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East Central University and 26 business and higher education partnerships throughout the state were recognized recently for their innovative collaborations that further the education of Oklahoma’s workforce.

The Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education’s Economic Development Grant for the Partnership Recognition Program is designed to highlight successful partnerships between higher education institutions and businesses and to further cultivate the higher learning environment through the economic development grants.

The regents cited collaborations between East Central University and the Ada Jobs Foundation that benefit both ECU and the community, including the $1.25 million provided by the Ada Jobs Foundation for the $10.65 million Harland C. Stonecipher School of Business and ECU Conference Center that is now under construction. The structure also will serve as a storm shelter for Ada.

In another collaboration, AJF, ECU’s Center of Continuing Education and Community Services and the ECU Veterans Workforce Investment Program put together a package for PEI Worldwide, a new company in Ada that plans to employ up to 75 employees in its first year and expects 275 employees by the third year.

With AJF providing the site and building and ECU providing the link to training and access to veterans for the workforce, PEI is opening a new plant to make THURA-Block, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-qualifying green product. AJF also helped present the first-ever Career Discovery Day at ECU. This event targeted more than 400 eighth graders from all seven Pontotoc County public schools and covered fields from engineering and firefighting to dentistry and construction.

State institutions involved in these partnerships provide $500 for tuition waivers to employees of the partnering businesses, internships for current students of the institutions to work at the partnering businesses, faculty externships with the partnering businesses, and/or enhancement of the partnerships with additional equipment, materials or supplies. The state regents provide a $500 match to the waivers.

“When businesses partner with higher education, the regional and state economy wins,” said Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Oklahoma’s colleges and universities collaborate with businesses to provide customized education and training, and through these efforts, students receive hands-on, career-related experiences that better prepare them for today’s business world.

“As economic engines,” Johnson said, “higher education institutions serve as catalysts for generating ideas and business opportunities. Colleges and universities also support health and wellness initiatives through medical centers and recreational facilities that benefit not only the lives of their students but their surrounding communities.″

More details about the partnerships are available on the state regents’ website at

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