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Every July, Dan Ostas packs a few days worth of crimson ties and University of Oklahoma polos, and leaves his Norman home for his annual trek to Stillwater.
Throughout the school year, Ostas serves as the James J. Harlow Jr. chair of Business Ethics and as professor of legal studies in Norman.
But each summer, his law degree and Ph.D. in economics go with him as he meets with his counterparts in Stillwater for the Executive Education Partnership program, created in 1995 by the deans of both state universities’ business schools.
“They decided we have the expertise to do executive training,” says Vickie Karns, program director for the Center for Executive and Professional Development at Oklahoma State University. “That way, organizations and companies wouldn’t have to send their people to Harvard or Wharton for executive development.”
Each year, the program is limited to 50 individuals. Typically, there is a waiting list for the program that features Harvard business cases and advanced executive-level topics.
Originally only intended for member companies, the advisory board chose to open the program several years ago to anyone with at least five years in a managerial or supervisory position, Karns says.
“It really is meant for the executive-level employee,” she says. “By adding nonmember companies, we’ve expanded the horizons of other companies.”
The program is intense and doesn’t come cheap. Participating companies pay $4,250 to send their best and brightest for the week-long series.
And they’re taught by the best and brightest from OU, OSU and other companies.
“Quite frankly, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a complaint,” Ostas says. “The glowing reports we get back and the compliments are fantastic. The executives that are there are young and up-and-coming; therefore, for their companies to spend the money … is a kudo, a signal that ‘We think you have a future here with us.’ I think people are sort of proud to be there.”
As Oklahoma’s land-grant university, Karns says OSU’s mission is threefold: to teach, to research and outreach.
“The purpose of a land-grant university was to disseminate the information learned on campus and teach it to the rest of the population,” she says.
The partnership program is just another way to accomplish that mandate.
“I was always amazed at the energy and professionalism of the participants,” Ostas says. “They’re put through a pretty grueling pace. They start early, finish late, and I never hear a moment’s grousing. ... It’s nice — the camaraderie you build and the networking.”
And although he’s deep in the heart of Orange Country each summer, Ostas says, oddly, he never feels out of place.
“There’s no animosity or tension whatsoever. It’s almost as we’re one institution,” he says. “I like to think we’re all pushing together to make society a better place. When you get out and compete on the athletic field, you’re fighting the whole time, but afterward, you’re good. There’s not fighting here; it’s all just pure cooperation.”