Community Cowboy

Howard Barnett has served as the president of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa since 2009 and of OSU Center for Health Sciences since 2010. Prior to this, Barnett was a businessman and had served in Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating’s administration.

I was interested in OSU-Tulsa since the mid-1990s when I was chairman of the Tulsa Metro Chamber. That was a time that then-President Jim Halligan of (the Stillwater campus of OSU) began talking up the idea of a branch campus in Tulsa. A tenet of his argument was that Tulsa didn’t have any public, bachelor degree-conferring universities. He enlisted the Chamber as an early ally; we wanted the economic development impact of a branch here, and we knew it needed to be a large research university. I always followed the process and progress of OSU-Tulsa, and when the (presidency job) opened up, though I hadn’t thought about it until then, I saw it was a good opportunity.

The medical school was a new and very rewarding addition. I’m the first president over both campuses, so in terms of changes that have been wrought (under my presidency), that has to go to the top of the list. To a degree, it has changed OSU’s profile in the community. OSU Center for Health Sciences has multiple clinic locations in Tulsa that serve 140,000 patients a year.

Our relationship with OSU Medical Center in Tulsa allows us to be the only osteopathic medicine program in the country that is part of an academic health center, which allows us to participate in a variety of programs. There are many osteopathic colleges across the country that have no affiliation with a hospital. We run the residency program at OSU Medical Center, with 160 residents and fellows in the program. We provide a lot of doctors for rural and underserved Oklahoma, and we’re very proud of our ability to get that done.

Our enrollment is up about 22 percent for the past three years. I will not commit the logical fallacy of connecting enrollment to me being here. One of the first things we did (when I became president) is spend four to five months in a strategic planning process. Those plans have helped us focus and helped us do our jobs right. The biggest thing it did was help everyone in the institution focus on who we are, why we are here and our role in the community.

I’m here for OSU in the sense that I work for OSU, but I’m really here for Tulsa. I believe in the mission of OSU-Tulsa and what it does for community, students and businesses, and I want to continue to build on the success that (former OSU-Tulsa president) Gary Trennepohl achieved.