SHAWNEE—Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) Board of Trustees approved campus construction projects, faculty promotions and new degree proposals to be submitted for Higher Learning Commission (HLC) approval during its meeting May 6. The meeting took place inside Stavros Hall on the OBU campus in Shawnee.

“We had an outstanding and historic board meeting,” OBU President Heath A. Thomas told OBU employees following the meeting. “With new proposed degrees, significant construction improvement projects and faculty promotions in rank, the future is bright on Bison Hill. We are committed to reaching this next generation of future shapers and equipping them to live all of life, all for Jesus.”

OBU President Heath A. Thomas, left, with OBU Board of Trustees Chair Sam Garlow during the May 6 Trustees meeting.

In his report to the board, Thomas told trustees he was “grateful for where we have been and the progress we have made. We have managed our finances well, basing our budgeting decisions on data-informed conservative projections. We have increased freshman and transfer student enrollment; increased marketing efforts, reach and recruitment impact; increased donor contributions; and invested in relevant programming and other revenue-generating investments.”

From the business services committee, chaired by Steve Bagwell, the board voted to approve two campus construction projects paid for through the generous contribution of the Tulsa Royalties Company at a cost of $3.5 million. Focused on delivering the best on-campus experience both in housing and in academic facilities, the University will begin construction this summer that will provide improvements to both Howard Residence Center and Sarkeys Center.

Howard Residence Center will receive significant improvements to modernize the facility for student housing usage. The complex includes suite-style rooms that house 33 students and 12 apartments that house 48 students for a total of 81 students. This project includes new flooring, paint, furniture, cabinetry, appliances, HVAC, electrical systems, siding and windows.

Sarkeys Center will undergo significant renovations to classroom spaces, faculty offices, entry areas, a conference room and a student lounge area. Sarkeys houses the communication arts academic programs, Black Box Theatre, OBU student-run News on the Hill video studio and The Bison student newspaper. The entry area will be renovated to become a welcoming space for the campus community and visitors to the building for theatre productions as well as day-to-day academic functions. The project includes removing the current wall treatments and providing new sheetrock, paint, flooring, ceilings and LED lighting.

These two campus construction projects will complement additional projects occurring this summer including interior improvements to Taylor Residence Center and Bailey Business Center along with additional interior improvements made earlier this academic year to the first floor of the Geiger Center, the lower floor of Raley Chapel where music programs are housed, the Art Building and Art Annex, the RAWC (Recreation and Wellness Center) and the Noble Complex.

From the academic services committee, chaired by Eric Costanzo, the board voted to approve curriculum for degrees in electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and systems engineering. Following the board’s approval, the University will submit these programs to the HLC to seek accreditation in order to potentially offer these degrees in the future.

The academic services committee also brought a recommendation to approve a proposal on an alternative licensure certificate from the McCabe Family School of Education. The board approved the recommendation, allowing the School of Education to seek HLC approval for the certificate program. The proposed structure of the program would be an intensive, online graduate level alternative licensure certificate to support individuals seeking licensure/alternative certification in the state of Oklahoma. The program would potentially offer, pending HLC accreditation, two tracks of 18 hours of graduate level courses that prepare individuals in topics such as pedagogy, classroom management and assessment.

Also recommended by the academic services committee and approved by trustees were the promotions of 12 faculty members including Benjamin Baxter, from assistant professor to associate professor of animation and media production; Jaime Brantley, from assistant professor to associate professor of nursing; Robin Brothers, from assistant professor to associate professor of nursing; Joshua Brunet, from assistant professor to associate professor of art; Paul Donnelly, from assistant professor to associate professor of sociology; Rebecca Marie Farley, from assistant professor to associate professor of education; Elizabeth Justice, from assistant professor to associate professor of education; Camille Lafleur, from assistant professor to associate professor of marriage and family therapy; Nathan Malmberg, from associate professor to professor of chemistry; Megan Smith, from assistant professor to associate professor of nursing; Dawn Westbrook, from assistant professor to associate professor of nursing; and Stephen Sims, from assistant professor to associate professor of music and worship leadership.

For more information about OBU, visit