Tribal Leadership Gathers To Discuss Workforce & Economic Development

In late March, Shawnee Tribe Second Chief Roy Baldridge and Councilman Keni Paul Hood (Seat 7) convened with more than 70 tribal leaders in Stillwater at a tribal summit on workforce and economic development hosted by the Oklahoma State University Spears School of Business and Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association.

“This being the second year that Councilman Hood and I have attended, I was impressed with the way OSU has expanded upon their programs and the fact that they have put into effect recommendations given [by tribal leaders] last year,” said Chief Baldridge.

Shawnee leadership discussed the need for hospitality programs related to gaming in 2023, as well as the need for collegiate education in land management. This year, it was reported that gaming-related hospitality certificate programs are being offered, and land management courses will be introduced soon.

“Spears Business recently received approval to offer both an undergraduate certificate in gaming and resort management and a graduate certificate in casino and gaming management that will launch this fall,” said Dr. Brij Thapa, Carl and Marilynn Thoma Distinguished Chair, professor and head of the OSU School of Hospitality and Tourism Management. “These credit courses exhibit our commitment to the tribal community, and we look forward to serving our state in this area.”

Councilman Hood also expressed his pleasure in learning that OSU incorporated the prior year’s feedback, and he encouraged other colleges and universities to follow the model set by Oklahoma State.

“No one [in attendance] could remember a time when a university requested a summit with all Oklahoma tribal leaders with the intent of creating an educational program that benefits native tribes and their citizens,” said Hood.

“These programs offer an opportunity for many of our citizens, on campus or online,” continued Baldridge.

Leadership also had the opportunity to sit down with gaming and hospitality employees and managers from other tribes during the summit’s breakout sessions.

“I was able to listen to concerns from line staff and discuss how they were dealing with employee turnover, difficulties regarding attracting new hires and job insecurity,” said Chief Baldridge.

In 2019, it was reported that the total economic impact of tribal nations in Oklahoma was $15.6 billion. Tribal operations in Oklahoma employ more than 50,000 people, pay nearly $2.5 billion in wages and benefits and spend more than $300 million on roads and construction projects (OSU 2024).

Learn more about the summit and OSU’s latest tribal gaming & hospitality workforce offerings here.

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