The Oka' Institute

Welcome to The Oka’ Institute - Click Here to Visit Our Site!

Image of Sheep Creek taken by Kevin Blackwood

Located in Ada, Oklahoma on East Central University’s campus, The Oka’ Institute opened its doors in July of 2016 to bridge the gap between sustainable water management and economic development. The name, Oka’, is derived from the Chickasaw and Choctaw word for water.

East Central University and The City of Ada make an ideal location for The Oka’ Institute. The City of Ada is the nucleus of multiple well-known water resources such as EPA’s Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center, which is nationally recognized for their expertise on groundwater resource research, and the Chickasaw Nation, which is recognized as a leader in water resource management. In addition, the Arbuckle-Simpson Aquifer is the single most studied groundwater resource in the state. All these resources convene to make compelling reasons why the Oka’ Institute at ECU is the perfect spot for a water institute. Add to these resources the fact that ECU has recently established a new Master of Science degree in Water Resource Policy and Management and you have a dynamic opportunity for sound water policy driven by research and data that ensure water sustainability.

Vision Statement

To create practical water solutions, both locally and globally, driven by research and directed by data that result in long-term sustainable ecological management and economic development.

Mission Statement

The mission of The Oka’ Institute is to address Oklahoma’s water resource needs through sustainable water resource management strategies that address real world demands. This includes a commitment to public and professional education, a recognition of the economic development opportunities and implications of water resources, and the creation of scientifically defensible and equitable, best practices for water resource management.

Image of Turner Falls in Autumn taken by Stacy Gantt-Blackwood


The Oka’ Institute has four main strategic goals: economic development, research and data collection, information/education, and policy development.

1. Economic Development:

The Oka’ Institute will develop organizational business leaders in water policy and management that are focused on entrepreneurial opportunities, which will become an economic development driver for the area.

2. Research and Data Collection:

The Oka’ Institute’s capacity will engage in water policy and management research that is relevant to the issues facing the state and nation through acquired external funding and recruitment of highly skilled professionals.

3. Information/Education:

The Oka’ Institute will be recognized as a source of information and expertise in the water resources field. It will become an identified contributor in the field of professional development, continuing education and public education for water related issues.

4. Policy Development:

The Oka’ Institute will provide leadership in the development and dissemination of water management and policy information through communication with a broad network of professional contacts around the state and beyond. The Institute will use science and consensus building as the foundation for the proposal of policy and practices.

Formation of The Oka’ Institute

Image of Boulder Spring taken by Stacy Gantt-Blackwood

Development for the creation of The Oka’ Institute began in the summer of 2015 with the official opening in July of 2016. The Sciences and Natural Resources Foundation provided seed funding for the Institute, followed by generous support from the Chickasaw Nation, the Ada Jobs Foundation and the City of Ada. Another partner who provides technical advice and assistance is the EPA’s Robert S. Kerr Environmental Research Center. Many other organizations and entities also provide support through their representative on the Oka’ Institute’s Advisory Council. Please follow the Advisory Council link for a full listing of those members.