PRYOR— After careers in the manufacturing industry and then as a teacher, taking on the role of director of OSU Institute of Technology’s Advanced Training Center at MidAmerica Industrial Park seemed like a natural fit for Charles Harrison.
“I’ve always had a passion for students who want to get ahead but have had challenges. That’s an element of society that needs someone who cares for them,” Harrison said.
He himself came from similar humble beginnings. He grew up in Muskogee, the son of an automotive and aircraft mechanic.
“I was the first person in my family to graduate college,” he said, and while in both high school and college, he worked as a draftsman and a machinist.
After graduating from Oklahoma State University with an electrical engineering degree, he went to work at Texas Instruments in Dallas and then Rockwell International in Dallas and Washington D.C., while serving in a number engineering and management positions.
After 15 years of industrial experience, he returned to OSU to pursue his doctorate and worked as an assistant professor in the School of Engineering Technology for three years before returning to Rockwell.
“I’ve lived all over the United States— Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington D.C., Boston, Connecticut— and there’s no place like Oklahoma. No better set of work ethics. Something about growing up on a farm, having to work hard to support your family, having a strong Christian faith,” Harrison said.
When he retired from Rockwell, he moved back to Tulsa and then served as an adjunct professor at the University of Tulsa. He said he was motivated to teach in part because of something he noticed while working in the industry.
“We had plenty of job openings, but we were having difficulty finding the quality and quantity of employees coming out of school who knew about business and industry and were motivated to pay the price to succeed,” he said. “Business is tough. You need the education to get in the door, but then you have to give everything you’ve got to succeed; you’ve got to be motivated.”
Borrowing on his experience in industry, Harrison sought to impart to students some “real factors” in their achieving success in their careers.
Dr. Sheryl Hale, associate vice president of workforce & economic development, said his background in manufacturing and education made Harrison the natural choice for the director position.
“He joins our staff with a lot of experience: strategic planning experience, strong project management, excellent customer service and excellent business acumen,” Hale said. “By gaining an understanding of the training needs of the companies in MidAmerica Industrial Park and northeast Oklahoma, he is building positive relationships with companies.”
Harrison said he also saw the position as an opportunity to further improve and grow the center at MidAmerica.
“I enjoy business and the competitiveness. I enjoy building a superior product, and in this case, it’s students. We have a good team of experienced educators who have industry experience. We’re beginning to meet with companies in this park— our customers— to identify their real needs, and shape our program to meet those needs,” he said.
OSUIT-MAIP currently offers associate degrees in Electromechanical Technology and Manufacturing Technologies, and Harrison said he wants to expand on courses offered to companies that meet specific needs in continuing education, professional development and certifications.
“I see that as our biggest opportunity for growth. I’m focusing on the future going forward; what are we going to do next,” he said.
A lot of students at OSUIT-MAIP are a perfect example of the type of student Harrison gets the most satisfaction in helping.
“They have an incredible work ethic, people who want to provide for their families, people who are interested in the manufacturing industry,” he said. “My priorities are customer service, integrity in the business and providing a quality product—in this case, my students.”