At OSUIT, we are best known for having some of the strongest career-based technical education programs in the state and across the region. For this interview of Inside OSUIT, I’m in the amazing Chesapeake Energy Natural Gas Compression Training Center to interview Steve Olmstead, who has recently been selected as the Dean of the new School of Engineering & Construction Technologies, otherwise known as the SECT.
Steve, first off, congratulations on the new assignment. I’m really excited to be working with you in this new capacity. But, before I ask you about yourself, tell me a little bit more about this new academic division that you’re heading.
“We’ve combined three different existing schools, School of Energy and School of Engineering and the School of Construction Technologies. This includes several programs:
Industrial Maintenance Technologies - Natural Gas Compression (AAS)
Pipeline Integrity Technology (AAS)
Power Plant Technology (AAS)
Civil Engineering/Surveying Technologies (AAS)
Engineering Graphics & Design Drafting Technologies (AAS)
Engineering Technologies (AAS) - Electrical/Electronics Technology
Engineering Technologies (AAS) - Instrumentation
Instrumentation Engineering Technology (BT)
Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Technology (AAS)
Construction Technology - Construction Management (AAS)
Construction Technology - Electrical Construction (AAS)
High Voltage Lineman (AAS)"
Well, that’s a pretty impressive list right there and these are programs that we have had on campus for a number of years.
But these are exciting times at OSUIT because we are creating synergy by bringing together diverse programs in much closer alignment than we’ve ever had before. With this new academic realignment, we are hoping to gain some natural communication and collaboration between diverse programs.
Steve, explain why that is important. How might students and employers’ benefit from this greater collaboration between the different programs in the School of Engineering & Construction Technologies?
“We had a career fair on campus, there were companies there that needed employees from several of our different programs. I see that as a benefit to those that we serve out in industry. Take AEP for example, they need electrical/electronics and instrumentation students, they need power plant and high voltage lineman students. The benefit for them, too, is to talk about existing things we need to do internally to make it better for them but our students don’t know all of the opportunities that exist out there in industry. This is going to be a great opportunity for them and for us to promote more and see a big benefit.”
Steve, I think you are going to do a fantastic job in your new role, and I, for one, can’t wait to see what you and your faculty accomplish in the next few years. I’d like to ask you a few questions about yourself, if you don’t mind.
First off, where are you from and where do you reside now?
“I’m a native Oklahoman. I live up in northeast part of the state, Claremore area and graduated from Catoosa High School.”
Tell me about your educational background and your experience in industry.
“I graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a Construction Science degree. I worked for one of the largest general contractors at the time, JA Jones Construction Company. I worked on jobs as small as $9 million to as large as $116 million in size. Started out in Bartlesville, Oklahoma on a job it was great opportunity because it provided opportunities for me to see the how the construction industry worked, how management existed and learn what we do in different situations. I had the opportunity to go to Chicago and work on the tallest concrete building in the world, at the time. It was just fantastic, it was right across from the Sears Tower, so you were way up there. It was an amazing opportunity for me and my family. Then when we actually traveled down to Georgia on a different job down there just outside of the Atlanta area.”
After such an impressive career in industry, what brought you to higher education, what brought you to OSUIT?
“The main thing was that I was looking for an opportunity to move back to Oklahoma. The fit with the School of Construction was that I was able to serve as a program supervisor, taught some classes, but also supervised what was going on in a department at that time.”
By my estimation, you have been at OSUIT for over 28 years, so I’ve got to ask you this question. I know how tempting it can be to go back into industry, what has kept you at OSUIT?
“I would say the biggest thing is the opportunity to change lives here. We have so many individuals who come here from all over the state of Oklahoma and across state lines, but seeing them succeed, I think that there’s more for me to do here and I’m glad that I am here.
In 28 years, I know you’ve had lots of accomplishments here, but what are some of the things you are most proud of during your stay at OSUIT?
“One of the big things, is the relationships with industry partners that we’ve developed over the years but also the relationships we’ve had with technology centers and instructors, as you know recruiting is very important to us and also retaining. If we have good relationships with industry, we have the opportunity for our students to go to work and we show that we have opportunities and help with retention on campus.”
So, tell me Steve, what motivated you to apply for this new position and take on greater responsibilities?
“I felt like I wasn’t done here yet. I wanted to have the opportunity to look at opportunities that will happen when we get all of us together and talk about thing. We have great faculty and staff here and we can’t do anything without the faculty and staff. We have great relationships that the faculty have made, and I think that will be an opportunity for us to shine even brighter here in Oklahoma and the surrounding states and regions and the United States.”
What are your goals now for the new SECT division?
“There are several goals, but the overarching goal is to collaborate with each other, with every program and trying to look at opportunities that we may not even know about right now and see if there is collaboration with industry. Can we combine these classes? Can we create other opportunities for industry to come here? That’s probably one of the biggest ones that I see. Really solidify and making us a team and work hard to make OSUIT even better than what it is now.”
One final question. What is the one thing you would most like for people in this new division, or across campus, to know about Steve Olmstead?
“Good question. I think that I am a person that you can come and visit, that we can look at what’s going on and that I’m going to listen to them and we’re going to work together to make things better here. Together, we can make us stronger.”
Steve, thank you for taking time to visit with me here.
I must tell you; it has been a real privilege to introduce to all of you, Dean Olmstead, from the School of Engineering & Construction Technologies. And I hope you will continue to watch as I interview more of the very talented people all across this campus, as we take a closer look Inside OSUIT.