The story of the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma (USAO) is unique. It is a story of hope, persistence, and dedication. It is a story of family. Like most families it is dysfunctional at times, but a family nonetheless. Its people are the glue that have held the campus together.
It is a story with three distinct chapters. When the school first opened its doors as the Oklahoma College for Women (OCW), it had a much different mission. The State Legislature wanted “a school for the high literary and industrial education for white girls.” OCW wanted to improve the women’s intellect, but also wanted to prepare them as homemakers and social, civic, industrial, and educational leaders. The second chapter began in 1965 with a change in name, mission, and student body. In that year the college began admitting males and changed the name to the Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts (OCLA). The mission of OCLA was to provide a quality liberal arts education to Oklahoma students. Finally, the third chapter began in 1974 with a final name change to the University of Science & Arts of Oklahoma, but things really transformed in 2005 with the Mission Enhancement Plan.
The backdrop for this story is the small Oklahoma town of Chickasha. Chickasha is a quiet all-American town about forty miles southwest of the state capital of Oklahoma City. The land where Chickasha sits was once part of Indian Territory, particularly Chickasaw land. In 1892, the Rock Island Railroad halted construction on its line to make business transactions. While they waited, a boxcar was set up along with a temporary depot called Chickasha. After a tent city grew around the depot, when the trains moved along Chickasha remained. It would soon become a transportation hub, with several railroads and later roads and interstates passing through, and an agricultural shipping hub. Around the time of statehood Chickasha had one of the highest populations in Oklahoma and enough pull to attract a new college. Chickasha did not remain a large town. The county seat of Grady County, the population is around 15,000. Yet Chickasha has become home to thousands of students, faculty, and staff who have studied and worked at OCW, OCLA, or USAO.
This is a story that needs telling now, a period when the survival of the college has been questioned. It is important to know that this current economic difficulty is not its first challenge, it is not even its worst, and surely not its last. Together, the faculty and students have made USAO more relevant and stronger than ever.
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