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A new master’s program at East Central University, unlike any in the state, is primed to have long-lasting effects for not only the student, but the general population.

ECU’s unique M.S. in water policy resources and management program is designed to support the need for advanced understanding of the growing complexity of water issues that face communities in the state, nation and globally. It’s a 30-hour credit program and is open to students with an undergraduate degree.

“We are pleased that the program recently received final approval from the Higher Learning Commission,” said Dr. Christine Pappas, administrator for the program and professor and department chair for the Political Science and Legal Studies Department.

In pursuing the degree, students are trained for leadership in making water policy decisions. It also prepares students who are seeking employment within federal and state environmental agencies, environmental non-governmental organizations, international development agencies, industry and environmental consulting firms.

ECU’s Water Resource Policy and Management Program currently has five students enrolled with goals of gaining 10 by the spring and 20 next fall, according to Pappas.

“Water management is still an important issue for the next 100 years, beyond and forever,” said David Roland, an Ada resident and one of the graduate students enrolled in the program. “It’s the only one of its kind in the state. It’s not just scientific, but it helps to develop policy issues. This degree integrates those things.”

Roland, who has a political science degree, enrolled in the program just hours after learning of its formation. Two other students – Kimberly Elkin and Sarita KC – entered the program with science-related degrees.

“The political system is different. I have the science background, but I have a need to understand how policy works,” Elkin said.

Sarita KC, of Nepal, earned a bachelor’s degree at ECU in 2013 and is excited to continue her education by pursuing a water resource policy and management master’s degree.

“I came from environmental health science and I’m excited about the water resource policy and management degree,” said KC.

The master’s program requires students to integrate and synthesize knowledge from multiple disciplines to address complex challenges of water resource decisions and to develop solutions that are socially acceptable, politically and economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Through the program, students are broadly trained to undertake careers in managing water resources and in guiding or making water resource policy decisions.

The program was concurrently launched with the opening of the Oka’ Institute on campus. The Oka’ (which means water in the Chickasaw and Choctaw languages) Institute, located in Fentem Hall, is designed to bridge the gap between sustainable water management and economic development.

Though the new degree program is not directly affiliated with the Oka’ Institute, the two will go hand-in-hand in a working arrangement, regarding policy and research.

“When the institute gets more research needs, they will come to me for students. Students can do internships with the Kerr Water Lab and with Dr. (Guy) Sewell,” Pappas said. “Another factor is the Native American law aspect and Native American water issues in which we will recruit to tribes in regards to Native American law.”

Four courses – two each in the classroom and online – are currently being provided. Dr. Charles Peaden is one instructor. Peaden actually achieved a graduate degree in environmental policy and, for the first time in 15 years, is able to focus on that area in the classroom after strictly teaching political science.

A new professor – Dr. Erick Ananga – was also hired to teach in the program. He earned his Ph.D. in environmental science and policy at the University of South Florida. His research focuses on community participation in water policy in his native Kenya.

“I’m really looking forward to applying some of the qualitative and quantitative research techniques I have learned and gained through my education and research experience,” said Ananga. “I am excited to help our students learn and participate in solving some of the water issues in the State of Oklahoma.”

Roland is excited about being a pioneer for this new master’s program.

“We know that we’ll be the first group and what we do is going to have an influence,” Roland said. “I would like to see this gain interest at the local, state and national level.”

For more information on the M.S. Water Policy Resource and Management Degree Program contact Pappas at 580-559-5640 or Peaden may also be contacted at 580-559-5412 or

Enrollment for the spring semester is already underway.



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