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Oka’ Institute Executive Director Duane Smith received an honorary degree from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology Charter in Bondo, Kenya. Smith traveled to the JOOUST graduation ceremony March 3 for the honorary doctorate of science. More than 10,000 people were in attendance.

The honorary degree recognizes Smith’s contribution to society toward water management and policy.

“I accept the honor with gratitude and humility,” Smith said in his acceptance speech. “Let me assure you that I do not take the honor for granted. I am aware that the honor comes with a corresponding obligation to use my knowledge and skills to advance and support the aspirations of this great University and humanity at large.”

Smith has worked with JOOUST through The Oka Institute and East Central University, the most recent trip in January and is currently collaborating with JOOUST to partner with their Pi Institute and the Blue Economy Hub.

“Joining East Central university and JOOUST for the International Short Course on Integrated Water Resources Management for Sustainable Livelihoods and Food Security in January was so inspiring,” Smith said. “It was outstanding to see the Vice Chancellor Professor Stephan Agong, professors, and most importantly students sharing ideas and research topics and collaborating on how to help ensure there is water for future generations.

“Integration of resources from across the world is vital for sustainability,” Smith continued. “We are excited to see where the future of this program goes and hope to see JOOUST students and staff visit us for the second time this fall at East Central University.

Agong and the JOOUST University Senate said Smith is worthy of the conferment of the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science “due to his immense contribution in promoting awareness and responsible water practices, the protection, enhancement and development of water resources, environmental conservation and his international recognition.”

Smith was named executive director of The Oka’ Institute at ECU in February of 2022. Before that, he has an extensive career in water resource preservation and management. Once he obtained his degree in Meteorology at the University of Oklahoma in 1977, Smith began his long service on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board in 1978, where he started as a hydrologist. Smith eventually served as executive director from 1997 to 2010.

Smith worked with several government agencies and budgets, ensuring and protecting Oklahoma’s water resources, including working with committees in surrounding states. Smith worked with Paddack to pass SB 288, which prioritized artificial recharge to the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer. Locally, Smith has also worked with the Oka’ Institute on a study of the Arbuckle Simpson Aquifer, and with Lake of the Arbuckles Watershed Association and Blue River Foundation in implementing watershed best management practices.

Smith traveled to the Middle East twice to address water issues. In 2003, Smith traveled to the Middle East to facilitate discussion on water issues with Palestine, Israel and Jordan on behalf of the Center for Peace at OU. He travelled to Afghanistan in 2010 to work with the US Army Corps of Engineers on water, transportation and energy infrastructure.

“My experience with the US Army Corps of Engineers in Afghanistan opened my eyes to the fact that sustainable water management is not only a local or national issue – it is a worldwide issue,” Smith said.

After he retired from the OWRB, Smith began his own venture in 2011 with Duane Smith and Associates. Recent work with his firm includes the development and update of the Southwest Oklahoma Water Plan, the Panhandle Water Plan, the Northwest Oklahoma Water Plan, Northeast Oklahoma Regional Water Plan, and the Arbuckle Simpson Drought Contingency Plan. Smith has also worked with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations on the State/Tribal Water Agreement that provides certainty and security regarding water rights in Oklahoma.

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