Skip Navigation
Oklahoma State University

OSU Center for Sovereign Nations and Chickasaw Nation mark first year of progress and welcome new partner

Wed, August 31, 2016
(L-R) Arielle Farve, Strategic Communications, Sophomore; Veronica Arredondo, Civil Engineering (Environmental), Senior; Mason Two Crow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Senior; Dade Eddy, Mechanical Engineering, Freshman; Sky Rogers, center coordinator; Sara Jane Smallwood, Choctaw Nation public policy director; OSU Provost Dr. Gary Sandefur, OSU President Burns Hargis; Danny Wells, Executive Officer, Division of Education for The Chickasaw Nation; and Elizabeth Payne, center director.

Leaders of the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations joined Oklahoma State University officials, faculty, staff, students, alumni and friends along with other tribal leaders Tuesday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the OSU Center for Sovereign Nations.

“A year ago we had an opportunity to put something in motion that could make a difference in students’ lives,” said Danny Wells, Chickasaw Nations liaison and an OSU alumni. “We had on opportunity to make an investment in our students’ success, and honestly, the center has already gone far beyond our expectations. The professionals and the staff here have helped struggling students overcome the obstacles and make success a reality. Several of the students also serve as ambassadors to tell others about the center and the benefits available in attending OSU. ”

The center, founded by a partnership of the Chickasaw Nation and OSU, serves students from 39 sovereign nations in Oklahoma. It quickly became an important base of operations this year for related student organizations, student success programs, and student activities as well as several tribal initiatives and sovereign partnership activities. The center celebrated more than 850 student visits this year, according to Elizabeth Payne, center director, who was joined by Sky Rogers, center coordinator, and a team of student leaders in hosting the anniversary activities. Payne introduced several of the student leaders from the center during the lunchtime celebration, all of whom earned a 3.0 grade point average or better.

Choctaw Nation Director of Public Policy Sara Jane Smallwood, an OSU alum, announced that the Choctaw Nation has officially become a second partner for the center. “On behalf of Chief Gary Batton, we are happy to officially announce our partnership with our sister tribe, the Chickasaw Nation, in support of the center, and we can’t wait to see where it goes in its second year on campus. We are hopeful of spreading the knowledge of sovereignty to the non-native population in Oklahoma and beyond, and supporting our students here,” said Smallwood.

The Choctaw Nation has been involved with the center from its launch and has been a key supporter of OSU’s Center for American Indian Studies.

OSU President Burns Hargis welcomed leaders and other dignitaries from the sovereign nations to the anniversary event including Muscogee Creek Nation Principal Chief James Floyd, and Seminole Nation Chief Leonard Harjo. Hargis also issued an invitation to all the sovereign nations in Oklahoma to join the center in helping to promote student success, including student engagement, retention and graduation. OSU is a leading institution for the graduation of American Indian students.

In addition to serving as a place of connection and relationship building among sovereign nation partners, students and faculty, the center has a three-fold mission:

  • Ensure the sovereignty of American Indian nations is respected and recognized in the creation and implementation of initiatives across the OSU system
  • Promote student success and contribute to increasing the number of American Indian graduates from OSU
  • Increase the number and quality of partnerships between OSU and sovereign tribal nations

For more information on the OSU Center for Sovereign Nations, go to