FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                    April 18, 2008


Where this immediate region of the country hopes to be culturally, historically, economically and politically are all questions to be addressed during Northwestern Oklahoma State University’s inaugural Centennial Symposium “Visions and Crossroads: Northwest Oklahoma – Our Next 100 Years” on Friday, April 25.

            “The Symposium is a unique opportunity for people of all ages and occupations to come together and share ideas about creating the vision for our next 100 years as a region,” said Dr. Kay Decker, chair of the social sciences

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins
Lt. Gov. Jari Askins

 department and head of the symposium committee.

            “The Southern Great Plains has undergone significant transformation demographically since the late 1800s,”

 Decker said. “Native cultures have been relocated or displaced, white settlements have come and in some cases gone, but our geography remains constant. How can we as a region take charge of our natural, social, historic and cultural resources to create our ideal tomorrows?”

            A special guest looking forward to attending the inaugural symposium sessions, as well as the luncheon, is Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Jari Askins. She will be speaking briefly at the luncheon about her vision of Oklahoma’s future.

            Sharing the stage with Askins at the luncheon will be keynote speaker Brett Zollinger, Ph.D., director of the Docking Institute of Public Affairs and an associate professor of sociology at Fort Hays (Kan.) State University.

Brett Zollinger, Ph.D.

Christi Brungardt

Robert Reeg

Duane Pierson, Ph.D.

The 1992 Northwestern graduate’s topic is “Community Change in the Rural Great Plains: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going.”

The Buffalo native’s presentation will address past and current demographic and economic trends in the region’s rural communities and the opportunities they present.

“Hope and hard work in equal measure were necessary to the settlement of Great Plains communities,” Zollinger said. “Though our communities have varied histories, they also have internal similarities and share common experience within the economic, cultural and environmental history of the United States.

 “Some demographic and economic trends offer opportunity to those communities prepared to adapt and change,” he said. “Even though our communities face many challenges, local community is not dead. Community mobilization and action offer hope. Examples of this abound in Great Plains communities now.”

Zollinger’s presentation will conclude by identifying the hope and hard work lying ahead for community members and elected officials as the public endeavors to maintain and improve the viability of its Great Plains communities.

            Decker noted that the luncheon capacity is nearly full, but anyone interested in attending can contact her to see if seating has opened up because of a cancellation. She can be reached at (580) 327-8521, (580) 327-8111 or

Anyone planning on attending the various sessions also should pre-register with Decker prior to the day of the event because folders of information are being prepared for everyone who pre-registers.

            The symposium break-out sessions are free and open to everyone.

Three Northwestern alumni will be sharing information during the break-out sessions presented from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m. and repeated from 1:45 to 3 p.m. Several university employees also will be serving as facilitators and discussants at each session.

Leading the session titled “Grab the Bull by the Horns – Implementing Service Learning and Civic Engagement for Historic Community Revitalization, The Downtown Fort Hays Model” is Northwestern alumna Christie (Patterson) Brungardt, Class of 1984. Originally from Kiowa, Kan., Brungardt currently is an instructor of leadership studies at Fort Hays.

Decker said that Brungardt will demonstrate how many academic departments from Fort Hays have been involved with the historic revitalization of the downtown commercial district of Hays, and how faculty have integrated service learning components into existing courses to work on varying projects in conjunction with the Downtown Hays Development Corporation’s work.

Her session will be in the Joe J. Struckle Education Center, room 109.

“Doing Business in a Global Economy – Bricks and Clicks Working Together” will be led by Robert Reeg, Class of 1978, who is chief technology officer at MasterCard International. In this role, he is responsible for leading the corporation’s global technology system. He was a Northwestern Outstanding Graduate in 2004.

Decker said that the Alva native will be sharing his views of how the Internet is changing, not only how consumers relate to businesses, but how businesses construct their workforces.

His session will be in the J.W. Martin Library, room 204.

Rounding out the sessions will be “Science and Technology as a Future Force for Jobs and Business Development” headed by Duane Pierson, Ph.D., Class of 1966. Pierson, senior microbiologist for NASA, is a 2005 Northwestern Outstanding Graduate. The Cherokee native actively has been involved in microbiological and biochemical research for more than 30 years at the Johnson Space Center (JSC) and the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Decker said that Pierson will discuss how science and technology are important forces for job creation and business development in the age of innovation.

            His session will be in the J.W. Martin Library, room 222.

            “Northwestern is a hallmark institution for this region of Oklahoma,” Decker said. “As such, it serves a variety of constituencies and provides expertise and leadership to the region’s communities and people. The symposium will set a standard of excellence for regional engagement among and between communities and institutions as we all work proactively to shape our future. Collaborative effort and creative visioning give us the tools, knowledge and leadership we need to embrace our challenges and opportunities.”

Registration for the day’s events will be from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. in the Herod Hall lobby. A welcome to all registrants will begin at 9:45 a.m. in the auditorium. Following the welcome, participants will be led to the morning breakout sessions.

For anyone not registering during the morning, a table will be located near the Student Center Ranger Room prior to the luncheon and afternoon sessions. A symposium headquarters table will be located in the foyer of the west end of the Student Center following the morning welcome session for anyone needing help or directions.


Back to News Page

Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Steve Valencia, Director
Office of University Relations
709 Oklahoma Blvd., Alva, OK 73717
Phone: (580) 327-8478  Fax: (580) 327-8660

Copyright © 2003-2008
Northwestern Oklahoma State University.
All Rights Reserved.