The Regional University System of Oklahoma is celebrating 70 years of serving of Oklahoma students. Formed as the Board of Regents of Oklahoma Colleges, the organization was granted constitutional status through a statewide election in July 1948. The moniker, Regional University System of Oklahoma, was added in 2006 to better reflect the student population served within RUSO.
RUSO governs the six regional universities originally under its stewardship: East Central University, Northeastern State University, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, Southwestern Oklahoma State University and the University of Central Oklahoma. Nearly 40 percent of all Oklahoma college graduates complete their degree programs at a regional institution.
“We take pride in knowing that our regional universities have contributed significantly to the education of tomorrow’s leaders and our state’s workforce,” said Regent Chair Mark Stansberry. “We consistently hear success stories from all over the state - from farmers to entrepreneurs, to first-generation and legacy students on the impact regional universities have in our student’s lives and accomplishments.”
Some success stories have a national impact such as retired NASA engineer John Aaron, a SWOSU graduate. Aaron, a first generation college graduate is widely credited with saving the Apollo 12 mission and played a significant role in the Apollo 13 crisis.
NSU graduate Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker impact includes making higher education a top priority for the tribe. Under his leadership, the Cherokee Nation has nearly doubled funding for its scholarship program and increased the number of scholarships awarded by 43 percent.
Other student success stories have a profound impact on a personal level. Northwestern graduate Clay Reed is a medical doctor at the Mayo Clinic, pursuing a specialty in treating cancer.
“I absolutely believe I am better at patient care because of my NWOSU experience,” Reed said.
Success stories like these are what inspire Regent Stansberry and the other eight RUSO regents to commit their time and leadership. Appointed by the governor and approved by the legislature, regents provide stewardship in strategic planning, the mission of the university system and make
broad policy decisions.
“Originally, the regents were paid $10 a meeting fee, which has not changed since 1948,” Stansberry explained. “Today the regents waive the payment. They serve because they want to help create opportunities for all students to attain an excellent education.”
Regional universities fill an education gap for 40,000 students. More than 60 percent of the students live in rural communities and enroll in a university near their home.
“There have been a lot of changes in 70 years,” Stansberry said. “The six regional universities were created to train and prepare teachers. Today these four-year institutions have evolved into offering degrees ranging from education and pharmacy to forensic science, ophthalmology and aviation and engineering.”
Most of the universities have satellite campuses, and all have or are in the process of placing nearly 80 complete degrees online.