quadrilateral,” as he labeled the partnership, has produced both research and policy results. For example, because of the policy leadership of the Oka Institute, the City of Ada is now the only city in Oklahoma that has a permit for aquifer storage and recharge. Injecting water into the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer could extend the life of the aquifer for many years and contribute to the sustainability of Ada and the Chickasaw Nation.

Tahmassebi was named the Director of Kerr Lab in July, 2023, after working over 30 years at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality.

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