As the nation is taking part in the social media #10yearchallenge, OSU Institute of Technology also reflects on the past ten years.
Dr. Bill R. Path was named the fourth president of OSU Institute of Technology in November 2011 and has since developed innovative strategies to promote the mission of providing advanced technical education for today's workforce demands. He recently celebrated his 10th anniversary at the institution in November 2021, in conjunction with the campus' 75th anniversary.
"I'm overjoyed to have been a part of such an incredible campus for the past ten years," said Path. "It is an exciting time to be in higher education, especially at OSUIT. We are exploring remarkable new technologies that have the potential to transform the classrooms of tomorrow and usher in the next generation of career and technical education. We are making great strides with extended reality, and this is only a glimpse of what's to come in the future."
This is an excellent time to reflect, as the campus is concluding an anniversary year at OSUIT and celebrating how OSUIT has been educating Oklahoma's workforce for 75 years. During this anniversary, the institution has also maintained an optimistic gaze toward the next 75 years.
During Path's time as president, OSUIT has:
- Created and implemented a Strategic Plan. The Strategic Plan is an internal working document of OSUIT. It's designed to incorporate goals, initiatives, & strategies that will most effectively assist the university in fulfilling its mission as measured through core performance indicators. It is integrated into the institutional decision-making process. Administrative responsibility has been assigned to each area of the Plan to assure accountability for reporting and implementation. The priorities of the Strategic Plan influence the institution's budgeting process.
- Created and implemented a comprehensive campus master plan. This long-range forecast focused on developing OSUIT's instructional spaces to meet increasing industry demand.
- Partnered with several Oklahoma universities and entered into articulation agreements to make transfers and reverse-transfers between OSUIT and the partnering university a smooth and seamless transition for students.
- Continued to foster industry relationships, including Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, ONEOK and Energy Transfer, whose donations led to the newest development on the Okmulgee campus. In 2013, OSUIT dedicated the Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center. The 23,920 square-foot center is the first of its kind in the energy industry, allowing students to learn to diagnose, service and maintain gas compression equipment in a state-of-the-art facility.
- Added additional training programs to the curriculum. In 2013, the Pipeline Integrity Technology program began at OSUIT to meet the pipeline industry's need for skilled engineering
technologists that install, operate, maintain, repair and manage the integrity and
security of pipelines is on the rise.
In 2019, the Bachelor of Technology in Applied Technical Leadership was added. This unique, 100% online program was created in collaboration with OSUIT's industry partners to address the needs of professionals working in technical industries who wish to advance into leadership roles.
- Been instrumental in a revitalization project with the city of Okmulgee and led the effort to purchase and restore the downtown building, the Grand Old Post Office, for student housing. Opened in 2017, the GOPO student housing can house 75 students. Initially built in 1918 and 1919, the building was home to Okmulgee's first post office. Architects and construction crews went to great lengths to preserve, restore and reuse as much of the original building as possible.
- Improved the institution's fiscal health. OSUIT was awarded the 2019 Best Practices Grand Finalist for its use of data analytics to refocus the budget at the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers (SACUBO) Annual Meeting. By using BKD's Contribution Margin Analysis tool, OSUIT was able to save about four million dollars. In the first year, the university saw an increase in contribution margin from -15.6 percent to a positive 4.8 percent. This provides an objective way to evaluate the performance of academic programs to reallocate resources. OSUIT will continue to utilize the analysis each year to see how financially healthy the programs are. It allows deans to make valuable decisions about changes to academic service fees, class sizes, course changes, etc. and also allows for very specific tuition pricing. It will enable OSUIT to become less dependent on other outside funding sources.
- Implemented an academic program realignment. In an effort to position the institution to be more responsive to the needs of its current and future students, industry partners and other stakeholders, OSUIT reorganized its academic programs in 2019 from ten previously existing schools into four new schools. The realignment of OSUIT's academic programs will lead to the creation of innovative programming and more effective utilization of institutional resources by eliminating departmental silos, promoting interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-disciplinary utilization of faculty, and consolidating redundant training facilities.
- Been reaccredited by the Higher Learning Commission in 2020, reaccredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing, reaccredited by Computing Accreditation Commission (CAC) of ABET and Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET.
- Made significant infrastructure updates. In 2014, the campus underwent a significant
water and sewer line replacement project to improve water quality and maintenance. At the time, 80% of the main water lines
had been in place since 1942, before the site became an educational institution.
In 2020, the campus upgraded the fiber optic cable to provide more bandwidth to and from the internet. The previous fiber networking was installed in the 1990s and had reached the end of life, and was in danger of deteriorating. The upgrade has allowed other improvements such as increased wireless coverage and capacity, wireless computer labs and increased distance learning capacity.
- Added some Oklahoma State University history to campus with the dedication of the Pistol Pete Plaza, a 12-foot-statue of Frank "Pistol Pete" Eaton at the south entrance of campus. This iconic landmark was dedicated in 2015, honoring the man who has become the symbol and mascot of Oklahoma State University.
- Reinvented the delivery of hands-on training with extended reality (XR). In 2020, OSUIT kicked off the XR-Integrated Curricula project at OSUIT to bring dozens of technical-based curriculum tracks and throughs of students into an XR-centric education and training environment. This will allow students and instructors to assemble remotely in virtual lab spaces that have been customized with three-dimensional, interactive representations of all the tools and equipment typically found in instructional labs on campus.
"The accomplishments of our students are what continues to motivate me. They are our legacy," said Path. "We have over a 90% graduation rate, which means they graduate on Friday and go to work on Monday. We are here to produce the most highly skilled, highly trained professionals that we possibly can, and I couldn't be more proud of OSUIT's part of their future success."
Path has always had a passion for education. Before joining OSUIT, he served as president of Northeast Community College in Norfolk, Nebraska, for ten years. In 2016, NECC named its newest 63,000 square foot residence hall in his honor. He previously served as vice president for academic and student affairs at Aims Community College in Greeley, Colorado, and as vice president of student services at Northeast Community College. He also held positions at NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville, Arkansas; at Kingwood College in Kingwood, Texas; and at North Harris County College in Houston, Texas.
Path received his Bachelor of Arts in Bible from Harding University, a Master of Science in educational psychology counseling from Texas A&M University, and a Doctor of Education in higher education administration from the University of Arkansas.
Widely published, Path has been a contributor to several online political and educational news sites. His topics include higher education, workforce training and the skills gap. He is also the author of the motivational non-fiction book "Moments of Forever: Discovering the True Power and Importance of Your Life.
"Even though we're celebrating ten years of my leadership at OSUIT, the immense amount of progress we've made cannot only be credited to myself," he said. "The accomplishments we have made are due in part to my senior leadership team and all faculty and staff on this campus throughout that time. In the past couple of years, we have dealt with unprecedented times, not only in higher education but in our everyday lives living through a pandemic. Their perseverance is what has made OSUIT the premier institution it is today."