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On Saturday, May 6, Stacie MacCollister became the 50th graduate of the Water Resource Policy and Management (WRPM) Master of Science program at East Central University.

MacCollister is from Ada and is a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation employed in the Chickasaw Nation Division of Historic Preservation. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Native American Studies which she earned from ECU in 2013.

MacCollister enrolled in the WRPM program to learn more about law and policy but quickly became interested in water.

“Whenever I started taking this course, I realized that water ties back to everything,” she said. “How do you think you make your Starbucks or coffee in the morning? Your animals wouldn’t survive without water.”

She said that she learned a lot in all of the classes. Native American Law and Water Law were fascinating to her.

“In the end, the reward will benefit you. You will learn so much. You know a lot about water already but this program will bring it out,” she said.

“A lot more people could get involved with this program. It would change their way of thinking,” MacCollister continued.  She mentioned that many small towns in the Chickasaw Nation such as Tishomingo have experienced water shortages. It will take strong water policy management to ensure towns and cultural sites have enough water to survive.

The WRPM master’s degree was created in 2016 to address Oklahoma’s water resource needs through sustainable management strategies that address real-world demands. ECU created the WRPM degree program and The Oka Institute was founded in 2016 with local support from the Chickasaw Nation, the Ada Jobs Foundation, and the City of Ada.

“There is no other master’s program in the world that combines water science, law and policy, and Native American topics,” Program Director Dr. Christine Pappas said. “We are also excited to be developing more curriculum in Integrated Water Resources Management as well as working with our sister university in Kenya.” 

The WRPM program is also building a collaboration with Ada City Schools and The Oka Institute called “W is for Water” to bring water education to students of all ages.

The WRPM degree is 100% online. Students take 10 courses in the fields of law and policy, environmental science and Native American law. The historic Water Settlement between the Chickasaw Nation, the Choctaw Nation, the State of Oklahoma, and Oklahoma City is a major component of the curriculum. Students also learn from the “Oka Holisso: Chickasaw and Choctaw Water Resource Planning Guide” which was recently published by the Chickasaw Press.

This fall, a special section of Native American Water Rights will be offered both online and in person. The focus of the class will be the “Oka Holisso” and water and policy experts will present lectures on Thursday nights for the class.

For more information about the WRPM program, please see or email Program Director Dr. Christine Pappas at

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