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This article, written by Caleb Holt, appeared in the the Guymon Daily Herald on July 28, 2004, and is used here with permission.

OPSU President Dave Bryant . . . .
A watchful eye on the future

2004-07-28
By Caleb Holt
Guymon Daily Herald

When Dr. David Bryant became the president of Oklahoma Panhandle State University he inherited a list of difficulties. The university's reputation had been spiraling downward at an alarming rate. Problems with athletics, difficulties with funding, and a growing detachment towards the community of the Panhandle directed most of the conversations.

On Jan. 1, 2003, Dr. Bryant's first day, the mood began to change.

In the past year that Dr. Bryant has stood at the helm, waves of improvements have crashed into Oklahoma shores. The Noble Center is up and running, the new student apartments will be dedicated Aug. 28, and enrollment is at a steady incline. Administration and faculty now speak of new directions, and coming improvements. The vision at OPSU is forward and upward.

One of the first issues that Bryant tackled was that of infrastructure. "The physical plant had benign neglect over the years, it needed some reinvestment. There was a long laundry list," Bryant said. "Probably the most pressing need was the library roof. It had been leaking for a number of years. We ended up replacing the entire roof," Bryant continued. "It was symptomatic of a lot of other things that needed work here." Not only was the library roof replaced but several other roofs were repaired. Last spring the air conditioning system for the campus was also replaced. Currently the heating system throughout the interior of the campus is being replaced. "That will be a major accomplishment, to replace the heating system. The goal is to have that done by October," Bryant said.

The Athletic department at OPSU needed some maintenance as well. "One of the needs too that I inherited when I came in as president was institutional control of the athletics program. We have gone a long way in resolving past problems, really setting the stage for the future," Bryant said. "I have an Athletics Management team which consists of myself as President Faculty Athletics Representative Dr. Kathy Turner, our Athletic Director Jerry Olson, and then of course, Dr. Wayne Manning, Interim VP of Academics and chair of the athletic coordinating committee.

This is a policy committee that includes non-athletic faculty as well as coaches and students. Under Bryant's leadership, the athletic programs at OPSU are now integrated with the overall vision of the university.

While athletics play a significant role at OPSU, the university is most known for its agricultural department.

Dr. Bryant, who has a doctorate in range management, is committed to producing qualified graduates for a variety of careers in agriculture. "We are very strong in animal science, plant science, and Ag business. Ag business is a very popular major," Bryant said.

OPSU offers five majors in Agriculture: Agribusiness, Agricultural Education, Agronomy, Animal Science, and Equine Science. "We've added equine science as a brand new major. It will be offered for the first time this fall. That is in response to student demand and student response that we've picked up through our recruiting efforts," Bryant added. "With that equine science major in place, we would like to develop women's equestrian as a club sport and then eventually as an NCAA Division II sport."

Bryant well understands agricultures' importance not only to OPSU but also to the surrounding area. "We started out as an Ag-technical school in the early days."

The Firestone Meat Laboratory is a good example of the university's role within the agricultural landscape of the Panhandle. It functions not only as an academic program for students, but also as a service program for the region. "The Meat Lab provides instruction on processing meat, grading meat, and all of the aspects of meat science," Bryant said. Classes include live animal and meat evaluation, and retail meat cutting. The lab employs eight to ten student workers during the school year and three to five student employees during the summer. The lab is supported by doing custom slaughtering and processing. Next fall the meat lab will supply the beef for the university cafeteria. The meat lab performs quality meat research for the area's swine companies (Seaboard, Monsanto, Hitch Pork Inc., and Newsham Farms). Local citizens are also able to process their own meat at the lab.

OPSU also conducts the oldest bull performance test in the nation. The program, started in 1952, has collected performance data on 5,485 head of beef bulls. This program has helped cooperating breeders improve the performance of their cattle from an average daily gain of 2.59 lbs. per day in 1952 to 4.34 lbs. per day in 2004. This program serves cooperators in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico and tests a variety of breeds.

Under Bryant's leadership the university has also instituted an Ag-bioterrorism prevention plan for Texas County. "John Townsend, Dean of the School of Ag, and Justin Collins, Dean of the School of Science, were both on the committee that helped put together the plan for Texas County. We are committed to providing the educational component to that plan," Bryant said. "It is the first in Oklahoma and one of the first in the country to address bioterrorism. We've already received requests from other counties in Okla. for a copy of our plan."

Under Dr. Bryant's leadership the university is moving in new directions.

As with any academic institution, one of the major goals is increased enrollment. OPSU has always carried the reputation of a small, sparse campus literally in No Man's Land. Dr. Bryant sees potential where most see hardship. Having set higher enrollment goals, the university president seeks to fulfill those objectives.

"The outlook is positive if we can come close to our enrollment goals of thirteen to fourteen hundred students." More students at the school translates into more funds which will help OPSU offer more programs.

Another area that has seen improvement under Dr. Bryant is in community relations. "The Ag area is an excellent example of where we have practical programs in almost every discipline imaginable. We have these practical educational programs in all areas of agriculture. We have become almost an instantaneous resource for many aspects of agriculture. Everything from the Meat Lab to Ag business and now equine science. When the larger community is looking for some help on something such as the Ag-bioterrorism prevention plan, we can provide some expertise." Bryant added, "I think that's the real value of having OPSU located where it is. It has not only given countless students for almost 100 years an educational opportunity that might not have been here if it hadn't been for OPSU but we also provide expertise that we can offer the larger community where we serve." One of Dr. Bryant's goals is to see the university become even more relevant in this capacity.

"We have always been the primary college educational opportunity in the Panhandle. Our recruiting radius is about 130 miles in any direction. We are the only four year institution until you get down to West Texas A&M."

OPSU prides itself on its regional focus, a focus that Dr. Bryant seeks to continue. "In addition to serving the Oklahoma Panhandle we serve the communities of a larger region within that radius. It has always been that way. The graduates we turn out of this place are just unbelievable. Some have gone to work for NASA. We have been strong in teacher education as well agriculture historically. A year ago our teacher education graduates scored 100 percent on the Oklahoma Teacher Certification Exams, whereas the average is 96 percent. Out of the last year's crop of science students, 2 students were accepted to the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine. I don't know what the percentage is, but for a small institution of 1,100 to 1,200 students that has got to be a pretty remarkable situation. And that is the quality of graduate that we have here."

As OPSU heads toward the start of another school year, students and faculty have more to look forward to than before.

The overall outlook for the university is positive in each and every area.

From new student housing to additions to the Ag Department, and with improvements to the infrastructure and increases in enrollment, Dr. Bryant has created positive momentum for the future of Oklahoma Panhandle State University.

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