In the world of polytechnics, job growth is imminent. And now, Oklahoma has just the school to meet those industry needs. The OU Polytechnic Institute (OUPI) is preparing for the high-demand jobs in this quickly changing sector. Located on the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa Schusterman campus, existing space is being re-purposed to fit the school’s needs. Plans to create a cyber-range and lab space, which are essential for a hands-on approach, are in the works.
“We are in the process of hiring and developing new programs, additional programs and building labs,” says Teri Reed, Ph.D., director of the OUPI.
The 21st century polytechnic world, Reed explains, is about high-demand technologies and preparing workforce-ready students. Workforce needs include the high-tech fields of cybersecurity, plus the aerospace and defense sectors.
“The OUPI will be responsive to industry needs in the city, state and region,” she says.
OUPI’s schooling, which is termed the “bachelor’s completion program,” is designed for those who have already finished freshman- and sophomore-level classes elsewhere. The students then come to OUPI, which will provide the upper-level classes needed to graduate with a cybersecurity degree. Classes will be in-person and hands-on.
“We are looking for students interested in cybersecurity, data analytics and future technology,” says Reed.
Building the Program
OUPI serves as a workforce solution to the increasing demand for credentialed workers in critical science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, providing bachelor’s completion and graduate degree programs focused on innovation and advanced technology.
In an effort to make the region a hub for growth and new jobs, the OUPI curriculum is developed with input from industry partners.
“This workforce development,” says Reed, “is a big piece of what the Polytechnic will provide.”
A Quick Timeline
June 2022: OUPI was approved by the OU Board of Regents;
Spring 2023: The Board approved the first OUPI program, the Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity;
May 2023: This first program was approved by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education;
August 2023: The application process began;
August 2024: The target date for OUPI classes to start.
Globally, Reed reports, there are over 4.4 million jobs in computing and information technology alone. According to the school’s website, 400,000 cybersecurity jobs are available in the U.S. Approximately 4,000 of those jobs are located in Oklahoma, with 600-plus jobs in the Tulsa area. Opportunities are growing daily.
“We are in a high-demand area for jobs that require a technology-related degree,” Reed says.
OUPI’s short-term goals are to produce students who are agile, creative and on the cutting edge of technology, or “truly robot-proof.” These students will think at higher levels, be able to integrate and have a systems mindset. They will also have the critical thinking component needed by employers.
“So,” Reed says, “our graduates will have that agility to keep up and make pivots in their careers as the technology and world changes.”
Image cutline: Bringing together a bevy of bright minds, the OU Polytechnic Institute aims to begin classes in August of 2024. Photo courtesy OUPI