Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

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Choctaw University prepping future leaders

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Choctaw University Seniors

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has been preparing the future leaders of the tribe with the establishment of an aggressive program to train management personnel with the skills and knowledge needed to build a bright future for themselves and those they serve.

Choctaw University was conceived in 2012 and the first group graduated recently in ceremonies held at the Choctaw Casino and Resort in Grant. University classes are offered to all employees of the Nation and are broken down into two components. Continuing education is designed to train employees in developing skills they will need to advance by learning business, management and computer applications. The Leadership Series centers around growing the knowledge and skills of supervisors, managers and directors.

“Leadership Series is designed to develop skills for frontline managers,” said Jack Hedrick, program manager. “We have partnered with Southeastern Oklahoma State University to award college credits.”

The establishment of the university will help educate and train a workforce to be better prepared to address issues in the future. The recent selection of the Choctaw Nation as one of five Promise Zones nationally, will provide an opportunity for well-trained professionals to use their skills to bring economic opportunity to the high-need communities.

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The Choctaw University Junior class.

The Continuing Education program is to provide all Choctaw Nation employees an opportunity to grow personally and professionally. “Our goal is to grow a highly skilled, qualified pool of candidates within the Nation to serve as a pipeline for the next 100 years,” said Hedrick.

Choctaw Nation has an estimated 7,000 employees in the 10-1/2-county area it serves. Classrooms are located throughout the Nation’s area of operation. They currently have 160 students enrolled and 200 have completed the courses.

Vonna Shults, director of Website Services, completed her junior year and was among the recent graduates. “The tools and knowledge I have gained through the different levels have enabled me to serve my co-workers and the tribal members the best way possible,” said Shults.

“I am working toward a degree in communications with emphasis in leadership. These courses are genuinely supportive of my job at Choctaw Nation and I am very thankful for the opportunity for professional growth and education through this university.”

Acceptance letters for 2014 have gone out and classes began recently with orientation. Students are selected by making an application and being approved by their manager.

Approximately 160 students have enrolled for the new year. The first graduate to take advantage of the college credits offered by the University is expected to receive a diploma in May.

While still in its infancy, the new program is expected to provide quality leadership training and better prepare employees to be more proficient in their jobs, according to Hedrick.

“We hope to do a full-blown assessment of the effectiveness of Choctaw University,” said Hedrick. “People have been able to change career paths due to involvement in the program which is our goal.”