The University of Oklahoma is recruiting students to take part in its cybersecurity program, which is part of the University of Oklahoma Polytechnic Institute in Tulsa.
The institute has been in the works for years and gained approval from the OU Board of Regents on May 26. The school will begin accepting applications in August, and students will start classes in August of 2024.
The school is a completion program, which means students may not enter it until their junior year of college, according to Teri Reed, the institute’s inaugural director.
“There is a specific application for the Polytechnic for outside students for those last two years. They would apply in their second year,” Reed said.
For OU students wanting to move to Tulsa, the transition would be as easy as a change in major.
“That’s because it is within the same institution,” she said.
OU is partnering with Tulsa Community College and other schools in Northeastern Oklahoma to recruit students to finish out their degrees.
“The idea of a polytechnic is not new, but it’s the first in Oklahoma,” Reed said.
The only degree that has been approved by the regents is a bachelor of science in cybersecurity, but it has two other degrees in the works: artificial intelligence and advanced computing and software development and integration.
“Many of our current generation of elementary students will have careers that are yet to be invented,” said Rep. Jared Deck, D-Norman. “As our online world expands, cybersecurity becomes more of a vital part of our job market, consumer privacy and infrastructure.
“I’m happy to see higher education and CareerTech entities working to meet the needs of our current and future economies.”
In the next five years, the school plans to expand its offerings.
“Our goal is to have 600 students in six years, and we are putting in graduate degrees as well,” Reed said. “In five years, we plan to have a master’s degree in cybersecurity, and our goal is to move into digital manufacturing, health care information systems, and autonomous vehicles.”
Reed said many she comes across are confused about how a polytechnic institute differs from a traditional university. She said a polytechnic approach focuses on workforce needs that prepare students in technical and humanistic skills to apply advanced technological needs.
“It’s an interesting, fun collaborative initiative and answers the needs of this area and the state,” she said.
The institute has received $10 million of support from the Oklahoma legislature, and it has received financial contributions from different tech companies, including Google. Reed said private businesses have responded to the call of the university because there is a need for tech workers.
“We’ve had a 16% growth in pure science and information technology jobs,” said Reed. “We anticipate that by 2026, technology jobs are going to grow to over 4.4 million [throughout the nation].”
“There’s a state and a regional need, and I think everyone knows that we’re all going digital, so we are responding to the needs of our industry.”
The institute plans to partner with private companies to offer learning opportunities for students.
“To answer this call, the University of Oklahoma is quickly ramping up its advanced, applied technology-based education aimed at competing with the likes of Cal Poly and Purdue Polytechnic with major support from local organizations and the state legislature to create the OU Polytechnic Institute,” said Meridith Tucker, senior director Saxum communications.
“They’re going to help us to provide the hands-on learning curriculum, they’ll partner with us to not just oversee senior design projects, but project-based that will address real world problems,” Reed said.