Earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff visited Oklahoma State University to announce the creation of the Great Plains Center of Excellence (GPCoE).
The new center — which will be housed within OSU’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC) in the College of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (CEAT) — is one of five competitively selected higher education institutions to serve as Centers of Excellence for DOE’s Industrial Assessment Centers (IAC) Program.
“[OSU’s Industrial Assessment Center] is one of 37 Industrial Assessment Centers that we have through funding with the Department of Energy,” Granholm said. “And the thing that is so important is that it does give students this hands-on ability to see technology in action to see how to reduce the carbon emissions price of energy, reduce energy use on-site, and that is so critical for what we want to do in both attracting and retaining engineering students, making sure that those students see in themselves a future in reducing Co2 emissions and in reducing energy use and in generating clean energy into the future. … And it’s those innovative technologies that are being used right here that caught our eye. And so today, I am proud to announce that we are awarding nearly $19 million to five universities who will host new IAC Centers of Excellence, including the Great Plains Center of Excellence right here at OSU.”
“Northern Oklahoma College is a partner in this grant. As a partner, NOC will be hosting workshops, and developing materials for the phase 1 certifications. This will allow students to begin interacting with businesses and provide additional community support,” said Dr. Frankie Wood-Black, Division Chair for Instructor & Engineering, Physical Science, and Process Technology.
Of the combined $18.7 million in funding slated for the five new centers, the GPCoE has received a nearly $7 million funding award. That funding will directly impact the center’s ability to conduct industrial assessments aimed at helping clients reduce energy usage and increase productivity, while educating the next generation of energy, waste and productivity professionals using next-generation, integrated tools and technologies, such as smartphone apps, drones and virtual/augmented reality.
The GPCoE will also focus on developing interactive learning environments for teaching, training and workforce development activities through an interactive virtual curriculum for IAC personnel, manufacturers and employees, and university and community college students.
The creation of the GPCoE will allow OSU to further its land-grant mission to address society’s most pressing challenges through innovative, world-changing research.
“As the largest university system in the state of Oklahoma, part of our land-grant mission is to be an economic growth engine and to deliver cutting edge research that benefits our state, our region and our nation,” OSU President Kayse Shrum said. “And this award for the Great Plains Center of Excellence certainly supports our land-grant mission and will further propel our efforts to solve society’s most pressing challenges.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Sen. Tom Duggar, Rep. Trish Ranson and Dr. Hitesh Vora — OSU Industrial Assessment Center director and principal investigator for the new center of excellence grant — were also on hand to celebrate the momentous announcement, which Stitt praised as another positive milestone for OSU and the state.
“Secretary, we’re so excited that you’re in Oklahoma and you’re investing in the state of Oklahoma,” he said. “We really appreciate your leadership on everything energy, and especially renewables and hydrogen. And congratulations to Oklahoma State University for this award.”
“You know, Oklahoma has an all-of-the-above energy approach. We’re so proud of our oil and gas industry. And what most people don’t realize is we’re also No. 2 in the country in wind energy, and we produce about 65% more energy than we consume. We’re a net exporter of that energy. And we’re one of only four states that over 40% of our energy comes from renewables. And that’s why Google’s largest data center is located in the state of Oklahoma and a lot of companies are looking to Oklahoma because of our affordable, reliable energy grid.”
Granholm followed Stitt’s remarks by highlighting the cooperative push behind the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which was enacted in 2021.
“This initiative, which is all about investing in America, is one piece of a grand strategy for us as a country to be able to get back the manufacturing jobs that we have lost over the past couple of decades,” she said. “And this is something that I know Democrats and Republicans can agree on — the importance of bringing back manufacturing in this country.”
The news conference followed a tour of OSU’s state-of-the-art ENDEAVOR lab, where Granholm and Emhoff got a firsthand look at the unique hands-on learning and research opportunities available to OSU students, even as undergraduate students. The second gentleman — a noted college football fan — also enjoyed a brief meeting with OSU football coach Mike Gundy.
“Yes, I got the football from Coach Gundy, but that was a surprise,” Emhoff said. “What was really not a surprise was to see the excellence here at Oklahoma State University; to see the passionate colleagues that you have, the students, the grad students, just to see the work that’s being done. You can see it. That’s what I love so much about this tour. … You can literally see the future in front of your eyes.
“These centers, like the one right here, help small- and medium-sized manufacturers. We met some of them. I think some of you are here from the business community. They save energy, improve productivity and reduce waste by conducting no cost — these assessments don’t cost you anything, they just save you money. And the best part is that these assessments are done by the students, and we got to meet many of them today. So, they get to save you money and [students] get to be trained to get out there in the working world so they can help change the world.”
One of those students was chemical engineering senior Tionne Fultz. She has worked in OSU’s IAC for the past two years, and the impact the center has had on her personal and professional growth has been immeasurable.
“Since the very first day I started at the IAC, Dr. [Hitesh] Vora has always encouraged me to speak up in meetings with clients and has consistently asked for my unique opinion on how the program is run,” she said. “All the experience I’ve gained has helped me get internships and even a full-time position as an environmental engineer after I graduate. I can’t even begin to imagine where I would be had I not joined the IAC.”
Northern Oklahoma College, the state’s first public two-year community college, is a multi-campus, land-grant institution that provides high quality, accessible, and affordable educational opportunities and services.
NOC serves nearly 4,000 students through the home campus in Tonkawa, branch in Enid, and NOC/OSU Gateway Program in Stillwater. Of these students about 80% receive financial aid and/or scholarships. 75% of NOC students complete their degree with zero debt.
The college is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and offers associate degrees in three general areas: Arts, Science and Applied Science; the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs; and the Accreditation Commission for Education and Nursing.
For more information about Northern Oklahoma College please call (580) 628-6208 or visit the NOC website at www.noc.edu.